Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Anger in the Gulf; Obama Administration Spinning Oil Spill?; Lab Checks Safety of Seafood; Family at Odds Over Brain-Damaged Woman Seeing Her Children
Aired July 8, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: We are live from the Gulf again.
For nearly three months now, people have been seeing images of oil coming from beneath the sea. But there's much more happening here, as you might guess. This is high season here in the Gulf, a lot of people on boats just like this dependent on what's happening out on the waters for their livelihood, and, as you can imagine, so much of that livelihood really threatened.
This is an oyster boat. It's called the Braka M (ph). Oysters typically come in, in this area over here off big dredges. They took this boat out just a couple of days ago.
Unfortunately, all the oysters that came in were actually dead as a result of what's happening out there. These are the dredges themselves. That's what they look like. And, typically, they will bring in 180 to 200 bags a day of oysters. And, in each of those bags, you have a couple of hundred oysters. Imagine all of that.
And now just look at this boat. It is in a complete state of disrepair. Hardly anything is happening here at all and people can't even maintain the repairs that are necessary to happen. And if you look over there, you see boat after boat after boat. This is what's happening. Typically, they bring in $5,000 a day. That would meet a lot of their costs. But now they're all about $1,000 in debt, and no one knows what tomorrow brings.
That's just a little bit of a glimpse of what's happening here, and, again, so many boats, so many people telling us that exact same story, just a few small examples of the enormous impact people are starting to feel down here.
Yet, even as they're fighting for their lives, the big decisions about their lives are being made elsewhere, by others. People tell me they're in danger of losing everything, but in control of almost nothing. And, as you can imagine, it's a pretty terrible place to be.
Right now, others from Washington are deciding in federal court whether oil workers can go back to work. That's after others from another country took away fishing jobs. Since then, fishermen, oil workers, everyone has been told again by others how to clean up the oil, whether or not they can build jetties to block it, even where the waste is going to be dumped. Don't want it? Too bad. Others already made the decision for you. They have been lied to by others. They have been stiffed out of competition by others, told by others to stay at least 65 yards away from the cleanup. People down here are fiercely independent, but their means of independence is gone.
They're proudly self-reliant, with no choice now but to rely on others, on BP and the government, who have yet to earn their trust.
Now, before I turn to my guests, a bit more on what the federal appeals court decided this evening in New Orleans. It denied the government's request to continue the ban on deepwater drilling until the appeal is decided.
The reality, though, as we can tell, drilling is unlikely in any case while the matter is still in court.
And with me now, Jefferson Parish Council Chairman John Young, and the Reverend Tyronne Edwards of the Zion Travelers Baptist Church.
Thanks to both of for joining us again.
JOHN YOUNG, CHAIRMAN, JEFFERSON PARISH COUNCIL: Good to be with you again, Sanjay.
EDWARDS: Great to be here.
GUPTA: John, you and I talked about the moratorium not that long ago. And the fate of that is still, I think, a little bit up in the air, it's fair to say.
YOUNG: I mean, it's a good decision. It's a Pyrrhic victory, because, as you said, it's very unlikely anyone is going to start drilling again.
GUPTA: Just really quickly, because I want to make sure people understand this, you're in favor of not -- of...
YOUNG: No, I'm opposed to the moratorium.
GUPTA: Opposed to the moratorium, in favor of drilling? And, obviously...
YOUNG: If favor of deepwater drilling.
YOUNG: I think we can have safety and drilling that can coexist.
GUPTA: Is that -- is that the prevalent sort of thought down here? YOUNG: Prevalent mood down here. Even the people directed affected, Sanjay, to a person will tell you they want drilling to continue.
It's not only an issue for South Louisiana. It's a national issue, because this is going to affect the nation if we don't continue drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
GUPTA: Last time we talked, you were pretty critical of what's been happening at the federal government level. You said simply not enough is being done and that the president hasn't made good on some of his promises. Tell me specifically what you are talking about tonight.
YOUNG: Well, I mean, the president came down and said we're going to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, but the action hasn't met his words or his promises. Plus, the president said the buck stops with him.
He has the executive authority to cut through this bureaucrat red tape and get the job done. That hasn't happened. For instance, in Jefferson Parish, we have tried to block the passes, five passes in Grand Isle, so it doesn't get into Barataria Bay, which is one of the richest estuaries in the world.
And we have been told three times with three separate plans that state and local governments have come up no by the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and various agencies of the federal government.
And yet, although they have told us no, they haven't come up with an alternative plan. Our position is, look, there's no thing as a perfect plan. Let us protect ourselves. The federal government is not only not helping us. They're actually hurting us now and preventing us from protecting ourselves.
GUPTA: Reverend, you and I were talking earlier you're a supporter of President Obama. You have told me that. But you also have been a bit concerned about what he has or has not done down here.
REV. TYRONNE EDWARDS, THE ZION TRAVELERS BAPTIST CHURCH: We're very -- he's the very first president in history that toured all of Plaquemines Parish. And we're excited about that.
