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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama Visits Gulf Coast; Stunning Discovery in Afghanistan

Aired June 14, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of people will want to read them.

Lisa, thanks very much.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: President Obama is on his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast to assess the oil spill, this time, a two-day visit to be followed by an address to the nation from the Oval Office. Will it be enough for critics questioning his leadership of this crisis?

Also, the stunning discovery that could change the course of Afghanistan's future, almost a $1 trillion worth of minerals buried under one of the world's most impoverished and war-torn countries.

And a deluge sets off a series of dramatic rescues, as flash foods ravage Oklahoma, where a state of emergency is now in effect.

We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Day 56 of the oil disaster and the stakes are higher than ever for the Gulf Coast residents, the environment, and for President Obama. His critics are increasingly vocal about what they see as a lack of both leadership and emotion, as the U.S. confronts the worst oil catastrophe in its history.

The president is in Alabama this hour, where he visited one of many disaster response staging areas and laid out the promises he can and cannot make.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't promise folks here in Theodore or across the Gulf Coast that the oil will be cleaned up overnight. It will not be. It's going to take time for things to return to normal. There's going to be a harmful effect on many local businesses, and it's going to be painful for a lot of folks. Folks are going to be frustrated, and some folks are going to be angry.

But I promise you this, that things are going to return to normal. This region that's known a lot of hardship will bounce back, just like it's bounced back before. We are going to do everything we can, 24/7, to make sure that communities get back on their feet. And in the end, I am confident that we're going to be able to leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. He's traveling with the president in Alabama this hour.

All right, Dan, tell our viewers what's happening right now.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president just wrapped up his first boat ride here in the Gulf. He took a ferry over to an island, a chance for him to see the oil in the water up close and also take a look at the containment effort, the White House here trying to show the nation that the president is on top of the situation in the Gulf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): This is the picture the White House wants you to see, President Obama, back in the Gulf, listening, talking tough.

OBAMA: We're going to continue to hold BP and any other responsible parties accountable for the disaster that they created.

LOTHIAN: A hard push after weeks of criticism from some of the president's closest allies that he didn't come out of the gate fast or hard enough.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They have ramped it up and response has improved, but, you know, anything short of declaring this a matter of national, not an incident, but a national catastrophe and an appropriate response is, I think, short of the mark.

LOTHIAN: Former Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer says he, too, was initially shocked by the administration's response.

JOSH GOTTHEIMER, FORMER BILL CLINTON SPEECHWRITER: Bill Clinton probably would have flown down there, set up a White House. I sometimes look at it from the lens of Bill Clinton. What would Bill Clinton do. And we talked about this a second ago.

So, I thought Bill Clinton would have immediately been on a plane down there cleaning birds. And so -- but I have to remember that everyone is different.

LOTHIAN: President Obama is not Bill Clinton.

GOTTHEIMER: I think he's taking all the steps and now he's showing people that he is indeed angry and engaged. You know what I mean? And the president -- this president has a different style, and every president is different. This president has a different style. He's cool and keeps it cool under all pressure. And I think there's something that is remarkable about that. LOTHIAN: President Obama defended his response to the oil crisis in an interview with Politico -- quote -- "Some of the same people who are saying the president needs to show leadership and solve this problem are some of the same folks who just a few months ago were saying this guy is trying to engineer a takeover of our society through the federal government."

Clearly, striking the right balance in a disaster is a political high-wire act.

GOTTHEIMER: Not everyone is going to be happy at any point. So, you either do too little or you do too much. It's hard to find exactly the right way to go that's going to make everyone happy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: At one point today, President Obama took on the role of director of the Chamber of Commerce, encouraging Americans and locals to eat plenty of fish, and also those who might be staying away from the area to still come here and visit because there are many beaches that are still open. And the president says, if you want to help out, the best way to help out is to come here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dan Lothian on the scene.

The Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, welcomed President Obama's latest trip to the Gulf today. Afterward, Jindal met with representatives of the state seafood industry, and he had a dire warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: I'm glad the president has made another trip to the Gulf. Every time he comes down here, the pace of federal activity picks up, and that's a good thing for our state and I certainly hope that will happen this time as well, especially with regards to these issues that we're addressing today. We also know that with the president's visit, we have got the nation's attention.

