updated 5/17/2006 11:35:19 AM ET 2006-05-17T15:35:19

Guests: Oliver Thomas; Sheriff Jack Stephens; Max Mayfield; Governor Mitt Romney, Dawn Yankeelov, Willie Puz, Catt Sadler, Gloria Allred, Veronica Varekova

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Tonight, the fate of New Orleans hangs on two races:  A political race for mayor...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS MAYOR:  The next time a hurricane comes, we‘re going to get everybody.

MITCH LANDRIEU (D), LT. GOVERNOR, LOUISIANA:  What was OK before Katrina is not OK after Katrina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And a race against time to fix the levee.  Two men battling to lead New Orleans back from devastation.  Did either prove they have what it takes to lead this city? 

And good evening everybody, I‘m Rita Cosby.  Thanks for joining us.  Tonight, we‘ll talk about that race to lead New Orleans in a moment with “Hardball‘s” Chris Matthews who just moderated the big mayoral debate right here on MSNBC. 

But first, the state of New Orleans.  With the new hurricane season just around the corner, word tonight that the city‘s levees won‘t be ready in time for the next big storm.  So with time running out, what are they doing to avoid another potential disaster like Katrina?  NBC‘s Martin Savidge is live in New Orleans with the latest.

Martin, I can see them working feverishly behind you.  What are they doing?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening Rita.  Those are contractors working around the clock for quite some time now her at the 17th Street Canal.  What you cannot see there are divers that are also in the water, right now, and actually there‘ll be more people working as the night wears on, around 3:00 in the morning. 

It is always been known the Army Corps of Engineers was in a desperate race to get the flood protection system repaired before the start of the hurricane system (sic), and only recently have they admitted it‘s a race they‘re not win. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over):  Over and over again the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers repeated the same mantra. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We will make the deadline. 

SAVIDGE:  Now, with just more than two weeks until hurricane season, the corps says they won‘t make it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not going the way they wanted it to be ready one June. 

SAVIDGE:  The problem, three massive flood gates, they are a new and critical addition to New Orleans‘ flood protection system, designed to keep storm surge on Lake Pontchartrain from entering into the city‘s drainage canals.  According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the gates, each about the size of a 10-foot-story building, turned out to be more complicated as expected. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We do have a plan to provide that protection by one June.

SAVIDGE:  Plan B means to block the storm surge using sheets of steel attached to bridges, but the corps it may not spare all neighborhoods from flooding.  That‘s not good news to Andrea Rudolpho (ph), who had hoped to move back into her home this summer.  When the city flooded last year, she and her husband had to be rescued by boat.  She says she has no choice but to have faith the corps will get it done before the next big storm. 

ANDREA RUDOLPHO, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT:  It‘s hard to say for sure if they‘re really get it together.  We‘re just believing they will. 

SAVIDGE:  Two street away, Charlie Johnston cuts the grass in front of his flood-ruined house, just six blocks from the 17th Street Canal.  He‘s waiting for the corps to finish so he can start figuring out what to do. 

CHARLIE JOHNSTON, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT:  I have to have things finished—so I can sit down and make a hard-core decision left or right. 

SAVIDGE:  For many in New Orleans, rebuilding their own lives can‘t move forward until the Army Corps of Engineers finishes rebuilding the system designed to protect them. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE:  The Army Corps of Engineers has always realized that on top of rebuilding a flood system, they‘re working on something else, something even more difficult, rebuilding the trust of the people of New Orleans.  When deadlines come and then deadlines go, they realize that project suffers a setback as well—Rita.

COSBY:  You know, Martin, you talk about the trust.  How many of these people trust enough to come back to New Orleans now?  Doesn‘t look like it‘s ready. 

SAVIDGE:  Well, you know, that‘s a big question and there are a lot of

factors that play into this.  We‘re talking about will the levee system be

ready, peace of mind for those people and then there‘s the hurricane system

hurricane season itself.  Many people are very concerned about that. 

They may, in fact, decide to ride this one out somewhere else and return if they plan to come back to New Orleans, maybe in the fall, after the season has passed.  Really, if you look at a lot of neighborhoods here, not much has happened.  Many of the neighborhoods look exactly as they did eight months ago.  A lot of repairs have done to the infrastructure, the power is back, the water is running and the natural gas flowing much once more, but as far as the individual homes, most of them are in ruins.  As far as people have gone, it‘s to gut their houses.  But, rebuilding, you hardly see any of that happening, yet. 

COSBY:  And Martin, sadly, something that is returning is crime.  Tell us about that. 

SAVIDGE:  Crime is a problem.  I mean it was notorious that New Orleans had a very high crime rate before Hurricane Katrina.  Immediately after the storm, crime took a nose dive.  Well, you can understand why.  Many of the people have left.  Then you had the military that was here and a very heavy police presence.  But, since that time as people come back, the criminal element has been coming back as well.  In fact today, there was a triple shooting that took place in Algiers, that on the other side of the river, still the city of New Orleans, an 18-year-old youth was killed.  That happened in broad daylight, out on a public street.  The belief is, according to the chief of police, the crime‘s down about 25 percent from what it was before Katrina.  However, you‘ve only got half the population.  So, the two do not jive.  And it is feared that more crime is coming back and they‘ve got plenty of places to hide in a city that‘s very empty. 