But we're saying we would like to see the president, Obama, do the same thing that he did for the mortgage company, the banking company. He would have these town hall meetings where he would actually have dialogue with community people.
We're saying that the fishermen in our community deserve that meeting. Byron Encalade, who is president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association, Gary (INAUDIBLE) with the fishermen's concerns. They have already talked to all the large fishing organizations and prepared to have a dialogue, not (INAUDIBLE) but we're saying the president owe us that visit.
And so we think that we need it. And we're hoping that he honors our requests to actually come down and have some dialogue with our local fishermen.
GUPTA: John, so many people have been watching what's been happening on television now for nearly three months. They're not here. They don't know what it's like down here.
GUPTA: That's part of the reason we're out here today. But what can you tell them? I mean, if you live in a different part of the country, you have never been to the Gulf, how would you describe what's happening here?
YOUNG: Well, we have thick black crude coming in...
GUPTA: You can see those images.
YOUNG: ... in our wetlands and estuaries. And, again, this is a national issue. We produce 30 percent of the fisheries for the entire United States. So, all that good seafood you enjoy in Iowa, most of it comes from Louisiana.
And also 30 percent or 35 percent of natural oil and gas that is provided domestically to the United States comes from the -- off the coast of Louisiana. So, in the winter, when you need that heating oil, it's coming from South Louisiana.
GUPTA: What is your life like now as compared to before because of what's happened?
YOUNG: Well, my life is consumed with the oil. But I'm more concerned about the people in Grand Isle, the people here that have lost their livelihood.
These people have been through four major storms, just getting back up on their feet, when this worst oil disaster happened. They have no jobs, no means of livelihood. They are worried about how they're going to put food on the table.
BP is spending millions, hundreds of millions of dollars on P.R. What they ought to be doing is putting money in their pockets. These people would rather be working. But, since they have lost their jobs and their livelihood because of BP's negligence, they ought to be putting the money in their pockets, instead of putting it in a public relations campaign. That would be the best P.R. they could buy.
GUPTA: No surprise, Reverend, people are really fired up about this. And as I have been talking to people, there's a lot of anger, understandably so.
But, moving forward, trying to come up with solutions, what needs to be done down here to restore some of what John is talking about? EDWARDS: Well, first of all, you can restore people's hope if we take that $25 billion that has already been put in the hand of Mr. Feinberg and actually giving it to fishermen and those people who are oyster shuckers, giving them money, because, right now, what happened is, BP is sending hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people through training.
And people think that, going through the training, that they're going to get a job. They're not getting a job. So, you have got a lot of frustration. It's gotten so bad that fishermen now are fighting each other, because, oh, he's really not a true fishermen. Why is he working? Some, some internal stuff is happening.
GUPTA: The sense of community is starting to...
EDWARDS: The sense the community. My phone is ringing -- I have to put my phone on vibrate at night, because I'm getting called at 2:00 in the morning, 3:00. It's 5:00 in the morning. People...
GUPTA: What are they saying to you?
EDWARDS: People are frustrated because they're saying, why are we not working? We do have $25 billion and we can't get some of that money?
If the president of the United States would just come down and talk to fishermen, they can tell him the best way to solve this problem. When we met with Mr. Feinberg...
GUPTA: You're saying too many decisions are being made by people who aren't here?
EDWARDS: On the outside.
YOUNG: There's a disconnect.
EDWARDS: There's a total disconnect.
YOUNG: They're in Washington making these decisions. They ought to be down here in the bays and estuaries on airboats, touching, feeling, smelling the oil, and talking to the people that are directly affected.
GUPTA: If you there's one thing you can tell them that they may not know about, something you would say if they are here right now, the people making some of those decisions?
YOUNG: They're not -- they're not realizing how it's affecting people's daily lives, livelihood. These people have made -- generations of families have made their living off the waters. That's been destroyed. That's been taken away.
It's continuing to be destroyed. It's like a hostage crisis. It's -- it's 80 days now. We're hostage to the oil. We're hostage to the bureaucratic red tape. If they gave us the means, we could take care of ourselves. These are hardworking, industrious people.
GUPTA: You're saying take the -- the people here, the citizens, many of whom are out here tonight...
GUPTA: ... and actually say...
YOUNG: Put them to work. They know these bays and estuaries.
GUPTA: Let them help.
YOUNG: Let them help. Let them do the job.
GUPTA: What about you, Reverend? One thing.
EDWARDS: We are saying the same thing President Nungesser and everybody in the parish is saying, that the problem that BP is causing is breaking up family. It's destroying people's lives, because we cannot understand, after Alaska, which is in the United States, that we would have the same problem again.
We're saying that the government must get some oversight on BP. As long as BP is in charge, that's like putting Dracula on a blood bank and inspecting blood. We have to have some government oversight and actually take that $25 billion and put money in the hands of the local people.
GUPTA: I think one of the other things...
YOUNG: The federal government needs to take control, at least let the state and local government -- get out of the way. Either lead or get out of the way.
