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The Situation Room

Residents head back into New Orleans; Blaze in California; U.S. soldiers may have exchanged pictures of dead Iraqis for access to ponography site; Angelina Jolie discusses Africa; Tom DeLay steps down

Aired September 28, 2005 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where news and information from around the world arrive in one place simultaneously.
Happening now, a firebrand in a political firestorm. Representative Tom DeLay, known as the Hammer, he's hit today with an indictment. DeLay calling it a legal sham brought on by a rouge political partisan. But a Texas prosecutor says his job is to -- quote -- prosecute felonies.

The mayor of New Orleans is telling some residents to come back soon. Parts of the city are opening back up with a warning, you can shower, but you shouldn't drink the water.

And the sickness and the death from the scourge of AIDS. Angelina Jolie says this is a matter close to the heart. Now the movie star is helping use her fame to help fight against the disease. We will bring you an interview here in THE SITUATION ROOM with Angelina Jolie.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a developing story, an invitation from the mayor of New Orleans with powerful implications for those who accept it.

Our Mary Snow is on the streets of New Orleans once again. She's joining us now live with details. What are you learning, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a short time ago, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, announcing that he is expanding the phasing in program here in New Orleans.

We're here in the Central Business District. Business owners have been able to come in and assess the damage. What the mayor is saying that starting tomorrow, these business owners can have full access. And then he gave about seven zip codes here in New Orleans out, saying starting Friday, residents can start coming in. He's telling people that while water is improving, it is still having problems


MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: You can take a shower and you can do things that you can normally do, other than drink the water. That is significant. And we're trying to make sure that we maintain control over the looters. And if we spread our resources way too thin, where we start to open up the city way too fast, it is going to make it incredibly difficult to control them.


SNOW: Now, the mayor is also saying that if all goes well by next Wednesday, he is looking at opening all of the city except for that Lower Ninth Ward.


BLITZER: What's behind you over there? That still looks like a pretty messy situation, Mary?

SNOW: It really is. This is a street of different businesses. We have a grocery store over here and a couple different restaurants. And so many people that I have been talking to say they have a big hurdle ahead in cleaning all of this up.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in New Orleans for us. Mary, thank you very much.

Some have already made it back to their homes in New Orleans. What they have seen has clearly shocked them.

CNN's Zain Verjee is at the CNN Center. She has got more on the story. Zain, what have you got?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNNHN ANCHOR: Wolf, we have seen what Hurricane Katrina did from the air. It blasted into people's homes and tore them up from the inside out.


VERJEE (voice-over): From the sidewalks, homeowners have a false sense of security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I opened the door -- when I saw the front of my house, I said, oh God, I still have a house and that's wonderful. When I opened the door, it was like the house from hell.

VERJEE: But as the blinds of this neighborhood come down, so do the tears. It's a homeowner's horror being played out in the streets of St. Bernard Parish. Streets that until very recently had water in it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a house that had eight to 10 feet of water in it, they probably right now have about six inches of sewer.

VERJEE: CNN affiliate WWL caught a glimpse of the homeowners' heartbreak. Katrina punched holes through ceilings, gutted kitchens, picked up appliances and left them scattered. It's a challenge for parents to put on a brave face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The guys were saying, don't cry, mom. Don't make it so upset and I got dehydrated. My pulse rate went down. I lost my vision, actually. I was sitting in the car sick. I couldn't even see my house. All I could see was the outline of the house. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (on camera): Officials told CNN affiliate WWL that if residence want to stay past 6:00 p.m. today to clean up their homes, they'll be there on their own because there are no accommodations for them. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Zain Verjee, thanks very much. Zain Verjee reporting. While families face, death, destruction and evacuation from the disaster zone, their pets have been left behind to fend for themselves -- at least many of them.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more on this story. What's going on in Jackson, Louisiana where you are?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's an unlikely combination of people coming together to help the animals that were rescued in New Orleans. We're on the grounds of the Dixon Correctional Institute which is a prison north of Baton Rouge. This is an old dairy form. We'll walk you inside. It's nap time here. There about 160 dogs, geese, ducks chickens, all sorts of animals.

