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THE SITUATION ROOM

Wildfire Out of Control; Kennedy's Dying Wish Gains Ground; Britain Denies Link on Oil Deal; Afghanistan in Political Limbo; School: Get Health Insurance Now

Aired August 31, 2009 - 17:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Our CNN's Casey Wian is on the fire line for us -- and, Casey, tell us what the latest is.

What are you seeing?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, a massive wildfire behind me in the Angeles National Forest is spreading quickly. And, at this point, firefighters do not know how to stop it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (voice-over): The wildfire choking much of Southern California with thick smoke is not the area's typical Santa Ana wind- driven blaze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow!

WIAN: Officials say this fire is being fueled by the region's 10 year drought, triple digit temperatures and brush that hasn't burned in years. They've named it the Station Fire. It's unusually unpredictable and it's creating its own wind patterns, so firefighters are unable to attack the flames and instead are using defensive tactics.

CAPT. MARK WHALING, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We are waiting for the fire to burn to a location where we can control it. With this intensity of fire, when you're talking about hundreds of flame lengths, the fire able to move several miles in just a few hours. The same terrain would take you a day to move through and this fire can move through in two hours. So, you know, we can't put our people on the ground in a situation where they can be easily overrun by the fire.

WIAN: Two firefighters were killed over the weekend. Even so, some residents ignored evacuation notices.

SCOTT HANLEY, RESIDENT: It was something that you can't even describe, being, you know, stuck in the house with the flames, laying on the floor and the firemen looking at you just telling you to stay down, don't move and embers being forced through the cracks in the windows and the cracks in the door. And every window you look out is just -- is just solid wall of flames. It was like a tornado of -- like a tornado with fire.

Also at risk, television and emergency broadcast towers atop Mount Wilson, as well as key electricity transmission lines north of the city. The department of water and power warned residents power outages may be coming.

Air quality throughout much of Southern California is hazardous -- four times acceptable levels of pollutants, as Postman Randy Fought can verify.

RANDY FOUGHT, MAIL CARRIER: It's pretty bad. It's pretty bad. As of right now, we're just, you know, wearing our little masks and -- and delivering the mail.

WIAN: The air is so bad, people with heart conditions and other health problems are being advised to stay indoors or leave the area.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The grim forecast from fire officials right now is they do not expect full containment of the Station Fire until September 15th -- more than two weeks from now -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Wow! Thank you so much.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has some amazing iReports from the wildfires, from those TV and emergency broadcast towers that Casey just mentioned -- Abbi, what do they show?

What are you seeing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, there's a camera that's perched atop the Mount Wilson Observatory trained on these 20 or so radio and TV towers that has been capturing photos every two minutes of the threat to those towers.

I'm going to play you a time lapse video that's been sent in to CNN's iReport. This is Friday morning, when you can see the Station Fire blow up like a volcano. And it's still going on right now, if you look at these pictures that have been sent in to us at iReport.

This was the picture this morning at 2:00 a.m.. You can see the flames at the bottom of the shot there -- huge smoke billowing around these transmission towers. This was the picture this morning.

This is all sent in to CNN's iReport from astronomer Roger Griffith, who used to work up there. He said he wrote this program to capture the pictures, just to see what pictures were coming in and had no idea that an event of this magnitude would be what he was recording -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Abbi, thank you so much.

And joining me on the phone now with more, Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Thank you so much for being here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I want to start off, obviously, by asking you the state of Los Angeles.

Just how far is this fire from the city and what kind of threat are -- are the people there under?

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: Well, first of all, Suzanne, let me just say that our hearts and prayers are with the families of the two L.A. County firefighters who were killed yesterday, L.A. County fire Captain Tedmund Hall and L.A. County fire Specialist Armando Quinones. This is another example of just how dangerous these jobs of the first responders are. And I can tell you, we've worked many times with the L.A. County Fire Department and they're one of the best departments anywhere in the country.

This fire is to the east and north of the city, though it has entered the City of Los Angeles in the northeastern end, about three communities there -- the Riverwood community, the Alpine Village community and the Haynes Canyon community, just east of the 210 freeway.

It -- you know, with winds being what they are, it, at any time, it could go even further -- penetrate even further into our city. I can tell you that we have our fire department resources committed to the Station Fire incident. We have a mutual aid pact with the county and others. And we have three strike teams, which is about 15 engines, two helicopters and a helitanker. We also have three strike teams in the city protecting property. We've established an evacuation center at Verdugo Hills High School. And we're working, obviously, to make sure that it doesn't penetrate the city.

