Guests: Jeff Goodell, Jonathan Capehart
ALISON STEWART, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD STICKLER, MINE HEALTH AND SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: There is no
no reason to lose hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Four days in and still no communication with the six Utah miners trapped 1800 feet underground. Officials fear the drill meant to find signs of life didn‘t reach the target. This as reports of another mining accident out of Indiana. Three workers killed. We will have the latest developments on both fronts.
The Democrats continue their week of forums. This time with the gay community. Having to get comfortable, discussing issues like marriage and don‘t ask, don‘t tell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have said in the past that you feel uncomfortable around gay people. Are you ok right now? [Laughter]
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: To the Iowa straw poll. The clear winner with the most money, and yes, it‘s Mitt.
A very public person speaks out about a very private matter. Fighting for his life. Tony Snow talks frankly about living with colon cancer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You got a lot to live for.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah, I sure do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Drive-by idiocy at the drive-through. Tonight, throwing drinks at fast-food workers and posting the video on YouTube.
And from the ugly to the plain ridonculous. So good we had to show you again. It‘s an ear full of an encore. It‘s our “Oddball” plays of the month, take two.
All that and more now on “Countdown.”
STEWART (on camera): Good evening, everyone. Keith Olbermann has the night off. I‘m Alison Stewart. In our fifth story tonight, the Utah mine collapse. We are expecting a news conference to begin at any moment now with the latest details on efforts to rescue six miners trapped for almost five days now.
Earlier today officials announced grim news. After drilling a hole barely two and a half inches wide, extending more than 1800 feet in the earth, a distance greater than the height of any skyscraper, a slender steel tube dropped down that hole with a microphone on the end. It brought back silence from the cavity where the six believed to have been boxed in. The first air samples collected from that tube showed 20 percent oxygen, giving way to samples of only about 7 percent, not enough to sustain life. Still the hope the narrow shaft went off course finding wrong air pocket.
Jennifer London covering the rescue efforts and joins us tonight from Huntington.
Good evening, Jennifer.
JENNIFER LONDON: Alison, good evening. And this massive rescue operation has been hammered by seismic activity and equipment failures and mine officials do acknowledge it is not going as fast as they hoped. But still they insist they are getting closer to reaching the men.
LONDON (voice-over): The first break through came late last night. Rescue teams drilling into the mine reached the chamber where they thought the miners were trapped but now believe the small borehole may have shifted into a different chamber.
STICKLER: We are all disappointed. You are going through different layers of material and the geology is not consistent. And that will cause the drill to want to bend.
LONDON: Rescue teams first lowered a two-way communication device into the collapsed mine but heard no sounds from the six men. A second larger hole will be used to send down supplies, like food, water, medicines and high resolution cameras. Engineers can steer the larger drill, giving them a better chance of staying on target.
Still, it is unknown what conditions both physically and emotionally the trapped men are in.
JEFF GOODELL, AUTHOR, “BIG COAL”: The psychological toll is really extreme. You lose sense of time. You don‘t know where you are.
LONDON: And in many ways, family and friends are also trapped, somewhere between hope and despair.
The father of trapped miner Carlos Payan says all he can do is wait and have faith. And Luis Hernandez, who has a one-year-old daughter, began working at Crandall Canyon only two weeks before the disaster.
Back on the mountain, rescuers are fighting fatigue, sweltering temperatures and the knowledge that with ever passing day, chances for a safe recovery diminish.
LONDON: A lot is riding on the success of the second larger hole that is being drilled and once those cameras are put into position, perhaps later tonight, or early tomorrow morning, Alison, rescue teams say they will have a much better idea of what they are actually dealing with.
STEWART: Jennifer, let‘s get back to the first hole that we have been talking about. How realistic is it that the first shaft might not have hit the right cavity?
LONDON: Well, as you know, Alison, all very confusing and we are learning every day that this is a very fluid rescue operation and they can‘t really give us any precise answers. It is changing hour to hour, certainly day-to-day. And last night, when they first drilled to the bottom of that chamber and reach the bottom of mine, they thought they had in fact reach the right chamber where the men are trapped. But then when they did later air samples, they got different oxygen readings that led them to believe that well, you know what? There are a couple of abandoned field chambers next to where the trapped men are, they believe. And they think that the drilling and that smaller hole may have drifted into one of those sealed chambers. So that‘s where things stand right now. We were hoping for an update when the press conference gets underway here at any moment.
STEWART: Jennifer London reporting from Huntington. Thank you so much.
