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Koran Burning Controversy; New Senate Polls; Lion Attack Caught on Tape

Aired September 8, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's correct, Jack. Thank you.

You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, A Florida pastor defiantly vowing to move forward with the incendiary protest. He says his congregation will burn copies of the Koran despite sharp new criticism this time from the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and now from Sarah Palin as well.

Also, stunning new polls on some of the hottest Senate races in the country. Surprising leads, slim margins and dead heats. We go inside the numbers this hour.

And a terrifying lion attack caught on tape inside of a Las Vegas hotel. We find out from experts what may have triggered the animal to turn on his trainer.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

It's the strongest criticism yet from the Obama administration of a Florida pastor who plans to burn copies of the Koran this Saturday on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Afghan war commander General David Petraeus has said the move would inflame tensions and endanger the lives of American troops. Today, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was asked about it during reform policy speech, and she blasted the idea.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're a country of what, 310 million-plus right now. I mean, it's regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous, and distressful, disgraceful plan, and get, you know, the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now.


BLITZER: Sarah Palin is now weighing in as well, posting this message on her Facebook page just a short time ago, and I'm quoting, "I would hope that Pastor Terry Jones and the supporters will consider the ramifications of their planned book burning event. It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appears nothing more than mean spirited religious intolerance. Don't feed that fire." And joining us now is Fareed Zakaria. He is the host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on Sunday mornings here on CNN. Fareed, you understand the Muslim. Why is it that one pastor of a small congregation in Florida can threaten to start burning a couple hundred copies of the Koran, and it could create this huge uproar endangering the lives of U.S. military personnel?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I think there are two things going on here, Wolf. The first is that the Koran is seen by Muslims as the holy book, the word of God. It is seen as the unaltered word of God, and so, it has a kind of special significance beyond even something like the bible. There is a sense in which it is seen as the literal word of God.

But more importantly, and this is why it's distressing, it's dismaying, and frankly, it is very unfortunate situation, there are people in the Muslim world, imams, political leaders, particularly political and community leaders who use these kinds of opportunities to try to spread Islamic extremism, to try to galvanize people, to try to scare people, and motivate them and tell them the west is against them. The west wants to kill them. The west just trying to impose, you know, their Christianity on them.

And they use these kinds of opportunities to try and rally people to their cause. So, it is an unfortunate reality in the world of Islam that you can find these kinds of people. I will point out. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Islamic extremists and the fundamentalists do very badly in the election after election there. Nobody votes for them. Nobody follows these people on anything important.

The jihadi movement is doing very badly, but on a few hot button issues like this, you can gather a crowd of several thousands, and you can make it sound very threatening.

BLITZER: Is it smart for top military commanders like General Petraeus and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to be speaking out about this? Doesn't this give it more attention than it certainly deserves?

ZAKARIA: It's a tough calculation, but I do think that General Petraeus was speaking from a lot of experience, and from the heart when he said, look, we are engaged around the world with the Muslim community, in fighting against radical Islam, and the case we make to the Muslim community everywhere in the world is, the United States is not the enemy of Islam. We do not wish Muslims ill, and then to have something like this happen in a high profile way in the United States is damaging.

The reports about what the controversy around the Ground Zero Islamic center have been damaging to America's public image and to our prestige. I've read the newspapers in Indonesia where liberal newspapers are saying Americans claim that they are the center of freedom of religion and freedom of expression and tolerance, but look at what they are doing in New York City, itself. So, I understand why Petraeus and Hillary Clinton feel the need to do it. Unfortunately, when you get into one of these dynamics, it is probably going to get elevated anyway. I don't think they are not speaking would have toned this down. It is the pastor who is threatening to burn the Korans after all, who is attempting the publicity-seeking stunt, and it's working. It got him a lot of publicity all over the world, unfortunately.

BLITZER: And quickly, Fareed, you wrote a provocative article just the other day suggesting that the United States overreacted to the al Qaeda attack on 9/11, and it's generated a lot of buzz out there. Explain what you mean by that.

