Scott Bronstein, Amber Lyon and Alexandra Poolos
Newark, New Jersey (CNN) - They arrived in the United States from West Africa, young girls held against their will and forced to work for hours on end. This didn't happen hundreds of years ago.
Nicole's journey started in 2002, when she was barely 12, in her small village in western Ghana. She and about 20 other girls were held in plain sight, but always under the watchful eyes of their captors.
Related: Surviving slavery
"It was like being trapped, like being in a cage," said "Nicole," now 19. CNN agreed not to use her real name.
"I always have to behave, behave, behave, behave. No freedom at all."
The girls' families sent them to the United States after being assured they would receive a better education. But once they arrived, they were forced to work in hair braiding shops across the Newark area - just a short drive from New York City, right in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
The girls, who are now young women, have never spoken publicly before, until now.
Scott Bronstein and Wayne Drash
Program Note: On "AC360°," five survivors of the rig tell Anderson Cooper about the days leading up to the explosion. Watch "AC360°" at 10 ET Tuesday night, live from the Gulf.
(CNN) - The morning the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, a BP executive and a Transocean official argued over how to proceed with the drilling, rig survivors told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an exclusive interview.
The survivors' account paints perhaps the most detailed picture yet of what happened on the deepwater rig - and the possible causes of the April 20 explosion.
The BP official wanted workers to replace heavy mud, used to keep the well's pressure down, with lighter seawater to help speed a process that was costing an estimated $750,000 a day and was already running five weeks late, rig survivors told CNN.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/07/illinois.senate/art.burris.reid.gi.jpg caption="Roland Burris, left, meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Capitol on Wednesday."]
Program note: See the full report from Drew and Scott tonight on AC360° at 10pm.
Drew Griffin and Scott Bronstein
CNN Special Investigations Unit
Did Roland Burris secure his appointment to Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat through some kind of pay-to-play politics of the very sort that have tainted the man who appointed him, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich?
Republicans in the Illinois state legislature are asking that question, and they want Burris, the former Illinois attorney general, to answer in person at a hearing scheduled for Thursday on Blagojevich's impeachment.
And the question is reverberating back to Washington, where Democratic leaders have been blocking Burris from taking the Senate seat, saying the appointment is tainted by Blagojevich, who was arrested last month and accused of trying to sell the seat for money and influence.
Blagojevich, however, has not been indicted and remains governor. He and Burris say the appointment is legal. In a written affidavit given to the impeachment panel, Burris said he had one limited conversation with the governor about the Senate seat before he was appointed. And that conversation, he said, was initiated by a Blagojevich attorney.
But records show the two men have long ties to each other - includinglucrative state contracts, political contributions and even a job for the governor's wife. Those records are raising thorny questions from state officials, particularly Republicans.
"I want Mr. Burris to, under oath, talk about that, about exactly when his interest in his seat, when he became interested in the seat," said Republican State Rep. Jim Durkin, "how far back it went, who did he talk to, and exactly the communication that went back and forth between him and the governor and any type of documentation which he may have given to the governor."
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with