As Jennifer mentioned, we are waiting for a news conference.
Helping us to understand all of this and part of Jennifer‘s report is Jeff Goodell. He‘s the author of “Big Coal, the Dirty Secret Behind America‘s Energy Future.”
Jeff, you took part in Jennifer‘s piece. I do want to follow up on the last question I just asked her. After hearing all the information that she gave us and from the package that you have been studying all day, do you think that they ended up in the wrong chamber with the first hole?
GOODELL: Well, it sounds like it. I think that this first hole is sort of a random—not random but sort of emergency first shot, quick try to get down there right away and, you know, it was—it was a likely probability that it wouldn‘t end up where they wanted but they had to take a chance. The second hole is the one that they are really counting on.
And despite the disappointment that outsiders, like us watching, undoubtedly family members feel, it‘s likely that it is not going to make much difference to the survival of the miners. If they survived the collapse, this was to make contact with them. The real important one is the one coming in later tonight or tomorrow, which will give them water and sustenance to stay alive until they can get in there and get out.
STEWART: So the next hole is much bigger?
STEWART: So in terms of it—literally they are thinking about it in terms of a rescue mission if they are digging a whole like that. They are going to insert water. It‘s not about trying to find out if somebody down there is still alive.
GOODELL: No, they‘re trying to find that too. They‘re presuming...
STEWART: They‘re presuming that they are alive at this point.
STEWART: This is the working theory.
GOODELL: And they will presume that until they find evidence to the contrary. Mining history is full of amazing survival stories. And these guys are tough, really tough. And you know, we just do not know until we have real evidence.
STEWART: The Associated Press tried to paint a picture of what it might be like under there. They describe it as being likely 58 degrees or so. Pitch dark because the lights on their helmets has likely gone out. Are miners trained to survive in situations like this? Or is this relying on their fortitude and them being tough guys?
GOODELL: Well, they do have training about what to do in the case of collapse. The real truth is there is not a lot for them to do. Not like being out in the wilderness and you have to figure out what kind of berries to eat or something like that. They are trained to barricade themselves in and to wait and to try to signal, you know by tapping on the mine—on the roof bolt and things. But there is really not a lot for them to do.
I have spent a lot of time talking with miners, the miners who were trapped in 2002 underground and other miners. And the psychological toll is what is toughest on these guys. They talk about the darkness, the losing sense of time. The—their minds going into sort of flashbacks and hallucinations. One of the Q Creel miners reports that he saw the moon rise in the coal mine. All kinds of stories about this about the disorientation.
So if they are alive down there, I think that they are having a very surreal time at this moment.
STEWART: The miners that you have interviewed, is there any common thread that you could tell that led to their survival?
GOODELL: No. The thing that leads to their survival obviously is the kind of condition they were in when they were trapped. If they were hurt or not. But really it is—the story is really on the outside, on the extraordinarily complex rescue mission that is going on.
We hear a lot of confusion today about what is happening. Do we know about the objection screen, have we heard anything? It all sounds very confusing from the outside. But in fact, this is a really complicated operation and they‘re really working very, very hard under extreme pressure and fatigue.
STEWART: One of the things I think was interesting the Salt Lake Tribune, they link you through to the safety measures that these mines have to go through and plans and how they have to be reviewed—is it ever six months now since the Mine Safety Act of last year?
STEWART: I was shocked to find that act had not been updated for almost three decades. Why so long, do you think?
GOODELL: That is a good question. One of the problems with the way coal mining legislation proceeds is that no one really pushes hard for new safety measures until there is a tragedy. And then a tragedy will happen and they will update things to take care of that, like after the Sago Mine collapse or fire last year when 12 guys died. They made changes to do with the problems they saw there. But wholesale mine safety reform is seldom.
STEWART: That‘s unfortunate, isn‘t it?
GOODELL: Yes, it is unfortunate.
STEWART: Jeff Goodell, author of “Big Coal.” Thanks so much.
And at a time when the Utah mine collapse has focused new scrutiny on the nation‘s standards of mine safety, another mine accident occurred today. Three men dead. It happened at a coal mine in Princeton, Indiana. The three men were construction workers. Six hundred feet had been dug of a 900-foot air shaft. All three men being lowered to the bottom of this to continue work on the shaft. About 100 feet down, something went wrong with the bucket. It tilted, pitching all three men out. They fell 500 feet to their death at the bottom of the shaft. An investigation is underway.
