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THE SITUATION ROOM

Utah Mine Collapse Rescue Efforts; Illegal Immigration Crackdown; Pakistan President Challenged; Space Shuttle "Endeavor" Connects; Rebuilding Iraqi Air Force; United Nations Security Council votes Expands Iraqi Mission; Virginia Tech Shooting Investigations; Divers Recover more Human Remains at Minneapolis Bridge Collapse; Cubans Walk into America; Utah Mine Unsafe

Aired August 10, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now. Alarming finds in the search for those trapped miners in Utah.
What happens in Pakistan could affect the world amid a broiling crisis. The U.S. worries if Pakistan's president falls from power, who would control the nuclear weapons there?

And new reason to fear the "Big one." And earthquake in California so massive it could cause billions in damage and leave several thousand people dead. Wolf Blitzer's off today, I'm Miles O'Brien. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour there are no signs in life. Dangerously low readings of oxygen, and of course, over four days have gone by now. And yet officials in Utah say there's no reason to lose hope in the search for six miners trapped deep in the mountain, there.

Let's go straight to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He is in Huntington.

Ed, bring us the latest.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Miles, what you just said sound very dire and the reason the folks here are still holding on to hope is that they're hoping that that initial drill, that hole that went in there yesterday, actually hit the wrong area, missed its mark. And so now they're counting on the 8-inch hole that continues to bore its way toward another cavity in that mountain where they suspect the miners are trapped. And once that breaks through, they'll be able to drop a camera in there since it's a much wider hole, and because of that they're hoping -- they're still holding on to that thread of hope that since that first one missed its mark that, indeed, where this area is, where this next hole is going to go, that that's where those miners would be.

O'BRIEN: Ed, what do know about how much food and water these miners would have had? Water, in particular, because you can only last so long without water.

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, after the Sago mine disaster, there were new regulations put in place to make sure that there was water in various places throughout the mine. So, they're counting on that. And we've also heard anecdotally from just kind of the way miners work in generally over the last few days, they say it's not uncommon as many of these miners go into work, for example, Manuel Sanchez, who we spoke with his family, he works a 12 hour shift and so we're told that many times these men pack up big lunches and sometimes they pack up maybe a second meal thinking that, you know, they could pick up extra hours. So, really it's anecdotally depends on whatever that miner did that particular day.

O'BRIEN: Let's hope they packed an extra lunch. Ed Lavandera in Huntington, thanks you very much. While we await more details from the Utah mine, there is death to report at a mine in Indiana.

An accident killed three construction workers, there weren't miners. Officials say they were replacing an airshaft operated by the Gibson County Coal Company, just north of Evansville. Crews are now trying to recover the bodies.

Many workers and employers should be aware in another important story we're following. The government it will mount a tough crackdown against illegal immigration, on that could include criminal charges against some employers.

Our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has details -- Jeanne.

JEAN MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Miles, the administration says the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform is forcing it to take another approach.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): These jobs are the magnet that draws illegal immigrants. Curbing access to jobs is one way to stop them, the administration arguers.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECY: We are enforcing the laws as they are, to the utmost of our ability using every tool that we have in the toolbox and we're going to sharpen some those tools.

MESERVE: The administration will make easier for employers to verify worker's Social Security numbers. But, if employers are notified that their workers and numbers do not match and do nothing about it for 90 days, they will face harsher penalties than in the past.

CHERTOFF: People who willfully and consciously hire illegals, knowing that they're doing it, and knowing that they're committing crimes in order to do it, including identity theft, those are the people who are going to be targeted for criminal sanctions.

MESERVE: Expect more workplace enforcement, like the raids at pallet maker IFCO Systems in April, that snared more than 1,000 illegal workers and the managers who hired them.

RANDY JOHNSON, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, I think it will have a significant effect on a select number of employers in certain industries, such as construction, roofing, agriculture, hotel/motels.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: But despite all of the tough talk from the administration about illegal immigration, as planned, National Guard troops, sent to reinforce the border, are being drawn down -- Miles.

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

The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, his rule is being challenged by opposition activists and Islamic militants. It's that challenge that has the U.S. very concerned. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, joins me now.

Barbara, the U.S. obviously is following this closely for a lot of reasons, he's an important ally and, of course, Pakistan is a nuclear power.