COSBY:  How sad is that?  Martin, thank you very much.  We appreciate the report. 

Well, as we just mentioned, just four days from now, voters of New Orleans are going to head to the polls to pick a leader that they think can help save their city.  And of course, the city needs a lot of work as you just heard from Martin.  “Hardball‘s” Chris Matthews just wrapped up the city‘s mayoral debate and joins us now live from New Orleans. 

First of all, Chris, what‘s the mood after the debate tonight? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL”:  Well it just happened; I‘m sitting at the same seat I was sitting in during the debate.  I‘ll tell you, I learned tonight, once again, as we‘ve all learned our lives, it‘s far easier to go after an incumbent than it is to be an incumbent after such a catastrophe has hit this city.  So, clearly in tonight‘s hour-long debate the lieutenant governor, Mitch Landrieu, was on the attack, criticizing, criticizing, criticizing and the mayor was asking for sympathy about things he says couldn‘t have been much better if anyone else who held the job.  It was an assault by the challenger against the incumbent, and at times I wondered how much better it must be to be a critic than a man in charge. 

COSBY:  Yeah, and you can you tell both of the guys, I thought you and Norm both did a good job of putting them both on the hot seat.  One of the hot topics, and we were just talking about it, Chris, is the levees.  And I wanted to show a little clip because it got very heated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAGIN:  If another Katrina hit us, that we would have some overtopping, but not the catastrophic flooding we had with Katrina. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re never going to live without risk in America and in the world and the question is, can you manage it and can you deal with it appropriately? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Chris, do these guys need a reality check?  We just talked to Martin Savidge.  The Army Corps of Engineers is saying the levees aren‘t ready, that it‘s still not prepared.  Is this all political spin, do you think? 

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s playing defense and also the question of whether, you know, whether we‘re going to get another Katrina so quickly on the heels of the last one, it‘s the odds.  The one thing you do hear about here is discussions about risk factors, about people are buying homes and selling them based upon different assessments of the risk.  For example, if you were to sell a house now, right now, which in the flood plain, you would be saying, you know, I don‘t like the odds.  And if you‘re buying the house, you‘re say, I like the odds.  And so, it‘s different perspective.  We‘re going to know at the end of the summer who was right.  We‘ll know in the end of five years who was right in the long hall.  But clearly, different people are willing to—look, people are willing to live in San Francisco with the San Andreas Fault underneath, knowing that there‘s an historic, probably, inevitability  to an earthquake that really damages that city, somewhere down the line, but people love that city as they do this city and they‘re willing to accept the risks.  Katrina was a case where people who were thinking I got to get out of this place, were right, but I‘m not sure that this city lost its confidence that much, that they think they will get another Katrina so quickly. 

COSBY:  And of course, we‘re all hoping the city‘s going to rebuild.  You know, Chris, the other thing you did, I think you did a great job, as you always do, is you put these guys to task.  Let me show an encounter where—you had with Ray Nagin where you basically said, you know, let‘s stop spinning me, buddy.  Here we go. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAGIN:  If it wasn‘t for the failed levees, we wouldn‘t be here talking about this.  This is a federal responsibility, whether it‘s this below sea level or not, to provide adequate protection for Americans.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like saying, except for that that, Mrs.  Lincoln, how was your evening.  I mean, if the levees hadn‘t failed, we would not be here, I wouldn‘t be here.  This is a major national concern. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Chris, good for you.  Do you think Nagin‘s trying to sugar coat things?  I mean, we just heard the reality from the engineers.

MATTHEWS:  I just thought—well, the way he phrased it to give me an opportunity to say, you cannot diminish what happened here, Mr.  Mayor, it‘s a huge catastrophe, the failure of the levees and of the sea walls and to say “except for that,” I think that‘s hard one—I remember Marion Barry Washington once said, “Except for our murder rate, our crime rate‘s pretty good here.”

COSBY:  Yeah, give me a break.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a hard case to make for most people.  It‘s not even funny but it is hilarious. 

COSBY:  You know, one of the other things tough on—hit a chord, it seemed, Chris, let‘s talk about it, race, real quick. 

MATTHEWS:  Yeah, well, I think it‘s—you know, we all—I grew up in Philadelphia.  I know that race is a big part, especially in an evenly divided or roughly divided city along racial lines.  And ethnicity‘s a big part of who you vote for.  But, what make it‘s interesting is it‘s not all of what you vote for because if it was, we wouldn‘t have to have elections.  You‘d just who—if the two candidates were black and white, you‘d give it to whoever had majority vote.  Factors come in to this:  Who‘s better for business?  Who‘s really the more conservative candidate? 