This an entire industry. The losses of our restaurants and businesses and communities will be incalculable. This is not something you enter into some kind of FEMA formula for the federal government or BP. And not to mention we never want to have to calculate those losses. We're in a fight for our survival. We're in a fight to protect our very way of life.

And let me again be clear. There's not one man or woman up here that wants an unemployment check or wants to have to wait for a BP check. Every single man and woman up here wants to be able to go back to work, go back to our way of life, the way we were doing before this spill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Here's where the oil is right now, extending from the Louisiana coast to the Florida Panhandle. Some 78,000 square miles of Gulf waters are now off-limits to fishing. As for beaches, they're closed on Louisiana's Grand Isle. All beaches remain open in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, but swimming is not advised on some of them.

BP CEO Tony Hayward is scheduled to testify about the disaster before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. And there are already indication he's in for a grilling.

Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is covering this part of the story for us right now.

Allan, what do we know?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that Congress on Thursday is going to accuse BP's CEO of being cheap, of trying to rush the massive Deepwater Horizon rig to quickly drill in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators at the House Energy and Commerce Committee have read through internal BP company documents, thousands of them, that they believe show that BP tried to save millions on project that was running late and over-budget.

A BP official wrote of the delayed project, "This has been nightmare well." Congressman Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak write in a letter to BP's CEO that the company took a low-cost approach to drilling the Macondo well. They say BP's well design saved $10 million, and the company skimmed on cement the well, ignoring advice from Halliburton, which was the cementing subcontractor.

BP also didn't run a nine-to-12-hour called a cement bond to assess the integrity of the cement seal, according to the investigation, even though BP's mid-April review plan predicted cement failure. An independent expert told congressional investigators this was a horribly negligent decision, the letter added.

BP also decided to forego the safety set of fully circulating drilling mud in the well before cementing, that letter claims. Indicative of the attitude, one BP official wrote: "Who cares? It's done. End of story. We will probably be fine," a big mistake, says the head of the oversight subcommittee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: There should have been redundancies. I mean, the redundancies weren't there. And sort of the conclusion was, well, we can cut corners, go on the cheap and nothing is going to happen anyways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHERNOFF: The CEO of BP will have lots of explaining to do, especially with oil continuing to pollute the Gulf of Mexico. A spokesman for BP told CNN, since Hayward will testify on Thursday -- quote -- "It would be inappropriate to comment on these matters in advance."

No doubt they will be raised during the hearing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, the bottom line, somebody was trying to save a few bucks for BP, and, as a result, they -- they cut corners, and this disaster happens; is that the allegation here?

CHERNOFF: That is -- that is definitely the bottom line. BP was trying to save millions. It has cost them billions, and, of course, cost us just an amount we cannot even calculate in terms of environmental and economic impact.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Allan Chernoff, for that.

We're tracking the oil disaster's impact on wildlife. There's now growing concern about migratory birds. One conservation group says as many as 13 million may be at risk, as massive flocks pass through the Gulf this summer. Federal wildlife officials say, so far, 530 oiled birds have been rescued, 730 have been found dead. They say 59 sea turtles have been saved, but at least 315 have died as a result of the spill.

Jack Cafferty is next with "The Cafferty File."

Then, one local community prepares to do battle with the oil disaster. We're going to take you inside the war room where officials are bracing for the worst.

Also, the shocking discovery in Afghanistan that could change everything, from the course of the war to the country's very future.

Plus, gripping life-or-death rescues as floodwaters sweep away cars and the people inside them -- we have details of a different kind of disaster unfolding right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: While Washington touts the recovery, fewer Americans are feeling better about their own financial situation these days.

A new Gallup poll shows 50 percent of those surveyed say they feel better about their personal finances. But that's actually down 4 points from April. And, so far, that decline is holding in the month of June.

Not good.

The poll also shows that several other important measures of personal financial well-being are holding steady. These include 34 percent of Americans who say they have more than enough money to do what they want -- 77 percent say they have enough money to buy the things they need, and 21 percent say they worry they spent too much money yesterday.

