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The Situation Room

New Details in Missing Girl Case; California Burns

Aired August 31, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: It is more than 105,000 acres, more than twice as big as it was just the day before.

We have been watching planes dump water and fire retardant on the flames, but it keeps on burning. More than 10,000 homes and businesses are threatened. Two firefighters have died. There's another way to look at all of this, this fire. A camera was perched on top of one of those air tankers. Now, this is not animation. This is for real. You can barely see the 20-mile-long ribbon of fire below.

There is so much smoke in front of the plane, as well as behind it.

Joining me now by phone is helicopter pilot and reporter J.T. Alpaugh

You have been taking extraordinary pictures of what we have been seeing as well. We have been seeing it on KTLA, as well as KABC, flames that are coming right up to the homes, threatening homes in their backyards right up to their doorstep. What are you seeing?


We're about to take off again after being down for about an hour for fuel. But this is a monster fire, about 130 square miles as it stands right now. And you talked earlier about those people that were refusing to evacuate. We were actually over that ranch and that canyon and we saw the sheriff's department drive up that canyon road to try to get those people out that refuse to come out. And we watched the wall of flame coming down the mountain.

It's just ridiculous for these people to stay behind in this type of emergency and it's really putting firefighters and the L.A. County Sheriff's lives in jeopardy to have to go get them. Evacuations are mandatory in most throughout this area. And it's just these 2,500 firefighters that you see fighting this fire are trying to get it surrounded, trying to lay down these fire lines.

And you saw that tanker coming in. These fire pilots are amazing, coming in at these low altitudes, through this smoke, dropping this Phos-Chek fire retardant down, really trying to stop this monster as it moves this area.

MALVEAUX: And, J.T., we actually see the smoke that is very, very close to where the home is. And I think we can make out some people that are down below. What are you seeing? Are those actually residents who are in the neighborhood? Are those firefighters? It's right near that smoke and that home there.

ALPAUGH: Yes. That is the (INAUDIBLE) area I believe you're looking at right now. That is the southern flank of the fire. Now, those fires basically burn down the hill. You can see the wind coming up from the bottom, that smoke rising.

So, that house is just east of that flank there. Right now, that's close, but there has been a lot of charged, very heavy brush in these areas. Firefighters are making pretty good stands around these neighborhoods on the southern flank, through (INAUDIBLE) through the San Gabriel Valley, where this fire has come back down.

But most of this fire right now, the big head of this fire, is burning up through the Angeles National Forest and charging its way up to the communities of Acton. Some of these fires you see on the southern side, you can see firefighters. There's a lot of clearance there, some pretty good brush clearance between that house.

We have seen some houses where the brush comes right up to it. But you can see that loom up right now. Those flames right there are probably about 20, 30 feet. And that's what we have been seeing, this heavy brush just igniting like that and happening time and again, and the ashes and the embers flying to the next large brush and starting that off. But this has been the firefight that we have seen for the past three days, just like this.

MALVEAUX: And, J.T., I want you to stand by there. Thank you so much for standing by for.

I want to bring in our meteorologist severe weather expert Chad Myers, who is at the CNN Weather Center.

And, Chad, this is the largest of eight fires, I understand, that are burning in California. Can you give us a sense of exactly where is this and explain just how bad it is?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, what you see on those pictures, it's so weird to not see flames be just pushed ahead by wind, by -- this is not a Santa Ana event. There's L.A., there's Long Beach, there's Santa Ana itself.

But this storm -- this fire event is well to the north of L.A. in the mountains here. But it's kind of sneaking down to where there are homes right there on the edge of the forest compared to what would be the valley. The problem is there's no wind to blow the smoke away either.

And this has been one ugly fire to fight. You can even see how here's the smoke. It's just staying in the same area. That has caused an awful lot of problems for these firefighters trying to get in and out with this helicopter and with this Phos-Chek.

Now, this is from Brandon Rissa (ph). This is a time-lapsed shot of what he took on Saturday. This looks like a volcano was going off. This is the smoke rising, the heat of the smoke, the heat of the fire pushing everything vertically, not horizontally. And so you just can't get out of the way of the smoke that is this fire.

And this is going to be the problem, I believe, for the rest of the time here whether you're going to see whether the smoke is here, blown around, or not. It's the dry air that comes in during the day. And it's the heat of the afternoon that dries everything out. We know for sure that this area hasn't burned in 40 years. There's all that fuel on the ground ready to catch fire. And that's what has happened to this firestorm.

