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Controversy Over Funding Disaster Relief; Stranded by Hurricane Irene

Aired August 31, 2011 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Thanks very much, Candy. Good evening, everyone. There's breaking news tonight in the flooding and big controversy over how to fund disaster relief.

A leading congressman says we should pay for it but only with spending cuts in unrelated programs elsewhere. Even though during another big disaster, he wanted relief money for his own district with no strings attached. We're keeping them honest tonight.

Also in a moment, we'll take you live to a town that's still under water and places. And you'll hear from a man who has been stranded by hurricane Irene and he says forgotten by FEMA. Rising waters leaving him surrounded. The roads are gone, nearby houses gone as well. Power is out. Supplies are still limited. He says he hasn't seen a government official or FEMA worker and only local sheriffs trying to deal with the problem. He joins us shortly by phone.

Breaking news tonight, late word that President Obama will visit hard hit Paterson New Jersey over the weekend. Flood warnings in effect for the area all up and down the east coast in fact days after rain from hurricane Irene first began falling. Susan Candiotti is literally right in the middle of it in Little Falls, New Jersey.

Susan, parts of Little Falls has been evacuated. What's the latest on the flooding there?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to give you - yes, just to give you a sense of where I am standing on the ledge of one of those vacuum cleaners at a car wash now dipping into the water so you can see how high the water is. And putting this piece of paper in there to show you how fast the current is flowing. It's cold here. There are like 18,000 people in New Jersey who have remained evacuated. Thirty five hundred of them remain right here in this county. So, they are out of their homes and they don't like it.

But Anderson, you know what? This is like the third time for some of these people they have been out of their homes this year, first time for a hurricane, two other times because of just bad storms.

COOPER: And you went around the town in a boat today. What did you see? CANDIOTTI: Well, there's a street right down here that's a dead ender and someone who has a rowboat with a motor attached to it, we went down there. You know, the homes have water halfway up in many cases. There is some where you see garages where they left the doors open and it almost looks like the homes are on stilts because the water went all of the way in. We went back there with one man who lived here for about like 15 years. He said he's never seen it this bad. I asked him what he saw about seeing his house for the first time he said I don't have the words to describe it. It's just that bad.

COOPER: A lot of people there also have been refusing to evacuate. How are they handling it?

CANDIOTTI: Yes. I talked to a lot of those people too. You know, they say we've been through this. I refuse to leave my house. We have flood insurance. And a lot of them are simply worried about looting for both themselves and their neighbors. But there's a strong police presence out here. We've seen police turning people back if it looks like they don't belong. Your heart goes out to everyone not leaving.

COOPER: Any idea when the floodwaters might start to recede or fully go away?

CANDIOTTI: They hope it will be by this weekend when people might start to be able to come back in where the waters are the highest. Some people already started the cleanup. They are going to have a rough go of it.

COOPER: Susan, appreciate the reporting. Thanks very much.

I want to tell you about the situation in Vermont now. They haven't seen things this bad since 1927. Crews have been working hard reopening dozens of roads but people are still stranded from back on Sunday including the man you're about to meet. Todd Trazaskos (ph) is stuck in a small town of Gaysville. I spoke to him a short time ago.


COOPER: Todd, You say there are a couple hundred people essentially stranded in your area. What's the situation now?

TODD TRAZASKOS, STRANDED IN GAYSVILLE (via telephone): Essentially, the same as it has been for the last several days since the water came through. A bunch of the major roads have been cut by the flow and local guys are slowly getting it together at least around the bridges and culverts that had problems. So, there's a lot of activity from the local contractor. Any farmer with a front loader is trying to clear roads.

COOPER: You know it's hard I think for people who are familiar with the region to imagine being stuck in n area just you know roads being impassible. How is everyone holding up?

TRAZASKOS: Well, you know I think generally everyone has been pretty well. I know state troopers have organized something where they were getting prescription medicine dropped in. You know not everyone has a generator, but we do and so do the neighbors. And so, that's why people have you know come up our way. We're housing someone's whose house the river went through and there's a couple of people next door whose bridge went out and there's a landslide right up to the houses. We emptied the house out yesterday completely because it won't be safe. They're not staying there and probably not going to stay on the hillside.

COOPER: And have you heard from FEMA or you know state, local officials?

TRAZASKOS: Just local folks. Nothing from you know I haven't seen anybody any further up the chain than the local person. And I've actually been out busy doing things. So, there's a local meeting everyday at the end of the bridge now where we get updates. But people right now are calling on their own and trying to you know talk to insurance people well you know. It's going to be a slow process because there's not a lot of good cell service in the valley. As it is, I'm up on this foot trail that we cut because it's got a good spot where I get a decent signal. We get something at the house but it isn't always reliable.