This prison has essentially become kind of an animal shelter. There are 13 inmates and none of them are in this room as we speak -- I apologize for that. They're taking care of these animals along with the Humane Society. You can see the animals here. People have until October 15, to claim these animals, Wolf. After that, they will be put up for adoption.

So many people here, kind of a race against the clock. We saw many people drive -- one couple drove 500 miles today to see if their animal was here. But it's been an interesting experience to watch the inmates to interact with these animals.

And coming up tonight on Paula Zahn's show at 8:00 Eastern Time, we'll introduce you to some of the inmates who are taking care of these animals here. They're waking up now.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll watch it later to night. Thanks very much. Ed Lavandera in Jackson, Louisiana.

Let's go up to New York with Jack Cafferty standing by. He has a question for our viewers. Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What a great story, that the prisoners are taking care of the abandoned pets down there. That's terrific.

BLITZER: A useful assignment.


BLITZER: A useful assignment.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. That's a good deal. Mutually beneficial tasks here.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco wouldn't take the bait, Wolf. Former FEMA Director Michael Brown lacerated Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin when he testified before a House committee. He called Louisiana "dysfunctional." He accused Blanco and Nagin of dragging their heels before the Katrina hit.

Today, Governor Blanco appeared before the Senate Finance Committee, but she wouldn't comment on Brown's charges. Yesterday, though, she said that his testimony consisted of - quote -- "falsehoods and misleading statements" -- unquote.

As for Nagin, he said it was -- quote -- "unbelievable" to hear Brown try to deflect the blame.

Here's the question. Who do you think is more to blame for that mess down there -- Mayor Nagin, the mayor; Michael Brown, the former head of FEMA who is still on the government payroll as a consultant; or Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana?

CaffertyFile - one word -- Write to me, I'm a lonely person.

BLITZER: I think you will get a lot of people writing to you, Jack. Thank you very much. We'll get back to you.

Still ahead, the hurricane disaster and serious questions about the contract and the controversy of FEMA's agreement with a cruise liner. Ali Velshi has the "Bottom Line" on the contract and the controversy.

Coming up, also, he's now under indictment. It's official. He's stepping down as the House majority leader. Tom DeLay's lawyers say the charge against him stinks. Our legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin standing by, he has got some thoughts.

And actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie. She will tell you what she's trying to accomplish while she's here in Washington. Our exclusive interview with her. That's coming up. We will also speak about her adopted daughter.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: There's an old saying down in Texas, politics is not for the squeamish. That's proving true today. After Texas prosecutors announced the indictment of Republican Congressman Tom DeLay, the powerful politician had some choice words for them. And while DeLay is stepping aside from his majority post in the House, he says he is not stepping down from Congress.


REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: This act is a product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution -- the all too predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic.


BLITZER: The man known as the Hammer let loose after being hammered by a grand jury back home in Texas, at the district attorney who pushed for the criminal conspiracy charge against him.


DELAY: In accordance of the House Republican Conference, I will temporarily step aside as floor leader order to win exoneration from these baseless charges. Now, let me be very clear, I have done nothing wrong.


BLITZER: DeLay has been second in command in the House for three years. Admired by many fellow Republicans for being a no holds barred person who gets the votes and gets campaign money and gets things done. Many Democrats hate him for those reasons. But Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, insists the case against DeLay is not politically motivated.


RONNIE EARLE, TRAVIS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Texas law forbids the use of corporate money. It makes that a felony. And again, as I said at the outset, my job is to prosecute felonies.


BLITZER: Earle has spent a lot of time investigating a Texas political organization founded by DeLay. He charges the group, Texans for a Republican Majority, used corporate donations to support state candidates in violation of state law.

Three years ago, that group helped achieve a longtime Republican goal, winning GOP control of the Texas legislature.


BLITZER (voice-over): With that victory in hand, DeLay went on to bolster his clout here in Washington by engineering a Texas redistributing plan to help the Republicans pick up five seats in Congress.

DELAY: Over the course of this long and bitter political battle, it became clear that the retribution for our success would be ferocious. Today that retribution is being exacted.

BLITZER: Three DeLay associates connected to the PAC were already under indictment before the grand jury charged DeLay.

EARLE: Criminal conspiracy is state jail felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine up to $2,000.


