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CAMPBELL BROWN

BP's Next Step?; Oil Spill Outrage

Aired June 7, 2010 - 20:00   ET

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


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, everybody.

This is day 49 of the disaster in the Gulf. And here is where we stand right now, at least a little bit of good news tonight. The containment cap that BP installed Friday does appear to be working. The president's point man in the Gulf, Admiral Thad Allen, said today the amount of crude being captured has nearly doubled, up to 466,000 gallons a day.

But oil continues to wash up on beaches from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. A sheen on the surface can be seen as far as 150 miles west of Tampa. And President Obama warned today the broken well will continue to spew oil for months. But with growing worry about how much of that newly captured oil they can pump on to container ships, the questions remain. The company's efforts, are they simply too little too late?

And in a sign of just how much anger there is about the continuing disaster, a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll found 69 percent give the government's response a failing grade. And that is worse than the grade the Bush administration received after Hurricane Katrina.

Tonight, I will talk to one local official who has seen the cleanup for himself and says it is not doing the job.

But we're going to begin tonight with what is obviously our number-one story, no surprise. It is about anger, anger about the oil, anger at the very top of the government. Listen to what President Obama told NBC's Matt Lauer late today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago, I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain, talking about what a potential crisis this could be.

And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Very strong words from the president. But on the very day we got our first glimmers of good news on BP's containment efforts, there are questions tonight about just how much oil BP ships can actually handle.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Destin, Florida, with more on that for us.

Jim, what do we know?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, what we know right now is that, according to estimates from BP and the federal government, that new containment cap, as you mentioned, is working.

It has so far removed about 466,000 gallons of oil from the Deepwater Horizon site, that gusher there, since that cap was put in place. That is roughly half of the 800,000 gallons of oil that's believed to be gushing into the Gulf every day. Of course, that is according to BP and federal government estimates.

But Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commander, the admiral who is in charge of this cleanup and catastrophe out there in the Gulf, he gave a briefing earlier today and said that a new craft is heading to the area soon, an indication that that craft in the area that is suctioning that oil out right now is not getting all of it out of there.

But this new craft that is coming in could potentially double the amount of oil that's coming out of that containment cap.

Here's Admiral Allen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: BP anticipates moving another craft in that can actually handle additional production. And the combination of these two -- the vessel is actually called a Q4000 -- combined will have a production capability of about 20,000 barrels a day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And BP does expect next month to put in a new replacement cap, Campbell. It is supposed to have a tighter, better fit and potentially remove more oil. All of that, of course, is going to be subject to how things proceed in terms of that procedure, because, obviously, it took several procedures to get this containment cap, the right containment cap, on to the gusher as it stands now.

And that's going to be good news if it does work. That next cap and this next tanker, if those two developments, you know, bring about a change in the amount of oil that's coming out of that gusher, that's going to be good news to the folks along the Gulf, especially here in the Panhandle of Florida, where they are very worried about their pristine white beaches here -- Campbell.

BROWN: I'm sure they are. Jim Acosta for us tonight -- Jim, thanks very much. And as you heard Jim talking about there, one of the biggest problems BP and the government face is that nobody knows for sure exactly how much oil is still gushing out of that well.

Today, Admiral Allen said estimates range from 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day. And, right now, BP may not have the capacity to process all the oil they are, in fact, capturing. So, how can that be on day 49? Is this company just totally unprepared to deal with this?

And here to talk about us that is CNN political contributor James Carville, historian Douglas Brinkley, and Eric Smith of Tulane University's Energy Center. And we should mention that Eric worked in the drilling and construction industry for 35 years for companies like Shell tonight.

James, let me start with you, though.

The good news here, as Jim Acosta told us, is that they are collecting more and more oil each day. The bad news, there is a limit apparently to what the drill ship that's collecting the oil can actually process. And it's not like BP, the government didn't have a heads up on this equipment and that it would be needed, right? How does this happen?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I -- you know, honestly, you have got to ask BP. And you have got to ask why we -- you can certainly ask the government why we permitted this when there was no sort of plan and BP said that, you know, it is unlikely to happen, that they really didn't need one.

