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Monster Hurricane Moves Closer to U.S.; Journalists Freed from Libya Hotel; Challenges of Rebuilding Libya; Interview With Paul Bremer; University of Tennessee Women's Basketball Coach Pat Summitt Diagnosed With Early Onset Dementia; 'Strategy Session'

Aired August 24, 2011 - 17:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, GUEST HOST: Happening now, Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the Bahamas and the East Coast is next. This hour, a live report on the monster storm and a new forecast on where and when it will hit the US

Plus, a few dozen journalists held hostage by pro-Gadhafi forces in Libya are free tonight. But we have late word of a new kidnapping and last ditch battles that may be linked to Moammar Gadhafi's escape plan.

And CNN goes inside the Virginia nuclear power plant near the epicenter of that historic quake. We have a lot of questions about nuclear safety and whether the East Coast is prepared if another big one hits.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Joe Johns. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the Bahamas, with winds of up to 120 miles an hour right now. And the National Weather Service warns this category three monster could be upgraded -- upgraded to a category four tomorrow. That means Irene could be capable of catastrophic damage when it slams the East Coast in the days ahead.

The storm has been pounding the Turks and Caicos and other islands and gaining strength along the way. There are reports of damage, but so far, no serious injuries.

We do have a view from space that gives you an idea of just how big this storm is. It forms a cloud more than 800 miles across. And its powerful winds extend 200 miles from its center.

Now to Irene's latest target, the Bahamas.

CNN's Jim Spellman is there -- Jim, what is the situation now?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're really just starting to get a taste of this, Joe. The winds picking up hour by hour. We've been getting some wind squalls here. This place has become all but a ghost town from the usual tourist paradise that this is. Many of our viewers will Europe familiar with Paradise Island and the Atlantis Resort behind us and Nassau here in the Bahamas. Usually, just thousands of tourists enjoying these beautiful beaches. Absolutely empty right now.

Most of the cruise -- all of the cruise ships have left port and to get away from the storm. The airport closed earlier today. Everyone who could get out got out. Everyone who hasn't hunkered down in some of the big hotels here, which are fortified, hopefully built to deal with this sort of thing.

If you haven't left yet, you're riding this thing out -- Joe.

JOHNS: So, Jim, give me some sense, though, obviously tourists can go home, presumably, which doesn't sound real easy because it would probably be hard to get a plane, right?

SPELLMAN: Yes, a lot of people were not able to get flights out. But over the last few days, people did know this was coming. A lot of people canceled their trips here and did arrange to get out on flights yesterday. Not so lucky are some -- or most of the Bahamians that live here. This island, Joe, is only about 20 miles long. There's just nowhere to go to try to outrun this storm here.

So what you're left with is bunkering down, plywood, metal storm shutters over your windows and doors, get some food, water, prescriptions in house and hope for the best, because this thing is coming and it's huge.

JOHNS: A rough situation there.

Jim Spellman stay in touch with us. And we'll be watching. Keep safe.

The National Hurricane Center is issuing a new alert about Irene this hour.

Let's go now to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, in the CNN Hurricane Center in Atlanta -- and, Chad, what are you seeing?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I see Hurricane Irene just -- just pounding the Southern islands of the Bahamas right now. Crooked Island right there. Long Island just a little bit up from there. The Crooked Island just at the center, it just went straight over that.

Now, the problem is that there are storm surges 15 to 20 feet tall. So over our head with water. And the islands are only eight feet above sea level down here. Now, they're a little bit -- a little bit higher. Not much. But Jim is right there. Our Jim Spellman is right in the way of this advancing hurricane. We have talked about the turn, the right turn that the storm is going to make. Well, sometimes storms are slow to make that forecast turn. And that's where it was. I drew a kind of a straight line. That's where it was. Follow the line. I don't see much of a turn yet. And that forecast turn is the reason why you still have a cone of uncertainty. If it doesn't turn in time, then it's going to be on the left side of this cone, still not approaching Florida, but still close, if it just doesn't turn in time, could it be over here somewhere.

A category four, 135 mile per hour storm, even 50 miles offshore, will make such huge erosion problems, big waves right onshore and flooding all along the coast.

Now, I'll take you a little farther to the north, right up through and right over about Cape Hatteras, at 115 miles per hour. And, yes, the Outer Banks, they get hit all the time. They really do. They're prepared for it.