A lot of people down here think that Ray Nagin was a more conservative candidate than Mitch Landrieu and so you can‘t go by ethnicity and say all the black candidates are more liberal candidate and the white guy is a more conservative.  A lot of people would despot that down here.  They‘d say Nagin was the business candidate four years ago, and he still has a case that he‘s a more philosophically conservative guy.  So, I think it‘s fascinating to know it‘s not simply tribal, if you will, or ethnic, that people really do have to make up their minds and a lot of black people down here will vote for Landrieu and a lot of white people will vote for the mayor because they think that person‘s going to do a better job.  And that‘s a great, healthy thing, I think.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  And that‘s the bottom line.  And of course, voters are going to decide, Chris, in four days.  Great job on the debate, my friend, thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I love being down here, as you can tell, Rita. 

COSBY:  I can tell.  Well, you‘ve been doing a good job.  Thank you so much. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

COSBY:  And meantime there is concern tonight that crime is on the rise in New Orleans where Chris is.  And joining us now live from our New Orleans bureau are two great people who trying to fight against all of the (INAUDIBLE), Sheriff Jack Stephens of St.  Bernard Parish, an area that was really destroyed Hurricane Katrina, and also Oliver Thomas next to him, New Orleans city council president. 

Sheriff, let me start with you, how concerned are you about crime? 

SHERIFF JACK STEPHENS, ST. BERNARD PARISH:  Well, we are very concerned about the fact that, you know, there‘s a whole new element in criminal activity we‘re dealing with now following the transient workers that come in behind these disasters to clean up, the fact that, there‘s been a fairly significant spike in drug activity over the past five or six months and I think that‘s why you see a great deal of this violence occurring in the region now, with respect to the shooting and stuff, it is, it has been historically follows the destruct rate.  In, you know, St.  Bernard Parish, we‘re down from almost 400 employees to 181, right now.  So, we‘re dealing with a significantly smaller deputy core than we did before.  But, as of today we opened up 92 beds in our jail, which was completely overrun during Katrina and we have 105 inmates, so, we‘re making a lot arrests and crime is beginning to be a problem.

COSBY:  Sheriff, what are you doing, too?  You say that you got 105 guys, you got 92 beds, what are you doing and what‘s going to happen if you arrest some more of them? 

STEPHENS:  They‘ll be sleeping on the floor.  The judges are working with us as closely as they can to try to make sure that people who do not represent an immediate risk to the public are turned back out and are bonded out, but again, it‘s just a—it‘s a symptom of an overall disease in the criminal justice system and how we handle this.  And the judiciary has been affected, the (INAUDIBLE) defenders have been affected, the corrections officers have been affected and patrol and enforcement on the street have been.  And it‘s a very precarious position we find ourselves in right now.  And fortunately in the metropolitan area and this region, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have worked very closely on all of the matters that are facing us and all the problems we are facing.  We‘re trying to pool resources but in Jefferson Parish, our surrounding parish, which has seen a spike in their population.  I talked to Sheriff Lee about a week ago; he says he‘s down almost 400 deputies in his deputy force.  So, the entire region has been degraded in terms of man power.

COSBY:  Yeah, and let me bring in Oliver Thomas.  Because Oliver, you know that all to well, as well.  You know, let me talk about—this is some of the population estimates.  I thought this was interesting.  This is the mayoral, you know, debate.  This was being sort of discussed about in the last few weeks, particularly Landrieu, of course the opponent, 225,000 is what he expects the population will be next year.  Nagin, of course, the current mayor still running again, 300,000 by next year.  He believes it will grow about 100,000 as of January.  How do you think the growth rate, whichever it grows, is going to affect crime and how we going to get a handle on it, Oliver? 

OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT:  Well, I mean, it‘s absolutely going to affect crime, especially if we do not have the resources and the help from the federal government... 

COSBY:  Are you getting enough support, Oliver?  Are you getting enough support?

THOMAS:  Well, let me—well, what the sheriff just stated also, highlights are failed immigration policies and America‘s failed attempt to fight the war on drugs.  I‘ve been working with the special agent in charge down here, and we‘re talking about how we deal with repopulating the housing authority, making sure that that element is cleaned up and that hard-working, honest people have an opportunity to move back into those areas, you know, with new policies.  We‘re talking about how we keep the gangs out. 

But, right now, if we don‘t get help from the federal government—look, if you want to speak honestly and frankly, allow the illegal immigrants that are coming to this area and some of the storm chasers that are coming here are coming here with their problems.  Alcohol, drugs, many of them are living in abandoned houses, mildew-ridden houses, they‘re living in abandoned cars, and they‘re just trying to scrap for work every day.  We have an area called Lee Circle that was not as filthy and dirty after Mardi Gras, as it is right now because it‘s a labor—it‘s a labor hall right now and we‘re not doing anything—we‘re not getting any help from—we‘re not getting any help from the Immigration Department.  The Immigration Department and people at the federal level, they really don‘t care.  These companies are controlling this as long as they can hire people, they don‘t care if they have drug problems, alcohol problems, or pill problems.  They don‘t care if they are illegal or if they‘re not legal.  So, it‘s a major problem in this area.  And all we‘re doing substituting one criminal element for another one. 