And the plan that they submitted had stuff that was applicable to Alaska and they had supplies come in from Japan. I have no idea. It's literally an outrage that this happened. And it continues. And, thus, it continues. And that's just the situation that's been since this get-go. It's just an awful thing.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But it's that -- I think that's what I'm getting at, is this frustration that we keep seeing these mistakes repeated over and over again, it feels like.

CARVILLE: Well, but let's give -- these engineers, obviously, have worked real hard. This is some good news. We haven't had any in this thing.

And everything that we have gotten has been constantly, constantly at 1,000 barrels or 5,000. There is an article coming out in "Rolling Stone" tomorrow. As I understand, the gentleman that wrote it said that BP knew about this from the get-go.

The government had the tape. They had the information on day four, according to Admiral Allen and Tony Hayward. So, we're going to find out more as this -- as this thing unfolds. But I would give credit to some of these people that at least we're getting some of this oil now. That's got to be something on the line of the precious little good news we have gotten. We got a little bit today.

BROWN: Absolutely. A very fair point.

I do want to drill down on this a little bit, though.

And, Eric, let me bring this to you, because it's no secret that Discover Enterprise can only process 15,000 barrels a day. It's on BP's Web site. I think we can show you the page there. And I guess my question is, couldn't they have had two vessels be in place and be ready to go before they tried this maneuver, and that would have doubled the amount theoretically I guess they could take on? And why wouldn't they have done that?

ERIC SMITH, TULANE ENERGY INSTITUTE: Well, I think the first thing to recognize is that there are two vessels on site that they're talking about. The Q4000 is the big red semi that's floating right next to the existing drill ship, the Enterprise.

The Enterprise was designed to do extended well tests. So, that's why it has 15,000 barrels of day of processing. And to date, the most they have been able to process is 11,000 barrels. It's not that vessel doesn't have storage capacity or power or anything else. It's just it was designed to handle flow that's were 15,000 or less.

What they -- I think they're talking about is using the Q4000 with this choke and kill line suction system to process another 5,000 barrels on top of that.

BROWN: But, again...

SMITH: They don't need to mobilize another vessel to the site.

BROWN: But I guess that's my question...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: ... is, they knew ahead of time the amount involved, so why not, in advance, have the ships or the vessels on site and ready to go?

SMITH: Well, that's a good question.

The -- the only vessels that have that kind of processing technology are the drill ships. The semi-subs don't have that capability. So, other than the Q4000, they have several other drill ships under charter to them in the Gulf that, if they can free them up from an existing project, they can move them over to supplement that capacity.

BROWN: So...

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: They're also talking about adding other vessels as well.

BROWN: Let me get your take on this, Doug. Am I being fair here? I mean, it would seem like you would free up anything and everything you have, and every other oil company would, too, to try to address this problem.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You're being completely fair. It's just another example of BP taking shortcuts, not thinking this through, not being prepared for an environmental disaster of this magnitude.

Nobody's running the henhouse. Some people are -- are trying to do the best they can. I don't see today as the -- that much great news. I'm looking at this as the largest environmental disaster in American history. And the wetlands of Louisiana are getting destroyed right now.

Every moment while we have been talking, the situation in the Gulf gets worse. There is still more oil pouring out. And we don't need to -- you just do the split-screen, you can see the oil still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

The potential good news here is that maybe the Florida beaches and the Panhandle and some of the area along the Florida Gulf Coast might be able to be spared if some of this gets captured.

But it gets back to a point that, on CNN, particularly David Gergen and I have both been making. There seems to me to be a need for a different kind of command structure down there. Why isn't somebody on BP? For, if this works, let's get -- maximize this potential with the tankers, instead of having yet another kind of setback, where you even have to raise, Campbell, the questions that you have just raised.

BROWN: So, James, do you agree with that? I mean, you have been -- I know you have been spending a lot of time with a lot of folks down in Louisiana at the local level. And they have voiced a lot of frustration about the....

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Frustration is an understatement, fairly.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Yes, this is a catastrophe.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But, I mean their frustration...

CARVILLE: We're like a war. We're being invaded.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But I'm being specific about their frustration and their anger with the federal government and just the point that Doug was making about the command structure not being able to address these issues. CARVILLE: Well, there was no -- there should -- the permitting process, they were completely let down by the entire permitting process. This agency had become totally corrupted in the Bush administration, and I suspect by design, as much as anything else.

