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American Morning

Day Two of Alito Confirmation Hearings; Kentucky Mine Collapse; Colorado Wildfires

Aired January 11, 2006 - 08:59   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
A fast-moving wildfire rages near Denver. Dozens of families have been told to get out.

We're live on the fire line this morning.

Another deadly mine accident to tell you about. This time it's in Kentucky. One man is dead and reports this morning of more than 100 safety citations.

We're live on that story.


Take a look at this. A Los Angeles police car in hot pursuit loses control and crashes.

And breaking news. Angelina Jolie confirms the rumors she is pregnant and it's a little Pittlett. Brad Pitt is the daddy.

Details ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

M. O'BRIEN: We're glad you're with us right now. Let's get right to it.

Final preparations being made right now for the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito. The questioning begins in a half an hour. And if today's session goes anything like Tuesday's, the Supreme Court could have a new right-leaning justice.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Bob Franken is following the hearings.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Committee chairman Arlen Specter had predicted a minuet. But Samuel Alito is trying to tiptoe through minefields such as abortion.

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I would approach the question with an open mind.

FRANKEN: He would pay close attention, says Alito, to stare decisis, precedent, such as the 33-year-old Roe versus Wade decision. But not necessarily.

ALITO: I don't want to leave the impression that stare decisis in an inexorable command because the Supreme Court has said that it is not.

FRANKEN: As predicted, Alito had to fend off an assault over his past support of strong presidential power. "Nobody is above the law," he responded. And as predicted, Democrats went after Alito for his one-time membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton which was arguing against efforts to diversify the student body.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: CAP was most noted for the fact that they were worried that women, too many women, and too many minorities were going to Princeton.

ALITO: Well, Senator, I have wracked my memory about this issue, and I really have no specific recollection of that organization.

FRANKEN: In football terms, the Democrats are playing aggressive offense. Republicans, friendly defense.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: So let me just ask you directly, on the record, are you against women and minorities attending colleges?

ALITO: Absolutely not, senator. No.

HATCH: You know, I felt that that would be your answer. I really did.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tough question, Orrin. Tough question.


FRANKEN: A little kidding about the puffball question. And in about a half-hour, this committee room in back of me will be full of Democrats whose questioning could turn to the desperate side -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken, who is at the hearing room.

Thank you very much.

Live coverage of those hearings begins 9:30 Eastern, about 30 minutes from now. Wolf Blitzer's special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" will take you all the way through the day and through the questioning.

Also, CNN Pipeline subscribers can view gavel-to-gavel coverage of the hearings, as well as se replays as they occur of the highlights. That's at Check that out as well.

President Bush taking on war critics once again today. He'll be in Louisville, Kentucky. The Republican incumbent representative in that district he's going to be at is being challenged by a Democrat who served in Iraq and says the war was a mistake.

Yesterday, Mr. Bush said support for the mission in Iraq should not be a partisan matter -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Just one week since we learned the full extent of the Sago Mine tragedy, another tragedy to tell you about. This time one coal miner is dead in Kentucky.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim joins us from Pikeville. It's about 100 miles from Lexington.

Keith, good morning.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

And you can see that there is a gate going into the mine complex behind me. The actual entrance to the mine as it goes into the earth is about a good four miles down that dirt road.

And about a half-hour ago, the governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher, came here. He led a delegation, part of which is to begin an investigation into what happened yesterday.

What we know is that at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, Cornelius Yates was in the mine. He's a 44-year-old veteran miner, and he was about 900 feet in when a very large chunk of mine roof fell on him. That chunk was about 20 feet by 10 feet by three and a half feet thick. And then, about an hour later, a nine-member rescue team went in and found that Cornelius Yates had died.

I spoke to the governor just a little while ago. And he talked about the fact that this mine had some inspection violations on record.


GOV. ERNIE FLETCHER (R), KENTUCKY: And in our previous inspections, there was some non-compliance with a roof plan. That was noted. The mine was, you know, shut down until it was back in compliance. But what we've got to look is, not only do you just shut them down until they are in compliance, what -- what tools do we have to make sure that we can identify those mines that are not staying in compliance? And that's what we'll be evaluating.


OPPENHEIM: Again, that was Governor Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky.

And Soledad, at the time of this accident, Cornelius Yates, the miner, was actually leading a four-man team into the mine. But there were no other injuries. He was the one fatality.

S. O'BRIEN: Keith Oppenheim reporting for us this morning.

Thanks, Keith. One of the big questions from the Sago Mine tragedy is, could the miners have walked out instead of barricading themselves in? We are now hearing that in fact they did try to ram their way out in a mine car but got blocked.

The brother-in-law of the only survivor, Randal McCloy, is quoted in The Associated Press story. He says the mine company president told him about the attempted escape. He says there are footprints to prove it and that the governor's office says that's their understanding as well.