ZAKARIA: I am fascinated that it's generated as much buzz as it has, Wolf, because I have made this case consistently since about 2004, and I actually used the words overreacted massively. I used that phrase in a 2008 Newsweek cover story. It tells you something about where we are as a country politically. The point I was making is this, we needed to go after these people. We needed to attack them. We needed to chase them down and track their money, but in the course of doing that, we've crippled al Qaeda.

And in crippling al Qaeda, we have rendered it a far weaker force than it was in 2001. We need to take stock of that and recognize that this massive expansion of the national security state, we spend tens and tens of billions of dollars every year now on all kinds of homeland security procedures. There are now 17 million square feet of office space that is 22 U.S. capitals devoted to intelligence gathering that some of this is probably an overreaction and overkill.

And it's part of the kind of grand and growing military industrial complex. This is the moment for us nine years after 9/11 to take stock of how tall the enemy actually is. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in the same situation we did with Saddam Hussein where we thought he had nuclear weapons and was on the verge of the conquest of the Middle East and turned out to be entirely false.

We will find ourselves where we were with the Soviet Unions where in the 1980s we thought the Soviets were going to take over the world, and in fact, they were on the verge of collapse. So, it's important to fight the enemy. It's also important to diagnose just how strong the enemy is and not to overreact.

BLITZER: Fareed is going to have a lot more on this Sunday morning. "Fareed Zakaria GPS" airs at 10:00 a.m. here on CNN, 10:00 a.m. eastern. Fareed, thanks very much.

ZAKARIA: Always a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's John Zarrella. He's in Gainesville, Florida, where the planned Koran burning this Saturday is supposed to take place. John, the pastor is under tremendous pressure not to do it. You've had a chance to catch up with him. What's going to happen?

JOHN ZARELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, you know, Wolf, today in downtown, Gainesville people gathered to pray for peace and unity and tolerance, but here at the Dove World Outreach Center, this controversial pastor is standing his ground.


ZARELLA (voice-over): The pastor of a tiny Gainesville, Florida church remains determine to carry out the plan to burn Koran, the Islamic holy book this Saturday, September 11. Pastor Terry Jones said despite growing pressure, nothing or no one has so far persuaded into change his mind.

PASTOR TERRY JONES, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER: As of this time, we have no intention of canceling.

ZARELLA: Jones refused to take questions, but when we caught up with him earlier, he told me he was praying for guidance. He said he understood the concern of U.S. generals who believe his action would further endanger the safety of U.S. troops. But Jones then says if that happened, it would not be his fault.

And you don't believe that blood would be on your hands if U.S. troops happened to be, be injured or worse?

JONES: Actually, we would, of course, be very, very moved and very sad by that. We would not feel responsible.

ZARELLA: Jones says radical Muslims would be to blame, not him, and they are the ones he says he is targeting.

JONES: Our message is clearly to the radical element that they should back down. They should stop. We are not going to be controlled by fears and threats.

ZARELLA: But everyone we talked within Gainesville says it's Jones who's the radical.

REV. LOUANNE LOCH, HOLY TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH: We stand together as a community to demonstrate that one small group of people bent on promoting hatred and misunderstanding does not represent the people of Gainesville or the people of this nation.

ZARELLA: More than 300 people turned out for a noon interfaith prayer service at an Episcopal church in downtown Gainesville. Theirs was a message of love and tolerance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here because when there's an opportunity to stand for love instead of hate, for peace instead of discord, I want to be here.

ZARELLA: All this uproar over Jones and his plan may, many people here say, provide an opportunity for better understanding of the Muslim faith.

WAJID KHUDDUS, ISLAMIC COMMUNITY CTR. OF GAINESVILLE: The shame in it is that the pastor is burning a book that he hasn't read. So the natural inclination is for somebody to, you know, be aroused by curiosity wise and say, what's in this book?

ZARELLA: Jones has collected about 200 Korans he intends to burn, and he says he has not read one of them.