BLITZER (on camera): Just a short while ago, the House Republican leadership chose two members to step into DeLay's leadership role. The majority whip, Roy Blount, will become the temporary majority leader. Congressman David Dryer will also get additional responsibilities without actually taking on DeLay's title, at least for the time being while this legal process continues.

Political action committees or PACs as they're known, there's an exchange of accusations and they involve political foes. What does DeLay's indictment mean legally speaking?

Let's get some analysis now from our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff, thanks very much. How easy or difficult is it usually for prosecutors to prove these conspiracy charges?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: One reason prosecutors bring conspiracy charges is they tend to be easier to prove than substantive offenses. To convict someone all you have to do is prove they entered into an agreement to do something illegal and they took some overt act in furtherance of that conspiracy. That overt act doesn't have to be a crime. It can be a phone call, it can be a meeting. So that's generally easier to prove than a specific crime.

BLITZER: If DeLay is convicted, what kind of punishment would he face?

TOOBIN: The statute says up to two years and I can't imagine he'd get much, if any jail time. The real penalty is he would be out of Congress and his political career would be over. It's just short- circuits now. It would be over if he's convicted.

BLITZER: Based on what we know now. We know how prosecutors operate -- you used to be a prosecutor, yourself. In this situation, they're always looking for a witness, someone involved, to come forward and testify against a bigger fish. Is their any suggestion that that has already happened?

TOOBIN: I don't think there's any suggestion that it's already happened but it's especially true in conspiracy cases that you need an insider as a prosecutor. You need someone who will stand in front of the jury and say, yes, I know this was an illegal agreement, I participated in it, and so did the defendant. Conspiracy charges are very hard to prove without an insider.

This is a three-person case. There are two relatively unknown defendants here with Tom DeLay. They are obvious candidates to flip. They're also facing other charges. So it's clear that the prosecutor is trying to squeeze those two guys trying to get them to flip against DeLay. If they have some sort of agreement, it's not public at this point and we don't know about it.

BLITZER: Is it smart from a legal strategy for DeLay and his lawyers to be railing against this prosecutor in such strong language like they have been doing today? TOOBIN: I don't know if it's smart or not but it really is, is it's kind of irrelevant. It shows he is now out of the political realm. He has got to convince a judge to throw out of charges or a jury to acquit him. That's the only thing that matters at this point for Tom DeLay. His polling numbers don't matter. His standing in Congress doesn't matter. He's in a completely different sphere now. And he can call names all he wants, but he's just in a different ball game now and that's what he has got to focus on.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin helping us understand the law. Thanks very much, Jeff, very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, recovering the bodies from Hurricane Katrina. We'll tell you how some families are still not able to do that.

After Katrina, FEMA used cruise ships from Carnival Cruise Lines for evacuees. Now new questions on whether the company profited during the disaster. Our Ali Velshi has more on that.


BLITZER: After Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, contracted Carnival Cruise Lines to place some of the evacuees on their ships. Now new questions about payment to the company.

Our Ali Velshi is in New York. He has been looking into this story. Joining us now live with more. Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf, you know, right after Hurricane Katrina hit, there was a lot of discussion about what corporations were doing. Carnival Cruise Lines issued a statement back then to say they had been approached by the government to provide some cruise ships, they were in negotiations with them. And after about 36 hours they came to a deal and three cruise ships when headed toward the Gulf region. Now 13 cruise ships applied after the government's request, owned by different companies, four of them qualified.

The government had specific requirements which three of these cruise ships were decided upon. They're Carnival Cruise Line Ships. Now critics are saying that bidding process wasn't very good. First of all, the cruise ships weren't filled up. There's space for about -- almost 10,000 people. Nine or 10,000 people. There aren't very many people on this. Some people have done the math and say, the average per person rate that the government paid for this cruise ship is double what you would pay if you booked it online or booked it directly. There's a lot of criticism that at $1,275 per week it is too much money.

Now Carnival Cruise Lines has issued a statement to say they entered this deal not with the idea of making money. That in fact they entered this agreement to be revenue neutral. The contract price was not based on a per berth formula, says Carnival. It was calculated based on what Carnival would have earned during the charter period if the ships would have been in regular cruise service. I recall right after the deal was made a number of analysts on Wall Street, because Carnival is a public company, did the math on it and they actually felt that Carnival might lose a penny a share in the quarter. So it was never thought to be profitable to Carnival to do this.

