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THE SITUATION ROOM
Hurricane Dean Growing in Strength; More Tragedy at Utah Mine; Bogus Diabetes Test Strips; Man Seeks Refuge up Tree in Texas Flood
Aired August 17, 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, HOST: All right.
Thank you very much, Jack Cafferty.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Hurricane Dean growing a lot stronger. Now lashing islands in the Caribbean. It could soon threaten the U.S. as a very powerful storm. Texas trying to get ready right now. A new update from the National Weather Service is just. We'll have it.
From tragedy to catastrophe in Utah -- rescue efforts are suspended indefinitely after three men died trying to reach those trapped miners.
And "God's Warriors" -- why they believe the lord is on their side. We'll hear from the Reverend Jerry Falwell, his last interview.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Miles O'Brian.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Hurricane Dean is now a powerful category three storm, sweeping across the Caribbean with winds of 125 miles an hour. It's already ripped off roofs in Martinique, where landslides have left scores homeless.
Dean could get much stronger and threaten the United States in the days ahead.
Let's go to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, in the CNN Weather Center with the latest -- and is that report out yet?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST:
It is -- 125 miles per hour. The velocity now of the wind speed of the eye has not changed. The size is a little larger. You can see that it's spread its wings now, all the way up toward San Juan. They're still seeing winds in St. Kitts. Winds all the way down here to the Venezuela, Aruba and Curacao -- you're going to get some wind with it, as well. Even though it's going to be in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, you just see the size of this thing in general. It is so large.
A lot of inflow at the surface and outflow up aloft and really turning into what is considered to be a perfect storm and getting into warmer water. Therefore, the storm is forecast to get stronger and by tomorrow afternoon, a category four, at 140 miles per hour, right over Jamaica at 150.
Now, you have to remember that this is the line, that the cone extends all the way to Cuba and all the way down to the south, even into almost Nicaragua.
But the deal with this right now is that what I'm seeing is that the eye of the hurricane is just a little bit to the right of this line. It's just shifted just a little bit. And we know that for a couple of reasons. We know that by the satellite. And, believe it or not, this is Puerto Rico, Port-au-Prince, all the way down. That is the eye of the hurricane. You can actually see it from Ponce, the radar there. There is the eye and this is all the rainfall.
So Puerto Rico almost ready to get some of the rainfall. And, obviously, some of the wind with it, but not 125 miles per hour. It's just too far away. That 125 miles per hour is only right there.
We're going to keep this Puerto Rico radar up as long as it will go. I assume that as long as the winds stay down below 50 miles per hour, that will happen. This is going to be pretty amazing to watch that eye go across the Caribbean.
Pretty far away, but the radar can see it -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk, Chad, about that track.
Is it possible Texas, Louisiana, even Florida, in some of these models, as possible paths?
MYERS: Yes, absolutely, Miles. This is going to be a storm that there's nothing really to hinder it at this point. If it does move a little bit farther to the right in this cone toward Haiti, it's going to probably -- it's going to put down a lot of rain along the spine of the mountains here in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic.
But what that will also do -- the mountains, as the air goes down, will dry out the air. And this will gulp in some dryer air. So, therefore, it may lose a little intensity for a while. The closer it gets to the mountains, the better it is for everybody else. But the worst it is, obviously, for the people here.
And then over in Kingston, whether it's on the right side or the left side doesn't matter much. We're going to see a lot of damage from Ocho Rios all the way to Kingston, for that matter.
And from there, Miles, you know, I'm not going to go five days out. I don't want to scare anybody just yet.
O'BRIEN: All right.
We'll stay tuned.
MYERS: Sure. O'BRIEN: Chad Myers, thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: We're now into the peak hurricane months, August through October. Government scientists expect an above normal season. They're predicting 13 to 16 named storms. That's compared to an average of 11. Seven to nine of these are expected to be hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes. Usually we might see two of those.
So what's behind the higher numbers?
Well, it has to do with climate patterns in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico, of course.
And, as you can see, look at the red here. That indicates sea surface temperatures that are higher across this entire region. And, of course, hurricanes are fed by warm water.