COOPER: So, you had to hike up a trail to get cell service in order to talk to us. A lot of the homes in the area were washed away in the flooding. Does everyone have some kind shelter at this point?

TRAZASKOS: Yes, I think everybody at this point has been accounted for. That's the big job the first day which just going around and making sure all the neighbors we knew were where they are ought to be or that they have gotten out safely. You know, just even yesterday I got a phone to somebody who wasn't able to talk to the outside and you know their relatives were of course worried. And we've been passing messages for folks. And if anybody needs a shower, they can make the generator run and we can get them into the mix.

COOPER: Todd, I wish you the best. We'll continue checking with you and I hope the folks who need medication are getting it regularly. As you said, state troopers were trying to make that happen. We will check in with you again. Thanks, Todd.

TRAZASKOS: Thank you very much.


COOPER: Well, Keeping them honest now. Hurricane and flooding damage could break the bank for FEMA. Funding it though is turning into a political mess. Leading congressional Republicans say they want to pay for disaster relief including FEMA money by cutting money elsewhere in the budgets offsets.

Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christi had sharp words for that idea and for scholar Republicans in Washington supports it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTI (R), NEW JERSEY: Nobody was asking about offsetting budget cuts in Joplin. And I don't want to hear the fact that offsetting budget cuts come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of. So, you want to figure out budget cuts? That's fine. Turn it into that fiasco like the debt limit thing where they are fighting each other of eight or nine weeks (inaudible). I will fight to make sure that they don't.


COOPER: Governor Christi today taking aim at house Republican leaders mainly Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia whose been pushing for those offsets.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The federal government does have a role in situations like this when there's a disaster there's an appropriate federal role. And we will find the moneys. But we've had discussions about these things before. And those moneys will be offset with appropriate savings or cost cutting elsewhere in order to meet the priority of the federal government's role in a situation like this.


COOPER: But keeping them honest tonight now. In other situations like this, Congressman Cantor has had a different plan. Just give us the money. That was his plan before. This is damage from tropical storm Gaston which hit Congressman's district in Richmond, Virginia, back in 2004.

The congressman sent out a press release back then after cleaning funding arrived with no offsetting budget cuts. It reads "the magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth can handle, and that is where I asked the president to make federal funds available for the citizens affected by Gaston."

The president then was George W. Bush and the house was controlled by Republicans. He wasn't talking about offsets then. A year later, after hurricane Katrina, headed a GOP colleague proposed an amendment that would tie relief money to spending cuts. In other words, during exactly precisely what Congressman Cantor now wants to do.

But guess what? Back then, the congressman had a different view and he voted no on putting any strings on disaster relief. So, what's changed between then and now? Between it being in his district and being in New Jersey and Vermont?

Well, the budget deficit is also larger and national debt is bigger but the political climate is also different. Again, keeping them honest, this has never been much of a partisan political issue before. "The New York Times" citing research by Senate Democrats showing that Congress has approved 33 emergency appropriations for FEMA dating back to 1989 and none of them, none of them has called for budget cuts elsewhere to pay for them.

As for congressman cantor, his office declined our invitation to come on the program tonight and when he asked specifically what the congressman would cut to pay for emergency funding, his spokesman declined to give an answer. He says until the request for more money is made, any discussion of cuts would be in his words "hypothetical." This is turning into a political food fight.

There's breaking news and another one between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner over when the president will address congress about his jobs plan. Tonight Mister Boehner turned down the presidency which coincided with a GOP presidential debate. This simply has not happened before. We'll talk about that after the break.

But first, let's talk about this FEMA controversy and the funding. I spoke earlier where Republican Strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic Strategist Paul Begala.


COOPER: So Paul, is there a country being hypocritical here? I mean, back when the hurricane hit his district, he wasn't calling for offset for federal disaster money.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Of course he's being hypocritical. And on the thing, he's being political. He's a very smart guy so I can't say that he's playing this because he's done. He must see political angle here. I frankly don't.

He's got an enormous risk here because not only of course that did he support aid for his district which was necessary when tropical storm Gaston hit a couple years ago, He also has voted by my count for $50 billion of rebuilding aid for Iraq and $56 billion of rebuilding aid for Afghanistan with no offsets and he's voted for $40 billion over ten years in aid to oil companies, subsidies for oil companies.

So, I suppose the people hit by the hurricane have two options. Either, hope that Cheney and Bush invade them and then Eric Cantor will send them aid or incorporate oil companies because Eric Cantor supports aid to oil companies as well but not American citizens hit by a hurricane.

