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Underground Rescue Work Halted in Utah Mine; Peru's Death & Destruction: After the Earthquake; Sources: Tony Snow Leaving White HouseLouisiana Governor Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Hurricane; Texas Gets Ready for Dean; Bogus Diabetes Test Strips; Billboard Outrage; Cuba's Political Prisoners; Dissident is Freed

Aired August 17, 2007 - 19:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Hurricane Dean cutting a dangerous path across the Caribbean, and it could be a monster storm by the time it nears the United States.
Also tonight, tragedy at the Crandall Mine. The search for the missing miners is suspended after three rescuers died trying to find them. Is there any chance they'll ever be found alive?

And up a tree without a paddle. We'll talk to the man in the tree who took a wrong turn and spent three hours waiting for help. At least his cell phone worked.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Miles O'Brien.


Hurricane Dean is racing across the Caribbean with winds of 125 miles an hour. Now a powerful Category 3 storm. Today, it battered the islands of St. Lucia and Martinique and now could be headed toward the U.S. And as it moves in our direction, it is gaining strength.

Let's go right to the CNN weather center. Our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, watching it for us.


O'BRIEN: In Utah, the outlook for those trapped coal miners has never been grimmer. The effort to dig through the rubble is suspended indefinitely now after last night's fatal cave-in. Three rescuers killed, six injured trying to save their friends and co-workers.

Our Brian Todd is at the scene -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, the options for this rescue operation have been tragically cut down, and this whole town is still trying to absorb what happened.


TODD (voice-over): An underground rescue mission turned deadly, now suspended indefinitely.

GOV. JON HUNTSMAN (R), UTAH: Suffice it to say, yesterday we went from a tragedy to a catastrophe.

TODD: Graphic new detail on the collapse that killed three and injured six others. The head of the Federal Mine Safety Agency says the men were digging in the main tunnel, in one of the deepest parts of the mine, some 2,000 feet underground.

With all that mountain weight being forced onto the tunnel and its supports....

RICHARD STICKLER, MINE SAFETY & HEALTH ADMIN.: The right rib exploded off of the coal pillar with tremendous force. We moved. It knocked out all the ground support we had in place, the water jacks that you've seen the pictures of, the chain-link fence.

TODD: All of that, he said, was propelled to the opposite side of the tunnel. Nine miners were standing right there and some got buried in several feet of coal.

Utah's governor says no more miners should be sent into that tunnel for now.

HUNTSMAN: Let us ensure that we have no more injuries. We have suffered enough as a state.

TODD: But drilling from the top of the mountain continues, with a fourth hole in progress, as rescue workers try to reach chambers where the six missing miners might have retreated for air. Officials say for the moment, those drills may offer the best chance of finding the miners, missing now for nearly 11 days.

STRICKLAND: If we can find miners alive, then we will start drilling a bore hole that would be large enough to put a capsule into the mine and bring the miners out through a capsule.


TODD: Even as they try to recover from this calamity, federal officials are defending their actions before the collapse, saying they had consensus that their plan for this rescue was the safest one possible. But just days before this disaster, 12 miners had asked to be reassigned, saying they were concerned about their safety -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Brian Todd in Huntington.

Thank you.

A powerful aftershock rocked Peru today, less than 48 hours after a massive magnitude 8.0 earthquake devastated a number of communities and left hundreds dead.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck is on the scene in the hard-hit city of Pisco, largely destroyed by the quake.

Harris, what's the latest from there?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, two days after the earthquake, rescuers continued digging through rubble. Survivors just tried to get by. And the loved ones of those who died undertake some of the most terrible task of all, that of burying their dead.


WHITBECK (voice over): A young man barely glances up from the rubble he's clearing as a funeral procession passes by. A Mariachi band serenades the dead man. "Rich or poor, you will always be the king."

Javier Casos Maron (ph) was 42 years old. A physics teacher, he died because he stayed inside his falling schoolroom to make sure his students made it out during Wednesday's earthquake.

Two days later, his wife and daughters mourn him as a hero. One of hundreds of funerals the entire Ica region must endure in the coming days.

