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BP CEO Says Spill Caused by Series of Failures; Top Kill Challenges; FDA Investigating Tylenol Recalls; Old Memo Suggests BP Cheaped Out on Safety; Troops-to-Border Plan Gets Pushback; Oil Could Spoil Gulf for Years
Aired May 26, 2010 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. I'm Kyra Phillips.
The tricky Top Kill. A shot in the dark, a shot in the deep. So unprecedented that we can only imagine what it will look like. But 37 days worth of this might have done a generation's worth of damage. We're going deep on the BP gusher for the next two hours.
From the Top Kill itself to the loss of life and livelihood in the gulf and a shocking old memo that suggests BP cheaped out on safety.
And how safe are the meds in your cabinet? Reports of serious side effects, even deaths linked to pills you pop to chase off a headache.
But first, we begin with sky-high hopes and a chilling reality 5,000 feet underground. This is BP's live video feed of the oil still gushing from the broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
Right now all hopes of choking off that geyser rest with the operation known as Top Kill, and it's in limbo. BP executives are still sifting through the latest data to see if they can effort or begin those efforts this morning.
But we can show what crews are trying to do now. Take a look at this animation. This is Top Kill. BP hopes to seal a leaking oil well by pumping cement and heavy mud into the ruptured line.
It's never been done before nearly a mile under water, and even company executives concede it has no more than a 70 percent chance of working.
We've got crews covering all angles of this story, correspondents fanned out across the region. We've got the latest developments on Top Kill and the spreading scope of this disaster. We'll look at the outrage and blame that have already spread to Washington.
And here's what's going on this morning and what we can expect through the rest of the day.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
So, Ed, can you quickly lay out what BP hopes to achieve today?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they would like to start is this Top Kill process and, Kyra, as you laid out here very well, is a complicated process and a lot of planning having to go into it.
It is a series of essentially trying to cut off this well. But what essentially needs to happen is they need to be able to get to a place where they can put in enough mud and cement to basically counteract the pressure -- the upward pressure that's coming from the oil and gas.
So that's why they're doing all those diagnostic testing, pressure testing, to see if they can get to the point where they can make that situation happen. Without that, this process will not go be a success and we will continue to be here in a situation where the oil continues to leak from this oil well a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico.
So they're going through that test. They need daylight hours. This will be a slow, long process. It could take several days to figure out whether or not it's been a success.
PHILLIPS: All right. And we'll follow it with you throughout the morning. Ed Lavandera there in Grand Isle.
And finally, the lead man of BP is talking to us about all of this. Actually, he talked directly to our John Roberts and all of us were listening.
John, you talked with Tony Hayward. As we all know, the buck stops with him. And your questions were frank. But before we get to that, did he have anything for us regarding Top Kill today?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We were expecting, Kyra, that the operation might be under way by now. They've been running diagnostic tests for the last 12 to 18 hours, taking measurements. They're going through the analysis process right now, looking at all that data that Ed Lavandera was alluding to.
Tony Hayward suggested that it may be this afternoon before they know whether or not they'll be able to go ahead with this. And while he said that things were looking OK, he didn't sound particularly optimistic that they were going to be able to get it done.
That's just kind of a read of his body language. It may turn out that the data suggests that they can. But, you know, 37 days into this, people are asking many questions of BP. Everything that they're doing on the ocean floor is new.
They're saying we've never dealt with anything like this before and they've -- you know, they tried to sort of adlib their way through this, first with that containment dome, and then trying to pinch off a part of the riser pipe. And now with this top-kill operation, and maybe this so-called junk shot.
I asked Tony Hayward this morning why before they even got a drill near the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico they didn't have a comprehensive disaster response in place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: I think the first thing to recognize is that this is an unprecedented accident. The industry has been working in the deep water for 25 years and not had to contend with this.
As our initial assessment of the accident has indicated, which we've now shared with both Congress and Secretary Salazar, there are a whole series of failures here. Most importantly, the fail-safe mechanism, the blowout preventer, failed on three separate occasions.
Now, having said all of that, it's clear that this will be a transforming event in the history of deep-water exploration. It's very clear that much more needs to be put in place to deal with this situation should it ever occur again.