The Democrats let their rainbow flags fly in a first of a kind forum aimed at the gay community. How did they do? We will show you the highs and the lows coming up.
And David Gregory‘s exclusive interview with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. An emotional conversation about his battle against cancer, how his family and his work give him a reason to fight.
You‘re watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.
STEWART: Organizers say it was the first of its kind. In our fourth story on the “Countdown,” six major presidential candidates on national TV last night to focus specifically on the issues of gay American. Those six candidates were all Democrats. All the Republican presidential candidates declined a similar invitation.
But each of the Democrats sometimes found him or herself struggling to explain his or her position on gay marriage. Except for Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. Both support gay marriage and said so at the forum sponsor by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, and Logo, a gay oriented cable channel. But the other four showed their limited support—they showed support for civil unions and tried to stress that would be enough to guarantee equal rights for gays and lesbians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a strong supporter not of a weak version of civil unions but of a strong version in which the rights that are conferred at the federal level to persons of—know who are part of the same sex union are compatible.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have made it very clear in our country that we belief in equality. How we get the full equality is the debate we are having. And I am absolutely in favor of civil unions with full equality, full equality of benefits, rights and privileges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Former Senator John Edwards said he regretted past remarks about how his religious views had a stand on gay rights. And he was asked by one of panelists, openly lesbian rock singer Melissa Etheridge, if he still felt personally uncomfortable around gay people?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA ETHERIDGE, SINGER: Because I have heard that you have said in the past that you have feel uncomfortable around gay people. Are you OK right now? [Laughter] It‘s ok.
JOHN EDWARDS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m perfectly comfortable.
ETHERIDGE: But it is experiences like that that people need to know,
need to see and just how universal and how we are all just people, the
same. Now, my next question is,
EDWARDS: Can I just tell you, that is not true. What you just—you didn‘t say I said it, but someone else...
ETHERIDGE: Well, I have heard of it.
EDWARDS: Someone else said it. It is not true. It is not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Then there was Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ETHERIDGE: Do you think homosexuality is a choice or is it biological?
BILL RICHARDSON, (D), GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: It is a choice. It is
ETHERIDGE: I don‘t know if you understand the question. Do you think I—do you think a homosexual is born that way or do you think that around seventh grade we go, oh, I want to be gay?
RICHARDSON: Well, I‘m not a scientist. It‘s—it‘s—you know, I don‘t see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people. I see it as a matter of love and companionship and people loving each other. I don‘t like to categorize people. I don‘t like the—like, answer defending like that, that perhaps are grounded in science or something else that I don‘t understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Governor Richardson has since released a statement saying he does not believe that sexual orientation happens by choice.
Joining me now, one of the panelists from that forum, the editorial page writer of the “Washington Post,” Jonathan Capehart.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITE, WASHINGTON POST: Hi. How are you, Alison?
STEWART: Jonathan, do you think the governor realized the significance of what he was saying and how it would be received?
CAPEHART: Probably not. It was sort of like watching someone drown in the shallow end of pool. And then refuse the life raft thrown to him. I was steeling glances from Margaret Carlson when Melissa asked the question. When he said emphatically it‘s a choice, we looked at each other and flinched. We couldn‘t believe he would flub such an easy question.
STEWART: You know, is so funny. Was that the most cringe-tastic moment of the night?
CAPEHART: Oh, yeah. You have probably seen Governor Richardson in person. Yesterday was the second time I have ever seen him in person. He is a big guy. He is tall and a big guy. And I watched this big guy shrink in that chair as he sat there taking questions from us at the forum. It was really incredible.
STEWART: One of the things I thought was interesting at the forum, it seemed like a lot of candidates were saying I was wrong, I changed. You had Edwards. Edwards talking about his faith. And Senator Clinton doing a bit of an about face on the defense of the marriage act, saying why it was good that her husband signed it into law, but needed to be jettisoned, parts of it. Should she should she have to defend his choice or is her current stance credible?
STEWART: She has to defend some of the things he has done. I thought her explanation for why it was necessary at the time was actually a very interesting history lesson. And I had forgotten some of that. At that time, there was a huge push on for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. And that the folks in the Clinton White House—I‘m not sure how involved then First Lady Hillary Clinton was involved in that—but there was—the thought that DOMA would be a way to keep the right wing at bay or keep the conservative force at bay who wanted to amend the Constitution. And I felt that part of the explanation of rather interesting. And I know there are people probably sitting on that panel and other gay folks out there who are irate probably by that explanation.