MALVEAUX: Wow. Sounds like a very dangerous situation. Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: We got word just a short time ago that five people are trapped by flames in a canyon. And they refused to follow evacuation orders. And now we're told it is too dangerous to rescue them. That may help explain why the evacuation area has been expanded now.

Now, we're joined by Captain Mark Savage of the L.A. County Fire Department, who is with us.

Thank you so much.

I guess first and foremost, can you tell us, what is the situation with those five people? What do we know about those five people trapped in the canyon?

CAPT. MARK SAVAGE, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, they were in an evacuated area. Mandatory evacuation was called for, as you said before. The sheriffs went in. They refused to evacuate, and basically all we can do is tell them they're in a mandatory evacuated area. If they're on their own property, we're not going to physically remove them.

However, we will ask them for their next of kins and urge them to leave. If they do not choose to leave, then we will leave them there. Now they're at risk of obviously injury or death. And our firefighters are watching very closely. If the situation becomes where we can get in there and get them out, we will. But we certainly -- wouldn't be worth endangering firefighters to make a rescue attempt at this point.

MALVEAUX: What do you know about these five people? Are they capable of getting out? Are they able-bodied? Are they young people? Are they children? What do we know?

SAVAGE: No, I don't believe they're children. I think they are residents that chose to stay in an evacuated area and basically they are at that ranch that you were talking about and showed pictures of. And basically now if you don't leave at a certain point, it becomes unpassable for either firefighters getting in or residents leaving.

So, now you would endanger firefighters. And obviously that's the last thing we want. And just two days ago, we had a similar situation. Two residents stayed. The fire overran their house, completely burning the house down. They took refuge in their Jacuzzi outside in the water and still sustained critical burns. So, this just amazes me that people still refuse the evacuation order and don't follow the advice of professionals that we do this all the time. We know what is safe and we know what is not. And they need to understand the .

MALVEAUX: And, Captain, is there anything they can do? What can they do to survive if the fire is actually close to them, being in a situation that they're in now?

SAVAGE: Well, they're now -- they're forced to shelter in place now. They're going to have to go inside, make sure all the windows are closed, and basically wait this thing out. And hopefully it can be tenable.

We have had very difficult, trying conditions out there. And I hope it's tenable for them, because we can -- we will try to send air drops in there if it becomes necessary to try to cool the area. But it's certainly a difficult situation for them. So, we hope and pray that they do well.

MALVEAUX: You have ordered evacuations for neighboring communities. Are you going to be ordering mandatory evacuations for additional cities as well?

SAVAGE: Oh, I can imagine, yes, that's taking place right now as we speak. We have a team of people who are monitoring the path of the fire. We're working very closely with law enforcement that's handling our evacuations.

And from our operations people communicating exactly where the fire is, where we anticipate the fire is moving and trying to stay ahead of the mandatory evacuations, we're trying to give residents as much notice as possible. If they have large animals, that certainly takes time. And we need to try to give them as much notice as possible. So, yes, with the extreme fire behavior we're having, we are -- we will be calling for additional mandatory evacuations. I can guarantee it.

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, we will be following that. Thank you very much, Captain Mark Savage with the L.A. County Fire Department. Really appreciate that.

Well, turning to political headlines on our "Political Ticker," Dick Cheney is striking again. And the White House is striking back. It says that Cheney is flat-out wrong to say that the administration is making decisions about terror detainee interrogations based on politics. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says that those decisions will come from a new high-level interrogation unit. Cheney lobbed his latest attack on the administration's terror policies in a TV interview just yesterday.

Well, it won't be easy replacing a man many people say is irreplaceable, but the process to succeed Ted Kennedy has started. And, today, the Massachusetts governor set January 19 as the date for a special election for voters to choose a new senator. Until then, Governor Deval Patrick hopes to appoint someone to Kennedy's seat temporarily.

It is a dying wish from Kennedy himself. But, to do that, the governor will need approval from the Massachusetts legislature.

And President Obama's vacation now includes a staycation. The president and first family bounded off Marine One back to the White House yesterday. But they are bound for more rest and relaxation. They have extended the vacation.

Today, they're staying close to home, President Obama on downtime here in the Washington area. Later this week, it will be Camp David. Some openly are wondering if the president risks losing some momentum on key issues, like health care reform amid the break.

And, remember, for the latest political news anytime, check out

High school athletes are not supposed to practice, collapse, and later die.


ED RAMIREZ, BALDWIN BRUINS HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: For high school coaches, it's a shock and that could be me. That could be one of my athletes.