Look at the arrows that are blowing from the coast of Africa. The Sahara is where these all begin. They represent wind patterns which NOAA says encourage storm development. This is the season. It's expected to lead to more storms before the end of the season, officially November 30th.
A cloud has fallen over Huntington, Utah. It's far darker than the rain clouds that drenched the coal mining community today. Three of nine rescuers tunneling toward six trapped miners were killed last night when a so-called bump caused a new collapse underground. The other six were injured.
CNN's Brian Todd is at the Crandall Canyon county mine where hope is dwindling -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, the options for this rescue operation have been tragically cut down and this entire town is still trying to absorb what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): An underground rescue mission turned deadly, now suspended indefinitely.
RICHARD STICKLER, MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION: 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.
GOV. JON HUNTSMAN (R), UTAH: 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.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Now, 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 was the safest possible.
But just days before this disaster, 12 rescue workers had asked to be reassigned, saying that they feared for their safety -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Brian Todd in Huntington.
Thank you very much -- Jack Cafferty now with The Cafferty File -- hello, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Miles, it's been two years -- well, almost -- since Hurricane Katrina. But New Orleans is still a far cry from the city it once was. The "New York Times" reports that despite $1 billion spent by the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild New Orleans' hurricane protection system, it's still a very risky place to live.
Some parts of New Orleans, often the wealthier parts, are much safer, while other parts, mostly the poorer parts, haven't changed much since Katrina. Although the Corps has strengthened miles of flood walls, there's always -- not always in the residential parts of the city has the protection been built up. They built up walls on one side of one of the major canals. They left the other side lower.
And most importantly, perhaps, they haven't closed off other canals that are called funnels for flood waters.
All told, the city still lacks a system that can stand up to a so-called one in a hundred storm, let alone a stronger one like Hurricane Katrina, which was a one in 396 storm.
But not to worry. The government is doing a study. The Corps is conducting a two year, $20 million study to find ways of providing protection to New Orleans. The study won't even be out until December, after yet another hurricane season has passed.
So here's the question -- two years after Hurricane Katrina, why hasn't more attention been paid to restoring New Orleans?
E-mail your thoughts to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
A $20 million study, Miles, to try and figure out how to protect a city that's below sea level from floodwaters.
O'BRIEN: I think we're past the study time, it seems.
O'BRIEN: All right, Jack Cafferty.
Up ahead, rescue teams scramble to find survivors in Peru, where a massive earthquake has left hundreds dead and many thousands homeless.
Also, a controversial billboard fans the flames in the battle over abortion.
And a Texas man will tell us about frightening moments stuck in a tree as flood waters rose all around him.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
O'BRIEN: A powerful aftershock rocks Peru today, less than 48 hours after a massive magnitude eight earthquake devastated a number of communities in that country. The death toll is close to 500.
CNN's Harris Whitbeck is on the scene in the hard hit city of Pisco, largely destroyed in the quake -- Harris, give us the latest, please.
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, 85 percent of this town is in rubble. The destruction practically total in this small town in Southern Peru. People sleeping on the streets, afraid of the aftershocks you mentioned; also, because they have nowhere else to go.
Today, the effort has been to continue searching in the rubble for the remains of more dead. Officials fear that the death toll will continue to rise and as time passes they fear that, obviously, the hopes of finding more people alive are diminished.
A lot of funerals today. A lot of caskets seen on practically every street corner, caskets being delivered from the capital and the relatives of those who are dead just go pick them up and then take them so that they can bury their dead. The Peruvian authorities say that help is starting to come in and that is coming in at a more fluid rate. The military base at Pisco has been the scene of intense aircraft landings, aircraft coming in from Lima with food, medicine and water, and then taking off with those who are injured.
But we spoke to people who have been waiting at a distribution center in the regional capital of Ica today. They have been waiting in line for three, four hours only to get one bottle of purified water. And they're expressing their frustration at that. And we also heard reports of some looting of stores and of some trucks that were coming in from Lima with supplies.