ZARELLA (on-camera): Now, Jones does not have a permit to burn the books on Saturday night, but he says he's going to go ahead with it anyway. I asked the mayor of Gainesville this afternoon, what if anything do you plan to do to stop him. Wolf, the mayor wouldn't tip his hand -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I assume, John, the media coming into Gainesville not only all over the country but from all over the world right now to see what happens, is that right?

ZARELLA: Yes, there's no question about it, Wolf. When we got here yesterday afternoon, there were two or three trucks here, satellite trucks and microwave vans. We showed up today, and this parking lot which is where this grassy area where he intends to do the burning on Saturday night was literally packed with satellite trucks and news crews from everywhere -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. John Zarrella is on top of the story for us. Thanks, John.

For more, be sure to watch "Larry King Live" later tonight, less than three hours from now. Our special correspondent, Soledad O'Brien has an exclusive interview with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He's the man behind the controversial plan to build an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero. She'll ask him also about the planned Koran burning this Saturday much more. It's a "Larry King Live" exclusive tonight, 9:00 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next for the "Cafferty File."

Then, BP's new report on the Gulf oil disaster is drawing stinging criticism from multiple sides.

And modern day slavery in the United States of America. One former captive tells the story of what maybe the biggest human trafficking ring in U.S. history.

And some surprising new poll numbers on the closely watched Senate race in Kentucky that pits a tea party favorite against the establishment Democrat.


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

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the French are not happy. That's not breaking news. The French are not happy with their government's plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. More than a million people in 220 French cities took to the streets yesterday protesting. Strikers disrupted trains, planes, hospitals, mail delivery, you name it. And yet, French president Nicolas Sarkozy is vowing to push ahead with the overhaul of France's pension system. Because you see, France and many other European countries have come to the realization that if they don't do something about their troubled fiscal situations now, well, they risk winding up in the same boat as Greece. But don't tell that to the French union workers who are, to say the least, a bit dramatic about all of this. The idea of working until 62, (INAUDIBLE), one sign in Paris showed a raised middle finger with the following message, greetings from people who will die on the job.

I guess, that's not funny, but I think it is. The French government is telling them things could be worst. Other European countries are thinking about raising their retirement ages to 67 or 68 even. Here in the U.S., retirement age gradually going up to 67. Meanwhile, as the French complain about working until 62, our growing number of Americans are working into their 90s and even 100s.

Experts on aging say a daily job can help alleviate boredom, improve physical health, and provide older people with some sort of a schedule. Some of them are working to supplement their retirement savings or to give back the money to their families. AARP says by 2012, almost one fifth of the workforce in this country will be older than 55, and baby boomers will likely keep working well beyond their traditional retirement age of 65.

So, that's the question. What's the right age to retire? Go to Post a comment on my blog. What's your answer to that question, Wolf? What's the right age to retire?

BLITZER: Whenever you're ready and you can afford to do it. Some of us want to work as long as we possibly can.

CAFFERTY: I understand. You know, we got people in this country 100 years old still going to the job everyday.

BLITZER: God bless them. Love those people.

CAFFERTY: Yes, well, whatever floats your boat.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Jack, thanks.

The race for Kentucky's open Senate seat is now dead even. Take a look at this new CNN "Time" magazine opinion research corporation poll. It shows that the Republican nominee, the tea party favorite, Rand Paul. He has an equal number with the Democratic nominee Jack Conway. He's the Kentucky attorney general.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is with the CNN Election Express in Covington, Kentucky watching all of this. You've been speaking with some tea party activists over there. I assume they were very surprised by these poll numbers just as Rand Paul's father, Ron Paul was when I interviewed him.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are confident that despite the poll numbers no matter what, as they would say, the mainstream media says that Rand Paul will win the Senate race here in Kentucky. Not only of certain of that, these tea party activists also say they plan to hold him accountable, and their message is that when he gets to the Senate, it's in their view, he will, he should not vote yes on any bill that includes any new spending in any case.

And I asked how does this lead to bipartisanship and what happens if there's some sort of natural emergency, a catastrophe like Katrina? Here's what they said.


CATHY FLAIG, TEA PARTY ACTIVIST: Do you keep track of what you spend in your personal life?