MALVEAUX: One high school football player is dead. The coach is charged with reckless homicide. Could this have a chilling effect on high school and college sports?

The latest on the situation involving a man who allegedly kidnapped a girl, fathered her two children and kept her captive for 18 years. Find out why police are using dogs to sniff around the man's home for human remains.

And fight crime with an iPhone. A victim uses technology to battle muggers. And you can do it, too.


MALVEAUX: A high school football coach goes on trial in Kentucky today in the death of one of his players. Prosecutors say he recklessly endangered a 15-year-old boy's life by letting him practice in 84-degree heat. This case is raising a lot of questions and stirring a lot of emotions at schools across the country.

Our Mary Snow is looking at the risks as well as the fallout -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, this is believed to be the first trial of its kind where a former high school coach faces criminal charges related to a heat stroke. It's being closely watched and could have an impact stretching far beyond Kentucky.


SNOW (voice-over): When New York's Baldwin Bruins practice, they now use this heat index monitor to gauge whether it's time to take a break. The school's athletic director says one reason it was added is because of 15-year-old Max Gilpin, who collapsed during football practice in Kentucky last summer and died three days later.

ED RAMIREZ, BALDWIN BRUINS HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: For high school coaches it's a shock. And it's -- that could be me. That could be one of my athletes.

SNOW: And there's keen interest in the fate of Gilpin's coach, Jason Stinson. He's now on trial facing charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment. A jury will decide whether Gilpin's death was an accident or a crime.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: They're going to want to know, did the coach behave in some reckless way that made this tragedy likely to happen.

SNOW: Prosecutors allege Stinson subjected the boy to what they called barbaric conditioning.

DAVID STENGEL, PROSECUTOR: The best example I can give you is like someone shooting into a building not knowing anybody is in there, but then killing somebody.

SNOW: Since Stinson was first indicted in January, he's pled not guilty. And his lawyers say he will be vindicated once the full story is out.

ALEX DATHORNE, ATTORNEY FOR STINSON: It's easy to point a finger if that makes somebody feel better, but I think this was just an unfortunate circumstance.

SNOW: Some legal analysts say, if Stinson is convicted, the impact could be far-reaching.

MICHAEL MCCANN, "SPORT ILLUSTRATED" LEGAL ANALYST: We could see a lot of other coaches react to this by saying, you know what, I'm only going to coach if players are willing to undergo invasive health tests, because the last thing I want is one of my players to die and then I could be sent off to prison, too.

SNOW: And Baldwin's coach Steven Carroll (ph) says he's more worried now than when he started 23 years ago, when there was no drinking water on the field. He says he keeps close watch on his players, especially since three of them are now over 300 pounds.

You say, how you feeling? There's no kid out there right now that will tell you he's not feeling well.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Now, the charges brought against Stinson each carry a maximum prison term of five years. And, Suzanne, jury selection will get under way tomorrow.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Mary.

Well, a note to muggers, if you're going to steal an iPhone, it might come back to bite you. Three men were arrested in Pittsburgh after a mugging victim led the police back to his iPhone using the phone's GPS.

Well, our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is following the story. Abbi, I have lost this a couple times. I have been fortunate enough to find it. What happened? How did this guy do this?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This is how it worked over the weekend. GPS led police to this Pittsburgh area diner where the suspect was standing in the parking lot still holding the iPhone.

This happened late Friday night, early Saturday morning, when a 23-year-old Carnegie Mellon University student said he was mugged on the street, losing his credit cards, his wallet and his iPhone.

Now, what the victim knew, which the robbers apparently didn't know, is that there's a new service from Apple called find my iPhone. And minutes later, he was watching his belongings moving through the streets of Pittsburgh.

They paused at a gas station, also at an ATM. And he was on his online bank account watching money being debited as they were using his ATM -- his ATM cards. Then it arrived here, where it appeared to stop and he could pinpoint it. He went on Google Street View to find out where they were using all the tools accessible to him, saw that they had pulled up to this diner.

Police arrived and arrested three men.

MALVEAUX: That's amazing. Did he get his stuff back?

TATTON: He got almost all of his stuff back.

Now, this tracking feature, it comes through MobileMe. You do have to pay for it. But, in this case, it looks like it was worth it.

MALVEAUX: Seems well worth it. OK. Thank you, Abbi.