Someplace not prepared for a hurricane, Joe, look at this. This is a category two 100 mile per hour potential storm very, very close to the eastern sections of Long Island, also Massachusetts, maybe even into Maine. A hundred mile per hour storm over Long Island. The damage could be catastrophic.

JOHNS: So as long as it stays out, though, just over water, we're not going to see really a decrease in strength any time soon, right?

MYERS: We'd love that big right turn right there, wouldn't we, away from Boston, away from the Cape. Now, there's still this. This line right there is the western periphery. It could still sneak up the -- the Chesapeake. It could sneak up to almost Philadelphia or New York City.

How about an 85 mile per hour storm on Sunday over the city?

That wouldn't be pleasant.

JOHNS: So we're basically telling people all the way up the East Coast to Boston to be on your Ps and Qs and keep watching CNN?

MYERS: As we get closer to the time of arrival, this cone will get smaller and smaller and smaller. In 12 hours, we can tell you whether it's going to be 10 miles left or right. But that by -- we're still talking four days away. The cone is still pretty big. You cannot stop watching this storm.

JOHNS: Chad Myers, thanks so much.

And we'll do that for sure.

That's very good advice.

The White House says there haven't been any discussions yet about changing the president's vacation plans because of the storm. He's due to stay on Martha's Vineyard until Saturday. But administration officials do say they're watching weather reports like the rest of us and tracking the progress of Irene very closely.

Now to Libya, where rebel fighters are trading artillery fire with pro-Gadhafi forces near the Tripoli airport. It's one of the last pockets of resistance since rebels seized Gadhafi's compound yesterday. The opposition suspects loyalists may be trying to clear a route for Moammar Gadhafi to escape. Still no word on where Gadhafi is.

A Libyan businessman now is offering a $2.5 million reward for anyone who captures or kills him. Today, some of Gadhafi's die-hard supporters released a few dozen international journalists held hostage at a Tripoli hotel, including CNN's Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been in -- in fear for the past five days, because we've been, you know, really being held against our will by these, you know, crazy gunmen who were in the lobby of our hotel wearing green bandanas, waving Gadhafi flags, wielding around their Kalashnikov assault rifles. They've been hostile towards us at times. They've -- they've often told us about how they think we're spies, NATO spies, you know, set and bent on destroying Libya. One of them shouted up to me just yesterday -- we all corralled ourselves away from them because we didn't want to, you know, make too much contact with them because there was such hostility.

One of them shouted up to me yesterday, "I suppose you're happy now, aren't you, now that Libyans are killing Libyans?," you know, once again, underlining that idea that -- that it's Gadhafi loyalists who were in control of that pocket of the Rixos Hotel, you know, really held the international media, for some reason, responsible for this crisis in Libya.

And so I can't tell you how pleased we all are and how relieved we all are and how relieved our families will all be that we've finally managed to get out of that -- that place.


JOHNS: Matthew will join us live in just a second.

But we have late confirmation that four Italian journalists have been kidnapped in Libya, presumably by pro-Gadhafi forces.

Members of Libya's Transitional Council are facing a monumental challenge -- how they are going to deal with the chaos and rebuild the nation. I'll talk with the man who was in charge of Iraq's messy aftermath, Ambassador Paul Bremer.

And some of Washington, D.C.'s most famous tourist attractions damaged by yesterday's rare and powerful earthquake. We'll show you some of the hardest hit places.


JOHNS: Let's bring in senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, in Tripoli -- and, Matthew, you've had an extraordinarily long day, obviously. And many of us at CNN, around the world, quite frankly, are very happy you're free after these days of trial and tribulation.

Could you give us some idea just how you got away?

CHANCE: Yes. It was -- well, first of all, I'm happy about it, too. And so I'm happy for all the -- all the -- all my colleagues that were with us in the Rixos and their families, as well, who must be feeling exactly the same as I'm feeling this evening, which is, you know, extremely happy after this, you know, really terrifying ordeal, at times, we've come out of it and nobody's been injured. Nobody was killed. And it's been a really, really positive, positive outcome. And so that -- that's really fabulous and we couldn't be happier, all of us.

JOHNS: Again, though, you had a challenge, obviously, of five days. You were being held against your will. You were not free to leave.

At the end of the day, what was it that led you to freedom?