These numbers have remained virtually unchanged over the last couple of months. But the fact that more people say they're feeling worse about their personal financial situation could spell trouble. For one thing, it's a turnaround from April, when consumers were feeling better about their own pocketbooks.

There are several possible reasons for the decline. The stock market had its worst month in 40 years in May. There's the ongoing worsening financial crisis in Europe and the deteriorating conditions resulting from the Gulf Coast oil spill. Plus, the May jobs report was disappointing and distorted, showing an artificially high number of new jobs because of the hiring of temporary workers for the census.

Whatever the reason, though if people are worried about their finances, they're less likely to spend money. And, without consumer spending, our economy loses its motor. Roughly two-thirds of the American economy is driven by consumer spending.

So, here's the question: Do you feel better or worse about your personal financial situation? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

Do you feel better or worse about your financial situation, Wolf?

BLITZER: I'm lucky, and so are you, Jack. We're all lucky.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: We have jobs, but, unfortunately, a lot of folks watching us right now are not very lucky.

CAFFERTY: That's true

BLITZER: States of emergency are in effect in 59 Oklahoma counties, after as much as 10 inches of rain fell on the region in just a few hours. And it triggered enormous flash floods, resulting in some tense and amazing rescues. The pictures are amazing.

Our meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is tracking it all for us from the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta.

Bonnie, how did this happen?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, we have seen the same pattern that emerged in Arkansas and even earlier in Texas, where we had some tropical moisture kind of training along a front.

And I want to show you what I'm talking about. First, check this out. This is a look at the radar picture. We kind of look back in time from 1:00 in the morning to 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and look at all the heavy rain sweep across much of Oklahoma City.

You will notice, certainly, that some of the heavier concentrations are north of the city. And when you look at the total rainfall, boy, that's very apparent. In fact, areas in the brighter pink just north of Oklahoma City, near where that rescue took place, that's where we saw nine inches of rain, most of the rain occurring between 2:00 and 5:00 in the morning. That's when people are sleeping. A lot of it occurred in the early morning, maybe when people were heading to work, not expecting it to get as bad as it did.

And you can see that red brown color -- that's the color of the earth in Oklahoma -- of the water. And there's the rescue of the woman that made it safely from hanging on to a tree for her life. Across much of the region, a lot of people were definitely stranded in their cars as well.

Take a look at some of the reason, the weather pattern of why it happened. Here's a look at high pressure in the Southeast. And you can see this is why we have been so hot and steamy here. But, more importantly, on the periphery of this high , we have seen a steady flow of severe storms and heavy rain training.

And when we talk about training, it means as if you had trains on a railroad track that keep going around and around the same place over and over again. And that's exactly what happened with the storms for last night into early in the morning.

And guess what? It is happening once more. But I do have some good news. Despite the fact we have heavy rain sweeping across Oklahoma City, the most intense storms are staying south of the city. That being said, the forecast does call for more rain in the next 48 hours. And, yes, it is president to hit some of those flooded areas that you saw earlier.

The storms kind of extend all the way back into Texas and even into areas of northern Texas, in the Panhandle. That's where we're seeing some really severe weather. We have had intermittent tornado warnings popping up in northern Garza County. That's in the panhandle of Texas.

And all this rain is pushing to the northeast. We're expecting the heaviest thunderstorms to stay south of the city, but the flood watches and warnings, Wolf, will persist straight through tonight and likely tomorrow, because it takes a long time for that water to recede. And the new rain coming in, that only makes matters worse.

BLITZER: These are awful, these flash floods in Oklahoma and then Arkansas the other day. It's just a deadly situation. Bonnie, good explanation. Thank you.

More vessels, more pipes, and greater risk. BP comes up with a revised plan for recovering a lot more oil faster from the gusher in the Gulf.

And seven years and four billion miles later, a space capsule returns to Earth. Scientists are itching to see what secrets of the universe may be on board.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: There's another way, by the way, for you to follow what's going on behind the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.

Tempers flare as local officials prepare to battle the oil disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think we have got to get more productive on that part of it. We got enough law enforcement. They come to try to take our stuff, it ain't going to happen this time.

