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THE SITUATION ROOM

Dems Won't Stand for "Sucker Punch;" Get A Flu Shot or Lose Your Job; Inside the Cocaine War; Raw Numbers, Growing Concern

Aired October 14, 2009 - 17:00   ET

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


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, raw numbers and growing concern -- how many troops are really available to bolster U.S. forces in Afghanistan?

Hard reality looming as President Obama makes one of the most important decisions of his presidency.

Also, a CNN exclusive -- inside the cocaine wars -- the drugs the death and the bloody battles tearing Colombia apart. Our reporter, Karl Penhaul, gains some very rare access.

And a lawmaker challenges himself in the most extreme way -- surviving alone on a deserted island for one week. It's Congress -- it's a Congressman versus nature. Jeff Flake is here to talk about his extraordinary experience.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A dramatic move in the fight over health care reform. Top Democrats today say they want to take back a law that they say lets insurance companies wreak huge profits at your expense -- a law that exempts them from anti-trust regulation.

Leading the fight, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. He's joining us from Capitol Hill right now.

Senator Schumer, you're declaring war on the health insurance lobby here in Washington.

You realize that, don't you?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, we're really not trying to do that. Senator Leahy has had this bill for a while. I've been a co-sponsor for a while. It's certainly the right thing to do. The insurance industry and health care is one of the most highly concentrated industries. The Justice Department says 94 percent of the markets are highly concentrated. So if you don't have competition, you're not going to bring the price down.

Now, the fact that the insurance industry, you know, yesterday let fire on the bill just bolstered our cause. But it was always our intent -- and I know Leader Reid is supportive of the bill, as well -- it was always our intent to try and get this as part of health care.

BLITZER: Because that's a relatively new thing. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, he's proposed this for some time. But what you're trying to do is make sure that any package that includes health care reform includes eliminating this anti-trust protection provision for the health care industry. SCHUMER: Yes. Wolf, this anti-trust provision, it's the only one other than baseball that any industry has. It was granted in 1945 under the basis, officially stated, that there was no interstate insurance industry.

Well, of course, that's all changed. Health care was hardly a miniscule industry in 1945, health care insurance. You could usually afford it yourself. And so it's something that's long overdue.

It's the right thing to do. Putting that on a health care bill is something that's opportune at the moment, of course, because we're doing health care. And I think the insurance industry has said costs are going to go up. Well, let's figure out a way to get costs down. And one of the best ways is causing competition by using the anti- trust laws.

BLITZER: A lot of Republicans say that the best way to have costs come down is increase competition by allowing these insurance companies, whether Blue Cross Blue Shield or Aetna or any of these other companies, to -- to compete nationwide, not just within a state.

Are you ready to support them on opening up competition across the board so that 1,000 insurance companies could compete in New York State, as opposed to a relatively small number?

SCHUMER: Well, first, I don't believe that's the problem. Aetna is a nationwide company. United Health is in 38 states. They are in all these states. They're subject to different state regulations and some of them...

BLITZER: Well, are you ready to remove those state regulations so they could compete on a federal, on a national level?

SCHUMER: Yes, provided we don't remove the protections to the consumer. If this is a way to go to the lowest common denominator -- and let's say, just for the sake of example, that Wyoming has no consumer protections, they all locate in Wyoming and then sell policies all over the country, no.

But if you keep the consumer protections, I'm all for letting them compete in every state.

BLITZER: Here's what the health insurance lobby in Washington said today. It's called the health -- America's Health Insurance Plans: "Health insurance is one of the most regulated industries in America at both the federal and state level. McCarran-Ferguson" -- that's the 1945 law that protects the health insurance companies -- "has nothing to do with competition in the health insurance market. The focus on this issue is a political ploy designed to detract attention away from the real issue of rising health care costs. Go ahead and respond to -- to the health insurance industry.

SCHUMER: Yes, insurance industry profits -- the top 10 companies went from $2 billion to $12 billion over the last 10 years. That does not show robust competition. That does not show regulation. They are now regulated by the states, in many cases very, very weakly. And so we need competition. We're going to try everything. We're going to try to bring competition by exchanges. We want to have the anti-trust exemption. As you mentioned, letting them compete across state lines, as long as you keep consumer protections.

We want to try competition any way we can, because right now the industry is both -- and the two are related -- very profitable and not at all competitive.

BLITZER: Olympia Snowe says that she can't support legislation that provides the so-called public option.

Here's the question to you -- can you support health care reform if it doesn't include the so-called public option?

