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Families of Sago Mine Victims Wait For Answers; Government Prepares For Upcoming Hurricane Season; America Vulnerable to Another Terrorist Attack?

Aired May 2, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Here's what's happening at this moment.

Forty-eight passengers and crew are counting their blessings tonight and telling their stories, after a dramatic, but safe emergency landing in Houston just less than an hour ago. Two tires blew out on the Continental Express jet as it was taking off. Flight 3161 was supposed to be bound for Minneapolis, but returned, and you just saw that amazing landing and everything that pilot was up against.

The White House is ready to release a national strategy to prepare, detect and respond to a bird flu pandemic. It assumes that an epidenic (sic) could -- or epidemic, that is -- could keep 40 percent of the work force at home for weeks on end.

The president's top economists says cutting gas taxes would only encourage drivers to use more. And the CEO of Exxon tells Congress, there's little the government can do about it anyway. He says, you should just use less gas.

Well, we continue to track America's crude awakening. The red states have the highest gasoline prices, the green states the lowest. And, today, the average price of unleaded regular sat at $2.91 a gallon. That's about a penny more than yesterday, 35 cents more a gallon than just a month ago.

And, today, we heard dramatic, revealing testimony about one of the year's biggest tragedies. In West Virginia, hearings into the Sago Coal Mine disaster have just wrapped up for the day. It has been exactly four months since an explosion trapped 13 miners deep underground. Only one of them survived. But did the rest have to die?

Today, their families looked into the eyes of the people who sent their men underground and thought it was safe.


ZAHN (voice-over): It was a day of raw emotion.

SHELLY GROVES, DAUGHTER OF SAGO MINE DISASTER VICTIM: Our hearts are broken, more than just broken. They have been ripped out of our chests and shredded to a million pieces.

ZAHN: The families of the 12 dead miners never before have talked so publicly about their tragedy.

VIRGINIA MOORE, FIANCEE OF SAGO MINE DISASTER VICTIM: See, without Terry, there is half of my heart gone, because he made it whole.

ZAHN: Beneath portraits of the lost miners, their families came face to face with state and federal mine safety officials and with the operators of the Sago Mine.

GROVES: I expect each and every person being questioned today and tomorrow to show respect for our lost loved ones. We deserve the respect. Show respect, please, by answering our questions fully and completely and, most importantly, truthfully.

ZAHN: The families have some information from a letter written last month by the only survivor of the disaster. Randal McCloy was not at today's hearing. But his description of what happened was on everyone's mind.

PAM CAMPBELL, SISTER-IN-LAW OF SAGO MINE DISASTER VICTIM: They tried to escape. And when they couldn't escape, they went back where they knew they had air, and they barricaded themselves, the way they were taught.

ZAHN: The company that operates Sago Mine believes the disaster was caused by lightning that apparently triggered a gas explosion in an unused section of the mine. But state and federal investigators haven't determined the cause yet.

Jeff Toler was the supervisor that morning. He was among the first rescuers into the mine, but was blocked by smoke and gas, and turned back.

JEFFREY TOLER, SUPERINTENDENT OF SAGO MINE: I relive this nightmare in my mind many times over every day. Only, in my mind, we save them every time. Regrettably, on January the 2nd, we did not.

ZAHN: A representative for the families asked just how close Toler had come to where Terry Helms and other miners were trapped.

TOLER: Probably about 50 to 60 feet away.


TOLER: Sixty, 60 feet away. Ma'am, I had no idea he was there.


ZAHN: It took more than 40 hours to reach the trapped men. And that's when the tragedy was made even worse by faulty communications.

CHARLES SNAVELY, VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: It was first believed that all were alive, because that's what was called out from underground quite clearly.

ZAHN: Today, an official testified that the company never authorized an announcement. But, that night, word that the miners had survived spread like wildfire. It took 45 minutes to learn the awful truth: All but one of them had died.

BEN HATFIELD, PRESIDENT & CEO, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: The immediate reaction in the command center was that this report of only one survivor may be erroneous. Many participants in the command center clung to the fervent hope that the other 11 miners may be in some sort of comatose state. We continued to believe that there was still hope.

ZAHN: Now, four months later, we know it was false hope. But did the men have to die? The hearings and the search for answers will continue.