Well, people who knew Jaycee Dugard as Alyssa for many years say they never suspected that she and her daughters were held captive.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They made it seem like these little girls were like living like wolves or jungle kids in a backyard dungeon. Perhaps that is it. But they didn't give the visual to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: We are learning more about Dugard, her daughters and the bizarre life in her alleged captors' backyard.

Also, imagine if your boss spent the day doing your job. Well, it is happening in the U.S. military, with a bit of a twist. Civilians are getting a taste of service in the National Guard.

And we are tracking a hurricane threat to Mexico. It is just one-mile-per-hour short of Category 5. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



MALVEAUX: Well, you have seen the backyard where a kidnap victim lived for two decades. Now we're getting a glimpse inside the sheds and tents, at the life of Jaycee Dugard and her daughters.

And they may not want to quit their day jobs. Civilian bosses get to experience the military the way some of their employees do.


MALVEAUX: Today, police are back at the scene of Jaycee Dugard two-decade kidnapping ordeal. They are looking for possible links between the man charged with abducting her and the unsolved murders of prostitutes. They're also getting a fuller picture of Dugard's life with her alleged captors and why no one figured out that anything was wrong until last week.

Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Jaycee Dugard's stepfather is telling us that she's feeling remorse and guilt over bonding with her alleged captor for almost 18 years here at this home in Antioch, California.

(voice-over): Jaycee Dugard appeared to have settled into an unimaginable routine during her 19 years of captivity. Behind the scene, she lived in this messy backyard prison but to the outside world, she was the creative force behind Phillip Garrido's printing business designing business cards for clients all over the town of Antioch. Deepal Karunaratne describes her as intelligent with an attention to detail.

DEEPAL KARUNARATNE, GARRIDO BUSINESS ASSOCIATE: She was always having a very pretty smile on the face. She comes and talking to me and always smiling. And she's a very pretty girl. Very pretty young lady. LAVANDERA: Even Dugard's daughters appeared to live a normal life. These are pictures of the young girls obtained by CNN. The 11- year-old went by the name of Angel. The 15-year-old, Starlet. We've blurred their faces to protect their privacy.

The pictures were taken two weeks ago at a birthday party for Cheyvonne Molino's daughter. Molino says Garrido called Jaycee and the daughters "my girls" and often brought them to Molino's wreck yard delivering bottles of water on hot days.

CHEYVONNE MOLINO, GARRIDO'S BUSINESS ASSOCIATE: They made it seem like these little girls were like living like wolves or jungle kids in the backyard, you know, dungeon. Perhaps that is it but they didn't give me the visual to me. They were polite. They were well- mannered.

LAVANDERA: Molino says Angel and Starlet were huge fans of Hannah Montana. She says Jaycee dreamed of becoming a model, always clean and well dressed. No hint of the tragic reality.

Investigators have expanded the crime scene at Phillip Garrido's home. They brought cadaver dogs to search the property next door. Authorities are looking into whether Garrido could be connected to a string of murders in the 1990s.

JIMMY LEE, SPOKESMAN, CONTRA COSTA SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: What we also know is that Phillip Garrido had access to that property. He used that property and it looks like he lived on that property in a shed.

LAVANDERA: As we've scoured Garrido's hometown looking for clues, we found this in a hardware store -- the name Phil G. on a donation card. On August 17th, this receipt shows Garrido bought a pressure switch and then left a $2 donation to the Children's Miracle Network.


LAVANDERA: Dugard's whereabouts are a tightly kept secret. We understand that she's with her two daughters and her mother and a couple of other relatives. But she's also with a team of psychologists and authorities that are helping the family through the reuniting process -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Tonight, CNN's Larry King will interview a woman who was raped by Phillip Garrido and held as a sex slave. Garrido was convicted of the crime and served 17 years in prison. Her story on LARRY KING LIVE at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Well, it is hard to imagine how all this could play out literally in somebody's backyard.

Our CNN's Tom Foreman is here.

He's going to give us a better sense of Jaycee Dugard's world for the past two decades. Explain to us -- show us how this could possibly be laid out -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Let's look at where it all started first, because that's an easy thing to overlook in all of this. When you look at the place where this began, it's actually right up in here, in this part of California, South Lake Tahoe. If we move in a little bit closer, you can see, this was the school where she was going to school at the time. And right up the way here is where she was abducted where she ran into the Garridos. (INAUDIBLE) a little bit. Right here.

If you move in, you can see it's a normal sort of neighborhood in the woods, a little more rural than some. And this was the place where they ran into her.