COOPER: Alex, what about that? I mean, using FEMA to point on out of control spending or pushing for spending cuts during the debt ceiling fight. Is this now just the agreed upon tactic of using one issue to fight another battle? Is that going to be the way business is done now in Washington?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'm not sure that it's just a political point or a politically useful issue. I think the president here is blaming ATM machine for not giving him money when he drained the bank account. This is the president who spent a trillion dollar on a stimulus that didn't work another trillion on a health care bill that America doesn't want. And, he is saying, well let's just keep spending money we don't have. All Republicans say, look this is important, great. Why don't we take $6 billion we're throwing away on ethanol subsidies right now and use it for something more important -?

COOPER: But not all Republicans are saying that right now. We see governors like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie saying you know attacking the Cantor approach saying now is not the time to start a big fight in spending cuts in terms of disaster assistance.

CASTELLANOS: But surely, in a trillion dollar budget, Anderson, something in Washington has got to be less important than helping the people that we saw with homes flooded and homes destroyed. And I think that's what you can get support for in congress. If it's that important and it is it why did the president spend all the money?

COOPER: Paul, what about that? What's wrong with an offset for federal spending?

BEGALA: Well, for emergency spending you don't have an offset because here's the tricky part, it's an emergency, Alex. Look, there's a regular order of these things. We should have budget debates through the normal budget process. Should we subsidize oil companies the way that Eric Cantor wants to do? Should would we spend billions and billions rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq with no offsets but no money rebuilding America? Those are the kind of debates you can have in the regular order. When there's an emergency, what do you do? Americans drop everything and go to help people who are in need. That's what cantor should be doing.

CASTELLANOS: Paul and I are going to agree on this. You should have money saved away for rainy day and president and Democrats should have thought about that when they spent a trillion on stimulus and trillion on health care we didn't have and now that rainy day where we need that has come and we don't have it. And so -

BEGALA: I got to say I helped the president balance the budget Alex.

CASTELLANOS: You can tell the ATM it's an emergency and it still won't have the money.

BEGALA: Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting. But I helped the president balanced the budget. I know what it takes. And frankly, the Republicans, they are the ones - excuse me - the squandered the Clinton surplus and so they did it here's how, tax cuts for the rich which we can easily repeal if we need the money and I think we do, subsidies for oil companies on another corporations, a war against a country, Iraq, that was no threat to America. We could, we should revisit these Republican parties. When the Republicans talk deficits to me, it's like an arsonist complaining about the fire department. It's not the Barack Obama's fault that we have these got an awful Bush deficit and it's certainly not the fault of the people who are hit by a hurricane. I mean, come on. It shouldn't be something about the politics. CASTELLANOS: It's not fair to say that it's Republicans saying it's anybody's fault. We're just saying the bank account is drained. Let's find the money somewhere. If Democrats are going into the next election saying there's nowhere in the federal government that we can find a few dollars to help people in need. That there's nothing less important than that and Republicans are going into the next election saying, hey let's try to act like we're broke because we are, then I think that's the advantage that will go to Republicans. Knock yourself out.

COOPER: Alex, should Eric Cantor though, if he is proposing these offsets, should it be part of his responsibility to least list his priorities for what he would cut in order to do these offsets?

CASTELLANOS: I think Republicans have demonstrated a lot of willingness to do that, Anderson. That's a good point.

COOPER: Can we ask Cantor's office? They haven't listed specifics.

CASTELLANOS: Republicans are willing to prioritize spending and that I think that would be great place to get Democrats and Republicans together on the hill and say let's prioritize this stuff because we've run out of money.

COOPER: Paul, Republicans are saying, look, we send democrat controlled Senate a FEMA funding bill and they left town for the month.

BEGALA: Fine, whatever. These people are hurting. We need to help them. I'm serious. No, come on, OK. They left on their vacation. You know seriously, whatever. When a storm hits, people need help. They need help right away. They don't need help because they're Democrats. They don't need help because they're Republicans. They are American citizens who are suffering damage through no fault of their own.

And what is really going on I suspect is a really insidious thing where the Republicans are trying to discredit government. When they ran FEMA they discredited it, now it is being run by confident people. By the way, the guy who runs it was an appointee of George Bush's brother, Jeb Bush in Florida so it's not partisan thing. Now FEMA is doing a good job. Republicans want to defund it. So, I think really what they want to show is that the government cannot help you when in fact it can when there's an emergency and we need to help our neighbors.

CASTELLANOS: If I can offer a slightly different point of view. I don't think Republicans are trying to discredit government. It's done a pretty good job of doing that by itself. And Republicans are not saying don't help people. They are saying where's the money? And there has to be some priorities. It's time for Washington to start acting like grown-ups.


COOPER: We will be going more with Paul and Alex in just a moment.