ZAHN: And Joe Johns was inside today's long and dramatic session of hearings. He joins me now to take us "Beyond the Headlines" tonight.

So, Joe, we could see and -- and feel the pain of these families, as they asked these very pointed questions. What seemed to be the piece of information that these families had never heard about up until today, and perhaps the piece of information they found the most disturbing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, that is very difficult to say, because what became quite clear over the course of this hearing is that the families were very well versed, very knowledgeable about intimate details of this investigation. It is clear that the state of West Virginia has been keeping them apace, as information came in.

Probably the most disturbing piece of information I heard -- and I imagine some others already knew it -- was that some seismographic measuring device, something they would have been able to listen to the ground and hear the miners as they were banging away at the ceiling to try to get noticed, that device was not available from the federal government at the time.

So, there was no way they could listen to the ground to hear the miners basically banging for help, Paula.

ZAHN: I can't even imagine what it would be like to hear one of those family members listening to that. What did they learn about the air masks and whether they worked properly or not today?

JOHNS: Well, there's a real dispute on that. As you know, the lone miner who survived, Randal McCloy, has said several of those devices were not operating properly. That came out in a letter last week.

Now, many, many questions came out today, because the government has said it has tested those devices and found nothing wrong with them. In fact, some of those devices actually had air in them at the time. So, the question was, what is the company going to say about this? The company essentially said it was probably the stress of the moment, the miners, under stress, not realizing that they were working themselves up and not able to breathe with the devices at the time -- Paula.

ZAHN: Joe Johns, really appreciate the update today. Thanks so much.

And, right now, a mine rescue drama is playing out a half-mile underground. Two men have been trapped for six days in an Australian gold mine. And, just today, rescuers managed to get some food and water to them. But they are still trapped tonight. This is unfolding in the southern Australian state of Tasmania.

And joining me from the Beaconsfield Gold Mine in Tasmania is reporter Chris Reason of Australia's Seven Network.

Good of you to join us.

What's the latest on the status of these two men that are trapped?

CHRIS REASON, SEVEN NETWORK REPORTER: Well, Paula, remarkably and quite unbelievably, they're absolutely, 100 percent perfectly in good health, which is -- which is quite incredible, considering the conditions they are in now.

As you say, a half-a-mile below where we stand, the -- the mine shaft that they were working in collapsed on top of them. They were fortunate enough to be inside a caged cherry-picker, which gave them some quite incredible protection. They're unscathed, unscratched. And, right now, they have been trapped in this 1.5-by-1.5-meter space, and down there, as you say, for some eight days now. And they have managed to get through a small hole 12 meters away, where the rescue party is, some supplies down to them through a piece of PVC piping like this.

And they have been slipping down here water, biscuits, foodstuff, energy drinks, some messages from their family, blankets, some warm clothes, and a bit tarpaulin to keep them drive from the -- from the moisture inside that cavern they're in.

And, right now, they're about to start the operation of getting them further out. But, right now, they're in very, very good condition.

ZAHN: And how dangerous will this rescue attempt be?

REASON: It will be -- well, it is incredibly dangerous.

Right now, as I say, the -- the rescue party is just 12 meters away from the two men trapped down there. And every time -- they're just setting up a drill now, a special raised borer drill, which is due to start operations within the next couple of hours, Paula. They're worried about things like vibration perhaps triggering -- triggering off another rock fall underneath where we stand.

And, so, this -- this operation is extremely sensitive. They're having to take it very slowly. And they're still saying to us, even though it will start within two or three hours, the operation, it will take some 48 hours to get this drill slowly through that solid rock, through the face, through to where the men are -- are currently located.

But -- but that will begin soon. And we will, hopefully, in two days' time, have them out of there.

ZAHN: And, hopefully, you will have them out and have very good news about how they all fared through this over-weeklong ordeal.

Chris Reason, thanks so much for the update. We wish those rescuers a lot of luck.

Tonight, the threat of another disastrous hurricane season is bearing down on millions of Americans. The season begins June 1. That's just four weeks away. And, tonight, the federal government and cities like New Orleans are racing ahead with plans to save people, even, this time, their pets, too, if another Hurricane Katrina takes aim at them.

Well, New Orleans unveiled its new evacuation plan today. And we also heard from top FEMA officials.