And so this thing gets a permit. There's no plan in place. There's no anything. And all we get throughout this thing, as Doug can document, is one piece of misinformation after another. And so people feel like that they -- that they have totally been under sort of assault. And there's a great deal of concern, justifiably and understandably so, and this being another example that you bring up.

This is a -- this is a catastrophe of the first order that is going on here. And it's going to go on and on for a while.

BROWN: Right.

CARVILLE: And every time, you know, and the thing that really -- that concerns me the most is, you look what Chevron did in Ecuador, they just left those people high and dry. You look at what Exxon did in Alaska, they -- 20 years of litigation. They lawyered that thing to death and then got out of there.

And if we don't stay vigilant in Louisiana, they are going to do the same thing to us.

BROWN: Well said by James Carville. And it's a feeling that so many people share.

Doug, I know you, too.

Gentlemen, to all of you, Mr. Smith as well, appreciate you all being with us tonight.

And James said it, people losing patience, running out of time to save their communities. And we have some very dramatic video of local officials getting in the face of a BP executive. That is coming up.

Plus, a dramatic new interview with survivors of the oil rig blast -- Anderson Cooper with their stories piecing together the timeline of a catastrophe -- right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Thursday at the White House, President Obama will meet with the families of the 11 men who died aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig -- 111 others made it out alive and are still recovering.

And tonight, in a CNN exclusive, Anderson Cooper sits down with five of them, the first time a group of survivors has come together to speak publicly about what they went through.

And Anderson is joining me right now from New Orleans.

And, Anderson, this had to have been a very emotional interview. What did they tell you? ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Yes, it was difficult for all of them.

We have been trying to piece together exactly what happened on that rig, both on the night it -- the rig went down, but also in the days and in some cases weeks before that led to this disaster. So, we're trying to talk to as many people as possible.

As you said, we gathered five survivors together. And they really explained in excruciating detail what it was like from the first explosion, and there were multiple explosions, as you will hear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So you heard that third explosion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Yes. You heard it and felt it. I mean, it was like -- I mean, it was like being in a car accident, because you're shaking and the whole rig is moving. And, you know, things are falling down and you're hearing people screaming and yelling. It is complete pandemonium.

COOPER: What was the scene like at the lifeboat when you got there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was insane. I mean, people were just jumping in the lifeboats. There was other people -- because there's two lifeboats side by side. And you're assigned to each one.

COOPER: And each life boat fit about 75 people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but people were just running and jumping in them. And, you know, it's dark. You know, people were screaming and yelling. And we just got on the lifeboat. And, I mean, it was even worse. I mean, that was probably the worst part of it, was being in the lifeboat.

COOPER: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it was just -- it's like you are almost waiting to die, because it felt like it too so long for everybody to get on.

And there's people screaming, you know: Put it in the water. Let's go. And it's filling up with smoke. And you can feel the heat from the fire. In fact, one of the guys that was on the lifeboat, he actually -- he panicked so much that he got up out of the lifeboat and then jumped overboard.

COOPER: And what was it like sitting and waiting for the others to come, and waiting for it to get lowered?

MATTHEW JACOBS, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: We were just screaming, you know, to everybody, get on a boat. Get on a boat.

And I remember another explosion. And when it exploded, the lifeboat free-fell for about three foot, and then just stopped all of a sudden. I was scared to death sitting there in that lifeboat. I said, I done made it out of my room, and out of the living quarters, and here I am on a lifeboat that's supposed to help get me off this rig, and I'm going to wind up dying on this lifeboat. And I just I started praying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And you have to remember they said the electricity had gone out, so it was completely dark inside the rig. The only light really was from -- from the huge flames that had engulfed the rig, which they said were simply too big to put out.

BROWN: And, Anderson, I know you spent a lot of time with these survivors. I guess if there's one thing they really want people to take away from this, to know about their experience, what is it?

COOPER: Well, I think all of them feel that, in all the coverage so far, a lot -- that attention hasn't been -- enough attention hasn't been placed on the 11 men who lost their lives on board that rig.