So still a very, very dramatic situation here, Miles. The scope of the destruction is absolutely hard to imagine, even when you're right in the middle of it -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Harris, just to remind North Americans that it's wintertime down there. And the temperatures at night, I read today, are down 19, 20 degrees.
With so many people homeless, what's being done to keep people warm?
WHITBECK: Well, that's why there are so many calls for blankets. We spoke to aid officials and we asked them what was most needed. And on the top of their list was blankets. You're right, it does get very cold at night. It gets down into the teens, into the low teens. So it does get very, very cold and people really have nowhere else to go. There was so much destruction here in the town of Pisco that there is no place where all of those who were left homeless -- 17,000 people lost their homes -- at least 17,000 people lost their homes. And there's just no place that can hold that amount of people and keep them out of the cold.
O'BRIEN: Harris Whitbeck in Pisco.
Thank you very much.
The U.S. military said today it was dispatching a 30-member medical team from a base in Honduras to the quake-stricken area of Peru. U.S. officials say more aid is available if the Peruvian government requests it. But the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort is now docked in Ecuador, but will probably not go to Peru. Both governments have decided it's not needed.
The clock is ticking as the Bush administration prepares to give Congress a crucial progress report on Iraq. That briefing next month could decide how long U.S. troops will stay in Iraq. U.S. commanders suggest the troops will be there for a while.
Let's go to the Pentagon now. Our correspondent, Barbara Starr, is watching this -- Barbara, are we getting a little hint now of what that report will be in September?
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we did get a bit of a hint today, Miles.
It was a pretty optimistic assessment offered by a top general, but, as always, tempered by caution.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): In Charleston, South Carolina, new bomb- resistant armored vehicles were loaded onto transport aircraft bound for Iraq trying to help protect U.S. troops against IED attacks.
Meanwhile, in northwestern Iraq, wounded villagers are still recovering from this week's massacre that left hundreds dead.
But these disturbing pictures aside, the number two commander in Iraq reports some optimistic statistics.
LT. GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, U.S. ARMY: Total attacks are on a month-long decline and at the lowest level since August of 2006. Attacks against civilians are at a six month low. IED attacks are at a two month decline.
STARR: In fact, Odierno went so far as to say what his boss, General David Petraeus, is most likely to recommend in September.
ODIERNO: The surge we know, as it is today, goes through April of '08. We believe at some time around that time we will begin to reduce our forces down to pre-surge levels.
STARR: Odierno said the surge level of 160,000 troops could be back down to around 130,000 troops a year from now. But if Petraeus offers that plan when he briefs Congress next month, Democrats are likely to object, wanting a quicker drawdown.
Analysts predict a September face-off.
COL. DOUGLAS MACGREGOR, U.S. ARMY (RET.): The argument that the generals will make -- or are trying to make by creating the illusion of success on the ground for the surge -- is that Congress is deserting them, that Congress has pulled the rug out from under them and ultimately stabbed them in the back.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: For all of the optimism, Lieutenant General Odierno also is very cautious, noting that if the Iraqi government, Miles, doesn't make political progress, especially in bringing those disaffected Sunnis into the fold, if that kind of progress isn't made, all of the security progress may not be enough -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Thank you very much.
Up ahead in the program, a commercial billboard with a picture of a coat hanger and a not so veiled reference to abortion -- the battle lines are drawn in New York. Another China product outrage -- yes, another one. This time, phony diabetes test strips.
Is there a health risk for Americans?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
O'BRIEN: A new controversy in New York over one of America's most contentious political issues -- abortion. The lightning rod in this case is a billboard.
Allan Chernoff joins us now with more -- Allan, what it's all about?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, it's all about business.
There's a company here in New York trying to attract customers by promoting its position on abortion in a very public way.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CHERNOFF (voice-over): 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: No good. Not good to have on the West Side Highway.
CHERNOFF (on camera): Or to have anywhere?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anywhere. No. Definitely not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A touchy subject. (LAUGHTER).