Was it a negotiation or something else?

CHANCE: Well, it was -- it was -- it was -- you know, I think it was this, Joe. It was -- it was a -- a realization on the part of our captors, because they were captors and we essentially were hostages. We felt like we were being held against our will. Our right to leave had been removed from us. But it was a realization amongst our captors that, you know, the world outside the perimeter of the hotel had changed dramatically. Libya had changed dramatically. Colonel Gadhafi, the person who has ruled this country for the past 42 years, was no longer giving the orders. He was no longer calling the shots.

And once they -- they understood that, once these gunmen loyal to Colonel Gadhafi's regime understood that, there was a sea change in their attitude. In fact, at one point, they -- they actually surrendered their weapons to us and said, you know, "We're sorry. You're free to go." And all we had to do then was, you know, order some cars. The ICRC came over, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and took us to safety behind the -- the rebel lines, which were just 100 meters or so.

And it's interesting, Joe, because, I mean this is something that the whole country is now -- excuse me -- undergoing, this sort of transition from this mind set where Colonel Gadhafi was the -- the rule, the law of the land -- whatever he said was the law -- to a country where that's no longer the case. And people in Tripoli tonight are celebrating their freedom. They're saying that. They're saying we are celebrating our freedom.

And I think that was, in a small way, that's what we experienced in -- in the Rixos with our captors setting us free.

JOHNS: Tell me, if you know, what was the moment when your captors actually realized the sea change that was going on, if you will, there in Libya, because I assume news travels slowly. It was very chaotic. But at some point, the news got to them.

How did it get to them and when?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, I think, at some point, it just became undeniable that these changes had taken place. Remember, all along, since this, you know, these recent military developments started to happen and the rebels really started to push forward. The Gadhafi regime has been in denial. It's been -- it's been saying that these reports that everyone's been hearing about rebel advances are just not true. It's been telling people on state television and telling its -- its loyal carders that, in fact, Colonel Gadhafi was on the right, in fact, he was asserting his control back over the country and that he had control of the -- of the crisis and that he'd broken the backbone of the rebels.

But it obviously reached a point, with all the celebrations in Tripoli, that that lie could no longer be perpetuated. And once that sank in, I think, to the people in the hotel, who I think are amongst the, you know, the real die-hard loyalists of Colonel Gadhafi, once it sank in, then, you know, there was no option but for them to surrender their weapons and, you know, essentially slink away.

JOHNS: The last question. I know it's probably been very difficult to gather information, as it were, where you are at this time. However, last night on this program, we had a former DC delegate to Congress named Walter Fauntroy, who apparently was somehow stranded there and -- and, to our knowledge, not able to travel. We have not heard from him today. I'm wondering if you know anything about his whereabouts.

CHANCE: Well, I know that he was in the convoy of cars led by the ICRC that I was in when we left the Rixos Hotel. We didn't leave anybody in the hotel. We made sure that, you know, we left altogether as a group. We left in the -- in the same group that we'd, you know, been in inside that -- that terrible situation. And Walter Fauntroy was -- was in that group.

He was in Libya, of course, on -- on a peace mission to, you know, had been here for some time to try and end the conflict here, end the crisis. He was attempting to negotiate some kind of peaceful settlement. That obviously didn't come to anything.

But, you know, nevertheless, this -- this is a, you know, a man who -- who found himself at the center of developments that -- that were out of his control. And he ended up in a situation with the rest of us. And he's quite an elderly gentleman, as well. And he was sleeping on the floor, you know, eating the dried biscuits, you know, going without, you know, electricity and running water in the same way that all of us were. And I think, you know, we -- we all quite liked Congressman Walter Fauntroy.

So I hope, we wish him well. You know, I hope he's OK.

JOHNS: Matthew Chance, thanks so much for that.

We are so glad that you're safe.

And we do want to hear more about this ordeal. And I'm sure we'll get an opportunity to hear from you again.

Thank you.

Jack Cafferty now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's a special breed of cat, Matthew Chance, and the people like him that put themselves in harm's way to tell us what's going on in a place like Libya. Whatever awards there are in our industry for folks who perform above and beyond the call of duty, they ought to stack them in front of Matthew Chance's door in there and the people who were over there with him putting it on the line.