National security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has been following the story all day long and has just filed this report.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just be Yugo (ph). Perfect. Perfect.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FEMA is on a hiring binge, trying to rebuild some muscle to do the heavy lifting during hurricane season.

MIKE HALL, DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: If we're going to be better tomorrow than we are today, it all begins with people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

MESERVE: FEMA is also retooling how it moves supplies and deals with victims. It's part of an effort at all levels of government to get ready for this year's hurricane season. At the local level, in New Orleans, where the impact of a botched evacuation is still raw, today, a new plan was unveiled.

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Read my lips: This is a plan for getting people out of the city. There is no shelter of last resort.

MESERVE: If all goes as intended, next time, there will not be a squalid Superdome. Next time, there will be no one stranded at nursing homes or hospitals. The elderly and ill will be taken out of town by bus or train. Next time, there will be fewer people resisting evacuation to stay with their animals. Pets in cages will be evacuated, too.

And, next time, there will be no looting. There will be, officials insist, ample security.

WARREN J. RILEY, NEW ORLEANS POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: We will implement a curfew immediately after the evacuation stops.

MESERVE: The secretary of Homeland Security, meanwhile, was in Georgia, showcasing equipment intended to prevent the communications fiascoes that fouled up the Katrina response. Michael Chertoff also visited with Florida's governor and other officials, part of a preseason tour of hurricane-prone states.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We do recognize that the state and local government has to be the primary responder, and then to figure out, if there's a gap, how do we fill that gap, and -- and to be prepared to fill that gap well in advance.

MESERVE: Some believe local, state and federal governments are so anxious to prevent a replay of Katrina, that they will overcompensate. The head of FEMA's union has a facetious take on the situation.

LEO BOSNER, UNION CHIEF, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: My suggestion is, just get some C-5As and fill them with $50 bills and just push them the bales out the back, you know, the tailgate. It's flying over the disaster area. That would be a lot simpler and less overhead and fewer staff people.

MESERVE: Is all the planning and preparation too much, or is it, as some experts suggest, too little? There is really no way to know, until the next big storm rushes ashore.

NAGIN: June 1. We will see what happens.

MESERVE: Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: And now on to our countdown. Sixteen million of you visited our Web site today.

Number 10 on the list, publisher Little, Brown cancels its contract with a 19-year-old Harvard student caught up in a plagiarism scandal. Last week, the company withdrew Kaavya Viswanathan's book, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life."

Number nine -- in Iraq, two people died when a bomb went off inside a mini-bus in central Baghdad. And 10 others were killed in an attack on a convoy carrying the governor of Anbar Province -- numbers eight and seven straight ahead, along with a provocative question: Are we ready for the second wave? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): On the CNN "Security Watch," nearly five years after 9/11 and billions for homeland security, are we wide open to another major attack? Tonight, a former insider sounds an urgent warning.

And the "Eye Opener" -- the motherhood penalty, the incredible price some career women pay for getting pregnant. Does everyone love motherhood, except the boss? -- all that and more when we come back.



ZAHN: On the "Security Watch" tonight, we can tell you the startling contents of a classified report delivered to Congress last February.

It has now been made public. And, in it, the National Counterterrorism Center warns that the U.S. and other countries still have a long way to go to improve passport security to prevent terrorists from taking their deadly journeys.

And there are more warnings in a new book called "Open Target." It argues that the U.S. is still dangerously vulnerable to terrorists.

And its author joins me now from Washington. Clark Kent Ervin is a CNN analyst and former acting inspector general of homeland security.

Always good to see you. Welcome.


ZAHN: I wanted to start off tonight by reading a quote from your book, where you said that: "I found that our leaders are not taking the threat of terrorism seriously. The leaders of the Department of Homeland Security seem to care more about protecting their reputations than protecting the country."

Are you really saying tonight that we are no safer than we were five years ago from a terrorist threat?

ERVIN: I'm not saying that we're not any safer at all. I'm saying we're somewhat safer.

But, in the age of terror, somewhat safer is not safe enough. Just...


ZAHN: Could another 9/11 happen again?

ERVIN: Another 9/11 could happen again, even though we have invested somewhere between $18 billion to $20 billion in aviation security.