M. O'BRIEN: Some dangerous wildfires bearing down on Denver this morning. A hundred and thirty homes evacuated as we speak just outside the city. The flames also prompted authorities to close two highways, or at least portions of them. The flames are centered around Arvada, which is about 10 miles northwest of Denver.

Jim Hooley of our CNN affiliate KMGH is there.

Jim, what's the scene?

JIM HOOLEY, REPORTER, KMGH: Well, I'll tell you, Miles, the problem out here is the wind. The winds are really blowing, they're coming down out of the mountains. We're right here along the foothills of the Rockies, and they are blowing down along the fire area, and that has caused this fire to explode overnight.

It started last night at around 6:30. It started as just a small fire, only about five acres or so. But then with the winds blowing between 30 and 40 miles per hour, and gusts of up to 50 miles per hour, this thing literally exploded. And right now it stands at about 2,700 acres.

At around 9:00 last night, authorities here in Jefferson County, west of Denver, put out a reverse 911 call. They put it out to about 130 homes. And all of those people at that point in time packed up a lot of their animals, a lot of their belongings and their valuables and headed to a local high school to take refuge for the evening.

You know, the problem has been, it's been so dry out here, we really have not had any real moisture in terms of rain or snow for the past couple of months here in the Denver area. Up in the mountains you probably have heard there has been a lot of snow in the Rockies, and the ski resorts love that. But down here along the front range and in this fire area this morning, we really have not had that much moisture.

So, we have had three major fires, wildfires here in Colorado over the past week. And again, that's what we have here right now in Jefferson County, northwest of Denver. About 2,700 acres burning.

And Miles, at this point in time, fire officials tell me they really don't have any control over this thing. The wind continues to blow. And they hope that it will die down so they can get a real handle on this.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's hope Mother Nature cooperates.

Jim Hooley of our CNN Affiliate KMGH.

Thanks very much.

Chad Myers watching things for us in the weather center.


M. O'BRIEN: Let's check some headlines. Carol Costello with that.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Miles.

Good morning to all of you.

We start with some amazing pictures from Brazil. Take a look at these pictures.

A bus on fire in the city of Rio Grande. That's down in the southern tip of Brazil. You can see the bus totally engulfed in flames. People rushing up from the streets to break out the windows to get the people trapped inside out of that bus and to safety.

All of this happened on Monday, but this is our first look at these pictures. Four people badly hurt here. No one died, though. Police still investigating what caused the fire to break out.

Authorities say there has been no injuries after a massive factory fire in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. Huge fireballs and clouds of thick smoke shooting from the plant. People within a three-mile radius were told to stay inside Tuesday to avoid toxic fumes. Interstate 83 was also shut down because of the flames.

A second-grader, a 7-year-old, is expected to appear in court this week after taking his parents' pickup truck for a joy ride. There he is driving the pickup. Police near Nashville, Tennessee, sharing this video with us. These pictures taken with the cruiser's onboard camera.

He barely avoided five head-on collisions. And police say this boy could face some very serious charges.

Two Los Angeles police officers in the hospital this morning following a high-speed crash. Take a look.

The driver was struck in the car -- was stuck in the car, rather, for about 20 minutes before emergency crews could get him out. Both the driver and his partner suffered minor injuries. They were chasing a stolen car. The suspect later ran into someone's house, where he was cornered by a police dog.

There you see the accident. More disturbing images out of California. An out-of-control car crashes into a convenience store parking lot hitting a mother and two children. They're hurt, but unbelievably, their injuries are not life-threatening.

The driver apparently a 79-year-old woman. She's now facing charges for fleeing the scene of an accident and for driving without a license.


And baby will make five for the Hollywood couple dubbed "Bradjolina." Actress Angelina Jolie confirming she is pregnant to "People" magazine. The issue set to hit the newsstands on Friday.

This is our second glimpse. We got a hold of this this morning, the cover of "People."

Brad Pitt is already in the middle of trying to become the legal father to Jolie's two adopted children, Maddox and Zahara. The new baby is due some time this summer.

One big happy family with a little Pittlett (ph). I like that.

S. O'BRIEN: It's like the United Nations.

COSTELLO: Isn't it?

S. O'BRIEN: Good for them.

M. O'BRIEN: They are the world, so to speak.

I've got to say, I would not like it if people were just constantly zooming in on my abdomen.

S. O'BRIEN: She looks all right.

M. O'BRIEN: She can get away with it.

COSTELLO: And there's this little, teeny, tiny bump, and it's like, she's pregnant.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. They've been predicting it for a while. So -- and that car crash, oh, my god. Oh, my god.

M. O'BRIEN: Unbelievable, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: A 79-year-old woman. Thank god. That's horrible to see.