MALVEAUX: And mayor, how difficult is it with budget cuts?

Are they impacting your ability to protect the residents of the city?

VILLARAIGOSA: No, they're not. We had had a modified staffing plan that we've rescinded for emergencies like this. We've said from the beginning that although we were going to have to modify our staffing from about 1,100 firefighters to 87 less on any given day, we've rescinded that order for now to make sure that we have a full complement of firefighters to battle this incident, should it come into the city.

MALVEAUX: And if you are a resident of Los Angeles, what should you be doing now to protect yourself?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, you should be listening to your station and others, making sure that you're not in an area that is in jeopardy at this point. But -- and as much as possible -- I was with the governor today and we both admonished people to please listen to the fire department and the police department when they ask you to evacuate. And there have been a number of people who have been injured because they didn't heed those evacuation orders.

I've been in these fires -- the Merrick and the Sur Fire last year. And it's very, very important that people cooperate with our first responders. MALVEAUX: Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

Good luck to all of you there in Los Angeles.

VILLARAIGOSA: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is off today.

There are some new questions swirling around about the release of the PanAm Flight 103 bomber.

Was it part of a larger oil deal and is he now near death?

Our CNN international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is live in Libya.

Also, a flood of complaints in the wake of Afghanistan's presidential election -- what impact will they have on the outcome?

Plus, beer and gum -- part of an amazing survival story being told by three fishermen who lived to tell about their eight day ordeal at sea.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: In Massachusetts, new momentum to make Ted Kennedy's dying wish to come true by appointing an interim replacement to his Senate seat until a special election can be held. Lawmakers have scheduled a public hearing on September 9th and the date for the special election has now been set.

CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is now joining us -- Jessica, what do we know about this election?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: OK, Suzanne. So, the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, has just announced that the new election -- that election to replace Senator Kennedy -- will happen on January 19th. So that leaves four-and-a- half months where the state will be left without a second senator. And with major issues coming before Congress, the governor said having just one vote for the State of Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate -- it isn't right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WCVB)

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We have a stake in this health care debate in the Congress right now. We have a stake in the climate change bill and in the education initiatives. And -- and I think that our interests advise in favor of having a voice representing us -- two voices representing us in the United States Senate at all times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So what he really wants is for the state legislature to allow him to temporarily name a senator to fill the seat for those four-and-a-half months. Right now, it's still unclear if the legislature will agree. Depending on who you talk to, some say the odds are 50/50; others say the legislature is leaning toward it, 80/20. The bottom line is Democrats could really use that vote, especially on health care.

We're going to have to wait and see if they get it.

Oh, but the governor, I should add, says it's too early to name names who he might replace (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: Yes, but, Jessica, it is not too early to ask.

YELLIN: It's not too early for us. Right.

MALVEAUX: Tell us, what -- what are the names you're actually hearing right now?

YELLIN: OK. Well, the two big names everyone is talking about are Vicky Kennedy, the governor's widow and his nephew, Joe Kennedy.

So first, Vicki. Now, she's being talked about as the ideal person for the governor to take -- to name to the seat temporarily. Today, Governor Patrick says that Vicky told him she is not interested in being appointed to the seat. People close to the family have also told both me and John King that she does not want to take it, she is grieving. But there are also those who believe she could be persuaded to cast her husband's last vote. And many folks in Massachusetts will urge the governor to appoint her if he is given that power.

Now, as for Joe Kennedy, the senator's nephew, again, people close to the family say he's enjoying private life. He does not love Washington and so he is not inclined to run to be a senator. But if there's a groundswell of support for him to run, it could be hard for him to resist.

And ready for this -- the other name floating out there as a possible temporary replacement, Michael Dukakis.

MALVEAUX: Really?

YELLIN: How's that for a blast from the past?

MALVEAUX: That's a surprise.

YELLIN: Yes.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jessica.

Thanks again.

YELLIN: Thanks.

MOOS: Thanks.

New questions about the motivation behind the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The British government is denying his release was connected to an oil deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no (INAUDIBLE) to do a deal and to say to the Libyans well, we'll deal -- make a deal with you on oil and we'll give you a nod and a wink about the release of Mr. Al-Megrahi, because that was not within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom government. And had it been, we would never have struck that kind of deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Meanwhile in Libya, signs al-Megrahi's illness may be worsening.