Just a couple weeks ago, government investigators reported that they were able to smuggle bomb components, undetected, through 21 airports in our country, even though they went out of their way to attract the attention of screeners. This comes, as you say, five years after 9/11 almost, and three years, more than three years, after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security that was supposed to make screeners perform better.

ZAHN: All right. You're talking about screeners. And that is one of the more alarming things that you -- a conclusion that you arrive at in your book, that the inspector general showed through repeated testing that the screeners themselves weren't screened.

ERVIN: That's exactly right.

We found that TSA had hired hundreds of screeners before completing their criminal background checks. And, once those background checks were completed, we found that a number of them had very, very serious criminal histories, ranging from burglary and rape to voluntary manslaughter, which raised, for me, the question of, if TSA did such a poor job of vetting for criminal connections, how good a job is it doing to vet these screeners against terrorist watch lists?

ZAHN: Well, how would the TSA possibly defend that?

ERVIN: Well, it's really...


ZAHN: You -- you heard the excuses, I think you have said, while you were on the job.

ERVIN: Well, it really is indefensible.

The problem is, there isn't a sense of urgency about just how vulnerable we remain. Just last week, for example, Secretary Chertoff announced that we're going to begin to vet port security workers against the terrorist watch list. That's a great idea, certainly.

But why has it taken three years since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security to do that? We are not moving with a sense of urgency. And, yet, as recently as last week, bin Laden himself made it clear that he's determined to attack the homeland again.

ZAHN: Well, I know you haven't made a lot of friends in the government this book. I guess you have been even called a traitor in some circles, huh?

ERVIN: I have been.

But, you know, this really isn't about me. The -- the issue of homeland security is critically important. And it's as if people think that, simply because we now have a department called Homeland Security, the homeland is secure. It takes more than a department to do the job.

Creating the Department of Homeland Security was the beginning of the job, not the end of it. The department has been underfunded. It has lacked expert leadership. And there's this culture that does not acknowledge problems. And, until those problems are acknowledged, they can't be solved.

ZAHN: Clark Kent Ervin thank you, again, for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.

ERVIN: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And, after all the years of passing laws against discrimination, can you believe the number of women who say that they have been fired just because they have had babies. What's going on here?


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jason Carroll in Durham, North Carolina.

Will the district attorney get to keep prosecuting the Duke lacrosse case he has worked so hard on? He's up for reelection, and it is Election Day. I will have an update coming up.


ZAHN: And two weeks before the premiere of the movie version of "The Da Vinci Code," debate over the book's accuracy heats up. Many critics say author Dan Brown gets crucial details wrong about early Christianity.

And number seven -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist backs off a plan to give drivers a $100 gas rebate and raise taxes on oil companies. Business leaders and many voters objected to that plan -- numbers six and five still ahead.


ZAHN: Results are coming in right now in Durham, North Carolina, as the district attorney in the Duke University rape investigation faces a different kind of jury tonight. Voters went to the polls today. And DA Mike Nifong's job is on the line.

Our Jason Carroll joins me now with the very latest.

I know the polls are closed. Do you have any early info on who has the lead here?


So far, Nifong has the lead. Sixteen out of 55 precincts are already in. Nifong, Michael Nifong, has 53 percent of the vote so far. The next closest candidate, Freda Black, has 30 percent. And, you know, Paula, a lot of people here have been saying all along that this primary election was really going to be a referendum on how Michael Nifong has handled the Duke lacrosse case. We asked him about that just a short while ago.

We already know how defense attorneys feel about the case. Yesterday, as you will remember, they asked that Michael Nifong be recused from the case for using this case for political gain. Again, I spoke to Michael Nifong just a few moments ago.

Listen to what he had to say about that accusation.


MICHAEL NIFONG, DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm a really, really, really good attorney. I'm a much better attorney than either of the people who's running against me. And he would probably love to have me off the case for that reason.


NIFONG: And if -- if getting me off the case means saying something to the press that will maybe affect the election, he's not above doing that either, obviously.


CARROLL: Nifong also told me he's -- that he's been at this for more than 20 years. And when you have been at it that long, you get thick-skinned. He says he used to taking potshots from defense attorney. And this, he says, is no exception.

He told me yesterday and today he's feeling confident about how this vote is going to turn out -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well, so far, it looks pretty good for him.

Jason Carroll, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now on to number six on the countdown.