COSBY:  Oliver—well, Oliver we care and I‘m glad the hope—hopefully those companies that are doing those things are watching tonight.  And both of you, thank you very much.  We have not nor gotten New Orleans.  We will stay on top of this.  Both of you guys, good to see you both, my friends and thank you very much. 

And everybody, if you thought 2005 was bad, get ready for hurricane 2006.  The director of the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield, is going to join us.  That‘s coming up, and that‘s not all tonight.  Take a look.

Still ahead, flash floods from new England to New Jersey.  Amazing pictures as water tests the breaking point.  Will this washout turn into a disaster?  And, deadly alligator attacks reeking havoc in Florida from coast to coast.  Three people already killed in gruesome surprise attacks.  Wait until you hear why some say these big monsters are losing their fear of humans. 

And what was Britney Spears thinking?  Another unbelievable picture of Louisiana‘s pride and joy on a dangerous joy ride.  No, it‘s not the curlers in her hair that has everyone talking.  It‘s her baby in the back seat.  You‘ll see the pictures coming up on LIVE & DIRECT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These walls will start coming in. 

You can see this is just—incredibly dramatic.  This is Mother Nature at her worst right here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:   Well we will never forget the 2005 hurricane season and now we must look forward to what could be another damaging year.  The start of the 2006 hurricane season is just days away and officials are asking people to prepare for the worst.  Max Mayfield, the director of National Hurricane Center tells me that this season could be just as bad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER:  I can tell you that all of the seasonal forecasters are calling for a very active season.  The research meteorologist are telling us that we‘re in this very active period it may very well last another 10 or 20 years and that‘s not good news.  We need to be prepared. 

COSBY:  You know, you put up some stunning figures that show that people are still so ill prepared—what will it going to take for them to get the message that they‘ve got to be ready and they also need to evacuate? 

MAYFIELD:  Rita, we absolutely have to create a culture of preparedness.  And you all in the media can really help us do this.  We can‘t wait for that hurricane to get on the map before we start getting prepared and this is something that I hear over and over again after every hurricane, people who had a plan and could execute that plan, did much better (ph) that most who did not have a plan. 

COSBY:  Are you surprised that still, you know, more than 10 percent of the people that were surveyed, they‘re saying, they‘re not going to evacuate even if they‘re ordered to do so?  This is after what we saw last year with Katrina and Rita.

MAYFIELD:  Actually, Rita, that shocked me.  That there are 13 percent of the people who say they will not evacuate even if ordered to do so.  After seeing what Katrina and Rita did, I just can‘t imagine what some of those people are thinking about.  We need to do a better job educating people and let them know—in fact, I can make it real simple, if you‘re six-feet tall and have a 15-foot (ph) storm surge, you have a problem, you need to evacuate if told to do so. 

COSBY:  How concerned are you for people still living in temporary housing and how many people are after the worst hurricanes of 2005, what‘s going to happen to them if they get hit again? 

MAYFIELD:  I‘m being told there are somewhere around 100,000 people living in temporary housing, mostly in the FEMA trailers.  And this is a big, big concern.  I know very well what those people are thinking about.  They‘re thinking about getting their homes rebuilt, their insurance settlements, and just their livelihoods to provide for their families.  They‘re not thinking about another hurricane and it‘s extremely important for those people, in particular, to have a hurricane plan.  They‘re going to be some of the first people that have to evacuate.  They can‘t stay in those trailers or mobile homes in a hurricane or even a strong tropical storm.

COSBY:  You know, the hurricane season officially starts June 1, but when are we really be at the peak?  When do we need to be most concerned?

MAYFIELD:  Well, firstly, you‘re right.  It‘s the first of June through the end of November for the hurricane season.  The peak of the season is really in the middle of August through the middle of the end of October. 

COSBY:  And you think we‘re going to get whacked this year?  What is the chance that we can see maybe another Katrina or something like that?

MAYFIELD:  Well, we could, but I can‘t—no one will be able to tell you with any accuracy, you know, exactly when and where they‘ll be.  But the fact that we‘re in this reactive period we need to be prepared. 

COSBY:  Max Mayfield, thank you so much. 

MAYFIELD:  Thank you.

COSBY:  And hurricanes aren‘t the only weather concerns right now.  For five straight days, rain has been pounding and flooding New England, forcing thousands of people there to flee their homes.  Even claiming the life of one Massachusetts man.  Victoria Block from NBC affiliate WHDH is in Massachusetts with the latest. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VICTORIA BLOCK, WHDH REPORTER (voice-over):  Thirty-two gallons of water an hour gush over the century and a half old Spigot River Dam.  Governor Romney toured today, and that appears to be sound. 

MAYOR WILLIAM MANZI, METHUEN, MAINE:  I hate to use the word no concern, but I think we‘re on heightened alert. 

BLOCK:  Sandbagging the dam, last inspected three years ago, appears to have save it from a catastrophic breach.  But 26 roads remain closed as well as schools and hundreds have been forced to find higher ground. 

TONY CALLAHAN, FLOOD VICTIM:  Everything is backing up.  They‘re blocking other areas and it‘s affecting, you know, other areas because the water‘s got to go somewhere. 