I guess I'm venting over here, and I apologize to all you.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are states really stealing resources from each other? We're going to show you what is going on. We're investigating.

Also, a closer look at BP's plan to try to dramatically increase the amount of oil it's recovering. We're going to show you what's involved and why it hasn't been done before.

Plus, almost a trillion -- yes, a trillion dollars worth of minerals are discovered in Afghanistan. What will it mean for the U.S.-led war and for the future of that impoverished country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to BP's new plan to try to dramatically increase the amount of oil it's trapping from the gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's now aiming to be able to recover up to 80,000 barrels a day by mid-July.

CNN's Brian Todd has been taking a hard look at the plan for us.

What does it contain, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, BP had a tight deadline from the administration to come up with this strategy. A few days ago, the Coast Guard told BP that it didn't have enough backup mechanisms in place. Now BP's got them, but it's going to mean more ships on the surface, more pipes leading to them and more risk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Under intensifying pressure from the administration and the Coast Guard, BP comes up with a more ambitious strategy for containing this gusher.

It may allow crews to contain up to five times more oil than they are now, the latest plan in a letter from BP to the Coast Guard obtained by CNN. First comes some relief for the Discover Enterprise, the containment ship that is in place now to hold the oil being funneled to the surface. Within the next few days, a second vessel called the Q4000 will also be there to catch some of the oil.

ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: The Q4000, we're anticipating it will bring 5,000 barrels on, but it has the capacity to go to 10,000.

TODD: That means, between the capacities of the Discover Enterprise and the Q4000, officials hope to be able to handle 25,000 barrels or more a day by the end of this week. Right now, they're capturing only about 15,000.

Between 20,000 and 40,000 could be leaking out. But by the end of June, according to BP's letter, the company plans to bring in a third ship, either the Toisa Pisces or the Helix Producer. Each of those can take up to 25,000 barrels a day.

So, by the beginning of July, BP says, the surface ships could be taking in 50,000 or more barrels a day. By mid-July, according to BP, both the Helix Producer and the Toisa Pisces will be in place as the primary containment ships. The Discover Enterprise ships to backup status. And another backup, the Clear Leader, will arrive on site. It can take 15,000 barrels a day.

The Q4000 will move further from the site. So, from mid-July on, between the two primary ships and the two backups, BP says the operation will have the capacity to handle up to 80,000 barrels a day. But that's a lot more ships in a very tight space.

ALLEN: It will be a time where it's going to be pretty crowded out there, as you can imagine. This is going to be very, very carefully staged and sequenced.

TODD: Staged from the sim-ops room at BP's Houston command center, recently visited by CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, how is the oil going to get to those four ships? Well, this graphic in BP's letter to the Coast Guard shows that.

The riser pipe that is in place now, that one right there, is going to be one of the pipes used. Other lines previously used in the top kill and other operations will be sent to the other vessels. And a new cap will be put in place -- you can see it right down there -- with valves on it to get the oil to those pipes.

Ambitious, risky, but a Coast Guard official just told me they're satisfied with that plan for the moment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ambitious plan. Let's see if it makes a difference.

TODD: Let's hope.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

We're waiting for new numbers later this week, how much oil is still gushing out. Communities along the Gulf Coast are bracing to do battle with the oil from the gushing well as the crude moves north and east.

CNN's Reynolds Wolf takes us inside one community's war room.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The meeting with the state attorney general, Jim Hood, went well.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): In Hancock County, Mississippi, this team of emergency managers huddles over their game strategy, but it doesn't take long to see a referee might be needed.

WENDY MACDONALD, COUNCILWOMAN: How many days we been here talking about, we have got a plan; they're working on a plan? How much more evidence do we need that it is time to do something?

WOLF: For the City Councilwoman Wendy MacDonald, that evidence came this week.

JESSE FINERAN, HANCOCK COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI HAZMAT: This is the area where the bird was.

WOLF: Jesse Fineran was there when this Brown Pelican was rescued. Tests confirmed it suffered from oil exposure

FINERAN: A beautiful, beautiful bird.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was he alive?