BARBARA STAR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You bet, Miles. Look, Pakistan is always a concern for the U.S. intelligence community, but with the current situation in that country, there are new worries here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): CNN has learned a U.S. military intelligence assessment is underway to project what might happen if Pakistan if Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf were to fall from power.

The review was sparked by signals Musharraf still might declare a state of emergency to consolidate his grip on power, even though Islamabad said it won't happen.

ASHLEY TELLIS, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTL PEACE: The fact that it was even contemplated is actually the more troubling sign because it conveys that he is quite unsure about how the next few months will evolve, particularly for his own political future.

STARR: The U.S. is closely watching Pakistani troop movements for any signs of a new crackdown. At the same time, the U.S. is offering Musharraf the latest intelligence on radical Islamic activities. But officials familiar with the latest intelligence review, say the No. 1 concern remains, who controls Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

The nuclear weapons are now controlled by Musharraf loyalists in the military. But in light of the ongoing crisis, could those weapons suddenly be moved? Where would they go? How long would it take to find out?

With Pakistani elections expected later this year, declaring an emergency and imposing new security measures would give Musharraf, a vital U.S. ally, a way to stay in power and remain the hear of the military.

(END VIDEOTAPE) But Miles, Musharraf is under massive conflicting pressure from his own political allies, from the military, from Islamic militants, and at the same time, of course, Washington is pressure him to crackdown on those militants and step up the campaign to find Osama bin Laden -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, so what if Musharraf were not there, of course there's a lot of speculation, here, a lot depends, but how might that affect the hunt for bin Laden?

STARR: Well, you know, as much as the U.S. is pressuring Musharraf to step up his military's efforts to look for bin Laden and to crackdown on al Qaeda in that all-important tribal region along the Afghan border, he at least is the best hope, right now, because he is a close ally to the United States. If he were to fall and other elements in Pakistan were to come to power, the U.S. might have more trouble convincing them to join the war on terror and it might be a much tougher proposition than it is already -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, that's not a pretty scenario. Thank you very much, Barbara Starr. We'll be watching that one.

Another bad scenario to tell you about. It could shake the ground with such violent force that seconds seem like an eternity. The earthquake in California that experts say is long overdue. There are new scenarios and some new fears to tell you about.

Iraq's air force almost destroyed at the start of the war and now it's time to rebuild. We'll tell you about that.

And a freak accident at a spectator event. We first told you about this yesterday. A big truck goes wild, ramming into a crowd of onlookers. We'll tell you how everybody's doing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. The space shuttle "Endeavor," the International Space Station international, are together at this moment. The docking happened just a little while ago. Take a look at these wide scene pictures. As you look at shuttle "Endeavor" from the International Space Station as it came in, the commander Scott Kelly at the controls, after he flew that impressive backflip maneuver, which allowed the cosmonauts and astronaut onboard the space station to take some pictures of the heat shield of "Endeavor" to ensure it's safe and sound for re-entry. We'll find out more later.

Of course, this mission is a lot about Barbara Morgan. Let's take a look at her as she came across into the International Space Station. There she is up there, Barbara Morgan, the teacher turned astronaut, the understudy to Krista McAuliffe, who was on the "Challenger" and who died in January of 1986.

Tomorrow is an important day; they will install a $10 million, 4,000 pound truss, piece of the backbone of the International Space Station. If all goes well, they're going to plug into the space station. They might extend the mission by the end of this weekend and if so Barbara Morgan will conduct three sessions with school kids on the ground.

Iraq's air force was almost completely destroyed in 2003 during the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Now it's rebuilding little by little. Its fleet is growing and its pilots are taking on crucial missions. CNN's Dan Rivers hitched a ride with Iraq's top guns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a symbol of the Vietnam War, but now the Huey helicopter is a crucial aircraft is Iraq's rapidly growing air force. I'm taking off on a reconnaissance patrol near Baghdad.

Aboard is Lieutenant General James Dubik, he's came to show me how Iraq's air force is progressing. It's having to train in a combat zone. The gunner fires a few rounds into the Euphrates to check his weapon is working. They're searching for insurgents, disrupting oil and electricity supplies.

And this is what they're looking for, the tale-tell black stain of stolen oil. During this incident in southern Iraq in June, the aerial recon team called in Iraqi security forces on the ground. The tanker driver had been stealing oil from a hole in an underground pipeline.

ST GENERAL JAMES DUBIK, U.S. ARMY: Every little bit we can stop in terms of oil stealing or every little bit we can stop in terms of destruction of electricity increases the economy and increases what service of the government can give the citizens.