Rescuers dig through the rubble of toppled houses and buildings nonstop. Each hour, new bodies turn up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In my 35 years as a firefighter, I have never seen this amount of destruction.

WHITBECK: And each hour, the needs of the living become more pressing.

Many of the injured waited for hours before receiving medical help. Those who could made it to a nearby military base where they were treated and in some cases evacuated to hospitals in the capital city of Lima. And those left behind struggle to find supplies. Lying for hours around an improvised distribution center in the provincial capital of Ica, desperate survivors got nothing more than a bottle of drinking water.


WHITBECK: And while survivors get scant supplies, rescuers continue working in the rubble. Behind me, Miles, what was once a five-story hotel, housing tourists from Colombia, Brazil and Peru.

The rescuers are working back there now. They say that the brother of a person who allegedly is trapped in the rubble received a text message from him asking to be rescued -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Harris Whitbeck in Pisco, Peru.

One person can make a difference. That person is you.

Impact your world by logging on to, where you can learn how you can become part of the solution for those affected by the Peruvian earthquake. We have a list of agencies mobilizing to provide assistance to quake victims.

Jack Cafferty joining us now from New York with "The Cafferty File".

Hello, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, thank you.

Guess what? The Internet could soon drive your local daily newspaper right out of business. And it's not doing a lot of folks who broadcast television news a lot of good either.

A new Harvard study suggests the Internet revolution is changing the way people get their news in ways that will help some news outlets and hurt others. Researchers studied traffic to 160 news-based Web sites over the period of one year. They found that traffic to sites of nationally known papers like "The New York Times," "Washington Post." "USA Today," those have growing audiences, while Web sites of many local papers don't.

Other Web sites with higher traffic were national brand name TV networks like CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and the "F" word network. Even so, broadcast news has lost one million viewers in the last year.

The most interesting finding of this thing might be this: the biggest gains in terms of online audiences came from what they call nontraditional news providers. That means places like search engines -- Google, Yahoo! -- along with bloggers and service providers. Those most threatened by the Internet are daily newspapers and local news organizations.

So, here's our question: What will the Internet eventually mean for more traditional news sources?

E-mail your thoughts on that to or go to -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, I guess there will always be room for people who are traditional news gatherers and vetters, don't you think?

CAFFERTY: You're hoping that your career lasts until you're old enough to retire? Is that what you're getting at here, Miles?

O'BRIEN: I'm just thinking about my mortgage, yes.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I think you're safe.

O'BRIEN: OK. Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

O'BRIEN: Fred Thompson on overturning Roe v. Wade...


FRED THOMPSON (R), FMR. SENATOR: Roe versus Wade was a bad decision. And I think it was bad law and bad medicine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: He's not in the race yet, but he's already talking about what he'd do if he wins the White House. Fred Thompson, one on one.

Plus, bombs away in Russia. They're flexing military muscle with China and making vows to send bomber planes on patrol beyond their border.

Plus, a CNN exclusive. Cuba's longest-held dissident walks free. He speaks out for the first time to explain why he chose to go to jail rather than leave the communist island.


O'BRIEN: Another top White House official is on his way out tonight. This time it's Press Secretary Tony Snow, who's been battling cancer.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is with the president in Crawford, Texas.

Suzanne, tell us what we know about Tony Snow and why he's leaving.


We know that Tony Snow is leaving. He will not say when, but multiple sources tell CNN that it could happen as early as September.

Now, I talked to Tony Snow via e-mail earlier today. He says, "I'm not making any announcements."

But I want you to take a listen, Miles, to what he said on Tuesday. This was the day after Karl Rove resigned. It was on a radio show.


HUGH HEWITT, "HUGH HEWITT SHOW": Your intention to go the distance, Tony Snow?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I'm not going to be able -- I've already made it clear, I'm not going to be able to go the distance. But that's primarily for financial reasons. I told people, when my money runs out, then I've got to go.

HEWITT: How long will that be?

SNOW: I'm not going to tell you.

HEWITT: Well, come on, make some news.


(END AUDIO CLIP) MALVEAUX: Now, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten told senior aides recently that if you're going to stay beyond Labor Day, then you're going to be here for the remainder of the term. It is really not surprising here that Tony Snow would not stay for the duration.