FINERAN: Yes. Yes, ma'am.

WOLF: The team makes progress. But then, another setback -- allegations of rerouted supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boom, from -- I don't know where it was coming from, but Alabama intercepted it.

we've got enough law enforcement

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:

But I just think we've got to get more productive on that part of it.

STEVE SEYMOUR, HANCOCK COUNTY SUPERVISOR: We've got law enforcement. If they come to try to take our stuff, it ain't going to happen this time. I guess I'm venting over here and I apologize to all you all.

WOLF: The players are tense, despite a hard-fought victory this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This arrived yesterday afternoon at 3:00, so I've got a (INAUDIBLE) from every (INAUDIBLE).

WOLF: After repeated requests, the joint command finally assigned a representative to the county.

COMMANDER PETE KILLER, U.S. COAST GUARD: We're basically here to help you folks in regards to trying to get some communication going between here and the incident command post.

WOLF: The communication they desperately seek -- answers.

When will the encroaching oil taint their beloved coast?

(on camera): How close is this oil to getting to the shore?

basically

FINERAN: We can smell it and we can taste it, but they're telling us it's not here.

WOLF: We're going to go up and take a look around with the Mississippi Army National Guard and see if their luck is going to hold.

Let's climb aboard.

(voice-over): This bird' eye view gives Hancock County a fighting chance in this unfair game.

LT. COL. STEPHEN MCCRANEY, MISSISSIPPI NATIONAL GUARD: We have air assessment teams that are on the beaches. We're flying above their -- their locations every day with the H72s, with the helicopters, into -- to make sure that we identify any hazard far enough away that it can be taken care of before it gets to the beach.

WOLF: Good news. Today, it's a win -- no visible signs of oil as we travel the shoreline and for miles off the coast. It's an added comfort to Hancock County's leaders knowing they aren't fighting alone.

MCCRANEY: So this is what we did. The Mississippi National Guard. It's a home game to us.

WOLF: Reynolds, Wolf, CNN.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: A country steeped in poverty may have just hit the jackpot -- how Afghanistan's newfound treasure could change the course of its economy and the war.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It's a staggering number -- 78,000 square miles of Gulf waters now off limits to fishing because of this oil disaster. And that's literally driving some people out of business.

CNN's John King is joining us now from Mobile in Alabama.

What are you finding there -- John?

You're talking to a lot of folks.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Wolf, what you find is heartbreaking devastation and gut-wrenching uncertainty, because, as you noted, most of these waters out behind me -- this is Mobile Bay. You can actually see a cruise ship going by out there. Most of these waters are now offshore -- off limits to any fishing. And so many of these communities in Alabama, in Mississippi, in Louisiana and in Florida, are -- for years -- for generations have been fishing communities.

We went over about 25 minutes from here earlier today, to Bayou La Batre. And we went to a bake shop on the dock that used to sell live shrimp, used to sell live oysters. Well, can't get either of those right now because it's illegal to go out and fish in the oiled Gulf waters right now.

We also met a man -- just a remarkable story -- a remarkable story of a man who has fished these waters, Wolf, for at least 60 -- he's in his early 60s. He has fished these waters all his life.

And I asked him a very simple question, I said, what has this spill done to you?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NELLO BARBER, COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN: What has it done to me?

Well, it's wrecked my livelihood. My livelihood was from a teaspoon of water to knee deep. I'm a flounder fisherman, a commercial fisherman. And it put me out of business. Just poof -- all, all the way out of business. So -- and when it stopped, it's -- I mean, just pure stopped us altogether. We just don't have anywhere to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Nello Barber says he has nowhere to work, Wolf. A few minutes later in that interview, he literally got so choked up, he couldn't talk anymore. And he took the microphone off. I was asking him, what would he say if he had a few minutes with the president while the president was in Alabama today?

And what Nello Barber said and what just about everyone we have encountered today in Alabama and all last week, as we went all across the Gulf, almost to a person, they said the same thing, that they hoped the president does right now, that they hope he keeps the pressure on BP, that they hope he keeps his promise to make the Gulf better than before and to help the seafood industry and other industries here.