Clearly our intentions going forward will be to change many things to ensure that it never can occur.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Now, John, here's what's interesting. He mentions -- he even said there were a series of failures. So my question is -- and I know you asked him this -- if there were a series of failures, why didn't somebody do something the first time that blowout preventer failed?
ROBERTS: Yes. That would be a good -- a good question to ask and one that you would think would get a good answer. Now let's just take it back a little bit. In the House Energy Committee yesterday, a memo was circulated which suggested that the people who were on board that rig, who are operating that well, knew that there were some problems.
For example, about five hours before the explosion, there was a loss of drilling fluid, which suggested that maybe there was a problem with the blowout preventer. And 51 minutes before the explosion, some of that drilling fluid was coming back up through the well and then there was -- what was called a significant anomaly in the pressure.
But still they went ahead with production. They didn't shut down that well. And you know -- and I said to Tony Hayward, I said a series of problems would suggest that somewhere along the line somebody could say, hey, we've got a serious problem here, before it trips any further down that line, throw the switch, cut it off.
Why didn't anyone do that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYWARD: As in all major accidents of this sort, what we're seeing here is a whole series of failures. We've identified in our initial assessment at least seven. And that investigation is far from complete because the blowout preventer is still on the seabed.
We've not only been able to interview BP people, not anyone from any other companies, and of course the rig is also still on the seabed. So I'm certain that the regulatory investigations -- in particular, the Marine Board -- will determine exactly what happened and the sequence of events.
ROBERTS: Is it safe to say, Mr. Hayward, that the oil industry has pushed the boundaries of drilling but you haven't made similar advancements in disaster preparedness?
HAYWARD: I think what this has demonstrated is that was very significant progress has been made in terms of surface response. There is clearly the need to have much more preparedness with expect to subsea response. That is undoubtedly one of the big lessons.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Talking about undoubtedly one of big lessons. Well, there's also another question out there. How much did cost play in all of this? Cost versus the safety of these workers.
ROBERTS: You know, I asked him that. I asked him if they cut corners to try to keep costs down and then -- and keep the rig in production. He told me that it has nothing to do with cost, that this is the first time in 25 years of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that anything this significant has ever happened.
Other people, though, of course will disagree with that, saying why wasn't there a half million-dollar acoustic actuator built into that blowout preventer, which could have shut it all down?
A lot of questions will be asked in the days and weeks ahead, Kyra, as to whether or not they were skimping on safety here, trying to save costs and trying to keep their production value as high as possible.
But as Hayward said in his first response here that you heard, he believes that this will be a transforming event that the industry really is going to have to come to the table here with much more comprehensive disaster preparedness plans.
And I'm certain that there will probably be something in the area of more government oversight once they reform this minerals management service, which according to the inspector general has kind of been just running free in its relationships with the government.
And there will be far more eyes looking over their shoulders as they sink these wells even deeper into the Gulf of Mexico.
PHILLIPS: And on the notes of cost and safety, CNN, we were able to obtain documents that came across yesterday, John, with regard to safety measures that were disregarded for the sake of cost. We'll talk more about that coming up at 9:30. John Roberts, thanks so much.
And coming up also, I'm going to talk with the no-nonsense veteran of Katrina and other disasters. General Russel Honore is going to tell us what the government needs to be doing right this minute in the gulf.
Frank talk, no minced words. That's coming up next hour.
And across the gulf region and in much of the country, there's a growing sense of outrage that Washington is not doing enough. President Obama will confront some of that anger head on.
He's actually planning to travel to the area on Friday to see the catastrophe for himself. He says his administration is mobilized to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's not a person here who has just felt that sense of despair in watching the broadcasts about the oil spill down in the gulf.
Nobody is more upset than me because ultimately, like any president, when this happens on your watch, then every day you are thinking how does this get solved? And so we've sent over a thousand people down to the gulf -- booms, equipment, legal advisers, helping fishermen who have lost their livelihoods as a consequence of this.
And we are now having to do a thorough going review to see how it is that oil companies can say that they know how to handle these problems when it turns out actually that they don't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And as we mentioned, the oil spill goes under the microscope this morning on Capitol Hill. Next hour, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar due to testify at a full committee hearing.
Lawmakers are looking at how the disaster has been handled and whether we should rethink the future of offshore drilling.