Our CNN international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is live for us in Tripoli -- and, Nic, what are we hearing there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, yesterday one journalist did manage to get into the hospital where Mr. Megrahi is being treated. Mr. Megrahi appeared very weak. He was on an oxygen ventilator. He had drips going into his body. The journalist asked him a question about whether or not there was a deal for his release and returned to -- and return to Libya. And he appeared -- Mr. Megrahi appeared too weak to answer that question.

The image that's being portrayed here right now in Libya -- and it's not being talked a lot about in the Libyan press, it has to be said. But internationally, the image that's being given is that Mr. Megrahi is a very, very sick man -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much.

Nic -- Nic Robertson in Tripoli.

There is still no clear winner in Afghanistan more than a week after the presidential election. Officials say they are being flooded with complaints of wrongdoing. Disturbing video here of a man who says he was brutalized for voting. He says Taliban militants cut off his nose and ears.

The barbaric attack comes as the U.S. general in charge of the war sent a report to the Pentagon calling for a new strategy to defeat the Taliban.

CNN's Atia Abawi is following all of this from Kabul.

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, nearly 50 percent of all the votes have been tallied in Afghanistan's presidential election. The incumbent, President Hamid Karzai, receiving at least 45 percent of those votes. His main rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, with 33 percent of the votes.

It has been an election marred with fraud from the very beginning. The Electoral Complaints Commission already receiving well over 2,000 complaints -- nearly 600 of them Priority A, meaning that it could actually affect the outcome. This is very important for the Afghan people, as well as the international community, that these elections seem somewhat credible for the Afghan people. They're on their last leg when it comes to the government of Afghanistan. And you will see more and more people turning to criminal elements, turning to warlords, turning to the insurgency because they keep losing faith in their government.

As for the international community, international officials looking for support back home, asking for more troops, asking for more money; when the people at home, they, too, are tired after eight years of a war that they see that keeps deteriorating.

The top NATO commander, General Stanley McChrystal, handing in his assessment -- strategic assessment of the war in Afghanistan, calling it very serious, but still hopeful.

We have to wait and see exactly what this new strategy that he's hoping for includes. But it has to be a very good one to not only keep the support of the Afghans, but keep the support of the people back home -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Atia.

Bringing out big guns on health care reform -- could Bill Clinton and Al Gore help President Obama regain momentum?

James Carville and Ed Rollins are standing by to talk about that and more.

And more than a million people have watched this video online. Supposedly, it shows Michael Jackson stepping out of a coroner's van. Now, the real story behind it is out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We want to go to T.J. Holmes, who is monitoring the breaking news that is coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- T.J. What are you following?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You know, this fire out in California that's just ballooned over the past couple of days, well, now we're getting word that five people are trapped. And right now, fire officials say it's too dangerous to get in and rescue them. Some of this video we're showing you, we can't confirm this is (INAUDIBLE) of the area. But, in general, the fire we're talking about down there, the Station Fire, that's charged over -- charred over some 80,000 acres.

There were mandatory evacuations in place for some 10,000 homes. Those mandatory evacuation orders have expanded. But when they say mandatory, they say get out because you are, at that point, responsible for your own safety. And, unfortunately, fire officials say they know of at least five people right now who are trapped. And it's too dangerous to go in and get them out.

So we don't know what the fate of those five may be. Hopefully, they can find a way to hang on. But that is the update. We'll continue to follow that story very closely, Suzanne.

Also, we'll turn to Mexico now, where they've issued a hurricane warning for its Baja, California peninsula. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Jimenez is now a category four storm, with winds near 155 miles per hour. It could hit the region by tomorrow night. Emergency workers are building shelters for thousands of families along the coast. Officials say at least 10,000 families will be evacuated.

Also, that video you spoke of just a moment ago, Suzanne, a hoax video showing Michael Jackson -- that's supposedly him there hopping out of a coroner's van. Well, it was an experiment. So says the German television station that produced that video. RTL says they wanted to show easy it is to spread rumors online. The station says it even sent out a press release beforehand telling everybody this was a fake. More than one million people have viewed that video on YouTube. Well, you've probably got it in your in box.

Also, pop singer Chris Brown says he does not remember assaulting his girlfriend, Rihanna.

He's speaking exclusively to CNN's Larry King.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING, HOST: When you hear about all the things that the police in the report say you did, how do you react to it?

CHRIS BROWN, SINGER: I -- I don't -- I kind of just look at it and I'm like, wow! I'm in shock because, first of all, that's not who I am as a person and that's now who I promise I want to be. And so I -- I just -- and when I look at like the police reports or I hear about the police reports, I don't -- I don't know what -- what to think. I just don't know what to think. It's just like wow!