Carol, thank you for that.

Ahead this morning, a high-stakes drama in Vegas. A daring casino heist caught on tape. Take a look at this. Now, that's the suspected robber shooting at the cops.

M. O'BRIEN: We kind of have a surveillance camera theme today, because remember this? Really, we've had several of these.

More cameras out there. More stuff like this.

This is something we showed you yesterday, though. This is something. Surveillance tape of that robbery. This is at a check- cashing store in Utah. And this woman here really kept her cool and ended up thwarting that robbery.

We'll be back talking with her and her husband in just a little bit.


M. O'BRIEN: Las Vegas police are looking for this guy, although it's kind of hard to make him out given the fact he was disguised. But he -- there are surveillance pictures, a robbery at a casino yesterday. They are pretty secure places.

He's wearing the baseball cap. And then, check this out from the outside security camera as he's going away. Right out of Hollywood, the muzzle flashes of the handgun.

He shot several rounds at security officers. You see him in the foreground there behind the pickup truck.

One of them was hit in the leg. The suspect also dropped some money in the midst of all that, but at this point they think he got away with some cash. Unclear how much.

Now, remember that surveillance cam theme? As we've been telling you, remember that amazing surveillance cam video which we showed you yesterday which showed a very brave woman, Angie Hirsche, thwarting a would-be armed robber?

You see him in the yellow there. If you kind of lose the banner there it would be easier to see the gunpoint. But it turns out that gun was a toy gun. And Angie Hirsche was a woman with presence of mind. She was able to actually get him to leave the scene without the money.

Joining us from L.A. is the quick-thinking Angie Hirsche and her husband Cy, apparently a big Red Sox fan.

Good to see you both. And we're so glad we're able to tell a happy story here.

Angie, let's -- let's go through this. This person came in, and did you realize immediately that this was potential trouble?

ANGIE HIRSCHE, ROBBERY VICTIM: Initially, when he came flying over the top of the counter at me, I thought it was maybe a joke, my husband is playing a joke on me, a cruel joke on me. And...

M. O'BRIEN: Ooh. That would be a cruel one, wouldn't it?

CY HIRSCHE, ANGIE'S HUSBAND: Yes, I wouldn't do that. M. O'BRIEN: No.

A. HIRSCHE: And I quickly learned that, no, it was now a life- and-death situation very quickly.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. So, as we look at this video camera, just kind of following it, he's dragging you around. What's he saying to you? We don't have the audio here. What are you saying back to him?

A. HIRSCHE: He's saying, "Get the money. Get the money."

I said, "You can have the money, you can have everything. It's all in the safe. You have to get the keys from the counter, hand them to me." And I just quickly wanted to walk him through, you know, what I was doing so he didn't think I was going to do any sudden moves. And...

M. O'BRIEN: All right. So right down there on the ground, there's the money bag. And if you -- there's a queue to this other shot right here. You'll see you're up against the wall. This is a little later in the process.

The money bag is on the floor. At what point did you realize -- here is sort of the -- watch where money bag is right there. What -- did you know that this gun was fake? At what point did you figure that out?

A. HIRSCHE: I figured it out shortly after. It took me a minute to figure it out. But shortly after he had arrived I figured that it was a fake gun, but it was his physical presence that scared me more than the gun, real or not.

He was so -- he was 6'6. He was so overpowering that I knew there was no way I could physically dominate him. So I started to try and emotionally and mentally talk him into, you know, not hurting me and letting me go.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. I apologize to everybody at home. The ticker got in the way of my little telestrating there.

The bag was underneath the ticker there. Now he's got it back in his hand.

At some point in the midst of this, Cy, you called? Just by happenstance? Is that what happened?

C. HIRSCHE: Yes. It's something that we do, you know, whenever she is working or I'm working. I call just to make sure she's OK, because she had just gotten there. He knew what he was doing in some senses and wanted to get there before she could get the panic button and a few things on of our security.

And so I called just to make sure everything is OK. And unfortunately, it wasn't, and I -- he, as you can see in the video, rips the phone off the table and thinks he's unhooked it, but actually just removed the receiver. So I could hear everything.

M. O'BRIEN: OK. So you're hearing what is horrifying at this point.

C. HIRSCHE: Absolutely.

M. O'BRIEN: I can't even imagine. So I assume you're getting on your cell phone, doing 911, trying to get the police over...

C. HIRSCHE: Exactly.

M. O'BRIEN: ... and also listening to what you hope doesn't become even more horrifying.

C. HIRSCHE: Exactly.

M. O'BRIEN: Were you impressed...

C. HIRSCHE: Right here is where the phone comes off.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, there goes the phone. OK. And he thinks he's got it. But if you look, you're right, the cord is still attached there.