Now, just as importantly, look where she ended up spending, as you said, Suzanne, the last past couple of decades. If we widen this out to the point where you can see where we are, we move down this way and all we're going to do is go about two hours as -- as the crow flies and it will take us right to the house in Antioch. And you can see, this is Phillip Garrido's home -- the home here, the backyard, the backyard area where they were held.

And as you can see, Suzanne, it's in the middle of a neighborhood.

MALVEAUX: Yes, I don't understand this.

Why is it -- this is not like a rural road, a back road. This is the middle of a neighborhood.

So why didn't it attract more attention?

FOREMAN: Well, you know, I think, Suzanne, one of the things you can see happening here when you talk to the neighbors that we heard in Ed's piece a moment ago, they were hiding in plain sight. That's part of it.

Look at this. We're going to go right to the street here and I'm going to show you what it looked like out on the street where all of this was happening. If you were standing on this street, this is the view you would see. And as we turn around ghee, look at this. It all looks pretty normal. There's something in the front yard here. It was like picnic tables. I don't know what that is. There's a lot of cars here, some bags here.

But which one of these houses would you pay any attention to?

They all just look like normal houses all gathered around this street. There's a boat in front of this one, a fence around here.

MALVEAUX: So it's just a...

FOREMAN: But this is the house.

MALVEAUX: So, was this the plan all along, for Garrido to have this young girl -- this woman in -- in the backyard -- locked up in the backyard over there?

FOREMAN: That's a great question and we don't really know the answer. We know that from the street, it looked like a normal house. And we also know that when you came back around and looked at the property here and you looked at it over time, you could see a big difference.

This is the house. This is the backyard. Here are all those outbuildings and little tents and things we were talking about. We do notice that back in May of 2008, there was a satellite image of the same area. I want you to notice this. This is the area that we're mainly focusing on right now. You see some of these blue tarps a little bit. You see some construction back here. And when we move to the modern times, look closely. You see there's now a trampoline back here. There's what looks like a swimming pool. There are some other buildings that have been added in here. The tree has grown much bigger. I'm going to switch that back and forth again so you can see the difference between 2002 and now. There's clearly been growth back here.

So whether he intended to keep them there all along, we don't know. We what we also know is that, over time, there became quite a complex back there. You can look at some of these pictures that have come out. You can see some of the details that came out from all of this taken by Nick Stern with

Look at this. This is clearly a whole setting. As the neighbors said, they were not living like wolves. It clearly wasn't tidy, it wasn't neat, it wasn't the way one might want to live, but nonetheless, there was a microwave oven. There's some sign that they had chairs, beds, they had makeup, brushes, things that people might live with.

These are photographs taken back in the general area that they lived in. You can see they had Furbies up in here, some game controllers for some sort of television game and books, "Self-Esteem," "A Family Affair." This is all the sort of things that have been found in this backyard where this extraordinary story broke out.

But as I pointed out in the beginning there, Suzanne, if you were a person walking down that street just a couple of weeks ago, what you would have seen was a very normal street with no real reason to have alarms raised -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely fascinating.

Thank you, Tom.

Let's turn to the U.S. military. About 100,000 Reservists and National Guard members are on active duty fighting America's wars. They are supposed to get back to their day jobs back when they're done serving their country, but unfortunately, it doesn't always happen.

What if their civilian bosses, though, however, could experience their military lives firsthand?

Would it actually change things?

Well, our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has been looking into a program that is just like that. It's a story that you will only see here on CNN -- Chris. CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, a lot of folks certainly hoping that things will change. You know, this program really gives civilian employers a chance to walk in the boots of a National Guardsman.


LAWRENCE: (voice-over): This is no way for a banker to spend his day.


LAWRENCE: Christopher Kret is a team manager for Chase Bank. This year, he temporarily lost two employees to deployment.

CHRISTOPHER KRET, CHASE BANK: One in particular was gone for about six months. The other one was gone for about maybe five to six different times within a six month period.

LAWRENCE: Now he and other employers are getting a chance to see the Reservists' other life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we want you to understand what your soldiers and airmen are going through when we rip them out of their employment.

LAWRENCE: The Ohio National Guard calls it an boss lift. Employers trade wing tips for walking boots, commercial flights for Chinooks. They fly to a training ground in Michigan, where lunch hour is a few minutes scarfing MREs. They feel the explosives that detonate bridges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might have to line up.

LAWRENCE: and pull the trigger on a real piece of artillery.


LAWRENCE: They give up their employees to the government. Boss lift tries to show them it's worth the sacrifice. A federal law is supposed to protect their jobs, but tens of thousands of returning Reservists have filed complaints or sued their employers.