SCHUMER: Well, I'm not going to draw any line -- lines in the sand, but I'm going to fight very hard for a public option. I believe in it and I think that's another way to bring competition. Olympia Snowe has talked about a trigger, so she's not averse to any public option. And I think we're all going to try to put our heads together and figure out the best way to bring a public option to the people.

It's very necessary. As you know, the House feels strongly about it. And I believe, at the end of the day, there will be a public option in the bill the president signs and it will be good for the country because it will give people the option and it will provide some competition for the insurance industry.

BLITZER: Senator Schumer, thanks for coming in.

SCHUMER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: A nurse in New York is suing to overturn a policy that would force her to get a flu shot or lose her job.

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has been looking into this case -- Susan, explain what this is all about.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I will, Wolf.

A New York State nurse says the state has no right to force her to get vaccinated when flu and H1N1 shots aren't mandatory for the public. In court today, a New York State judge decided to wait at least another week before making a ruling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): At a hospital in Upstate New York, nurse Sue Field was told get flu shots or else.

SUE FIELD, REGISTERED NURSE:

FIELD: If we did not comply with this mandate of receiving the H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine, that we would be terminated from our employment.

CANDIOTTI: New York is the only state forcing hospital health care workers to get vaccinated -- even private doctors who make hospital rounds. New York's Medical Society agrees, saying the state needs to protect as many people as it can.

Nurse Field is suing, arguing New York is overreaching. She's not against vaccines in general, but says hospital nurses already take extraordinary precautions to guard against viruses. And still others say they aren't convinced the volcanoes even has been fully tested.

And then there's this argument.

FIELD: I have an issue with the government mandating me to get these vaccines and telling me that if I don't comply, then I don't have a job.

CANDIOTTI: The New York State Nurses Association is backing her up, saying: "The state emergency regulation is unwarranted in the absence of a declared emergency."

Her attorney points to the Centers for Disease Control and President Obama. Neither is calling for mandatory hospital vaccinations.

PATRICIA FINN, ATTORNEY: If President Obama recommends a voluntary swine -- swine flu injection, I really don't see where the commissioner of health has the authority to mandate this particular group. It's arbitrary and capricious, we believe.

Seasonal flu and H1N1 this year, what will the government then have the right to say they want to inject us with next year?

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CANDIOTTI: And New York State's health commissioner is standing by his position, calling the shots critical.

Nurses aren't the only ones suing the state over this. Others include New York Civil Liberties Union, arguing the rule violates a Constitutional right of health care workers to control their bodies and medical treatment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Tough, tough questions, indeed.

Thanks very much, Susan.

Let's go to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: What about our rights as patients to be free from health care workers of carrying this virus around?

BLITZER: Yes. That's what I thought.

CAFFERTY: Right?

BLITZER: That's a good point.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

Here's another one. Three quarters of Americans say there is more crime in the United States than there was a year ago. Gallup's annual crime poll shows it's the highest level since the early 1990s. The poll also finds 51 percent of Americans say there is more crime in their local area than there was a year ago. The official stats won't be out until next year. They'll do this year next year. They have to compile them all.

But it's worth noting during difficult economic times, it is not uncommon for crime to increase. And even though the statistics aren't out yet, it seems like stories about crime and violence are everywhere these days.

A few examples. Making national headlines, the brutal beating death of that 16-year-old honor student in Chicago a couple three weeks ago was only one example of an epidemic of murders of young people in Chicago, Illinois in the last couple of years.

Not far from Chicago, in Joliet, Illinois, shootings and murders are up from last year. Some people now afraid to come out of their homes.

In Washington, D.C. Two teens killed, three others wounded yesterday. Police think it was a drive-by shooting, possibly motivated by an ongoing dispute between rival neighborhoods.

And in Deerfield, Florida, police say five juveniles are in custody after a 15-year-old was set on fire after being doused with rubbing alcohol. A couple of these punks were even seen laughing about it.

Anyway, here's the question -- is crime a greater threat to your well-being than it was a year ago?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's shocking what's going on in parts of the country, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Isn't that awful?

Terrible. Terrible stuff.

BLITZER: And that burning of the kid in Florida, that's horrible.

CAFFERTY: And then apparently laughing about it. BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: I mean there's something seriously wrong with -- with that kind of behavior.

BLITZER: Sick.

CAFFERTY: Obviously.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty with The Cafferty File.

An extraordinary and disturbing look inside Colombia's cocaine wars -- our cameras go where few have ever gone before, inside the den of a drug gang. It's a CNN exclusive. You're going to want to see this.

And frozen in time in this photo. Now, after 18 years in captivity, the world gets its first glimpse of a grown up Jaycee Dugard. We're going to show you what she looks like.

