Tonight a Louisiana politician accuses BP of shipping in cleanup workers for Pres. Obama's visit and then letting them leave right after he did. We're keeping them honest. Plus, the death of child actor star Gary Coleman and more.
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There are new accusations aimed at BP over oil spill cleanup efforts in Louisiana. Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts accuses the oil company of shipping workers to Grand Isle for Pres. Barack Obama's visit today and sending them away after the president left.
"We have had very minimal cleanup crews", Roberts told CNN today about Grand Isle. "Maybe at best about 20 people working the beach. We just find it highly coincidental that on the day the president arrives that BP would move to mobilize considerable assets when that has not been the case for several weeks now," he added.
Roberts said approximately 300 to 400 workers were at the location today. He'll be on the program tonight.
At a news conference late this afternoon CNN's David Mattingly asked BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles about the claim. We'll let you be the judge on whether BP is turning the spill into a PR stunt.
We've asked BP to come on the program to respond. This morning they agreed, but tonight they aren’t returning our calls. The offer still stands.
Anderson is reporting again tonight from the Gulf region. We'll have all the angles on Pres. Obama's visit today. Mr. Obama is facing criticism for bypassing some of the hardest hit areas and not staying longer to meet with the locals.
But others are grateful he came.
"We have a major catastrophe here, we appreciate him being here," Clyde Peregean told CNN's Ed Henry.
There's also the impact this disaster is having on fishing communities along the Gulf. Fishing is a way of life and has been for generations. But for now that life has changed. Many boats aren't going out now. Tonight Anderson has an up close look at how the work still goes on for some without the boats. He followed crews as they pulled oysters from the water. The oysters have not been tainted by the oil. Some of their work continues, but they worry not for much longer.
Join us for these reports and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET. See you then.
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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel looks on during a visit to the Old City yesterday in Jerusalem, Israel.
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
John D. Sutter
On the Gulf of Mexico (CNN) - Ten miles off the coast of Louisiana, where the air tastes like gasoline and the ocean looks like brownie batter, Louisiana State University professor Ed Overton leans out of a fishing boat and dunks a small jar beneath the surface of the oil-covered water.
"God, what a mess," he says under his breath, scooping up a canister of the oil that's been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
Even though Overton has been studying oil spills for 30 years, he's not sure what he'll find in that sample. That's because, just below the surface, the scope and impact of one of the biggest environmental disasters in the history of the U.S. remains a mystery.
And that terrifies some scientists.
It's been five weeks since an oil rig exploded and sank, rupturing a pipeline 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Some clues about what so much oil - perhaps 22 million gallons of it - will do to the environment have become obvious:
Dolphins have washed up dead. Endangered sea turtles have been found with oil stuck on their corneas. Lifeless brown pelicans, classified as endangered until recently, have been carried away in plastic bags. Beaches in Grand Isle, Louisiana, are spattered with gobs of sticky crude. And when the moon rises over the coast there, the oil-soaked ocean sparkles like cellophane under a spotlight.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama has suggested the federal government is effectively calling all the shots on the Gulf oil spill. But with more and more of those shots seemingly going astray…well, what is a faithful pen pal to do, but post yet another letter to the White House?
Dear Mr. President,
Seriously? You’ve suggested that the federal government is calling the shots in the Gulf at the big oil spill, that we can all rest assured BP is acting only under the direct supervision of your administration, and you’ve clearly given the impression that you are personally engaged. But if any of that is the case, how is it possible that their big, fancy “top kill” procedure was stopped for 16 hours while apparently almost everyone… including your Coast Guard commandant…did not know?
I know that you came out with a bunch of strong statements, pledging unflagging support to fix this situation, and saying you get it. “The federal government has been in charge.” “Make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction.”
Again, I ask, seriously? Is it at your direction that the public is being kept in the dark? Does being “in charge” mean allowing a corporation that has already stumbled into a calamity to treat the public’s interest and concern as if it is something they can get around to addressing whenever they feel like it?
Presidential power, in case you haven’t noticed, is driven in large part by perception. When any president allows circumstances to make him look weak, easily fooled or cowed, the country itself is undermined. It is not enough to simply say strong words. You must take strong actions. You need a team that delivers strong results. And there is simply no clear evidence that you have that in this crisis…at least not yet.
