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THE SITUATION ROOM

Elin Tells All in Interview; Glenn Beck to Stage Event at Lincoln Memorial; Uncapping BP's Oil Blow-Out Well

Aired August 27, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Trapped miners send emotional video messages to their families and the world as they finally learn the grim truth that their rescue is likely months away.

Also, a colossal disaster getting worse -- a million more people forced to flee floodwaters in Pakistan and now the toll is growing on the youngest victims. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there.

And five years after Hurricane Katrina, the new effort to protect New Orleans from a 100-year flood, but some people who live in the shadow of the levees have lingering doubts.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First, a rescue mission deep into the bowels of the earth -- 33 miners are trapped nearly half-a-mile below ground. Now, they have already been down there for weeks now, and now for the first time they are finally learning it could be months before they see daylight.

Want to go straight to our CNN's Karl Penhaul who is at the San Jose mine in northern Chile.

Karl, first of all, when you see this video of the miners, what do you make about their conditions and how they are doing, and why did they make this tape?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think there are a number of things that we can draw on from that, Suzanne.

First of all, they are putting on a brave face. They are undoubtedly trying to show us that they -- their families that they are in high spirits and they're even joking in some parts of that video.

We can also tell, though, based on what the family members have told us that a lot of these miners have lost a lot of weight. Some of their relatives were telling me that their loved ones had lost maybe 22 to 25 pounds in the three weeks that they have been under there so far.

And we could also hear some of them, when they are talking, emotion in their voices. Their voices are cracking. But a good piece of news is that they appear to have a lot more space than we first thought. It is not just the 500-square-feet living-room-sized space. They also seem to able to roam down part of the mine shaft which do seem to be pretty substantial, but there's no better way of finding out how they are than to listen to their own words.

And we have got video for you of that now. I believe we have subtitled it as well now, because regardless of whether you speak Spanish or not, you can just hear some of the emotion in their voices.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want you guys to know that we're calm down here. We want to get out of here. We're not going to stay down here. We're going to get out of here. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This guy doesn't want to get out of here, because then he will have to take a shower. And this one hasn't taken a shower.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Many thanks to the people who are outside working to get us out. We hear you guys working. Thank you so much, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I would to give thanks to our president for all that he is doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Many thanks to the people who are outside working to get us out. We hear you guys working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: They hear them working. Are you hearing that? They're grateful. But even so, there are certainly emotional moments for some of the men. Listen to one miner's message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I would like to send a big thank you to my family and all of the people outside working for us. And I want to thank God for all that he does and continues to do. God bless all of our co-workers outside helping to rescue us. I send them a big hug. And in the name of Jesus Christ, God bless them today and always. God bless you today and always.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want to say hello to the whole world, everybody, but especially to those who are dedicating their time to ensuring that this ends well.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PENHAUL: Certainly, what they seem to be doing, as I say, is to show their families that their spirits are up. They thanked Chile, the whole of Chile, for not abandoning them, and now are vowing to come out alive, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Karl, in watching this, obviously there are mixed emotions. On one hand, you want to believe that they are OK, and they are feeling -- they're in good spirits, and on the other hand, you see the kind of condition that they are in. When their families saw this video, how did they react? What did they think?

PENHAUL: They were very emotional scenes. There were a lot of tears in fact. There was a lot of joy, of course, because as you say, this was the first time that relatives had been able to see and hear the miners in the three weeks since this ordeal began.

But the tears were at the shock of seeing the kind of state that those miners were in. The fact that they had lost a lot of weight was very surprising to the family members. To see many of these miners unshaven, dirty and stripped down to the waist because of the heat also came as a blow. The family know that those miners really are going through hell down there, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Karl, we are hearing some music in the background there. Is that for the miners down below? Are people trying to entertain them or keep them occupied in some way or is it a little pep rally?

PENHAUL: Yes.

No, that sound -- and I will spin around and show you, because the whole area that we are now is where the family members and relatives have been camping out. This is known as Camp Hope. And that music is coming from right down in the bottom there where a canteen has been set up to feed the family members who are coming here and have been camped out here for three weeks, because they say they won't leave this space until their men folk are brought home.