But I do think that using that as a stop gap measure probably was wise to do. But as she said yesterday and consistently said on the campaign trail, she wants to she wants to eliminate Article 3 of DOMA, which is the piece of law that basically says same-sex couples are denied any rights and responsibilities that heterosexual married couples can...
STEWART: Let‘s talk about that issue of gay rights. Because all the top-tier candidates talk about how they believe in civil rights achieved through civil unions, going right up to the gay-marriage line, but not crossing it. What would be the problem with saying, OK, everybody, go register at Crate and Barrel, I don‘t oppose gay marriage.
CAPEHART: The two guys who are in favor of same-sex marriage are the two guys at the bottom of the poll heap, Senator Gravel and Congressman Kucinich. I think Senators Senators Edwards, Obama and Clinton are, to varying degrees, I think aren‘t quite there yet when it comes to marriage, same-sex mainly. But they are all completely there when it comes to giving same-sex couples automatic the rights and responsibilities that heterosexual married couples get but don‘t want to call it marriage.
If there is one saving grace for Governor Richardson yesterday was when I asked him the question about his statement at the CNN YouTube debate that he was wasn‘t in favor of marriage, but was in favor of what is achievable. He was the only one who would say, flat out that, that is what is going on here. If you want marriage, it probably is not going to happen. But if you want what is achievable, give you all the rights and responsibilities. Then we have got a plan going.
STEWART: “Washington Post‘s” Jonathan Capehart, a panelist at last night‘s Logo forum. Thanks for sharing your reporting with us.
CAPEHART: Thanks a lot, Alison.
STEWART: It starts with the letter I. It has four letters in the name. And it uses indelible purple ink from stopping resident from voting twice. It‘s Iowa. The state‘s governor is pledging to keep the ‘08 election in ‘08, telling local media that while Iowa will move up its caucus in order to be the first in the nation, it will not, as speculated, move to December of this year. He, of course, was responding to South Carolina‘s primary shift to January.
Not that the clarification is slowing down any of the campaign. Republican candidates are out in force hoping to win the unofficial Ames, Iowa, straw poll. All except Giuliani and John McCain not actively participating but both of their names will be on the ballot.
The only frontrunner actually trying to win it, Mitt Romney, has now spent more on tomorrow‘s poll than other candidates have raised in total, more than $1 million dollars by the end of June alone, not including the TV ads with at least 60 volunteers to sing his praises around the state, plus direct mailing, plus a huge barbeque at the fair, plus paying a $35 entry fee for an untold number of supporters. And Romney is widely expected to win, perhaps by a margin as big as eight to one.
Though now the organizers have decided to crack down on multiple voters by using the same purple finger technique of the Iraqi election in 2005, those numbers could shrink.
Speaking of the riding the amazing backpedaling bike, Rudy Giuliani is trying to resculpt comments he made comparing had himself to worker at Ground Zero, comments that drew widespread outrage from workers. Thursday night in response to criticism about how he managed the aftermath of 9/11, Giuliani told reports that, quote, “I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I‘m one of them,” end quote.
When the International Firefighters Union and several workers who became seriously ill at Ground Zero called his remarks insulting, Giuliani‘s spokesman called their complaints, quote, “The ridiculous and partisan rantings of a Democratic front group.” But this afternoon, on the radio, Giuliani said he misspoke and was only trying to show his empathy for the workers. But they remain unimpressed.
The voice the current presidential administering gets personal. Tony Snow talks personally about the return of his cancer, juggling his high-profile job and chemotherapy. And he spoke to our own David Gregory.
And later, drive through dumb-[beep]s. YouTube steps in to turn around a trend of idiots attacking fast-food workers and posting video of it on the web. Details ahead on “Countdown.”
STEWART: On this date in 1874, the subject of one of the most confusing song lyrics in TV theme song history was born. The man was a future president, Herbert Hoover. The lyric was in the classic ‘70s sitcom “All in the Family,” “Mister, we could use a man like Hubert Hoover again.” But think about it. Do you want the guy who stood by while the country sank into the Great Depression to come back? In the words of the immortal Archie Bunker “Shut up, you”?
That, and let‘s play “Oddball.”
We begin on the Internet where the new rage is watching squirrels get chucked off bird feeders. This is a product known as the Twirl- A-Squirrel. It‘s a bird feeder that can tell when a squirrel climbs on and begins to spin. The squirrels don‘t like the spinning. They jump off. It‘s great when it works, which is only sometimes as this Youtube demonstrates. The squirrel, he digs the ride. Little guy not going anywhere, ever.