BLOCK:  It went into the basement of a Lawrence nursing home.  Forcing the evacuation of some of the city‘s most fragile population while family members watched and worried.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is our comfort zone.  So, I‘m really concerned they‘re going to get them back in as soon as possible. 

BLOCK:  But that could take days and in some cases weeks before anyone displaced by flooding is allowed to return home. 

CHIEF PETER TAKVORIAN, LAWRENCE, MA FIRE DEPT.:  We‘re going to need the electrical inspectors to go in there and check to make sure that the electrical systems are safe.  We need the Public Health Department to go in there, so all of that is going to take some time. 

BLOCK (on camera):  Because of all this flooding more than 2,000 people in Lawrence do not have electricity and hundreds remain in shelters in Methuen and other communities. 

In Methuen, I‘m Victoria Block.  Back to you, Rita.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And joining us now on the phone is Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. 

Governor, what‘s the situation there tonight? 

GOV. MITT ROMNEY ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  Well, we have several thousand people that have been moved into evacuation shelters and many of then off to friends and family after that.  We‘ve very high levels of water at some of our downtown areas, we‘ve got, literally, hundreds of roads that have been closed and we have in a couple of places, raw sewage being dump into rivers by virtue of power shortage at our major sewage treatment facility.  So a lot of damage and extraordinarily high levels of water. 

COSBY:  You know, you talked about lots of people; we‘ve heard reports of thousands of people having to evacuating.  When will they be able to return? 

ROMNEY:  Well, it‘s going to depend on the rate of—you have backflow, if you will, of the rivers, as they recede we‘re going to be able inspect homes and see whether there‘s been damage that allows them to be reoccupied or whether it‘s going to take longer than that.  My guess is it‘s going to take a period of days at the earliest for people to be able to reoccupy their homes and then after that, a lot of repair work. 

COSBY:  How long do you think that repair work could be?  Are we talking weeks, months? 

ROMNEY:  Well, I would think in some cases it‘s going to be weeks and months.  We were just at a nursing home today that had a levee around it that they had built that had given way and as a result they had to evacuate some 200 people.  Their entire heating and air conditioning plant and all the electrical system has been compromised and it‘s going to take some time for them to get that replaced. 

COSBY:  How much do you think the cleanup‘s going to cost your state? 

ROMNEY:  Well, it‘s surly going to be in the tens of millions of dollars in terms of the public infrastructure, and then all of the damage to businesses and homes will be above that.  That‘s something we‘re going to be calculating, adding up and of course we‘ll be applying for federal disaster relief and supporting, as well.  Our homeowners and our cities and towns with state aid. 

COSBY:  You know, there‘s a report out—and our thank there to the governor of Massachusetts.  And still ahead, from too much water to not enough of it.  Could a draught be causing alligators to come out of the swamp and attack humans?  The latest on the hunt for the gators responsible for some deadly attacks.  That‘s coming up. 

And Britney Spears knows there are always cameras watching.  So why

did she make such a big parenting mistake again?  We‘ll show you.‘

And, don‘t forget to send in your questions for super golfer and

always controversial, John Daly.  That‘s tomorrow night.  He‘s going to be

here live in the studio to talk about his many wives, gambling, and of

course, controversy on the green.  E-mail your questions to rita.msnbc.com

rita.msnbc.com or call our tip line at 1-877-TIP-RITA.  You‘ll hear them on the show tomorrow night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And tonight alligators are terrorizing the state of Florida.  And residents there are fearing for their lives.  In just the last week alone three women have been gruesomely killed in separate alligator attacks in Broward, Pinellas and Marion Counties.  The hunt continues for the gator that killed 23-year-old Ann Marie Campbell (ph).  Campbell was reportedly snorkeling in an area that was off-limits to swimming.  But that may not have been her fault.  Dave McDaniel from NBC affiliate WESH in Orlando has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEATHER CALLAHAN, U.S. FOREST SERVICE:  It is close to swimming and wading, snorkeling.  And the reason we have this order is to help protect the resource.

DAVE MCDANIEL, WESH-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  No swimming signs can be seen along some areas of Jennifer Run.  Swimming is prohibited to protect the water grasses and the delicate environment.  The no-swimming rules are not because of safety concerns.

CALLAHAN:  It is reasonably safe.  With anything, have you to be aware of your surroundings.  We are in—right here we are in wilderness.

MCDANIEL:  But where 23-year-old Ann Marie Campbell was killed, there were not any no-swimming signs.

It wasn‘t posted?

CALLAHAN:  It was not posted at this time but has been posted in the past.  And with anything we get signs and lose signs.  Because sometimes people take them as souvenirs.

MCDANIEL:  Callahan says the Forest Service will look at its sign replacement schedule to see if it needs changes.  Around noon, planes were used to look for the gator but gray skies and possible injuries to the gator kept him out of sight.  Trappers continue to bait hooks and the plan is simple.

CURTIS LUCAS, GATOR TRAPPER:  We want to attach a rope to him in some form or fashion and then we‘ll just kill him.