The Associated Press obtains a draft of a White House plan to fight bird flu. It warns that 40 percent of America's work force could be off the job if an epidemic strikes here, taking care of loved ones. And it calls on employers to keep workers three feet apart and says colleges should use dorms to quarantine the sick.

Number five -- a new survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 says, after three years of war, two-thirds can't even find Iraq on a map. And, six months after Hurricane Katrina, one-third can't even find Louisiana on a map. Whoa -- number four on our list still ahead.

Now, we all know that discrimination is against the law. But why do some moms insist they have been forced to choose between their careers and the family? Are new mothers being singled out? And what would you pay to live in a haunted condo? Well, we know where you can find some. But is the deal too spooky to be true?

And get a load of this song.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): The 90-pound suburban housewife driving in her SUV.


ZAHN: Could this be you? Jeanne Moos has found the perfect song for 90-pound housewives who drive SUVs.


ZAHN: Welcome back. Here's what's happening at this moment. Another warning tonight in the dispute over Iran's nuclear plans. The U.S. says it may join with like-minded countries to impose sanctions on Iran.

A medical mystery tonight. The latest research shows that the British are healthier than Americans, with lower rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. They smoke just as much as we do, they are just as fat and they have a tendency to drink even more than we do. The U.S. happens to spend twice as much per person on health care than Britain.

And a new "Vanity Fair" interview with Vice President Cheney is hitting the stands tonight. Asked about his low popularity in the polls, Cheney says he's not in office to improve his image. He says there's no doubt in his mind that the U.S. did what was needed in Iraq.

Tonight we go on the front lines in the mommy wars. Now the new casualties -- moms at work. This conflict is guaranteed to spark debate. In the courts tonight, a wave of anti-discrimination lawsuits. Women who say they lost their jobs simply because they had babies. Now they are fighting back in court. Tonight's "Eye Opener," fighting the motherhood penalty.


JULIA PANELY-PAGETTI, NEW MOTHER: I waited to get pregnant until I was 34 years old, until my career was on track, until my income was in place so that I had the resources to support a child.

ZAHN (voice-over): Julia was a corporate communications executive in New York City making almost a six figure salary. In four years at her company she says she received three promotions and four raises. But her professional success took an unexpected turn when she got pregnant.

(on camera): Put this all into context for us. Here you are a worker who was called the favorite employee. And suddenly, you found yourself frozen out.

PANLEY-PAGETTI: I went from being the right-hand person to my boss, a very close relationship where we'd be on the phone sometimes ten different calls a day, working on things of the highest priority to not being able to even get my boss on the phone or not being able to ask them a question. And I felt that it really was because they didn't know how to deal with my pregnancy.

ZAHN (voice-over): Julia encouraged her bosses to find a temporary replacement during her maternity leave but also agreed to take calls in emergency situations. But just days after baby Chloe's birth, Julia's bosses began contacting her to work on major projects.

(on camera): At times there were more than a dozen phone calls and e-mails a day, sometimes as late as 11:00 at night. What did you think the message your bosses were sending you, to flood you with that kind of work while you're out on maternity leave?

PANLEY-PAGETTI: One of the heads of the company, he put it to me very plainly and said, you need to tell us whether you're willing to give 100 percent, because if you're not, we need to figure out a way to do it without you.

ZAHN: Did you interpret that as a threat?


ZAHN (voice-over): Threat or not, in the next conversation with her bosses, Julia was told she was among a handful of people being laid off. She was still on maternity leave.

(on camera): How devastating was it for you to lose your job when Chloe was two and a half months old?

PANLEY-PAGETTI: Economically, more than anything, just devastating. And we lost our home and we had to move in to my grandfather's apartment with our young baby. And we're still living here today.

ZAHN (voice-over): Julia thinks she was fired because she became a mother. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission it's illegal to lay off or fire a woman during her maternity leave, except in case of corporate downsizing.

The tricky part is proving that the pregnancy or motherhood had anything to do with the decision. But Julia is determined to pursue her case. She's suing her company for employment discrimination. Her lawyer, Gary Phelan.

GARY PHELAN, JULIA'S ATTORNEY: She didn't work hard enough during her pregnancy leave. That's what led to her being terminated.