And these are the images of the gulf oil spill from 5,000 feet. We're covering all angles on land. Our correspondents have the latest developments and our guests will walk us through the day.
Stay with us. No one else has the resources of CNN.
PHILLIPS: One mission down, two more left. The space shuttle Atlantis finished its last flight just moments ago. The Florida touchdown completed the delivery trip to the International Space Station with the shuttle program coming to an end. Only Discovery and Endeavour have missions remaining now.
Dozens of police chiefs from across the country are worried about the impact of Arizona's new immigration law. In the next hour they meet with Attorney General Eric Holder.
Police are concerned the new law will drive a wedge between them and the Hispanic community, damaging the trust they've worked so hard to build.
The law allows officers investigating a crime to question someone's immigration status if their suspicion that the person is in the U.S. illegally, putting more boots on the U.S./Mexican border.
We're being told now that up to 1200 National Guardsmen will be deployed there until more customs agents and officers are trained. Arizona senator John McCain would prefer more calling for 3,000 additional guardspeople for the state alone.
The Mexican embassy says that the additional troops should battle organized crime and not illegal immigration.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants North Korea to knock it off and stop the belligerence, the threats, and adding to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula after the torpedoing of a South Korean ship killing 46 sailors.
North Korea denies that it's -- denies this despite mounting evidence. And this morning in Seoul Secretary Clinton pledged full U.S. support for the South Korean government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: To seize the opportunities of tomorrow, we must first meet the challenges of today.
As President Lee said in his strong and dignified speech to the nation, we cannot turn a blind eye to belligerence and provocation.
Let me repeat publicly what I expressed privately through President Lee and Minister Yu. The United States offers our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the 46 sailors killed in the sinking of the Cheonan and to all the people of South Korea.
We will stand with you in this difficult hour, and we stand with you always.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Clinton also announced joint military exercises with the U.S. and South Korea to ensure readiness and deter future attacks.
Armed games are making a last stand in a Jamaican slum to protect the man they say is a hero and the U.S. calls a drug lord. Jamaican security forces are closing in on Christopher "Dudus" Coke who's wanted in the U.S. on drug and firearms charges.
Gun battles in the neighborhood have kept residents trapped there for three days. The Jamaican government said at least 29 people have been killed, most of them civilians.
The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Here you see the source of that disaster, the possible solution and much talked-about Top Kill maneuver. The effort is unprecedented, and the challenges are staggering.
We'll look more closely at Top Kill and talk to someone who could actually walk us through it. Tom Fowler covers the oil industry for "The Houston Chronicle." He joins us now by phone.
Tom, BP CEO Tony Hayward says that he believes Top Kill has a 60 to 70 percent chance of success. That's pretty confident for something that's never been done before.
TOM FOWLER, THE BUSINESS/ENERGY REPORTER, HOUSTON CHRONICLE (via telephone): Well, it's never been done at this depth. A Top Kill where they're pumping really heavy mud and then hopefully cement into the valve at the bottom of the sea here.
It's something that they do for well control all the time when they have blowouts in the -- you know, onshore and offshore. But doing it a mile under water, this is kind of a first for that.
PHILLIPS: Well, and there's a tremendous trust and confidence factor going on here, a lack thereof, I shall say. BP already changing its story, too, Tom. Yesterday they said they would know if Top Kill was going to work in 10 hours. Now we're hearing a day or two.
FOWLER: Yes. Well, the problem is you've got engineers that are running this, and they want to make sure that before they start putting a whole lot of pressure on all this equipment down there that it's not going to break apart or create further problems.
And I know it's kind of hard for most of us to understand. We've -- you know, we're wondering why this is taking so long. It's been more than a month. But this is having -- these are what the folks over at BP -- they're just trying to be careful about this thing because if they mess this up, they can end up creating problems that make it even harder to recover from the spill. So that's why they're kind of taking this cautious approach to it, really.
PHILLIPS: Well, I think it's already going to be pretty tough to recover from this spill whether this works or not. Now this is your beat. You've covered disasters. You know all the players here.
I'm just curious what has intrigued you most while covering this and what do you have your eyes on at this point?
FOWLER: Well, the thing -- this is what I wrote about this morning. I'm still kind of interested on the causes of this, what went wrong. At the root of it, it seems to be the design of the well wasn't that great.