On tonight's other breaking news. A war of words between the White House and House Speaker Boehner, not over economy or jobs, instead they are fighting over when the president will talk about the economy and jobs. Actually, like what time, what day and when? Can't they agree on anything? New developments there.

Let us know what you think. We're on facebook. Follow me on twitter @andersoncooper, I'll sweet some tonight.

Also, new developments as well out of Libya with a deadline approaching for Gadhafi loyalists to give up, two of his sons are speaking out tonight about negotiating with the new Libyan government and their dictator father's condition. We'll have a live report from Tripoli.

Let's also check in with our own, Isha Sesay. Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a big day in court for the leading suspect in Robyn Gardner's disappearance. Authorities in Aruba had a choice. Let him go or lock him up another 60 days as they try to make the case against him. The court's decision and what that means, all of that coming up when "360" continues.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight on "360". It is official the speaker of the house has snub the president of the United States, perhaps for the first time in this way. Speaker Spokesman would that be the Speaker's speak, I'm sure, is accusing the White House of ignoring "decades and centuries of protocol" on what Republicans' call effort to one of he GOP.

Now, in case you wonder what all the game has been shift and game playing is about, it's not about jobs or not about politics. Well, new numbers tonight showing the private sector created fewer than 100,000 jobs this month. But all of this drama is about a speech.

President Obama requested time to speak to Congress to lay out his new jobs plan. But the date he asked for would preempt a GOP debate. This evening, Speaker Boehner's office made a counter offer for the following night, opening night for the NFL. The White House says Speaker Boehner was informed about the address. Boehner spokesman says he wasn't consulted.

I spoke about it earlier with Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos with Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin.


COOPER: So Jessica, Speaker Boehner is now rejected the president's request to speak before congress. Has the White House responded?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House has not explicitly said whether they're going to move the day. But Anderson, he can't speak before Congress unless he gets the approval of Speaker Boehner. This is sort of unheard of in politics.

COOPER: Yes. Does this ever happen before?

YELLIN: So most people say they can't remember a time when it's happened because what usually is done is it's worked out behind closed doors in advance. The White House goes to the Senate, goes to the house. They make an agreement and then it's announced. So if there's an objection, its raise in private and smoothed over in private. Usually you don't see this breaking out in Republican. What it does is foretell just how ugly a lot of these negotiations in public are going to be, I think, in the coming weeks.

COOPER: Paul, were you surprised by this?

BEGALA: I find it hard to believe that they picked that without knowing that it was the night of a Republican debate. Come on. I think Speak Boehner is doing him a favor, though. The speaker is doing the president a favor. I don't want people to have to choose between watching the president's plan for jobs and watching the Republican debate. I think people should watch both and then evaluate. So, I want everyone to watch the Republican debate and everyone watch the president's speech.

CASTELLANOS: Talk to your president. Because he's the one who chose to do it the same time the Republican debate has been scheduled for months. But not only that Anderson, he chose to do it not from the oval office when he could do it any time he wants, he chose to tried to play the presidential trump card and do it in front of the Republican congress. So, who is playing politics here? Who picked this fight? I'll get my tongue out of my cheek for that one.

BEGALA: He's kind of good at giving a speech. I think he ought to have a right to give him. I think that congress should welcome him and I'm sure they will. Boehner is a reasonable guy. I think he is actually trying his best to sort to run the house the best that he can and I think they will work it out, much to do about nothing.

COOPER: Paul, so the speaker then suggested an alternative time for the president's address which happens to conflict with opening night for the NFL. Is that coincidental?

BEGALA: Right. I don't think it is on either side. I want everybody both to see both sides, I really do honestly. It's good for the country. We ought to have a debate about this. It ought to be a robust debate. No doubt that Speaker Boehner who knows his football knew that that was opening night for NFL football and wanted to kind a jam the president the same way. It's why they ought to just work all these out.

CASTELLANOS: Anderson, this is unprecedented I think that you are seeing this kind of resistance from a Republican congress. But it's also unprecedented that you are seeing a White House go to the campaign trail spending taxpayers' dollars riding around in million dollar buses and playing this hardball politics this early, I guess the Republican congress. The president has polarized this environment and made it very political and that's what he has to live with now. YELLIN: Let's do a little reality check for a minute. The truth, Anderson, also is that Congress is in session next week for exactly two nights. So because they take a lot of break, they are here Wednesday and Thursday. So it didn't give -

COOPER: Congress is in session for two nights next week?

YELLIN: They are on break and the entirety of the house and Senate will be in town for only two nights. If you need them both here, that's either Wednesday or Thursday.

COOPER: When does their vacation end?

YELLIN: The house gets back at 6:30 on Wednesday evening.