And a Congressman puts his survival skills to the test, spending a week alone on a remote uninhabited island.

But why?

I'll ask him. He's here to talk about it.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to a truly extraordinary story which takes all of us inside Colombia's drug wars. And while Mexico's violence and its impact on the United States grabs the headlines these days, in Colombia, a notorious syndicated drug lord has been ripped apart by a power struggle. The result -- bloody carnage.

CNN's Karl Penhaul has an exclusive report from Medellin. We must note that it contains powerful, powerful images which some viewers may find disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): A father shakes his fist at heaven and asks why. That's his son in the coffin, blown away by a gang on the payroll of Colombian cocaine capos. Seventeen- year-old Juan Guillermo Lorde (ph) was at the school gate. A bullet in the head and another in the neck. His aunt says he wasn't part of any gang.

MARIA DEBORAH OSPINA, AUNT OF MURDER VICTIM (through translator): He wanted to be somebody in life and help his family progress. He wanted to study at university, become a great lawyer and win justice.

PENHAUL: A couple of cops who escort us into this hillside slum tell a different tale. They said Lorde was from a bad family and his brother is doing a prison stretch for murder.

Fallen gang fighter or innocent victim?

His aunt blames his murder on turf wars that are once again gripping Medellin.

OSPINA (through translator): I guess he was killed because of the gang wars. You cannot go into certain places and cannot cross certain lines. They hit you where it hurts the most -- they kill your family.

PENHAUL: Many at the wake do appear to be gang members. Some are packing guns. Mourners hoist the casket then carry off their dead down narrow alleys.

I head out across Medellin to try to and figure out why drug violence is spiraling. High up here in the northeastern commune, there's a statue of the Virgin Mary of Carmen. Catholics believe she protects souls in purgatory. Maybe they should have put up an effigy of Cerberus, the hound that guards the gates of hell.

Life here revolves around two things -- guns and drugs.

"CHIEF," MEDELLIN GANG LEADER (through translator): Here, it's the results of the street. The rules don't change. They will always be the rules, here or anywhere else.

PENHAUL: He's the gang leader. They call him "Chief." My sources say he's made so many enemies, he can't step outside his patch.

"CHIEF" (through translator): We're all human and we all get afraid. I'm afraid my life will end suddenly, before I can do anything to get out of this war.

PENHAUL: Everything comes to an end, said the lyrics of a salsa classic on the radio. But for now, there's work to be done. Gang members roll marijuana or pose with their firepower. By nightfall, they'll have a thousand joints to deal on street corners they control. Colombian authorities say drug peddling in Medellin is worth $6 million a month. Cartel capos believe that's worth fighting for. The day before we met, "Chief" buried one of his own.

"CHIEF" (through translator): I couldn't bear to look in the coffin. They killed him downtown. We don't know who did it. But a girlfriend of his took him down there. So the day they brought his body back out here, we killed that crack head bitch.

PENHAUL: That conversation is cut short with news the drug boss who sponsors this gang has sent a delivery. Lookouts are posted in case police or rivals try to muscle in.

(on camera): The gang members are telling us that the kilo of cocaine they've been waiting for all afternoon has now arrived. So we're going to follow them to a different location and see how they cut it. (voice-over): They've raided mom's kitchen for the tools they need. The job now -- to break down a brick of pure cocaine and cut it with caffeine and dentist's anesthetic. They sell a gram for as little as $1, depending on how heavily they cut it.

Business mixes with pleasure. Their biggest pleasure -- inhaling the cloud of pulverized cocaine from the liquidizer (ph).

(on camera): They've been cutting cocaine now with a fruit juicer for about the last hour. And there's dust going everywhere. Everybody is as high as a kite. They've been smoking marijuana. They've been doing lines of cocaine. They've been drinking beer. So now might be a good time to leave.

(voice-over): Before I go, I'm curious if "Chief" ever thought of getting out of the drugs, the guns and the violence.

"CHIEF" (through translator): I dream of sailing away in a sailboat -- alone and far away.

PENHAUL: But before he can live that dream, he first has to survive the nightmare of a cocaine war. Karl Penhaul, CNN, Medellin, Colombia.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: I want to point out that Carl is really literally risking his life to bring us reports -- exclusive reports just like that.

He's going to have more coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM in the coming days.

Thank you, Karl.

The first new photo of a woman held captive for 18 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just saw this come out in "People" magazine.

What was your reaction?

You'd come up with this composite and there it is.

What was your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I had gotten her hair darker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There are new developments in the remarkable story of Jaycee Dugard.