I have an article in our paper and online this morning that goes a little bit into that. That there are some structural flaws that made a disaster like this possible. And obviously along the way there's been problems with this cement job that we keep talking about, that they didn't -- you know, did use enough cement, they let it in, let it cure long enough, they didn't do all the proper tests or they got mixed results from the tests.
So I'm still kind of interested in the root cause because, you know, going forward, they've got to learn lessons from this. And you know, is it simply that, you know, policies weren't followed or do we just have really bad procedures down there. That's sort of what's still up in the air.
PHILLIPS: Tom Fowler, "Houston Chronicle." Tom, thanks for calling in.
A painful reality. Tylenol and the like, well, may not be so safe. Now a federal investigation to the side effects under way.
PHILLIPS: U2 postponing part of its world tour as singer Bono recuperates from spine surgery. Bono was released from a German hospital yesterday after an emergency surgery for a compressed sciatic nerve. He's supposed to take at least eight weeks to recover.
The summer's dates on the North American leg of the band's tour have been postponed until next year.
So you got a headache? That news might have given you a headache. Well, don't grab the Tylenol or Motrin just yet. Remember all those recalls? Well, now the FDA is investigating side effects and even reports of death linked to those popular over-the-counter drugs.
CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta here to dig a little deeper.
So what can you tell us about it?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They have four recalls now. And this is getting bigger, I think, by all accounts.
PHILLIPS: A little scary because we all depend on these. And you get migraines, I get horrible headaches.
GUPTA: And you can't find this stuff.
GUPTA: And if you have kids, especially, this has really been something parents have been paying attention to.
What we have learned -- sources close to the congressional investigation -- 775 serious side effects are being looked into right now that happened over a two-year period. And now since May 1st, since a lot of this news has broken, they're looking into several hundreds more side effects and seven deaths.
So this is something that people are really focused on. And as things stand now, it's probably the largest U.S. recall of children's over-the-counter products -- medical products like this. So 50 different varieties. Some of them you can see there. Also some adult medications, as you know, Kyra, for arthritis, for example.
It really seemed to be focusing on two issues. Is there a contamination potentially within some of these manufacturing facilities? They found some bacteria, for example. But what else might be in there?
And also the sort of overall product itself. Does it have the same active ingredient? The same amount in various products? You buy Tylenol here, you expect it to have -- the same amount of active ingredient over here? It may not. It could have more inactive ingredients. It could have these things called black particles.
There are strange odors they said coming out of these medications. So this is what's being looked into and these hearings are starting tomorrow.
PHILLIPS: Should we just toss them all out and use something else? I mean what should we do?
GUPTA: Yes, you know, So, you know, we went to the store the other day and try to find these products. And first of all, you can't find them in many drug stores. Best bet is this, if you have the product sitting in your medicine cabinet now go to fda.gov -- simple -- check to see if the lot number matches the recalled one. If it does, throw it away.
If you find the product in stores, those are newly supplied products, they're going to be OK. You can buy those.
GUPTA: And also generics may be a good option. Maybe your child hasn't had some of these generics before but they can be a good option to treat some of the same symptoms these medications treat.
PHILLIPS: Prescribe these generics.
GUPTA: I do. Yes.
PHILLIPS: That's right.
GUPTA: That can work. PHILLIPS: OK, Sanjay, thanks.
GUPTA: Thanks, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, straight ahead, what do BP workers have in common with the three little pigs? I don't know. Ask BP. Apparently it's the one that made the comparison. Does that make BP the big bad wolf?
PHILLIPS: OK. Not far from the opening bell there on Wall Street. Stocks set for a higher open. And as you know, it's been a bit of a volatile few weeks for the global stock market.
The debt crisis in Europe -- we've talked about that. It's a major concern. Ali Velshi talking about this yesterday. How the Dow dropped nearly 300 points at the open. But it did manage to end with a loss of just 22 points. That was the good news.
Today markets in Europe and Asia rebounded so we're set for a higher open here as well. We're watching your money for you.
Now this morning, we're also hoping for a miracle. A mile under water in the Gulf Coast. We're waiting for BP's Top Kill operation to get under way as officials check their data to see if it can even begin this morning. You're looking at a live video feed from the oil gusher which has been spewing for 37 days now. Thirty-seven days of failing to choke it off means that this disaster could continue nearly unchecked for months to come. Pretty scary thought, especially since BP execs say that the Top Kill has only a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of success.
