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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/18/15

Guests: Brian Salvatore, Kate Brown

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. You`re in land mine territory there, in terms of talking about stuff that upsets people. I want to see your inbox tonight. Well done, man. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. If you are a U.S. taxpayer, you can add this to the list of things that you own, that maybe you did not know that you owned. You own the United States government`s Explosive Destruction System, EDS for short. The Explosive Destruction System is a chamber with stainless steel walls that are up to nine inches thick, thought to be totally indestructible, thought to be totally blast proof. At least the hope is that it is indestructible and blast proof. Today, your explosive destruction system destroyed one steel bottle. And the destruction of that one steel bottle is a landmark moment, it turns out, in the history of some of the scariest things in the United States of America, because what was in that one steel bottle destroyed by your explosive destruction system today was mustard agent. Mustard agent is a chemical weapon that we made into bombs by the tens of thousands, by the hundreds of thousands, all the way through World War II. And these kind of weapons, chemical weapons obviously are illegal. We promised decades ago we would never use them. But we did make zillions of them. We have tons and tons and tons of them laying around, getting old, and starting to leak in some cases. And there is this question of what to do with these mustard bombs. Now, what we used to do with them, I think, was the greatest acronym of all-time. The way we used to get rid of mustard bombs was a program called Operation C-H-A-S-E. Operation Chase -- Chase standing for "cut holes and sink `em". Operation cut holes and sink `em, Operation Chase. That`s what the acronym stood for. In 1964, the military -- U.S. military would take chemical weapons and nerve agents and unwanted ammunition and munitions of all kinds, they would load them into containers, sometimes they would even load them onto a ship they didn`t want anymore, and they would cut holes and sink `em. They would just dump this stuff into the sea. Ah, the ocean`s big, it can take it. They did this for years. They did this like at a dozen sites on both American coasts. That is how we handled our problem of all these chemical weapons that we had laying around, that we had pledged not to use, and that were illegal. What do you do with them? Dump them in the sea. In 2004, there was this amazing story out of Bridgeville, Delaware, where a guy ordered a big delivery of crushed clam shells because he wanted to make a new driveway on his property in Delaware. And the truck with all the clam shells came, dumped all the clam shells on his driveway so he could spread them out. He then noticed something that was sticking out of the pile, that sort of looked like a rocket sticking out of the pile of clam shells that he had just had delivered. The property owner was smart. He did not handle that rocket. He called local authorities. They ended up calling in the Air Force, which brought out an EOD team, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, and that EOD team turned up on site to check out this rocket and to take it away. This rocket that turned up in this guy`s pile of clam shells. The Centers for Disease Control ended up writing it as a case study when those Air Force personnel ended up getting terrible chemical burns and they needed to be hospitalized because of what had turned up in this guy`s clam shell delivery. It was a mustard bomb that had been dumped into the sea years earlier, because that was for a very long time how we used to get rid of our chemical weapons. That was our national plan for handling this stuff for years. Until Congress in 1972 passed the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act that stopped us from throwing our chemical weapons into the sea and hoping for the best. 1972. Then, 25 years later, during the Clinton administration, our nation signed a chemical weapons treaty, a global chemical weapons treaty that committed us as a country to destroying all of our chemical weapons by the year 2012. And we mostly did it. We destroyed chemical weapons in nine states, as well as on this beleaguered, uninhabited island called Johnston Atoll. We set off high altitude nuclear explosions at Johnston. We tested Agent Orange there. We tested biological warfare there, and we destroyed chemical weapons and nerve agents there. We made that 2012 deadline, and in all the military facilities in the United States where we had these chemical weapons laying around, except for two. There are only two places left in the United States where we didn`t make the deadline. And we still have chemical weapons that still have to be destroyed. One of them, which has a comparatively small amount of the stuff, is in Kentucky at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky. The other one which has most of what we got left in terms of this stuff is in Pueblo, Colorado. And today was day one of the beginning of the end of what we have got left. Today became day one of the beginning of the end when they destroyed that one steel bottle in your explosive destruction system that you didn`t know you own. Explosive destruction system did it today. Mazel tov. In total, the explosive destruction system at Pueblo will explode and