Speaking of screwing around with squirrels, Oddball brings us this video of the campus of Indianapolis Cathedral High School. The white stuff; it‘s a butt load of toilet paper. Who did this, you ask?
Cathedral‘s sworn enemy and rival high school, Ron Call (ph)? No, it was the school‘s own students performing what school administrators call a right of passage.
Underclassmen chuck the Charmin, Scotty, whatever you have. They chuck it into the trees and the seniors have to clean it up. It‘s great for school spirit, terrible for the greater Indianapolis area, which is stuck using paper towels that might as well be 50 grit sand paper.
You are in luck. You have tuned in to Oddball palooza night. Everything from Borat wannabes to fun with your blow up doll, in public no less. Time to put the kids to bed.
And once you go Brad, you don‘t go back. Has Angelina Jolie really forsaken women and S & M for the handsome actor? Details ahead, but first COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.
Number three, Yahaya Wahab of Malaysia, who hasn‘t paid his phone bill and in ten days could go to jail if he doesn‘t settle the tab. The problem, Yahaya doesn‘t have the 218 trillion dollars he owes. The phone company isn‘t sure if the bill is a mistake or some kind of crazy phone sex addiction, but raising 218 trillion dollars in 10 days may be a problem. Yahaya, we got two words for you, bake sale.
Number two, Danny Anderson of Washington, who killed a rattlesnake on his property by decapitating the little sucker. When he bent down to clear the crime scene, the decapitated head turned around and bit him. He was rushed to the hospital and treated for the poisonous bit. He‘s OK now. An expert says the severed snake bite was probably just a reflex, but isn‘t ruling out a new breed of zombie snakes.
And number one, 20-year-old Antornia Gillion, who is nine months pregnant. The day she showed up for the “American Idol” audition in Dallas. Notice I said was. Miss Gillion did make it to the audition room, but even after her contractions began and an ambulance showed up, she refused to leave unless she learned if she would advance to the next round.
Her son advance out of her body early Tuesday morning. The baby‘s name Paul Simon Gillion. No, it‘s not. But it is Gemele Lebron Idol McCowen (ph), for real.
STEWART: The number three story in our COUNTDOWN, a man who says he is not dying of cancer but living with the disease. While there are more than a million new cancer patients diagnosed every year in the United States, the diagnosis is no longer an automatic death sentence. An example, one of the most visible faces on TV, the president‘s press secretary, Tony Snow, who has tangled twice with colon cancer.
He often tangles with NBC White House correspondent David Gregory. So it is especially interesting that Mr. Snow sat down exclusively with Mr. Gregory, inviting the reporter to see what it takes for a man and his family to fight the good fight against a tough opponent.
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Come on, buddy.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tony Snow decided early on living with cancer meant working with it. And working at the White House that meant no let up. Arriving before 7:00 a.m., staff meting.
SNOW: Make sure we get it covered.
GREGORY: Time with the president and yes, the televised daily briefings.
SNOW: I don‘t care. No. All of this is seen as a high stress job. I love it. The other thing is I actually think it is good therapy to get out and work. It is the idea of you sit around and think oh, I‘m sick and concentrate on the disease. Or do you sit around and think OK, how do I fight this?
GREGORY: His fight is everyone‘s battle, including the president‘s.
(on camera): What does he say to you about your illness.
SNOW: Just how you doing? Every once in a while—and it is interesting—he will bring it up. He will want to know how are you doing? How far along are you? What do they tell you, the same sort of questions you are asking me.
GREGORY (voice-over): Since learning colon cancer returned nearly five months ago, Snow has undergone surgery and ducks out of work early every other Friday for chemotherapy.
(on camera): How many treatments have you had?
SNOW: This is number seven out of eight.
GREGORY (voice-over):: A three-hour infusion of cancer fighting agents that he says is working.
SNOW: It looks we‘re having success in driving it into remission and even going further and shrinking the larger tumors. If that‘s the case, the little ones—you have some hope that they get wiped out all together.
GREGORY: Still, it all takes a toll. He has lost weight. His voice has weakened. He is tired. And, there is the hair.
(on camera): Are you losing your hair?
SNOW: Oh, gosh, I have lost a ton of it.
GREGORY: But Snow says cancer is hardest on his family, including his three children.
Are they scared about dad being sick?
SNOW: I think they are. I think they are probably more than they let on.