But here's what's supposed to happen. Take a look at this. Heavy mud force-fed into the well, fighting against the leaking oil and gas. Then cement would be poured over it to seal it off.
So what's the key to success here? It's packing enough stuff into the well to overcome the pressure and stop the surging oil and gas. BP says that it'll take somewhere between 12 hours and a couple of days to figure out if it's all going to work. Now, the more the oil gushes, the more we want to know about who's responsible for disaster. Now, there's been plenty of finger-pointing, as we know, but a lot of people say BP is the bad guy.
A 2002 company memo has just surfaced is not helping the company fight that image. This is the outrageous part. The memo actually compares workers to the three little piggies. That's right. The famous childhood fairy tale. Then it puts a price tag on employee lives and a handwritten note on the cost/benefit analysis actually points to constructing cheaper and less-safe trailers for employees as the optimal scenario.
This offensive letter was discovered by Attorney Brent Coon, who's representing families of workers killed in 2005 in that BP refinery blast in Texas, joining us now live by phone. Mr. Brent, let me get this right, these documents that you've actually got in your hand state that in 2002, before that 2005 explosion, that there was a clear decision on letterhead that was made opting for cheaper and less safe trailers. Trailers where 15 workers died?
BRENT COON, ATTORNEY (via telephone): That's correct, Kyra. We know that in that case, and again, this is March 2005 when a refinery blew up in Texas City that the people that were killed had been housed in temporary trailers. These trailers are very akin to the mobile homes like you see in trailer parks.
We were able to, during the discovery process, find out that BP was aware that these trailers were very vulnerable to what's called a VCE or vapor cloud explosion, and nonetheless, even though blast- resistant buildings were available for them to purchase for these office workers that were on site, they chose to use these mobile homes because they were a lot cheaper. And in doing that, they were aware that there was a risk that an explosion could occur and kill these people.
And what they did was called a cost/benefit analysis and that was the chart that we obtained in our discovery that you just showed to the audience. It's just incomprehensible that a corporation the size of BP would actually look at the different types of construction materials available and be fully aware that people could be killed from an incident such as what occurred out at Texas City, nonetheless, deliberately choose to buy the cheaper constructed materials knowing that it was cheaper in a pure risk/benefit analysis to pay the claims of people that were killed in the event it happened than to buy materials that were more durable that would protect them.
PHILLIPS: Now, when we got word late last night, we, of course, started working the phones to get response from BP, and it did finally respond to this memo that you obtained. And its spokesperson, Mark Salt, said, quote, "Since Tony Hayward became CEO, he's focused on safe and reliable operations as the company's number-one priority. In the last ten years or so, injury rates and the number of spills have reduced by approximately 75 percent."
Do you have proof that these changes have been made since Hayward became CEO?
COON: Well, there's a lot of misstatement in there, and it's typical of BP. They have a very comprehensive public relations campaign that they kick in every time they have a disaster like this. We know that from Texas City that BP in 1999 implemented a budget cut across the board to all the refineries and infrastructural sites mandating a 25 percent reduction in the cost. As a consequence, they were not able to keep up the maintenance of their refineries and other facilities, which is what resulted in the explosion in Texas City that killed so many and injure so many others just five years ago.
We know that BP has had a long history of re-investing their capital in their expansionist opportunities and growth and not re- investing in their existing infrastructure, and it's something that OSHA and the Department of Justice and others have fined them for both civilly and criminally, and yet, it never changes their conduct. So, I don't believe anything Tony Hayward says.
PHILLIPS: How incented were you to read this memo and see that BP employees were being compared to the three little pigs? I mean, it's just appalling.
COON: You know, it is appalling, and what's even more appalling is that we used that analogy because that analogy really makes sense when you're looking at trailers. The big bad wolf is this vapor cloud explosion, the blast that occurs from these refineries. We knew that BP had done their own vapor cloud explosion analysis in 1995 and were fully aware of the risk associated with the utilization of trailers in their plants. Even though they knew about that, they made a deliberate decision to put these trailers that they knew were very vulnerable immediately adjacent to a unit that they knew was at high risk of an explosion.