CHERNOFF: It certainly is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CHERNOFF: Is this an appropriate way to advertise a storage company?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, inappropriate. Completely.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): 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 DONAHUE, 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, NARAL: Some women are probably -- and some men are actually really excited that there's a company out there that wears its pro-choice position on its sleeve and, in this case, on its building, and that might even encourage some 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 location reads: "Your closet is scarier than Bush's agenda."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHERNOFF: In heavily Democratic New York, that ad has not sparked controversy. Neither has the one around the corner, which pokes fun at Paris Hilton -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Allan Chernoff in New York.
Thank you very much.
Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM -- Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, let's talk about the weather, Miles.
People from the Midwest to the Deep South are crossing their fingers for a little relief from the heat. Forecasters expect temperatures to cool, if you can call it that, to the 90's in the Mississippi Valley after several consecutive triple digit days. Dozens of deaths are attributed directly to the persistent and brutal heat. Power companies report record usage in a number of states.
The ice in the Arctic, however, is melting and there is less of it than ever before on record. A senior researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center calls today an historic day. He says they measured the latest sea ice they've ever seen in the satellite record -- 2.02 million square miles. And he says there's still another month to go in this year's melt season.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to nursing mothers about a rare but dangerous side effect of codeine. The FDA says if they take codeine, a common ingredient in cough medicine, their breastfeeding infants could be at risk. Tests indicate that codeine can convert to morphine very rapidly in some women, making breast milk narcotic. The FDA says nursing mothers who take codeine should watch for overdose symptoms, such as increased drowsiness in their babies.
That's a look at the headlines right now -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Carol.
Up next, tragedy part two in Utah -- three miners lost, six injured as they fought to save their trapped colleagues.
Were all precautions taken to protect the rescuers?
And later, floodwaters rising and his only hope a tree and a cell phone. We'll hear his tale straight from the stranded motorist's mouth.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
O'BRIEN: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening right now, the nation's bank takes action with markets in a tailspin. The Federal Reserve slashes the interest rate it charges your bank. And it was just the right tonic for Wall Street today. The Dow ended up, at last, 233 points. It closed at 15,079.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is stepping down. He could leave as early as next month.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Miles O'Brian.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get back to Huntington, Utah, where there is sadness and little optimism tonight after that collapse that killed three rescuers hoping to find those trapped coal miners.
The drilling on the surface continues, but the work underground to tunnel to the trapped men is now suspended indefinitely.
CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene and he has an update -- Brian.
TODD: Miles, officials here say they're gathering a team of experts to determine whether they even have feasibility to go into that main tunnel area that collapsed last night. They may not know the answer to that for quite some time. And as you mentioned, that has been suspended indefinitely.
The drilling, though, does continue. We were just told that the number four bore hole that is being drilled down through the top of the mountain is about 800 feet down, a little over half way to where it needs to go to find one more chamber where these miners might have retreated for air.
But at the same time we're hearing all of this, we're also hearing federal officials defending their actions before this collapse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STRICKLAND: We all agreed and there was consensus that the plan that we were had developed and implemented provided the maximum safety for the workers that we knew to be available.
Obviously, it was not adequate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And to add to that, we do know that just days before this happened, 12 rescue workers had asked to be reassigned to other parts of this area, saying that they feared for their safety -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Brian, do we know if any of those 12 were among those injured or killed?
TODD: We don't know that. You can presume at least, you know, for now that they accommodated the request, which they said they did.
They said they accommodated the requests of those 12 miners to be reassigned. We can presume at least they may not have been in that main cavity that collapsed last night, but we don't know the details yet of who some of these injured and deceased miners were, and hopefully we'll be finding that out in the days ahead.
O'BRIEN: Brian Todd, in Huntington.
Thank you very much.
Joining us now on the phone from Morgantown, West Virginia, is Dennis O'Dell. He's director of health and safety for the United Mine Workers of America.
Dennis, good to have you with us.
Could you, in layman's terms, explain what happened underground last night? We keep talking about these bumps, and I'm not sure if people understand these terms very well.
DENNIS O'DELL, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA. OK. If you can just imagine, there are -- originally when this mine was developed, there were large blocks of coal that were left in place to support the roof, the ribs and the floor in the event that they would have mountain bumps, and they do periodically have those types of activity in that area.