But to a person, almost everyone, including Nello Barber, said they believe the president did not get the urgency of this at the very beginning. They believe that the government should have spent a lot more time and all of its resources fighting the oil far from shore. They think that it got too close to their beaches, too close to their communities, too close to their livelihoods, because -- their perception is, anyway -- that the federal government didn't take it seriously enough quickly enough -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they getting any reimbursement from BP, these folks like Nello, who've lost their livelihood?

KING: Some are. Some are still frustrated. We drove by the BP claims office here today. That's heartbreaking in its own right. We were at the BP claims office. And you watch mothers going in with three or four young children holding onto them; fathers going in with three or four young children, because they work in the industries here. Most people say they have gotten at least one initial check. What Nello's complaint is that his fishing boat, he wants it to be contracted. We saw a whole lot of boom. They go out and replace the boom. There's boom right around Mobile Bay here. You might be able to see it in the distance. And it has oil absorbent -- it looks like foam padding in it. They were rushing that out all day long.

He wants a job from BP. He wants to make some money to do some work every day. But he and many others have not yet been hired. They say they're told to come by the harbor every day. They come down every morning. Some fishermen -- fish boats have been hired for that. Others, though, Wolf, are very frustrated. They say they're just dealing with bureaucracy. And the claims process -- you get mixed results there. The question is, many wonder, what about three months from now, four months from now, six months from now, if they still can't go out there and fish, will BP keep paying?

BLITZER: Yes, a good question.

All right, John is going to have a lot more at the top of the hour -- "JOHN KING USA" from the scene in the Gulf.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What do you have -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf.

Well, an investigation is underway after federal offices in Idaho and Washington State report receiving envelopes containing a white powdery substance. An FBI spokeswoman in Salt Lake City confirms four incidents in Idaho, two in Cour d'Alene, one in Pocatello and one in Boise. The facilities were evacuated as a precaution.

Now, the powder was tested and found to be non-toxic. It's been sent off for more lab testing. Similar incidents this morning were reported in Seattle, Bellevue and Spokane, Washington. There are no reports of injuries or illness.

New details are emerging about the life of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The FBI has posted on its Web site more than 2,000 pages of highly anticipated documents about the legendary Massachusetts politician. Among the highlights, records indicating death threats against him long after his failed 1980 bid for the presidency.

And a young bullfighter put on quite a show in Mexico City yesterday, but not fighting the bull. Take a look at this. Christian Hernandez left the bull alive in the initial round. Shortly after entering the ring for the second round, he turned tail and ran, leaping head first out of the ring. He then reentered -- we'll see it here soon -- but soon left again. Now for all of this, Hernandez was arrested and charged with defaulting on his contract.

And, Wolf, he reportedly has quit bullfighting. I think that's when you know you need a new line of work.

BLITZER: Yes. I've been to bullfights. This guy was probably smart. It saved his life.

SYLVESTER: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: He obviously is not such a smart bullfighter.

SYLVESTER: That's a smart guy there.

BLITZER: Thanks, Lisa.

A country steeped in poverty may -- repeat, may be sitting on some incredible wealth -- Afghanistan's hidden treasure. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Afghanistan, impoverished by decades of war and oppression, its economy long bolstered only by poppy cultivation. But now, a new abundant resource could alter the course of the country.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is joining us now with more on what's going on.

I take it there's a buried treasure out there literally -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is buried, Wolf. And it is treasure -- at least potentially. It's actually minerals -- lots of them. But the real challenge will be to turn those minerals into money for the Afghan people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): In the crossfire of negative news on Afghanistan, one of the most deadly months for U.S. And NATO troop since the war began, stunning news of vast mineral deposits, estimated to be worth $1 trillion or more. This U.S. Defense Department briefing lists the value. Iron ore, copper, gold. Then there's the promise of lithium, the amount still to be determined, crucial for computer batteries.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have been canvassing the war torn country, added to data originally collected in the 1950s. For an Afghan government with a budget of just $1 billion, it could be a dream come true. But turning those minerals into money could take decades. The minerals lie in remote parts of the country. There's no real mining industry or heavy transportation.