COOPER: I'm sorry, Paul, you wanted to jump in, I think.

BEGALA: Yes. I can't see Alex but I hope technicians run for cover for the lightning bolt that's going to strike him. When he's actually seen it, I couldn't see do if he straight faced. I'm sure he had done in cheek. When it's actually pretended to decry Barack Obama playing politics, I think the fairer criticism of Barack Obama certainly from my party is that he hasn't been playing enough politics and he's been trying to pretend that the Republicans are reasonable. But of course he should go around the country. Of course he should talk. By the way, Congress should take breaks. I'm weird this way. I like when Congress is on recess because often it means they are actually learning something. They are talking to American people. They are actually out in the country or God forbid they are traveling around the world learning about America's role in the world. So, actually I don't mind when Congress is in recess.

COOPER: Jessica, do you know what's going to be in this president's job plan?

YELLIN: It's going to be a combination of a lot of short-term jobs growth effort. So, a lot of payroll tax credit extensions and sort of tax breaks for businesses to try to create new jobs and maybe even giving businesses new money, extra money, if they hire people who are the long-term unemployed. A lot of people think there will be money to renovate schools that are dilapidated, maybe money to get green energy efficient, low income housing up to grade, up to par, those kinds of things and infrastructure. And then a lot of talk about how he'll offset that with some spending cuts in the deficit committee and he is doing it. He wants to do it before Congress Anderson, because he's calling on Congress to pass all this. It's his one shot to say, here's what I propose. Now you guys do it. They can take it or leave it and it's out of his hands.

COOPER: As Alex is saying, it's a lot about politics as well though. We are going to leave it there. Jessica Yellin, Paul Begala, Alex Castellanos, thank you.

One of the political new tonight, in a preview of Piers Morgan Tonight, some fireworks GOP front runner Rick Perry taking a hit from presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. Santorum telling Piers that Governor Perry is ducking scrutiny.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We haven't seen Governor Perry in a debate yet. We haven't seen him really to that much in the way of interviews yet. You know, I've done this for 12 years in the United States Senate where I was under the kind of scrutiny that a national figure is under. I've done it in a state like Pennsylvania where I haven't backed away from any questions or any interviews. I don't hide myself from the public or from the press.


COOPER: You can see more on "Piers Morgan Tonight" after "360" at 9:00 p.m.

Still ahead on "360". Moammar Gadhafi's sons are speaking out as in do or die deadline approaches for their father's ancestral city. They're not backing down at least not verbally. The latest from Tripoli tonight, plus new developments in Aruba where the search for the missing, the missing woman goes on. Why the key suspect, this man right here, Gary Giordano won't be going home to Maryland any time soon.


COOPER: In Libya now, 11 days after opposition forces storm the capital capture Moammar Gadhafi's compound, reports tonight about 65 miles outside Sirte. They have given the city until Saturday to surrender or face attack.

Gadhafi's whereabouts however remain a mystery. Two of his sons though are speaking out today. One of them defiantly and some may see delusionally, Saif Al-Islam Gadhafi told a Syrian TV station, quote, "We will have victory soon."

He said he was speaking from a suburb of Tripoli. He didn't reveal where his father is, but listen to what he did say.


SAIF AL ISLAM GADHAFI (via telephone) (through translator): The leader is fine and we are fighting and we're drinking tea and coffee and we're sitting with our families and we are fighting.


COOPER: Saif Gadhafi called for fellow Libyans to rise up against the, quote, "gangsters," "rats," "mercenaries" attempting to rest control of his country. Quote, "Wherever you see the enemy attack them, they are weak they have suffered lots of losses and they are now licking their wounds."

He predicted loyalist forces would keep control of Sirte and also retake Tripoli's Green Square. His brother, Saadi's comments were a bit more restrained though he suggested there's room to negotiate with opposition forces.

Nic Robertson joins me now from Tripoli. Nic, we heard from his Saif Gadhafi when he phoned into that Syrian television station. He seemed to insist that his father was still alive and well.

Have there been any credible reports about where he may be? Nic, can you hear me? Clearly we're having some trouble getting in touch with Nic. We'll try to check in with him in a moment. Let's check with Isha Sesay. She's got other stories in the "360 Bulletin." Isha --

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a grim report from Amnesty International. The human rights group they have documented the deaths of at least 88 detainees in Syria during the five-month uprising against the government.

According to the report, at least 52 of the victims' bodies showed evidence of torture. All of the victims were male some as young as 13.

Growing tensions in Bahrain. Protesters say a 14-year-old boy was killed by police today. Witnesses said officers fired a tear gas round directly at the child during clashes with protesters.