O'BRIEN: And when you say bumps, is that a little earthquake of some kind, or is that just the mountain kind of settling?
O'DELL: It's just the mountain settling. The earth above, what we call overburden, it's shifting, because when you remove part of the earth underneath, pressure has to go somewhere because it's going to drop. There's a void that has to be filled. So just imagine like this, people that have basements or those people who have front porches or have posts that hold -- like in a basement, there's posts or jacks in a basement that hold the floor above you. If you were to keep removing those posts, what's going to happen? That house is going to drop down into your basement.
O'BRIEN: Well, so, let me ask you this. This is probably a stupid question, but why not have, in addition to relying on just the coal itself, why not put in additional supports, posts of some kind?
O'DELL: Well, we do that. We do that. We do additional as we develop that section, but you have to have what we call yield towers. That's the solid block of coal. That has to be in place to hold the additional roof up.
You just can't rely on mechanical roof bolts or a screen or setting timbers or jacks or posts like what you're talking about. Those things will -- they're all manmade -- those things will take weight and will eventually crack, shift or break. So you have to leave part of Mother Nature there to support that.
O'BRIEN: Is there -- based on what you know right now -- and I know you're sitting from afar here, but do you think there's any way to get rescuers back underground here in a safe way to go after these trapped men?
O'DELL: Well, that's a tough question, and let me tell you why. When I studied the map, we looked at it. President Roberts (ph), Secretary of the Treasury King (ph), myself, and the rest of our staff looked at the mine map and the plan that was approved to do this pillar mining. And if you look at that map that was submitted to the Mine Safety and Health Administration and was approved, you can see where so much of that coal has already been removed all the way around and where they've had bad top already.
You can almost imagine looking at that map that this was going to happen. So that's going to be -- that's going to be a tough call.
I'm telling you, if they do decide to go back in, there's going to be so many precautions that have to be put in place and it may have to be something that we haven't looked at yet as far as what we do today. I mean, we may have to look at tunneling machines or tunnel liners or something like that to use in place of what we're doing now.
O'BRIEN: So this really was, in your view, an accident waiting to happen?
O'DELL: Well, when I look at the map, and based on all the information we have, and knowing the area, it had the potential for this to occur. That's my opinion, and I was a coal miner for 20 years, a field rep, where I inspected mines for 10 years, and I've been a director for the last three years.
I've been involved in rescue and recovery attempts. I've done all types of mining and been involved in it. And when you look at the mine map and you look at the overburden, you know what kind of activity occurs in those mines in Utah. With these mountain bumps and the potential, they've escalated the chance of this occurring and now we're seeing it.
O'BRIEN: Final quick thought here. They're still drilling down from the surface. What is the likelihood that they'll find the miners doing that? Is that kind of like looking for a needle in a hay stack?
O'DELL: Well, unfortunately, because we don't have things in place that we should have put in place, the methods that we're using now are pretty well hit and miss and luck, and a lot will have to do with the grace of God.
Our hearts and prayers, like everybody, hope and pray for the families and the miners that we do get blessed and we do find the miners. That's our hopes and prayers. And we ask the nation to pray for that as well.
The reality of it is we don't know. And time will be the teller of the truth on this one. We can only hope for the best.
O'BRIEN: Dennis O'Dell with United Mine Workers, thank you for your time.
O'BRIEN: If you're looking for a way to make a difference for the miners families, we have a way for you to do that.
Impact your world by logging on to CNN.com/impact to learn how you can become part of the solution. We've posted information about the Crandall Canyon Family Support Fund.
Impacting your world, now just a click away, CNN.com/impact. Check it out.
A warning about a common home medical supply for diabetics. Now we learn it was stamped "Made in China".
CNN's Carol Costello picks up this story from there -- Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Miles, it kind of makes you say, can I trust any product I pick up to be safe and not from China? The scariest thing about this, it involves medical supplies that millions depend on.
COSTELLO (voice over): Here we go again. Another potentially dangerous product made in China. Not fish, toothpaste nor toys, but phony copies of a test used by millions of American diabetics. Counterfeit blood testing strips sold under the brand names OneTouch Ultra and OneTouch Basic.