Plus, the castaway congressman, Jeff Flake -- he's here to talk about his remarkable week alone on a deserted island.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The future of the war in Afghanistan the subject of yet another high level huddle over at White House today. President Obama meeting with top military, foreign policy and national security advisers, as he weighs whether to send thousands of additional forces to the war zone.

But if the president does decide to substantially increase the size of the U.S. military mission, there's growing concern about how to come up with the troops -- and at what cost?

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now with more on this part of the story.

A complicated set of numbers -- Barbara, what are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, that is the question right now. It's all well and good to talk about sending more troops to the war zone, but where are the troops going to come from and what is going to be the impact on military families?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: (voice-over): As the White House continues to talk about the way ahead in Afghanistan, the president signaling one of his concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OCTOBER 13, 2009)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we just want to make sure that at all times not only the young men and women who are already there, but also any additional young men and women -- both military and civilian -- who might be working there, are served by a policy that's sustainable and effective.

STARR: One potential problem -- the Army, which will provide the bulk of any additional forces, may be hard-pressed to come up with the numbers. Consider this. The Army has 44 combat brigades, about 175,000 troops. But 19 brigades are already deployed; another dozen already committed for deployment. That leaves about a dozen brigades that could be sent to the war zone, about 48,000 troops.

But if all those troops go to Afghanistan, the Army could be stretched too thin to deal with other threats and troops potentially face not getting the promised year at home in between combat deployments.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: I see no indication at this point that that would have to be adjusted. But I think we always reserve the right to make adjustments if that's what the national security dictates.

STARR: But the head of the Army sees less time at home with families as a real possibility. GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I mean you can do the math as well as I can. More troops makes it harder to get -- you know, more troops impacts (INAUDIBLE). There's no question about that.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: And what about the Marines?

They calculate, Wolf, that they can only send another 8,000 troops. And first they have to get the rest of their Marines out of Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good thing the recruitment levels are going really well for all four branches of the U.S. military. They're going to need those troops, obviously, in the coming years.

Barbara, thanks very much.

It sounds like a nightmare to many, but for this Congressman, it was a dream vacation come true. We're talking about Congressman Jeff Flake. He's walking into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Congressman, welcome.

We're going to talk about your survivor story, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the Dow 10000 -- a decade after the blue chip stock index first hit five figures, it's done it again. Spurred on by better than expected earnings reports from intel and JPMorgan Chase the Dow gained nearly 150 points today, to close just above 10000.

One key Republican Senator is vowing not to become the party of "angry white guys" or, as he put it, "the party of Ron Paul."

What does he mean by that?

I'll ask Congressman Ron Paul for his response.

And a man criticized for not evacuating during the largest wildfire in Southern California history is now being called a hero. You're going to want to hear his harrowing story.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He says it was his dream vacation -- a week alone on a deserted tropical island with few tools and no food or water except what he himself could collect.

Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona is here to talk about his extreme test of his survival skills.

Congressman, glad to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Glad to be here.

BLITZER: All right, why did you do this?

FLAKE: You know, I've always read a lot of survival stories, sailing adventurers and I've been fascinated by how people survived. I just always wanted to do it.

BLITZER: Since you were a little boy?

FLAKE: Yes.

BLITZER: Like "Robinson Crusoe" or whatever?

FLAKE: And I grew up on a dry, dusty ranch in Arizona. And so water appealed to me.

BLITZER: So you've been thinking about this, literally, for years?

FLAKE: Yes, years.

BLITZER: And -- and your wife and your kids, they -- they knew about this?

FLAKE: Yes. They've -- they've lived with it for quite a while. I actually met my wife on a beach in Hawaii. BYU has a campus on the north shore and that's how we met.

BLITZER: Brigham Young University.

FLAKE: Yes.

BLITZER: So you were there and you wanted to do it. All right, so talk -- talk -- tell us what happened. You had to find an island, first of all.

FLAKE: Google Earth has a good (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: And that -- is that what you did?

FLAKE: Well, that's part of it. I -- I knew that I wanted to be in the Marshall Islands. It's right in the Central Pacific...

BLITZER: And forgive me if I'm ignorant; is that part of U.S. territory?

FLAKE: No, but it's fairly close. People in the Marshall Islands carry a U.S. passport and some of them serve in our military. In fact, a lot of them do.

BLITZER: You find one tiny little deserted island and what do you do? FLAKE: The Marshall Islands is a chain of 1,200 islands and a lot of them are uninhabited.

BLITZER: And you found one of them?

FLAKE: I found one of them.

BLITZER: How did you know it was uninhabited?

FLAKE: Google Earth, you can tell and also I checked with the Marshall East government and they have a great government and we have a close relationship with them and were able to work with them on this.

