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Funding Disaster Relief; Obama-Boehner Showdown Over Speech Ends

Aired August 31, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. There's breaking news tonight in the flooding and big controversy over how to fund disaster relief.

A leading congressman says we should pay for it but only with spending cuts in unrelated programs elsewhere. Even though during another big disaster, he wanted relief money for his own district with no strings attached. We're keeping them honest tonight.

Also in a moment, we'll take you live to a town that's still under water and places. And you'll hear from a man who has been stranded by hurricane Irene and he says forgotten by FEMA. Rising waters leaving him surrounded. The roads are gone, nearby houses gone as well. Power is out. Supplies are still limited. He says he hasn't seen a government official or FEMA worker and only local sheriffs trying to deal with the problem. He joins us shortly by phone.

Breaking news tonight, late word that President Obama will visit hard hit Paterson New Jersey over the weekend. Flood warnings in effect for the area all up and down the east coast in fact days after rain from hurricane Irene first began falling. Susan Candiotti is literally right in the middle of it in Little Falls, New Jersey.

Susan, parts of Little Falls has been evacuated. What's the latest on the flooding there?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to give you - yes, just to give you a sense of where I am standing on the ledge of one of those vacuum cleaners at a car wash now dipping into the water so you can see how high the water is. And putting this piece of paper in there to show you how fast the current is flowing. It's cold here. There are like 18,000 people in New Jersey who have remained evacuated. Thirty five hundred of them remain right here in this county. So, they are out of their homes and they don't like it.

But Anderson, you know what? This is like the third time for some of these people they have been out of their homes this year, first time for a hurricane, two other times because of just bad storms.

COOPER: And you went around the town in a boat today. What did you see? CANDIOTTI: Well, there's a street right down here that's a dead- ender and someone who has a rowboat with a motor attached to it, we went down there. You know, the homes have water halfway up in many cases. There is some where you see garages where they left the doors open and it almost looks like the homes are on stilts because the water went all of the way in. We went back there with one man who lived here for about like 15 years. He said he's never seen it this bad. I asked him what he saw about seeing his house for the first time he said I don't have the words to describe it. It's just that bad.

COOPER: A lot of people there also have been refusing to evacuate. How are they handling it?

CANDIOTTI: Yes. I talked to a lot of those people too. You know, they say we've been through this. I refuse to leave my house. We have flood insurance. And a lot of them are simply worried about looting for both themselves and their neighbors. But there's a strong police presence out here. We've seen police turning people back if it looks like they don't belong. Your heart goes out to everyone not leaving.

COOPER: Any idea when the floodwaters might start to recede or fully go away?

CANDIOTTI: They hope it will be by this weekend when people might start to be able to come back in where the waters are the highest. Some people already started the cleanup. They are going to have a rough go of it.

COOPER: Susan, appreciate the reporting. Thanks very much.

I want to tell you about the situation in Vermont now. They haven't seen things this bad since 1927. Crews have been working hard reopening dozens of roads but people are still stranded from back on Sunday including the man you're about to meet.

Todd Trzaskos is stuck in a small town of Gaysville. I spoke to him a short time ago.


COOPER: Todd, You say there are a couple hundred people essentially stranded in your area. What's the situation now?

TODD TRZASKOS, STRANDED IN GAYSVILLE: Essentially, the same as it has been for the last several days since the water came through. A bunch of the major roads have been cut by the flow and local guys are slowly getting it together at least around the bridges and culverts that had problems. So, there's a lot of activity from the local contractor. Any farmer with a front loader is trying to clear roads.

COOPER: You know it's hard I think for people who are familiar with the region to imagine being stuck in an area just you know roads being impassible. How is everyone holding up? TRZASKOS: Well, you know I think generally everyone has been pretty well. I know state troopers have organized something where they were getting prescription medicine dropped in. You know not everyone has a generator, but we do and so do the neighbors. And so, that's why people have you know come up our way. We're housing someone's whose house the river went through and there's a couple of people next door whose bridge went out and there's a landslide right up to the houses. We emptied the house out yesterday completely because it won't be safe. They're not staying there and probably not going to stay on the hillside.

COOPER: And have you heard from FEMA or you know state, local officials?

TRZASKOS: Just local folks. Nothing from you know I haven't seen anybody any further up the chain than the local person. And I have actually been out busy doing things. So, there's a local meeting everyday at the end of the bridge now where we get updates. But people right now are calling on their own and trying to you know talk to insurance people well you know. It's going to be a slow process because there's not a lot of good cell service in the valley. As it is, I'm up on this foot trail that we cut because it's got a good spot where I get a decent signal. We get something at the house but it isn't always reliable.

COOPER: So, you had to hike up a trail to get cell service in order to talk to us. A lot of the homes in the area were washed away in the flooding. Does everyone have some kind shelter at this point?