The warnings that came from internally and externally about the condition of that unit were just appalling, and they even starred that unit up in violation of so many different standards that it resulted in criminal prosecution. They didn't even have the alarms off riding on the unit if something were to happen, which they did.
PHILLIPS: I know you're taking these documents to Washington. We'll see all this come out more within the hearings. Brent Coon, appreciate you calling in. We will definitely follow the story.
COON: Absolutely. Thank you, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: You bet.
The size and scope of this disaster, imagine this, and now, it's spilling into politics. A lot of people scratching their head about President Obama's response and wondering out loud if D.C. should actually take the lead in plugging the leak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's the scandal of this crisis has mount and threats have grown. It's become a real national emergency. I think you have to give them a failing grade. I definitely think that this is beginning to look more like what we saw in Katrina, and that's a political peril for this president, you know, when the whole country got a sense of too little is being done from the White House, and there was almost a cavalier attitude for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: So, coming up, next hour, we're talking to the rule break and rage in cage (ph) who led the charge in the response to Hurricane Katrina. Retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore will be breaking down what's being done in the Gulf right now and how he would handle it.
Millions of Facebook users poke out, and the social website apparently listened. Today, there are new privacy measures in place, but you need to know how to use them. We're going to walk you through the changes.
PHILLIPS: Checking top stories now, BP plans to make a decision today about whether to go ahead with its top-kill procedure to stop the underwater oil gusher in the Gulf. The company wants to look at results of pre-test first. Procedure would shoot heavy mud at the broken pipe.
The end of an era. Space Shuttle Atlantis landed in Florida about an hour ago wrapping up a delivery mission to the international space station. It's the last flight for Atlantis. Two missions remain for the other shuttle.
President Obama's plan to deploy up to 1,200 more National Guard troops to the border with Mexico is getting pushback. Regional lawmakers and law enforcement offers say more troops are needed and those critics want the troops to do more than just support roles for immigration agents. We'll be back in a moment.
PHILLIPS: A House committee going deep on the government's relationship with big oil holding a hearing next hour on the federal agency that oversees the oil industry. Part of that hearing will look at how the Obama administration is handling the Gulf spill.
You see all the sickening images, thick, gooey oil slugging into coastal marshes and choking off the precious life that live there, but there's a hidden danger lurking beneath the surface. Last night on CNN's "LARRY KING," we actually heard from famed oceanographer, Philippe Cousteau. He dove into an area 20 miles offshore and he says what he found is frightening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, OCEANOGRAPHER: This course of events is developing constantly, and unfortunately, our worst fears were realized. There's a chemical dispersant/oil mixture that is now in the Gulf in huge -- over vast areas of the Gulf, and as we feared, it's not concentrated at the surface. We got in the water. We were about 15 to 20 feet down, and it was dispersed into smaller and smaller particles throughout the water column in these billowing clouds that were just circling us, encompassing us in this toxic soup. It was very, very alarming.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Nightmare is the word you've used. Would you stick by that?
COUSTEAU: I would, indeed. This, absolutely, is a nightmare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Cousteau says that even though the extent of the damage is still largely unknown, one thing has become painfully clear, the disaster to the ecosystem is going to plague the region for decades. I
And it's nagging politicians in Washington as well. Some members of the president's own party thinking it's past time to cry nice try, BP, we'll take it from here. Here's CNN's Jim Acosta.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do you do when you have thousands of barrels of oils spewing into the Gulf and countless federal and state agencies scrambling to get a handle on the crisis? How about putting one person in charge?
SEN. BILL NELSON (D) FLORIDA: It's now time for the president to put the military in charge. Why the military? Somebody that has a command structure that can coordinate things among many different agencies, or if he decided to go with a civilian, somebody like General Colin Powell.
ACOSTA: Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is pushing the idea because he says all of BP's failed attempts to seal the leak --
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: We will keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done.
ACOSTA: Or making the White House look weak at a critical time.
Does it look like we're just fumbling around down there, do you think?
NELSON: The perception is that we're fumbling around. I am sure that BP wants to get this plugged as much as anybody, but it hadn't worked.
ACOSTA: West Virginia Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall says the president needs to show a more take-charge attitude.
Do you think it's been enough so far? I mean, would you have liked to see more?
REP. NICK RAHALL, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: I'd like to see more, yes.