GREGORY: Your son actually wrote an essay about hearing that you got cancer and he wrote, I was devastated. But he said, speaking of you, that he would be fine and he is.
GREGORY: You got a lot to live for.
SNOW: Yes, I sure do. I said look, I‘m going to bounce your kids on my knee. That‘s what I‘m going to do. And I told him that‘s what I want to do. I mean, you—it‘s great to love people this much.
GREGORY: Even when he thinks about the worst, Snow insists he does not dwell on the prospect of dying.
SNOW: Tell them I wanted to meet.
GREGORY (on camera): Do you have moments when you get tired? Do you get depressed?
SNOW: Not really.
GREGORY: Do you get tired of fighting?
SNOW: No, at least not yet.
GREGORY (voice-over): Snow admits even if he beats back the tumors, it is likely he will live with cancer for rest of his life.
SNOW: Medical technology is moving so quickly that if you buy yourself two or three years, you buy yourself 10 years. What you really try to do is just keep yourself in a position to keep fighting.
GREGORY: And keep working.
(on camera): This is a different setting.
GREGORY: You know, the sparring in the press rooms seems a long way away.
SNOW: It does. It does. I got to tell you it—it was so great to get back to the press room after surgery. You know, there is a certain sense where that is a kind of home too.
GREGORY: For the face of the White House, an uncertain future, but a strong belief that life goes on.
SNOW: Gentlemen, I‘m going home. Good night. Thanks.
GREGORY: David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.
STEWART: We take you live now to Huntington, Utah, where we are getting a briefing on the situation with the six trapped miners. Let‘s listen in.
RICHARD STICKLER, ASST. LABOR SECY FOR MINE HEALTH & SAFETY: -- the family members. And I think the family members really appreciate this. It comforts them to know that there are people that understand and in the same situation they are in. We have worked very hard to be as responsive to the families as possible.
Anything we can do to assist them and support them, provide information, whether it be the photographs that were taken up at the drill site and underground, to help communicate to them, we are going to try to do that.
As far as an update, we have made progress underground. We have advanced number one entry a total of 460 feet. It is currently 70 feet in by cross cut, 123. That work is very slow because it is a loading process, where you load out 30 some feet of material. If the roof is broken up, we bring the roof bolting machine in and bolt the roof. And then we follow that up with heavy steel supports, vertical support along the ribs, and place chain link fence between the steel supports and the ribs to try to protect any future bumps that may produce material that would come out into the work area where the miners are.
But we are continuing to move forward in that area. The 8.5 inch drill hole continues to advance. We are down 1,584 feet. We anticipate a total depth of 1,886 feet. When that hole drops, cuts into the mine, it is our plan to withdraw the drill steel and the bit and to drop an audio/video camera down into the hole, where we will be able to have visibility for up to 100 feet.
We will be able to see significant detail. And this will give us additional information about the conditions that are underground. The two and a half inch hole that we talked about this morning. We did withdraw the microphone, the listening device. And we dropped in a survey instrument to determine where the bottom of that hole entered into the mine.
What we found was that hole drifted approximately 85 feet from the surface to the underground. Fortunately, it drifted into the cross cut and hit into a void. So we have been able to now withdraw the survey equipment and we are continuing to monitor the atmosphere in that area. We are finding that the most of the gases are not of significant concern except for the oxygen level.
The oxygen level continues to confirm the latest readings I gave you before we put the survey equipment in. It is running approximately 7 or 7.6 percent oxygen in that area of the hole.
We continue to work together as a team. We have tremendous resources here, man power, equipment. But that team certainly includes the family members, the county—the sheriff has done everything from helicoptering people up on the mountain last night. We had a difficult time getting in because of the high winds—to providing drinking water.
The state of Utah and the governor‘s office providing air freight, transporting equipment across the country to bring it in here to the operation, to support this operation, the mine operator, tremendous amount of equipment and personnel working around the clock, Federal Mine Health and Safety Administration. We continue to have over 50 people here working both underground and on the surface.
We are working together as a team. We are optimistic. We are enthusiastic. We maintain our hope that we will reach our common goal and that is to rescue the miners, to ensure that the work that is being done by the rescue workers is done safely and no one else gets injured, and also to provide for the needs and be responsive to the families.
With that, I‘m going to turn it over to Rob Moore for additional updates. And after that, we will jointly take your questions.