RIVERS: But the challenge is huge. The U.S. general accounting office estimates 100 to 300,000 barrels of oils are stolen each month, there's speculation some of it from the insurgency. It's why the U.S. is rapidly expanding the Iraqi air force's helicopter fleet. They only have 35 aircraft, but that's double what they had a year ago.

(on camera): In 2003 the Iraqi air force was all but destroyed. Last year they started to rebuild. These helicopters flew about 300 hours in 2006, but already this year they've flown 1,300 hours with 100 missions outside the wire.

(voice-over): The Iraqi flag is proudly painted on each aircraft, but the pilots themselves must remain anonymous, such is the risk of cooperating with the Americans. This pilot says flying with the Iraqi air force is an overwhelming feeling.

"Every single Iraqi citizen when they see it's an Iraqi helicopter, they start waving because they realize it's an Iraqi flag," he says.

LT COL CY BARTLETT, U.S. AIR FORCE: What we're doing is we're going to out...

RIVERS: But the U.S. officers, here, know not everyone on the ground is welcoming. BARTLETT: And they're susceptible to automatic weapons fire from AK-47s. There's a threat of rocket-propelled grenades and also the threat of some surface-to-air missiles.

RIVERS: The Iraqi helicopters haven't been hit yet but each time they take off, they must wonder how long their luck will last.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to expand its mission in Iraq. It says it will work to foster dialogue on security matters and try to help and resolve boundary disputes. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. calls the resolution a signal a page has turned in Iraq. The U.N. pulled much of its force out of Iraq after two bombings at its Baghdad headquarters four years ago. The first attack, you'll recall, killed 22 people, including the top U.N. envoy to Iraq.

Up ahead in the program, a monster truck in a freak accident, it leaps over cars and then plows into a crowd. We'll tell what you happened.

And one-on-one with Barack Obama. He talks to CNN and you'll want to hear what he has to say about being asked the question, is he Black enough?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Carol Costello monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Carol, what's going on?

A couple of things, Miles. An update on the investigations into the Virginia Tech shooting. Police say two days before the rampage, witnesses saw a suspicious man in a hooded sweatshirt in the building where Seung-Hui Cho killed 30 people. The building's doors were chained shut that day, just as they were on the day of the shootings. But state police say they don't know for sure if the suspicious man was Cho.

Authorities are searching for a man who skipped going through security at an airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. They're not sure if he did it on purpose or if he was just confused. They say they believe he got onto his fight before they could catch him. Crews checked 15 planes, didn't find any sign of him. Officials say 12 flights departed before the search and the man was probably on one of them.

New developments at the site of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Divers have recovered more human remains. It is unclear if they represent one body or more and there's now word that one of the bodies is that of a 2-year-old girl. In the meantime, investigators looking into what caused the collapse have important new information, it turns out an aerial image was taken of the bridge showing the placement of construction equipment on it right before it fell. There's been some questions about the weight of that construction equipment.

Part of the famous film studio in Rome is destroyed after a fire broke out last night. The fire started on the set of the completed HBO series "Rome," which is about the ancient empire. No one is injured and it's not known what caused the fire, but officials have ruled out arson.

And police in Illinois are trying to find out why a monster truck plowed into a crowd of spectator. There it goes. It simply went out of control. This happened yesterday in DeKalb, Illinois. At least nine people were injured; a mother and 4-year-old daughter are now in serious condition. The city manager says the truck drove over several cars and crushed them and then the truck plowed into the crowd, went through a fence and finally stopped on some railroad tracks. The police officials say it does not appear that any charges will be filed.

That's a look at what's happening now, -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Wow, those are some pictures. Carol Costello, thank you very much.

Now a story on immigration, a little different twist this time. Cubans wanting to come to the U.S. usually face a dangerous sea voyage to South Florida. You've seen that story time and again. But, now many are taking another route -- they're walking into America. You might be thinking how do they get away with that? CNN's Morgan Neill is in Havana he has the story -- Morgan.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Miles, we've all seen images of Cubans floating across the Florida Straits in makeshift rafts, but these days a vast majority are choosing a different route.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Once they've decided to go, Cubans will do just about anything to get to the United States. Alexandra stripped his house bare, selling even the plumbing, to pay for the 18 times he tried to cross the Florida Straits before he finally made it.