M. O'BRIEN: So he didn't go far enough. And there you are picking up all the information and hearing everything that's going on.

C. HIRSCHE: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. So as you listen to this, were you pretty impressed with how Angie handled this?

C. HIRSCHE: Oh, I was -- I was amazed. I mean, it was terrifying. It's hard for me to watch this now.

He just had no reason to be so rough on her. And she just did such a great job. I mean, when he came over, you can see her head hit and it just nailed her.

But at this point she's going, you know, "I won't move, I won't move, I won't move a muscle. Please, just leave me alone."

And I'm freaking out, going, "What's going on? Get out of there! What the heck?"

And I called the police, and, you know, they got on their way. And then Angie just acted so great. I mean, she did everything exactly right.

He actually tried to take her out of the -- out of the office into a bathroom, and god knows what would have happened at that point.

M. O'BRIEN: We don't even want to think about that. We've got to button it up. I assume -- first of all, you ended up -- you recognized this guy, he had been in there as a customer. You are able to give police the information, he is arrested. That's all good.

C. HIRSCHE: Absolutely.

M. O'BRIEN: Final question, Angie and Cy. Angie, are you going to work alone there ever again?

A. HIRSCHE: Absolutely. I'm not going to let him hold me back.

C. HIRSCHE: We're going so make some changes, though. I'm putting -- we're absolutely going to put a full-glass retainer like the banks have, and just remove that option from even happening. And, you know, Angie's so brave and would love to do it, but from a husband's standpoint, I'm going to make sure that my family is not in harm's way, or our employees, for that matter.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. That's a once in a lifetime phone call and a once in lifetime experience, we hope, for both of you.

C. HIRSCHE: Yes, exactly.

M. O'BRIEN: Cy and Angie Hirsche, good job. Good presence of mind, Angie.

A. HIRSCHE: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: And thanks for being with us.

C. HIRSCHE: Thanks again, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. We've got a developing story that we're following now out of Virginia. Another hostage situation to tell you about.

It's happening at a bank in Prince William County in Virginia. One person, police say, is believed to be held hostage inside that bank.

It is a Patriot Bank branch. The local station there quoting police, saying that so far they haven't been able to talk to whoever is holding the hostage, but they believe that they have one suspect and one hostage inside the bank. All communication apparently being conducted through witnesses who are outside the bank.

CNN's going to have more on this developing story as we get any new information.

A short break. We're back in just a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: If you're an expecting mother, there is a new theory about the best way to get through the delivery. It's putting into question a well-established birthing technique.

Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has details for us.



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Midwife Patricia Crock (ph) is coaching Velia Maciel (ph) through birth. This kind of coaching is the standard way women have babies in the United States. But a new study says women may not need it.

DR. STEVEN BLOOM, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER: Mothers instinctively know how to get the baby delivered.

COHEN: Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that when women just pushed on their own at their own pace, the birth went fine. Mother and baby just as healthy.

BLOOM: No difference in the risk for cesarean delivery, no difference in the rate of forceps delivery, no difference in the need for an episiotomy.

COHEN: In the study of 300 women giving birth for the first time, half of the mothers had standard coaching. Like Velia (ph), whose midwife is telling her when to push and when to push strongly.

The other half of the women in the study pushed whenever they felt like it, however they felt like it, with the doctor or midwife standing by in case something went wrong. These women did not have epidurals to dull the pain and had healthy pregnancies.

MAGGIE BOLTON, EMORY CRAWFORD LONG HOSP.: It can be really empowering to a woman to just wait until the natural urge to push the baby out comes and just do what her body tells her.

COHEN: The women who pushed on their own did have labor that lasted 13 minutes longer. That doesn't bother Stephanie Edmond. She's expecting her second baby and wants to push on her own schedule. The first time, she pushed on someone else's schedule.

STEPHANIE EDMOND, EXPECTING MOTHER: And all of a sudden, when it was time to have the baby, nurses came in that I hadn't seen and who I didn't know and started yelling at me, you know, do this and do that. And it was a little arresting and shocking for me.

COHEN: There is one catch. If Stephanie really wants an uncoached birth, doctors say it's best not to have an epidural, which would make it harder to know when and how to push. In the end, it all depends on what the mother wants.

JONAKA WILLIS, EXPECTING MOTHER: Basically, I'm going to go by, you know, the birthing coach and, you know, whatever they tell me to do, because I have no clue as to what I'm doing.

COHEN: Some want coaching, some don't. There is more than one way to get what all mothers want: a healthy baby.


COHEN: Now, as we mentioned, this self-coaching doesn't seem to work very well when the mom has had an epidural. And more than half of American mothers, women giving birth, do have epidurals -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Some people choose to go that way. Elizabeth Cohen for us with that report.

Thanks, Elizabeth.

A short break. We're back in just a moment.