Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Rescue Attempt Continues In West Virginia, Sketchiness Of Don Blankenship, Baby Jenny Reunited With Parents, Michael Lewis Interview, & Mining Illness

Hi everyone. Anderson Cooper is coming at us from the studio tonight, which actually is the last place I would have expected. I guess with the unpredictability of the breaking news they just ultimately decided to have him sit tight. Hopefully he'll head to Haiti within this next week or two.

We begin with the latest out of West Virginia. The search is still on for the four miners that remain missing, but it's not looking all that great. Eleven of the 25 dead have been identified. As per usual, we've got the Magic Wall action going on--tonight it's being used to preview what's coming up in the broadcast. We see a shot of Tom Foreman at his own Magic Wall. A wall within a wall. I think they just blew my mind.

Gary Tuchman has our first piece of the night, which focuses on the family of Ricky Workman. They're holding out hope that he's one of the four missing and will be found alive. The majority of the rest of the piece consists of footage from 2007 when Gary went down into the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah--the site of another horrible disaster.

That accident ended with six miners never being recovered, and worse still, an additional collapse during the effort to save them resulted in the death of three rescuers as well. I remember Gary's coverage at the time. To this day I still sporadically get people searching this blog for news of what happened to those miners. To lose a family member in that way is horrible in of itself; I can't imagine what it must be like to have to leave them in the mine forever.

Next up, Joe Johns and Jeffrey Toobin join us to discuss Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. He sounds like a real piece of work. Of note is that he donated $3 million to defeat a West Virginia State Supreme Court justice because there was a $50 million dollar case before the court that impacted his business. Joe actually just gives us these two facts and says they don't want to imply intent, which is kinda comical. So, yeah, must be nice to buy your own justice.

Tom Foreman is at his Magic Wall now, doing a little demonstrating, and showing us the mechanics of coal mining. (Inside joke shout out to my fellow longtime watchers: mantrip!) Then we're on to safety violation talk with Mark Radomsky, director of the Miners Training Program at Penn State University.

Transitioning now to an Elizabeth Cohen piece that follows up on Baby Jenny. You might remember that the infant was separated from her parents during the Haiti quake. She was found alone and injured, causing her rescuers to believe she was an orphan. Given the new name Patricia, she was transported to the United States for intensive care.

Meanwhile, back in Haiti, Nadine Devilme and Junior Alexis were frantically searching for their little girl. Eventually they discovered she had been taken to the United States, but without a passport or visa, they were unable to see their daughter. They didn't even have proof she was theirs, and subsequently spent the next two months trying to convince authorities.

A DNA test ultimately proved their claims and they were eventually allowed into the U.S. to be reunited with Jenny. They have been granted permission to remain here for one year while Jenny receives care. The couple themselves will be assisted by the International Rescue Committee. Good story. Yay for relatively happy endings.

Next up, Anderson interviews Michael Lewis, author of "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine." Basically it's about how Wall Street screwed us over...and how they're showing no signs of stopping. I loved Michael's point about how the right wing is always lamenting the so-called entitlement mentality of the lower classes (welfare, etc.), yet there's not a more entitled bunch out there than Wall Street execs.

I really liked this interview. Very Daily Show-esque--almost literally, given that Lewis appeared on there as well. I wish they'd do this more. Find interesting, maybe not necessarily conventional authors, and have a relaxed conversation. But don't chop it all up! This one was actually pretty good. Too often though they only give us a few minutes, making it feel hurried and ultimately pointless. I don't know why cable news is so terrified to let conversations go longer than sound-byte length.

Our final piece of the night is from Sanjay Gupta, who like Gary, is also in West Virginia. He spends time with Lorelei Scarbro to give us a sense of what it's like to come from a mining family. There is a whole cemetery filled with relatives of Lorelei who died of mining-related causes. One of the dead is her own husband, disabled by black lung disease in his early 50's. Chronic conditions, accidents, there's a lot to worry about when you send a loved one off to spend a day working in the mine.

The miners will talk to Sanjay about their concerns, but not on camera. They're afraid of Massey Energy. A particularly chilling quote from Lorelei: "This could happen again today. And we're disposable commodities here. And, you know, this is the only game in town." These mine companies know their workers will put up with safety concerns because there's no where else for them to go. Not even 24 hours after the worst mining disaster since 1984, some of them were back in the mine working. Seems wrong, doesn't it?

The show wasn't bad. I hope they really go indepth on Massey Energy in the future. Or at least have on someone really knowledgeable about the specific situation, like maybe a local reporter. It seemed like Radomsky's expertise was more general, though it was hard to tell. The company needs to be held accountable. That'll do it.

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