And they really want people to know who these men were, what kind of men they were and what actually happened to them. And so we talk a lot about that in the interview as well -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Anderson.

We should tell everyone, stay tuned to CNN. Anderson is going to have a whole lot more with those survivors tonight on "A.C. 360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, right here.

And, later, another exclusive: inside the oil spill war room, where the enemy looms larger and larger by the second. See for yourself where the most important decisions are being made in the fight to try to save the Gulf. That is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Every night, we have been sharing with you a lot of the anger and frustration over BP's response to the oil spill. And you have been hearing the pleas of those who lead the cities, the towns, the parishes along the Gulf Coast.

Well, over the weekend, BP heard from them, too, whether the oil giant wanted to hear it or not. And take a look at this exchange, as two mayors confronted a BP senior vice president during a briefing on Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB FRYAR, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, BP: The dispersants have been -- you know, they have been quite effect for us.

ROBERT CRAFT, MAYOR OF GULF SHORES, ALABAMA: I'm the mayor of Gulf Shores. And I don't know who represents you in our community, but I would love to have one of your guys (OFF-MIKE) if you had time to go down and look at our beaches and tell me that what you see is effective and is working.

FRYAR: Well, Mayor, I know your frustration. These are -- these are beaches that, for 10 years, I came to this very place and Gulf Shores, and I vacationed here.

TONY KENNON, MAYOR OF ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA: If you sensed our frustration, you would have been here a lot sooner. We have been asking for a senior BP official for four-and-a-half weeks to come sit down and visit with us.

You show up today. We don't even know you're coming. So, what you say and what you do, Mr. Fryar, with all due respect, are two different things.

I don't care how much money BP has to spend. I want the resources here to handle any situation. I don't care what it is. That is their job. They're not doing a -- us a favor by cleaning this mess up. That is the least I expect from BP.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And one of the most outspoken local officials, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Councilman Chris Roberts, has been a regular guest on this program throughout the crisis. And he is back with us once again tonight from New Orleans.

And, Chris, you heard those two mayors talking right there from the Pensacola or Gulf Shores area. Is it the same story with you?

CHRIS ROBERTS, JEFFERSON PARISH, LOUISIANA, COUNCILMAN: It is. We have dealt with the same issues. We have gotten the same roadblocks.

We requested assets a long time ago. You know, we have been in this fight now for 46 days-plus, and it's just very unfortunate that it seems to me that the same situation is playing out all over the Gulf Coast.

BROWN: You took this boat tour today, I know. I want you to tell me a little bit about it. The governor was also -- Bobby Jindal was also out on a separate boat tour. I know you guys have been scouring the area. Tell me what you saw.

ROBERTS: Well, there's a lot of soiled marshland, a lot of oil that's come inland.

The fact that we have waited so long to block these passes and get approval from BP to do so has left oil coming into our estuaries. We saw pelicans that had oil on them. We saw other wildlife that had been impacted. We took a tour around Queen Bess, which is the state's nesting ground for pelicans.

That entire island is covered in oil. It's very unfortunate, because, had some of these steps been taken early on, when we requested them, then this would not be the case. BROWN: And some of the oil washing up on shore, I know, but the rest sort of pool of oil I guess is being contained right now off a shore. But it's a lot closer to the coastline than people might think, isn't it?

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

And that's why it's so important for anyone who works for BP to come out and see firsthand in a boat what we're seeing. You can't fly over in a helicopter in a plane and assume that you're going to be able to get a grasp of how deep the impact is in our marshlands.

We have oil that's just south of the community of the town of Jean Lafitte, where Mayor Kerner represents, and it's about six miles south of Lafitte. Now, that's far inland. That's about 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. That's north of Grand Isle.

So, this oil that hit Grand Isle has gotten into Barataria Bay, got into our estuaries, and is now threatening areas that are much further inland. And, unfortunately, there are not enough skimmers out there. The boom, we're short on. We have been asking for 20,000 of boom now for over a week. We got a phone call indicating that that was coming today.

And the boom, quite frankly, works better inland than it does out on the shoreline. So, this is the area where we should have been focusing on getting boom out early on.