ZAHN: Julia is far from alone. According to the Center for Work Life Law, there has been an increase of more than 400 percent in these kinds of cases in last decade. PHELAN: What's at the heart of a lot of these cases is a stereotype, the assumption that you can't do both, you can't be a parent and you can't be a good employee.

ZAHN: Elana Back was confronted with this stereotype in of all places a school where her bosses were women. She's a school psychologist in suburban New York. And she says she was intimidated and ultimately fired when she returned to work after her maternity leave.

(on camera): So Elana give us an example of some of the outrageous thing you were told by your female bosses.

ELANA BACK, SUED FOR EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION: Please don't get pregnant again until I retire. Another thing that was said to me was, we think your performance is just an act. We just don't know how you can maintain this level of performance when we know you have little ones at home.

ZAHN (voice-over): Alana sued and went to trial. And although she lost her case, she paved the way for other women like Julia. Today it's Alana's case lawyers cite when arguing this kind of discrimination in the workplace.

(on camera): If you had to go back and do it all over again, it was worth fighting this, getting fired?

BACK: It was absolutely worth it. Because I can go now for the rest of my life and know that I stood up for something I believed in.

ZAHN (voice-over): Some called what happened to Julia and Alana the maternal wall.

SHELLEY CORRELL, PHD, CORNELL UNIVERSITY SOCIOLOGIST: It's a similar kind of metaphor to a glass ceiling.

Cornell professor Shelly Correll recently conducted a study to test how prospective employers view motherhood. She sent more than 300 pairs of resumes to employers of two women with comparable qualifications with one exception. One of the women was obviously a mother. The women without children received twice as many call backs as those with children.

CORRELL: People seem to stereotype mothers as being less committed to their jobs, once they rate them as being less committed to their job, then they're less likely to desire them as employees, or less likely to promote them, to offer them lower salaries and the like.

THOMAS COLEMAN, EXEC. DIR., UNMARRIED AMERICA: A person with children is going to say I've got to go. There's no baby-sitter, I've got to go.

ZAHN (voice-over): Tom Coleman, the executive director of Unmarried America, a nonprofit advocacy group, believes employers are justified in being skeptical of working mothers. COLEMAN: Working women with children want to have their cake and eat it, too. I want to have a full family life. I want to have kids but I also want to have a full career. If you put too much on your plate, things are going to fall off.

ZAHN (on camera): Do you have any sensitivity at all to the mind-set your employer might have had, the concern perhaps that you would never be able to put in the kind of 14, 16-hour days you often pulled for them?

PANLEY-PAGETTI: There's a big gap, Paula, between thinking those things and making assumptions that somebody isn't going to work hard. I overcompensated by showing how dedicated I was.

ZAHN (voice-over): Alana also feels that she overcompensated and worked even harder when she went back to her job. She now works part time at another school. But with a termination on her record, she says it's hard for her to get a full time job.

As for Julia, she's been actively looking for a new job, but says that interviews come to a screeching halt when she answered the question, how did you leave your last job. She now does some part time PR consulting from home with baby Chloe in to you.

(on camera): Do you feel that the 15 years you put in, that this kind of work was all for naught now?

PANLEY-PAGETTI: I feel like I'm starting from scratch. I feel like I have worked really, really hard, and I have been really dedicated to my career and to every company that I've worked for.

BACK: I want to have another child. I'm 36 now. You know, if I'm going to do that I want to do that soon. But I can't do that until I move out of my grandfather's house and get back on my feet.


ZAHN: We contacted the school system where Alana Back was employed, they declined to comment for this story and Julia's lawsuit is currently proceeding. The company she worked for denies her allegations, and gave us this statement.

Although the company does not generally comment on pending litigation, they deny the allegations in the complaint and are vigorously defending the lawsuit. So as you can see, this battle is far from over.

Do you know why tiny women who drive huge SUVs, then listen to this.

SINGING: Oh, she's a 90-pound suburban housewife driving in her SUV.

ZAHN: Could this be your song. Jeanne Moos has the story behind the song. ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: High priced homes on property that could be haunted. Why it's the latest trend in real estate. I'm Allan Chernoff and I'll have the eerie details straight ahead on PAULA ZAHN NOW.

ZAHN: Ooh, right around the corner.