MALVEAUX: And , Karl, do we have any idea whether or not they can get out any sooner than these months that has basically been -- they have said they have estimated months now?

PENHAUL: That really is a key question. And it is something that a few hours ago now one of the coordinators of the rescue effort alluded to.

He did say for the first time there is a plan B. Now, he refused to give any real details of plan B, but he said that one of those small bore holes, one of those four-inch bore holes that has already been drilled down there could form the basis of plan B.

We understand by that, that they could bring in a different kind of a drill to increase the diameter of that bore hole and somehow get down to the miners much quicker than the three or four months first thought.

And a government official did say plan B, if we can get it together, may bring those miners back to the surface much quicker than we had expected, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, that -- that would be excellent news. Thank you so much, Karl.

So how can these trapped miners cope with being stuck understood ground for months?

I want to bring in Ben Sherwood in Los Angeles. He is the author of "The Survivors Club."

And, Ben, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM. When you see this video, does it make you optimistic that these men will be able to survive this ordeal for months?

BEN SHERWOOD, AUTHOR, "THE SURVIVORS CLUB": It makes me very optimistic for a few reasons.

First, these guys now have the single most important ingredient in any survival situation. And that is when you talk to survivors of all kinds of disasters. They have hope. Hope is sort of that most essential ingredient in a survival situation.

These guys acknowledge in that video that we just saw that they know that the president, the country are rallying behind them, and there are rescuers on their way to get them. It may take them four months or three months to get there, but these guys now know that they are not isolated and abandoned and there is no hope or help. They also have oxygen.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Oh, go ahead.

SHERWOOD: Go ahead. Go ahead.

MALVEAUX: They have oxygen?

SHERWOOD: And they have food. So, oxygen, food, and hope. You know, the U.S. Air Force teaches there is this magic number three in survival situations. You can live three minutes without air. You can live three days without water. You can leave three weeks without food. But you can only live three seconds the Air Force says without hope.

These guys now have essentially everything they need to survive.

MALVEAUX: Was it a good idea to let these guys know that they could be down there for four months?

SHERWOOD: You know, there is a lot of interesting debate over whether or not they should be told or not, but most of the people that we have been talking to in the last few days about this situation, the experts from NASA and from the submarine fleet and from all the groups that study these confinement situations that last long durations, they are saying that it is good for people to know realistically what they are facing.

Now, it is bad if they are told it is going to take four months and it ends up taking seven or eight months, because then their hope would be crushed and they would feel helpless and hopeless. But it is a good thing they have been told and now they have a specific goal and maybe they can even beat that goal and get there sooner and rescue them sooner.

MALVEAUX: What are some of the important things that they need to do now in order to survive and so that violence doesn't break out or abuse of any kind? Do they have structure? Must they have a leader? How does that work?

SHERWOOD: It is a good question. One of the most interesting things that I saw on the video today is that there is a foreman down there right now who is acting as a foreman would on a work shift.

And these 33 guys are acting very much like this is a shift at work. They have identified a particular area where they do planning and preparation for the day. They have identified an area where they have recreation and they have identified an area where they can pray.

And faith is an incredibly powerful survival tool. So you can see that there is what the military calls unit cohesion here. These guys, these 33 guys, are operating like a unit, and they have identified the certain roles and responsibilities they will need to do their jobs.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Karl Penhaul, who is actually out there.

And, Karl, what do we know about the kind of routine that these men are undergoing? How are they keeping themselves busy and structured through the day?

PENHAUL: Well, I think the first point, on the question of the hierarchy, I think that is a very interesting point you bring up, because the guy that takes us through the shelter there, the guy who is narrating, Mario Sepulveda, a 40-year-old miner, and he hasn't long been working in that mine, and he isn't formally the shift foreman there -- the shift foreman is a guy who really is pretty silent on that video.

But what we have seen in the process of the last three weeks are what the psychologists are calling natural leaders coming to the fore, leaders that the men somehow feel some affinity to and rally around. And it's these men, like Mario Sepulveda, the narrator on that video, who have been encouraged to step forward and take a more formal leadership role.