So it's kind of interesting that the allegations are that at twice the price that passengers would normally pay, it's still not profitable. It's a bit of a murky situation. Both sides say they had very little time to come to the agreement. And that's why it may not be perfect.


BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Ali, thanks very much. Let's immediately go to CNN's Zain Verjee at the CNN Center. She's following a developing story. What's happening Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, we're receiving word of a fire in a place called Chatsworth, California. You are looking at live pictures right now. We want to show you from CNN affiliate KCAL. It's burning near Freeway 118. We don't know how long this fire has been burning. We don't know what has triggered this nor whether there are any casualties. What we do know is that this fire is burning near a number of homes. Presumably people in the area have been evacuated. This is tape now from video from our affiliate KCAL.

We are going to bring you more information when we have it. But again, Wolf, this is a fire burning in Chatsworth, California. These are pictures from KCAL, our affiliate, and it's burning at this highway, Highway 118.


BLITZER: All right, Zain, thanks very much. Zain Verjee with that story.

They pointed fingers and traded accusations. But who is right and who is wrong? Who bears more of the blame for the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina? We'll get your views.

And she's speaking out in the fight against AIDS. I'll speak exclusively with actress and activist Angelina Jolie here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Louisiana's official death toll from Hurricane Katrina now stands at 896. But very few bodies have actually been returned to waiting relatives. Anxious families are facing a bureaucratic nightmare.

Our Brian Todd is here and has the story. Brian, what's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've tracked this problem through one woman's story -- one woman who has gone through seemingly endless heartbreak, uncertainty and frustration over the past few weeks.


TODD (voice-over): Beverly Anderson got the news she had been bracing for. On September 9, she was told that her 88-year-old mother, Dorothy Jacques (ph), had died a week earlier in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Anderson set about trying to recover the body for burial. She wasn't prepared for what happened next.

BEVERLY ANDERSON, RELATIVE OF KATRINA VICTIM: I think I began trying to get information as to where her remains were.

TODD: Anderson says her mother's body was collected by FEMA. When she contacted FEMA to find out where the body was, she said she had to answer questions on a long missing persons form over the phone twice. A long tangle of phone calls followed with no results.

Anderson says it wasn't until she contacted her state senator in Maryland and the Council of Catholic Bishops that she was able to break through, but only to a point. First she was told that it was at a morgue at St. Gabriel, Louisiana, and that the body would be released on September nearly three weeks after Dorothy Jacques died.

Then she was told something else.

ANDERSON: My mother's remains would not be released. That St. Gabriel did not have the authority to release her remains. So then the calling. You go through the cycle again.

TODD: Nearly a month after her loss, Beverly Anderson still does not have her mother's body.

How concerned are you about the condition of her body?

ANDERSON: I try not to think about it.

TODD: A frustration felt by hundreds of families and by the chief coroner in charge of their loved one's remains.

DR. LOUIS CATALDIE, LA. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS: These are horrible times. I wish I could speed up the process.

TODD: Dr. Louis Cataldie runs the morgue at St. Gabriel, where nearly 800 bodies of Katrina victims have been sent. But only about half have been identified and of those just over 30 have been released to families.

When we contacted FEMA officials to ask about the bureaucratic mess that Beverly Anderson faced, they referred us to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. That group oversees Dr. Cataldie's team. They admit that the process is slow and tedious. Bodies are hard to identify. Some don't have proper documentation. And the state attorney general has ordered that bodies from nursing homes like Dorothy Jacques' must be autopsied for possible legal action.

CATALDIE: I don't know any way to make it faster. I can't make it faster. I will try to make it more efficient but that's all we can do.


TODD: Beverly Anderson says that she understands that frustration and understands that officials in Louisiana had to prepare for a second possible hurricane. She says her mother has been dead almost a month now and she just wants to bury her.


BLITZER: What a sad story. All right, Brian, thank you very much. Still ahead, the hurricane blame game, the finger-pointing continuing. But who should bear a brunt of the criticism? We'll check in with our Jack Cafferty. He's going through your e-mail.