But faced with a U.S. Coast Guard determined to stop the flow through the straits, Cubans are increasingly taking a different route, through Mexico. U.S. Border Patrol says nearly 90 percent of undocumented Cubans making it to the U.S. are now simply walking across the Mexican border. Many pay smugglers to take them from Cuban's western tip to the Mexican coast around Cancun and from there north to the U.S.

Others, like Alina Pombo, fly to Mexico. She left Cuba three years ago.

"I didn't want to be there anymore," she says. "I didn't want to live in that system."

Invited to attend a conference in Mexico City, she was allowed to take a flight there and then simply caught a bus to the U.S. border. While many Mexicans have to sneak across, Alina can't help but laugh at the reception she got.

ALINA POMBO, EMIGRATED FROM CUBA: (INAUDIBLE) welcome to a USA.

NEILL (on camera): Because of the so-called wet foot/dry foot policy, those Cubans that are intercepted out there see a return to Cuba. Those who manage to make it to U.S. soil are generally allowed to stay.

(voice-over): As part of migratory accord signed in 1994, the U.S. agreed to grant 20,000 visas a year to Cubans wishing to emigrate. But this year they won't reach that number. Washington blames Cuba for blocking the personnel and material it needs to process visas at its diplomatic mission at Cuba.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT SPOKESMAN: Cuban officials refuse to allow U.S. intersection to hire local staff to replace those who have resigned or retired.

NEILL: Cuba rejects that argument and says Cubans are undertaking dangerous and illegal trips because the U.S. isn't meeting its visa obligations.

DAGOBERTO RODRIGUEZ, CUBAN INTERESTS SECTION: They are not (INAUDIBLE). there are Cubans arriving through the Mexican borders...

NEILL: On that point, at least, the two sides agree.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Cubans who have made the trip through Mexico say the main reason they choose that route is there's less chance, he think, of being picked up. But it's still a very dangerous trip -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Morgan Neill on Havana, thank you very much.

Up next on the program, tears and now accusations. Frustrated families of six missing miners ask questions about safety at that mine.

And new dire predictions for southern California. Why some quake watchers think Los Angeles could be the epicenter of the big one that is long overdue. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, on Wall Street, they're saying TGIF. The Dow Jones Industrial average lost another 31 points, closed the week at 13,239. The Federal Reserve and other central banks are pumping billions into the financial system to try to calm market turmoil. An Algerian detained at Guantanamo bay for five years lost now, has bid to say there. Supreme Court says it won't block his deportation back to his homeland. He had argued that he would be tortured if he was sent back.

And the Army said it exceeded its monthly recruiting goal for July after two straight months of falling short, despite the turnaround, it's decided to beef up its recruitment staff temporarily by 2,000 to help meet its annual goal. The goal this year is 80,000 new recruits.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm miles O'Brien. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, there are no signs of life in the mine holding those six trapped miners in Utah. Amid the frantic search to recover them, there are accusations that the mine area that collapsed was unsafe. CNN's Ted Rowlands joins us now.

Ted, you've been looking into these allegations. What do we know so far?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, the family of Manuel Sanchez told a local newspapers that in the weeks preceding this collapse he was concerned about the safety inside the mine, a source who is intimately familiar with the mine and specifically the area of the mine of the collapse, the seven belt area, it's the deepest part of the mine, is telling CNN the same story. That it wasn't just Sanchez, it was other miners and they were concerned about the integrity of that portion of the mine.

They said there was a lot of heaving or basically the floor of the mine would come up because of intense pressure above them. They said the pressure was getting larger and larger and miners were scared and concerned about the safety of that mine. And they believed miners, that we have talked to, specifically our source, who has a very intimate knowledge of this, he believes this was by no means an earthquake, that it was a collapse and it was collapse because the integrity of the mine had been compromised.

O'BRIEN: Ted, what's the company saying about all this?

ROWLANDS: Well, we talked to them and they are saying, listen, there's absolutely no truth to this. This was a safe mine, and when this investigation is done, you're going to find that out. At this point we're concerned about getting these six out of the mine. But by no means was there any violation and by no means was there any safety problem.

One of the other things that we have encountered, talking with our source and with other miners in this area is that, there's a real problem with coming forward in this industry, especially in this part of the country. If you've got a problem, well, you're shown the door. These are lucrative jobs, these people are paid more than they can get in most places in this area. They're coveted jobs. They're afraid to go to their supervisors. We don't know whether or not a complaint was made only that there was fear within that mine, our source says that supervisors must have known, given the integrity and the situation of that mine, that it was not safe.