TRZASKOS: Yes, I think everybody at this point has been accounted for. That's the big job the first day which just going around and making sure all the neighbors we knew were where they are ought to be or that they have gotten out safely. You know, just even yesterday I got a phone to somebody who wasn't able to talk to the outside and you know their relatives were of course worried. And we've been passing messages for folks. And if anybody needs a shower, they can make the generator run and we can get them into the mix.

COOPER: Todd, I wish you the best. We'll continue checking with you and I hope the folks who need medication are getting it regularly. As you said, state troopers were trying to make that happen. We will check in with you again. Thanks, Todd.

TRZASKOS: Thank you very much.


COOPER: Well, "Keeping Them Honest" now. Hurricane and flooding damage could break the bank for FEMA. Funding it though is turning into a political mess. Leading congressional Republicans say they want to pay for disaster relief including FEMA money by cutting money elsewhere in the budgets offsets.

Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had sharp words for that idea and for scholar Republicans in Washington supports it.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Nobody was asking about offsetting budget cuts in Joplin. And I don't want to hear the fact that offsetting budget cuts come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of. So, you want to figure out budget cuts? That's fine. Turn it into that fiasco like the debt limit thing where they are fighting each other of eight or nine weeks and you expect the citizens of my state to wait. They're not going to wait. And I'm going to fight to make sure that they don't.


COOPER: Governor Christie today taking aim at house Republican leaders mainly Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia whose been pushing for those offsets.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: The federal government does have a role in situations like this when there's a disaster there's an appropriate federal role. And we will find the moneys. But we've had discussions about these things before. And those moneys will be offset with appropriate savings or cost cutting elsewhere in order to meet the priority of the federal government's role in a situation like this.


COOPER: But "Keeping Them Honest" tonight now. In other situations like this, Congressman Cantor has had a different plan. Just give us the money. That was his plan before. This is damage from tropical storm Gaston which hit Congressman's district in Richmond, Virginia, back in 2004.

The congressman sent out a press release back then after cleaning funding arrived with no offsetting budget cuts. It reads "the magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth can handle, and that is where I asked the president to make federal funds available for the citizens affected by Gaston."

The president then was George W. Bush and the house was controlled by Republicans. He wasn't talking about offsets then. A year later, after hurricane Katrina, headed a GOP colleague proposed an amendment that would tie relief money to spending cuts. In other words, during exactly precisely what Congressman Cantor now wants to do.

But guess what? Back then, the congressman had a different view and he voted no on putting any strings on disaster relief. So, what's changed between then and now? Between it being in his district and being in New Jersey and Vermont?

Well, the budget deficit is also larger and national debt is bigger but the political climate is also different. Again, "Keeping Them Honest," this has never been much of a partisan political issue before. "The New York Times" citing research by Senate Democrats showing that Congress has approved 33 emergency appropriations for FEMA dating back to 1989 and none of them, none of them has called for budget cuts elsewhere to pay for them.

As for Congressman Cantor, his office declined our invitation to come on the program tonight and when he asked specifically what the congressman would cut to pay for emergency funding, his spokesman declined to give an answer. He says until the request for more money is made, any discussion of cuts would be in his words "hypothetical." This is turning into a political food fight.

There's breaking news and another one between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner over when the president will address congress about his jobs plan. Tonight Mister Boehner turned down the presidency which coincided with a GOP presidential debate. This simply has not happened before. We'll talk about that after the break.

But first, let's talk about this FEMA controversy and the funding. I spoke earlier where Republican Strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic Strategist Paul Begala.


COOPER: So Paul, is there a country being hypocritical here? I mean, back when the hurricane hit his district, he wasn't calling for offset for federal disaster money.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course he's being hypocritical. And on the thing, he's being political. He's a very smart guy so I can't say that he's playing this because he's done. He must see political angle here. I frankly don't.

He's got an enormous risk here because not only of course that did he support aid for his district which was necessary when tropical storm Gaston hit a couple years ago, He also has voted by my count for $50 billion of rebuilding aid for Iraq and $56 billion of rebuilding aid for Afghanistan with no offsets and he's voted for $40 billion over ten years in aid to oil companies, subsidies for oil companies.

So, I suppose the people hit by the hurricane have two options. Either, hope that Cheney and Bush invade them and then Eric Cantor will send them aid or incorporate oil companies because Eric Cantor supports aid to oil companies as well but not American citizens hit by a hurricane.

COOPER: Alex, what about that? I mean, using FEMA to point on out of control spending or pushing for spending cuts during the debt ceiling fight. Is this now just the agreed upon tactic of using one issue to fight another battle? Is that going to be the way business is done now in Washington?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not sure that it's just a political point or a politically useful issue. I think the president here is blaming ATM machine for not giving him money when he drained the bank account. This is the president who spent a trillion dollar on a stimulus that didn't work another trillion on a health care bill that America doesn't want. And, he is saying, well let's just keep spending money we don't have. All Republicans say, look this is important, great. Why don't we take $6 billion we're throwing away on ethanol subsidies right now and use it for something more important -?