And that really does seem to be working well. And what he and a handful of others now have to do is get the men divided into two shifts and then they will carry out a work routine and a leisure routine, playing cards. We have seen them doing dominoes there.

And incredibly also, when the time comes, they will be asked to help in their own rescue, clearing some of the debris as it falls into the tunnels, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Karl, thank you very much.

Ben, last question to you here. How important is it for them to have communication with the outside world, whether it is their loved ones on a daily basis, or whether or not there needs to be a leader up above ground as well?

SHERWOOD: Well, that point that your correspondent made is an important one, this idea of natural leadership.

In any survival situation, people divide up into sort of three groups -- 10 percent are the natural leaders, who exercise that clear purposeful action and are decisive and people rally around them. About 80 percent of us fall into this big bewildered group. We don't really know how to respond or what to do. We sort of follow the leader.

And 10 percent of us actually sort of respond negatively or with sort of self-destructive behavior. You are finding now in this Chilean situation about five of the 33 miners are complaining of being depressed. They didn't want to participate in that video today. That is around 15 percent of the total group, so that is a normal distribution.

Contact with the outside world, to your question, is absolutely critical, because community, feeling that you are part of a community underground, but also that you are connected to the outside world, that your family is sending you messages, that you can send your messages back, that people have not forgotten you, that is a very important part of the survival equation.

MALVEAUX: OK. Ben Sherwood, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We appreciate your insights.

A massive new levee system in New Orleans to prevent another disaster like the one unleashed by Hurricane Katrina, some residents tell us they don't trust it.

Plus, with their divorce final, Tiger Woods' ex-wife speaks out, telling her side of the story.

And it took months to get it in place, so why is BP about to remove the cap that stopped all that oil from flowing into the Gulf?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: It is simply hard to comprehend, but the situation in Pakistan is becoming even more catastrophic. An additional one million people have been forced to evacuate as floodwaters in the Indus River are meeting high tides from the Arabian Sea in southern Sindh Province. In the words of one U.N. official, an already colossal disaster is getting worse. And as in any disaster, the most vulnerable victims are often the youngest.

Our CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is in the disaster zone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, a lot of talk about numbers when it comes to Pakistan, the number of people who have died as a result of the flooding, the number of people displaced, the number of people who are stranded currently, but there are also stories behind all those numbers.

And you don't have to look far to find them. We are in a relief camp here in the Sindh Province. We met this family who just suffered unimaginable loss after the floods. Take a look.

(voice-over): A fighting chance, here in Sindh, Pakistan. It is all they can hope for.

Rema Chachar (ph), a farmer, didn't get any warning when the floods came.

GUPTA: "We just ran," he says. He grabbed his wife, his kids, and he ran. And they took all they could.

You're looking at it here. They are staggeringly poor. But they wanted a fighting chance. Escaping the flood, they thought they made it.

"She started to get a fever. She couldn't keep anything down. She had lots of belly pain." She's talking about her 3-month-old daughter, Benazir (ph). A few days later, she described the same exact thing happening to her son, 2-year-old Wazira (ph).

(on camera): They brought both Benazir and Wazira here, to civil hospital. And doctors right away knew that these children were sick. But with such limited resources, there is only so much they can do. Let's take a look.

You have two to three patients per bed in this hospital. Do you have enough beds? Do you have enough resources?

DR. G.R. BOUK, PAKISTAN CIVIL HOSPITAL: No. Because of the (INAUDIBLE) there is no resources, because of the huge in the Sukkur population, and there is some population from the Jacobabad and other (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA (voice-over): The problem -- bad water, everywhere. With not enough good, clean water to go around, well, many -- too many -- have started to drink this, millions. Diarrheal illness, cholera, dysentery, typhoid.

(on camera): And some of the children around here look very sick. And you have two, at least two children per bed, some on the floor. Are you going to run out of space eventually? I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there.

BOUK: Yes.

GUPTA: What happens to them?

BOUK: At the moment, we can't do anything.

GUPTA: What are the chances this child is going to survive?

BOUK: I think 50 percent chance to survive.

GUPTA: Fifty-fifty?

BOUK: Fifty.