Then there's corruption. The State Department says at least half of Afghanistan's current economy is illegal, mostly based on the opium trade.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: And let's not underestimate this. This is going to be a long-term proposition. And it will be central to develop the -- the effective processes of government so that resources aren't to the benefit of the few, they're to the benefit of the many.

DOUGHERTY: Some experts warn the Taliban could try to exploit the news, accusing the U.S. of invading to grab Afghanistan's mineral resources. And the timing of the news, others say, could be a bit of morale boosting for the U.S. population, growing weary of the mission in Afghanistan.

MOHSIN KHAN, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: It could very well be that this country is not going to be dependent on the United States and the U -- United States aid or foreign aid forever. It's got resources and eventually, when it starts to exploit them, it will do fine.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DOUGHERTY: So the Defense Department says that as early as the end of this year, that U.S. and international companies can begin bidding on contracts to mine those minerals. And they also claim, Wolf, that Afghanistan is going to be using transparent international accounting rules.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much.

Our national security contributor, Fran Townsend, is here.

She was the homeland security adviser to President Bush and worked in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.

How does this change the strategy for the U.S. if, in fact, there are trillions of dollars worth of minerals beneath the surface in Afghanistan?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, I'm not sure it changes the strategy. But it actually gives the United States a lever that we didn't know we had until now. I mean, if you look at where these minerals are located, suddenly it looks very much like the Kurdish areas of Iraq, where the minerals seem concentrated in these very remote areas. There are a number of challenges. Jill Dougherty's piece pointed to them. P.J. Crowley, when he said we have to ensure the processes of government, what he's really talking about is there have been U.S. concerns over -- over many years now about corruption.

US businesses can be prosecuted if they -- if they allow or -- or feed that corruption. And so U.S. businesses will be very careful about what the processes are going in. They'll want to ensure that there's fairness and transparency.

And, of course, we've seen in places like Iraq and Libya, when go -- when businesses come in and they bid on these contracts, if they actually begin to make money on them and have -- be able to mine the resources, what they want to be sure is countries won't nationalize those mines and then take that investment away from them, so they don't have the return.

And so when P.J. Crowley at the State Department says it's a long-term process, he's absolutely right. We're going to have to ensure that the transparent business practices are really in place to ensure that the -- the whole country sees the benefit of it.

BLITZER: Because a couple -- as you know, this story that was on the front page of "The New York Times," General Petraeus has been talking about these minerals for some time right now. But all of a sudden, it takes on a new level of importance when it's on the front page of "The New York Times." And it comes at a time when there is increasingly bad news coming out of Afghanistan.

TOWNSEND: That's right. Look, this is a very hopeful sign. But no -- no one here in this country ought to think we're going to see the benefit of it immediately. It really is going to take time in order to have those bids come in, get them mined, see the benefits of that revenue flow. And, frankly, when you look at the country and the remote areas, are there the roads?

It -- can you get the equipment in to do the mining?

Can you get the minerals out if you can mine them?

And can you make sure that there's a process by which the revenue from those mines is actually getting to all of the people of Afghanistan?

BLITZER: Easier said than done.

TOWNSEND: Right.

BLITZER: Thank you, Fran.

"JOHN

KING USA" is coming up right at the top of the hour.

He's live in Alabama and he's got some special guests there today. Also, a Senate candidate unlike any other we've ever seen...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALVIN GREENE (D), CREDIT FOR SENATE, SOUTH CAROLINA: ABC News, I mean they haven't gotten it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, do you feel better or worse about your financial situation?

There's a Gallup Poll out suggesting the number of people who feel better about their financial situation is actually going down, despite the touted recovery.

J.J. in Lincoln, Nebraska: "I'm a single woman, 43. I earn less than $30,000 and definitely feel worse off since my wages are frozen and the prices are not."

Tunde in New Jersey writes: "I actually feel better. All of this negativity and doom in the reporting about the economy forced me to change my spending habits. As a result, I'm spending less, shopping smarter and my finances look dandy."