He has talked publicly before about the financial sacrifice that he has made for this job. He has kids that are entering college soon, and also, as you know, he's been undergoing treatment for his cancer. So it is not surprising that he is going to depart, and some people, sources telling us it could happen as early as September -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: He's got a lot on his plate, no question about it.

Now, has there been any talk about who might replace him?

MALVEAUX: Well, all the speculation, all the buzz is that it's Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.

I talked to her earlier today, and I asked her what does she make of this news about Tony Snow leaving? And this is what she said exactly: "I've got nothing on that, nor would I speculate."

So, at this point, we're just guessing.

O'BRIEN: All right. Suzanne Malveaux in Crawford. Thank you.

A first in the race for the White House tonight. Republican Fred Thompson is in Iowa playing the part of a presidential candidate, even though he has not formally announced that he would like to audition for this role of a lifetime.

Our John King was able to pin him down.


THOMPSON: I really do. We're going to be getting in, if we get in, and, of course, we're testing the waters, the legality. We're going to make a short statement that will cure all of that. But yes, we'll be in traditionally when people get in this race.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): But the timing of what you might call a "wait for me" visit was no accident. Rudy Giuliani still leads national polls of the Republican race. The former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, is, at least at the moment, more and more the candidate to keep an eye on.

WHITE AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Mitt Romney is now first in Iowa, first in New Hampshire, with the most money in the bank, and a lot more money where that came from. That's a pretty good impersonation of a front-runner.

KING: This public stroll at the Iowa State Fair came after private meetings with Iowa GOP activists and elected officials, including Christian conservatives who traditionally have huge influence in the state's kickoff presidential caucuses. AYRES: The real question now is, what happens with Fred Thompson? Does he come in and consolidate the conservative wing of the party? Or does the conservative wing get disillusioned with Fred Thompson as they have with many other candidates?

KING: Steve Sheffler is a veteran activist who runs the Iowa Christian Alliance and was among those invited to a private meeting with Thompson.

STEVE SHEFFLER, IOWA CHRISTIAN ALLIANCE: I think by and large people felt comfortable with what he had to say but, again, I think, you know, the first time meeting with these people is not going to be where people are going to say a light went off in my head and that's who I'm going to support.

KING (on camera): Many social conservatives complain of what they call lip service from the candidates for president. But Senator Thompson tells CNN that over time he is sure he will convince them that a President Thompson would not only push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, but also push aggressively to overturn the Supreme Court's landmark Roe versus Wade abortion rights decision.

John King, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


O'BRIEN: A guy, a car, a flashflood, and not many choices about where to go. What do you get? A man up a tree, with only a cell phone.

He'll tell us how he got out of this jam.

And later, Hurricane Dean builds strength and aims for the Gulf Coast. Memories of Katrina are spurring people to prepare for the worst.


O'BRIEN: Checking stories around the world right now.

A troubling alliance as Russia and China hold joint military exercises, and then take another provocative step sending bombers on patrol.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, it's sort of -- it's getting cold in here. It feels like the Cold War.


Well, you know, the Pentagon says it's not to worry. But on the other hand, they're keeping a very close eye on Russia right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice over): Russian president Vladimir Putin announced Moscow is resuming long-range bomber aircraft missions in the face of what he called ensuring the security of the Russian federation. Putin said 14 bombers took off Friday from seven airfields around the country. The same type of long-range patrols common during the Soviet era.

The announcement came as Putin met with Chinese leaders during joint military exercises on Russian soil. The White House says it's not concerned.

GORDON JOHNDROE, DEP. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not entirely surprising that the Russian -- Russian air force, the Russian military might engage in this kind of activity or exercise.

STARR: But it all hearkens back to the high-stakes game of catch the two sides played during the Cold War, when American and Russian pilots would wave at each other while flying.

General Victor Renoir (ph), commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, says NORAD is watching the latest Russian moves closely, telling CNN in a statement, "Over the last few months, the Russian Air Force has been flying a little more than we've seen in the past. NORAD has intercepted them out over international waters near Alaska."