In an election where the Republican candidate stands a chance against a weakened incumbent president, so far, it is a couple of intellectual lightweights who are stealing the show. Since Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll and Rick Perry entered the race, these two have been sucking up most of the media's attention, mostly for saying stupid stuff, like Bachmann's claim that as president, she'll bring gasoline down to $2 a gallon or Perry's highly inappropriate shot at Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, saying that his actions could be treasonous.

Meanwhile, some Republicans, including Karl Rove, are suggesting that the former half term drop out governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is going to join the race, as well. Palin's people are pushing back against the speculation, saying that anyone who claims to know about her plans is misleading the American people.

But Palin has certainly been acting like a candidate now, hasn't she, showing up in Iowa during the straw poll voting, an outsized Iowa themed political video released ahead of her Labor Day speech, which is also scheduled to take place in Iowa.

If Palin runs, we'll have yet another Mensa candidate to join Bachmann and Perry. There is no doubt this threesome will share the lion's share of the media coverage.

At the other end of the intellectual spectrum there's Ron Paul, who placed a very close second in the Iowa Straw Poll. He continues to talk sense, whether or not enough people are listening.

There's Newt Gingrich. Love him or hate him, he's a very bright man.

There's also Jon Huntsman, who says candidates like Bachmann and Perry are too far to the right and have zero substance, testimony to his intellect right there.

He may be right, but I venture to say none of the three has a prayer against Curly, Moe and Larry.

And that's a sad commentary on the state of our politics, isn't it?

Here's the question -- when it comes to presidential politics, why does America seem to be allergic to brains?

Go to --

(LAUGHTER) CAFFERTY: I just tear myself up, Joe and --

JOHNS: I know.

CAFFERTY: -- leave a comment on my blog or go to the post on the Facebook page.

JOHNS: You've got the whole studio laughing here, Jack.

Do you really think the crazy talk is worse this year than previous election years?

CAFFERTY: Yes. I -- I mean we've already -- we already watched Sarah Palin ruin whatever chance John McCain had four years ago. And she's -- I mean she's just beyond the pale. Michelle Bachmann, I'm going to have $2 gas. This guy Perry saying -- I mean, you know, I think there's a few more whack jobs out there this time, along with the last time around, we had Kucinich in there. I mean there's always a few fireflies buzzing around.

But -- but these guys are getting all the attention. And Perry is out in some poll today getting 29 percent of the support in some poll, a double digit lead over Bachmann. He's burying Mitt Romney. And he's way in front. I mean it's a little scary. It's early, but it's scary.

JOHNS: You bet. Great.

Jack, check back with you in a bit.


JOHNS: Some of the fiercest fighting we've seen in Libya has taken place around the airport.

Do the rebels think Gadhafi may be hiding somewhere in that area?

And the Republicans can't get enough of the newest GOP presidential candidate. Rick Perry's strong start could force a change in strategy for his rivals.


JOHNS: The prospect of rebuilding Libya is just daunting, given the chaos right now and the fact that the country was ruled with an iron fist for 42 years. Libyans may get some valuable lessons from what happened in Iraq.

We're joined now by the former U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

Thank you so much for coming in.


BLITZER: You watched what's happening in Libya.

What goes through your mind, having been there, you know, shortly after Saddam was, you know, out of power in Iraq?

BREMER: Well, when you see what's happening in Libya and you see a lot of reflections of what happened in Iraq, even in Egypt and Tunisia. Basically, there are three problems.

Rebuilding is not about mortar and bricks, it's about security first, then political reform then economic regeneration. But security is job one. And we're already seeing some of that now in -- in Tripoli, even with the fact that some of the journalists were taken prisoner by who knows who.

JOHNS: What should the role of the West be?

How much involvement should, for example, the United States have?

BREMER: Well, I think, on the whole, the problems there really belong to the people in the region, to the Arabs and some of the African countries and particularly to the Southern Europeans. The French, the Italians and the Spanish are the largest trading partners with Libya. And the French and the Italians have been involved in the NATO affair.

So I think, in the end, if the Libyans can't provide the security there -- and I think there is an open question whether they can -- some kind of international stabilization force will have to go in. And it seems to me those are the countries that should do the work.

JOHNS: Are there some lessons learned from Iraq that can be applied to Libya that you see right now?

BREMER: Well, the biggest one is security is job one. And, really, there are two questions.

Can the Libyans do it themselves and -- and that has two aspects.