BROWN: So, I know you went out with one of our producers to -- to -- around Grand Isle, Elmer's Island, over the weekend to look at their cleanup efforts. Tell us what it looked like to you, what you were trying to find out. And do you see progress at all?

ROBERTS: Well, there was a lot of beach that certainly had oil on it. There was a lot of debris that had washed up. There was some wildlife that had washed up.

While we were there on Elmer's Island, there were workers there. While we were there, they were on break. I don't know that it was maybe just coincidental at the time that we showed up, but there wasn't much work going on at the time.

However, we went back out again today. There was some work going on. But I can tell you, Campbell, we were detained there on Grand Isle today because there was a decon unit that required that a lot of steps be taken for anyone who was out on the beach.

And based upon how they're dealing with this oil that's on the beach, it causes me to be quite concerned, because the oil is not just on the beach. It's in our marshes. It's very close to homes. It's in -- on boats. It's on other equipment.

And they were concerned about what may be on the bottom of someone's shoes. If that's really how they need to treat it, and that's the extent of the toxicity of this oil, then I'm very concerned about what this means long term for all of our coastal communities. BROWN: And huge -- a huge issue we're going to be talking a whole lot more about.

Listen, Councilman Chris Roberts, really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. I'm sure you will be back on the show many, many more times in the many months ahead.

ROBERTS: Thank you all for keeping this story out there right now.

BROWN: I appreciate it.

ROBERTS: Unfortunately, that -- that looks to be the case.

BROWN: Appreciate your time tonight.

And coming up next, we're going to follow up on just the point he made. The men and women out there cleaning up the Gulf are being exposed to potentially dangerous toxins, not only in the oil, but also in the chemicals that are being used, these dispersants.

And activist Kerry Kennedy went out to find out what was going on. And what she learned is alarming. And she's going to join us in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight, growing outrage over the millions of gallons of chemical dispersants BP is dumping into the gulf. Some local residents insist the chemicals along with the oil are making them violently ill. They say they're nauseated. They've got headaches and breathing problems.

Kerry Kennedy from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has been touring the coast and talking to folks who complain that they are being exposed to a lot of unknown toxins right now. I spoke with her earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Kerry, people who have come in contact with the oil and the dispersants are complaining of nausea, headaches, burning eyes. Talk to me a little bit about your experience when you were touring these gulf communities.

KERRY KENNEDY, RFK CTR. FOR JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Well, that's exactly what we felt. I went out on a boat yesterday into the gulf and all of us were wearing respirators and we had burning eyes and sore throats and a sense of nausea. As far as you could see, all around us the ocean looked like we were at a gas stock -- the slick of oil everywhere with that kind of rainbow color.

BROWN: I know you talked to a lot of people working in this stuff, too. Were they being encouraged to wear rubber gloves, to wear respirators like you did and other kinds of protective gear that might help them? KENNEDY: No. Quite the opposite. We talked to workers who had been told by BP that they didn't need respirators. Apparently, they're concerned about poor media images of people wearing respirators and rubber gloves and starting, quote, "hysteria."

BROWN: We're not just talking about oil as I said before. We're talking about these dispersants they're using as well. And we don't even really know what's in these dispersants. BP is keeping a lot of information proprietary. What have you heard from health care workers about that in particular and how do they go about treating people? Because there have been a lot of complaints of illnesses. People getting -- or feeling really sick who have been working out there.

KENNEDY: Exactly.

BROWN: How are they trying to address this?

KENNEDY: Well, this is an enormous problem because people are getting sick. And the patients, the health care providers cannot properly diagnose what the problems are because BP will not give them the names of the chemicals that are in the dispersants. However, we know that they're the same types of illnesses that people reported in Alaska.

Now, the average lifespan of a person who did cleanup on the Exxon Valdez is 51 years old. Almost all those people who did work on the Exxon Valdez are now dead. And BP still here, once again, is big oil not giving the information to the doctors and health care officials. County nurse was not given permission to go on to the BP property. When she finally did that, the people who work at BP who were coming to see her were only allowed to get band aids and aspirin from her. And they were told that they only could go to the BP doctors if they wanted to get treated.