Just last September, this F-15 fighter intercepted this Russian bare bomber off Alaska's coast.


STARR: You know, Miles, some experts say this may be more of a political move by Vladimir Putin, trying to reassure his own people and his military that they are still players on the world stage -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thank you.

Well, he was up a tree in a flood with nowhere to go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water kept getting higher, so I broke out a window and crawled up on the roof waiting for rescue there. And the next thing you know, the barbed wire fence gave way.


O'BRIEN: One man's frightening story of survival. He joins us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And Texans, get ready for the worst as Hurricane Dean gets stronger and closer. Can they avoid the mistakes made during Katrina?



Happening now, yet another Chinese import scare. This time it's baby bibs.

Toys "R" Us says it's removing all vinyl baby bibs from its shelves after tests showed two of the baby bibs made in China had high lead levels.

Fidel Castro says he's getting rent checks from the U.S. for the Guantanamo Bay naval base. In an essay just published, he says the checks have come since he came to power and he only cashed one. He says that was a mistake.

He calls Guantanamo an illegal occupation. Oh, the rent, by the way, $4,000.

And the federal government has settled a lawsuit from a Texas couple arrested for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts at a Bush rally. It happened at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, July 4, 2004. The couple received $80,000.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Miles O'Brien.


Let's get tack to Utah and the deadly turn at the Crandall Mine. Three rescuers dead tonight, six miners still trapped, their fate unknown.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is there.

Gary, what's the latest?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, I will tell you, there are very different kinds of grief taking playing here right now. For the three rescue miners who lost their lives, there's this horrifying grief. For the families of the six miners who are still missing, there's an annoying grief that doesn't go away. And for the community, there's just a general grief.

We thought two nights ago that we had some good news to tell. There were some sounds heard inside the mine. We didn't necessarily think it was coming from the mine. It could have been an animal walking above the mine that they heard with their listening devices, but that was the only good piece of news we've had in the 11 days since this happened . Then the next night, you have this devastation.

And what we know now, Miles, is that as of now, and perhaps forever, the digging inside the mine is being suspended. They're going to keep vertically going down, digging four holes. There's three that are completed. They're in the middle of the fourth one right now.

Those four holes are designed to see if the men are alive. They're hoping to see something with the video cameras, hear something with the microphone, get any sign whatsoever.

If they ultimately do discover that one, two or all six of these trapped miners are alive, it appears what they will do is then start digging a huge hole in the top of the mine. That incurs no risk for the people, the rescue workers. And what that could do, ultimately, when it's done -- that would take about three weeks -- is put a capsule down there and raise the living miners with the capsule. Obviously, they don't know if that's going to happen, but that appears to be the plan right now.

I'll tell you, Miles, I was here from the beginning and I left for a couple of days and I was actually heading to Peru yesterday, and then this happened. And ultimately, I was hoping I would come back here for a good news story, and what it turns out to be is we came back here for this just horrifying news story, unfortunately.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Gary Tuchman in Huntington, thank you very much.

The governor of Louisiana has just issued a state of emergency for her state as Hurricane Dean gains strength, and heads in the general direction of the Gulf States.

Let's go back to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers.

Chad, we were just talking about one of the models going right to Louisiana. And then Governor Blanco issued a state of emergency. Maybe she was watching.

CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Maybe. You know a couple things she said here it just kind of gets things in motion, and this allows other things to happen that can't happen unless this state of emergency is in place. These declarations are a necessary step that allows the state to move quickly, if necessary. I urge all citizens to be personally prepared. Listen to your local officials. Please make sure you have plans to get to safety and also should include evacuation. Make sure they are in order. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best, citing Governor Blanco.

There you go. One of the first. There will be more than this, certainly. This is just the first of many, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. Chad Myers, thank you very much.

As you've been hearing, there's a chance Hurricane Dean could eventually hit Texas. That's one of the other models. And mindful of the toll taken by Katrina, officials there are taking no chances either.