COOPER: But not all Republicans are saying that right now. We see governors like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie saying you know attacking the Cantor approach saying now is not the time to start a big fight in spending cuts in terms of disaster assistance.

CASTELLANOS: But surely, in a trillion dollar budget, Anderson, something in Washington has got to be less important than helping the people that we saw with homes flooded and homes destroyed. And I think that's what you can get support for in congress. If it's that important and it is it why did the president spend all the money?

COOPER: Paul, what about that? What's wrong with an offset for federal spending?

BEGALA: Well, for emergency spending you don't have an offset because here's the tricky part, it's an emergency, Alex. Look, there's a regular order of these things. We should have budget debates through the normal budget process. Should we subsidize oil companies the way that Eric Cantor wants to do? Should would we spend billions and billions rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq with no offsets but no money rebuilding America? Those are the kind of debates you can have in the regular order. When there's an emergency, what do you do? Americans drop everything and go to help people who are in need. That's what cantor should be doing.

CASTELLANOS: Paul and I are going to agree on this. You should have money saved away for rainy day and president and Democrats should have thought about that when they spent a trillion on stimulus and trillion on health care we didn't have and now that rainy day where we need that has come and we don't have it. And so --

BEGALA: I got to say I helped the president balance the budget Alex.

CASTELLANOS: You can tell the ATM it's an emergency and it still won't have the money.

BEGALA: Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting. But I helped the president balanced the budget. I know what it takes. And frankly, the Republicans, they are the ones -- excuse me -- the squandered the Clinton surplus and so they did it here's how, tax cuts for the rich which we can easily repeal if we need the money and I think we do, subsidies for oil companies on another corporations, a war against a country, Iraq, that was no threat to America.

We could, we should revisit these Republican parties. When the Republicans talk deficits to me, it's like an arsonist complaining about the fire department. It's not the Barack Obama's fault that we have these got an awful Bush deficit and it's certainly not the fault of the people who are hit by a hurricane. I mean, come on. It shouldn't be something about the politics. CASTELLANOS: It's not fair to say that it's Republicans saying it's anybody's fault. We're just saying the bank account is drained. Let's find the money somewhere. If Democrats are going into the next election saying there's nowhere in the federal government that we can find a few dollars to help people in need. That there's nothing less important than that and Republicans are going into the next election saying, hey let's try to act like we're broke because we are, then I think that's the advantage that will go to Republicans. Knock yourself out.

COOPER: Alex, should Eric Cantor though, if he is proposing these offsets, should it be part of his responsibility to least list his priorities for what he would cut in order to do these offsets?

CASTELLANOS: I think Republicans have demonstrated a lot of willingness to do that, Anderson. That's a good point.

COOPER: Can we ask Cantor's office? They haven't listed specifics.

CASTELLANOS: Republicans are willing to prioritize spending and that I think that would be great place to get Democrats and Republicans together on the hill and say let's prioritize this stuff because we've run out of money.

COOPER: Paul, Republicans are saying, look, we send democrat controlled Senate a FEMA funding bill and they left town for the month.

BEGALA: Fine, whatever. These people are hurting. We need to help them. I'm serious. No, come on, OK. They left on their vacation. You know seriously, whatever. When a storm hits, people need help. They need help right away. They don't need help because they're Democrats. They don't need help because they're Republicans. They are American citizens who are suffering damage through no fault of their own.

And what is really going on I suspect is a really insidious thing where the Republicans are trying to discredit government. When they ran FEMA they discredited it, now it is being run by confident people. By the way, the guy who runs it was an appointee of George Bush's brother, Jeb Bush in Florida so it's not partisan thing. Now FEMA is doing a good job. Republicans want to defund it. So, I think really what they want to show is that the government cannot help you when in fact it can when there's an emergency and we need to help our neighbors.

CASTELLANOS: If I can offer a slightly different point of view. I don't think Republicans are trying to discredit government. It's done a pretty good job of doing that by itself. And Republicans are not saying don't help people. They are saying where's the money? And there has to be some priorities. It's time for Washington to start acting like grownups.


ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson will be back in a moment. I'm Isha Sesay with breaking news.

The battle over a request by President Obama to address a joint session of Congress next week is over. He wants to unveil his new jobs plan, but House Speaker Boehner nixed his request to speak Wednesday night. We will have details on the speech showdown next.


SESAY: Breaking news tonight.

The fight over when President Obama can address a joint session is over. The president has agreed to move the speech to next Thursday night, instead of Wednesday, his first choice.