ROB MOORE, MURRAY ENERGY VP: Good evening everyone. Just to give you an update; on the way up from meeting with the families, I actually dialed up. And we are now on the 8 and 5/8 inch hole. We are at 1,644 feet. So we are making good progress there. We are going to continue to make good progress on the hole. As I indicated earlier today, we will get that hole down. We will have some more flexibility relative to monitoring the underground conditions.
What we plan on doing is once we reach the hole, once we cut into the void, we will remove the drill steel and we will place down in the hole monitoring equipment that will include audio and video, so that we can see what we have there in the void that we enter. I‘m going to use the map behind me just to give you an idea as to where that hole is going to be located.
The 8 and 5/8 inch hole is located at this point right here, which is at cross cut 137. The 2.5 inch hole that cut in last night, our projected location was right here at this point, cross cut 138 and the number three entries. The actual location is right here, at cross cut 138 in the number two entry.
So we drifted about 87 feet to the south, and about four feet to the west. We were fortunate we hit here in this intersection, as Assistant Secretary Stickler indicated earlier, into this void. And from this point we are monitoring the atmosphere.
STEWART: You have been listening in to a press conference coming to us from Huntington, Utah on the status of the rescue efforts at the Crandel (ph) Creek mine. Jeff Goodell has been helping us understand this. Jeff, as you were listening in to the director of mine safety, Richard Stickler there talking about it, what jumped out at you?
JEFF GOODELL, AUTHOR “BIG COAL”: Well, they have gotten a more precise location of where the first hole drifted. They know now that it got 85 or 86 feet from where it intended.
STEWART: What does that mean? They went in at a certain place and they expected it to go directly down but it shifted over?
GOODELL: Right, as we had talked about earlier, because of the difficulty of guiding this small drill at such a great distance, it tends to flex and be sort of bent by the different geology of the mountain. So if went about 85 feet off from where they had hoped to go.
Last time we had talked with them—or they briefed us, they didn‘t know where it had gone, really. And now they seem to be much more precise in where it drifted and they seem to know quite precisely where the larger drill is going to come out. So, I think we‘re about 200 feet or less from break through with the larger drill. So we should know more very soon.
STEWART: And now the progress is so slow. Can you explain to us why it is so slow, just a matter of getting through the rock?
GOODELL: This is just incredibly difficult. At one level, it seems so simple. It‘s just drilling a hole down into—through some rock and into a coal mine. On one level, it seems so simple. But on the other level, it is as precise as the images we saw of the Shuttle docking today. It is just—trying to get to that precision, to exactly where these guys are—It doesn‘t do any good if they are not in exactly the right spot.
As he said, the camera that they‘re going to drop down there can see 100 feet in any direction, and that is good, of course. But if you are not within 100 feet of where the guys are, it doesn‘t do you any good. As we have learned,it takes a lot of time to drill these holes, so you really have to get it right. And that‘s what this drama is all about right now, is this second hole going to come in where the guys are? When the camera drops in, what will they be able to see?
Are they going to be able to see an empty hole? Are they going to see miners? What are they going to see? And that is it.
STEWART: Something else that was interesting in last night‘s press conference, just about this time, and tonight, is Mr. Stickler saying that we have been keeping the family quite abreast. You obviously have spent a lot of time with mining families. Are they as tough as the miners themselves? Is it the kind of thing where they are expecting to hear this information and do they need to hear this information?
GOODELL: Oh, they do. Being married or being part of a coal mining family, you are used to these kind of dramas and you understand better than anyone the harshness of a coal miners life. But in these kinds of situations—I remember during the Q Creek mine rescue, being in the firehouse where the family was waiting was incredibly tense. There was a lot of tension between the family and the mine officials about what they were being told, when they were being told.
We have heard stories of similar tension here in this operation, where some of the family members have criticized Robert Murray, the mine owner, for walking out and he has denied that. They want to know everything right now. They always—it is a very, very emotional time, especially after almost five days.
STEWART: And talking about some of the emotion, you heard Richard Stickler there saying we are optimistic, enthusiastic and we have hope. Our common goal is to rescue the miners. So even five days out, they still think these gentlemen could be alive?
GOODELL: It is interesting the tone of his comments. I detected a kind of upbeat. There is anticipation. I think he knows they are going to have an answer very soon.
Jeff Goodell, thank you so much. You have been invaluable these past couple of nights. We appreciate you sharing all your reporting and expertise.
STEWART: Stay with us on COUNTDOWN. We are going to continue to follow this story. We‘ll be back after a break.
