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Libyan Government Alleges Civilian Deaths; USS Ronald Reagan Scrubbed Down; Libya and What You Pay for Gas; Remembering Elizabeth Taylor; Talk Back Question; Secret phone App is Unveiled

Aired March 24, 2011 - 11:59   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Want to get you up to speed.

Coalition jets hit military targets in Libya for a sixth day now, but Moammar Gadhafi remains in power. President Obama says he wants Gadhafi gone. The White House is working to make clear, however, that the U.S. goal is separate from the U.N. mission, which is protecting Libyan civilians.


DENIS MCDONOUGH, W.H. DEP. SECURITY ADVISER: We're not setting out with a policy of regime change here. We set out a very defined goal here, which is we had shaped the environment and enabled our international partners to take over the no-fly zone. We're on the verge of doing that.


MALVEAUX: Gadhafi forces holding firm at Misrata and Ajdabiya today. Their tanks continue to shell the cities while snipers pick off people from rooftops. In Misrata, residents tell CNN that rebels will prevail in the long run.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've just been patrolling the Tripoli streets. That's it for them. And the uprising has taken control, like they are blocking them inside the street. They will not let them go out. It's just a matter of time to win this battle. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: In Yemen, a president under fire puts out his supporters on the street in a noisy demonstration. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is under intense pressure to step aside immediately, but he is refusing. Several of Saleh's key generals and diplomats switched sides after he launched a bloody crackdown last week.

Another 15 people are reported dead in Syria after police fired on anti-government protesters in the southern city, Daraa. A human rights worker tells CNN that thousands are on the streets of Daraa today for a soldier's funeral. He was killed, apparently, because he refused to fire on protesters. And in Tokyo, officials say it is now safe for babies to drink tap water or for parents to use tap water in formula. That is because levels of radioactive iodine in the city's water system dropped today. Still, the city handed out 250,000 bottles of water today to homes with kids.

Steam is rising from one of the reactors at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant today, but officials say that the vapor is a natural occurrence, there is no need for alarm. Authorities have upgraded the status of three of the six reactors there to either stable or safe.

And doctors say that the outlook is good for two Fukushima nuclear workers. They are hospitalized today for possible radiation poisoning. The men stepped in a puddle while laying cable at the plant, and water seeped through their protective clothing and got on their legs.

New safety and security questions today at Reagan National, a major airport four miles from the White House. Early Wednesday morning, two commercial jetliners waiting to land got no answer from the control tower.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tower is apparently unmanned. We called on the phone, then nobody's answers. So the aircraft went in and just says uncontrolled airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's interesting.


MALVEAUX: The pilots talked themselves down and landed the plane safely. Just one controller is on duty for the graveyard shift at Reagan National. Now, the transportation secretary says that is going to change immediately.

Now is your chance to "Talk Back" about one of the big stories of the day. President Obama is facing growing criticism over his handling of the air strikes in Libya. Well, he returned home from a five-day trip to Latin America -- that happened yesterday -- and he hasn't made any public statements about the strategy in Libya since then.

So it brings us to the question today, and our Carol Costello -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the president says the U.S. has an exit strategy for Libya that will take place this week, and that has some scratching their heads. Exit strategy is one thing, but what exactly was the entrance strategy?

It didn't take long for House Speaker John Boehner to fire off a letter to Mr. Obama complaining of limited, somewhat contradictory information from the administration on Libya. Boehner says the president committed U.S. military resources to war " -- without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is." Democrat Nancy Pelosi sent her own letter cautiously supporting the president.

Mr. Obama has no public appearances and no speeches scheduled for today, and some are saying that has to change, and fast. Michael Waldman, a former speechwriter for President Clinton, says U.S. presidents don't just order troops into war without explaining themselves to the nation. Waldman writing on, "Mr. Obama may believe U.S. missiles speak for themselves. They don't."

So what about now? Will the U.S. stay in if the war drags on, or cede control to other partners?

So, the "Talk Back" question today: What do you want the president to say or do about Libya?

Write to me on, and I will read some of your answers later this hour.

MALVEAUX: I suspect the president is going to speak fairly soon about Libya and try to make that -- clear that up.

COSTELLO: As in maybe late this afternoon or tomorrow?

MALVEAUX: Let me check my e-mail. Let me check and make a phone call.


MALVEAUX: Thank you, Carol.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at what's ahead "On the Rundown."

Cleaning up a U.S. aircraft carrier exposed to radiation.

Also, members of Moammar Gadhafi's inner circle now reaching out to the United States and others.

Plus, breaking down the cost of the military operation in Libya.

And finally, security questions at Reagan National. We're going to look at other incidents involving problems with control towers.

And Elizabeth Taylor, remembering the Hollywood star's humanitarian efforts.


MALVEAUX: More now on Libya, where coalition forces carried out a sixth day of air strikes. Explosions rang out around Tripoli. That happened earlier today.

I want to bring in our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, who is in Tripoli. Nic, I understand that you're now at a funeral for the victims that the government claims are civilian victims of the air strikes. Does that ring true to you?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what the government is saying here and what people are saying at the gravesite here is that these are both soldiers and civilians, but we're getting varying accounts of who is who. And what's been hard for us to find here are any representatives of the families of the people who are being buried here.