BLITZER: How did you get to the island, by boat?

FLAKE: I flew first to Hawaii and then a couple other islands and then by boat about three hours north.

BLITZER: And somebody just dropped you off at the island then. There's a picture. I want you to turn around and tell us about this picture. There you are. You had to collect your own food and I guess you did some spear fishing.

FLAKE: Right. I didn't take any food. I just took some salt and pepper. My wife convinced me to take salt and pepper.

BLITZER: Why salt and pepper?

FLAKE: Well, just to season what I caught or what I hoped to catch.

BLITZER: That's basically the only thing you took?

FLAKE: As far as food, yes.

BLITZER: Did you take water?

FLAKE: A desalinator pump.

BLITZER: So you can take the saltwater and make your own water?

FLAKE: So you had to pump for a long time and it was good water and with fish, that's at low tide on lagoon side and I would go out about 100 yards beyond where you see the breakers there, and there were a lot of fish, and I had a pole spear and a Hawaiian sling with an elastic strap and you go underwater and shoot it and I had a mask and fins and snorkel.

BLITZER: And these pictures and we're going to show some more pictures. You took these pictures yourself.

FLAKE: I did.

BLITZER: Did you set it up on a timer?

FLAKE: A timer and a tripod. People have asked who was on the island with you? I was very much alone you.

BLITZER: Reported about this and told everybody and it happened at the end of the summer. What's the most frequently asked question that people have been asking you.

FLAKE: By far, did you talk to a volleyball?

BLITZER: Because of the --

FLAKE: The Tom Hanks movie.

BLITZER: "Castaway."

FLAKE: I didn't take a volleyball with me but by about day three I was looking for a little feedback at least.

BLITZER: You took a little hammock.

FLAKE: I did.

BLITZER: And that's where you slept.

FLAKE: I did.

BLITZER: Could you really sleep?

FLAKE: Hammocks are meant for napping in the backyard and seven nights in the hammock was a little long but I wanted to be off the ground at least so it was doable. I just woke up a lot.

BLITZER: You didn't get a great night's sleep.

FLAKE: No, no.

BLITZER: Were you ever scared?

FLAKE: You know, the first night, it's very dark. Nine degrees north of the equator, and so, you know, you have a lot of darkness 12 hours of it.

BLITZER: So you're hearing a lot of sounds.

FLAKE: A lot of sounds, coconuts falling and leaves and branches breaking or -- or hermit crabs crawling along the grounds.

BLITZER: Are there wild animals on the island?

FLAKE: No not on those islands. There are no snakes or anything like that to worry about and there's no standing water so you wouldn't have any big critters.

BLITZER: But there were some sharks?

FLAKE: There were a lot more than I figured.

BLITZER: How close did the sharks come to you? FLAKE: There were some about 7 feet long.

BLITZER: Really?

FLAKE: These are black-tipped sharks.

BLITZER: This is when you went into the water to catch some fish to eat and survive.

FLAKE: Right.

BLITZER: You would see some sharks?

FLAKE: And when I was out spearfishing and they would typically come and circle me a few times and hopefully go a ways away.

BLITZER: If I saw sharks you wouldn't want to go in the water but you had no choice at that point.

FLAKE: I had to. The fish you wanted to eat were out a little ways and that's where the sharks were. I was careful -- I passed on a lot of good fish to spear when there were sharks present. That was a difficult thing is to be able to spear a fish and get to shore before something was trailing you.

BLITZER: And then prepare the fish. You also had to catch some crabs and you started to number these crabs.

FLAKE: The crabs that I ate were different. They were kind of the sally light foot crabs on the beach. The ones that I numbered would be the hermit crabs that wandered through the camp and that was my substitute for a volleyball I guess. By about the third day, I just picked them up and I had a sharpie pen given to me and told if I had to be rescued I needed to put a "t" on my forehead.

BLITZER: Take a look at the picture behind you.

FLAKE: I had a sharpie pen.

BLITZER: So you're numbering the crab there.

FLAKE: I put a number on them. By the end of the week I numbered 126 of them and I would see which ones would reoccur. Number one I actually saw on the last day.

BLITZER: Did you take sun block with you?

FLAKE: I did.

BLITZER: So you had a lot of sun block.

FLAKE: Senator McCain.

BLITZER: He made sure, your senior senator from Arizona. What did you miss the most?

FLAKE: My wife and kids certainly. Human companionship. There's no substitute.

BLITZER: You did have a satellite phone with you in case of a real emergency?

FLAKE: Yes.

BLITZER: Did you ever use it?