Johnson & Johnson's LIFESCAN 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 for people 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 Halson 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 Leavitt told us he doesn't have all the details of this latest controversy, but vowed things will change.
MIKE LEAVITT, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SEC.: 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.
COSTELLO: Oh, and you know the question is, when the heck is that going to happen?
China depends on those who import their goods to check them out. And that means it's up to the customer, the USA in this case.
It's fortunate it was Johnson & Johnson Mr. Fu was allegedly ripping off. It's a reputable company with big resources for a widespread investigation -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Well, so, what's a person to do about this? Obviously, you've got to be worried about this.
How do you know what you're getting is the real McCoy?
COSTELLO: Well, you've got to buy it from a reputable firm. As far as those test strips are concerned, those phony test strips, Johnson & Johnson tells me it has taken care of that matter. And like I said before, just make sure you buy your medical supplies from a reputable company, one you have actually heard of.
O'BRIEN: Good words. Carol Costello, thank you very much.
Hurricane Dean growing stronger and Texas might be in the bull's eye. Are people along the Gulf getting ready?
Also, a week before he died, evangelist Jerry Falwell sat down with our Christiane Amanpour. Now her special report, "God's Warriors," is about to air and she'll have a preview for us.
O'BRIEN: You saw the live pictures yesterday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, 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. It's the remnants of Tropical Depression Erin.
It turns out his name is Bill Noel. He was eventually rescued, and now he joins us to tell his harrowing tale.
Bill, good to have you with us. Glad you're dry and on terra firma.
You were driving your vehicle. How did you end up, up a tree? What happened?
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 that we had already crossed. But one of the vehicles went down, he ended up turning around and saying, nope, 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 flashflood. And as I started into it, realizing, nope, this is -- this is not going to work, so, you know, I was trying to back out of it and back on to that strip of dry land between the two water areas. And it -- it was inadvertently -- I was inadvertently soaked by another truck that 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 sideways in the road and went kind of nose down in the rushing water, and the back was up in the air, and it was against the -- it was against the 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 a rescue there.
And the 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. And...
O'BRIEN: So you're there in the tree, you're on the cell phone talking to a 911 dispatcher for three hours.
O'BRIEN: Finally, the rescuers get to you. What was that like?
It was -- they were having a difficult time. It was -- it was pretty rapid.
I think they were probably at least a class two, if you were going to measure the 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 where there are zodiacs (ph). And 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, flashfloods can happen anywhere, any time. 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 the lesson learned, and I thank the rescuers for doing a great job of getting over there and the 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: Hurricane Dean is tearing across the Caribbean with winds of 125 miles an hour. There is a chance it could eventually hit Texas. And mindful of the toll taken by Katrina, officials are taking no chances.
Let's turn now to CNN's Jeanne Meserve.
Jeanne, tell us about the preparations they're making in Texas.
Well, Miles, sick and elderly people were hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, and officials are trying to prevent a replay with Hurricane Dean.
MESERVE (voice over): After Katrina passed, 34 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 impacts on the Texas coast, a possible point of landfall.
REAR ADM. W. 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.
VANDERWAGEN: They have planned evacuation sites based on the level of disability for these people very sophisticatively (ph) and very pointedly. A very nice plan identifying a specific advance 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.
MIKE MONTGOMERY, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: The bottom line is it will never be too late. We will never give up on people with special needs.
MESERVE: The path of the storm is still uncertain, but because people with medical conditions may require special transportation arrangements, decisions on evacuating them may be need to be made as early as Sunday night or Monday, officials say -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much.
This weather is actually causing yet another wrinkle in the space shuttle mission. NASA managers over the weekend are going to be watching the storm's track very carefully.
One of the models has Dean headed straight for Houston. Now, the shuttle doesn't land there, of course. It lands in Florida, primarily, and, of course, California as a backup.
But Houston is, of course, the scene of Mission Control. If it has to be evacuated, they do have a plan and the capability of taking the lion's share of that team, getting them on a plane and flying from Houston all the way over to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where they have set up the capability to do an emergency Mission Control.