YELLIN: I try to.

FLAIG: So do I, and I call it a savings.

YELLIN: Right.

FLAIG: Do you think the federal government has ever thought about that? What if there was a natural disaster? Why haven't they got something set aside for it? Isn't that what our government should do?


YELLIN: No exceptions, Wolf. No compromises. They say they're glad that so far the Republican Party is the so-called party of no, their words, because they don't want anyone signing on to any bills that include spending. You can see that if Rand Paul and people of this belief system get into the Senate, it will be a very different dynamic in that small tea party caucus, Wolf.

BLITZER: The last three days, you've been in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and now Kentucky, and you're speaking with tea party activists and others. Is it your sense anecdotally that this is a movement that got legs?

YELLIN: Absolutely. They are certain that they're going to last. I put that question to the folks again today, and I'll let them speak to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One message we want to send is if you don't support us, we're not going to support you in the future elections, and like you've asked us, we're not going away. We will be there.

FLAIG: The tea party now is in its infancy. Wait until we grow teeth.


YELLIN: Wait until we grow teeth, Wolf. So, they say they're already looking beyond the Rand Paul race here to next year's governor's race and future congressional election. They see this, the tea party, as a growing political force in the U.S. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

We got some other eye-popping new numbers in this new poll like some of the other very high profile U.S. Senate races. We're going to be releasing more of these numbers from the CNN/"Time" magazine opinion research corporation polling. Standby.

And we're also following other news as well. Much more coming up right here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan has some other important news about our own company that we want to share with all of you. Tell our viewers what's going on, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm always a fan of shameless self-promotion, self being the company at large. Beginning in January, British TV host, Piers Morgan, will take over Larry King's primetime hour. Morgan's show which will air at 9:00 p.m. eastern as being billed as, quote, "a candid in depth newsmaker interview program." He knows he has some big shoes to fill.


PIERS MORGAN, BRITISH TV HOST: It kind of feels like, I would imagine the guy who was told you'll following Frank Sinatra at the sands in Vegas. Your first reaction is what? How can you follow a legend like that? And then you think what a challenge. What an honor to be able to fill the shoes of someone like Larry King.


BOLDUAN: Larry announced this summer that he would stepping aside from "Larry King Live," a show he began hosting on CNN in 1985, my dear Wolf.

BLITZER: 25 great years for Larry, hosting "Larry King Live." We wish Larry, of course, only the best.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

BLITZER: He's going to be doing specials on CNN. And we wish Piers only the best as well. Good luck to Piers Morgan starting in January.

BOLDUAN: More crazy bunch (ph) but welcome...

BLITZER: Yes. Welcome to Piers and Larry is not going away.

BOLDUAN: No, no.

BLITZER: BP is spreading the blame for the Gulf oil disaster with a new report that's being blasted by the company's partners. Details of the finger pointing, that's coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are some of the hottest Senate races, and there are some new eye-popping polls out on those races this hour. Let's get some insight from Rick Stengel. He's the managing editor of our sister publication "Time" magazine and CNN's John King. He's the host of "John King USA." He's on board the CNN Election Express in Covington, Kentucky.

Rick, let me start with you. Talk about this race in Florida. It's shaping up right now, very close between Marco Rubio, the tea party favorite, the Republican nominee, Charlie Crist, the independent, and now the governor. 36 percent and 34 percent, well within the margin of error. Kendrick Meek, the democratic nominee, 24 percent. It shows that this is going to be a competitive race.

RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Absolutely. Look, a lot of people thought Charlie Crist was making a terrible mistake by running as an independent, but what we're seeing is that he's getting about 15 percent of the Democratic votes. Kendrick Meek, even though Bill Clinton has been down there a couple of time, isn't really resonating with Democratic voters.

And he's doing very well among independents. I mean, it's a funny kaleidoscope that we're seeing, because he's actually benefiting in a way from being an incumbent. He's done a good job. Voters on both sides and independents like him. So, it's working for him.