O'BRIEN: Ted, tell us, you were at that school where the families have been gathering, kind of the nexus of information. How are they doing? They have been through a bit of a roller coaster there to get the word that they got through to this particular cavity and so far no sign of life?

ROWLANDS: Well, there's no point in sugarcoating it. The fact that there was no sign of life is bad news. There is a -- they are holding on to hope though. They are holding on that the drill was put in the wrong spot and was diverted and that the larger drill will hit the mark and that's the thing that mining officials are saying. We are going to be able to hit our exact spot for sure with the larger drill and at that point we will be able to know more.

Families, they are not stupid. They know the consequences here. They know the situation here. But they are not giving up hope. And you can understand that. They have been through a nightmare for the last five days. It is going to continue for at least another day, or at least a few more hours as this large drill makes its way into the cavity area.

O'BRIEN: And you say a few more hours. What is the current expected time when it will break through?

ROWLANDS: Some time late tonight, early tomorrow. That varies, you know, with the small drill that actually got in earlier than we thought. They had expected that they would not be able to get the listening device down until 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and by midnight they had it down.

So the window is very fluid, but they are saying at least into the evening tonight, possibly into tomorrow before they will have the drill and then more information.

O'BRIEN: All right. Ted Rowlands in Huntington, Utah, thanks. Ted is going to be back in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour and we will talk a little bit more about mine safety there specifically. Let's talk in general about what's going on there right now. Our expert, Davitt McAteer, joins us now from Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Davitt, good to have you back with us. First of all, let's talk about this drill going into this particular location. They apparently missed the mark. They are not in the cavity where they really thought that the miners would be. Not a surprise because this was not considered the most accurate drill. But the fact that there was only a 7 percent oxygen content in the air, that's pretty serious business, isn't it?

DAVITT MCATEER, MINE SAFETY EXPERT: Well, it is. But the fact is that the drill appears to have drifted over and gone into the workings where the longwall had been mined out. If that's the case, then it's not an indication that the miners would be in that same atmosphere because they would be in an atmosphere that would be different than the mine -- where the sample was taken.

They would be protected by a wall of coal that would separate them from that drilled area. So that's a -- while it is unfortunate and while the feeling is bad that they didn't get to the right place, you can in fact understand that that area should have that kind of level and we need don't expect that that area would be where the miners were.

O'BRIEN: And -- but so we shouldn't draw any conclusions about the quality or lack of quality of the air in other parts of the mine just based on this?

MCATEER: That's exactly right. The samples that were taken in that part would not reflect what the air would be in the part where we hope the miners are.

O'BRIEN: All right. Now let's talk about this other drill. It's an eight-and-a-half-inch drill and it's much more accurate. Can we say with a fair amount of certainty that it's headed in the right direction or is there a fair amount of guesswork here?

MCATEER: Yes, I think it's 18.5 (ph) inches, and it has a directional scheme in the drill itself. In the two-and-a-half-inch drill, it doesn't have any directional scheme built into the drill. So when you take the -- when you try to drill it, you're really being forced away from the section by the rock formation. In the case of the 18.5-inch drill, you're going to be able to correct as you go. So you can get a line of sight from the -- on that drill head and you will be able to correct and find the spot that you believe that the miners are in. Now they may or may not be moved. But that drill has a much better chance of getting into the right place.

O'BRIEN: Eighteen-and-a-half inches, that is a pretty big hole. You said it was 18.5, correct? Let's get that straight, is it 18.5 or eight-and-a-half?

MCATEER: I think that's right.

O'BRIEN: OK.

MCATEER: I think -- it's a large -- larger.

O'BRIEN: OK. In any case, how quickly will it get down there?

MCATEER: Well, as was said, I mean, it looks like it's going to get down there sometime late tonight, early tomorrow morning. You know, things can go wrong at any time. The drill could break, you could get it stuck, et cetera. But they have had pretty good luck so far. So let's hope and pray that they continue to have that and get down there just as soon as possible, because that drill for cameras to go down with films and taking pictures, et cetera.

(CROSSTALK)

MCATEER: One other thing that I want to comment. The fact that someone has suggested there was a heating prior to the accident, that would not be unusual in this part of the world. The fact is that there is -- what we suspect is that pressures have been building up in the rock formations and that can be above the mine, on the sides of the mine, can be below the mine.