And stand by for my exclusive interview with Angelina Jolie. She's on a mission here in Washington. Coming up, the actress talks about her work for the United Nations and how it touches her personally.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I think it's CNN's Zain Verjee is getting some more information on that fire that's taking place in -- just outside of Los Angeles. Zain, are you there?

VERJEE: Yes. We do have more information on that fire, Wolf. It's burning in Chatsworth, California. We're showing you pictures from our affiliate, KCAL. We'll do that in just a moment.

This fire is burning near Freeway 118. This is the Ronald Reagan Freeway. There was two acres of brush that caught fire earlier. It was reported burning just before 2:00 p.m. local time. It's burning on the north side of the Ronald Reagan Freeway.

There were homes in the area that were threatened by the fire. The fire is now, we understand, on both sides of the highway. Local officials telling us that it jumped the freeway because of the really strong gusty winds today.

This is a live picture now from the ground. You can see firefighters there that are on the scene. Officials saying to us that there are more than 125 fighters working on this right now, trying to get this fire under control.

Local fire department officials also adding that there are four helicopters and one large tanker that are heading in to try and get it under control. It appears though that authorities are trying to do just that, as we see pictures of smoke billowing and reaching there toward the skies of Chatsworth, California.


BLITZER: Let's show our viewers, Zain, where Chatsworth is right now. We have a satellite image of Chatsworth. You can see it just outside of Los Angeles right there. That's where this fire is taking place. As we zoom in, you see the area around Los Angeles.

Chatsworth a community, I guess you could call it a suburb of Los Angeles right there. But the pictures show a lot of smoke, a lot of firefighters on the scene. It's a developing story and we will continue to monitor what's going on. Zain, thank you very much.

Let's move on to some other news we're watching right now.

The U.S. Army is investigating reports that troops took photographs of dead Iraqis and traded them to a pornographic Web site in return for access to that site.

Let's get some specifics. Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, standing by. Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at this point, the Army says it's found no basis for a full-fledged criminal investigation, yet it is still concerned that perhaps some soldiers may have traded pictures for access to the Web site.

The Web site operator told CNN today that he gave access to the site to any soldier who sent in pictures from the battlefield. The Web site, in addition to sexually explicit material, also has gruesome pictures that purport to show Iraqi war dead, some dismembered bodies and also U.S. troops, or purported U.S. troops posing next to bodies.

The Pentagon said it would be unacceptable if the turned out that the military had provided any of that those images, but it stresses it has no firm evidence that that's the case at this point.

U.S. military work personnel have been warned about providing any images or content to Web sites or Web blogs that would either compromise security or perhaps provide propaganda value. This would be a conduct unbecoming if someone were to find it. But, again, they haven't been able to find any firm evidence of that. So meanwhile, traffic on the Web site has tripled as has become grist for a debate on the blogosphere.


BLITZER: All right, Jamie, thank you very much.

Let's get some more information now about this investigation. We will check the situation online. Our Internet reporters, Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton are watching that. What are you guys picking up?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a great example how a story can bump around online a little bit before the mainstream media picks it up. It caught our eye when the photos from the pornographic Web site were reposted at americablog.

Now, the photos that are reposted have been censored. We have actually censored them further because we don't want to identify anybody. We also want to make this very, very clear that no one has been able to authenticate these photos. That is very important. What we wanted to give you was the back story of how this came about.

Now, Mark Glaser at the "Online Journalism Review" points out that it was an Italian blogger, Fabio Contilla (ph) who found the gory photos on the pornography site. He posted about it on August 16, on his blog. Some other Italian media organizations wrote about it in Italian.

An American blogger, Helena Cobban, on her Web site,, asked her readers to help her translate the Italian into English. On August 24, and then again on August 15, she posted about story in English.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Questions about this site and the stories around, really getting a lot of traction online last week when the "Online Journalism Review" piece came out. Also there have been bloggers looking at the Web site and pushing the story. -- this is the blog of University of North Carolina law professor Eric Muller. He's been looking at the site and asking questions. Also D.C. blogger Andrew Sullivan, a popular long- time blogger here, looking around the Web site as well and digging deeper.