Can they agree?

You have, obviously, different groups from the east and the west. And it's not at all clear, some of them are talking about dismantling militias.

Well, whose militia is going to get dismantled by whom?

So that's question number one, can they agree?

And then, two, do they actually have the competence?

What will be the role, if any, of the old security forces, the army, and, in particular, the police?

And those kinds of questions are going to have to get answered by someone.

JOHNS: Because the question is, what kinds of allegiances they actually had before the -- the change in power.

JOHNS: Right. Right.

Tripoli The other question of the chemical weapons --

BREMER: Right.

JOHNS: How should the United States approach that?

How should Western countries approach the issue of this stockpile of weapons of mass destruction?

BREMER: Well, we need to be concerned about that. And I'm sure that our intelligence services are paying close attention to where those are.

Fortunately, as a result of the overthrow of Saddam, Gadhafi had given up his nuclear program. As far as we know, what he has -- we know he has them, because he's used them, chemical weapons, as -- as had Saddam Hussein. They can be very dangerous. And if you have a situation where security runs out of control, there's a real risk that they fall into the hands of some really bad guys.

JOHNS: There are people obviously running the infrastructure of -- of the country, the government, the government services, what have you, who clearly had a lot of allegiances to Gadhafi.

Should these people stay in place?

Should they be replaced?

Do you think the Libyans will be able to put new people in who can do the same jobs with the same amount of expertise?

BREMER: Well, it's going to be hard. The social rebuilding takes time. There will be some element in the new government, obviously, that's going to say we don't trust the senior members of the old government. That happened in Iraq, also.

Generally speaking, anyway, in Iraq, the senior -- senior civil servants who stayed on the job in all of the ministries turned out to be very competent. I don't know enough about Libya to know. I would guess, just listening to them talk, they seem to be pretty well- educated. I suspect you have, at the second or third level down, in a lot of the ministries, people who can run the ministries.

JOHNS: Assuming -- and, obviously, this is a big assumption at this stage, because no one knows -- assuming the Libyan leader, Gadhafi, is actually taken into custody, if you will.

BREMER: Right.

JOHNS: How do you think that gets handled that sends the proper message, both internally and externally, to other countries?

BREMER: Well, I think the key question to watch is whether he is subjected to some form of reasonable justice. In other words, he's not just killed. He is put on -- in before some kind of a tribunal which has some international respect. It could be a Libyan tribunal. It was an Iraqi tribunal that tried Saddam Hussein.

But it is going to be difficult, because the question of reconciliation after 42 years of dictatorship -- and Saddam was in power more than 30 years -- the problem of reconciliation is an immediate problem, but it's not one that you can address immediately. Emotions run very high. That takes you back to security again. It's got to be security or you start to get revenge killings.

JOHNS: Look out, will you, for me just 10 years, and tell me what you see for Libya. And along with that, give me some sense as to whether you think Iraq was an easier or more difficult case than Libya will be to sort of rebuild and stand up.

BREMER: It's hard to say whether it's going to be more difficult. There are some metrics where it's similar to Iraq. It has oil. There are metrics where it's different.

Iraq had the advantage of having a well-educated middle class. Saddam had mostly driven them out of the country. They have now come back and they're at work.

The Iraqis have a long tradition of good lawyers, so they were able to write a good constitution, the most progressive constitution. I don't know about the Libyans on that.

It's hard to look 10 years down the road. I do hope that the next chapter in this movie is called "Sleepless in Damascus"

JOHNS: And that's another story.

Thank you so much, Ambassador Paul Bremer, for coming in.

BREMER: Nice to be with you.

JOHNS: It's been almost 10 years since the horrible day in September when the world literally came crashing down for so many of us. With the anniversary of 9/11 only days away, a family is finally getting some closure because of a remarkable announcement by New York officials.

And Pat Summitt has never met an opponent she can't handle, but the legendary basketball coach now faces an unbeatable adversary, one that's within.


JOHNS: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including the new identification of remains from the 9/11 terrorist attack.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Probably some -- at least some closure for at least one family. Right, Joe? Well, two-and-a-half weeks shy of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, New York's medical examiner has identified the remains of Ernest James. The 40-year-old worked as an IT consultant in the World Trade Center's North Tower. More than 1,100 victims from 9/11 have yet to be identified. DNA is still being tested from more than 6,400 samples of remains.