But the heating would indicate some sort of geologic pressures being built up. And that's what it appears to have happened when they had the seismic event, was that there was some rock formation and that's very common to this part of the world and very common to these mines.

O'BRIEN: What is your take, though? Was this mine -- based on what you have been able to discern, was it being run safely?

MCATEER: Well, there are two sorts of sides to that. Do the accidents frequency, does that indicate it is unsafe? And the answer is no. Does the violation history indicate it is terribly unsafe? And the answer is no. Those fact indicators are good. What does concern me is that the fact that this mine has been extensively mined out. I have now a good map of the mine and it has been exhaustively mined out. Lots and lots and lots of sections mined out.

And the section remaining, that is, the section that they were mining now, is really in this panel between two mined-out parts. What that does is that puts a lot more geologic pressure into that section and into that part of the mine. And so you can expect this kind of -- particularly with the history of the geology here, you can expect some kind of activity.

And that's where you have to say, should we be mining it and should we be mining it in the way we are doing it or should we be taking extraordinary precautions because of the geology and the vast amount of mined-out sections that the mine map shows?

O'BRIEN: Davitt McAteer is an expert on mine safety. Thanks, as always, for your insights on all of this, we appreciate it.

Barack Obama gets a chance to deal with a personal question, the one that comes up, is he black enough? You will hear the presidential candidate's answer.

Also, California catastrophe. A horrible prediction for the Los Angeles area. Brian Todd has the specifics. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Well, imagine parts of the Los Angeles skyline destroyed, freeways ripped apart, thousands of people dead. That's the grim scenario earthquake experts are exploring right now. It's not part of a Hollywood treatment. Our Brian Todd joins us.

Brian, dire predictions for California. We have been talking about the big one for years. What is new about this one?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are dire predictions, Miles. Now a team led by one seismologist from the U.S. government has been working with computer models, meeting with local officials in Southern California to prepare for this. Now they empathize this is one possibility but they also say it has got pretty strong odds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A catastrophic new outlook for California. A top scientist forecasting a massive earthquake along the San Andreas Fault that would be devastating to people and property near Los Angeles.

LUCY JONES, SEISMOLOGIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVERY: We are reasonably certain that we are going to have substantial damage to our buildings. It has got to be in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars and there will then be a significant loss of life, probably in the thousands.

TODD: Lucy Jones, from the U.S. Geological Survey, warns that region is 150 years overdo for the big one. A likely scenario, she says, the epicenter in the Coachella Valley, the quake that moves northwest towards L.A. with a possible magnitude of about 7.9. Compare that to the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, collapsing part of the Bay Bridge and killing 63. Or the Northridge quake near Los Angeles in 1994 when 57 people were killed. Both measured about 7.0 or lower.

Jones says it's not just the size that will be more devastating, but the amount of time the earth actually shakes.

JONES: Northridge, 6.7, had a duration of seven seconds. And this earthquake is going to be two to three minutes.

TODDS: Roads, railways and pipelines, she says, will be gone. The massive damage, experts say, is partially due to urban sprawl creeping east of Los Angeles, right along the danger zone. Within the next 20 to 50 years, when this quake is forecast...

JONES: The communities that are within 10 miles of the San Andreas Fault are going to be doubling in the same time period.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now this is all under one scenario, where the earthquake reverberates northwest towards Los Angeles. But Jones and her team say there's another scenario where it moves southeast. Los Angeles doesn't get the brunt then, but the town of Mexicali in Mexico, population 2 million, would get that brunt -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well, Brian, of course, the famously rigorous building codes in Southern California to protect against earthquakes. What does Professor Jones think about the ability of these buildings to withstand a quake like this?

TODD: Well, her team says that most of the buildings that were built in L.A. after about 1990 are OK. They are built strong enough to withstand this. But there are a lot of concrete frame structures there, built earlier than that, that they say are very vulnerable and the problem that they are concerned with there, those structures were not required to be retrofitted so they are very vulnerable.

O'BRIEN: OK. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Ominous prediction there.

The death and devastation on a massive scale that these experts are talking about is not unimaginable. In October 2005 in Pakistan, remember this, more than 86,000 people died after an earthquake had destroyed entire towns and villages and left millions of people homeless. And in Sumatra, late 2004, the fourth-largest earthquake in the world since 1900, magnitude, 9.1, caused a tsunami, you will remember that, that devastated South Asia and East Africa. More than 283,000 people died. And to this day more than 14,000 are still listed as missing.