First, number eight on our countdown. Some amazing pictures you saw here yesterday. Drag racer Cory McClenathan survives this terrifying crash at close to 300 miles an hour. We had him on the air last night. Walked away, said back was just a little bit sore. Other than that, he was fine. You can see more about that on

Number three on our countdown coming up.


ZAHN: By now you've probably heard it playing on an iPod or radio near you, or even in the streets in your neighborhood. Call it home, home on the range where the jeep and the suburban play. And the cowhand for the suburban roundup is the teeny tiny woman driving her giant SUV. Jeanne Moos is hot on the trail.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You would dance, too, if it were your song. Step on the gas and pump up the volume.


ROZANNE GATES, SONGWRITER: It's a national phenomenon. The cars are getting bigger and the ladies are getting smaller. And they practically need a step ladder to get up into these rigs.

MOOS: Rozanne Gates and Suzy Sheridan drive the opposite of an SUV.

Everywhere they drive around Westport, Connecticut, they see little women driving big SUVs.

GATES: There goes one.

MOOS: So they penned a song about it.

SUZANNE SHERIDAN, SONGWRITER: It's something that's meant to be lighthearted.

MOOS: There goes one. Wait there goes one. Hey.

SHERIDAN: There goes another one, yeah.

MOOS: Oh, look, she's 90 pounds.

SHERIDAN: Yes, she's our next door neighbor.


MOOS: Speaking of wives, you're a couple.

SHERIDAN: Yeah, we are.

GATES: You don't say a couple of what.

MOOS: Sealed with a civil union. They want America to wean itself off oil, and they are hoping their SUV song drives home the point.


MOOS: They had a singer in Nashville record the song. It started to take off when the radio show "Car Talk" played it. Now you can buy it on iTunes. It's no wonder that people who don't drive SUVs like it.


MOOS: But it seems to strike a chord even with those it skewers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is so dead on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's pretty funny.

MOOS: In fact, the only quibble female SUV drivers had was with the 90-pound part.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a little more than 90 pounds, but this is awesome.


MOOS: Rozanne and Suzy dream of a certain singer for their song.

Dolly Parton?


SHERIDAN: Please, you've got to do this song.

GATES: This is going to be the biggest hit you have ever had.

MOOS: But so far, Dolly hasn't bitten.

GATES: You have an SUV.

MOOS: Yes, but we have all this equipment we have to carry.


MOOS: If you really want to get mileage out of this song, try making sightings while you listen. GATES: She's got her cell phone in her ear.

MOOS: She's talking, baby!

Jeanne Moos, CNN, Westport, Connecticut.


ZAHN: And lately, she's been spending a lot of money to fill up that huge tank.

Still ahead, if you think real estate is a crazy business, well, you don't know how right you are. That's just ahead.

But first, tonight's business headlines for you on Wall Street. Stocks rose to their highest level in years. The Dow gained 73 points. That's the highest since January of 2000. The Nasdaq picked up 5 points, and the more broad-based S&P picked up 8 points, to its highest in five years.

April, though, was the cruelest month for the big three U.S. auto makers. Ford sales slipped 7 percent, hit by plummeting Explorer SUV sales, which were down 42 percent. DaimlerChrysler sales slid 6 percent. General Motors sales dropped more than 10 percent.

And there is no relief in sight for high fuel prices. Oil climbed back to almost $75 a barrel today, pushing gas prices up once again.

Those are tonight's business headlines. Let's check in with Larry King, who is coming up about 13 minutes from now. Who will be joining you tonight, Lar?

LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Hey, Paula, a very important show. The former Secretary of State James Baker will speak out for the first time about the tragic death of his granddaughter four years ago. She drowned in a hot tub. So Jim will be on with his daughter- in-law Nancy, the mother of the late Graham Baker.

All that at the top of the hour. We'll include viewer phone calls and we'll talk about some important legislation that could affect and save future lives, dealing with death in pools. All that ahead -- Paula.

ZAHN: So important to get those warnings out there. Larry, thanks. See you at the top of the hour.

Are you looking for a nice home in an historic neighborhood? Well, we found some condos that have everything, the ghosts even thrown in for free. What's the catch? Wait and see.