GUPTA: I know the governor has been saying that quite a bit as well.
YOUNG: Right. Right.
GUPTA: And it's worth pointing out again that this is an ongoing situation.
GUPTA: Unlike some of the other things, including the hurricanes of years past, this continues to go on.
YOUNG: This is worse than Katrina. This is worse than Katrina.
GUPTA: And that's part of the reason we're out here today, to actually show the real impact on people's lives.
Thanks again for joining us so much, Reverend.
YOUNG: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
EDWARDS: Thanks for having us.
GUPTA: We really appreciate it.
YOUNG: ... what you all are doing.
GUPTA: Well, we're going to keep -- keep on it. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
GUPTA: And a quick reminder: The live chat is up and running at AC360.com. So, let us know what you think about that.
Up next: BP dumping its oily mess in towns around the Gulf, and people saying it stinks to high heaven. So, what do you call it when not even lawmakers can stop them? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And later: my exclusive visit to a lab on the front line when it comes to keeping Gulf seafood safe to serve your family. You're seeing why the best piece of testing equipment might just be a good nose. We will put mine to the test.
Stay with us.
GUPTA: We're talking tonight about people from other parts of the country, or in the case of BP, other parts of the world, making life-changing decisions for folks down here.
Randi Kaye uncovered a smelly, dirty case of dumping the oily mess from this spill in one local community. They don't want it there. They passed a resolution saying so, but BP, headquartered in London, and a landfill operator headquartered in Houston dumped on them anyway. How did it happen? How could it happen?
Randi Kaye is "Keeping Them Honest." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you have been wondering where all that scooped-up onshore oil ends up, here is your answer. This is Mississippi's Pecan Grove landfill.
What cleanup crews gather onshore, tar balls, oiled sand and vegetation, is hauled away and buried here. That even includes the cleanup crews' gloves, suits, shovels, and rakes, anything that's touched oil. It's one of nine landfills BP has cut deals with across the Gulf to dump all this stuff.
So, that must mean the communities are OK with it, too, right? Wrong. Connie Rockco is the president of the Board of Supervisors in Harrison County, Mississippi where the Pecan Grove landfill is located.
(on camera): How do you feel about this oily mixture coming off the beaches and ending up in your landfill?
CONNIE ROCKCO, BOARD OF SUPERVISORS PRESIDENT, HARRISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI: Well, we're tired of being dumped on. We don't want it. It's valuable landfill space, and it's hazardous to our citizens. Take your waste somewhere else, or please find an alternative.
KAYE (voice-over): Rockco says the county board passed a resolution not to accept any BP waste in this community. But that didn't matter. That's because Waste Management, which owns the landfill, doesn't have to listen to what the county board says. It answers to the state.
So, it signed a contract with BP and started dumping the oily waste right where Rockco and plenty of others feared they would.
(on camera): What concerns you most about this oil and the tar balls and this whole mixture going to your landfill?
ROCKCO: The long-term effects that we will have to endure if it, in fact -- if, in fact, we do find that it is dangerous.
KAYE: Like if it gets into your water, or...
ROCKCO: Into the water table, absolutely.
KAYE (voice-over): "Keeping Them Honest," we asked BP why it's disposing of spill waste in a county that says it's pleaded with them not to. BP wouldn't comment.
So, we asked Waste Management's Ken Haldin to take us inside the landfill so we could see for ourselves why BP, the EPA and Waste Management all say it's safe.
(on camera): There are many worried that whatever is going into this landfill from the oil spill is going to end up in their water system and make the community sick. KEN HALDIN, SPOKESPERSON, WASTE MANAGEMENT: Right. It's an understandable concern because there's a lack of awareness about what an engineered landfill is.
KAYE (voice-over): Haldin says this is a nonhazardous waste site. He says there wouldn't be any liquid oil coming here, just solid oil waste. Before it's dumped, it's stored in these huge containers and analyzed.
In the last 24 hours, Haldin says they dropped more than 150 tons of BP waste into this landfill -- 150 tons.
(on camera): If the county didn't want it, why is it here?
HALDIN: And that's something they have certainly appealed to the state about and to others about. And we understand that. And we are going to do our utmost to be sure that they are familiar with what is going on here.
KAYE: Haldin says this landfill has a liner that runs underneath the entire site. In fact, it's under my feet where I'm walking right now. He says that liner is supposed to contain everything that's dumped here at the landfill and protect it from any leaks.
He also says the groundwater and the air is monitored, and, if anything goes wrong, they would know it.
(voice-over): The EPA told us, BP, along with the EPA, are also sampling the landfills regularly to make sure they are safe. The agency also said it directed BP to keep its waste disposal operations -- quote -- "fully transparent."
BP must post information about the disposal of all collected waste on their Web site, along with any community complaints.
Connie Rockco is first in line.
ROCKCO: If it's not hazardous, why would someone be out with Tyvek suits and rubber gloves and that sort of thing picking it up and taking it to the landfill?