Up ahead in the program, it's a familiar logo. Now the two organizations that use it are crossing legal swords over how it's being used.

The Democratic candidates break new ground with a forum on gay issues. It wasn't an easy ride. CNN's Candy Crowley looks at the result in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Race to the White House now. All of the presidential candidates have to answer questions they may not want to. One candidate, however, is getting a lot of questions about his ethnicity background. We are talking about Barack Obama. CNN's Don Lemon spoke with him one-on-one today. He joins us from Las Vegas.

Don, you asked that question, it is the same question that Suzanne Malveaux asked Hillary Clinton yesterday. That kind of caused a little bit of a stir. Tell us how Barack Obama responds to this.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Miles, it seems like sort of an odd question for someone who looks like Barack Obama. And that question is, is he black enough? And that has sort of plagued him throughout this entire campaign. We are here in Las Vegas for the National Association of Black Journalists Convention. And the senator knows that question, is sort of like an albatross to him. So he was a little bit late, so he came in and joked about it in the beginning right off, saying, you know, because of the whole stereotype that black people are often late.

And he said, for those of you who question whether or not I'm black enough, I'm late. And then he went into it after this. So take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I made a joke at the beginning about this whole notion of, is he black enough? This is a puzzling question.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And the fact that it has been perpetrated through our press I think is interesting. We should ask ourselves why that is. It's not because of my physical appearance, presumably. It's not because of my track record, because there's nobody in this race who has a stronger track record on the issues that directly pertain to the African-American community.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: If there's somebody else out there who is actually passed racial profiling legislation or actually taken political hits because he voted against crime legislation that created unequal treatment among black and white youth, if there's somebody else out there who has reformed the death penalty or organized in public housing projects or devoted their entire lives to civil rights, then I can understand why people would ask the question. So it's not my track record.

It's not that I can't give a pretty good speech, from what I heard. I can preach once in a while. So what really does I think lay bare is, I think, in part we are still locked in this notion that somehow if you appeal to white folks, then there must be something wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And, Miles, what he really says, too, is that it is about fear in the African-American community, among African-Americans that, you know what, we can't win this so let's not even try. And his answer is, why not?

O'BRIEN: You know, it's interesting, he was -- that was a very interesting response. But it seemed as if he was trying to pull back on some anger beneath. Does he get angry about that question?

LEMON: I think he thinks it's a silly question. And, you know, as you said, it was posed to Hillary Clinton yesterday. I asked him afterwards, one on one, when he was signing autographs, I kind of spoke to him. And he said, you know, I wanted to nip this in the bud, so to speak, because it came up yesterday. It keeps coming up and I just wanted to take care of it.

He doesn't get upset about answering it but he just really thinks that it's a silly question. And you heard his answer, for all of those reasons, that's why he thinks it's a silly question. But there are people who say, you know what, he is not taking this seriously. He hasn't answered it seriously. And for the first time this is a longer, concise answer and I think it really took care of this question. I don't think he will get it much more.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this, Don. If somebody asked you that question, would you be offended?

LEMON: People have asked me that question a lot growing up and still do. And right -- I'm not running for president, so I don't have to answer it, and I don't. O'BRIEN: All right. Don Lemon, thank you very much. Very interesting.

When you see the symbol right there, what comes to mind? Two groups are actually squabbling over a logo which has been seen on relief trucks and Band-Aids for more than century.

Carol Costello is in the NEWSROOM with more on how they're "cross" over the cross.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It's such a strange story, Miles. You know that maybe old friendships do die hard. The Red Cross and Johnson & Johnson have worked side by side since the 19th Century. It now appears their next side by side appearance will be in court.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): This is what all of the fuss is about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's called a Greek Cross. It's just a square red cross.

MARK W. EVERSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Oh, I think everybody knows the Red Cross.

COSTELLO: This cross has been used by both Johnson & Johnson and the Red Cross under an agreement since the 1800s. So why after more than a century is Johnson & Johnson now suing the American Red Cross for the way the symbol is being used?

EVERSON: I was just incredulous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our biggest concern is simply over the use of the Red Cross symbol, which is a trademark that we have exclusive rights to in the commercial arena.

COSTELLO: The Red Cross has recently granted licensing rights for use of the symbol by other companies which make products sold in stores. The Red Cross gets a share of those profits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are competing with us and that's our concern.