Number three in our countdown. Paris Hilton and Greek shipping heir Stavros Niarchos are over. Yeah, well, tabloids have been hinting at that for some time. (inaudible), Hilton's publicist effectively confirmed the breakup today. They started seeing each other last year. And you all put it on the top 10 tonight list, not us. That was number three. Number two on the list straight ahead.


ZAHN: The old saying in real estate used to be location, location, location. But what you're about to see is turning that on its head. Suddenly a very special kind of condo is the hot thing in home buying, proving that real estate can really be a crazy business. Here's Allan Chernoff on nightmares recycled into dreams come true.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): It's one of the most infamous locales in New York City. It's site of the nation's first municipal lunatic asylum on Roosevelt Island, just across from Manhattan.

Charles Dickens described it as having a listless, madhouse air. Journalist Nellie Bly exposed inhumane conditions here. The building was abandoned for the past 50 years, and legend has it that the site is haunted by former residents of the asylum.

So why would anyone want to live here? At a rent of $3,000 a month, no less.

DONNA CREAGH, OCTAGON RESIDENT: Most people who know me think I'm kind of nuts anyways, so...

CHERNOFF: Donna Creagh has just committed herself to living in the former asylum, now renovated into the city's newest high-end apartment complex, The Octagon.

CREAGH: It is almost apropos that I found a building that used to be an insane asylum.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Old asylums are the latest trend in residential real estate. Yet Americans appear to be mad about living in former mental institutions.

(voice-over): Near Portland, the first 100 homes built on the site of the old Dammasch State Mental Hospital are already sold. The builders brought in a psychic to bless the spirits who might still be hanging around.

In Traverse City, Michigan, there's a waiting list for the condos on the site of the Northern Michigan Asylum.

And the Danvers Insane Asylum in Massachusetts, scene on the horror film "Session 9," is slated for development into condos as well.

No longer is there a stigma in calling an asylum home. For developers, it's now a selling point.

BRUCE REDMAN BECKER, OCTAGONNYC.COM: These doors have an interesting resemblance to the madhouse bars that were on the windows. I think it's just a coincidence.

CHERNOFF: Maybe it's just a coincidence that Roosevelt Island's tram to Manhattan broke down on the very same day that the Octagon opened for business. Maybe it's just a coincidence that pets are acting strangely in the building.

BRENDA GUYER, OCTAGON RESIDENT: She absolutely refuses to walk up the stairs. I mean, we can drag her and she just won't do it. And I've never seen her have that behavior before.

CHERNOFF: Donna Creagh suspects she just may have supernatural neighbors.

CREAGH: There are times when I'm walking down the corridors and I almost feel as if there's something around.

CHERNOFF: As skeptical journalists, we invited ghost hunters to find the Octagon's old residents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very uncomfortable feeling when you're walking into a building that is presumably haunted.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Do you feel that here?


CHERNOFF: What's the sense?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sense is that something is following you, watching you as you're walking.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): That would be your ghost hunting team, Katherine (ph). In the 21st Century, ghost hunting is a high-tech affair. The searchers use digital cameras to capture what they call apparitions. Apparently ghosts like to pose even if we can't see them with the naked eye. Then the hunters uploaded their photos to a laptop computer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an orb. And over here, almost like a face. So we probably, what you might have is more than one. So it looks like you might have three or four of them living with you.

CREAGH: As long as they're friendly and bring their own beer, I'm cool with that.

CHERNOFF: In years past, you had to be crazy to live in one of these places. Now the developers brag you'd be crazy not to live here. Though with rent for the largest Octagon apartments at $6,500 a month, perhaps some of the new residents really deserve to be institutionalized. Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: Allan, you're scaring me. Coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," an important hour. Former secretary of state James Baker breaks his silence about a family tragedy. First, No. 2 on the countdown. This is really weird. A very strange scene today as Ohio executed convicted killer Joseph Clark. Technicians had some trouble finding a vein for the lethal injection. At one point, Clark actually sat up on the table minutes after the chemicals were supposed to have entered his body and says "it's not working."

When we come back, find out what Brooke Shields is saying to put her at the top of the countdown tonight.


ZAHN: No. 1 on countdown, Brooke Shields says the irony was perfect that her new baby girl was born on the same day as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes baby. Shields and Cruise had a very public beef last year after Cruise criticized her for taking antidepressants after the birth of her first child.

That's it from all of us here. Have a great night everybody.


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