ACOSTA: Not enough so far?
RAHALL: Not enough so far. Yes, I'd like to see more. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is some frustration there.
ACOSTA: Rahall is conducting hearings on a new scandal over at the federal agency in charge of regulating offshore drilling, the minerals management service. The inspector general's report charged that during the Bush administration, MMS inspectors had accepted gifts from the oil industry and at least one inspector may have used drugs on the job. The report follows a separate probe conducted in late 2008 that found MMS regulators were having sex with oil industry officials. The culture of corruption Interior Secretary Ken Salazar vowed to clean up.
SALAZAR: It will be clear that we will no longer tolerate those types of lapses at any level of government, from political appointees or career employees.
ACOSTA: What Congressman Rahall wants to know is whether that behavior continued right into the Obama administration.
RAHALL: We now have to find out whether continued ethical lapses occurred after those reforms were implemented.
ACOSTA (on camera): Whether they even listened to the Secretary in the first place.
RAHALL: Exactly. That's what we have to dig into.
ACOSTA: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has put out a statement saying he's asked the Inspector General to determine whether that misconduct is still going on at MMS today.
Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.
PHILLIPS: And the House Committee holds a hearing next hour to see if the federal agency that oversees the oil industry still needs fixing. As part of that hearing we'll look at how the Obama administration is getting a handle on the oil spill. We'll have more on that next hour.
And the oil spill in the Gulf is so huge it can be really tough to actually wrap your mind about it. But a new Web site might be able to help you.
Josh Levs is here to show us more. Hey, Josh.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there Kyra. This one is actually really well done and it might be one of the most helpful things you've seen so far throughout all of this just to really try to get a sense of how unbelievably huge this is, 13,000 miles.
I'm going to hit refresh on my screen here so I want you to watch it from the very top and what's happening at this point to see the scope of the 13,000 square miles.
It's using Google maps and it's bringing you into the spill. Now, let's say you want to compare this to the size of any major city in America. Take a look here, compare it to Manhattan and we're just going to look at Manhattan, which I know is not a city, it's part of the city, but take a look here.
This program, and I'll tell you in a minute where you can see the whole thing yourself. It shows you what if you were to take that spill and layer it on top of any other place in the United States? All of a sudden you can put it in that context you can see here how it bleeds all the way up into Connecticut, down into New Jersey. Let me go way over here again. I'm going to click now on San Francisco and we'll zoom out to the west. And we're going to take a look at how this huge spill compares just to San Francisco. And again, if you look here, it's bleeding into Oakland and Sacramento and all the way through that giant stretch of California. That's how huge it is.
For people across the world or those who are just very familiar with these European cities, here it is compared to Paris. Look at this, we're zooming eastward over to Paris and this is the same idea right here.
Now, this was designed by a man name Paul Rademacher (ph) who works with Google maps. He's actually the engineering director for Google maps. He put this together because he was seeing all these numbers out there and he wanted to get a sense for people who live in different parts of the world, how it compares to where they are.
We can click on London for a second and then I'm going to end by taking us over to Washington, D.C., because in a way that might be the most powerful image of all. This one is comparing to London, let's ends on this one, our nation's capital.
It more than takes over all of Washington and it bleeds out into this entire area. You get up into parts of Baltimore, over into Delaware.
That's how huge this oil spill is. I've linked the whole thing for you at my Facebook page. Facebook.com/JoshLevsCNN, go there and take a look at it for yourself. See what you think. And hopefully help you wrap your mind around this. Kyra, back to you.
PHILLIPS: Josh thanks.
LEVS: You got it.
PHILLIPS: Even though it's definitely a serious subject and it's hard to see what's happening across the Gulf, there always seems to be a priceless punch line for our late-night comedians, and of course that doesn't leave out the oil spill. Jay Leno knocked this one out of the park last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": More fallout today from the BP oil spill. It turns out SpongeBob found tar balls in his square pants. That's how bad. That's how bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't get more serious than that.
LENO: Exactly. Exactly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Yes, there's a throwback. Private eyes and public concern after millions of Facebook users complained that the social networking site has responded. Beginning today users of the social networking site will find simpler ways to protect their privacy.
As you may know, Facebook users have been outraged by technical glitches that expose their privacy and they accuse Facebook of not giving straight answers about their concerns.