destroy 12 of these steel bottles. All of which contain some mustard agent that was drilled out of these mustard bombs and extracted for testing. The explosive destruction system will also destroy about 1,400 or so mustard bombs themselves. Ones that are leaking or that have been drilled into or that are otherwise somehow messed up or compromised. Those will all get exploded inside this destruction chamber, which with a nine-inch-thick steel wall, right? But those 1,400 shells, and those dozen steel bottles, the first of which they destroyed today, those are only a tiny proportion of what we`ve got on hand. And what they have to destroy at Pueblo. There are 780,000 mustard bombs at Pueblo, Colorado, that we have got to destroy, 780,000. And other than those 1,400, all the rest of them are going to be destroyed by something else that you own as a U.S. taxpayer. It cost about $5 billion to build it, $5 billion of your dollars. It is basically a massive automated robotic anti-factory. Some humans will have to be involved in the operation of this thing. But mostly, it`s going to be robots in a $5 billion super complicated isolated machine that we have built to take these 50-year-old chemical experiment, decaying horror show chemical weapon bombs, take them apart very delicately one by one, remove the mustard agent, mix it with water, and then feed the diluted toxic, scarifying mustard agent goo, feed it, literally feed it to the world`s most terrifying bacteria, which like to eat that stuff, apparently. And even after they chemically neutralize the mustard agent with the water and the bacteria that eats it, and all the rest, the end product of this multibillion dollar robotic anti-factory and all of these hundreds of thousands of shells, it will still be hazardous waste. But it won`t be chemical weapons anymore. And they started it today. By 2019, by four years from now, this stuff, if all goes according to plan, this stuff is going to be gone, in what will be a multibillion dollar effort that you have paid for. We talked to somebody at the Pueblo chemical agent destruction pilot plant today, which you own, and they explained to us what it is they`re doing with this two-part process. They`ve got the explosive destruction system for the odds and ends, where really they have to blow it up. And then, they`ve got this big multibillion dollar factory thing for all the remaining hundreds of thousands of shells. They explained to us that they actually intended to start the process of destroying these chemical weapons yesterday, but in Pueblo, Colorado, yesterday, the wind was blowing from an odd direction. And that might have complicated their planned evacuation route had anything gone wrong on day one. And so they put off day one, and did not start -- yesterday they didn`t start until today, because they needed the wind to be blowing a different direction so they could be absolutely, doubly, triply, quadruplely sure just in case anything went wrong. So people in and around Pueblo, Colorado, over the years have been understandably a little edgy about the fact that they have got America`s largest stockpile of hundreds of thousands of aging chemical weapons bombs sitting there, right, getting old, for a long time, as they planned this destructive process of what to do with them. But that process is now under way. They do have a very complicated plan. They are being very careful. It is very expensive for a lot of very good reasons, and they built a lot of specialized equipment to deal with it. And it`s a four-year plan, and it took forever, and they pushed the deadline, but that is Pueblo, Colorado, as of today. It`s happening. That`s Pueblo, Colorado. And then there`s basically the opposite of that. Which is a place called Minden, Louisiana. Camp Minden is a state-owned site in northwestern Louisiana where for years, contractors have done various kinds of work for the U.S. military. For years at that site a company called Explo -- you see where this is going? That`s foreshadowing. A company called Explo took in huge quantities of M-6 artillery propellants from the U.S. army. And this company, Explo, they repurposed that propellant and they resold it mostly to the mining industry, which obviously has a need for explosives from time to time. But at some point in the last few years, the inflow and outflow of this artillery propellant in northwestern Louisiana, the inflow and outflow got a little out of whack. And for whatever reason, this company Explo just started accumulating tons and tons and tons and tons of this M-6 propellant at Camp Minden. And this propellant is not only toxic in its own right, it is explosive. And the longer it sits around, apparently, particularly if it is exposed to the elements, the more likely it is to spontaneously combust. And on October 15th, 2012, some of that stuff combusted in the middle of the night. There were two huge explosions at Camp Minden in Louisiana. They were big enough they were felt in Texas. They`re big enough that they were seen as weather by the National Weather Service satellites overhead at the time. This is some of that satellite imagery. Here`s how a local resident described it back then. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILLY EDWARDS: I saw the sky light up. Just a loud -- there wasn`t no noise. It just lit up. And it caught my eye. I looked to the west. And then it -- the light died down. It was like, what was that? He looked up, it lit up again and then we heard the loud boom. It looked like a sunset, it was so bright. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Given how big those explosions were in October 2012, it is amazing nobody was hurt in those explosions. But there was an investigation of what had blown up, what had gone wrong at Camp Minden. That investigation turned up something that really nobody could have imagined there before they saw it. It turns out what this company had created, in this little corner of northwest Louisiana, what they had done there was unbeknownst to anybody. They had created the nation`s largest stockpile out in the open, rotting in a field, the nation`s largest stockpile of unstable toxic explosive artillery propellant -- 18 million pounds of it at that site. And then seven of the employees of the company got indicted, and then the company went bankrupt. The stuff is still sitting out there in a field. And nobody knows what to do with it. They started stuffing it in bunkers. And nobody exactly knows what`s going to be the ultimate dispensation of this stuff. Look at the site. And this stuff can`t just be left to rot, because when it rots, it tends to explode. You can`t just leave this stuff. It has to be destroyed. And there`s millions of pounds of it sitting there at this site. And two years after those giant explosions shook Minden, Louisiana, all the way to Texas, it let the world know the toxic stuff was there, in a quantity of millions of pounds -- two years after those explosions, the EPA came in and announced their plan to safely dispose of all that toxic, explosive artillery propellant, the biggest pile of it in the country. They announced what they were going to do with it. Their safe plan for disposal was that they would set it on fire. They just burn it. Not going to move it anywhere, not going to build any special facilities, or explosive destruction systems for Minden. They`re not going to build some fancy, robotic multibillion dollar sealed system to turn it all into bacteria food so he can be regular hazmat. Nope, they`re just going to set it on fire in northwest Louisiana. Their announced plan as of this past October was, I kid you not, it is not more complicated than this, they were going to take the stuff outside, put it in big trays outdoors, and set it on fire. Burn it into the open air, 80,000 pounds of it a day for -- maybe a few hundred days, 220 days, maybe more, depending on how it went. And that was not just like the idea that was floated of one way to do it. That was what they announced the plan was going to be in October. Look at the headlines from the "Associated Press" at the time. Plan reached to clear explosives. And the plan is to burn it in trays. Even the local officials expressed interest in maybe at least burning it in an incinerator. No, the plan was just an open fire. "New York Times" reporter Campbell Robertson has a great piece today about people who live in the area around Minden, how they felt about this plan. In January, local folks, experts they consulted with, convinced the EPA and the Louisiana National Guard to please delay this genius plan to just set everything on fire. Just a few days ago, this group of concerned local residents and experts submitted a draft plan with six other potential ideas for different ways to handle this stuff, instead of just openly burning it in Minden. And now tonight, we can report that the EPA has just signed a new agreement, that instead of just going ahead with their plan to openly burn all this stuff, they are now officially going to allow the consideration of alternative technologies for disposing of all of these millions of pounds of toxic artillery propellant. When they talk about technology alternatives, to be clear, what they`re talking about are alternatives to the technology of fire, because fire had been the original technological solution to this problem. Now, they`re going to consider at least some other ideas. It doesn`t mean they won`t end up setting it on fire, but they`re at least they`ll consider some other ideas. You know, we used to -- not that long ago -- we used to just dump chemical weapons into the sea. The original plan for getting rid of all of our chemical weapons by the treaty deadline was to burn them, just incinerate them, including in places like Bluegrass in Kentucky, and Pueblo in Colorado. It was the concerns about the safety of burning that stuff which forced, yes, a slower process, but one that was more careful and felt to be more safe for the people who live there alongside the scarier century of American military experimentation. Pueblo has got this $5 billion robot plan and this very fancy explosive destruction system with its nine-inch-thick walls, because in Pueblo, they yelled loud enough and long enough that their concerns were taken seriously. So, the stuff didn`t just get burned there. Minden, Louisiana, is a corner of that state that is rural, not a ton of people there. It is somewhat poor corner of Louisiana. It is a mostly African-American part of that state. And problems like this in our country get solved by equations that include political capital. And since Camp Minden blew up two and a half years ago, and they realized what they had on their hands there, there has been a real question as to whether the local residents in this corner of Louisiana had enough political capital, that this huge national problem in their backyard would be handled in a way that would be safe for them. And they still have a long way to go. And this is not anywhere near over yet. Those millions of pounds of