KAYE: Certainly a good question. And we put that question to the folks at Waste Management.
And, Sanjay, they told us that -- that what is on the beach is potentially hazardous, all of it. So, once they separate it, the good from the bad, the hazardous from the nonhazardous, what they bring to their site, folks don't need to worry about, they say, in the county, because that's the nonhazardous stuff.
GUPTA: But it's amazing how much of this -- I guess, you know, we're seeing it all coming out of the ocean all the time, but 150 tons of this. The people...
KAYE: That is what they have been collecting, because they haven't been able to drop it in there yet.
KAYE: They think it will be less over the days and weeks ahead, but still that's a lot of oil waste.
GUPTA: It's a lot.
And I want to make sure I understand. So, the people of Harrison County voted against this, voted against allowing this waste to be dumped. And, obviously, it's still being dumped. I mean, can they do anything about it? Is there an appeal process?
KAYE: Well, they passed a resolution. The county board passed this had resolution. And there is a lawyer on the board, I'm told, who is already collecting names and numbers. And they want to talk to the folks from BP. And they want to talk to the EPA. They plan to subpoena a lot of these people and try and get this reversed, so they can actually stop this oil waste from coming into their community.
But you talk to someone like Connie, who we spoke with, and she says, we don't trust these people. We don't trust BP. We don't trust the EPA. We don't trust the people in Washington, the federal government.
Those are the others that we have been talking about all night who have been making decisions for this community, people they have never met. They don't know where their heart is and what their needs are.
KAYE: And they're making the decisions for these people.
GUPTA: Well, I got to meet her a little bit through you tonight.
When you were there, just out of curiosity -- I mean, this is the first time I have seen it not in the water -- I mean, could -- did -- did it smell? Could you sense it around you at all?
KAYE: The landfill certainly smelled. Whether or not that was the oil, I don't know. But we were on the beach, and there were a lot of people cleaning up there. They just had a fresh spill of the oil there, fresh oil waste come across their shore today, and it was -- it was quite a mess.
GUPTA: Well, it's -- it's amazing. Stay tuned, for sure, Randi. Thanks so much. Great -- great reporting, as always.
And, last night, when we were talking about the health and safety of workers who are, in some ways, affected by the overall amount of oil that's actually coming out, we -- we talked a little bit about Corexit specifically. And that's something we wanted to talk about tonight as well.
We talked about -- I said the chemical dispersant Corexit, which BP has used in the past, specifically, is -- is something that's not used in Europe because it is considered too toxic. In fact, we actually learned that Corexit is used and approved in some countries in Europe. That's a correction that we're making.
Up next: We have already showed you BP's Web site on the spill. It paints a pretty rosy picture, as you might have seen. The administration also has a Web site. The question is, do you stand a better chance of getting the facts from the White House or BP? Stay tuned. You will see what we turned up.
And, later, we wanted to know if the Gulf seafood that you eat is safe. We are going to introduce you to the people who are literally sniffing out the answer. That's when 360 continues.
GUPTA: The White House says it wants to tell you the truth about the BP disaster. But it seems like they may want to sugarcoat it as well. At least that's what it looks with a new Web site the Obama administration has launched. It's all about the spill, but it may involve a little spin as well.
Tom Foreman has been looking at the site, and he joins us now -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Sanjay.
The good news about the White House's new Web site restorethegulf.gov is that does contain some useful information. For example, you can find out how to make claims for damages if you need to. You can click on different maps in it that will show you exactly where the spill oil is, where fishing has been closed, where beaches have been affected, that sort of thing.
The bad news is all the information it does not contain or at least that is very hard to find. How much oil has been spilled so far? How many jobs have been lost? How many reports of illness have been reported by cleanup workers? That's either not here or it's buried. How many birds have been killed in all of this? Well, you can't find that, although there is a nice feature here about some brown pelicans that they captured and cleaned up and set free again.
If you're worried about the stench of oil near the coast and whether or not that might make you sick, there's not a whole lot of guidance here. Now, earlier, they had a statement that said some people are more sensitive to smell than others. It looks like they have been updating the site.
We're finding it, Sanjay. But, nonetheless, there are many questions still out there.
GUPTA: Just listening to you, Tom, it sounds like the overall tone of this Web site is pretty upbeat. I mean, does it mention the fact that many people have been pretty upset with the response so far? What does it say about that?
FOREMAN: Not from anything I could find, Sanjay.
Over and over, it drives the White House talking point home, this notion that the government response has been comprehensive and competent right from the start. And it sounds, in some ways, a lot like those BP ads we have been seeing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BP AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're replacing the lost income for fishermen, small businessmen and others who aren't able to work until the spill is cleaned up. Our claims line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: On the White House page, you can barely find the mention of the 11 men killed when that rig blew up or the possibility of criminal wrongdoing by BP.
So, "Keeping Them Honest," Sanjay, while, again, there is some useful information here, and they do seem to be refining it, the government has billed this as the comprehensive site for the response to the spill, and a lot does seem to be missing -- Sanjay.