And in other use, a U.S. satellite project finds evidence of mass graves in Sudan. The Satellite Sentinel Project says it spotted eight mass graves since June. The evidence is said to include witness accounts and body bags. Sudan's president rejects the findings, and yesterday he called for a two-week cease-fire in the area.

And on Wall Street, gold may be wearing off on investors. The price of the precious metal fell sharply by more than five percent today. Gold futures for a December delivery tumbled to $1,765 an ounce. That's still pretty high, but that's the lowest level in a week. Analysts say the drop is a reaction to a strong report on new orders for durable goods. That could leave the Federal Reserve to decide against any new stimulus measures.

And a rite of passage for many presidential candidates will never be the same. Joey Vento, owner of the famous Philadelphia cheesteak shop Geno's, died yesterday after suffering a heart attack. His business was a regular stop for presidential candidate swinging through the Philadelphia area. And in 2006, he posted a sign in his restaurant telling people to order in English. That led to a discrimination suit that was dismissed two years litter.

Vento was 71 years old, Joe.

JOHNS: One of those classic spots. Huh?

BOLDUAN: Pretty good cheesesteak.

JOHNS: Yes, buddy.

All right. Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Joe.

JOHNS: Some of the most iconic buildings here in Washington took a serious hit in yesterday's earthquake. We'll show you the tourist attractions in need of repair.


JOHNS: Here in Washington, D.C., the city's most iconic monument is closed indefinitely following yesterday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Structural engineers today walked up the Washington Monument to assess the damages, including mortar falling inside the observation area. No word on when they'll report on the extent of the damage.

We're also getting a closer look at the National Cathedral's significant damage. Three of the four pinnacles broke off onto the roof, which is luckily reinforced by concrete. Another large piece crashed down on the lawn. And now the hard work of rebuilding begins.


JOE ALONSO, HEAD STONE MASON, NATIONAL CATHEDRAL: This is the first time that we have these large amounts of sculpture that are damaged. And it is a bit disconcerting to me and my colleagues who are stone carvers, but we're going to put this back together the right way and respect the work of our forefathers, of our forbearers, the stone carvers and masons who came before us.


JOHNS: And over at the United States Capitol complex, no major damage to the congressional buildings, but there are cracks in some of the walls, including a large one inside the House Judiciary Committee room.

When the earthquake rocked the nation's capital, some flaws in the emergency evacuation system were quite apparent. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano calls those glitches teachable moments. She spoke with CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve.


JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Evacuation from the District of Columbia, the capital region, when you let a lot of federal employees off all around the same time, we still need to work on that, that's something we saw in February. There are plans. When people know what the plans are, and they activate according to the plan, then we're in good shape. If they don't know what the plan is, that becomes a problem. So that's a teachable problem.

The other one I think is to really emphasize with people to try to reach out to your family, colleagues, whoever you need to reach by means other than cell phone, so we don't dump everything on to the cell system simultaneously.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Does the cell system need to be more robust? Not everybody has texting capability, not everybody is on Twitter.

NAPOLITANO: That's right. And perhaps. But what we do know is it's very hard to build a system 100 percent when everyone is dumping onto it at the same time, trying to call on it all at the same time.

So once that kind of got sorted out -- and it got sorted out relatively quickly yesterday -- people were able to get back on their cell phones. And again, one of the things that we have put into place through FEMA and other parts of the department is all the other social media, all the other ways that people can be in touch.


JOHNS: Humans were not the only ones who felt the quake. Animals at the National Zoo here in Washington visibly reacted to the vibrations. Some, even before we did.

According to the zookeepers, the lemurs sounded the alarm 15 minutes before it happened. One of the great apes, including a mother gorilla and her baby, climbed up a tall tree-like structure seconds before the quake. The beavers retreated into the water, and the flamingos huddled together, we're told. The famous giant pandas, however, did not appear to respond.

Supporters of the University of Tennessee Volunteers were stunned this week to hear this message from legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.


PAT SUMMITT, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: Earlier this year, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed me with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, at the age of 59. I plan to continue to be your coach.


JOHNS: The revelation shocked the entire sport, and it brought attention to a disease that wreaks havoc in many people's lives.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta explains.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a type of dementia known as early onset dementia. Typically, it occurs in people under the age of 65. And that's why it's called early onset. It's more associated with people who have a family history of this type of dementia.