FLAKE: I checked in with my wife a couple of times.

BLITZER: Every day?

FLAKE: Not every day.

BLITZER: And the phone worked okay?

FLAKE: It did, it did.

BLITZER: So at least they would know you were alive and well.

FLAKE: They would know, but I wanted to be, you know, away from it but I certainly wanted to get back to my wife and kids.

BLITZER: This is a dream you've had ever since you were a little boy growing up in Arizona. You've now done it. You've lived out your dream vacation. Has it changed you? Do you want to do this again? Give us your, you know, the impact of what this has been on you?

FLAKE: Well, there's no -- I did it mostly for kind of physical exertion. I love Teddy Roosevelt's speech he gave called "the strenuous life" and ever since leaving the ranch and the farm years ago I've kind of felt like a pansy, I guess, and this made it feel like I was actually doing something again.

BLITZER: Do you see --

FLAKE: Strenuous, tough.

BLITZER: Do you see the world differently?

FLAKE: There no way you can go into an experience like this and spend a week on an island without a lot of introspection and it does -- there is introspection, both intellectually and spiritually.

BLITZER: Would you do it again?

FLAKE: Yeah, sure. I would love to take my wife and kids with me so it would be a different experience.

BLITZER: How old are your kids?

FLAKE: Well, the eldest is 21 and the youngest is 9.

BLITZER: And the 21-year-old probably could do it. The 9-year- old, I'm not so sure FLAKE: I think the 9-year-old would enjoy it a lot actually. It's my wife who says there needs to be a hotel on that island before she goes.

BLITZER: And you say this was a spiritual thing. You're a religious man.

FLAKE: Sure.

BLITZER: So you had a chance to really I guess bond, full.

FLAKE: You bet.

BLITZER: With god.

FLAKE: You -- you can't spend that amount of time alone in such beauty and not come away with a greater appreciation for this wonderful earth that we have.

BLITZER: We're going to continue this conversation, but, you know, there was a show on television called "Survivor."

FLAKE: There is, but you can get voted off that island, and I don't want to take the chance.

BLITZER: So you're not going to do that show?

FLAKE: I don't think so.

BLITZER: Maybe if they call. Could be fun.

FLAKE: Okay. We'll see.

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much. Glad you came back safe and sound.

FLAKE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

A California man criticized from the highest levels for not evacuating ahead of a fire.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Three people got burned and really badly injured because they did not listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole, you know, guys in the Jacuzzi ha, ha, ha, it makes sense when you don't know the whole story.

BLITZER: But you're about to learn the whole story and why neighbors now call this man a hero.

Plus, the world knew Jaycee Dugard only from an 18-year-old picture. Now her kidnapping ordeal is over, and we're getting the first look at how this young woman looks right now. We have the "People" magazine cover shot. Brian Todd is standing by with our report.

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BLITZER: It's a stunning picture, not just because of the young woman's beauty but also because of her remarkable story. On the cover of the new "People" magazine, Jaycee Dugard the victim of a now infamous ordeal in which she was held captive in northern California in a backyard in a shack for some 18 years. How close is this image to the one that experts came up with in an effort to try to find her? CNN's Brian Todd has our story.

Brian?

BRAIN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the picture everyone had been waiting to see, the newly released photograph of Jaycee Lee Dugard in "People" magazine. She was kidnapped at age 11 and this is what she looked like back then, missing for over half of her life, but during that time a small group of specialists were actively working to try to let the public know how Jaycee Lee Dugard might be looking, how she might have progressed in age. This is what they came up with. This is the composite that was done. How was that done? The answers are found here at the forensics services unit of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It's a real CSI facility for missing kids.

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TODD: As a forensic imaging specialist Joe Mullins is his own worst critic. His job with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is to try to show the public what missing children might look like as they age. He came up with this composite of Jaycee Lee Dugard.

So you had been working on Jaycee Lee Dugard's case and her facial progression for more than three years and you just saw this come out in "People" magazine. What was your reaction? You've come up with this composite and there it is. What is your reaction to that?

JOE MULLINS, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: I wish I had gotten her hair darker.

TODD: Mullins' work combines science and art to try to bring thousands of missing kids back safely. Working with forensic anthropologists and his own graphic technology, Mullins starts with photos of children close to the time they go missing. He focuses on unique facial characteristics like the gap in Jaycee Dugard's teeth.

MULLINS: We know enough about how the face is going to change over a span of years, the lower two-thirds and all the significant change is going to take place. The baby fat, you know, slims off, ore angled shadows here on the jaw and it's just a matter of building up the image

TODD: The composites of the younger children are updated every two years. For those over 18, it's every five years. This unit also takes real skulls and digitally reconstructs them to help identify remains.