KING: Do you remember doing it?

BROWN: No.

KING: You don't remember doing it?

BROWN: I don't -- I don't -- it's like, it's crazy. I mean I'm just -- I'm like, wow!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Wow! Well, Brown was sentenced last week to serve five years probation and do more than 1,400 hours of physical labor. According to February police reports, Brown punched Rihanna numerous times, put her in a headlock, threatened to kill her and bit her ear and her fingers. Brown made a public apology last month, calling his actions unacceptable.

And you can tune in Wednesday night, 9:00 Eastern, to see Larry's full interview with Chris Brown.

Finally here, Disney says it's agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment, the comic book action hero company. It's buying it for about $4 billion. Disney says it's a perfect strategic fit and that the deal would give it more content that appeals to boys. Marvel has come out with several action movies, as we know, in the last decade -- "Spider Man," "X-Men," "The Incredible Hulk," as well. So we could see Spider Man and X-Men hook up, I suppose -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: That's how rumors get started.

HOLMES: Sorry.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, T.J.

HOLMES: All right.

MALVEAUX: President Obama is still in vacation mode and bound for more rest and relaxation.

But could too much R&R cause him lose momentum on health care reform?

Also, a chilling 911 call from a horrific crime scene in Georgia -- do police have a suspect?

The latest on the investigation.

Plus, her ordinary job -- bizarre new details surface about Jaycee Dugard's 18 years in captivity.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the City of New Orleans ignored -- why loyal James -- Democrat James Carville says he is slightly miffed at President Obama.

Also, a high school football coach on trial charged with reckless homicide after the death of one of his players -- a case other coaches are watching intently.

And working in their boots -- those who employ National Guardsmen get a taste of military, in the hopes that they'll welcome them back from war with open arms -- a story you'll only see on CNN.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As this make or break month for health care reform comes to an end, lawmakers from coast to coast are listening to their constituents, with town hall meetings today from California and Washington, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Missouri. That is where Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill tried to knock down some of the rumors that are swirling around health care reform to a raucous audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: There is not one dime in that bill of federal money for abortion nor is there any ability of any of the health care proposals to flow to illegal immigrants. So that is the Senate bill as it stands now.

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, one university is not waiting on national health care reform. It is working toward universal coverage on campus, requiring all incoming freshmen to have health insurance now.

Our CNN Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us live -- Brianna, tell us how the University of Maryland is actually doing this.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we should mention it's the . So we don't know of school at the University of Maryland, Suzanne. And like many other colleges, UMB was able to negotiate an inexpensive plan with a private insurer, because college- aged students are typically a pretty healthy bunch.

But let's face it, on top of tuition and housing, additional expenses can be tough for some parents and students to shoulder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: (voice-over): Freshman move-in day at University of Maryland -- thousands of students jamming into teeny, tiny dorm rooms. This scene repeats itself every August here. But something is different this year, like a growing number of colleges UMB is requiring students to have health insurance, starting with this freshman class.

(on camera): Do you think there's going to be a lot of germs?

MELISSA EPSTEIN, STUDENT: Absolutely. I -- I brought a big container of hand sanitizer and I plan on using it.

KEILAR: (voice-over): Dr. Gail Lee, the clinical director of the school's health center, says without coverage, students can suffer academically.

DR. GAIL LEE, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND HEALTH CLINIC: It can affect their ability to stay in school. It can affect that -- the fact that they might have to go to work to pay off their medical bills.

KEILAR: Historically, Lee says, one in 15 UMB students have been uninsured. But now, if freshmen don't prove they have health insurance, the university automatically puts them on its student plan.

LEE: It covers a lot of the things that we think are important for students. For example, it covers immunizations. It would cover them if they are a study abroad student.

KEILAR: For previously uninsured students, it's an added cost of about $100 per month, increasing in-state tuition and fees by 8 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moving day.

KEILAR: But for some families, like the Epsteins, it's a bargain alternative to keeping their freshman daughter Melissa on the family's out of state insurance.

(on camera): Why the student plan for Melissa?

HOWIE EPSTEIN, FATHER: We were able to save probably about $400 a month by putting her on a separate plan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: But what about those poorer students for whom tuition is already a struggle to pay? Well, the university says it is looking into ways to subsidize insurance for those students, but for now they have to cover the costs with loans if they can't afford to pay out of pocket so still an outstanding issue there, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And a creative way of trying to solve it as well. Thank you.