GUPTA: Wazira and Benazir wouldn't get that fighting chance. This is their obituary. They didn't even make it to the hospital. Both children died on the way there.

The two-year-old Wazira weighed just eight pounds. And the three- month-old Benazir just two pounds.

I don't want her to cry. It's OK. See, her belly is very distended. That's the problem. And it's hard. It doesn't really push in.

Give her some formula so she can keep some calories down and they give us medicine as well, mainly for nausea. But really, no antibiotics -- which is just concerning because that's one of the biggest problems here, people getting infections.

(voice-over): Ola (ph) and Ranap (ph) are just two of the millions affected by these floods. This is their new normal, living among dozens of strangers on mats, incredible, unimaginable loss. Two children dead in just one week.

But now their mission: to not lose another child. To save this child, Godi (ph), who is already sick. And she wants to give Godi a fighting chance.

(on camera): It is hard to imagine what that family went through, Suzanne, just over the last couple of weeks.

I can tell you, so many children in this part of the country, in this part of the world are already living on the edge. These two children, Benazir and Wazira, probably already had some degree of being malnourished even before the floods came. And this just pushes kids like them over the edge.

And that's going to continue to happen. So, the numbers really are not that important as what can be done now to try and stop these preventable deaths. There are so many happening. Getting basic supplies to these camps and getting them here quickly, that really seems to be the key, Suzanne -- back to you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: It is heartbreaking.

A massive new levee system in New Orleans to prevent another Katrina, but some residents, well, they don't trust it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: This weekend marks five years since the disastrous flooding Hurricane Katrina unleashed on New Orleans. The Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of a $14 billion project to build and rebuild the city's system of levees, flood walls and pump stations. The Corps promises a 100-year level of flood protection by next June.

Our CNN homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The long road back from Hurricane Katrina has brought Sonja Hill here to one of the handful of houses rebuilt right where the industrial canal flood wall gave way.

SONJA HILL, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Looking at the wall, I'm thinking, what if it breaks again? What if it breaks right here in front of the door and I'm inside with my kids? I don't feel safe right here if a hurricane comes through.

MESERVE: Sonja says she can't afford to live somewhere else. Boy Roy Arrigo doesn't want to move. His house is just a few hundred feet from where the 17th Street canal flood wall failed.

(On camera): This is the same kind of wall that failed.

ROY ARRIGO, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Yes, it is, yes.

MESERVE: Is that scary?

ARRIGO: Yes, it is. And this is -- this is a fragile wall.

MESERVE (voice-over): Arrigo was angry at the Army Corps of Engineers and blames it for the destruction of the city.

ARRIGO: We see the work and we're told about all of the progress. But can we trust it? And to be quite honest, I don't think that we can.

MESERVE: In the genteelly neighborhood near the London Avenue canal breach, Willean Brown believes the engineering isn't what matters.

WILLEAN BROWN, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: It can be a little high as they want to. God has the power if he wants to tear down the wall whether it is low or high, 25 feet, 30 feet, he can knock it down with his power.

MESERVE: Her faith makes her feel safe here. Not her sister, Callie.

CALLIE BROWN, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I have to give the government the benefit of the doubt. And that the wall is going to hold. I got to try. Doesn't mean it's going to work.

MESERVE: For Callie Brown and many others the shadow cast by the levees is long and dark.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: And here's an indication of how people feel. Every person we talked to said, if there was a big storm heading to New Orleans, they were heading out of the city -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: All right, thanks, Jeanne Meserve.

She is now Tiger Woods' ex-wife and she's telling all for the first time. We will talk to the "People" magazine reporter who interviewed her.

Also, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington. But Beck insists it is not political.

Plus: why BP is about to remove the well cap it spent months trying to put in place in the Gulf of Mexico.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The final act in the highly public marital meltdown between Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren played out this week as the divorce was finalized.

And now she is speaking out about the drama, appearing on the cover of "People" magazine, and telling her side of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM for "People" magazine.

SANDRA SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL, "PEOPLE": Hi.