The decision comes after a war of words over the speech request. It all started this afternoon when the House speaker snubbed the president of the United States, perhaps for the first time in history. The speaker's spokesman accused the White House of ignoring -- quote -- "decade, if not centuries, of protocol" in what Republicans call an effort to one-up the GOP.

Well, in case you were wondering what all the gamesmanship and game playing and petty politics is about, jobs, not politics, jobs. New numbers tonight showing the private sector created fewer than 100,000 jobs this month. President Obama requested a time to speak to Congress Wednesday night to lay out his new jobs plan.

But the date he asked for would preempt a GOP debate. So, Speaker Boehner's office made a counteroffer for the following night, opening night for the NFL. The White House says Speaker Boehner was informed about the address. Boehner spokesman says he wasn't consulted.

Now President Obama has agreed to just move the speech to Thursday.

Joining us with more, chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, and on the phone Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Erick Erickson, editor in chief of

And, Jessica, if I can start with you, we had heard from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney saying that Wednesday was the date, it was the right date, it was the right time. But now the White House is backing down. What are your sources telling you tonight?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, if they're going to address a joint session of Congress, we should point out, Isha, that there are only two days next week they could do it, Wednesday or Thursday, because those are the only two dates that both houses are in session.

So the White House says they picked the first date. Clearly there is a disadvantage to going Thursday because as you point out the NFL is there -- is playing then. One White House official says this whole flap was silly. That's what they told me. And they would have been happy to go Thursday had the speaker's office said originally that that's what they would have preferred.

The bottom line is, this is clearly a case of bad communication, ugly, bad communication between them, but also bad feelings between the two offices right now up, and not a sign of good things to come as they try to actually work out a jobs plan, which as you point out is the main theme here going forward.

SESAY: Yes, indeed.

Paul, I have got to ask you this. Does it make the president look weak, though?

BEGALA: Well, yes, but until the speech comes. If the speech is strong, the president will look strong.

This little tit for tat today, Jessica Yellin of course has it exactly right. She's a terrific reporter. It's classic sort of miscommunication. It is the sort of thing that has never happened in my memory. I used to work for the House majority leader, who was a Democrat, when we had a Republican president and I worked for a Democratic president with a Republican speaker. And you work these things out.

The fact that the speaker right away kind of went to the airwaves and the fact that apparently the president's staff didn't carefully vet the date with the speaker, it really is a shame. It's going to be a great football game, but hopefully the president can get his jobs speech in before kickoff.

SESAY: Erick Erickson, to Jessica's point that it doesn't bode well ahead of this jobs plan, isn't this exactly what American people are sick of, this bickering and the lack of bipartisanship in Washington?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Yes, they are sick of it. I think they're sick of politicians in Washington flat out giving speeches now, regardless of party.

I think people are kind of tired of the speeches. And, yes, I completely agree with Jessica and Paul both on this, that it is kind of a silly affair. There have been these incidents in the past. The last one I could find was actually Woodrow Wilson back in 19-teens who had given an address to Congress in January, February, March, and April of 1914.

And I think Congress had enough of him and didn't want to schedule anymore, but it hadn't happened since then. These things happen. So he goes Wednesday night on the Republican debate or he goes Thursday night. You don't just have the NFL. You have got Oklahoma-Arizona, which I will be watching.

SESAY: That's where your attention will be.

Jessica, any more details forthcoming on the speech itself, what's in this plan? YELLIN: Well, they're being very closely held. But people who have been in consultation with the White House have made it quite clear and I'm given to believe that we will hear a lot about a payroll tax cut extension, which is an employee payroll tax cut, also a tax break to possibly employers who hire, who create new jobs, maybe even an additional could be tax break to people who hire the long-term unemployed, folks who maybe have been out of work for six months or longer. That could be in there.

A lot of people think it could also include for example money to renovate dilapidated schools or even money to bring low-income housing up to energy efficiency standards and create new ways for private funding to get into infrastructure investments in cities and states.

All of these are ideas that they have talked to outside policy- makers about, and a lot of people think could show up in the speech in one way or another.

SESAY: Paul, the question is, it is -- ultimately it's a big night. It's opening night of the NFL. You have heard what at least the insight Jessica's getting about what's in the speech. Will the American people be up for listening to it?

BEGALA: Well, it may well be -- and actually Erick makes a great point. The college football game might even be better, Oklahoma and Arizona.


BEGALA: There's this great passage of Scripture: Man meant it for ill, but God meant it for good. In other words, sometimes good things can happen even if people have bad intentions.

And I think the speaker and the president have sort of both stumbled here. Maybe though the good news is more people will watch and there'll be a heightened expectation on producing a serious jobs program for this country. Let's hope the president produces something that is big and bold and will make a difference, and let's hope the Congress passes it. So maybe some good will come out of all this controversy.