KEILAR: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

First of all, I want to show you here. You've got a liberal -- relatively liberal paper, "Washington Post," this op-ed on Obama on health care saying, "It is time for Dr. Obama to take charge of this difficult case. He must come up with a plan or embrace one, and he must sell it as perhaps not perfect but the best that can be achieved and far preferable to the status quo." You've got that on one hand, and then you've got here, this is from former majority leader, Republican Senator Bob Dole, says, "A tactical move of introducing his own plan would also sir more Republicans. In short, the president, Congress and the public are choking on all of this, and choking is not covered by the legislation."

Obviously both sides here see that President Obama needs to take a more active role. Are they right, James?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. In a word of caution I think that the president recognizes that, and I think the white house recognizes that, but take an active role I'm sure they are going to talk to Democrats in Congress. I mean, Senator Dole, the Republicans can't be more stirred up than they are. None of them are going to vote for anything that they propose and I think that sort of dawned on everybody in this debate. That's a rather steal talking point if I say so myself, but, yes, Senator Dole is right and "The Washington Post" editorial board which sickens me to agree with them but they are right also.

MALVEAUX: Ed, when he says take control, do you think that means writing the legislation? Does that mean saying this is what I'm for and what I'm against or making those kind of quiet phone calls behind the scenes?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Not someone that's necessarily favoring this plan, there's not been clarity to this. There's been a number of house proposals. It's now come down to one bill. The Senate has not completed it. The president is out selling the general idea, and people aren't buying it. And so I think he can't make the sale alone. I think he has to go work the hill. If I was his counselor today, which obviously I'm not, I'd say get up there and get a good head count. Who is for you, who is going to be there no matter what and try and basically convert some of those others? There are no Republicans for this, so the dole idea of starting all over again would be a disaster. "The Washington Post" obviously wants the president engaged, but how he's engaged I don't think the public sale is going to work until there's a clear bill and he can go to the country one more time and say you've got to vote for this for these three reasons. It will benefit the 80% of people who have health care. What is their benefit?

MALVEAUX: James, do you think there is any clear aspect of the legislation that he can propose to Republicans and Democrats that will bring some Republicans along like Senator Olympia Snowe?

CARVILLE: Maybe Senator Snowe, but I even doubt that, but you can't go any beyond that. Senator Grassley has already sent out an e- mail saying he wasn't going to be for it in the first place. I never thought that they would be for it, and the truth of the matter is he's got to report something out. I've got to agree with Ed, too. Right now they don't have anything to agree on. There's a house plan, a Senate plan, a stalled plan in the finance committee, and the president is going to have to forge a proposal together so he can go out and sell it, and that's going to be what's going to happen here pretty soon I think.

MALVEAUX: I got an e-mail this morning obviously from the white house that said the president is taking another week for vacation. We've got some golf pictures to prove it obviously from earlier in the day. Ed, how much does this put the president at a disadvantage here? When you take a look at these town hall meetings, very emotional, very critical of the president and of the Democrats that he is off this week?

ROLLINS: I'm never against a president taking time off. I am at this point in time though. I think he's just had a vacation. I think everybody is kind of coming back and going back to school what, have you. The Congress will be back in place. I've watched 30 years of august where presidents sort of falter. This president has faltered pretty badly. His poll numbers are dropping. He needs to get back in the game and move forward. He can have long weekends as Camp David. He can do whatever, but to go golf for another week I think is going to give people the impression that this guy is really out of it and isn't tough enough to do this job.

MALVEAUX: James, I want you to see -- I want you to see here what we actually saw which in Tennessee. You had former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, the two guys side by side and back together again pushing forward on health care reform in a very vocal way, Clinton saying, "You need to back the Congressmen, let them know they won't be steam rolled by a bunch of people who have been frightened here."

Why isn't the president, why isn't President Obama using these two in a much more vocal way, get them out of the fund-raising and put them on a real platform, a real stage to help him out?

CARVILLE: I think that he might, and the point is --

MALVEAUX: What makes you think that, Jim?

CARVILLE: The president is going -- well, I -- he used him and I know he talked to him after the events in North Korea. I saw him chatting up a good bill when they were at Senator Kennedy's funeral. I've read too many spy novels. I'm not a believer in coincidences, and I -- I think that President Clinton has some sort of credibility here, and I wouldn't be surprised if President Obama used him in a very limited way, I want to say. President Obama, he is the president, and you use ex-presidents very sparingly.