BROWN: President Obama touched on the health issues in particular in the gulf today. And I want to play this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So far, we have seen that on shore we are not seeing huge elevations in toxins in the air or in the water. But that may not be the case out where people are actually doing the work. And we've got to make sure that we are providing all the protection that are necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Do you think the administration is doing enough to help people get through this?

KENNEDY: Well, I think the administration, frankly, has been incredible in responding to this crisis. But this is BP's crisis. This is -- and BP has had a lot of control of the decision making, particularly in those first few weeks. And they made the decision to use all those dispersants without the consent of the people who are really going to be impacted. No, what President Obama said, of course, is that we haven't seen this kind of health care problems. A lot of those health care problems on shore. Well, the oil has not made it to shore as I said. We were eight miles out yesterday. So that oil, as it comes into shore, I think you're going to be seeing more of those issues.

On the other hand, there's a whole other set of issues that we are seeing a spike in and that's mental health problems. We were told in all three states again and again and again that people are facing depression and, of course, that leads to, as you know, to domestic violence, to divorce, to a spike in crime and to suicide. And we've already heard many reports of concerns about those types of implications.

BROWN: Kerry Kennedy, it's so good to talk to you. We hope you'll come back, too, as you learn more. I know you're spending a lot of time on this. We really appreciate your time tonight.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And when we come back, an exclusive look at the battle to save the gulf inside the nerve center. And this is the war room where they are fighting the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history. We will take you there right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Coming up, frustrated parents take a gamble with the future of their kids. We're going to talk with the creator of the documentary "The Lottery," the jackpot, I guess the decent education. But first, Tom Foreman is here with a look at some of the other stories we're following tonight.

Hey, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Campbell. A brutal day for U.S. forces fighting terrorists in southern Afghanistan. Ten NATO troops were killed. Eight of them are U.S. soldiers. That's an updated number in the past hour. NATO says that makes today the deadliest day for coalition forces in seven months. The U.S. embassy says an American citizen also died in a suicide bombing at a police training center in Kandahar.

In Texas, 10 people are missing, several of them feared dead after a natural gas line blew up 50 miles southwest of Dallas. Workers apparently hit an underground line that sparked a massive fireball. The flames burned for about two hours until the gas supply was cut off. Seven people were hospitalized with severe burns, and tonight investigators are still searching for more victims.

And she's legendary, covering the White House since the Kennedy years, but 89-year-old Helen Thomas abruptly retired today as columnist for Hearst News Service. Thomas caused a furor last week after saying the Jewish people should, quote, "get the hell out of Palestine and return to Germany and Poland." She has since apologized. Thomas was the dean at the White House Press Corps known for her tough questions and her sharp tongue -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Tom Foreman for us tonight. Tom, thanks very much.

And coming up, the dramatic fight to stop one of the worst disasters, environmental disasters in U.S. history. We're going to take you inside the war room. Plus, the battle for a decent education in this country. The link that's some parents will go for the sake of their children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMIL YOANSON: What can I do? I just wait for the lotto. I just put everything in God's hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: The movie called "The Lottery" leads to the ultimate jackpot for these families. The future, that's when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight, a pretty remarkable story about hope and disappointment. This incredible new movie illustrates just how far parents will go to guarantee a better future for their children. And it's called "The Lottery." And it shows what thousands of families went through to win their kids a slot in the Harlem Success Academy Charter School. The film premiers on Friday. And let's watch this clip as three families prepare for the big lottery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to go. It's 4:00. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you God for taking me to school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say please, father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, father, to take me to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to read this, too?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come back again. OK, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grandpa?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Ready to go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Earlier I spoke with Madeleine Sackler who's the producer and director of "The Lottery" and Eva Moskowitz, who's founder of the Success Charter Network. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Eva and Madeleine, welcome to you both. It's great to have you here.

Eva, start us off. You run the Harlem Success Academy. Start us off by explaining just very quickly what the lottery is.

EVA MOSKOWITZ, FOUNDER, SUCCESS CHARTER NETWORK: Well, by law, if you have more people who want to go to your school than you have spots for, you have to hold a random lottery. And we had thousands and thousands of parents who wanted a great education for their kids and so we held a public lottery.