propellant are still sitting there. But what they have done already in organizing and yelling and demanding to be taken seriously has already stopped the open burn plan that was originally approved in October. And it has forced us as a country, now, to at least try to think of something better to do here than just setting everything on fire in an open burn. There`s got to be a better way. Joining us now is Brian Salvatore. He`s a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. And he`s a member of the Camp Minden Dialogue Committee, when has been pushing for more options in terms of dealing with this stuff at Camp Minden. Professor Salvatore, thanks very much for being with us. PROF. BRIAN SALVATORE, OPPOSES PROPOSED CHEMICAL BURN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: This is a complicated story, and a dramatic story. I`ve got to ask you if I clearly stated, at least -- or accurately stated where you think things stand currently? Is it now the plan they`re not going to go ahead with the open burn and they`re going to think about other ideas? SALVATORE: Yes. I think you`ve done an excellent job here of summarizing this story, and it is a remarkable story, even as I`m listening to you tonight. I mean, it`s just incredible. You could not dream a scenario like this. Fortunately, what could have been a pure nightmare may have at least a good ending here. And in fact, this group of concerned citizens here in Northwest Louisiana may actually be able to set some precedent here, so something like this never happens again. MADDOW: From your perspective as a chemistry professor, what you know of this problem, I was struck by the parallel with those mustard shells in Pueblo, and Bluegrass. But they honestly did not know what the process would be of safely handling those things, safely disposing of that huge quantity of stuff. And in part, they had to invent the technology. They had to invent a process to safely handle all that material and get rid of it in a way that wouldn`t be harmful to the surrounding community. Do you feel like in Louisiana, something is going to have to be invented that we don`t already understand a way that this stuff can be safely disposed of or handled? SALVATORE: Well, over the short term, there is not time to invent anything new. There are safer alternatives. And we definitely are aware of those, and we tried to bring those to the forefront. And the EPA was aware of them as well. We`re not really sure why initially they did not consider all of the safer alternatives. But they certainly are considering them now. And I think the path forward could actually be safe, and technology is always going to be able to get better and better. So, over the long term, it`s my hope that these chemicals do not have to be destroyed, they actually could be repurposed. But we have a number of technologies here that we think are going to be adequate. We hope that one of the safer alternatives is chosen. MADDOW: Brian Salvatore, professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, member of this Camp Minden Dialogue Committee -- I know it`s not done, but already I think it`s struck a remarkable victory in making us come up with better ideas of dealing with this as a country. Congratulations, thus far. And please keep us apprised as this moves forward, sir. SALVATORE: Oh, thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. I will say that that giant pile of artillery propellant sitting there in Louisiana, that is the biggest stockpile of that stuff that we know of anywhere in the country. But it`s about one-sixth of what exists totally in the country in terms of that stuff needing to be disposed of. What they come up with in Louisiana may ended being a blue print for how it gets taken care of in smaller amounts everywhere else in the country, at the local artillery propellant dump near you. All right. Lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADODW: Turns out the relationship between delicious cinnamon rolls and Mike Huckabee is way more complicated than you might think. That story and lots more, still ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In 1996, the legendary senator from the great state of Kansas, Bob Dole, ran for president. But Dole was the Republican nominee who challenged President Bill Clinton for the presidency in 1996. Senator Dole lost that race. After that race, he became a paid spokesman for Viagra. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB DOLE: Courage, something shared by countless Americans, those who risk their lives, those who battle serious illness. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was primarily concerned with ridding myself of the cancer. But secondly, I was concerned about possible post-operative side effects like erectile dysfunction, ED, often called impotence. You know, it`s a little bit embarrassing to talk about ED, but it`s so important to millions of men and their partners, that I decided to talk about it publicly. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Pfizer hired former presidential contender Bob Dole to be the face of Viagra. But he did not just do Viagra. He also did Visa. And he did Dunkin` Donuts, and Pepsi. Once he did Pepsi alone, and once he did Pepsi with Britney Spears. He had a Bob Dole/Britney Spears thing going on. He was the face of a lot of things after his presidential run. Same thing with Senator Fred Thompson from the great state of Tennessee. Senator Thompson ran for president in 2008. He did unexpectedly poorly. Lots of people thought that he would win the race overall. But he didn`t win a single state, and he quit early, and then Senator John McCain ended up winning the nomination. But after that, Senator Thompson went on to become the face of reverse mortgages. Do you own your house, senior citizen? Let me convince you to un-own it for a cash payout. Call now. It wasn`t quite as exciting as watching Britney Spears dance around with Viagra spokesman Bob Dole on a recliner, but, you know, pays the bills. Having a high political profile is a form of celebrity. And politicians do sometimes choose to trade on that for money. But when they do it, we think of them of usually doing it after they hang up their political boots. It doesn`t usually happen that you become a pitch man for something, as a means of preparing to run for president. It doesn`t usually go in that direction. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Hello, I`m Mike Huckabee. Let me tell you that diabetes can be reversed. I should know, because I did it. And today you can, too. That`s why I`m strongly suggesting that you look into this product from Barton Publishing called the diabetes solution kit. And I should know. It works. I use the same techniques to lose 110 pounds of fat, get my own blood sugar under control, and completely reverse my type 2 diabetes. Your free presentation is coming up right now. See for yourself how this kit works. And what it can do for you. I`m Mike Huckabee, and I approve Barton Publishing`s diabetes solution kit. LON: Hi there. My name is Lon. And these are cinnamon rolls. And in a few minutes you`ll find out how these tasty pastries contain a real ingredient that reverses diabetes. Well, here`s the deal. The secret ingredient in the cinnamon rolls is cinnamon. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The first is from Mike Huckabee, and the second is when you go to the Barton Publishing diabetes solution thing Web site, Barton presentation goes on to say that they`re not they`re recommending that you eat cinnamon rolls to reverse your diabetes. Honestly, you could be forgiven for thinking that`s what they`re telling pitching you. What they are pitching you is that adding cinnamon to your diet might cure you of diabetes. It might reverse your diabetes, just like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. I`m quite sure, I don`t have to tell you this, but the American Diabetes Association insists that there is no credible research that says herbs or spices such as cinnamon can manage or cure your diabetes. Still, there`s Mike Huckabee, former governor, prospective presidential candidate, who quit his FOX News hosting gig, so he presumably could run for president. There he is, right now, showing for Barton Publishing and their bogus science, telling people, yes, your diabetes can be reversed. I`m living proof. Sign up for a free offer, plus shipping and handling. And in the Republican race for the presidency this year, I kid you not, Mike Huckabee, the cinnamon rolls cures diabetes pitchman, in 2015, that`s not some previous thing he was doing. That`s what he`s doing this year. Mike Huckabee is killing it in the presidential polls right now. In the latest Gallup poll out this week, Mike Huckabee is right up at the top with Jeb Bush in terms of favorability ratings among Republican voters. Among people who identify themselves as conservative Republicans, he is far and away the leader at 54 percent. Marco Rubio is the next closest to him. And then there`s the new CNN poll out today which matches Republican candidates up with Hillary Clinton to see who would do the best in a head- to-head match-up. The two front-runners in the race right now are Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, both of whom are obviously and energetically running for president, even if they aren`t formally declared as candidates yet, they`re both running hard, raising tons of money, basking in mainstream press adulation. But you know who outperforms both of them in the match up against Hillary Clinton? Mike Huckabee. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also does well in the CNN poll against Hillary Clinton. She beats him by less than she beats everybody else. Rand Paul is now expected to announce his presidential bid very soon on April 7th. We also got the exciting announcement today that an eccentric New York city real estate developer and reality TV star named Donald Trump, he is pretending harder than usual that he`s going to run for president. He says he`s forming an exploratory committee. He says he told NBC that he will not renew his contract for his reality TV show, which is called "The Celebrity Apprentice", although NBC says they`re still planning on that show, having a new season this year. So who knows? But in terms of the latest 2016 news, it can be a little hard to get your head around. Hillary Clinton is still running alone for the Democratic nomination for all intents and purposes. On the Republican side, they`re about to officially get Rand Paul, son of Ron, they might be -- might be -- might be -- might be about to officially get Donald Trump. And the guy who`s running at the front of the pack, who the press is ignoring, is a guy whose official pitch for the job right now is he knows exactly what kind of pastry can cure your diabetes. People wonder why I love my job. I have the best job in the world. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUCKABEE: See for yourself how this kit works. And what it can do for you. I`m Mike Huckabee and I approve Barton Publishing`s diabetes solution kit. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: As you know, the state capital of Oregon has recently been under attack by a barred owl, patrolling a local park and attacking joggers at that park. Last month, we proposed a scary owl warning sign which the city of Salem installed in that park to warn people. Hooray! But now, it gets better. Yesterday we learned a local beer maker has named a beer after the angry owl. At vagabond brewing in Salem, Oregon, you can now tip back an attack owl IPA in celebration of the Salem`s attack owl. It`s apparently a really good IPA. I would like to try some, thank you very much. But wait, there`s more. Down the road in Gilgamesh Brewing, also in Salem, they are also rolling out their own owl beer. We are told that it`s called hoot attack, with a label that includes the owl warning sign. Oregon has not one but two new owl beers. I feel a road trip coming on. But first, we have a story about the truly amazing, first of the nation news out of Oregon, which is nothing to do with either beer or owls. And we`ve got on top a visit from the brand-new governor that made this brand-new thing happen. And that story and the interview are just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Oregon, beloved state of Oregon, blessed art thou among women. When John Kitzhaber quit as Oregon`s governor a month ago, amid what are now four simultaneously state and criminal investigations in alleged corruption in his administration, mostly involving the role of his girlfriend in that administration, when John Kitzhaber quit last month right after being sworn in for his fourth term as Oregon governor. Something sort of remarkable happened in the musical political chairs that followed him quitting. Oregon has no lieutenant governor. So, in the event that an Oregon governor has to leave office, the person who replaces the governor is the secretary of state. In this case, the secretary of state was Oregon Democrat Kate Brown, who is now the governor of the state of Oregon. The state of Oregon then needed a new secretary of state to replace her. Governor Kate Brown chose this person, Jeanne Atkins, to take her old job, to take the second highest ranking job in the state. The third ranking statewide job is the attorney general. This is the attorney general of the state of Oregon, Ellen Rosenblum. So, the number one, number two, and number three jobs in Oregon state government are now all held by women. And as long as we`re counting, so is the job of the Oregon speaker of the house. So, Oregon, blessed art thou among women. And yes, the departure of the previous governor was a shocking and bizarre political trauma in that state. And it has left a trail of unresolved investigations in its wake. But you know what? There`s new folks in charge now. He`s gone. And so, apparently there`s no reason not to get down to business in Oregon. When she was still secretary of state, before she unexpectedly was elevated to governor, Kate Brown, this past January, introduced a bill to the Oregon state legislature, a bill about voting. Secretaries of state are obviously in charge of running elections at state level. They`re in- charge of voter registration systems. And when Kate Brown in January introduced this new bill to profoundly change the voting system in that state, she did so as secretary of state. And then, surprise, this week, now as governor, she just got to sign her own bill into law. And everything you have heard about voting rights in this country in the last five years has been terrible for voting rights. But this, what just happened here in Oregon, is actually great news. Honestly, over the last five years, there have been 395 new pieces of legislation introduced in 49 states to make it harder to vote, or to make it harder to register to vote. Just leading up to the presidential election in 2012, in the two- year period before the 2012 election, new bills were signed into law in 19 states to make voting harder, 19 new laws to make voting harder, or make voter registration harder. Well, Oregon as of this week, is leading the country in the completely opposite direction. Oregon already votes by mail, and that has helped them have one of the highest voter participation rates in the country. But thanks to this new law as of this week, that state is about to start automatically registering people to vote based on information that they have on file at the DMV. At the DMV, they know if you`re a citizen. They know your current address. They know if you`re legally eligible to vote. And if you are legally eligible to vote, Oregon has just decided they`re now just going to register you and mail you a ballot. You don`t have to ask. They`re just going to do it. You can opt out. You can choose to not be registered if you don`t want to be. There`s a 21-day opt-out period if you do not want to be registered to vote. And, of course, nobody`s going to force you to vote when election time comes. But the state of Oregon will now become the first state in the country where it is easier to be registered than not. It`s an opt-out system, instead of an opt-in, system. As the tide of voting laws in this country has been rushing the other way, Oregon is first to push this hard to get more people to vote, not fewer. Oregon, blessed art thou among women politicians. Blessed art thou amongst small d democrats everywhere. This is groundbreaking. Joining us now for the interview is the new governor of the