SESAY: Erick, is that how you see it?

ERICKSON: Yes, maybe so, I just -- I have got this sneaking suspicion that the American people are really done with the speeches. And it doesn't matter which political party. I think they're really done with the speeches. They're done with the bickering. They're done with the arguing over FEMA funding.

They just want either Washington to do something or Washington to get out of the way and let them do something. And I'm not really sure how many people will tune in on Thursday night.

SESAY: Low expectations.

Jess, is the White House feeling pressure of expectations? I mean, we're talking about this NFL game. But, I mean, what's your sense from them?

YELLIN: Well, there's no doubt. This is a different kind of speech. It's not about talking to the American people as much as it is laying out -- I mean they want to get their message out, but it's laying out for Congress a clear plan, very specific, saying, here is my proposal from the White House. Now it's your turn to act.

And so they're taking it directly to Congress. They are going there because it's his one shot at sort of delivering the message to Congress. And then it's up to Congress to sort of take it, leave it, take pieces of it. It's really out of the president's hands beyond that.

And after months of hearing criticism that president's not been specific enough on issues, here's a night when there are very high expectations that he better be very, very specific. So they do know that there's a lot of anticipation for this. And the pressure is on for him to deliver.

SESAY: Yes, indeed, because although you made the point it is of course about Congress, he is aware of the wider audience of people looking for the president to get out in front here.

YELLIN: Yes, absolutely, and a prime-time audience, too, most likely. We have yet to see what time it is. They have not yet said what time it will actually happen on Thursday night.

SESAY: And why is that? Is that just...


YELLIN: They still have to figure it out. And then there's the NFL game. So they have to figure out the timing vis-a-vis when the game kicks off. And I'm sure Paul and Erick could explain it all to us.


SESAY: I'm sure they could. But I think we will pass on that.


SESAY: Jessica Yellin, Erick Erickson and Paul Begala, thank you to all of you. Appreciate it -- now back to Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead on "360": Moammar Gadhafi's sons are speaking out as a do-or-die deadline approaches for their father's ancestral city. They're not backing down, at least not verbally -- the latest from Tripoli tonight.

Plus, new developments in Aruba where the search for the American missing, the missing woman goes on -- why the key suspect, this man right here, Gary Giordano, won't be going home to Maryland any time soon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, in Libya now, 11 days after opposition forces stormed the capital and captured Muammar Gadhafi's compound, they're poised tonight about 60 miles outside Sirte. They've given the city until Saturday to surrender or face attack. Gadhafi's whereabouts, however, remain a mystery.

Two of his sons, though, are speaking out today. One of them defiantly, some might even say delusionally. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi told a Syrian TV station, quote, "We will have victory soon." He said he was speaking from a suburb of Tripoli. He didn't reveal where his father is, but listen to what he did say.


SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, GADHAFI'S SON (through translator): The leader is fine, and we are fighting. And we're drinking tea and coffee, and we are sitting with our families. And we are fighting."


COOPER: Saif Gadhafi called for fellow Libyans to rise up against the, quote, "gangsters"; quote, "rats"; quote, "mercenaries" attempting to wrest control of his country.

Quote, "Wherever you see the enemy attack them. They are weak. They have suffered lots of losses, and they are now licking their wounds." He predicted loyalist forces would keep control of Sirte and also retake Tripoli's Green Square.

His brother Saadi's comments were a bit more restrained, though he suggested there's room to negotiate with opposition forces.

Nic Robertson joins me now from Tripoli.

Nic, we heard from Saif Gadhafi when he phoned into that Syrian television station. He seemed to insist that his father was still alive and well. Have there any credible reports about where he may be?

Nic, can you hear me?

Clearly, we're having some trouble getting in touch with Nic. We'll try to check in with him in a moment. Let's check in with Isha Sesay. She's got other stories in the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a grim report from Amnesty International. The human rights group said it has documented the deaths of at least 88 detainees in Syria during the five-month uprising against the government. According to the report, at least 52 of the victims' bodies showed evidence of torture. All of the victims were male. Some as young as 13.

Growing tensions in Bahrain. Protesters say a 14-year-old boy was killed by police today. Witnesses said officers fired a tear gas round directly at the child during clashes with protesters. Former NBA guard Javaris Crittenton will be returned to Georgia to face a murder charge in the death of an Atlanta mother. He waived his right to fight extradition today. Crittenton was arrested Monday in California on a fugitive warrant.

And a settlement between Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva. Gibson has agreed to pay his ex-girlfriend $750,000 and share time with their young daughter. And thankfully, the agreement also requires both parties to not speak about each other publicly.

COOPER: Probably a wise idea there.

Time now for "The Shot." Hip-hop power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce are expecting. They broke the news, as you know, at the MTV Video Music Awards. And now their baby to be has its own animation, thanks to MMA-TV. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)


COOPER: Discussing what to name the baby. I don't know.