MALVEAUX: You really did have quite an opportunity to sit down with Elin -- 19 hours, I believe -- to talk to her to get her side of the story, when it comes to her divorce, her separation with Tiger Woods. How did this come about?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: You know, Suzanne, it's -- you know from covering the White House, we have been there together, it's all very controlled. There are a lot of layers to get through: press secretaries, communications directors. Not at all with Elin Nordegren. She thought she wanted to tell her story. She wanted to explore what that would mean. So she and her lawyers from the firm McGuireWoods down in Richmond, Virginia, they approached us. They knew our style, our sensitivity with stories like this. They knew we would be fair and honest, but they also knew we had a reach. And since she was going to tell the story, one time, and one time only, she wanted to make it -- make it big. She wanted everybody to hear it, because she's not saying it again.

MALVEAUX: Why did Elin want to speak? What did she want to say?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: You know, she is not a public person. She does not want to have a public megaphone, but -- but you get the sense from talking with her that she's been biting her lip for nine months, and there are several things that have out there that -- that she hated people thinking about her. She hated that -- that people thought she was violent. She -- one of the hardest things was the image of violence, that she might have taken a golf club to her husband.

MALVEAUX: She never did that? She said that wasn't true?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: She says she's never been a violent person, that she's never committed an act of violence against him. There's never been violence in their home. And the thought that she would take a golf club to him is just truly ridiculous in her words.

But she also wanted to know it pained her that people thought she might have known and turned a blind eye. And she said, "As stupid as it makes me feel, that I didn't see and I didn't know, the fact is I didn't."

MALVEAUX: She didn't know that he was being unfaithful? She had no idea?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: She said she was home for those three-and-a- half years with two pregnancies and two Toddlers and taking college classes, and she sort of had her head down, focused on the business of raising a family while he was on the road, and being a trusting person, she didn't believe she had any reason to distrust.

MALVEAUX: Did she talk about any type of effort for the two of them to reconcile, to make it work, to move on together?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: She did. She moved out of the house, the family house, her and the kids, in December of last year just before Christmas time, and she said at that time it was just to get some space and some breathing room. And she really only expected to be away for about a month while she took some time to think.

She said for months and months, they worked on reconciliation. She did not want to talk about what was the tipping point that made her realize it wasn't going to work. Only that in the end, she decided that as much as she wanted her children to have an intact family, that it was more important to her that they have a happy family, and that happy apart was better than staying together without trust or love.

MALVEAUX: Did she talk at all about the healing process, either for herself or for Tiger Woods? Whether they are undergoing counsel or therapy or speaking to one another?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: First and foremost, she was very careful not to speak for Tiger. The few questions I did ask her about him, she said, "He's going to speak for himself. I'll let him speak for himself."

On her healing, you know, she's a psychology student. People have known her or thought they knew her as a former swimsuit model and nanny, when in fact, the more apt description is a psychology student and a mother of two. And she's working on her bachelor's degree in psychology, and what she's learned in class, she's applied.

She said she's very sort of thoughtfully gone through the stages of grief. She's been journaling on her laptop to try to sort through some of her feelings. And she's been in therapy. She says, you know, "I have no qualms about admitting to you that I've been in intensive counseling and I think, frankly, everybody would benefit from talking to some objective outside person," and it's been very helpful for her.

MALVEAUX: There have been some wild figures thrown around when it comes to the divorce settlement: anywhere from $100 million to more than $700 million. Did she address that at all?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: She would not and not surprisingly in this kind of a situation. You know, I think good estimates are probably, you know, more than $100 million, but $750 is wildly off the mark. I mean, that's, you know, probably his net worth.

All she would say is, you know, "Yes, I'm going to be a wealthy woman. But, you know, money can't buy happiness, and it's not going to put my family back together." What she did say is it will make it easier to heal, because she has the luxury of being able not to go out to work for a while, but to stay home with the kids, get them adjusted, and then she said she does want to have a job. She wants to put her degrees to work. She hopes to get a master's degree in psychology and then figure out what to do with it.

MALVEAUX: And I know that they have joint custody of the children, and that they will be living in the same vicinity, at least same state. What is the takeaway that she gets from this terrible and painful experience now that she seems to be moving forward and moving on?