GUPTA: A lot of details to be filled in for sure, Tom. And we're -- that's what we are going to try to do tonight. Thanks so much.
You know, we talked at the top about the people down here who are fighting for their lives and their children's future. We spoke with some of them today, and none of them is giving up easily. Each was generous with his or her time and gracious with us, especially under such trying circumstances.
Here is what they had to say.
GUPTA: Lots of policy decisions in Washington regarding the fate of the Gulf, I mean, money being spent, cleanup efforts.
You're here. You live here. This is your world. What should people in Washington who are making these decisions know about what's happening here?
DON BESHEL, FISHERMAN & MARINA OWNER: I don't think that there's an authority that's -- that's telling everybody what to do. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. You have people from another parish coming in over here 20 miles away trying to boom over here. Local people are not working.
There should be some kind of logistical support from the government to tell BP where to go, what to do, how to do these things, because I look at it, and you see people booming where they're not supposed to boom. I see people that -- that are not doing the job they're supposed to do. It's about hiring people. It's not about stopping the oil or just sucking the oil up. I see that every day, every day.
And it -- it's frustrating to know. And we hit a blow here for four days. We knew the oil was coming in. We knew it was going to happen. And, of course, the Coast Guard had to shut them down because of high water. But we're located on inland waters. They could have done something, just tried something, double boom or do something.
But nothing was done. It's in here now. We're all frustrated. We're going to lose our livelihood.
GUPTA: Just give me an idea, because I don't think people know, how much money, typically, would you make in a month or a week, or haven't you...
BYRON ENCLADE, OYSTERMAN: My companies, during this time of the year, with my trucks and both of my boats working, we would be grossing $5,000, $6,000 easy.
GUPTA: A month?
B. ENCLADE: No, a day.
GUPTA: A day?
B. ENCLADE: A day.
GUPTA: And -- and now?
B. ENCLADE: Nothing. Nothing. We're getting nickeled-and-dimed by death to BP with this $5,000. Look, $5,000 don't even -- we're getting nickeled-and-dimed to death by BP.
GUPTA: And now how much are you...
B. ENCLADE: They give me for a month. They gave me a second check for a month. That didn't even pay the bills that I had accrued 30 days before.
GUPTA: I have heard this a couple of times now, contractors, people from the outside coming in, doing this work and, you feel, taking money that you should be getting.
B. ENCLADE: Absolutely. And now you have got a congressman from Texas saying, we're holding BP hostage here.
No, BP wanted to play politics. They brought it on themselves. We told them, we had the expertise in here. We had the education in here now, and we had the ability to handle these jobs ourselves.
GUPTA: Why did they...
B. ENCLADE: Because they wanted to play public relations. GUPTA: Can you -- if you wanted to leave, just leave this place, could you do it, Byron and Stanley?
STANLEY ENCALADE, OYSTERMAN: No, I can't.
GUPTA: This -- I mean, because...
S. ENCLADE: I can't. I can't. I came back after Katrina, man. You know, I just can't cope. I can't deal with no...
GUPTA: The type of work you do?
S. ENCLADE: I'm 50 years old. Where am I going to do this at? I'm born and raised here, you know?
We all of us -- look around us. We're third generation of people that was born and raised together. You can't just walk away and go live somewhere else and be happy. We might not get along with one another. But, like I said, this is all third generation.
GUPTA: Don, communities have a hard time rebounding from something like this.
I mean, there's -- you saw what happened -- or heard about what happened after the disaster in Alaska. Communities start to fall apart. There was an increase in alcoholism. There was an increase domestic violence. There was an increase in neighbors not taking care of each other.
Have you seen that? Are you worried about that?
BESHEL: Definitely so.
We know that the sheriff's department, there's an -- there is an uptick in violence, as far as domestic violence.
GUPTA: You have already seen that?
BESHEL: Already seen it. They already know it. They're trying to set up places to try to take care of that. There's a strain on the community of the future. There's a strain on the community of the present and not having money to pay -- pay the bills that they have.
GUPTA: Do you think they're doing the best they can right now?
VLHAO MJEHOVICH, OYSTERMAN: No.
GUPTA: Well, what -- what are they -- where are they falling short?
MJEHOVICH: They're not -- they're not using everything they -- they could be using. GUPTA: And when you say they, you mean?
MJEHOVICH: BP and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They're not using the full capacity they could be. They have -- they basically don't want to hear anything. They want to do what they want to do, not what's supposed to be done.
GUPTA: Apologize for a minor glitch there in that tape.
But I tell you, you really have to be on the ground here to understand what is happening, understand again the impact of that oil on this entire community.
And next on 360, testing seafood from the Gulf. How do you know that it's safe? We're going to take you inside a government lab for an exclusive report. That's coming up.
Plus, the verdict is in for a white cop who shot an unarmed black man on a train platform.
GUPTA: We're back. And here in New Orleans, the restaurants are open. The food is great, especially the seafood. And as Anderson has been saying now for weeks, it's safe to eat.