Online news stories as well have been advancing this story, pushing it further. The "East Bay Express," is an alternative weekly in the San Francisco area. Their story last week by Chris Thompson has been widely circulated. We have seen it even on an Egyptian blog.

Another one, "The Nation" magazine, in their Web-only version, they've also written about the story of this Web site.

SCHECHNER: It's very important for us to point out, Wolf, that the photos that are posted on americanblog are reposts. They are censored, and again, no one has been able to authenticate these photos.


BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, guys. Very disturbing story indeed. I want to just show our viewers once again the story we're watching out in California outside of Los Angeles. You see helicopters are now involved. They're dropping water to put this fire out. More than 100 firefighters are involved. It looks like a very dry, dry area around this area in Chatsworth, California. We will watch this story and get you some more details.

Still ahead, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, her personal life gets a lot of press, but the actress Angelina Jolie does some very serious work on behalf of the United Nations. She'll tell us what she's trying to accomplish. We'll speak with her exclusively here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It's a war being waged by governments around the world, powerful business leaders as well, even celebrities are involved -- the fight against AIDS. Tonight, here in Washington, companies active in the global AIDS fight will be honored. Two people involved are Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie, and Trevor Neilson, the executive director of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. I spoke with them just a short while ago in an exclusive interview.


BLITZER: Angelina, thanks very much for joining us. Trevor, thanks to you as well.

I want to get to the whole HIV/AIDS project momentarily, but your thoughts on what -- what went through your mind in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS AND U.N. GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: Oh my God! Well, I think -- well, for me, the situation -- because I've been to so many refugee camps, it seemed like something I didn't expect to ever see in America. And it was something that I was -- I was wondering who was going to be called in. I think I was like most people; I was just waiting to see when everybody was going to get in, who was coming, how they were going to get organized. I called UNHCR and I said, have you guys been called? Because they coordinate relief efforts like that, and people who are displaced. And they said, no, but we're standing by.

And then the second day, and the third day -- and like most people, just started to get angry and really sad and really confused.

BLITZER: Were you, like, addicted to watching the images on television?

JOLIE: I was, a bit. And a close girlfriend of mine was from there, and so I was around a lot of emotion and a lot of -- yes, I mean it's...

BLITZER: I think a lot of people really were shocked to see those pictures. None of us thought we would ever see anything like that in the United States, but you know what? It underscored that there is a lot of poverty in this country.

JOLIE: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And when you hear the statistics when they talk about -- they tell everybody to evacuate, but then you read, and you read more, and then it says 140,000 people had no cars and no way to evacuate, and you think, that's a fact. And we know that.

So what does that mean, that we say evacuate, but then we don't airlift people? I just -- I think it was just for all of us, still, we don't quite know what that says about...

BLITZER: I know you're very generous, in terms of your charity and the philanthropy. Did you get involved in New Orleans, in Louisiana and Mississippi? JOLIE: My first instinct -- well, I think the first instinct for everybody was to go on and ask for money. And my -- because I has seen so much money in different parts of the world just not be able to actually get to the people because the reality is, so many times, wonderful organizations like Red Cross, you build up a lot of money, but until our government was going to step in and bring order, you can't get the aid to the people in most need.

So I was, at that point, focused, and I released a statement that I was going to be writing to my congressman and, you know, to my representatives, and to the president and to ask them first. So that's what I was doing. I was kind of pushing people to try to get them in, to try to get somebody in to respond.

And now my focus is -- will be in helping to rebuild and going in after and when it settles and seeing what needs to be done, which I don't know what that is yet.

BLITZER: How do you divide up your domestic priorities -- helping people in this country -- as opposed to helping people around the world?

JOLIE: I don't. You know, to me it's not a different thing. I don't kind of say, a bit here, a bit there. I think -- and I tend to hear a lot of that now, people say, oh, we're doing this here. Like recently the idea of funds, possibly because of Hurricane Katrina, they'll say, well their fund's going there, so maybe it might be taken out of the PetPharm fund for AIDS, or it might be taken out of the -- I don't understand that. My personal view is, give everything you've got to everything that 's necessary. Find a way. And it's not ...