A former NBA guard will be returned to Georgia to face a murder charge in the death of an Atlanta mother. He waived his right to fight extradition today. He was arrested Monday in California on a fugitive warrant.

A settlement in the bid of child support and custody battle between Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva. Gibson has agreed to pay his ex-girlfriend $750,000 and share time with their young daughter. Thankfully, the agreement requires both parties to not speak about each other publicly.

COOPER: Probably a wise idea there. Time now for the "Shot." Hip hop Jay-Z and Beyonce are expecting. They brook the news as you know at the MTV Video Music Awards. Now their baby to be has its own animation thanks to NMA-TV. Take a look.

Discussing what to name the baby. I don't know. I don't know how they come up with this stuff there. We'll try to get in touch with Nic Robertson after the break.

Also coming up, the latest on the case of the missing American woman in Aruba. The decision on whether her traveling partner, Gary Giordano, the suspect in the case remain suspect is actually going to be released from custody or if he'll be held for two more months. We'll get the latest from Martin Savidge who is in Aruba.

Also Tropical Storm Katia may soon become Hurricane Katia. That's the word from the National Hurricane Center tonight. We'll have the latest on the storm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: We are back and we've established communication with Nic Robertson in Tripoli. Nic, we heard from one of Gadhafi's sons, Saif, when he phoned into a Syrian television station. And he certainly seemed to insist that his father was alive and well. Any credible information on where Gadhafi may be?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's none. I think already Saif discredited himself by saying that he was in a suburb of Tripoli because not anyone here believes that.

It's hard to imagine how that would be possible. He talked about there being 20,000 troops loyal to his father in the town of Sirte, but the rebels surrounded at the moment.

That sounds like an outlandish figure as well. So there's a lot in there that didn't really add up and certainly what he had to say about his father, I don't think that has anyone particularly convinced.

COOPER: The National Transitional Council issued an ultimatum yesterday for loyalist town to surrender by Saturday. Saif is saying they're ready to defend one of those towns.

Sirte, which is obviously where his father is from, I mean, A: Do you think they'll defend that town and B: Do you think the National Transitional Council is going to attack it? Because we've often heard, you know, misleading reports from both sides.

ROBERTSON: You know, the evidence on the ground is that the National Transitional Council is massing rebel force outside of Sirte and they do intend to go there. They have to capture it. It's part of the sort of key strategic coastal highway.

They have to get to the highway and then they can start pushing south. There's another town on the coast they have to capture too. So that's important. They do intend to do that.

The other town Saif talked about is sort of giving the thumbing their nose at the NTC, the National Transitional Council. Some people think maybe Moammar Gadhafi or at least Saif and other members of the family may be in that town, maybe no one sure.

But that's also surrounded, rebels also gave that until Saturday. But now Saif has said, look, go ahead and attack now. It's anyone's bet with when the NTC will actually lead the advance on these towns. Anderson --

COOPER: And you're in direct correspondents with another one of Gadhafi's sons, Saadi online through e-mails. He seemed to go back on something he told you earlier before, which is that he's no longer willing to negotiate with opposition forces. Why do you think there's that change?

ROBERTSON: I think what's happening here is -- I think what he said on television was consistent with what I was hearing in e-mails. The way that the National Transitional Council had tried to play what he was saying by saying he was trying to negotiate a surrender.

What he said he's willing to do is to negotiate with and talk to National Transitional Council military commanders. He's not willing to surrender, but he is willing to talk to them about a cease-fire.

I mean, what I take away from all this from Saif and Saadi speaking almost exactly at the same time, their first public broadcast with a completely divergent message. Saadi has always remained through all of this loyal to his brother, loyal to his father and gone along with them.

There are various times he's been told to basically shut up and stay in the corner and now he's speaking his mind and he's saying something different. I think we're seeing the first fractures come from within the family.

I think this is an indication that at least for his part, Saadi's part he's trying to look to the future about what he's going to do. And he's perceived a weaker link in the chain compared to the rest of the family. I think that's what's happening here.

COOPER: Interesting stuff, Nic Robertson, appreciate it. Stay safe, Nic.

"Crime and Punishment" next and the Aruban mystery, the man being held in connection with the disappearance of an American woman there is not free to go yet. A magistrate in Aruba has decided that Gary Giordano could be held for another 60 days there.

There was a possibility he could be released today. Giordano says he was snorkeling with Robyn Gardner and that she was swept out to sea back on August 2nd.

There have been troubling questions though about his story especially after he told authorities that he's the beneficiary of a $1.5 insurance policy that he himself took out on Gardner.

Martin Savidge joins us tonight now live from Aruba with the latest. So Giordano has to stay in jail for another 60 days. Did the court elaborate on the decision at all?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. We didn't get any elaboration whatsoever. I mean, the judge threw the book at him so we were expecting that there would be some explanation as to what it was the judge heard or saw, but instead there was none.