We know in her case, Summitt's case, her maternal grandmother actually suffered from this as well. So, at 59, it's not that unusual. But across the board, all dementias, only about five percent of them occur in people this young.

Typically, you have memory loss, you have personality changes. People become withdrawn. Those are some of the early signs.

She said she was missing appointments, had to ask the same person, her son in this case, the same question several times to get an answer, to remember an answer. And that's what sort of tipped her off.

When people go see the doctor, typically what happens is the doctor may first get a scan of the brain to make sure something else isn't happening. And then after that, it's a series of cognitive exams, neurological exams that ultimately make the diagnosis of dementia.

There are more advanced testings nowadays, including PET scans, including analysis of cerebral spinal fluid. But still, at this point in time, this diagnosis is usually made clinically through a series of these exams.

Summitt says, "Look, I'm going to do mental exercises, including reading before bed, to try and stave this off." And there's plenty of evidence that suggests that can help slow down the progression. And there are also medications out there which can do the same.

But this is a progressive problem, typically. So what her memory is like now, what her function is like now may be different five to 10 years from now. It likely will be different.

Her judgment, for the most part, is different than her memory. In terms of being a basketball coach, having the judgment to be able to do that, that should likely remain intact much longer than her memory does, a question a lot of people asking about this basketball coach today.

Good luck to her.

And back to you.


JOHNS: The world has a new worry after the rebels toppled Moammar Gadhafi's regime. Could Libya's formidable arsenal of weapons fall into the wrong hands? And what can the U.S. and NATO do to stop it from happening?

But next, in "Strategy Session," Texas Governor Rick Perry wants the Republican presidential nomination. Will his rivals now begin to mix it up on the campaign trail?


JOHNS: Texas Governor Rick Perry's campaign for the Republican nomination is starting with a bang. He declared only 11 days ago. He's already the front-runner in a new poll. Is that going to force the former top dog, Mitt Romney, to sort of take aim at Perry?

Joining us now for our "Strategy Session," Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, and Republican strategist Terry Holt.

So these numbers are kind of surprising. Just a snapshot, something you see right after he gets in.

And I don't know if we have a graphic. Perhaps we do. But Perry is leading 29 percent, to Romney's 17 percent, to Paul -- Ron Paul's -- 13 percent and Bachmann's 10.

Number one, how surprising is this? And number two, does it stay that way?

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: A great start for Rick Perry. If you could have written a script for this, you couldn't have written one with a better outcome. He picked the point of maximum impact right there around the Iowa straw poll, and he took advantage of all that tension on the Republican field to his benefit. I give him congratulations.

What I found more surprising about these results is that remember when we were talking about there being eight, 10, 12 Republican candidates? There's only a couple that are on the radar screen now, and I think the race is shaping up.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I think it shows and demonstrates just how fluid the Republican race is right now. Rick Perry came in, more than half the country didn't know him. His name I.D. is way up, the intensity factor among Republicans. Again, another big factor in him getting in the race.

This race remains very, very fluid. Right now it looks like a two-person race, Romney versus Perry. But in the end, I think most Republicans are still looking for that knight in shining red, white and blue armor who can come in and save the day, and perhaps give them a more electable candidate, someone who can defeat Barack Obama

JOHNS: Go ahead.

HOLT: I think between Romney and Perry, you have a really good representation of the broadest part of the Republican Party. But remember, Romney has run a very methodical, very well-financed campaign. They have a plan, they've stuck to it. And I think that this bodes well for a really exciting, very substantive contest for us next year.

JOHNS: What's interesting to me about Rick Perry is he's had some statements that were quite controversial, and he has actually been attacked for them, including what he said about the chairman of the Fed.

But why is that? Why is it that a guy can get slammed for the kinds of words coming out of his mouth and still find himself at the head of the pack?

BRAZILE: Well, at this point, his temperament, his policy, his views, they are still under scrutiny. And what plays right now in the Republican primary, when many of these candidates are vying for the Tea Party vote, the vote of conservatives, I don't think he will get in trouble right now with those voters. Perhaps in a general election, if he's the nominee, he would get in trouble with swing voters and Independents, who are looking for somebody a little bit more measured and perhaps more moderate.