A lot of people are asking still, how can you be sure? Well tonight, we're going to show you with an exclusive look at the government lab that tests the seafood that's coming out of the Gulf. Here's my "Up Close" report.
GUPTA (voice-over): Behind these doors, huge decisions are being made. Tests that determine whether or not the seafood in the Gulf is safe for us to eat. It looks like a scene straight out of a crime scene show.
(on camera) What you're looking at is a chain of custody record. That's because the fish that are being tested are literally treated like evidence. You've got to keep track of where it's been and who's handled it.
This is the testing facility. These are fish over here that are being tested, trying to figure out if, indeed, they are safe. Aluminum foil, special instruments, workers wearing gloves. They want to be very careful not to contaminate any of these fish, to make sure their records and their testing is as accurate as possible.
(voice-over) Thousands of fish being tested since April 28. That's just a week after the oil spill. They're being brought here in these huge ice units.
(on camera) We're here in Mississippi. Got a lot of fish behind us here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GUPTA: Bagged and tagged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bagged and tagged, yes, they are. Very important so we know where they come from.
GUPTA: This is part of the process?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of the process.
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. John Stein, he's head of NOAA's seafood safety testing program.
(on camera) You go around the country, John, and you talk to people about what's happening here in the Gulf. The question always comes up, is the seafood safe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GUPTA: And you say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We have an extensive program in place. It's a cooperative program between NOAA, FDA, EPA, and the Gulf states. And we're all working together to ensure that seafood is safe.
GUPTA (voice-over): But no one can be sure. And that's because we don't know exactly how much oil is leaking and more importantly, exactly where it is going.
(on camera) We've been talking to a lot of scientists, and you may know some of this. But they say, you know, the oil, as it starts to break up, you get all these various compounds that are not oil, so to speak, anymore. They're just these aromatic hydrocarbons, these volatile compounds. And they can go all over the place.
And that's what I think makes it is so difficult. How do you know if it's kind of oil, per se, but still some of the toxic elements land further away in an area that doesn't have oil?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. So that's why this testing program deals both with the sensory, to be able to detect oil and those aromatic hydrocarbons and then the analytical chemistry to also detect those aromatic hydrocarbons.
GUPTA: So to give you a little peek behind the curtain into this room, which is where sensory testing takes place. They have, typically, testers all up and down here. One of the first things you do is actually, this is uncooked fish. You just get a little smell of this. And then determine what you think the score is, what the likelihood that this is contaminated.
(voice-over) The next step, the taste test. (on camera) So you've got your nose. You've got your sense of smell working and now is the sense of taste. They pointed out to me that, even if this was contaminated, eating a small amount like this would not be problematic. You eat this. You don't swallow it, they say, because you don't want to ruin the rest of your testing. So here it goes.
Tastes pretty good, as well. I'm not an expert. That seems pretty good to me.
(voice-over) The researchers say a contaminated fish has a distinct taste; it's unmistakable.
But if all this sounds subjective to you, you're right. That's why there are ten different testers, all of them hidden from each other. They can't even see each other's reaction while they're testing.
But all of these tests are only for oil compounds. Turns out no one is testing these fish for possible contamination by that controversial dispersant, Corexit.
(on camera) Dioxin butane (ph), I believe it's called. One of the -- one of the particularly toxic chemicals in the Corexit. You can't -- there's no chemical test being done right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no -- there's not a chemical test for that right now.
GUPTA (voice-over): What? No test? So how can the guarantee of safety be complete? We decided to dig deeper to clarify.
NOAA says, in an abundance of caution, they're currently developing a chemical test for dispersants. It just isn't ready yet. And it can't come soon enough for the millions of people who want to eat these fish and those who make a living catching them.
(on camera) Based on everything you know now, how long is it going to stay closed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to stay closed until the well, the oil leak is stopped. Once the oil leak is stopped, then we'll have a very aggressive and very comprehensive survey of that area for reopening.
GUPTA: I will have much more ahead from the Gulf. But first, Joe Johns is going to join us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, a verdict in the videotaped shooting of an unarmed African-American man on the Bay Area Rapid Transit. The jury found former BART police officer Johannes Mezerle guilty of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Oscar Grant.
Mezerle testified he mistakenly pulled his gun instead of his taser.
The former garbage man accused of being the so-called Grim Sleeper serial killer was arraigned today in Los Angeles. Lonnie David Franklin Jr. faces multiple murder and attempted murder charges in the killings of at least 11 women in south Los Angeles since 1985.
A Washington lawyer has filed a federal lawsuit, claiming he is the father of basketball star LeBron James. Leicester Bryce Stovell alleges that the athlete and his family have been involved in a cover- up to deny paternity.
And more about LeBron James. In the event you happened to be off the planet for the last hour or so, then possibly, just possibly you do not know that the NBA superstar is going to Miami to play for the Miami Heat. Settle down. Welcome back to earth and listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miami Heat, that was the conclusion you woke up with this morning?