On the question of his vacation, you know, he's been through the whole campaign. He's got two children getting ready to go to school and his little girls want to understand that and I can understand that. In terms of New Orleans, I just wish he would have come down at some point this year. I don't think that we're forgotten, but I'm not so miffed at the fourth anniversary, but it's been a while and this is the greatest natural disaster, but I can understand that his wife and kids, you know, he's a daddy and a husband, too, and everybody can understand that

MALVEAUX: Ed, you've got the last word here on whether or not President Clinton, the former president, should be out there on the road a little bit more.

ROLLINS: They can be on the road all they want. The problem is the president is the salesman. It's the product that's not clear today so you can have all the salesmen out that you want and it may help a little bit but at the end of the day you r you've got to get a product that you can believe in.

CARVILLE: He's right.

MALVEAUX: All right. We'll leave it there. James, thanks again. Appreciate it.

CARVILLE: Thank you. MALVEAUX: Three men adrift on a capsized boat while would-be rescuers pass them by, and now they are sharing their incredible story of survival.

Also, the crimes he's accused of are monstrous, but new descriptions of the accused kidnapper from people who now and worked with him aren't exactly what you would expect.

Plus, a family of eight brutally killed in their home. We have tape of the 911 call in which a young man wails "my whole family is dead."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: New details are coming out this afternoon of a shocking kidnapping case. 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard abducted and held for 18 years forced to bear her kidnapper's two children. Our CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Antioch, California, where the horror story unfolded. He has new information for us.

Patrick, what's the information on the home, the tents where the suspect where Phillip Garrido and Jaycee lived? What can you tell us?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Home today, officials came up and put up signs saying that it's uninhabitable and basically at some point it will be condemned and perhaps knocked down. Part of the wrinkle here, part of the reason that Garrido was able to escape notice is when an unincorporated part of Antonio so there was no zoning. He was able to have the tents up and some of the structures that are clearly unsafe so officials have taken the first steps to -- to tell people -- that this residence can't be lived in anymore. Spent the last couple of days talking to business associates of Phil Garrido, people who paid to print up flyers like this or he dropped off religious flyers like this one right here, and they paint a picture of a man who wanted to be a Christian music singer, talked constantly about religion and was increasingly eccentric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA CHRISTENSON, HIRED GARRIDO: He would sing, and he'd come in there and preach and sing and just non-stop, and I didn't even know what to do anymore when he would start that. I would just look at him and like freak out. What do I do now, so we're just getting -- it was getting worse and worse, but I didn't think he was dangerous?

DEEPAL KARUNARATNE, KNEW PHILLIP GARRIDO: Christian in kind of a country, contemporary, kind of odd combination of everything. Some of the songs about love and romance, he said I have a soundproof recording studio in my backyard, and now I hear all this news about soundproof room in his backyard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OPPMANN: Suzanne, part of the strange thing about this case is Phil Garrido did not act like a man with something to hide. He was very outgoing. He would talk to anyone who listened. He even told some of the business associates that I spoke with that they would see him on the news very soon.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Patrick. Thank you very much. We will have much more on this story at the top of the hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Police in Brunswick, Georgia, are staying tight-lipped about a horrifying mass murder. Eight members of one family killed, seven of them inside a mobile home. One died later in the hospital. Listen to the 911 call made by the person who discovered this gruesome scene.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GUY HEINZE JR, DISCOVERED SCENE: I just got home and my whole family is dead!

911 OPERATOR: OK. Tell me what's going on sir. What ....

HEINZE: I just got home from - I was out last night, I got home just now and everybody's dead. My dad is dead - all people are dead.

OPERATOR: How many people are there?

HEINZE: There's like six. My whole family's dead.

OPERATOR: OK.

HEINZE: It looks like they've been beaten to death. I don't know man.

OPERATOR: OK. OK you're at 147 Hope - New Hope Plantation, correct?

HEINZE: Yes man - I mean oh - I don't know what to do, man.

OPERATOR: OK. Take a deep breath. I've got them coming for you. You just stay on the line with me, OK? How many people are there? Your dad, who else is there?

HEINZE: My dad, my uncle, my cousins.

OPERATOR: Your cousins?

HEINZE: Yea, my, my huh?

OPERATOR: It's lot number 147, right?

HEINZE: Yes ma'am. I don't know what to do man.

OPERATOR: Take a deep breath. I'm going to stay on the line with you until they get there, OK? Don't touch anything OK? Sir?