state of Oregon, Kate Brown. Governor Brown, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for your time tonight. GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON: Thank you so much. I was delighted to hear your recap of our new motor voter law. MADDOW: Did I explain the change in the law correctly? No other state has done this, and so I`m learning it just from you. BROWN: That is correct. However, Louisiana is essentially doing the same thing with their 16 and 17-year-olds. The first state to have it -- happen to all of our potentially registered voters in Oregon. We`re very excited about the legislation. MADDOW: So, the way I understand this is going to work, logistically, is you`ve got about 2.2 million people registered to vote right now in Oregon. When this law goes into effect, it`s expected to almost instantly add about 300,000 new voters to the rolls, people who are eligible to be registered but have so far not chosen to do so, or have not taken the steps to do so. How do you think that will change politics in Oregon? That`s a huge jump in the number of people who will be eligible to vote. BROWN: Well, what I like about this proposal is that it`s actually more agnostic than our voter registration drives that are happening throughout the election cycle. And so, this will more evenly impact the state. And more importantly, it will enable those folks -- in Oregon, we have a 21-day cutoff. You have to be registered 21 days prior to the election. This will enable many more people to have their voices be heard. We think that`s critical. MADDOW: When you say more agnostic, you mean when they do voter registration drives in Oregon now, they tend to be for partisan purposes, either the parties themselves or groups that have partisan interests. In this case, nobody knows anything about you when the DMV decides to register you. It ends up happening by virtue of your existence rather than by the fact that somebody knew to seek you out. BROWN: That`s correct. That`s the beauty of the system. The DMV requires proof of citizenship before issuing driver`s licenses. We will be sending out notices to the potential voters. As you mentioned, they have three weeks to opt out if they choose so. If not, they`ll go ahead and be registered as a registered voter. The other pieces that we have vote by mail, so they`ll get a ballot in the mail prior to the election. MADDOW: With the rest of the country, particularly red states, going in the opposite direction, again, right before the 2012 election, we saw 19 states move to make voting harder, or voter registration harder. Why do you think you were able to get this done in Oregon? I know it`s a cause of yours for a long time, before you became governor. Why were you guys able to do it? BROWN: Well, we were very excited about the fact that the legislature passed the bill. The goal is to put the ballot in the hands of every eligible Oregonian. And this proposal will make voting more convenient and more accessible for more Oregonians. We`re really excited about it. MADDOW: Governor Brown, I have to ask you, because I have you here, and I say this out of concern, and an increasing -- daily increasing affection for the state of Oregon. The more I pay attention, the more I love you guys. How are you doing in Oregon after this strange thing you have just gone through with Governor Kitzhaber? Obviously, part of that is you. You became governor under strange and unexpected circumstances. But it`s got to have been a real shock to the state. How do you think the state has been changed by this process? BROWN: Well, my goal as the new Oregon governor is to make sure that we provide a level of stability for Oregonians. But also do some housecleaning. And so, we`ve done both of those. I have a package of bills to restore -- help Oregonians restore their faith in the Oregon government, both ethics and public records. And we`re working hard on key priorities, especially education and the economy. But Oregon is a very special place to live. And I look forward to working with Oregonians to keep it that way. MADDOW: Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, thank you very much for helping us understand this tonight. And good luck to you in your unexpected new gig. It`s great to have you here. BROWN: Rachel? We have a present for you. On your next road trip, we`d like to present you with a t-shirt. MADDOW: That is excellent. That is really good. I will come pick it up in person, I promise. BROWN: Thank you. We look forward to seeing you. MADDOW: That`s awesome. BROWN: Bye. MADDOW: Bye. Thank you. That`s great. I grew up in northern California. And at times over the history of northern California, I think there were moments when we wanted to secede and become part of Oregon. I think part of my soul is doing that already, becoming very affectionate, whether or not they send me beer. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is matt. Matt is a fairly ordinary guy, who happens to have just had the world`s most astounding and moving and life affirming thing happen to him. Matt`s story is one of those stories that asks very little of you, but sometimes you need to hear things like this on planet earth and you will. Right at the end of the show tonight, it is the best new thing in the world, and it is really good, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is the Bardo Museum. It is located in the capital city of Tunisia in northern Africa. The Bardo Museum houses one of the largest and oldest collections of mosaics anywhere in the world. This is one of the most important museums in that entire part of the planet. At around noon local time, as tourists were getting off tour buses to enter into the Bardo Museum and explore that site, there was an ambush. Two gunmen wearing military style uniforms and carrying assault weapons launched an attack on the museum. They appeared to single out the groups of foreign tourists who were there to see the art. Witnesses say the attack began with the gunmen getting out of a vehicle and opening fire on people who were getting off their tour buses outside the museum. The gunmen then ran into the museum itself. They initially took hostages inside. That set off about a three-hour standoff with Tunisian security forces who rushed to around the building. Ultimately, the security forces entered the museum. They killed both gunmen during the firefight and they set the hostages free, the ones who are being held inside. So far, a total of 19 people have been confirmed dead in the attack, most of them European tourists. This is the single deadliest attack on civilians in that country in more than a decade. It is still unclear who is responsible. There`s also some question tonight about whether the museum was even the primary intended target. The Bardo Museum is located in a complex of buildings in Tunis that also includes the Tunisian parliament buildings. Could the attackers have been intending to attack that much more political targets? The parliament was put on lockdown today during the siege at the museum. Take a look at this video. These are lawmakers while in lockdown. While in there, they break out into the Tunisia national anthem, while they`re being held in a security situation. Again, it is unclear if the parliament might have been the intended target for this attack. Tunisia, of course, was the scene of massive street protests in 2011. It was the first country in the Arab to overthrow its dictator. It was the start of the Arab spring. Late tonight, Tunisia`s newly elected president addressed the whole country, calling for national unity and an aggressive response to today`s attack. But again, nobody`s claimed responsibility and the death toll in Tunisia stands at 19, two nationals, 17 foreign tourists. We`ll bring you more as it develops. But as you should tell you that the former U.S. ambassador to Tunisia is going to be a guest on "THE LAST WORD" in the next hour. So, stay tuned for that. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today spans two hemispheres and two giant countries. A little over a year ago, senior editor at "BuzzFeed" named Matt Stopera, left his iPhone at a bar in New York City. He went back to look for it. Couldn`t find it, it was gone for good. Which would otherwise be end of that story, right? Guy`s phone goes missing. Guy gets new phone. Generally, nobody else cares. The end. But a year after matt lost his phone, he started noticing a bunch of photos on his new iPhone, pictures he had not taken. Like for example, this menu and lots of store fronts. And Avril Lavigne. Also, a girl on a motor scooter who you didn`t know. And a man standing in front of a kumquat bush. Actually, many, many pictures of the guy in front of the kumquat bush. It was weird. More photos were getting added by the day. So, Matt Stopera wrote a piece about what was happening for "BuzzFeed" where he works, who is this man and why are his photos showing up on my iPhone? The folks at the Apple Store told him it was because his old phone, the one that had been stolen or lost in New York, had somehow ended up in China. China! And that stolen phone was still connected to his Apple account. So, they quickly fixed it. They essentially turned off the stolen phone in China, except it still wasn`t the end, because that "BuzzFeed" story that Matt had written became a sensation in China. Apparently everybody and their brother in China read the story and went on a hunt for the guy in front of the kumquat bush or the orange tree as they called it. People all over China decided they wanted to help Matt Stopera find this guy who had his phone. They thought the story was romantic somehow or like they were long lost brothers. Ultimately, to make the long story short, they found the guy in front of the kumquat bush. First, they figured out the photos were taken in a province in southeastern China. Then, a kid who lived there recognized the guy as his uncle. Then, everybody started calling him Uncle Orange, because of the orange tree. Then the kid and uncle helped the two get in touch. Although the orange tree guy was a little nervous at first. He stated his preference to be called Brother Orange instead of Uncle Orange. Brother Orange then invited matt to go to China. Said he would cook him a nice meal if he showed up. And wouldn`t you know it, that`s where Matt is right now. Earlier today, this guy Matt was greeted at the airport in China by Brother Orange, and a bit of a mob scene. Matt has been live-tweeting his trip to Brother Orange`s village in Guangdong Province. Over the course of today, they celebrated their new found celebrity by taking a mud bath together and planting a tree together. All this over an iPhone stolen over a year ago halfway across the world, bringing people together in the weirdest, celebrity driven way ever. Still though, best new thing in the world today, by a mile. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ari Melber filling for Lawrence. Good evening, Ari. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END