Let's turn now to Jeanne Meserve with more.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, sick and elderly people were hard hit by hurricane Katrina. Officials are trying to prevent a replay with Hurricane Dean. After Katrina passed, 35 bodies were found at St. Rita's Nursing Home, patients who should have been evacuated but were not. To avoid a similar tragedy, the Department of Health and Human Services is already tracking Hurricane Dean and doing computer simulations of its potential impact on the Texas coast, a possible point of landfall.

REAR ADM. CRAIG VANDERWAGEN, DEPT. OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: And as you can see, these hospitals in here are at extreme risk for flooding.

MESERVE: Already there are daily conference calls among state and federal officials to plan and coordinate. Federal officials praised Texas for the attention it has given elderly and special needs populations.

MIKE MUNTGOMERY, HARRIS CO. EMERG. MGMT.: They have planned evacuation sites based on the level of disability for these people. Very sophisticatedly and very pointedly. Very nice plan identifying a specific conveyance for a specific individual to a specific location.

MESERVE: But Texas officials don't believe they've accounted for them all. They are urging people with special needs to register for transportation in the event of an evacuation.

MUNTGOMERY: The bottom line is it will never be too late. We will never give up on people with special needs.

MERSERVE: The path of the storm is still uncertain, but because people with medical conditions may require special transportation arrangements, decisions on evacuating them may need to be made as early as Sunday night or Monday.


O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much.

You saw the pictures live here yesterday. Aerial shots of a man in San Antonio stranded in the branches of a tree, talking on his cell phone, as Texas floodwaters rushed and rose below him. Bill Noel was eventually rescued. But the question is, how did he get in this predicament in the first place?

BILL NOEL, RESCUED FROM TREE: Well, I was trying probably my third alternative way to get home. And had chosen a country road to go down, which should have brought me out in some dry area, but we got to a spot, there was myself and about three other vehicles, and we got to a spot where it was high. Water was ahead. And there really wasn't much water we had already crossed. But one of the vehicles went down. He ended up turning around and saying, no, it's not passable. So we started back the way we came. He went first. And the area that had been, I don't know, within the last 15 minutes had been, you know, a trickle over the road had turned into a flash flood. And as I started into it, realizing, nope, this is not going to work, so, you know, I was trying to back out of it. And back onto that strip of dry land between the two water areas. And it was inadvertently -- I was inadvertently soaked by another truck that had went by.

O'BRIEN: So basically your car became swamped. When did you realize the tree was your best option?

NOEL: Well, the car turned side ways in the road, and went kind of nosed down in the rushing water and the back was up in the air, and it was against a barbed wire fence. And I figured I was OK there. I was waiting for rescue at that point. The water kept getting higher, so I broke out a window and crawled up on the roof, waiting for rescue there. And next thing you know, the barbed wire fence gave way, and that's when I figured I was in trouble, because it was starting to head into the woods. So I grabbed a branch of a tree, and pulled, and, you know, God willing, and as it turned out I was able to get over to the tree, jump off into the tree, and stay there until the waters went up to about right below my knee.

O'BRIEN: All right. So you're there in the tree. You're on the cell phone talking to a 911 dispatcher for three hours. Finally the rescuers get to you. What was that like?

NOEL: It was -- they were having a difficult time. It was pretty rapid. I think there were probably at least a class 2, if you were going to measure speed of water. And so they were tying to a branch -- a tree across the way and trying to back into where I was without running over the barbed wire fence with their zodiacs. And then it was a matter of climbing back down the tree, and getting in the boat.

O'BRIEN: Is there a lesson learned?

NOEL: Lesson learned is, even though there was no blockage in the road saying the road was closed, flash floods can happen anywhere, anytime. And, you know, it's best to, you know, stay out. And that's what I was trying to do, get back out from where I was. Realizing I couldn't pass. So that's a lesson learned. And I thank the rescuers for doing a great job of getting over there, and 911 operators for staying with me on the phone.

O'BRIEN: Bill Noel, we're glad you're not up a tree anymore, dry and safe, and we wish you well. Thank you for your time.

NOEL: Thank you, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Another dangerous product made in China. This time it's a test used by millions of diabetics. The tests are fakes.

Also, a billboard for a storage locker company becomes an unlikely back drop for the battle over abortion.