BROWN: And how many spots?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, at the time we only had about 500 spots.

BROWN: And, Madeleine, you know, obviously this is hard on the kids to have to go through this process. But we can't overstate what this means to the family, to the parents in terms of the opportunity. They have in their heads for how their lives will change if the kid gets in. And I just want to play some of the film a little clip that conveys that. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's something else. You know, he's something else. I just wish that he didn't have to go through this. What can I do? I can't tell my wife move on because it's not just about me or her. It's about us and it's about my son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And that's one father talking about his son. I mean, they see this as the only way out for their children, don't they?

MADELEINE SACKLER, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER, "THE LOTTERY": Yes, I mean I think as a parent, nobody understands the stakes of getting a great education better than a child's parents. And I think what's really unfortunate about the situation is that there are so many parents who are just desperate for something better. And there's not even close to enough options for them.

BROWN: Eva, you play a big role in the film. And I want to show a clip of you talking about what's unique about your school, the kind of support that you provide parents that they -- they're not going to get in a public school setting. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOSKOWITZ: What happens if your child doesn't -- if you don't show up on time? What do you think we do? What would really crazy people do who are just totally focused on you getting your kid to school? We do wakeup calls. We will wake you up. If you are late consistently, we will do wakeup calls. We're going to have to work three times as hard. And we do. And we're very, very successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And so not something you might hear from a public school administrator. But talk to me about some of the specific differences between what you are doing and what's happening at a New York public school.

MOSKOWITZ: Well, we don't let children fall through the cracks. No matter what their circumstances are, and we're a title one school which means we serve poorer kids. We just don't let -- we don't accept academic failure. And we don't actually believe that the cause of academic failure is the children. We believe it's the grownups.

BROWN: What your critics say is that you are way too tough on these kids, that you're pushing them too hard and that you're creating conformists, I think is the word I read in a profile about you recently. I mean, how do you address your critics on that?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, I'm a mother of three. I'm a public school parent myself. And I believe deeply that we have to have rigorous education, reading, writing and arithmetic. I'm old fashioned but I also believe in art and music and dance. All of our kids play chess. All of our kids get science five days a week. All of our children get recess, so I don't think we're creating conformists. I actually think we're creating critical thinkers.

BROWN: Madeleine, the teacher's union, fiercely opposed to what's happening at schools like Eva's. You saw this firsthand in the film. Describe it. Describe the antagonism and what was happening?

SACKLER: I mean, there's a lot of controversy surrounding what's happening in public education right now. And I think it's happening all over the country. There are many people and organizations that are resistant to change. They think there are a lot of reasons for it. I mean, I think change is hard. And I think that these schools are proving that the way that the public school system has existed for, you know, decades, is just not good enough.

BROWN: You have this lottery. I mean that's the name of the film. And there are obviously winners. But there are also losers. And I think the film captures some really heartbreaking moments. And I want to show that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for being here and we wish you the best of luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not in. They didn't call your name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe my name will come next time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, next year. Not today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: What happens? What happens to these kids who don't make it in?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, we've got to fix public education generally so that every kid gets a shot at life, every single kid. I mean, that's what America is about, the American dream. And what we're talking about is having access to the American dream. There shouldn't be haves and have nots in education.

BROWN: Thank you both for being here. Really appreciate it. Eva and Madeleine, good luck with the film. It's called "The Lottery."

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you.

SACKLER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes. Larry, what do you got tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, we got an exclusive with director James Cameron. He's here to talk about how the crisis in the gulf can be solved, not claiming he has the answer, but the master of cutting edge technology does have some ideas.

And T. Boone Pickens is back with us. He's going to sound off with his own thoughts on the oil spill disaster. He's been dead on right up until now. It's all next on "LARRY KING LIVE," Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Larry, we'll see you in just a few minutes.

And straight ahead, another CNN exclusive. We're going to take you inside the oil spill command center. See for yourself where critical decisions are being made in the battle to save the gulf. Right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tonight, we have an exclusive look inside the nerve center managing the massive crisis in the gulf. It's an all hands on deck effort to contain this environmental catastrophe. And CNN's Kyra Phillips got a special access to take you behind the scenes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A BP training center in Houma, Louisiana, hastily converted into the headquarters of the massive effort to battle an environmental disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's got a lot of amenities including the ability to feed people 24 hours a day and so forth. I think there's an unbelievable amount of activity going on in this place.