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: You know, she is a remarkably strong woman. And she said that the one fear she had was that she would leave this experience not able to trust people again. She even said to her mother right after it happened, you know, I've always been inclined to believe the good in people, and I'm afraid I might have lost that.

And sort of ironically, she told me that just being able to take the leap of faith and tell this story after being such a private person, sort of restores her faith that, you know, "I haven't lost it, and maybe I can fall in love again." She certainly does believe in love.

MALVEAUX: Sandra, thank you so much. It's an excellent read there in "People" magazine. I really appreciate your time. Good seeing you again.

SOBIERAJ-WESTFALL: Thank you. You, too.

MALVEAUX: We wish her well.

Well, we could see tens of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial in just hours. Glenn Beck insists his Restore Honor rally is not about politics, so why are some Republicans uneasy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A large rally this weekend on the Washington Mall has many Democrats nervous, some Republicans uncomfortable, and it's even sparking infighting among evangelical Christians. The main reason, the man who's organizing it FOX News host Glenn Beck. Our CNN's Brian Todd is on the Mall with some of those details.

Brian, set the scene for us. Tell us what's happening now.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, a lot of anticipation around the event and one big question is how many people are going to show up? In our business in this town, you don't want to get into projections of crowd size. That gets you in trouble.

Now, what Glenn Beck and his folks have said is that they hope -- they hope for about 100,000 people tomorrow, but the crowd size could be deceptive. Why? Because the way the Mall is configured here at the Lincoln Memorial, check it out. You've got the reflecting pool here right in the middle. No matter how many people show up here, because this thing is right in the middle and the crowds could be compressed, there may be not as many people as there seemed to be.

Still, you know, a lot of people are going to make projections afterward and beforehand. You didn't want to get into the numbers so much, because look, it's compressed here. And then people are going to bleed over here into the walkways. So even with the helicopters and other things like that, they're not going to necessarily be able to get a great gauge of how many people are going to show up here tomorrow.

Another big question, is this a political event? Some people believe it will because of the guest speaker list. Glenn Beck and his people say absolutely not.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He's made a routine of taking provocative talk to new levels, like this comment on President Obama's faith made on his FOX News Channel show.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: It's a Christianity that most Americans just don't recognize. TODD: Comments that have driven liberals batty but made Glenn Beck a huge audience draw. Is Beck now morphing from conservative TV icon into political leader? He's repeatedly said his rally at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday is to honor America's military heroes. Despite the fact that Sarah Palin is a featured speaker, Beck and his representatives have pounded the message this is not a political event.

(on camera) Beck's side is saying this is going to be a nonpolitical rally. Is it going to be nonpolitical?

REIHAN SALAM, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Yes, I think it is going to be nonpolitical except it demonstrates the power and the weight that Glenn Beck has behind him and the fact that he can get together this big a crowd might not mean he's going to give a political speech, but it does mean there's a movement here.

TODD (voice-over): A movement, says conservative writer Reihan Salam, to give a political voice to many Americans who feel they don't have one.

Beck's folks say they hope this rally will draw about 100,000 people. Even with the groundswell of support, Beck makes some Republicans uneasy, drawing criticism from the evangelical wing to some Tea Partiers.

I asked former GOP congressman Tom Davis if some mainstream conservatives aren't put off by Beck.

TOM DAVIS (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: There are a lot of Republicans who don't buy into this, but they will align themselves with this to get through November because you have to form coalitions.

TODD: Davis says the party could also benefit from what he calls the energy factor that Beck brings.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now one other key factor, one other key factor in this event is the date. It's been kind of a flashpoint here. Tomorrow, Saturday, is the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington. Glenn Beck has said repeatedly that that is purely coincidental and there are indications that he has said that he is going to celebrate Martin Luther King's speech.

Still, some civil rights groups are upset about it. Some of them are going to be holding another rally at the same time to make their voices heard -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Brian, thank you very much. The Reverend Al Sharpton is organizing that counter demonstration that Brian mentioned, and he talked to CNN's John King about the Glenn Beck rally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think of this event? You have called Glenn Beck a divider. You think he's trying to tarnish the legacy of Dr. King by doing this, or is he an American who has every right to be on those steps?