HEINZE: What?

OPERATOR: Don't touch anything, stay away from the residence, OK. Stay with your neighbor.

HEINZE: My whole family's dead. My dad's dead. He really is dead.

OPERATOR: I know. Calm down. We already have someone en route but you're doing us such a favor by helping us know information, OK? We've got police, ambulance and fire.

HEINZE: My cousin is - I think Michael's breathing. He's still alive, he's breathing.

911 SUPERVISOR: You say your brother Michael's still breathing?

HEINZE: He's my cousin.

SUPERVISOR: OK. Your cousin? OK, who lived there? Who, like, do you live there?

HEINZE: Yes, yes I live here.

SUPERVISOR: OK. Did you just get home this morning?

HEINZE: Yes, I just got here.

SUPERVISOR: OK. When you came into the house, what did the house look like?

HEINZE: It looks like a ... murder scene!

SUPERVISOR: I understand that, but did somebody tear up everything? Or they just beat up.

HEINZE: They, they, peoples beat, everybody's dead.

SUPERVISOR: I want you to go inside and talk to Michael and tell me exactly - see if you can talk to him, and see if you can ask him where ...

HEINZE: He's got Down Syndrome, he can't really talk. Michael?

SUPERVISOR: Ask him say where do you hurt?

HEINZE: Where do you hurt Michael? Michael, where you hurting man? Michael?

SUPERVISOR: He can't talk?

HEINZE: I don't know he's ... he just keeps breathing.

SUPERVISOR: You can see his chest rising though?

HEINZE: Yes. Yes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Guy Heinze who made that call was later arrested on a drug charge as well as evidence tampering and making false statements to police. Investigators say he is being cooperative, and they have stopped short of naming him as a suspect. What started out as a fishing trip turned into a nightmare at sea that lasted more than a week with the victims enduring physical and mental challenges few of us can even imagine, but they lived to tell the story. Our CNN's Brian Todd brings that to us. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, these three men were nearly helpless in trying to stop their boat from capsizing, but that was about where the helplessness ended.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): About 100 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, their line dropped near an offshore oil rig, the only encounters these three fishermen wanted tore was with marlin and swords fish. Instead they encountered sharks, sunburn, hallucination and debilitating hunger. It started Tressel Hawkins says when the bean bag he was sleeping on started to float.

TRESSEL HAWKINS, RESCUED FISHERMAN: Once I put my leg down the water actually reached up to my knee. I just kind of jumped up and tried to wake everybody up and by that time the water level had gotten, you know, pretty serious in there, so we was trying to extract the water.

TODD: It was too late to extract all the water, and their leaking catamaran flipped over. Hawkins, Curtis Hall and James Phillips scrambled to hold on. Later they talked about gathering all they could find on their boat and never deviating from their plan to ration freshwater, beer, bubblegum and chips. They used t-shirts to create handmade flags, and they say they spotted several potential rescuers.

CURTIS HALL, RESCUED FISHERMAN: We seen a ton of boats. Seen some helicopters and tried flagging everybody we could, and it was just like -- I guess it was not our time to go home yet.

TODD: Finally after drifting dozens of miles, eight days after leaving shore, one day after the coast guard called off a long search for them, the three men were rescued by a private boater. None had serious injuries despite what they had endured.

JAMES PHILLIPS, RESCUED FISHERMAN: After the sixth day I said god must be fixing some people on shore because we're fixed out here about I said they need to hurry up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The men said among the potential rescuers they saw and tried in vain to track down were coast guard helicopters and rescue planes flying overhead. The coast guard says it combed more than 86,000 square miles for these men before calling off the search -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brian.

A leading American appliance-maker moves jobs to Mexico, and Americans weigh in as Ali Velshi takes the nation's pulse on "THE CNN EXPRESS."