MCDANIEL:  The best theory about what happened Sunday, since no one ever heard a scream for help?

CALLAHAN:  She might have snorkeled right into it or right by it.  And it is not an alligator‘s nature to attack humans.  It probably thought it was something else.  They don‘t go after you with malice.  They are just feeding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And that was Dave McDaniel from the NBC affiliate WESH in Orlando reporting.

And let me bring in Willie Puz, he is with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and we also have with us Dawn Yankeelov, whose own daughter Ann Marie Campbell was viciously attacked and killed by one of those deadly gators just a couple days ago.  This is her first live national TV interview.  And Dawn, our prayers are with you.  I am sure it‘s been very difficult.  How are you holding up?

DAWN YANKEELOV, DAUGHTER KILLED BY ALLIGATOR:  I‘m holding up as well as you can expect.  I cannot really believe that yet she is gone.  I‘m waiting for her body to come back to Florida.  We will have a celebration Thursday evening at Ratterman‘s (ph) in St. Matthew‘s in Kentucky.

COSBY:  We just heard, too, Dawn, that there were—it doesn‘t look like the signs were there to say no swimming.  I‘m sure as a mom you‘re just frustrated about that.  What is your reaction?

YANKEELOV:  Well, I lived in Florida with both of my daughters for approximately 10 years.  And there‘s a lot of people swimming in that area and alligators don‘t really attack unprovoked.  So this was just one of those situations I guess that we say it‘s in God‘s hands and a freak of nature and most likely she did probably stumble on top of the gator.  I understand she was attacked in the head.  I just try to keep those images out of my mind and my heart is broken and I pray for all of the children or in that area to take necessary precautions and if you‘re going to be in a canoe, be in the vicinity of the canoe and always swim with someone else.

COSBY:  I give you a lot—don‘t know how you get to courage to come on.  We‘ve been thinking of you, obviously, when we heard this story, Dawn, I‘m sure it is so difficult.

Willie, when you hear this, what do you think is causing this rash of attacks and obviously I think Dawn just gave really good advice for other people.  What can people do?

WILLIE PUZ, FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE:  I would like to start off by saying our sympathies and condolences are with the friends and family of Miss Campbell and we want them to know we are working hard to capture the gator so they can have closure.

But there are a couple things we are seeing right now that maybe contributing factors.  The first is the weather is heating up and alligators are becoming more active.  They are moving more, they are in search of food and in search of territory.  The second is that Florida has been experiencing drought-like conditions for a while now.  So our lakes, rivers and canals are much lower than they have been and that can be concentrating some of the food sources that the alligators are feeding on.  Thus concentrating some of the alligators.

And as the weather heats up, Floridians love to be in the water, play in the water and on the water and just a combination of those three may have brought us to where we are today.

COSBY:  Also it‘s amazing.  Because there‘s been these three recent attacks, Willie, but only 17 fatal attacks have been reported since 1948 even though we had three recently.  Is there something changing dramatically, though recently?

PUZ:  No, these three are tragic.  They are unfortunate and they are unrelated incidents.  We have them in different geographic parts of the state, in different water bodies and they are all different alligators.  It just seems to be an unfortunate circumstance right now.

COSBY:  And obviously the most tragic of all, Dawn, is what happened to your daughter.  I hear you‘re also getting a lot of wonderful sympathy from her friends.  Tell us all about your daughter.

YANKEELOV:  Ann Marie was a very creative, free spirit and she was artist.  And she has really—in her 23 years, she lived a very productive and exciting life.  So she actually, you know was doing something she loved.  And I know you have some of her artwork.  I want to let the world know, that she really appreciated all of the people that passed through her life.  And was very loving and a wonderful student.  She attended Murray State, she had just graduated and started her career.  And she was doing an art exhibit a month at Fancy That in Paris, Tennessee, right outside of where she graduated at Murray State.

And she was just a child that brought great joy into everyone‘s lives.

COSBY:  We see some beautiful pictures of her and her work.  And Dawn, thank you so much for sharing the beautiful things about her with all of us.  And our prayers are with you.

And Willie, thank you for being with us and I hope you can bring closure to this beautiful family.  Thank you very much.

PUZ:  We do as well.  Thank you.

COSBY:  Thank you both.

Still ahead—supermodel Veronica Varekova has been posing on the cover of magazines for years.  But tonight she is furious about being on the cover of “Maxim Magazine.”  She will explain why.  And the story you have all been waiting for.  Britney Spears has apparently made another mommy mistake.  And again, it‘s caught on camera.  We‘re going to show it to you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And there‘s a lot more coming up here on MSNBC tonight.  Let‘s check in now with Tucker Carlson with a preview.  But first, Tucker, I hear that this is a big night in history.  Happy birthday, my friend.  You look terrific.  For 60.  You look great for 60.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you.  I give all of the tanks to Botox, Rita.  It works by the way.

COSBY:  I see.

CARLSON:  A high school in Wisconsin forces its students to fill out a questionnaire with questions such as quote, “If you have never slept with someone of your same gender, how do you know you would not prefer it?”