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Well, he's an American who has every right to be on those steps. I just don't think he has a right to say that he's reclaiming the civil rights movement.

When he said that he had the date and the place, we didn't challenge him. Even though we were coming to town, and we have done this for years, we didn't challenge him. You will see nobody filed against him.

But then he started saying, "I'm going to reclaim the civil rights movement. We're going to bring it back. We started it in the first place." Now, that's where I took issue, because what Mr. Beck and Ms. Palin represent is the opposite of what civil rights is about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: John King is here with us now. His show, "JOHN KING USA," begins at the top of the hour.

John, it's, you know, really kind of remarkable this thing has not even happened, and already there's a lot of discussion, a lot of heat around it. What -- why is this resonating so much, when you talk to Reverend Sharpton?

KING: Well, number one, the anniversary. Glenn Beck says it was a coincidence or, he said, perhaps it was divine providence that he happened to pick the 47th anniversary of the march on Washington and the "I have a dream" speech to be at that site. Civil rights leaders don't buy that. They think it was deliberate. They think he wants to be there.

And his statement that he wants to reclaim the civil rights movement, they remember full well, Suzanne, that this is a controversial radio and TV host who has said he believes that President Obama has a deep-seeded hatred for white people. He has said other controversial things.

And so, look, there's a left-right, Glenn Beck versus his critics part of this. They also think it's a political pep rally, not a patriotic picnic, as Glenn Beck would say. And we're 66 days from an election. It's the 47th anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech. It's also dead center in the middle of a very heated campaign, so you'll have a lot of criticism. What Reverend Sharpton says is maybe the left can turn this to its advantage, saying look at the energy this guy is generating. You people better turn out in November, too.

MALVEAUX: And one of the things that we know is that Glenn Beck can be unpredictable at times and some Republicans are a little bit weary of his reputations, he is often lampooned.

I want you to just take a look at something very recently. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: I certainly am no Martin Luther King. I am not going to be standing on the stair that Martin Luther King stood on.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Kudos. Kudos to you, sir. Nice to see you have this in perspective.

BECK: I will be two flights down from that stair, as is appropriate.

STEWART: Well, in Glenn's defense, I would have guessed he would have gone two flights up, sat on Lincoln's lap.

BECK: It may not change America tomorrow, it may. It may not change America tomorrow, I know it will in 25 years, because somewhere there will be an 8-year-old boy or girl that will rise to be the next George Washington.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE STEPHEN COLBERT SHOW": Yes. Thanks to Glenn, some beautiful 8-year-old is going to grow up to be a hatchet wielding, toothless slave owner.

BECK: It is going to be a historic moment.

It is going to provide a shock wave to this nation. Something miraculous is going to happen.

This event down at the Lincoln Memorial, it is a defibrillator to the heart of America.

8/28 will be a miracle, and you are about to see things that you have never seen before.

The truth must be told.

COLBERT: Yes, it must.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: OK. So, obviously, he has his fans, but some people don't take him so seriously. Is there a risk that some republicans shouldn't associate themselves so closely or align themselves so closely with this rally, and perhaps with him?

KING: Well, that is one of the reasons that you have seen the republican established organizations say, I guess we've heard about this rally, but we have nothing to do with it. Why? Because they don't know what he is going to say and they are afraid, pure and simple, he will say something controversial as he has many times in the past.

At the same time, Suzanne, they are hoping -- he's working with Freedom Works, which is the Tea Party organization, to get people to come, to have a grassroots effort. So is the Republican Party going to associate itself with this? No. Are they hoping that he brings a large crowd to Washington and tells them their most important civic duty is to be active and get out and vote and create energy? You bet they are.

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, looking forward to seeing more of the interview with Reverend Sharpton at the top of the hour. Thanks, John.

It could contain important clues about what caused the disaster in the Gulf, but to get it, BP has to remove the well cap that stopped the oil.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: More than 4,000 square miles of Louisiana Gulf waters are open for business again, and Monday could be a huge day. For the first time since the blow-out BP oil well was plugged up, the containment cap is coming off.