The only thing we did get from court observers was the fact that this was a hearing took place at about 9:00 in the morning. The answer from the judge didn't come until 4:15 in the afternoon.

Those who follow the legal system here say when it comes to a detainment hearing, they never heard of it taking that long for a judge to decide. Whether that's some insight, we don't know.

COOPER: So I don't understand under Aruban law, which is I guess is Dutch law if I'm not wrong, they can just continually hold him and then have hearings and then decide to hold him even longer?

SAVIDGE: Well, in theory it's not supposed to be so capricious where they say we would like to keep him longer and judge says that's fine, thank you. No, the way it's supposed to work is every time you go before the detainment judge the level of witness and the level of evidence you have to provide is that much higher.

So in essence they were going for 60 days. That meant they should have had to provide the judge some very clear proof and some very good persuasive argument as to why Gary Giordano needs to be held and where their investigation is going.

Did they do that? We don't know because it was a closed proceeding. But in theory, that's how it was supposed to be. So we would assume that's how it happened.

COOPER: Marty, I want to bring in to this conversation, Jean Casarez, a correspondent with "In Session" on TruTV. She joins me right now in New York.

Aruban authorities, I mean, you're saying you believe have got to be feeling an awful lot of pressure given the Natalee Holloway.

JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION" ON TRUTV: They have to be. Two women missing. No bodies and they don't want to repeat what they've done before.

But the fact is, you know, when I was in Aruba last fall because they found a jaw bone they thought was Natalee Holloway's. I just came back from Peru. So I really pressured him about why they didn't you file murder charges against Joran Van Der Sloot.

He said we didn't have a body. That's why we didn't do it. They don't have a body here.

COOPER: Right and that's obviously raising all sorts of questions. The fact that, you know, again, that comparison with the fact that there is no body here, it makes obviously the case -- can they just keep holding him? If they don't find a body, can they still go ahead with charges if there's not a lot of evidence on the beach?

CASAREZ: Well, that will be determined. You know, it's very difficult when you don't have a body. What else do they have forensically? We don't know as Martin said. It's very secretive there.

But the fact is they're continuing to hold him. They didn't do that with Joran Van Der Sloot. They kept letting him go and re- arresting him. There's also I think a risk of flight here.

But as Martin has said earlier today at the end of the 60 days, they have to press charges if they want this to go forward or release him and he'll fly back to the U.S.

COOPER: So at the end of 60 days, Martin, he could just pick up and leave the island if he's not charged? SAVIDGE: Well, in theory, yes. He could walk out the front gate. His lawyer waiting there to pick him up and they would head off to the airport and he would hop the next flight back to the United States.

It is possible, I'm told, that the prosecution might ask for an additional 30 days. If they get that far, they better be ready to go to trial and the question is do they really have enough at this point or in 60 days to go to trial.

COOPER: Jean, if he's released and comes back to the United States, could he be charged here?

CASAREZ: Boy, that's a good question. You know, U.S. officials were never able to charge Joran Van Der Sloot in the death of Natalee Holloway. She was an American girl. This is an American girl.

But the FBI is helping Aruban authorities. They weren't asked to do that with Natalee Holloway, with the text messages and phone records. Are there anything that can provide charges on American soil and what about that life insurance policy?

He was the beneficiary. Admitted, 1.25 fraudulently obtained that beneficiary money. A U.S. official could determine that I think.

COOPER: On that insurance policy, based on your reporting, she would have had to know about it, right?

SAVIDGE: Right. This is a result of a conversation I had with American Express. They said you cannot just take a policy out on somebody. You're the beneficiary and they don't know their life was on the line.

No, she would have had to sign a document that said I allow for Gary Giordano to be the beneficiary if something were to happen to me. The question here though that's been raised is did she know what she was signing or perhaps did somebody forged that signature?

No proof of anything like that, but the question has been raised, did she know what documents she was signing?

COOPER: What is the legal system and law enforcement system like in Aruba, Jean? You've been down there. Are they up to a big investigation?

CASAREZ: Well, that's a good question. I mean, they work with The Hague. They work with the Dutch authorities. These are not Aruban officials. They are from Holland and they are circulated and appointed to serve in Aruba.

That jaw bone that washed up on the shore, it was human, last fall. It wasn't Natalee Holloway's, but it was human. I could tell they just really weren't aggressively wanting to find out whose human being jaw bone that was. That was a person that died and no one knows who it was.

COOPER: Jean Casarez, appreciate it. Martin Savidge, I appreciate the reporting a lot from Aruba. Martin, thanks.