Parents understandably outraged.  We‘ll debate that.  Plus, the first reviews are in of “The Da Vinci Code” the movie.  We‘ve got them.  I will give you a hint—not good.

COSBY:  We will be tuning in and happy birthday, again, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thank you, Rita.

COSBY:  Thanks so much.

And oops, I did it again is an understatement for Britney Spears tonight, not just Tucker.  The pop tart is again in the hot seat for what she is doing in the driver‘s seat.  Take a look.  A new photo caught the singer driving the convertible with her very young son in the back seat.  Well, it would not have not have been a problem except little Sean Preston was slumped over and facing the wrong way.  This is not Britney‘s first time getting flak for a photo.  Remember this?  It‘s Britney driving her SUV with Shawn on her lap.  Just what is she thinking?

LIVE & DIRECT tonight is the author of the book “Fight Back and Win,” our pal, civil rights attorney, Gloria Allred and also here is Catt Sadler, she is the host of the “Daily 10” on E! Entertainment Television.

Catt, let me start with you.  What‘s the buzz there in Hollywood? 

What is up with Britney?

CATT SADLER, E! HOST:  I wish I could answer that for you, Rita.  But I think everybody is asking the same questions you are.  What is going on?  What is she thinking?  This is not just an isolated incident.  These recent photos that have surfaced.  We‘ve seen it before.  Back in February, we had little four-month-old Sean Preston driving down a California highway and then, of course, high chair incident even, which had a lot of people asking questions and now these latest pictures and everyone just, you know, what is she thinking?  I‘m a mom.  I can speak to that.  It‘s tough being a mom.  Here we are talking safety, and there is nothing right about these photos. 

I just don‘t know how you can justify it.

COSBY:  What‘s wrong with Britney, Gloria?

GLORIA ALLRED, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY:  Well, I mean, the question is, is she thinking and is she thinking how best to protect her baby?  Rita, whether or not this violates California law, wouldn‘t the mother want to do the maximum to correct her child and everybody I know, when they have an infant less than a year old, puts their infant in the car seat in the back seat backwards, not forwards.  Who is she going to blame this on now?  When she had the baby on her lap in that photo that she showed, she tried to, at least it seemed, blame the paparazzi.  Who is she going to put the blame on for this?  She has got to take responsibility.  She is a parent.  Let her take parenting classes and learn what her responsibility to her baby really is.

COSBY:  It‘s a great - Let me put up sort of what the recommend is and again, it‘s not really a law, which is interesting.  It‘s just a recommendation and they put some of this also on the child seat.  But it says that “babies under 50 pounds or less than a year should face backwards,” of course, so their face doesn‘t go right into the seat should there be an accident, as you point out.  Is there anything that can legally be done here, Gloria?  I mean, she could have gotten a citation, she didn‘t get it because they didn‘t physically see it, but is there anything?

ALLRED:  Well, there‘s no way to compel a law enforcement officer or an agency to issue citation if in fact they do not feel there‘s a violation of the law even if others might disagree.  So it is a discretionary act and they didn‘t do it.  And they have reasons at least, that they give for not doing it.

Again, I think it‘s the wrong debate.  I think her attorney wants the debate to be whether or not she violated a law.  I think the real question should be why isn‘t she trying to go to the highest and best recommended safety standard for her child, and child safety advocates recommend that child be properly restrained in the car seat, facing backwards.  That‘s not what she did.

COSBY:  And Catt, Gloria hits a good point.  What do you think she should do now?  Gloria was saying maybe take some safety classes.  You would think after everything this woman‘s been through she‘d try to be sort of the supermom.

SADLER:  What‘s interesting is that as a parent, any standard visit to the pediatrician‘s office, you‘re inundated with this information.  There is pamphlet after brochure after car seat safety, choking hazards, immunizations, you‘re given this information.  So I just would hope that somebody could stop in at some point for her, whether her mom, teaching her how to be a good mom, her friends, somebody, because you‘ve got to ask, what is distracting her.

I remember the Britney that we all remember in the late 1990s that came out.  She was young, she was untarnished, she was happy and we‘re just, I think, concerned, Hollywood wants to get behind her and say what is going on?  What is so distracting her she is just clearly not thinking very straight?

COSBY:  And, Catt, too, she is also pregnant again.  Is there any word from her people tonight?  What are they saying?

SADLER:  No word from her people.  We just know what you know.  Baby number two is on the way and due this fall.  So let me tell you, I have two kids, too.  If you think juggling one child is rough, you have got to step it up.  It is only going to be more of a responsibility she is going to have to face.

COSBY:  And Gloria, too, is this woman a trainwreck?

ALLRED:  I was going to say, Rita, maybe her people should to talk to my people.  Because my people would say—stop, danger ahead!  You‘re increasing the risk harm to your baby.  I‘m sure she loves her baby, but she really has to stop and really think.  Because this is not a good situation for this baby.  Babies are not dolls.  You don‘t take risks with the baby.

I hope she learns from this, although I‘m concerned.  Because she did not learn what she needed to learn when she was caught with the baby in her lap in her car.