Chad Myers is at the CNN Center in Atlanta. And, Chad, they went through so much trouble to put the cap on and tell us why it is being removed?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Correct. Well, there are pieces of pipe -- well pipe, bore pipe, drill pipe -- that are in the blow- out preventer that they need to get them kind of out of there. They have been on a fishing expedition, as they called it, looking for where these other pieces of drill pipe -- cause we don't know exactly what happened when they cut the parts off, there are pieces that exploded, moved up and down in there, they wanted to figure to out where those pipes were.

So tonight and into tomorrow, they are going to figure out the rest of the story to take the old cap off, the cap that stopped the oil from coming out and then figure out what they are going to do with this old blow-out preventer.

In fact, they are going to take it off. They are going to pull it, they're going to unlatch it, they are going to pull it from the ocean floor and take it all the way up to the surface of the water, put it on a ship and then take it apart to figure out what failed.

Now there is a little bit of a risk there. This may be stopping some of the oil. This may be stopping that cement plug from popping up, like a big cork. Let's hope that's not the case. They don't believe that's the case. They have done pressure tests to say when we take this off, everything is going to be fine, but just in case and they plan -- this was all in the plan, they have another blow-out preventer over here and once they get this one off, they are going to put it directly back over the top of the well so that the well isn't just open to the ocean for very long.

Is there a risk of some oil coming out? Sure. Probably not very much. We hope that they know that this is completely filled with mud and cement all the way down many, many thousands of feet, so hopefully no more oil comes out. They just put that new blow-out preventer on, then they figure out what is wrong with the old one and maybe this never happens again.

MALVEAUX: All right, Chad, we'll keep our fingers crossed, thank you.

It is the last thing that airline passengers want to hear in flight. Details of the alarming announcement that was played by mistake.

And former President Jimmy Carter returns to the U.S. from North Korea with one grateful American in tow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM now.

Hey, Fred. What are you working on?

WHITFIELD: Hello, again and hello, everyone.

Former President Jimmy Carter returned to the U.S. with the American man he helped release from North Korea. Aijalon Mahli Gomes was sentenced to eight years of hard labor for crossing over the Chinese border into North Korea. The Carter Center says Gomes was granted amnesty for humanitarian purposes. Carter was on a private mission not endorsed by the Obama administration.

And two officials looking into the massacre of 72 migrants in northern Mexico are missing. A lead investigator and a police officer both disappeared on Wednesday. The 72 bodies were found on a ranch this week, many of them were Central American migrants. Officials are looking into whether a drug cartel carried out these killings.

An emergency that luckily wasn't. British Airways' passengers got a scare when a recorded announcement said the plane headed from London to Hong Kong was making an emergency landing. The airline says it was caused by a computer glitch, not a real emergency. The cabin crew immediately said it was a mistake. BA is apologizing for causing undue distress.

And an inside look at exactly what it takes to book Sarah Palin as a speaker. A California judge ordered Palin's speaking contract with Cal State's (INAUDIBLE) to be released. It includes a deluxe hotel suite, a first-class ticket or a private jet -- Leer 60 or larger, preselected audience questions, bendable straws and $75,000 in cash. No check, no credit card, cash, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: That is quite a deal. Thank you, Fred.

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina stormed into New Orleans. The levees broke, washing with in death and destruction. So, how is New Orleans now doing? Ex-mayor Ray Nagin is "One-on-One" on "JOHN KING, USA."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: As we mentioned, five years ago, Hurricane Katrina slammed the gulf coast. Recovery has been slow, parts of the region remain in ruins. On CNN.com, we asked to you go become to the spots that you photographed after the storm and show us what they look like now. Well, many of your iReports show a positive change, which we highlight in our "Hotshots" today.

In downtown New Orleans, a car covered in bricks is now an open parking space. Flooded streets that paralyzed a city for weeks are now drivable. And outside the convention center, the debris has long been cleared away.

Thank you to all of our iReporters to these images, pictures that are truly worth a thousand words.

Remember, you can follow what is going on in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter, you can get my tweets at Twitter.com/SuzanneMalveaux. You can also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom to become a fan.

Wolf will be back on Monday, and we appreciate that. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING, USA" starts right now.

KING: Thanks, Suzanne.