BLITZER: But are you concerned that Americans are going to now look inside and forget about the needs in Africa or elsewhere around the world?

JOLIE: I hope not, and I don't think -- that's not the American spirit, it's not their heart. But I think they're very also affected by the news. And if they just see headlines after headlines of just one emergency, it will be hard for them to remember how many human rights abuses are going on and crises and civil wars and AIDS, and all of these other things that they need to, you know, to be focusing on as well.

And there isn't -- you know, this idea that, well, we can only give to one -- that tends to happen. You give to one, you focus on one, and the others don't go away.

BLITZER: How did you get involved in -- you're a U.N. goodwill ambassador. How did this happen that, all of a sudden, one day a very glamorous movie star like yourself winds up going around the world, including in these refugee camps, and you're working to try to do something about HIV/AIDS?

JOLIE: I just -- I feel very, very fortunate that I started traveling with work, and my eyes were opened through meeting people of other countries and seeing what life was like for them in countries like Cambodia and Sierra Leone and realizing that I couldn't just rely on, you know, what was being taught to me at school or basic news, that I needed to go out and really try to see for myself, and met a lot of amazing people.

So it's been nothing, really, but inspiring and gave me strength and hope. And I've met the most wonderful people who are refugees or child-soldiers, who are -- who've taught me just about life. And so I'm just blessed to be able to work with them. It's a great thing.

BLITZER: Trevor, what is the purpose of what you're doing here in Washington?

TREVOR NEILSON, GLOBAL BUSINESS COALITION: Well, we're trying to call on the world's business community to better respond to the AIDS pandemic and trying to use business leaders to put pressure on government to do more. You know, every day 8,000 people die from AIDS. It's an everyday hurricane -- every single day. And another 1,200 every day are infected. And so with Angie's help, and the help of our CEOs who are here, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary -- Senator Clinton -- we're all going to be coming together tonight to try to say to companies, you've got to get involved, you've got to do what you can to try to stop this.

BLITZER: And they're responding?

NEILSON: They really are responding. We're going to have 600 people tonight at the Kennedy Center. Massive numbers of companies have come together, but not enough is happening.

You know, as Angie said, you know, the suffering that everyone witnessed there in New Orleans, and now the suffering caused by Hurricane Rita, that suffering is multiplied times a thousand in Africa every single day. And the American spirit is one that lends itself to helping. And when people are aware of these things, they want to help.

BLITZER: You've adopted a young kid. Talk a little bit about that. Zahara is her name.

JOLIE: Zahara. She's from Ethiopia, she's an AIDS orphan. And ...

BLITZER: What does that mean, an AIDS orphan?

JOLIE: It means -- that's what they believe, how she lost her parents.

BLITZER: Both her mother and her father.

JOLIE: Yes, they didn't have a track on the father. I think the mother was ...

BLITZER: Does she -- does Zahara ...

JOLIE: I think it wasn't like a marriage; I think it was just the woman got pregnant.

BLITZER: Does Zahara have AIDS?

JOLIE: No, she doesn't. But we didn't know that at first.

BLITZER: And she's not HIV positive?

JOLIE: She is not, no. But we didn't know that, and there were a lot of -- I think the most upsetting thing for me was that I came here -- she had to go to the hospital for dehydration and malnutrition. And when she got there, was lots of other things that they were concerned about that were showing up that turned out to be different things. They thought there was a mass in her arm. I turned out to be a rickets fracture from being malnourished. And things like this...

BLITZER: How old is Zahara?

JOLIE: She is nine months soon. But there was a fear that she had HIV. And the upsetting thing that I was sat down and it was explained to me that don't worry, because in this country, it's not a death sentence. Which is also saying to me, because she's not in an area where she's poor, now she can live because she's not in an area where she can't access medicine. You know, it's such a -- it's such a king of horrible thing to hear.

BLITZER: Because in Ethiopia she would die.

JOLIE: Because what they're saying is -- yes, this is something that because you're in a wealthier country, you have more of a chance. But at the end of day, I was terrified but prepared, because it is something I think we should all be prepared to take on. It's not a -- it's a very real, very serious, very scary thing. But at the same time we should not be not adopting children that possibly could have AIDS, it's OK. But she does not.