That emergency Mission Control would be located in what they call the firing room, which is where they launch the space shuttles from. Come Sunday, they'll start making decisions about that. To just throw another wrinkle into it, the shuttle is due to land on Wednesday, right around when Dean will come into play.
Meanwhile, yesterday NASA announced Endeavour will come home as is. That gouge of three and a half inches at the aft section of its belly is OK. The temperatures that they've done in several tests with computers and blast furnaces indicate it's not going to pose any threat to the shuttle.
We'll still be crossing our fingers.
Another hurricane season is here. And almost two years after Katrina, parts of New Orleans are still extremely vulnerable. Why hasn't more been done to restore and protect this great American city?
Jack Cafferty with your e-mail on that.
And Christiane Amanpour interviewed the Reverend Jerry Falwell just a week before he died. He reiterated some very controversial comments about who's to blame for 9/11.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
O'BRIEN: Next week, CNN brings you an unprecedented six-hour television event. WE call it "God's Warriors". It's reported by Christiane Amanpour.
No single leader did more to harness the political power of this country's Christian's conservatives than the late, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. In his last interview conducted just a week before his death, Falwell reflected on the state of America and the future of his movement.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): 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.
(on camera): You know you caused a huge amount of controversy after 9/11 when you basically said that the lord was removing his protection from America.
JERRY FALWELL, FOUNDER, MORAL MAJORITY: I still believe that. I believe that our country...
AMANPOUR: And that America probably deserved it.
FALWELL: Here's what I said. No, I said that the people who 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 was saying then and I'm saying now that if we, in fact, change all the rules on which this Judeo-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 (voice over): Radical opponents had long waged their holy war against abortion clinics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is hell was that?
AMANPOUR: Bombings, arson, assassinations 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: It can't be the yelling or the screaming and the bombing abortion clinics and the marching outside, 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: Christiane Amanpour takes us to the front lines of the volatile battle where religion and politics often collide. Come face to face with "God's Warriors" for an unprecedented event. That's Tuesday night, 9:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.
Up ahead on the program, Jack Cafferty is wondering, two years after Hurricane Katrina, why hasn't more attention been paid to restoring New Orleans? You can weigh in.
Next, "The Cafferty File".
O'BRIEN: It's time now to check back with Jack Cafferty and "The Cafferty File".
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, the question this hour: Two years after Hurricane Katrina, why hasn't more attention been paid to restoring New Orleans?
Zach writes from Jackson, Wyoming, "Kanye West said it best, 'George Bush doesn't care about black people.' As simplistic as that may sound, it reflects the underlying problem accurately. The way this whole thing's been handled is a blatant act of racism."
John in Charleston, West Virginia, counters with this: "If New Orleans wants to continue to be a below sea level city, they should get no more federal money. That's just throwing good dollars after bad."
Sam writes, "Simple, Jack. New Orleans is southern and black. Why should Washington care?"
Anna writes, "The reason nothing more has been done is that the movers and the shakers in this country don't care about New Orleans or Biloxi or anywhere in between. It's considered fly-over country, and now it's been passed over. Imagine how different the response would have been if a storm this size had hit New York City or Washington, D.C.?
Mark in Fort Lauderdale, "Too easy a question. Halliburton doesn't build dikes. Next question, please."
Keith in Fort Worth, Texas, "Because we've been worried more about restoring Baghdad instead of worrying about our own house."
Jenny in Nanuet, New York, "Because photo-ops are so much easier than actually following through on promises."
And Anthony in Torrington, Connecticut, "I guess the mayor and the governor don't know what to do with all that federal taxpayer money that was sent down there. Maybe we should check their freezers."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File" -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: A reference to the cold cash allegedly found in Congressman Jefferson's freezer, right?
CAFFERTY: I don't know if it was allegedly found. I think it was found.
O'BRIEN: I think it was pretty much found. It was pretty much found, wasn't it? Yes.
CAFFERTY: You can skip the "allegedly" part on that.
O'BRIEN: Yes, pretty much on that one, yes.
Jack Cafferty, thank you.
"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Kitty Pilgrim in for Lou.
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