JOHNS: But, Terry, speaking to that issue, I was talking to Ron Brownstein of "National Journal" just a little while ago. And he told me that if you look at the internals on this Gallup poll, it suggests that it's not just Tea Party he's getting. He's also getting support from people who actually believe that he really has a great economic program and demonstrated it in Texas. So he is sort of cutting across a wide swath for support here. HOLT: That's a fact. He is getting more support from conservatives in the Republican Party, while Romney has a slight advantage with more Independent or moderate Republicans. But the fact of the matter is, his message got through.

He wanted to talk about his economic story, and that's what was covered. And some of these so-called gaffes that folks talked about in fact were attention-getters. And some of those statements, they were music to the ears of some Republican primary voters who really think that Washington has run amok. If you say something a little dramatic, you're going to get their attention.

BRAZILE: Two words about Texas' so-called economic miracle: luck and location. Luck in the fact that Texas is blessed like my home state of Louisiana with a lot of oil and gas reserves, and that really has helped his economy through the worst recession, given the fact that oil prices continue to go up. And two, location -- close to Mexico, a huge population that is able to afford to live off minimum wage.

Look, we're a long way from the nomination, but Rick Perry has had an amazing 10 days in the political landscape.

JOHNS: Well, the other thing, you can say they're not gaffes, but he certainly is a shoot-from-the-hip politician, at least what we've seen so far.

Can he continue to sort of just spit it out there, talk about cessation?

HOLT: I don't think he was spiting it out there. I think they have run a disciplined rollout. They wanted people's attention, and they got it.

But, ultimately -- and every candidate has to do this, Barack Obama did it well -- you transition from candidate to a person that the people can see you being president, they can see you in the office. And every candidate has to meet that threshold.

BRAZILE: You know, President Obama gave him a little slack last week when he criticized him, but let me just tell you this -- he may not get a lot of slack if he criticizes Mitt Romney and some of the other Republicans.

JOHNS: Donna Brazile, Terry Holt, thank you so much, both of you, for coming in. And be safe if we get a hurricane up here, huh?

BRAZILE: I know what to do.

HOLT: Absolutely.

JOHNS: You got it.

BRAZILE: All right.

JOHNS: Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the Bahamas. After hitting that island chain, the U.S. could be next. And while it's already a strong storm, meteorologists say we haven't seen anything yet.

And an East Coast earthquake is scary enough, but one that strikes a nuclear reactor? That will keep you up at night. We look at what that tremor did to one plant


JOHNS: Jack joins us again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Joe, the question is: When it comes to presidential politics, why does America seem to be allergic to brains?

Bob in New York writes, "A presidential candidate with brains is more likely to speak the truth, and people don't want to hear that. We would rather hear about $2 gas or the promise to create millions of jobs or no new taxes."

"But I haven't heard any plans yet about how these wonderful achievements are going to be accomplished. I'm not a fan of Ron Paul, but I give him credit for speaking plainly and openly about his views, and look at all the press coverage he gets. Candidates with brains don't make for good headlines."

Joe on Facebook writes, "I think it's the other way around. People with brains are allergic to presidential politics. There are a lot of smart people in this country who could probably do a great job being president. However, the circus they have to go through to get elected and the hoops they then have to jump through to bet anything done prevent the best candidates from even applying for the job."

Tom writes, "Because America needs a laugh now more than ever, and they never disappoint."

Rex in Portland writes, "If by allergic you mean this skin- crawling, neck-hair-raising, creepy feeling that I'm about to give birth through my abdomen to an alien blob of black gooey hatred, I think it's quite natural to react this way to such abominations as the Republicans' current offering of presidential candidates."

Don writes, "It began with W. It was evident in 2000. America was clearly divided over brains versus good old boy mentality. W. spoke a language they could understand. He was simple, direct, shot from the hip."

"Those of us who went to school and voted for Obama, we were hoping for a reversal of the trend. We love the Palins, the Bachmanns, the Perrys for their entertainment value. What we don't seem to understand is they have vast followings of voters who are allergic to brains."

And Jeff in Hawaii writes, "With about a quarter of Americans being college graduates, it's easy. These three knuckleheads pander to the basest fears and religious beliefs of those who don't think. As comedian Ron White would say, 'You can't fix stupid.'" If you want to read more about this, you go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION's Facebook page -- Joe.

JOHNS: Thanks, Jack.