JOE WYNN, VETERANS ENTERPRISE TRAINING & SERVICES: The employers don't continue to keep that position active and so, thus, find a way to kind of circumvent the law.

LAWRENCE: And the discrimination can snowball if a company decides deployments are too much trouble.

BOB LABADIE, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: After an experience that doesn't necessarily feel so good to them, there may be an inclination to maybe not hire Guardsmen or Reservists in the future.

LAWRENCE: The general was honest with the employers.

MAJ. GEN. MATTHEW KAMBIC, U.S. ARMY: Sometimes they don't come home to you the same way you sent them to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going at it.

LAWRENCE: Not after Iraqi or Afghanistan. But in some small way, these employers can now understand.

KRET: It really helps one to just put that into perspective and make the necessary accommodations and understand when some -- where somebody is coming from when they return.

LAWRENCE: Chase Bank took its Reservists back with open arms. But Kret says after seeing this, that next time he'd spend even more time talking when they come home.

KRET: Just to see where they are and how you can help them out.


LAWRENCE: And a group called AMVETS has scheduled another boss lift for later this year, with the ultimate goal of making employers all over Ohio more aware of what the Guardsmen are really doing -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Excellent.

Thank you, Chris.

Well, slightly miffed -- why James Carville and another Democrat are criticizing President Obama over New Orleans, as the city marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

And there is talk about another Kennedy filling the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat. Some are asking, is it time to end the Kennedy dynasty and bring in new blood?


MALVEAUX: It's the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Should President Obama have been in New Orleans rather than on vacation?

Here to weigh in, former Bush speechwriter, David Frum; Politico senior reporter, Ken Vogel; "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief, David Corn.

But first, CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to kick it all off -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Suzanne, it's been four years since Hurricane Katrina blew away some of the nation's faith in government. Now, President Obama had vowed to fix what wasn't working with the recovery efforts in New Orleans. But one usually very loyal Democrat is a little put out with the president.

I'm talking about New Orleans native James Carville. He was devastated by the response to Katrina.

And here's what he told John King yesterday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."


JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I would describe myself as slightly miffed that he hasn't been down yet. But he says he's coming down before the end of the year and we're hospitable people and we -- we certainly will welcome it.


YELLIN: Obviously, he's talking about whether President Obama should have visited New Orleans already, which he has not done.

Now, he isn't the only Democrat who is still waiting on a presidential visit. Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu says she's concerned the president hasn't shown up, either.

Still, both admit the president is dedicated to the region. President Obama has promised a trip before the end of this year.

So the question is, how important is it that the president visit New Orleans soon -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: I will put that question to you guys, first.

David, we'll start with you.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I would say not -- not very important. And it may be even more important that he not visit in order to go through more victimology, but that he be associated with the success and progress. New Orleans has been recovering. They now have some important things to do as a city to make sure that it avoids some of the economically destructive policies that it was pursuing, that it improves the schools and that it has a tougher on crime approach than it did before the hurricane.

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO SENIOR REPORTER: Well, I think there's definitely something to be said for the symbolism of a presidential visit. Let's not forget, President Bush really took it on the chin when he flew over New Orleans after Katrina in Air Force One and there were photographs of him appearing distant looking down upon the scene without actually experiencing it. And President Obama, during the campaign, really made an issue -- a symbol of Katrina and the devastation there, both in terms of the Bush administration's sort of ineptitude in handling it and, additionally, in terms of the sort of institutional inequalities that the hurricane really evidenced.

So -- or the aftermath thereof. So I think that there is something to be said for him actually going down there and getting his feet on the ground there.

MALVEAUX: What do you think about the fact that the governor there, Bobby Jindal, a Republican, who said that he thought Obama was doing a fine job, that that wasn't particularly necessary, that he go down any sooner?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," POLITICSDAILY.COM: Well, I think Bobby Jindal has some political motives behind what he says. I've spoken to friends in New Orleans who say they're more than slightly miffed that the president hasn't come.

But it's not just the trip -- or the absence of a trip that has gotten them upset. Last week, "USA Today" had a whole feature on the pumps -- the temporary pumps that the Corps of Engineers put in aren't working and the permanent pumps are not technically superior. You know, FEMA has made a lot of good moves since there's been a new FEMA director, cutting through red tape for residents down there who still rely on FEMA. But there's still a lot of issues that haven't been resolve resolved.