SESAY: I don't know.

COOPER: I don't know how they come up with this stuff there.

We're going to try and get in touch with Nic Robertson after the break. Also coming up, the latest on the case of the missing American woman in Aruba. The decision today on whether her traveling partner, Gary Giordano, the suspect in the case, the main care, is actually going to be released from custody or if he'll be held for two more months. We're going to get the latest from Martin Savidge from Aruba.

Also, Tropical Storm Katia may soon become Hurricane Katia. That's the word from the National Hurricane Center tonight. We'll have the latest on the storm.


COOPER: We are back. We've established communication with Nic Robertson in Tripoli.

Nic, we heard from one of Gadhafi's sons, Saif, when he phoned into a Syrian television station and he certainly seemed to insist that his father was still alive and well. Any credible information as to where Gadhafi may be?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's none. And I think already Saif discredited himself by saying that he was in a suburb of Tripoli, because I don't think anyone here believes that. It's sort of hard to imagine how he could -- how that would be actually possible. He talked about there being 20,000 troops loyal to -- loyal to his father in the town of Sirte that the rebels have surrounded at the moment. That sounds like an outlandish figure, as well.

So there's a lot in there that didn't really add up, and certainly, what he had to say about his father, I don't think that has anyone particularly convinced. So we know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) where he is now, Anderson.

COOPER: The National Transitional Council issued an ultimatum yesterday for loyalist towns to surrender by Saturday. Saif is saying they're willing to defend those towns. Sirte, which was obviously where his father is from.

I mean, is the -- A, do you think they're going to defend that town and, B, do you really think the National Transitional Council is going to attack it? Because we've often heard, you know, misleading reports from both sides.

ROBERTSON: You know, the evidence on the ground is that the National Transitional Council is massing a rebel force outside of Sirte and they do intend to go there. They have to capture it. It's part of the sort of key strategic coastal highway. They have to get to the highway. Then they can start pushing south. There's another town on the coast they have to capture, too. So that's important. And they do intend to do that.

The other town that Saif talked about also -- also sort of giving the -- thumbing their nose at the National Transitional Council. Now some think maybe Muammar Gadhafi or at least Saif and other members of the family may be in that town. Maybe no one sure. Rebels also gave that until Saturday.

But now Saif has said, "Look, go ahead and attack now." It's anyone's bet when the NTC will actually lead the advance on these towns here, Anderson.

COOPER: And you're in direct correspondence with another one of Gadhafi's sons, Saadi, online through e-mails. He seemed to go back on something he told you earlier before, which is that he's no longer willing to negotiate with opposition forces. Why do you think there's that change?

COOPER: I think what's happening here is -- And I think what he said on television was -- was consistent with what I was hearing in e- mails.

The way that the National Transitional Council had tried to play what he was saying by saying that he was trying to negotiate a surrender. What he said he's willing to do is to negotiate with and talk to National Transitional Council military commanders. He's not willing to surrender, but he is willing to talk to them about a cease- fire.

I mean, what I -- what I take away from all this from his sons, from Saif and Saadi speaking at the same time, their first public broadcast with a completely divergent message. Saadi has always remained through all of this loyal to his brother, loyal to his father, and gone along with them. He's various times told to shut up and stay in the corner and now speaking his mind saying something different.

I think we're seeing the first fractures come from within the family. I think this is an indication that, at least for his part, Saudi's part, he's trying to look to the future about what he's going to do. And he's perceived a weaker link in the chain compared to the rest of the family. I think that's what's happening here.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, appreciate it. Stay safe, Nic.

"Crime & Punishment" next, In the Aruba mystery, the American man being held in addition with the disappearance of an American woman there is not free to go yet.

A magistrate in Aruba has decided that Gary Giordano could be held for another 60 days there. There was a possibility he could be released today. Giordano says he was snorkeling with Robyn Gardner, that she was swept out to sea on August 2.

There have been troubling questions, though, about his story, especially after he told authorities that he's the beneficiary of a $1.5 million insurance policy he took out on Gardner.

Martin Savidge joins us tonight now live from Aruba with the latest. So Giordano has to stay in jail for another 60 days. Did the court elaborate on the decision at all?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. We didn't get any elaboration whatsoever. I mean, the judge essentially threw the book at him so we were expecting that there would be some explanation as to what it was the judge heard or saw, but instead there was none. The only thing we did get from court observers was the fact that this was the hearing that took place at about 9 a.m. in the morning.

The answer from the judge didn't come until 4:15 in the afternoon. Those who follow the legal system here say when it comes to a detainment hearing, they've never heard of it taking that long for a judge to decide. That's some insight we don't know.