COSBY:  And ladies, also, remember, another one on the way.  Both of you, thank you both very much.  Good to have you both on tonight.

And still ahead—from the hot seat to a hot feat.  Find out who was caught on camera pulling off a fiery crime.

And supermodel Veronica Varekova joins me LIVE & DIRECT to explain why she is outraged over this magazine cover.  She‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  She posed in barely-there lingerie for Victoria‘s Secret and also graced the magazines, a number of them like “Sports Illustrated” and also “GQ.”  So why is supermodel Veronica Varekova furious over this month‘s cover of “Maxim Magazine”?  You can see it there.  She joins me now LIVE & DIRECT to explain.  Veronica, what is it about this particularly magazine that gets you so angry?

VERONICA VAREKOVA, MODEL:  Me on it.  Me on the cover and inside without my permission, basically.

COSBY:  What makes it different then - because originally, what, it was done for “Victoria‘s Secret” for British “GQ,” right?

VAREKOVA:  It was a story featuring “Victoria‘s Secret” girls and I shot the story wearing or not wearing some of the “Victoria‘s Secret” stuff.  And basically it was done for “GQ,” British “GQ.”

When you do that - I have never failed from doing “GQ,” but “Maxim”, I never shot for “Maxim,” I never desired to shoot for “Maxim.”  And they know it.  They‘ve asked to work with me previously, I‘ve always refused and they went and did it anyways without my permission and so they breached the law in my opinion.

COSBY:  And now it‘s coming out pretty soon at this point.  What are you planning on doing?

VAREKOVA:  Leaving the country.

COSBY:  After the cover you might have trouble.  After that cover I think a lot of people are going to recognize you.

VAREKOVA:  I am actually leaving on Friday, thank God.  But I am doing everything in my power to fight them and fight this.  Because it keeps happening.  It happened to Jessica Alba last month with “Playboy,” unfortunately.  And only  I can feel how horrible she must have felt when she found out because I was outraged.

COSBY:  Looking at pictures of her, why is that happening more and more?  Are they getting a sense that there is a free license we can do whatever we want?  We did talk to the photo agency, we got a quote from the photo agency, at least, and they say that “Corbis,” this is the photo agency, “approached Maxim about running a fantastic photo shoot,” of course, putting positive spin, “on the very popular Veronica Varekova.  We purchased the photos with all necessary rights and published them in upcoming June issue.”

But you have a new development you just told me right before the show.

VAREKOVA:  It will make me laugh.  This statement—I am on that picture, so I have something to say before anyone starts to sell a magazine or the issue for, you know, a whole month with me on it.  I need to be, you know, I need to be asked for permission.

COSBY:  And you just told me before the show that “GQ” .

VAREKOVA:  British “GQ” just found out now this is all happening and they are super not happy about this.  They are really angry.  Because they own the image, Conde Nast and British “GQ” owns the issue and Corbis had no right.  Absolutely no right to sell it to “Maxim” and “Maxim had no right to run it.

COSBY:  What do you want to say to photographers and some of these photo agencies tonight if they are watching?

VAREKOVA:  Be careful.  It is not worth it.  We all love our craft.  It is a beautiful job we do, and there is no reason to disrespect one another.

COSBY:  Are you surprised the case of Jessica Alba got so much attention, but they are not more careful?  Especially now that you heard the British “GQ” actually had the rights is what you‘re saying.

VAREKOVA:  I am not sure what is more important for them, to pay someone off and still gain all of these numbers at the end of the month, I am not sure what is really out there for them.  For me, this is clearly wrong.  It was not my choice to be on the cover and I will do everything possible to fight it.

COSBY:  You keep us posted.

VAREKOVA:  Thank you.

COSBY:  Thank you very much.  It sounds like with the new information you got some good backing tonight.

VAREKOVA:  I hope so.

COSBY:  Thank you very much and don‘t leave the country for too long, OK.  Still ahead, a criminal trying to cover up the scene of the crime gets burned in the end.  The cons are caught in the act.  Caught by Cosby.  That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And tonight, we have got some astounding video of some arsonists who cops say are going to get burned in the end.  And it‘s “Caught by Cosby.”

Take a look at this.  You can see one of the culprits frantically pouring fluid on the walls.  Just moments later, a second man ignites the fire and rushes away from the scene.  Believe it or not, investigators say the men on this video have attempted to burn down the same house three times.  Luckily, all of the people inside got out OK.  And tonight investigators are hoping someone will recognize the fire bugs so they can bring them in before they start any more blazes.

And speaking of hot, tomorrow night a big guest takes a big swing.  Golfing camp John Daly is going to join me LIVE & DIRECT right here in our studio and we want you to get involved.  If you have a question that you want me to ask John Daly, now is your chance to ask him about golf, his mega gambling and also his other additions, many wives.  He is really a fascinating figure.    Or call our tipline.  1-877-TIP-RITA and you can watch tomorrow night for all of your questions.  You don‘t want to miss that.

And that does it for me on LIVE & DIRECT.  I‘m Rita Cosby.  Let‘s go to the birthday boy, Tucker Carlson.  Tucker?

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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