And I think a trip, if combined with real action, would have said a lot for the Obama administration. So I think he should have gone, but only if the trip actually previewed taking further action (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: I talked to retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who said that he did feel that the federal government needed to do more to get to the red tape, they've done something, but not enough.

Do you think that the federal assistance for New Orleans has been enough under the Obama administration?

FRUM: I -- you know, I think we need to keep the spotlight on the institutional reforms that that city and that state need to make. That Hurricane Katrina also hit Mississippi. And we have seen a much more impressive snapback in that -- in one city it crossed along than in the other.

New Orleans has a lot of problems in the way it governs itself. And I think we repeat many of the mistakes we made in our initial coverage of Katrina if we keep exonerating that city and we keep saying you do not have a problem with governance locally.


MALVEAUX: So who do you blame in the governance?


MALVEAUX: Do you -- do you blame Jindal here or Nagin?

CORN: But some of the big issues, though, actually are federal issues -- protecting the coastland. I know there was -- Obama had a chance with the stimulus bill to put money in for coastal protection. It's the Army Corps of Engineers. That's not an issue that involves Nagin or even, to some extent, Jindal.


FRUM: ...the schools are, though. CORN: Well, no then those are -- those are local issues. But I'm talking about some of the foundational, big infrastructural issues that haven't been addressed well and we're still -- I think the federal government and probably the local government are still trying to do it on the cheap. We're not using the best technology to rebuild New Orleans.

VOGEL: Well, any amount of money, really, will address kind of the institutional issues that were exposed here, particularly in the immediate aftermath and the immediate response -- the interoperability between levels of government was a huge problem. And, of course, there were many studies done after the -- after the aftermath there to kind of look at how these things could be improved. Obama came in. One of the first actions -- official actions of his Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, was to push -- push for this initiative that addressed sort of interoperability questions. But, of course, there's no way to really test these things, unfortunately, until we see them in action again.

MALVEAUX: Until we get another hurricane.

We'll leave it there.

And in the wake of Senator Ted Kennedy's death, should another Kennedy fill his seat or is it time to end a powerful political dynasty?

And Moost Unusual video -- now a way to make some quick cash via the Internet.


MALVEAUX: We are back with David Frum, Ken Vogel and David Corn.

But first, CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to kick it all off -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Suzanne, the Kennedys have been called American royalty or a political dynasty. And it's not hard to see why. There was, of course, JFK, quite famously; his younger brother, Bobby, a senator and presidential candidate; the baby of the family, Senator Ted Kennedy. Then, Bobby's son, Joe, a former Congressman; and Bobby's daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, once Lieutenant governor of Maryland.

There's more. Teddy's son, Patrick, now a representative. And oh, don't forget California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. OK, so he's not exactly a Kennedy, but he is married to one.

So now that Ted's gone, everybody wants to know will his widow Vicki or his nephew Joe take the seat?

Now, you might say that sounds a little more like monarchy than democracy. The Kennedys do give mightily to this country, with an amazing record of public service.

But the question today is, when it comes to the vacant political seat, is it time to bring in some new political blood -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: All right. David?

FRUM: Well, I'm tempted to say we should retire that seat in perpetuity and leave Massachusetts with just one seat. No, this -- this story, I think, exposes how incumbent-friendly the American political system is. And we pile it up, both with the absence of term limits and, even worse, with our campaign finance system, which prevents -- which puts equal limits on both challengers and incumbents, even though challengers, it has been demonstrated, need more money in order to have a chance of winning.

And whether you like the candidates or you don't, I mean this seems like an awful lot of one dish.

CORN: Then we're going to have to give up on the Bush family, as well. I mean there is tit for tat here. And, you know, Jenna Bush just got a very nice job with another network on the basis probably not of meritocracy, but of connections. It happens all the time.

And I don't think this seat is going end to up in a Kennedy's hand. Now, there's going to be a special appointment, probably, to fill it for a couple of months while we have the health care debate and the special election in January. And I tell you, you know this, the Massachusetts political delegation is full of very ambitious people who've been waiting decades -- decades for an open seat.


FRUM: Kennedy here in (INAUDIBLE).

CORN: And they all are going to be running hard for it.

VOGEL: And more than that, I mean we have -- you talk about the advantages of incumbency, we have really five or six delegates in the House delegation who have been raising money, who raised a lot of money in 2004, when they thought there was a possibility that John Kerry could be elected president and his seat would open up. They were ready for it then. They're ready for it now. Obviously, there's a very sensitive issue and that is sort of how to go about running without a period to be morose or disrespectful of the Kennedy legacy.