PHILLIPS (on camera): OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to be astounded when you go in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: West, east.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): This is where all the government agencies involved in the oil disaster response come together, along with subcontractors, Louisiana state officials and BP. The invoice will follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep track of the hours everybody is working here for billing BP.

PHILLIPS: And this is the nerve center of the operation. Screens track the spread of the spill, maps crowd the walls.

(on camera): All the workers here refer to this as the fishbowl. Along this wall you've got organizational charts. You've got weather forecasts. You've got various sit reps situation reports, forecasted movement of the oil. Right now, members of the Coast Guard are looking at the booming operations that are taking place in the state and the skimming operations as well. Wildlife, response progress, they're going over what has worked so far this morning with regard to operations in Louisiana, safety, medical plans, everything you could possibly want to know about the operations in the state of Louisiana, it's happening right here.

(voice-over): And you could forgive the BP workers here for feeling under siege.

BRIAN BAUER, BP: We arrive here about 4:30 in the morning. We're the day team.

PHILLIPS: Brian Bauer is BP's point man.

BAUER: We have had people working literally 20-hour days, 18- hour days. I personally have been here nearly a month. We know that we're doing a good job. Every day it's a new response that we have to mount. And it's challenging.

PHILLIPS: And the challenge grows by the day.

BAUER: Once oil reaches the surface, we're responsible for doing everything we can to skim it, to control burn it, to make sure that that oil gets contained and controlled out in the ocean near the source and then whatever we can't control there as it moves closer, we have near shore skimming operations.

PHILLIPS: Bauer helps coordinate some 200 vessels over an already huge and still growing area, working side by side with the U.S. Coast Guard.

(on camera): I want to ask you -- (voice-over): Captain Meredith Austin is trying to predict where the oil will move.

(on camera): You were looking at this earlier with some other members of the Coast Guard. Tell me what you're trying to figure out today.

CAPT. MEREDITH AUSTIN, U.S. COAST GUARD: Right. This is using aerial images where the slick is right now. The important thing to notice though is that even though it looks like it's one homogenous blob of oil, that's not the case. A lot of this area is -- this is the source right here. So as you move away from the source, it ends up being sheen and streamers of oil.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): BP's Brian Bauer hopes the dark cloud seeping through the gulf will one day have a silver lining.

BAUER: My son asked me this, he's 13 years old. He goes, "dad, tell me about this, this oil. This is bad, isn't it?" And I said what's happened is very bad. But what we're doing here as a company and as an industry and as a country is crucial to really to our way of life.

PHILLIPS: And what happens here will in no small way influence that way of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral.

ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: How are you doing, guys?

PHILLIPS: Kyra Phillips, CNN, at the incident command post in Houma, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes. But up next, tonight's "Punch Line." Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST: Al and Tipper Gore after 40 years, nobody knows why they split up. But there is a rumor today that Al came home early last week and another man's carbon footprints were -- and they could tell he was lonely as of late because when he would hug a tree, he'd linger. That's a surest sign --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Finally, tonight's "Punch Line." It's day 49 of the gulf oil disaster. But comedians can't stop swiping at BP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": But British Petroleum, these boobs running this operation, they said OK, now wait a minute. It's just -- it's going to be a PR nightmare. What can we do? And they said we'll give everybody a free tank of gas. A free tank of gas. They say all you got to do is drive your car right down next to the Gulf of Mexico.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, HOST, "THE VIEW": Tony Hayward is appearing in a new ad campaign to apologize for the gulf oil spill.

TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: To those affected in your families, I'm deeply sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shut up.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": They even have an ad targeted specifically at kids.

NARRATOR: Looking to beat the heat? Then head on over to Slick 'n' Wild. You'll zoom down slides at five times the speed of a boring old waterslide. Dare to ride the terrifying crude awakening or catch some tar balls at the great gushing geyser.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES: Oil-some.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Oh, my God. That is it for tonight. Thanks for joining us, everybody. Larry King starts right now.