JAMES: That was the conclusion I woke up with this morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: James is a free agent, six-time all-star. He was heavily courted by five teams, including the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks. He's leaving his home state Cleveland Cavaliers, and coming from the state of Ohio, I just don't see how he could do that -- Sanjay.
GUPTA: You know, when he was -- when he was talking about this earlier, I thought he was going to stay in Cleveland.
GUPTA: He seemed like he started to grow a lot of roots there. Did you think that, too?
JOHNS: Yes, I totally did. I mean, President Obama even told him to stay in Cleveland. But, hey, you know, he also said go to Chicago.
GUPTA: It's going to be interesting to see -- that's right. Of course he did. It's going to be interesting to see what happens in Miami now. Quite a -- quite a team they're putting together down there. That's for sure.
JOHNS: For sure.
GUPTA: Thanks a lot, Joe.
Serious stuff ahead, though, a 360 exclusive. A brain-injured mother is kept from seeing her three young children. Their father says it would be too traumatic. But do these children have a right to know their mother, no matter what her condition is?
Plus, Haiti, six months after the earthquake. Back in January, so many promises made, so much money pledged to help these quake victims. Have those promises been kept? We have not forgotten the story. That's coming up.
GUPTA: This next story, a 360 exclusive, is really going to make you think. It raises some thorny, some important issues about the ties that bind parents and their children.
It also shines a light on a gray area of medicine. It's about unconditional love, unexpected tragedy and immeasurable unknowns.
As a father and as a doctor, I can relate deeply to this story. At its center, a family torn apart, just when they thought they'd achieved their dream.
GUPTA: Hey, Abbie.
(voice-over) This is Abbie Dorn. She's been like this for four years. Watch her eyes.
(on camera) Can you look at me? Look over here, Abbie. Can you blink yes for me? Blink yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold your eyes shut.
GUPTA (voice-over): Abbie's parents, here with me, say she can communicate yes and no by blinking. Her ex-husband disagrees and says her blinking is simply spontaneous. It is not communicating.
(on camera) Does this hurt at all, Abbie?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was a yes.
GUPTA: You think she's communicating right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was a yes. That was a yes.
GUPTA (voice-over): Abbie's parents and her ex-husband say it matters whether her blinking is really communication.
But, you know, the story you're about to hear is really more about three children and their mother and whether they'll ever see each other again.
This is how it began. Eight years ago, Abbie was 26. Vibrant, happy. She was marrying Daniel. Their lives filled with nothing but joy and big dreams. They wanted to start a family. But children didn't come easily. It would take months of fertility treatments for Abbie to get pregnant.
Abbie and Daniel got the news. They were having triplets. Abbie's mom, Susan.
SUSAN COHEN, ABBIE'S MOM: We really felt that it was the beginning of a very good, stable, happy life.
GUPTA: There were no signs during her pregnancy that things would go terribly wrong.
DR. PAUL COHEN, ABBIE'S FATHER: Well, we didn't know anything about this until three hours after it happened.
GUPTA: During delivery, Abbie lost nearly two liters of blood, underwent an emergency hysterectomy, and her most vital organ, her brain, was starved for oxygen for almost 20 minutes.
Abbie survived, of course, though her brain was severely damaged. The triplets, Reuvi, Esti, and Yossi, they were fine.
Today, they're 4 years old. We're not showing you their faces because they are minors. Abbie has not seen them since they were 1. Her parents say she wants to, that she tells them that with her blinking.
Robert McCarthy is a therapist working with Abbie.
(on camera) There have been some articles and some papers from her former husband's attorneys that have said that she was in a persistent vegetative state. Do you agree with that?
ROBERT MCCARTHY, THERAPIST: No.
GUPTA: Absolutely not?
MCCARTHY: No. I think that Abbie's clinical condition is more indicative of a brain-injured individual.
GUPTA: But her ex-husband, who would not talk to us, disagrees. He says Abbie could not possibly be communicating and is preventing their three children from visiting her. Vickie Greene is his attorney.
VICKIE GREENE, EX-HUSBAND'S ATTORNEY: As far as we know, medically speaking, she is in a vegetative state. And to have the children see her at such a young age where they can't fully understand the tragedy and what happened to their mother, he's concerned about how they're going to react. She's not capable of any interaction with the children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's important you pay attention.
GUPTA: Abbie's parents and their attorney, Lisa Meyer, insist she can interact with them.
LISA HELFEND-MEYER, ATTORNEY FOR ABBIE'S PARENTS: She has consistently stated that she wants visitation with her children. She does have cognitive functioning, as evidenced by the tests that she took that she passed with 80 percent accuracy.
GUPTA: McCarthy showed me.
MCCARTHY: One would expect that Abbie's responses to a series of statements would be 50 percent accurate and 50 percent inaccurate, merely based on chance. She was able to demonstrate an 88 percent level of accuracy.
GUPTA: It's Friday afternoon. A music therapist is working with Abbie. Later, it's acupuncture and acutonics therapies. Her parents are providing Abbie every available therapy, but is it working? To be fair, I'm a neurosurgeon, and even I'm not sure.