COOPER: I don't understand under Aruban law, which I guess is Dutch law if I'm not wrong, they can just continually hold him and then kind of have hearings and then decide to hold him even longer?

SAVIDGE: Well, in theory, it's not supposed to be so capricious where they just say, "Oh, we'd like to keep him longer." And judge says that's fine, thank you.

No the way it's supposed to work is that every time you go before the detainment judge, then the level of witness and the level of evidence you have to provide is that much higher.

So in essence they were going for 60 days. That meant that they should have had to have provided the judge some very clear proof, some very good persuasive argument as to why Gary Giordano needs to be held and where their investigation is going. Did they do that? We don't know. Because it was a closed proceeding. But in theory, that's how it's supposed to be. So we would assume that's how it happened.

COOPER: Marty, I want to bring into this conversation Jean Casarez. She's a correspondent with "In Session" on TruTV. She joins me right now in New York. Aruban authorities, I mean you were saying, you believe have got to be feeling an awful lot of pressure, given the Natalee Holloway case.

JEAN CASAREZ, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": Two women missing. No bodies. And they don't want to repeat what they've done before. But the fact is, you know, when I was in Aruba last fall because they had found a jaw bone. They thought it was Natalee Holloway. I'd just pressed him about why didn't you file murder charges against Joran Van Der Sloot. He said, "We didn't have a body. That's why we didn't do it." They don't have a body here.

COOPER: Right. And that's obviously raising all sorts of questions, in fact. You know, again, the comparison of the fact that there is no body here. And it makes, obviously, the case -- how -- can they just keep holding him? I mean, unless they -- if they -- if they don't find a body, can they still go ahead with charges if there's not a lot of evidence on the beach?

CASAREZ: Well, that will be determined. You know, it's very difficult when you don't have a body. What else do they have forensically? We don't know as Martin has said. It's very secretive there.

But the fact is they're continuing to hold him. They didn't do that with Joran Van Der Sloot. They kept letting him go and letting him go and then rearresting him. There's also, I think, a risk of flight here. But as Martin has said earlier today, at the end of the 60 days, they've got to press charges if they want this to go forward or release him and he'll fly back to the U.S.

COOPER: So at the end of 60 days, Martin -- he could just pick up and leave the island if he's not charged?

SAVIDGE: Well, in theory, yes. He could walk out the front gate. His lawyer would be waiting there to pick him up and they would head off to the airport and he would hop the next flight back to the United States.

It is possible, I'm told, that the prosecution might ask for an additional 30 days. But look, if they get that far, they'd better be ready to go to trial. And the question is do they really have enough at this point or in 60 days to go to trial?

COOPER: Jean, if he is released and he came back to the United States, could he be charged here?

CASAREZ: That's a good question. You know, U.S. officials were never able to charge Joran Van Der Sloot in the death of Natalee Holloway. She was an American girl. This is an American girl. But the FBI is helping Aruban authorities. Now, they didn't do that. They weren't asked to do that with Natalee Holloway. With the text messages, with phone records. Are there anything that could provide charges on American soil? And what about that life insurance policy? He was the beneficiary. Admitted 1.25. Fraudulently obtained that? U.S. Officials could determine that, I think.

COOPER: On that insurance policy, she would have had to know about it, right?

CASAREZ: Right. This is a result of a conversation I had with American Express. They said you cannot just take a policy out on somebody. You're the beneficiary and they never even know that their life was literally on the line.

She would have had to have signed a document that says, "I allow for Gary Giordano to be the beneficiary if something were to happen to me." The question here, though, that's been raised is did she know what she was signing or perhaps did somebody forge that signature?

No proof of anything like that, but the question has been raised, did she really know what documents she was signing? .

COOPER: What is the legal system like and the law enforcement system like in Aruba, Jean? You've been down there. Is it -- are they up to a big investigation?

CASAREZ: That's a good question. I mean, they work with the Hague. They work with the Dutch authorities. These are not Aruban officials. They are from Holland, and they are circulated and appointed to serve in Aruba.

That jaw bone that washed up on the shore. It was human last fall. It wasn't Natalee Holloway's but it was human. And I could tell that they just really weren't aggressively wanting to find out whose human being jaw bone that was. That was a person that died, and no one knows who it was.

COOPER: Jean Casarez, appreciate it.

Martin Savidge, appreciate the reporting in Aruba. Martin, thanks.

Up next, Tropical Storm Katia gaining strength, expected to become a hurricane within hours. We'll have the latest on its path.

Plus, why Prince Harry will be heading to America this fall.

And Snooki's latest wild moment in front of the cameras. It lands all of the networks on the "RidicuList," because they have missed an opportunity. And yes, I include CNN and MSNBC and all those other folks in on that. We'll be right back.