And a tearful reunion the power of the internet helped bring about.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: In these tough economic times, CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi is taking the pulse of America from the CNN Express. He's heading from Atlanta to Minneapolis but now with a stop in Evansville, Indiana, where more than 1,000 jobs are now being shed by Whirlpool.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another factory shut down, it's not new news. But it's definitely hurting people around here. That's a pretty big factory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. I don't think I've ever known not the Whirlpool plant. It's been here as long as I've been alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said in the paper it's going to Mexico, something about you can't beat $10 an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be tough. I was unemployed myself once for 12 weeks. Took a big pay cut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people looking for jobs. Probably ain't there. I bet a lot of people won't buy Whirlpool around here. Be a hard sell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Ali Velshi joins us on the phone right now. Ali, you have been talking to people here, really getting a sense of what they're going through. What are they telling you and how are they doing?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is a tough one, Suzanne, particularly because you and I have even spoken about this in the last month, the repeated this recession is either over or coming to an end. That's really tough for people finding out they're losing their jobs. This was the refrigerator capital of America. Whirlpool is shutting down a plant here, 1,100 jobs probably moving to Mexico as that gentleman said. That's likely where they're going. Another 300 jobs at a development plant here. Whirlpool says its unsure where they're going to do with that plant. So a lot of uncertainty.

So just as we see the stock market getting close to 10,000, really stabilizing ahead of the end of the recession, housing prices starting to stabilize because of low interest rates across the country, we still have job losses. That's the most important thing and the biggest concern for this economy and for this administration, how to stem these job losses. When you start to see things like this, it starts to scare people again and then they stop spending. When they started spend ago little bit, it helped the economy. This is the kind of thing that continues to set the economy back. It's happening across America. We're just not seeing large job losses like this and factory closures as much as we were a few months ago. But it's very real for the people of Evansville. In about two hours, I'm going to be holding a town meeting here in Evansville around the CNN Express. We're going to speak to people from the town about their feelings about the economy, their fears and what they're going to do in the wake of this news, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks very much, Ali. We'll be looking forward to seeing that later. Thanks Ali.

Hands-on experience for some civilians, it's an unusual exercise that the military hopes will help reservists get their day jobs back after serving their country.

And a family in China reunites with a long lost son, how his American mother made it possible. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A mother's love and the internet makes the impossible possible. A Chinese family is reunited with the child they thought had been lost forever. CNN's John Vause has this very emotional story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an instant, it all came out, anguish, guilt and joy of finding a child they thought was lost forever. 11 long years ago. That child is Christian Norris, 17 now and seemingly unmoved by this outpouring of emotion, perhaps because both men, his birth father and uncle, are distant memories.

CHRISTIAN NORRIS, DISAPPEARED AT AGE 6: I don't really remember my dad that much. I remember my uncle a lot. He raised me most of the time.

VAUSE: Christian was raised in this small village always thinking his uncle was his father because his parents had two sons violating China's strict one-child policy.

JIN XIAOWANG, CHRISTIAN'S BIRTH UNCLE: They felt conflicted, they were afraid it might affect their jobs. So they brought him to me.

VAUSE: When he was 6, Christian went to live with his birth parents so he could attend school and was told they were a foster family. But after a few months as he returned home to the village by bus, he disappeared. The details aren't clear, but it could have been up to a year later when police brought him to an orphanage hundreds of miles away in a neighboring province. Eventually adopted by Julia, a volunteer at the orphanage from the U.S.

(on camera): Did you expect that outpouring of emotion when his uncle and his dad just grabbed him and broke down crying?

JULIA NORRIS, CHRISTIAN'S ADOPTIVE MOTHER: No, not that much. It was heartbreaking. My heart breaks for the family that they've missed out on these years with him.

VAUSE: Painful years of never knowing what happened.

JIN GAOKE, CHRISTIAN'S BIRTH FATHER (through translator): I've had a sickness in my heart and today I can say it has been cured completely, says his birth father.

VAUSE: This reunion was set in motion three years ago when Christian asked to find his family in China. Their first day together, spent touring Beijing, holding hands, slowly reconnecting. Christian's past might be here in China, but he's grown up American, spending most of his life in the United States. And for now, at least, that's where he says he sees his future. A decision which his Chinese family say they'll respect but --

GAOKE (through translator): He's grown up taller, bigger but inside, Chinese blood is still flowing in his veins.

VAUSE: After so many years have passed, they're hoping not to let go again.

John Vause, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Breaking news, a red hot monster tearing through the California mountains. We are tracking this massive wildfire on the ground and from the air. We just got word that five people are trapped in a canyon.

Plus, so many of us are still trying to fathom what Jaycee Dugard went through and what she is going through now. We are going to walk you through her 18 years in captivity with the newest details on the bizarre life with her alleged kidnappers.

And it happens all over the country, high school football players practice in extreme heat. A former coach now is standing trial for reckless homicide, blamed for a young player's death.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux at CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, extraordinary reports from around the world, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So imagine if all of Washington, D.C. were on fire. Now double that. That is about how big the inferno raging near Los Angeles is right now.