I can’t explain how this is happening. I don’t know the inner-workings of it all. Maybe somehow you have a great, secret, don’t-pay-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain solution to reveal in the 11th hour. But at the moment this I do know: Your response to this disaster is still looking inadequate at best, inconsequential at worst.
Call me for advice if you need it, but frankly I can give it to you now quicker: Get down to the Gulf and stay there until you really are in charge…not just saying it.
Program Note: Be sure to watch Tom Foreman tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.
Tom Foreman | BIO
You know why the faces on Mount Rushmore are four presidents instead of the Marx Brothers? Because symbolism matters. As much as we have a sense of humor in this nation (hey, we bought LaToya Jackson albums) we understand the enduring importance of leadership, especially when it comes to carving mountains into giant, granite heads.
So you know why the Obama Administration was in such hot water this week? Because the White House team members seem to have ignored the symbolic importance of everything they do during a crisis. As the Gulf oil spill spun out of control, they appeared for weeks to be mildly interested at best, and slightly miffed with the inconvenience of it all at worst. Like a Greek chorus, a variety of officials repeated the mantra, “We were there from day one!” as if those words alone would suffice.
But it was the shocking lack of there-ness on days two, three, four, and more that burned them. And it didn’t help that on the very day the men killed in the explosion were being memorialized; President Obama was attending a Democratic fundraiser. Talk about symbolism. The apparent disregard for the tragedy and the puddles of oil gathering at the president’s feet were noticed even by admirers in his own party, some of whom were by mid-week wondering openly why the White House did not respond earlier and more robustly.
No one with any weight in DC is disputing that this is BP’s fault, and the money to pay for it should come out of BP’s piggybank. Many have even accepted the Administration’s argument that the feds quite simply do not have the expertise they would need to take over the operation wholesale. What has troubled them, however, has been the symbolism.
Presidents, although they don’t like to admit it, spend a lot of time being primarily symbolic. When they throw out the first pitch, when they visit a closed factory, when they greet returning soldiers, when they hold town hall meetings to discuss health care; that’s all about symbolism. When President Bush flew over the wreckage of Katrina and just kept flying that was symbolic. And though the White House team is scrambling now to show their concern, those weeks of apparently lackluster involvement by President Obama were symbolic, too.
See Tom Foreman's column in Metro here.
David Gewirtz | BIO
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute
Reading tea leaves is not science. And what I'm about to discuss is an epic tea-leaf read. But it could make for an interesting strategy for 2012. Suspend a little disbelief and read on.
Here's the background. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hasn't spoken much on domestic policy since she took the foreign affairs gig. For someone so vocal during the campaign, it's been clear she's purposely sticking to her charter and staying out of domestic affairs.
Yesterday, according to Ben Smith at Politico.com, Hillary spoke to the Brookings Institution on national security strategy. That's exactly what you'd expect from SecState.
But then she took an interesting foray into domestic affairs by saying, "The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues..."
The comment itself is what got Politico's attention, but her rare move into domestic policy is what caught mine. Although Mrs. Clinton prefaced her statement by saying it was her personal opinion, that made it even more interesting.
Why would she say such a thing when she's been so disciplined about her messaging? Especially with China and Korea heating up, the Middle East still simmering, and all sorts of other threats and risks across the world - why would she move to the topic of wealth disparity?
Well, here's one idea. What if she's getting ready to go back on the domestic stage? How could it possibly make sense for her or for President Obama?
Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost
CNN Special Investigations Unit
Dublin, California (CNN) - For the first 19 years of his career, Vince Cefalu spends most of his time in the field as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
But those days are over.
Now, he just sits in his office in Dublin, California, all day, and by his own admission, does virtually nothing. He said it's punishment for complaining and ATF's way of forcing him to quit. CNN gave him a camera to document five days at work.
"After several transfers, suspensions, attempts to terminate me, attempts to attack my credibility and my reputation, the end game was to assign me to this position," Cefalu said.
Five years ago, Cefalu was the lead agent on a racketeering case and complained to his supervisors about what, he says, were plans for an illegal wiretap. ATF disputes his claim and says he's had disciplinary and performance issues.
But since then, he says, ATF has made his life miserable. He has filed a series of grievances and complaints related to his job, which is now overseeing ATF property.
Follow Abbie Boudreau on Twitter: @Abbiecnn