But there are a bunch of folks who are ready for a race and more ready, perhaps, than, you know, Vicki Kennedy, even though we have to take her...

MALVEAUX: But we've heard...

VOGEL: her word.

MALVEAUX: We've heard the name Mike Dukakis mentioned.

What do you make of that?

FRUM: That's just a thrilling, exciting new face. It just -- it just shows the American system's emphasis on novelty and innovation. No, that -- that brings -- that raises again this problem -- why is there so little turnover?

And the answer is it is the rules. It isn't that people want to bring a Michael Dukakis back, but he can raise the money under America's system...

CORN: But the whole point...

FRUM: ...of campaign financing.

CORN: The whole point of putting him is as a safety placeholder. He will not run in January. He's someone that everyone will not be threatened by to a high degree...


CORN: And so it clears the way for a raucous race in the fall.

MALVEAUX: We've got to leave it at that. Got to leave it at that.

Thank you, guys.

Appreciate it.

Well, if you have e-mail, you may have seen them -- videos that made the rounds after hitting YouTube. If these familiar viral videos made you laugh, it made the people who submitted them laugh, too -- all the way to the bank.

And a stunning aerial display just one image in today's Hot Shots.

More just ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at Hot Shots.

In India, people covered in a pink powder dance during a Hindu festival.

In Afghanistan, kids clean household items damaged by flash flooding. In Somalia, people suffering from post-war trauma eat at a rehabilitation center.

And in Istanbul, the Turkish Army's aerobic demonstration team performs during a graduation ceremony.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Well, it's part of the Internet culture -- if you post video on YouTube, at least someone is going to watch it. But if it goes viral, you could make some serious cash.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has discovered this Moost Unusual money maker.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): If your kid is extra cute, telling mommy how he doesn't like you all the time.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I love you, too, but I don't like you all the time.



MOOS: Now, you can cash in on ad revenue. You could make a bundle if you shot, say, those otters holding hands. It used to be that YouTube only shared ad money with people like this.


MOOS: Fred constantly pumped out popular videos.


MOOS: He was sort of a semiprofessional crazy content provider. Now, it's the turn of the one hit wonder -- those YouTube videos that come out of nowhere and become Internet sensations.

Remember David after the dentist, still loopy on anesthesia?


DAVID DEVORE, JR.: Is this real life?

DAVID DEVORE, SR. DAVID'S FATHER: Yes, this is real life.


MOOS: In the past, seven months, David's dad has made...

DEVORE, SR.: A little over $25,000.

MOOS (on camera): Wow! Not bad, huh?

DEVORE, SR.: Not bad.

MOOS (voice-over): Money generated from ads for -- not surprisingly -- dentists. Though the ads for a dating service that signs senior men left us scratching our heads.

Several one hit wonders have been sharing ad revenue in the test phase, but now it's open to everyone.




MOOS: Take this famous safari video. A baby buffalo gets caught by lions, chewed on by crocodiles, but is rescued when the buffalo heard returns and turns the table on the lions.


MOOS: The tourist who shot this, the one in the burgundy shirt, let a partner handle the video and didn't even know it was getting ad money until we told him David after the dentist.

(on camera): So his dad has made $25,000 off that video now.


MOOS: I think you'd better talk to your partner.

BUDZINSKI: Yes. I think I should.

MOOS (voice-over): The folks at YouTube decide if your one hit wonder is doing wonderfully enough to merit ads. They send you this invite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking for overall viewership, so does -- does the video attract a lot of viewers?

MOOS: Over 117 million views is definitely enough.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Oh, Johnny. Ouch. Johnny, that really hurts.


MOOS: Now, Lipitor is advertising alongside Charlie's finger bite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I -- I think it's great. I think it's really great.


MOOS (on camera): It sounds like your son.


MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.



Sitting in for Lou, Lisa Sylvester -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Suzanne. Tonight, a state of emergency in Southern California as a monster wildfire forces thousands of people to flee their homes and threatens a major communications center.

New revelations in the case of the kidnapped girl rescued after 18 years. Police are now looking for a link between her alleged kidnapper and the killings of prostitutes.

And banks -- well, they were supposed to be giving homeowners a break as part of the federal bailout.

So why are so many strapped mortgage holders still not finding the relief they desperately need?

But first, the wildfires. At least eight fires are raging throughout California today. But the biggest and the most threatening is known as the Station Fire. That's just north of Los Angeles. And it has doubled -- doubled in size since yesterday.