COSTELLO: The Red Cross says Johnson & Johnson, which pulled in over $53 billion in sales last year, is being a bully.

EVERSON: They are accusing us of a crime. It totally distorts the role of the American Red Cross and it is almost an assault on history, if you will.

COSTELLO: Congress gave the American Red Cross exclusive use of the emblem for its relief work at the turn of the century. Johnson & Johnson, who was also using the logo, was grandfathered in and got to keep it. They trademarked it the next year.

EVERSON: Look, we are not selling cars with a red cross on them. We are working with partners to put on the shelves products that will help families in basic health and safety needs or be ready for disasters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: See, it all boils down to money, doesn't it? Now Johnson & Johnson said it has tried for months to negotiate with the Red Cross to get these other product using symbol off the store shelves. When that effort failed, they filed the lawsuit. The Red Cross says, see you in court. And for now the items will stay on store shelves -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Keep me posted on that. The Red Cross symbol was created by inverting the colors on the Swiss flag. In 1881, the American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton, who adopted the international symbol. Johnson & Johnson set up shop six years later. Clara Barton gave the company permission to use the logo. Then J&J registered the trademark in 1906. So it's kind of clear as mud as to who has ownership here.

Next, are you taking all of your vacation time? What if Americans really did unplug for a while?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: It's the season for down time. You earned it. But are you taking it?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Joining us for this week's "What If" segment, Frank Sesno.

Hello, Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Miles. Well, school is out. The tank is full and it's vacation time, right?

O'BRIEN: Right.

SESNO: No. We don't do so well at this in this country. We have competition from around the world, in Finland, France, United Arab Emirates, they 30 days a year off a year on average. Other countries just below. Where do we come in, in the United States? Fifteen days off on average.

What's wrong? Miles, it's time to do something about this.

(voice-over): Summertime is supposed to be vacation time, time with the kids, a chance to chill out from work, go someplace new. But a ton of surveys suggest Americans just are not very good at this. Nearly half of us do not use our vacation time. We only get 15 days off the year on average anyway. And when we do get away, we are not really away. Eighty percent of us take our cell phones, a third of us stay connected to the office, voicemail, e-mail, computer, calling to check in. Some vacation. But what if we took time off and were really off? A lot of experts say we would be happier, less stressed, more productive, we would recharge and refresh. Think of the example we would set sweat for the kids. Problem is, they are not off either. This is in our DNA now.

But what if they and the rest of us took a break from the text messaging, the go-it-alone digital world? What if we buck the trend toward shorter vacations? We could actually slow down. We talk about it enough. Rediscover the simple analog pleasures of conversation, reading a book or doing nothing.

Sure, it will be harder if the electronic babysitter takes a holiday, too, but everyone deserves a break. Maybe the government could designate our national parks wireless-free zones. Only you can prevent iPhone.

It's August. So what if we took a vacation while on vacation? We might even rediscover our inner attention span even if it's just for a little while.

(on camera): Sound familiar, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Yes, it does. I was just on vacation. I brought the device along, of course.

SESNO: You did?

O'BRIEN: And one little e-mail leads to another. Next thing I know, I'm rewriting an entire script in the middle of my vacation.

SESNO: Some suggestions. OK. Frank's four steps we call them. Number one, manage your technology. What do I mean by this? Turn it off if you don't need to.

O'BRIEN: Oh God, that makes me -- it gives me the shakes.

SESNO: Try it. Number two, keep control. If you do need to turn it on, turn it on and try to keep it confined. Early is better, maybe before the kids get up. Number three, set expectations. Tell the office, hey, I'm going to be out of it. I will touch base once a day, once every two days. Set expectations with the kids too so they know what you're doing and why.

And finally, Miles, go remote. There are places in the country where you can't get a signal.

O'BRIEN: I was thinking about that but there are not many. There are not many left.

SESNO: I know somebody who just went down to Snake River, I think it was, and for a whole week and she was without.

O'BRIEN: I'm thinking of moving to Finland, too. That looks good, 30 days vacation.

SESNO: Required by law. Required by law. Most countries -- many countries require vacation by law. Not in this country.

O'BRIEN: We do work hard, don't we?

SESNO: What if we did better at this?

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's give it a whirl. Frank Sesno, thanks.

SESNO: A pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Here's Kitty Pilgrim.

KITTY PILGRIM, GUEST HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thanks, Miles.

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