One of the key components of age progression technology is this center asks the biological parents to provide pictures of themselves when they were the same age as the child who went missing when they went missing. Jaycee Lee Dugard's parents were not able to do that, but here's how well it can work when parents are able to do it. This is a real case. Randy Rubenstein went missing at age 3. His biological father provides this picture of himself and then they merge the two pictures together and come up with this and then progress to this composite. Look how close it is to the actual picture of Randy when he was recovered at age 9.

For the director of this center, this is all about making sure the world doesn't forget.

ERNIE ALLEN, NATL. CTR. FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN: The reality is in these long-term cases, law enforcement runs out of leads. The media spotlight dims. Everybody forgets except the searching parents, so our goal is to keep the case alive.

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TODD: Now in the end it was not this composite picture of Jaycee Lee Dugard that helped in her recovery, but this unit has had plenty of success in the 20 years that it's been operational. They say that there have been more than 900 cases where kids have been recovered safely with the help of age-progression technology. Wolf?

BLITZER: And that technology is impressive. Thank you very much. Hopes it gets the job done and deals with saving a lot of kids.

Meanwhile, a man who was criticized for not evacuating during the largest wildfire in southern California history is now being called a hero by his neighbors. CNN's Ted Rowlands talked to this man. His real story is now being told for the first time, and Ted is joining us.

Ted, what is going on?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when people first heard about Julius Goff's story they made fun of him for being the guy that tried to ride out that huge station wildfire here in southern California at the end of August in a hot tub. It turns out the story is more complicated than that. In fact, it's a very compelling story of survival.

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JULIUS GOFF, STATION FIRE SURVIVOR: This is the first time I'd been up here.

ROWLANDS: Hobbling through the debris field what have used to be his neighborhood, Jules Goff talks about he and his friend survived the massive station wildfire by sitting in this hot tub.

GOFF: The wood you can see all around here that was on fire, two, three-foot flames.

ROWLANDS: When people first heard Goff's story many wrote him off as a fool for ignoring evacuation orders. Even Governor Schwarzenegger referred to him and his friend as an example what have not to do in a wildfire.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Three people that got burned and really badly injured because they did not listen.

BRONWYN AKER, VOGEL FLATS RESIDENT: The whole, you know, guys in the Jacuzzi, ha, ha, ha, it makes sense when you don't know the whole story, and the whole story is he acted to save lives.

ROWLANDS: Neighbors say Jules Goff is really a hero who risked his life getting people out just minutes before fire ripped through this isolated canyon northeast of Los Angeles. Goff says he was at a checkpoint and was told that his street was about to go up in flames and that fire fighters themselves were leaving because it was too dangerous. Goff says he went in to get his friend Peter who was hosing down a roof.

GOFF: I yelled at Peter from the roof. I said, Peter, we need to go, and I looked down the street and there's more people down there. I'm going, you know, these guys aren't going to make it so I went down there and told each and every one of them to get out.

ROWLANDS: They all made it out safely but when Goff got back to his house he said his car was on fire and with no way out he and Peter were now trapped.

GOFF: I came through the gates right there this. This side of the yard is on fire. Their garage is on fire. The trailer was on fire. The neighbors was on fire. I'm going what do we do?

ROWLANDS: Goff says they initially went into the house where they watched the vinyl window frames melt as the temperature rose.

GOFF: And Peter and I are running around. Now it's like 350 to 400 degrees in the house. I'm starting to get bubbles on my leg, big bubbles.

ROWLANDS: As the house burned around them Goff says they decided to run for the hot tub over a foot bridge that was also on fire. Goff ended up with burns on his legs and hands.

GOFF: The worst part is down below is where I had the third- degree burns.

ROWLANDS: The next day in his hospital bed, Goff says he was outraged watching the governor and others talk about him on television.

GOFF: I mean, these people are like family to me, you know. I couldn't let them die. That would be on my conscience for the rest of my life.

ROWLANDS: Neighbors say as bad as their street looks, without Jules Goff, things would have been much worse.

AKER: There would have been dead bodies, not just dead houses. What Julius did he did in the noblest tradition of humanity. He put himself at risk to save other people's lives. He went back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: And Wolf, we reached all the fire agencies for comment on this story, nobody wanted to go on camera about it. Pretty nobody is touching this story. The governor's office did issue a statement fairly generic about this basically saying that the governor takes every evacuation order very, very seriously. The bottom line here is people made fun of this guy, but neighbors say indeed he is a hero. Where on the two spectrums it actually falls, is he a hero or did he ignore evacuation orders, probably somewhere in the middle but he's lucky to be alive to tell his story.