BLITZER: In Kentucky where you are, John, among registered voters, Rand Paul 46 percent, Jack Conway, the Democratic attorney general, the Democratic nominee 46 percent. Ron Paul, the Texas congressman, the father of Rand Paul, he said he was shocked by these numbers. He thought his son was doing much better. I was pretty surprised as well.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of people in Kentucky will be surprised, Wolf. This race will be number one test, perhaps exhibit A in the big debate about whether tea party nominees essentially show the energy in the Republican primary and then hurt the party in the general election. I talked to Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky today, who of course, has a lot of stakes in this race.

Rand Paul was not his candidate in the primary. He believes Rand Paul can pull it out in the end, but he made very clear to the conversation we had that he believes this is still a competitive race. Rand Paul went up today with a health care ad. His opponent as the Democratic attorney general Jack Conway who refused to join that lawsuit against the Obama health care plan, that is one of the issues.

Rand Paul plans to use in the final edge. Key to watch here, Wolf, older voters. Unlike many Republicans across the country, Rand Paul right here is splitting about evenly voters over 50. If that number holds, the Democrat will stay contention.

BLITZER: And Rick in California, it's really a battle for the U.S. Senate. Barbara Boxer, she's been around a long time. She's facing a stiff challenge from Carly Fiorina, 48 percent, 44 percent in our new poll, 3.5 percent margin of error. This is quite a battle in California, Rick.

STENGEL: Absolutely. I mean, I think Senator Boxer being a three-term incumbent is actually being hurt by the anti-incumbent fever. The long tail of anti-incumbency, which I think is still happening from 2008.

She's being blamed also for the economy. Right? I mean, that is the way California voters are voting. In the same sense that people are feeling that Obama is not handling the economy well, you know, they're going to take it out on Senator Boxer. I mean, she is -- she is going to be blamed for the same reason that he is.

BLITZER: We're going to have these new polls every week with "TIME" magazine every Wednesday between now and November 2. John's going to have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."

Guys, thanks very much.

BP is just out with a 200-page report that details the causes of the explosion and the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The report already drawing fierce fire.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's got the details.

Who are they blaming in this document, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's something we've heard before, quite frankly, from BP. They're not only pointing their finger slightly at themselves, but also Transocean and Halliburton, and once again, it's really kind of firing up BP's critics who say, once again, the company is playing the blame game.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Remember when a top BP executive said this?

LAMAR MCKAY, CHAIRMAN, BP AMERICA: Let me be really clear. Liability, blame, fault, put it over here. We are dealing with it. We are the responsible party.

LAVANDERA: But BP says Transocean and Halliburton shoulder just as much blame for the failures that led to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion killing 11 people, and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

BP's report is a multimedia presentation, 193 pages long, including a 30-minute video offering a detailed account of what the company says happened to the doomed rig.

MARK BLY, BP'S HEAD OF SAFETY AND OPERATIONS: Mud overflowed onto the rig floor. A minute later, the mud shot up through the derrick.

LAVANDERA: The BP report says gas and oil raced up into the oil rig.

BLY: The cloud of gas spread, setting off other gas alarms. There was a roaring noise, and the vessel vibrated.

LAVANDERA: The gas leaked into an engine room and triggered the explosion, BP says, but BP argues Transocean and Halliburton contributed to the significant mechanical and engineering failures that led to the explosion.

BLY: Halliburton did not conduct comprehensive lab tests that could have identified potential problems with the cement.

LAVANDERA: Halliburton says it followed BP's plan for the well design and added the report is full of omissions and inaccuracies. One significant issue is a dispute over devices called centralizers which help insure the casing pipe is properly put into place. BP was urged to use 21 centralizers; instead only six were used. A Halliburton engineer testified to federal investigators that BP was warned about this in e-mails before the explosion.

JESSE GAGLIANO, HALLIBURTON ENGINEER: This well is considered to have a severe gas flow problem. Wells in this category fall into the flow condition three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is there any emphasis on the word "severe"?

GAGLIANO: It's capitalized.


GAGLIANO: The whole world is capitalized.