Bob writes: "I feel worse. When the statistics come out about unemployment, I'm not counted because I'm self-employed. I also don't qualify for unemployment since I'm self-employed. I have my own carpentry business. I feel like a second class citizen, even though I have to pay more in taxes than someone who works for someone else."

Tom in : "Better. We've got a small business. Things were -- we were in serious trouble in 2008 and 2009. But we've turned the corner. We're not on easy street yet, but things are looking a whole lot better -- activity and revenue up about 40 percent year over year."

Silas in Boston: "Far worse, Jack. There's no money to create jobs, no money to upgrade our infrastructure. We're on the fast track to poverty and further division. We have no manufacturing base.

Our farmers are virtual share croppers to the agriculture industry and our politicians are beholden to special interests, as opposed to the taxpayer."

Kim writes: "Better. I had a few interviews lately and I actually had one offer so far. After months and months of little or no activity, things appear to be picking up."

Delia in Katy, Texas: "I feel worse. Fifty and unemployed doesn't bode well in this economy." And Bob writes from Florida: "Much better, Jack. Business is good. I'm even afforded the time to waste watching THE SITUATION ROOM."

If you want to read more on this -- it's not a waste of time. It's how you stay informed.

If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.

BLITZER: I agree completely, Jack.

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE) about waste of time.

BLITZER: It's not a waste. He was being sarcastic.

CYNTHIA: Well...

BLITZER: He loves it.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: All right, thanks.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: Out of business and wondering what to do next -- at the top of the hour, CNN's John King asks beached fishermen what they'd say to President Obama.

And once an out of work veteran, now a South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate.

So who is Alvin Greene?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREENE: ABC News, I mean they haven't gotten it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The man who won the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina has party leaders in that state claiming he might have been a plant. After all, his name is Greene, Alvin Greene. And he is a most unusual candidate.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's prompting funny looks and puzzled headlines -- "The Strangeness of Alvin Greene."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN," COURTESY MSNBC)

GREENE: OK, say that again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: I said the strangeness -- oh, he meant repeat the question. But his answers are so odd, we thought we'd present the top Alvin Greene interview moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN," COURTESY MSNBC)

GREENE: You know, I think that they -- they saw -- I think that they...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: This is the guy who won South Carolina's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

(on camera): Even better than some of the answers were some of the silences -- the awkward, pregnant pauses...

(voice-over): Especially when he's asked about facing charges for what he allegedly showed a female college student.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "STUDIO B WITH SHEPARD SMITH," COURTESY FOX NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was woman on man porn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Cause for pause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN," COURTESY MSNBC)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Can you say whether or not a public defender was assigned to you?

GREENE: That I'm not commenting on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (on camera): And how often do you hear a politician say that he funded his campaign travels by collecting unemployment?

GREENE:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY SC-ETV)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get gas?

GREENE: Well, I am still collecting my unemployment benefits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (voice-over): And whose was the off-camera voice coaching Greene during Keith Olbermann's interview?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN," COURTESY MSNBC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just get an (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And what did Alvin Greene say to state lawmakers who wondered whether he might be mentally impaired?

GREENE: Well, I'd say that back to them, then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. If you were a...

GREENE: They're the -- they're the knuckleheads.

MOOS: But forget about unusual answers. Let's focus on unusual questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "STUDIO B WITH SHEPARD SMITH," COURTESY FOX NEWS)

SHEPARD SMITH, HOST: And to those who would say, I smell a rat, you would say stop smelling?

GREENE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Maybe voters mistook Alvin Greene for singer Al Green.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: CNN's Don Lemon wanted more on Greene's mental state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You're mentally sound, physically sound? You're not impaired by anything at this moment?

GREENE: No. Just -- I'm OK.

LEMON: No, just what?

GREENE: I'm OK.

LEMON: Quite honestly, you don't sound OK.

Are you impaired by anything right now?

GREENE: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But he did get paired up with that Internet symbol of failure.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Play him off, keyboard cat. Mr. Greene has become the most famous Alvin since...

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN," COURTESY MSNBC)

GREENE: You know, I think that they -- they saw -- I think that they...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: CNN...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alvin!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: You can't make this kind of stuff up. This is an amazing story.

That's all the time we have.

Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.