O'BRIEN: A warning about a common home medical supply used by million of American diabetics. We learned that many diabetic test strips on the market are, one, counterfeit, and two, you guessed it, made in China.

CNN's Carol Costello joins us now. Carol, this is a bad theme, this China thing. But tell us, this is very dangerous for diabetics.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is potentially very dangerous for diabetics and it kind of makes you say, can I trust any product I pick up to be safe and not from China. The scary thing about this, it involves medical supplies that millions depend on.

Here we go again. Another potentially dangerous product made in China. Not toothpaste or toys, but phony copies of a test used by millions of American diabetics. Counterfeit blood testing strips, sold under the brand names One Touch Ultra and One Touch Basic. Johnson & Johnson Life Scan makes the strips that have been copied. One China trade expert says don't be surprised.

TED FISHMAN, AUTHOR, "CHINA, INC.": China is a new economy. It's learning its way as it goes. Unfortunately its growing pains are deadly pains around the world.

COSTELLO: Diabetics count on the blood strips to help measure blood sugar levels. A false reading and they could inject the wrong dose of insulin. Johnson & Johnson discovered the bogus strips last year when customers called in to complain. And after a global investigation, the company found the counterfeit strips were imported from Hallson Pharmaceutical, a company based in China. The owner, Henry Fu, is now locked up in a Chinese prison. But if you take a look in an online directory at what his company produces, it's not just testing strips for diabetics. It's pregnancy tests, HIV test kits and tuberculosis test strips as well. An ominous sign.

PETER PITTS, CTR. FOR MEDICINES IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: We're going to find more. It's a huge public health problem, almost as dangerous as infectious diseases and it's growing even faster.

COSTELLO: Health and Human Services Secretary, Mike Levitt, told us he doesn't have all the details of this latest controversy, but vowed things will change.

MIKE LEVITT, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We need to coordinate not only among government agencies, but with those who ship and those who produce and those who receive and those who sell.

COSTELLO: As for China's regulatory authority, a spokeswoman admits, we can see that weaknesses exist in the supervision and exports of drugs and medical devices. She also insisted things would change.

Yes, well, the answer is when the heck is that going to happen. When are things going to change? China depends on those who import their goods to check them out. And that means in this case it's up to the customer. And that would be the United States. Now, it is fortunate it was Johnson & Johnson Mr. Fu was allegedly ripping off, because it's a reputable company with vast resources for a widespread investigation.

O'BRIEN: All right. So if you need those testing strips, you've got to be worried right now. What are you supposed to do about it? COSTELLO: Well, this happened last year, so most of those testing strips are gone. Johnson & Johnson assures me it's been taken care of, the management taken care of. Just to make sure, though, buy your medical supplies from a reputable company, one you've actually heard of, because you know a lot of people go to smaller companies they haven't heard of to save money and sometimes that can be really dangerous.

O'BRIEN: Buyer beware. All right. Carol, thank you very much.

New controversy in New York over one of America's most contentious political issues, abortion. The lightning rod in this case is a billboard. Here's senior correspondent Allan Chernoff.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It's all about business. There's a company here in New York that's trying to attract customers by promoting its position on abortion in a very public way.

It's the hanger that offends many passersby, an ad for a storage locker company with a decidedly pro-choice message. Your closet space is shrinking as fast as her right to choose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not going to go away.

CHERNOFF: Could happen anywhere?


CHERNOFF: It certainly is. Appropriate way to advertise a storage company?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Inappropriate completely.

CHERNOFF: The Catholic League, which opposes abortion, is outraged that Manhattan Mini Storage would sell storage space by making reference to women using coat hangers to abort.

BILL DONOHUE, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE: This appeal, I think, is crude. I think it's callous and it's in your face. And quite frankly, do we really need to see this when people are driving along a highway?

CHERNOFF: Pro choice groups though are applauding.

ANGELA HOOTON, MARAL: Some women, and some men are actually excited that there's a company out there -- wears its pro choice position on its sleeves and in this case on its building. And that might even encourage people to use them as their storage company.