BLITZER: It goes to show you learn a lot of lessons, can't always believe first impressions either. Ted, thanks very much.

And just two months after battling that massive station fire, residents in the same area are now contending with heavy rain. This time they may have dodged a bullet. A powerful storm which had been pummeling southern California has tapered off. Parts of the region have been preparing for potential mudslides and flooding with sand bags and barricades but flash flood warnings now have since been lifted. The storm left hundreds of traffic accidents in its wake and tens of thousands of people without power. The National Weather Service cautions that bursts of rain could still return prompting flooding.

A voice of the liberal left calls on the vice president Joe Biden to resign on principle. I'll ask Arianna Huffington to explain her very unusual proposal. She's standing by live.

And a man on the run from U.S. authorities inadvertently gives himself away by posting updates, get this, on his Facebook.

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BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty File. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question this hour is crime a greater threat to your well-being than it was a year ago?

Jim writes from Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, "Speaking as a retired police officer, Jack, crime increases during hard economic times but the despicable crimes are usually not economically connected. The sad part about crimes that occur during than economic downturn is that so often people with strong moral values commit crimes because of losing a job or losing their home, just to feed their family. I have had grown men cry in the back of a squad car over committing a crime that they never would normally have ever considered." Norm writes, "Personally I don't think so, however I see a rise in teenage crimes as a scary reality check for our society. Our sentencing laws are a joke, time off for good behavior? If they behaved good, they wouldn't be behind bars. Parole should be done away with. You get five years, you serve five years."

Greg in Kentucky writes, "In my neighborhood, two doors down from me is a foreclosed house, across the street, there's another one. Most of us here are in the same boat, we're just trying to survive in the midst of tough economic times. So everyone knows the other doesn't have anything either and no one bothers to break into another's home because they know probably anything of value has probably been already sold off to pay rent or buy food."

Martha writes, "You bet crime is worse, I live in a small town in Oklahoma, last summer and fall, our quiet residential street was peppered by gun fire and three drive by shootings, it scares you when this kind of thing hits home."

And Don in Florida speaking of hitting home, check this out, "I'm a firearms instructor in Nassau County, Florida. Last weekend, we had 18 people go through our courses to get concealed weapons carry licenses. The number of people getting these licenses is astounding. Everyone expresses a fear of being attacked. When I go to Jacksonville's concert hall downtown, I go heavily armed, because one of the neighborhood's west of there is one of the fourth deadliest in America, imagine listening to Mozart and carrying a 357 Magnum."

If you didn't see your email here, check my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Tough stuff, indeed. Scary stuff. All right. Jack, thank you very much.

Why Joe Biden should resign, that's the title of a controversial new essay by Ariana Huffington. She's in THE SITUATION ROOM to explain.

And the party of what one lawmaker calls angry white guys. I'll ask John Paul what he makes of that remark from fellow Senator Lindsay Graham.

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BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Wolf.

Lawmakers from three opposition parties walked out of parliament today to protest what they're calling rigged local elections. The party favored by the Kremlin won an overwhelming majority in more than 7,000 election held in Russia Sunday. President Dmitry Medvedev says the polling was well organized and legitimate. But one of the leaders of today's walkout is calling for a nationwide recount.

And federal regulators in this country are calling for hefty fines for two major airlines for flying potentially unsafe airplanes. The FAA is proposing fines of nearly $5.5 million for U.S. Airways and nearly $4 million for United Airlines. They're accused of operating some jet liners that violated FAA safety rules or the airlines' own maintenance programs, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred, thank you.

And an international fugitive gives the game away on Facebook. A man wanted for bank fraud in Washington state boasts about living it up in Mexico and leads authorities to his front door. Let's go to our internet correspondent Abbi Tatton.

How did he get caught, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: It may seem obvious, if you're running from the U.S. authorities, don't post on Facebook that you are partying in Cancun. It was not obvious to this man. This is Maxi Sopo who is wanted in connection with a fraud ring in Seattle. After allegedly fleeing to Mexico in February, secret service agents spotted him over the summer on Facebook posting things like this from Cancun, "Life is very simple really, remember, I'm just here to have fun and party." And this gets better. Sopo had somehow become Facebook friends with a former official with the U.S. Justice Department who was then able to help prosecutors get all the information they needed about his whereabouts so they could track him down right to his Cancun apartment. Sopo is now in a Mexican jail awaiting extradition charges to the United States, Wolf. Not exactly a criminal mastermind.

BLITZER: All right, Abbi, thanks very much.