LAVANDERA: Even with all these problems, had the blowout preventer worked properly, lives could have been saved. But the blowout preventer failed. The BP report says critical components weren't working because it wasn't properly maintained by Transocean. Transocean officials today called BP's report self-serving and designed to conceal their own fatal flaws.

The blame game is frustrating but not surprising to BP's critics.

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, what stands out is what we know about BP. And that is that they're terrific at finger pointing and trying to shift blame and making certain that they are not taking the responsibility for the situation that they created.


LAVANDERA: Now, Wolf, there are a number of reports, independent reports that will be done on this investigation, and those are expected out in the coming months. Admiral Thad Allen, the government's top man in charge of the oil spill recovery, was asked about the report today, and he simply said that this report was not the, quote, "end all be all" of the reports -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Living in what amounts to be slavery in the United States of America. A victim of a human trafficking ring tells the shocking story. Stay with us. You're here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."


BLITZER: A Los Angeles company is accused of running one of the largest human trafficking rings in U.S. history, making virtual slaves of Thai workers desperate for a better life in this country. Even though they're free now, many still live in fear. But one was willing to tell his story to CNN'S Thelma Gutierrez.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in Los Angeles, and we're driving to an undisclosed location to meet a Thai worker who says that he was enslaved by an international corporation.

(voice-over) It's called Global Horizons. The company president, Mordechai Orian, an Israeli citizen, was recently indicted on federal charges of forcing hundreds of Thai men to work on U.S. farms.

(on camera) Hundreds of workers escaped their captors, and one of those men agreed to meet with us here to talk to us about what it means to be a modern-day slave.

(voice-over) We'll call him Lee. He's a 42-year-old farmer who fears retaliation against his family back home. Lee told us his story through Chancee Martorell, a human rights activist in Los Angeles.

(on camera) How did this job come about for you?

"Back in 2004 Thai recruiters working for Global Horizons came to northern Thailand with promises of well-paid American jobs."


GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Lee supported a family of six on less than $7 a day. He says the recruiters told him he would be paid nearly $9 an hour as a farm laborer, about $56,000 over three years, as part of the U.S. guest worker program. In exchange, Lee would have to pay the recruiter $15,000 plus interest, but still, he figured he'd finish better off.

So, Lee said good-bye to his family, and he and about 50 other workers were flown to Washington state by Global Horizons. According to the federal indictment, the company confiscated some of the workers' passports and confined them to their compound. Lee says his passport was taken when they were sent to Hawaii to the island of Maui.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was taken, along with his fellow workers, to an abandoned barracks. He was in a state of shock when he walked in. The first thing he saw was just full of cobwebs everywhere, and it was just filthy and dirty and deplorable.

GUTIERREZ: Far away from the grand hotels and the sandy beaches tourists know, Lee and others were confined to an isolated pineapple farm. Martorell (ph), who saw some of the conditions first-hand, says some men were living in freight containers with no electricity, running water or toilets.

MARTORELL: There's like no door to close themselves off, and there would be rats running through the living quarters. Workers have told us that they'd be starving, and they went with very little food. And they had to go and scrounge around just picking leaves off of plants to eat.

GUTIERREZ: Lee told that the workers were under 24-hour surveillance. According to the indictment, one guard even threatened to shoot anyone who tried to escape.

Then, there was the issue of payment.

(on camera) We look at several months' check stubs, that each and every time it says zero, zero.

(voice-over) Lee says he was paid $14,000 in total, about $1,000 a month. Despite working overtime, it was far less than what he was promised. Unable to pay the recruiter's fee, he lost his house and ancestral land in Thailand.

A spokeswoman for Global Horizons told CNN those fees were charged by rogue recruiters, not by Mordechai Orian, who's pled "not guilty" in federal court.

She said the allegations about the dismal living conditions were complete fabrications made by the workers to federal investigators in exchange for special visas to remain in the United States beyond their three-year stay. She says Orion was only trying to help Thai workers.

MARTORELL: Modern-day slavery is alive and well here in America.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): And you're saying that our laws actually make it possible?