CHERNOFF: Manhattan Mini Storage is owned by a private company, Edison Properties, based in New Jersey whose executives did not return CNN's repeated telephone calls. A manager at this location who would not speak on camera says Manhattan Mini Storage with 17 locations is running a very successful business. Not surprising in a town where many apartments are as small as closets. The company's ads also take aim at the president. This billboard at another of its locations reads, "Your closet is scarier than Bush's agenda."

In heavily democratic New York, that ad has not sparked much controversy. Neither has the one around the corner which pokes fun at Paris Hilton.


O'BRIEN: Thank you, Allan Chernoff.

13 years ago, this Cuba dissident you're about to see was given a choice, leave the country or go to prison. He chose prison. Now he's out and he's speaking out, and we'll hear what he has to say.

Also, the internet is fast replacing traditional news sources. So what does that mean for your local newspaper, or for that matter, your friendly television anchorman? Jack Cafferty has the responses to that question.



O'BRIEN: A leading Cuban dissident is free after almost a decade and a half in prison. Is that a sign things are improving in the communist nation?

Here's CNN's Morgan Neil in Havana with the CNN exclusive.

MORGAN NEIL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, critics of Cuba's government have long focused on human rights saying the opposition is harassed and denied basic freedoms. For its part, Cuba's government says it's only protecting itself against what he calls the plans of the empire, that's the United States.

We sat down and talked to one man who has lived at the center of that conflict.

Until last week, Francisco Chaviano was known to dissident groups as Cuba's longest-serving political prisoner. On August 10th he was set free after more than 13 years behind bars. In this struggle, my life has been spent, he says. A good part of my life has gone by. In 1994, Chaviano, president of the outlawed Cuban Council for Civil Rights, was convicted of revealing state secrets and sentenced to 15 years. He says he was framed. The long-time dissident says authorities told him he could leave the country or go to jail. He chose jail. I'm a Cuban, he says. This is where both my rights and my responsibilities lie.

Amnesty International took up his cause saying his trial in a military court fell short of international standards. Chaviano's case is one of what dissident groups say are hundreds in Cuba. One group says more than 40 political prisoners have been released in the last year but that more than 200 remain. The government says there are no political prisoners in Cuba, only mercenaries in the pay of the United States. In April, Spain's foreign minister visited the island, leaving with an agreement to start talks on human rights. There are no forbidden topics, said Cuba's foreign minister, no taboos in this dialog. Some say the recent release of prisoners is a result of those talks. But dissidents say the drop in the number of political prisoners doesn't mean things are getting better. In a news conference held at the residence of a top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, they said human rights violations are as widespread as ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do not respect anything.

As for Chaviano, he said he's always believed in dialog with the government. After 13 years in prison, I ask, does he still think the same? Yes, I still believe in that, he says. Besides, he adds, I've already given up 13 years of my life. Why would I stop now?

Now, because of various health problems, Chaviano says he's seeking permission to go to the United States for treatment. But he says he won't go if he can't come back.


O'BRIEN: Thanks very much. Morgan Neil in Cuba.

Next week, CNN will bring you an unprecedented six-hour television event, God's Warriors, reported by Christiane Amanpour. No single leader did more to harness the political power of this country's Christian conservatives than the late Jerry Falwell.

In his last interview conducted a week before his death, the Reverend Falwell reflected on the state of America and the future of the movement.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To the end, Reverend Jerry Falwell continued to connect liberal beliefs to Islamic terrorism. Such as blaming the attacks of September 11th on the prevalence of abortion in America.

You know, you cause add huge amount of controversy after 9/11 when you basically said that the lord was removing his protection from America.

REVEREND JERRY FALWELL: I still believe that. I believe that our country that --

AMANPOUR: And that America probably deserved it.

FALWELL: Here's what I said. No, I said that the people are responsible, must take the blame for it.

AMANPOUR: You did. But you went on to say what I've just said.

FALWELL: We're killing a million babies a year in this country by abortion. And I will say then, I'm saying now, that if we in fact change all the rules on which this Judah Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the lord to put his shield of protection around us as he has in the past.

AMANPOUR: So you still stand by that?