Next hour our Josh Levs will take you step-by-step and show you how easy it is to change your privacy settings.
But first, we want to hear from you. Thinking of leaving Facebook? Already fled, forever committed? Go to my blog, CNN.com/Kyra and let us know. I'll read some of your comments on the air next hour.
And we're watching all the developments in the Gulf Coast oil disaster impact and BP's latest plan to stop the gushing crude. We begin with Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, I'm on Capitol Hill in a committee room where you see images coming in from 5,000 feet under the surface. This is not something that the public can see, but it is something that Congress has demanded. They have a special password and we're going to show you more of these images at the top of the hour.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: The move to boycott BP is growing rapidly, but will it work? It's not easy to fight a global oil giant. I'm Allan Chernoff and I'll have that story coming up.
PHILLIPS: All right, thanks, guys.
And coming up next hour, also we're talking to the rule breaking raging Cajun who led the charge and the response to hurricane Katrina, Retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore. We're breaking down what's being done in the Gulf Coast right now and how he would handle it.
PHILLIPS: We've talked a lot about days, gallons, dollar amounts, square miles and so on relative to the Gulf oil spill, but you know what? No amount of money will bring back those 11 people killed on the rig. And no dollar amount will bring back the coastal ecosystem for those whose livelihoods are fading to black -- slick, toxic, disgusting black. It's going to take time, a long time.
Even if this Top Kill works, 37 days of gushing oil could leave a generation's worth of damage. Ask the Alaskans living in the shadow of the Exxon Valdez how quickly their lives got back to normal.
Watch this story from Bill Capo of our New Orleans affiliate WWL and then let's talk.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL CAPO, WWL REPORTER (voice-over): There were tears on the bayou as Pointe Aux Chenes residents Gilbert and Gayle Dardar (ph) threw the shrimp he just caught over the side of his boat. In the middle of his fishing trip, state officials closed the area so they're afraid to sell or keep the catch.
GAYLE DARDAR, LOUISIANA RESIDENTS: What are we going to do? How are we going to survive?
CAPO: Gilbert and Gayle wonder what the oil spill will do to the way of life that has supported the Dardar family for three generations.
DARDAR: How am I going to pay my house? I'm almost finished and I'm going to lose everything.
CAPO: So the Native Americans from south Louisiana met with their counterparts from Alaska to learn about the lasting effects of a major oil spill and the news was scary.
PATIENCE ANDERSEN-FAULKNER, ALASKAN CITIZENS ADVISORY COUNCIL: You're losing loved ones; quite a few suicides. I'll bet you we have in Cordoba, one a year at least, if not two a year.
CAPO: They share a lunch of shrimp and crab as they shared news about oil still polluting Alaska from Exxon Valdez, lost wild life species and the impact on fishing there.
ANDERSEN-FAULKNER: The times are very, very tough. First of all, we have not got our herring back, 21 years later.
CAPO: So will they get their fishing back here?
ANDERSEN-FAULKNER: Well, we just got one out for shrimp for the first time in about 17 years.
SHIRLEY LASKA, UNO CENTER FOR HAZARD RESPONSE: It could be the end of fishing in this area; all of the types of fishing, the shrimping and the oysters and the fin fish and therefore the loss of their culture.
CAPO: Just this morning they discovered oil in the marshes just four miles away from here. It was terribly frightening to find it so close to home so they met with BP officials to ask for help.
DARDAR: We don't have one inch of boom anywhere along our -- in our lakes, not one inch of boom. We rode out there. There is oil. We should have some boom.
NATHAN CHIAVA, BRITISH PETROLEUM: We're here to supply them with some boom. We'll have some out here tomorrow so that they can go out and protect their tribal lands.
CAPO: But the biggest worry for fishermen is whether they can stay afloat financially until the area recovers and that is something their counterparts from Alaska understands. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They'll get their way of life back, but it won't be what they're used to.
PHILLIPS: Well, you've heard what the Valdez veterans were saying, suicides. BP needs to realize that you just can't quantify what's happening with these people with a dollar amount. It's much deeper than that. The company needs to take care of these people's future and mental health, not just compensate them for lost shrimp and crab. It's just a shame that we can put a man on the moon, but we can't plug a man-made hole in the ocean.