MARTORELL: Yes, this is the changing face of trafficking and slavery in America. Unfortunately, we are beginning to see more and more slavery through contract labor like the guest workers program.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Lee says he was never treated like a guest in this country, not until he finally escaped his employer's grip.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


BLITZER: Lee told CNN he and a co-worker escaped when the guards were not watching. He ran through sugar cane fields listening for car noise to guide him to a road where the good Samaritan helped him get to Los Angeles.

Much more news coming up right after this.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour, what's the right age to retire and a bunch of strikes in France yesterday because they want to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Lauren writes, "Retire whenever you can, whenever it feels right. Personally, I'm going to work as long as I can. Being active, having mental stimulation is essential to my personal well-being. I'd love to be working when I'm 100, because that will mean I'm still alive."

Dave in Florida writes, "The right age to retire is when you can afford it, and when you want to. Unfortunately, a lot of us have no choice. Those who are lucky enough not to have been forced out of the workplace for the crime of getting old may not be able to retire for lack of money. But using the French as an example is a red herring. The French would complain is the retirement age was lowered to 30."

Olga in Texas, "You finally asked a question that's relevant to my life. There's no such thing as retiring anymore. There's no luxury in staying home and staring at the four walls. How boring is that? I didn't retire at 65, 68 or 70. I'm still working, and I enjoy what I do."

Bruce in California: "Hi, Jack, from a retired old man who waited too long. Please have the sense to retire when one is still a whole person, both physically and mentally, but do keep in mind you're going to need much more money than you think, so also be well prepared."

Kevin in California writes, "According to the Republicans, that would be never."

Frank in Pennsylvania: "I'm 70 years old. I'll let you know when the ideal age to retire comes when I get there. I'm on the job now, so I can't talk long. Have a great day."

Kay writes, "Retire when your income will be adequate to make you happy. That takes good planning and some luck. I made it out at 58."

And Gaylon says, "How old are you, Jack? We can start there."

If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog at -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. See you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as always. Appreciate it.

CAFFERTY: Forever.

BLITZER: Correct. No retirement, ever. Bye.

Why is the Republican minority leader, John Boehner, glowing? Here's a hint: it's not just because of some sunny new poll numbers. Jeanne Moos will explain.


BLITZER: There's a YouTube video that's gone viral, showing a lion attacking one of its trainers inside a Las Vegas hotel as horrified tourists look on.

CNN's Brian Todd went to the National Zoo here in Washington, D.C., to talk to experts about how this might have happened -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're going to show you a classic predator. Take a look at this guy: a 5-year-old fully-mature male lion from South Africa sitting here in his yard at the National Zoo. We're looking at these animals' behavior not only under normal circumstances but also what happens when they get very irritated.

This is pegged to a recent incident captured on videotape in Las Vegas.


TODD (voice-over): In an instant, a 400-pound lion turns on his trainer. The beast has the man in his grip as another trainer bravely tries to intercede. The trainer struggles free, sprints away and escapes with just a few stitches. But the male lion remains visibly agitated.

This video, posted on YouTube by an eyewitness last week at the MGM resort week in Las Vegas.

We got insight into the dangerous dynamic between predator cats in captivity and the people who interact with them up close.

(on camera) Officials here at the National Zoo in Washington say they cannot comment directly on the incident at the MGM resort. They have a policy against commenting on incidents at other facilities.

But we are here to talk about what to do in these situations with Don Moore. He is the head of animal care sciences here at the National Zoo. We've got a 400-pound male lion named Luke right back here, same size as the one involved in the MGM incident.

First of all, Don, I guess when you're in there, in that yard with the lion, as a trainer or a handler, and the lion either attacks or wants to play too rough, what's the first thing you're trained to do? DON MOORE, HEAD OF ANIMAL CARE SCIENCES, NATIONAL ZOO: Well, the first thing that we do is we don't go in with large, dangerous animals. So we always have a protective barrier between lions, tigers, bears and our keepers.

TODD: Is that a mobile barrier? Do they carry it?

MOORE: No, it's a -- it's a solid wall that has, you know, spaces in it so we can interact with the animals in a safe way.