BLITZER: Which is very good. And I'm sure you're thrilled.


NEILSON: And there will be 25 million AIDS orphaned by 2010. There are 18 million today. Unfortunately, most of them haven't been adopted. Most of them aren't even in the process of being adopted. And so we're looking at ways that can change, looking at ways to try to get Americans and Europeans and others that understand that there are children out there that need loving homes and deserve loving homes...

JOLIE: Every 14 seconds?

NEILSON: Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned.

BLITZER: Bono, another star who has been deeply involved in trying to help people around the world. He was quoted in "Time" magazine in June as saying, "the most important and toughest nut is still President Bush. He feels he's already doubled and tripled aid to Africa, which he has, but he started from far too low a place."

Are you getting involved in the politics here in Washington, as well, trying to excite people, Democrats and Republicans? JOLIE: I didn't mean to, but this morning I ended up in it just because this morning I found my questioning -- and genuinely questioning, not trying to have an opinion in Washington, but I found myself genuinely questioning when it was brought up how much was spent.

Like I said then, I don't have an opinion. I am not saying for or against war, but the amount that is spent every month, Abizaid said $5 billion. And to sit there and to kind of suddenly realize that if we're spending $15 billion on AIDS, for over what is it, three years.

NEILSON: In fact, we actually haven't spent nearly that much.

JOLIE: We haven't even spent that. We have spent 2.5 -- which isn't -- which is what, two weeks? That's what we've spent on AIDS? Is that what's really so -- so I didn't mean to start to get into it, but I suppose you can't help it when you kind of have to ask those questions.

BLITZER: When you feel passionate and you're in Washington, D.C., you've got to do it. Angelina Jolie, thanks very much. Thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for your good work.

JOLIE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Trevor, thanks to you as well.

NEILSON: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: And coming up, after back-to-back hurricane disasters, there's plenty of blame to go around. But who deserves the most heat? Jack Cafferty has been going through your e-mail. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Let's head up to New York. Jack Cafferty has been going through your e-mail. He's joining us now live once again. Hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: How you doing, Wolf?

You know, usually, we have like a teleprompter where we get the script. They needed to take if for something else. But you know what they put up there instead?


CAFFERTY: I'm looking at a picture of Martha Stewart. So I'll make this brief.

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: In aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, who should get the most blame? Is it New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, former FEMA Director Michael Brown, or Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco -- or as they have come to be known in some circles, Curly, Moe and Larry?

Max in Brooklyn, New York: "It's hard to lay blame on local officials whose state is now under water. They do the best they can with what they are promised by Washington? The blame falls not only on the bonehead who takes a job he can't perform, but also on the boneheads who put him in there."

Peggy in McLean, Virginia: "Unlike the state or city, FEMA's only assignment is to deal with emergencies. It's frightening to think of how unprepared it was, as is. Brown's blatant passing the buck just makes the agency look worse."

Jennifer in Ft. Lauderdale writes: "Kathleen Blanco, hands down. Louisiana appeared to have no game plan. And I don't think she is strong enough."

Lisa in Ohio: "Realistically, you would have to blame the government of Louisiana and New Orleans first. They were aware of the logistics issues many of the poor had as far as trying to leave, let alone get to a shelter. FEMA is not a first responder, that's the responsibility of the state."

And finally Frank writes this: "Brown, Brown and Brown. I have one thing to say to Mr. Brown, CNN made it to the Convention Center, Harry Connick Jr. made it to the convention center, FEMA did not make it to the Convention Center."

BLITZER: Frank's got some strong views.


BLITZER: Jack, I'll see you tomorrow. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: They just took Martha Stewart's picture down. Tell whoever did that thank you from the bottom of my heart.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, we'll see you tomorrow.

I want to just wind up check out the situation out in California outside of Los Angeles. These are pictures that are just coming in. You see helicopters on the scene now of brush fire in Chatsworth, California, that's just outside Los Angeles. A serious fire, it's engulfed a certain area over the highway right now. We're watching this story. Stay with CNN for continuing details.

Remember, we're in THE SITUATION ROOM every weekday afternoon 3:00-6:00 p.m. Eastern. Until tomorrow, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT starts right now.