FALWELL: I stand right by it.

AMANPOUR: Radical opponents have long waged their holy war against abortion clinics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell was that?

AMANPOUR: Bombings, arson, assassination, that terrified many women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have one confirmed fatality.

AMANPOUR: This bombing at a Birmingham clinic killed a police guard. In the mid-'90s from Boston to Florida, angry zealots murdered seven people, three of them doctors. The violence not only frightened a number of abortion clinics into closing, it also caused a public backlash.

FALWELL: There can't be the yelling and the screaming and the bombing abortion clinics, and the marching outside and waving. It's got to be the soft, but intelligent sell of the facts.

AMANPOUR: As we talked that last week of his life, Falwell seemed to recognize that his battle to end all abortions would have to be won by the next generation of God's warriors.

FALWELL: My children are more likely to see this victory won than I am. I think we're 50 years away. We've got to stay with it. Stay with it. Stay with it. And never give up.

O'BRIEN: God's Warriors starts Tuesday night, 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN. You don't want to miss it.

Jack Cafferty joining us from New York. Jack, back with the Cafferty file.

Hello, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That looks like great stuff coming up next week. Thanks, Miles.

The question this hour, what will the internet eventually mean for more traditional news sources?

Lois in Tucson weighs in with, "Major news sources can no longer ignore what they want to, maximize or minimize stories their corporate parent wants to focus on. The internet tells all and spreads news quickly. If those stories don't start appearing on the major media right away, people will turn to the internet for informative truth."

Mark in Illinois, "The internet will never replace you or your colleagues at CNN." This is how you get your letter read on this program. "I fear any idiot with a keyboard will spew an opinion without a factual basis."

Bill writes, "Just a few months ago, I discontinued my local newspaper in favor of the TV and internet. Why wait for the morning paper? I already knew what the news was long before it came out in print."

Andrew writes in Antioch, California, "In the long run, Jack, the professional news organizations that can tough it out will experience a great renaissance. Eventually people will figure out that most bloggers have no idea what they're talking about, and when that happens, people will come running back to the news organizations that actually verify facts before reporting there. So hang in there."

Rocky writes, "It means local newspapers and other media outlets will have to focus on areas where they really add value. Just copying and pasting news stories from A.P. and Reuters or hacked-up pieces from "The New York Times" won't cut it. Either that or they'll just rotate Paris, Britney, and Angelina on their front pages."

Jerry ion Austin, "I don't care, as long as you, Wolf, Lou and some guy on another cable network are on." He named the other guy, I won't.

And Mark in Tyler, Texas, "Hi Jack. I enjoy my local newspaper here in Tyler, Texas, and I think they do a fine job reporting local and world events. Until the day comes I can conveniently take a computer to the bathroom and read the news, my subscription to the local paper will remain safe from cancellation."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to We post more of them online, along with video clips of the Cafferty File. So get more about this on the internet, Miles.

O'BRIEN: On the internet. So we're not quite dinosaurs yet.

CAFFERTY: I plan to be here Monday. I don't know about you.

O'BRIEN: Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, right? All right. Jack Cafferty, thank you, sir.

In the footsteps of Bin Laden. Christiane Amanpour is up with a CNN special report in just a little while. Stay with us. We'll be back.


O'BRIEN: Hot Shots time. Take a look at some of the pictures you'll be seeing in the newspapers tomorrow courtesy of the Associated Press.

West Bank, a Spanish protestor runs from tear gas fired by Israeli troops near Israel's separation barrier.

A Russian testing range, Chinese self propelled howitzers move across a field during joint military exercises between Russia and China. We told about that earlier. Trenton, New Jersey now, these are feet belonging to what's believed to the smallest baby ever born in New Jersey, 11 ounces. That was back in May. Tamara Dixon now weighs four pounds and went home today. We wish her well.

Southern Germany, a Dutch writer clears an obstacle helping Holland to win the gold at a horse jumping championship.

And that's the Hot Shots, pictures often worth a thousand words. Thanks for joining us. This Sunday, on "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER," Senators Bob Casey and Kit Bond and now up next on CNN, the footsteps of bin Laden.