Up next, Tropical Storm Katia gaining strength expected to become a hurricane within hours. We'll have the latest on its path.

Plus, why Prince Harry will be heading to America this fall and Snooki's latest wild moment in front of the cameras. It lands all of the networks on the "Ridiculist" because they missed an opportunity. And yes, I include CNN and MSNBC and all those other folks in on that. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Coming up, the "Ridiculist," but first let's check in with our own Isha Sesay with the "360 Bulletin." Isha -

SESAY: Anderson, Tropical Storm Katia will likely become a hurricane tonight. Right now it's just short of hurricane status with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour.

But early Sunday, the National Hurricane Center expects Katia to become a major hurricane with winds topping 110 miles per hour. But it's too early to tell if it will hit land.

Firefighters are having a tough time battling a wildfire in northern Texas. About 7,500 acres have burned about 50 miles west of Dallas-Fort Worth. One hundred twenty five homes have been evacuated. At least 39 other homes have been destroyed by the flames.

Also in Texas, polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has been upgraded from critical to serious condition. The decision was made before he was flown from a medical center in Tyler to a prison hospital in Galveston. The convicted child rapist fell ill earlier this week while fasting in prison.

Anderson, Britain's Prince Harry will be in the U.S. in October for British military exercises. The prince known as captain harry of whales to his comrades will take part in apache helicopter training in California. You'll know where I will be in October.

COOPER: Are you going to follow him there?

SESAY: Off to bag me a prince. I'll put him in the bag.

COOPER: All right. There you go. All right, I like that you are just putting it out there.

SESAY: He can now hide.

COOPER: Sure, why not. Coming up, Snooki is trying out for a new line of work and like everything else she does she's really, really good at it. Watch out, Diane Sawyer, you have stiff competition coming up.

And the networks, they are on our "Ridiculist" because of it. We'll explain.


COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist" and tonight we're adding CNN, Fox, MSNBC, HLN, ABC, CBS, NBC, pretty much every major news station that's out there. That's right.

I'm going there because frankly they have all missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. They put people like Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams and me behind the anchor desk when they could have gone in a much different direction. A tiny, tanned, poofy hair direction.


SNOOKI: Welcome to the news according to Snooki.


COOPER: Now, I have always known that Snooki is a renaissance woman. So much more than you see on "Jersey Shore." She drinks and dances and parties and smooshes, but she also philosophizes. She also writes best-selling books.

She also holds the key to my heart. So I for one am not at all surprised to see that Snooki counts anchoring the news among her myriad of talents.


SNOOKI: I always wanted to be an anchor woman and I look hot doing it.


COOPER: I know what you're thinking. She's no Ann Curry, but you know what? You need to give it a chance because the news according to Snooki has something for everyone. She covers the important current events like Hurricane Irene knocking out power in the northeast.


SNOOKI: And when you're powerless, you can't like straighten your hair, blow your dry hair or go on Twitter or Facebook. You can't do anything. You can't talk on the phone. You just sit there and do nothing. You can't even watch TV.


COOPER: Believe me, Snooki, I know what it's like to be powerless, powerless against your charms. She covers all of the important environmental issues like global warming.


SNOOKI: Every time I go down a seaside I'm sweating in places I never sweated before. So obviously, the sun is coming closer to earth. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Me too. She covers medical news with a buzzed pint sized Sanjay Gupta.


SNOOKI: A surgeon general calls for health over hair. What does this mean?


COOPER: That's actually not a lot of spray for an anchor. She's not afraid to show the lighter side of the news. Take it away, Wolf Blister.


SNOOKI: A Montana dog becomes a local celebrity for his math skills. Supposedly this dog can add, subtract, I don't believe that. I have a dog of my own and she can't even walk straight. I can't even do math really. So let's get real.


COOPER: I don't even believe that about the dog either. Snooki keeping them honest. I'm so proud. She even covers news from galaxies far, far away.


SNOOKI: Obviously, aliens do exist. I've seen spaceships in the air before and I've got abducted by aliens before. What happened? I wake up the next day and I remember being at the club, but I don't remember getting home or whatever. So obviously, they're real.


COOPER: You know what I think heaven is like? I think it's like curling up for eternity in a big fluffy cloud made entirely of Snooki logic.

Of course, all of the ground breaking news anchors have memorable tag lines and that's the way it is, good night and good luck, stay classy San Diego, all pale in comparison to what our little Katie Couric has come up with.


SNOOKI: Later bitches.


COOPER: Your loss, every news station in the world, your loss. You may never know the audience you could have attracted with Snooki on your side. But you're still getting great ratings on the "Ridiculist." That's it for "360." Thanks for watching. I'll see you at 10 p.m. Eastern. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.