TODD (voice-over): The Department of Agriculture, which is investigating the Las Vegas incident, tells us this lion act is a licensed exhibitor, and it appears the trainers handled the situation effectively.

(on camera) What triggers that kind of behavior in a lion? Are they territorial? Anything encroaching in there, does that spur that kind of behavior?

MOORE: Well, there's -- in carnivores, there's a very hard-wired predator/prey response. So people with cats at home may have seen their cat in the living room chasing a dust ball. You know, if you get down on all fours or if you're lower than a lion or a bear, they may -- they may just snap.

TODD (voice-over): Interlopers beware. Last fall, a deer jumped into this lion's yard in Washington. The video, taken by a visitor, posted on YouTube.

(on camera) Now in that incident, the deer jumped in the water of the moat down here. The lions didn't go after it. Would you advise people in this situation, if they're near water, to jump in the water?

MOORE: I guess so. But we were very surprised that they didn't go in the water because they were very obviously motivated to hunt that deer that got in with them.


TODD: They're dangerous under normal circumstances, but for that female prowling around down there, Naba, the circumstance is not normal. She is pregnant. A fellow female inside just gave birth to four cubs. Don Moore says when female lions are in that state, just before and after giving birth, much more irritable, much more prone to attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "JOHN KING USA." He has an interview with the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots."

In India, an artist spray paints an idol of a god to prepare for a Hindu festival.

In Australia, the cast of a Korean theater company performs Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

In Los Angeles, mothers get their heads shaved to raise money for childhood cancer research.

And in Romania, people ride the swings at a festival celebrating that country's gypsy population.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

He could be the next speaker of the House of Representatives if Republicans win big in November. But now the House minority leader, John Boehner's, getting a lot of attention for what some say is a year-round tan.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a most unusual report.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the Republicans take back the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have to hand the gavel back to John Boehner. But when John Boehner says...


MOOS: ... often what we're looking at is his signature tan.

BOEHNER: There are some bright spots.

MOOS: Boehner is one of them: bright orange. Not since George Hamilton has a guy been so flayed over his skin tone. Left-wing critic Keith Olbermann refers to him as...


MOOS: While Jon of Stewart jokes.

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": He's not human but actually made entirely of cured meats.

MOOS: Even conservatives poke fun.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Using his special Boehner powers to blend into the fake bookcases.

MOOS: Boehner's tan even made it into a poll. Public Policy Polling asked folks in his home state of Ohio, do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of John Boehner's tan? Sixty-four percent said not sure. But as ABC's George Stephanopoulos pointed out...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Twenty-seven percent don't like it. Is this something you have to overcome?

BOEHNER: Well, they probably weren't there yesterday when I was out cutting my grass or when I was out riding my mountain bike, all right?

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no worries there?

BOEHNER: Thanks, George.


MOOS: It's not the first time Boehner has defended his tan.

BOEHNER: I walked 18 holes yesterday. Last weekend, I was in Ohio, cutting my grass, trimming my beds.

MOOS: Not on a tanning bed. Though a Manhattan dermatologist told CNN, "I think he's a combo. Some real tan helped by self-tanner, either cream or spray."

Even the president has joked about Boehner's tan.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a person of color. Although not a color that appears in the natural world.

MOOS (on camera): A writer for "Vanity Fair" later disputed the president's joke, saying there are all kinds of things in the natural world that are close to John Boehner's skin tone.

(voice-over) From oranges to salmon, from Cheez-Its to mulch to pumpkins.

That same "Vanity Fair" writer tried to duplicate Boehner's skin tone on herself, attempting to match his shade by using various tanning products on her midsection.

(on camera) But for those of us who are pasty pale-faces, maybe we're just green with envy over Boehner's orange.

BOEHNER: I'd rather be heckled than ignored.

MOOS (voice-over): At least you can't see him blush.

BOEHNER: Hell, no, you can't!

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...


BOEHNER: No, you can't!

MOOS: ... New York.

BOEHNER: No, you can't!


BLITZER: Remember, you can always 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.

You can also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to to become a fan.

That's all the time we have today. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.