SESAY: Anderson is back with the "RidicuList" in just a moment. First, this "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Tropical Storm Katia will likely become a hurricane within hours. Right now it's just short of hurricane status with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour. But early Sunday the National Hurricane Center expects Katia to become a major hurricane with winds topping 110 miles per hour. But it's too early to tell if it will hit land

Firefighters are having a tough time battling a wildfire in northern Texas. About 7,500 acres have burned about 50 miles northwest of Dallas Fort Worth. At least 39 other homes have been destroyed by the flames

Also in Texas, polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has been upgraded from critical to serious condition. The decision was made before he was flown from a medical center in Tyler to a prison hospital in Galveston. The convict child rapist fell ill earlier this week while fasting in prison

The Justice Department has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against AT&T to block a proposed merger with T-mobile. The deal would create the largest wireless company in the U.S. The government says that would leave just two companies, the merged AT&T and Verizon wireless dominating more than 75 percent of the wireless industry.

Former baseball star Barry Bonds won't face retrial on perjury charges. Federal prosecutors filed a notice of dismissal of the charges today. In April, a jury convicted Bonds on a single count of obstructing a grand jury probe into illegal use of performance- enhancing drugs. But the jury couldn't reach a verdict on three perjury counts. Bonds is facing up to ten years in prison when he's sentenced on the obstruction conviction in December.

And tennis star Venus Williams has dropped out of the U.S. Open, saying she's been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain. Now back to Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, Snooki is trying out for a new line of work. And like everything else she does, she's really, really good at it. Watch out, Diane Sawyer. You have some stiff competition coming up.

And the networks? They're on our RidicuList because of it. We'll explain.


COOPER: Time now for the "RidicuList." And tonight we are adding CNN, FOX, MSNBC, HLN, ABC, CBS, NBC, pretty much every major news station that's out there. That's right, I'm going there. Because frankly they have all missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

They put people like Diane Sawyer, people like your Brian Williams and me behind the anchor desk when they could have gone in a much different direction. A tiny, tan, poofy-haired, muscle-loving direction.

NICOLE "SNOOKI" POLIZZI, REALITY TV STAR: Welcome to the news according to Snooki.

COOPER: Now, I have always known that Snooki is a renaissance woman. She's so much more than what you see on "the Jersey Shore". Yes, she drinks, she parties and smooshes but she also philosophizes. She also writes best-selling books. She also holds the key to my heart. So I, for one, am not at all surprised to see that Snooki counts anchoring the news among her myriad of talents.


POLIZZI: I've always wanted to be an anchor woman. And hello, I look hot doing it.


COOPER: I know what you're thinking: she's no Ann Curry. But you know what? You need to give it a chance. Because the news according to Snooki has something for everyone.

She covers the important current events like Hurricane Irene knocking out power in the northeast.

POLIZZI: When you're powerless, you can't like straighten your hair, blow dry your hair, go on Twitter, go on Facebook. You can't do anything. You can't talk on the phone. You just sit there and do nothing. You can't even watch TV.

COOPER: Believe me, Snooki. I know what it's like to be powerless. Powerless against your charms.

She covers all the important environmental issues like global warming.


POLIZZI: Every time I go down to seaside I'm sweaty in places I've never sweated before. So obviously, the sun is coming closer to earth.


COOPER: Me, too.

She covers medical news with the aplomb with a really buzzed, pint-sized Sanjay Gupta.


POLIZZI: The surgeon general calls for health over hair. What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) does this one mean?


COOPER: That's actually not a lot of spray for an anchor.

She's not afraid to show the lighter side of the news. Take it away, Wolf Blitzer.


POLIZZI: A Montana dog becomes a local celebrity for his math skills. Supposedly this dog can add, subject. I don't believe that. I mean, I have a dog of my own, and she can't even walk straight. I mean, I can't even do math, really. So let's get real with that fake story.


COOPER: I don't believe that about the dog, either. Snooki keeping them honest. I'm so proud. She even covers news from galaxies far, far away.


POLIZZI: Obviously, aliens do exist. I've seen spaceships in the air before and I've been abducted by aliens before, because I'm like, "Oh, my God. What happened?" And I wake up the next day and I'm like OK, I remember being at the club but I don't remember getting home or whatever. So obviously they're real.


COOPER: You know what I think heaven is like? I think it's like curling up for eternity in a big fluffy cloud made entirely of Snooki logic.

Well, of course, all the ground-breaking news anchors have memorable tag lines: "That's the way it is. Good night and good luck. Stay classy, San Diego." All pale in comparison to what our little Cutie Couric has come up with.


POLIZZI: Later, bitches.


COOPER: Your loss, every news station in the world. Your loss. You may never know the audience you could have attracted with Snooki on your side, but you're still getting great ratings on "The RidicuList."

That's it for 360. Thanks for watching. "JOHN KING USA" starts now. See you tomorrow.