I'll ask her about Reuvi, one of her triplets.
(on camera) Abbie, is this Reuvi? That looked like a yes.
(voice-over) But as I spent time examining Abbie, I wondered if debating whether she can express what she wants is even the right question to ask. Her parents' attorney.
HELFEND-MEYER: I think that Abbie's medical condition is the red herring in this case. Children have a right to know their parents. It doesn't matter what their medical condition is.
GUPTA: Vickie Greene, who represents the father, says he doesn't want to prevent the kids from seeing their mother, but it's about timing.
He's concerned about how they're going to react and how it's going to affect their development. Dan believes the children will know about their mother when it's age appropriate.
GUPTA: I'll tell you, just last week, as well, the court appointed a child development expert to work with Abbie and Dan's kids to determine if seeing their mother would, in fact, be traumatic. As well as a neurologist to get an updated medical evaluation of Abbie's condition.
Up next, six months after the quake, where is the help for Haiti? Anderson and I spent weeks there after the quake happened, and now we're going back to see if anything has changed. We've got a preview next.
Plus, details of that spy swap that played out like a chapter in the Cold War.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: Monday is going to mark six months since the earthquake in Haiti. And next week, Anderson, Ivan Watson, and I are going to go back. We promised not to forget the story. We're going to go back to see for ourselves how the rebuilding is actually going and whether all those pledges to help have, in fact, been kept.
As we all saw back in January, the damage the quake did was almost incomprehensible. Want to remind you again that many of the images you're about to see are tough to watch.
GUPTA: 4:53 pm Tuesday, January 12, the report that had everyone bracing for the worst.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Just getting word of a major earthquake in Haiti, 7.3. The damage potential is significant.
GUPTA: The damage was beyond everyone's worst fears, beyond everyone's imagination. We saw it firsthand barely more than 12 hours later.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I just flew over Port-au-Prince. And seeing it for the first time, a city I know well, it's incredibly shocking. The presidential palace, as you know, parts of it have collapsed. It's an eerie scene, many people standing around on the streets, not sure what to do or where to go. For many, there is nowhere to go.
GUPTA: Haiti was in ruins.
COOPER: It's a 13-year-old girl who's trapped here. Here name is Faith (ph). She's clearly alive. We can hear her crying out. You can see two of her feet at this point.
GUPTA: She is alive. She is finally free.
No one was spared the suffering.
(on camera) This is a 15-day-old baby who was in the earthquake.
(voice-over) Day after day, bare hands, the main tools of rescue work.
COOPER (voice-over): Her name is Winnie. She's just 18 months old, covered in dust. She's stunned, but seems uninjured.
What's he saying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He want to drink some juice.
GUPTA: Haiti waited. Relief supplies stalled. Survivors were abandoned.
GUPTA (on camera): The nurses, the doctors have left. There's hardly any supplies left here, as well. (voice-over) Pledges poured in. Promises were made. We return to Haiti six months later to see if the promises have been kept.
(MUSIC: "KEEPING THEM HONEST")
And I'll tell you, Keeping Them Honest.
GUPTA: I'll tell you, I still cannot get some of these images out of my own head. Again, 360 is in Haiti, starting Monday.
Right now, though, let's go back to Joe Johns for a "360 News & Business Bulletin."
DOBBS: Thanks, Sanjay.
They were as convert as spies come, but there's nothing secretive about this swap. Ten Russian spy suspects will be deported after pleading guilty today in federal court. They could leave as soon as tonight, according to one of their lawyers. In return, Russia will release four alleged western agents to the United States.
Philadelphia and a 360 follow. Hope fading tonight for two people feared drowned in yesterday's duck boat accident on the Delaware River. Divers are being hampered by strong currents and murky waters. Thirty-seven people were on board the tour boat when it collided with a barge.
Stocks rally for the second straight day. The Dow Industrials gaining 120 points on lower than expected first-time jobless claims. Retail sales, however, still on the weak side.
And there's no stopping the music. "Glee" today singing its way to 19 Emmy nominations, including outstanding comedy series. Also nominated for best comedy is ABC's "Modern Family," which received 14 nominations. "The Pacific," an HBO miniseries, topped all entrants, receiving 24 nominations. Plus 12 nominations for "Saturday Night Live," making it the most nominated show in Emmy history.
And payback time for Coco. Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show," the one NBC got rid of, was nominated for best variety, music or comedy -- Sanjay.
GUPTA: And he's one of us now, you know, so maybe he'll get another Emmy nomination next year as well.
I don't know if I'm getting older or busier, Joe. I just don't know any of those shows anymore. Good luck to the nominees, regardless.
JOHNS: You're right. And we'll see if he gets the last laugh after all of this. It will be interesting on Emmy night.
GUPTA: He certainly will give a lot of other people a lot of laughs. Joe, thanks so much. We are live in the Gulf. We're going to have much more from here at the top of the hour.