STEWART: When you or I take a week off, we call it vacation. When Congress and the president take a month off, they call it recess. When they go on that recess, there‘s just a wee bit less to talk about. So we devote our number one story on the COUNTDOWN to the news makers who never rest, to the people around this great nation and around the world who supply us with what we call Oddball plays of the month.
Why do they do they do it? I don‘t know. I‘m really glad they do.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in Tiblissi, Georgia. We begin in Sydney, Australia. We begin in Hamburg, in Germany. We begin at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. You have a dog on the runway, boys.
And we begin on the Internets with shocking home video of a daring jailbreak by pair of pandas.
We begin near Oclair (ph), Wisconsin, where they have a dog that craps money.
We begin in Webster, Massachusetts, where Hollywood‘s out of control pantiless starlets are having a terrible impact on the elderly.
We begin in Switzerland, where we get a look at Al‘s Porn Convention. No, sorry, I read that wrong. It‘s the Alp Horn Convention. Dozens from competitors from all around the world, competing for the title of world‘s greatest Alp Horn player. An American wound up placing second in the competition, and we will now play for you the prize-winning toot.
All right, nobody saw that coming.
To Orlando, where there is a new footage of the latest young celebrity diva having trouble with a 12-step plan. Down goes Beyonce. To her credit, Miss Knowles finished the song, even though here body bruise-ilicoius.
We begin in Frankfurt, Kentucky, and stories about drunk people plowing cars through store fronts are about a dime a dozen these days. What is unique about this one is newly released security footage. There is lots of it. Four different camera angles, multiples. Every second of the car plowing into the store is on tape. It‘s like the freaking Super Bowl in here.
We begin in Spain, with amazing action on this the sixth day of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Tonight, there are at least 13 people in the hospital wondering why that one big bull did not want to go along with the program, and just mosey on down to the stadium to be killed for the entertainment of the crowd. How do you like me now, brown cow?
At the British parliament, MPs, in an effort to get improved performance from the House of Commons, have invited India yoga guru Babba Ramdev (ph) to teach them how to relieve stress. As if this particular spiritual tact does not work, MPs say they will follow the California State Legislature‘s head and bring in some Shaolin monks to kick them in the jimmies.
In Taiwan, where it is still unclear if lawmakers actually make any laws there, or whether they just meet up to brawl.
To Abbs (ph) Lake, where there is either a shortage of inner tubes, or an excess of perverts.
To the Netherlands, where they are really excited about balloons, really excited about balloons.
To Denver, and the home of Major League Baseball‘s Colorado Rockies.
Never let the wind get under the tarp. Help me!
We begin in France. Who needs a yellow jersey when you have a yellow thong?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they can‘t see the tail of the convoy because they are now five minutes and 15 seconds—that mean looks like Borat, I think. Isn‘t it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s got to be.
OLBERMANN: Great success. Bubbles, yay bubbles.
We have secretly placed this huge parrot on the shoulder of the deputy defense secretary, Gordon England. Oh boy, is he going to be steamed when he sees this tape.
It‘s a simple story really, boy meets grill, boy eats grill, boy gets X-rays of grill in his stomach, boy waits for grill to exit stage right.
We begin in Aberdeen, Scotland, where the hardships of living in the cold north taking its toll on the local wildlife. They are turning to crime to survive.
To the Internets, viral video from China, home of NBA great Yao Ming. Don‘t let that fool you. There they are still working on the basics. But you don‘t need years of training in a dojo to rid your home of disease carrying insects. The fly man has invented a trap to catch the bugs for you. It‘s called the Highly Effective Fly Slaying Machine. That‘s the actual title. It uses sugar water and a wheel of death to catch the flies. Help me.
He is 7 feet 9 inches tall and once reached down the gullet of a dolphin to pull plastic out of its stomach. The other guy, Ping Ping, in the tie, is just 29 inches tall, and incredible as it might seem, that was his dolphin.
Northern Japan, where we find a new born pooch with a brown heart shaped patch of fur on its side. It is heart puppy.
STEWART: I love heart puppy. That will do it for this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN. Coming up next on MSNBC, “LOCKUP” returns to Rikers Island, located in the heart of New York City. It‘s notoriously violent and over crowded after five years of new get tough policies. Our cameras went back inside to see how the jail has reinvented itself. Stick around for that.
I‘m Allison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. Keith will be back on Monday. Until we meet again, check out my podcast on NPR.org, the Bryant Park Project. Have a great weekend, everybody.
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