Certainly, we have seen a couple of people being buried into graves, and they do appear to be male, and they do appear to be of military age. But it's really impossible for us to more accurately know exactly who's being buried here.

There are over 30 coffins brought forward today. We were told that some of the people in the coffins would be buried in their hometowns, but we saw about 20 coffins being cemented into the ground here, in this -- what's called the Martyrs Cemetery here.

But what we saw here today was more anger than grief. And there was a very clear message to the international community, and it was made particularly clear because the government had brought an English- speaking imam to give sort of a gravesite oration. And his message was very clear to the international community: "We don't believe your lies, we don't believe what you're saying, whatever your media says. We're the victims and we're going to fight."

And that's something we heard from a lot of people at the gravesites today.

MALVEAUX: And Nic, tell us about this trip that you were supposed to go on. It was a government-sponsored trip to see a house that was damaged by the strikes. What happened to that trip?

ROBERTSON: That was yesterday afternoon, and we were taken by government officials into the south of the city to see a house they said was hit as part of collateral damage, where they said civilians were wounded and killed in that strike. They couldn't find the house.

They drove us to the outside of a military base. It was a large military base on the south of the city, but at no point could they find the house and at no point could they show us any of the victims or present us with anyone who could give an account of what was supposed to have transpired there.

Indeed, what was interesting is the government officials weren't given any help by local residents as to what may have gone on in the area. It seems to indicate that, at least some parts of the city, the people who live here are not happy with the government. Very hard for us to get beyond the limited information we were able to garner on the trip.

MALVEAUX: And Nic, before you started telling us that story, there was a noise. You said there was gunfire. Can you tell us what's happening?

ROBERTSON: There are at this cemetery -- Martyrs Cemetery, it's called on the seafront here -- a number of soldiers and a number of policemen and a number of civilians, all who have automatic weapons. One of the things that's happened since the last couple of weeks of tension, and then the U.N. resolution, and then the air campaign began, more and more people are being given weapons here by the government. Even civilians being given weapons.

And what you heard just before, I was walking past a police vehicle. And for absolutely no reason, no provocation, as I was walking right past him there, he released off some rounds into the air just above my head. But that's sort of typical for what we're seeing here these days.

MALVEAUX: OK. Please be safe, Nic. We appreciate your reports and the updates. Thanks, Nic.

When the nuclear crisis hit Japan, the USS Ronald Reagan had some exposure to radioactivity from the Daiichi power plant.

Our Martin Savidge got a chance to go on board 10 days later to see how that crew is getting everything cleaned up.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now every piece of hardware, every aircraft, and every piece of machinery used to move that aircraft is on the front of the USS Ronald Reagan, as is -- well, you can see a lot of the crew hands. And you're wondering, maybe, why are they all sitting around? Well, we'll show you. Look what's going on back here -- water. Lots and lots of water just being sprayed all over the deck right now in what is probably the biggest cleanup effort you're ever likely to see at sea.

Now, earlier today, as part of this effort, up at the bow, it got even more incredible to watch as the crews went to work with the foam, with the brushes. There was music going. The idea here though is all about safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're doing right now is just, like, decontaminating the ship.

SAVIDGE: Why all this remarkable effort? Well, you may remember back on the 13th, this aircraft carrier and some of its helicopters passed through the radioactive plume from that damaged nuclear plant, the Fukushima Daiichi plan. As a result of that, there was some limited exposure to the crew and some of the aircraft, and possibly the ship.

So this is all designed to clean it, scrub it down, use brushes, use foam, clear every possible surface, then check it with some machines such as Geiger counters while keeping the crew in protective suits.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: The USS Ronald Reagan is operating off the coast of Japan, assisting with humanitarian relief efforts. And seawater, it's one of the main weapons that Japanese workers are using to try to cool down those overheated reactors at the crippled nuclear plant. But it also might be a problem later on.

Our Chad Myers is digging into that and telling us why the seawater could actually damage this, ultimately, in the end.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: There's a lot of stuff in seawater, including salt. Now, I did an experiment today, because I just did it at home and I wanted to show you what it looked like.

I boiled distilled water in this cup, in my microwave. That's what it looked like when I was done. I boiled saltwater in my microwave after that, and this is what it looks like.

The miracle of the Earth is that when the sun hits the water, even the ocean water, it doesn't evaporate saltwater, it evaporates pure water, pure, clean water that turns into rain. The rain comes down, we drink it as fresh water. Without that process, the entire Earth would be a saltwater mess and we wouldn't even be alive.

The process that leaves the salt is also a problem for the reactor, because every time the saltwater is poured in, fresh water, the steam, that reactive steam, is let out. But the salt remains, and then they pour more saltwater in, more ocean water in, because that's what they have the most of. And then the salt remains and the steam goes off.

So it is becoming more and more concentrated. And there are estimates that there may be between 60,000 and 100,000 pounds of salt now in these reactors because of the salt that's come in, the steam that's been released as fresh, pure, distilled steam -- radiate, but still fresh water -- out, but the salt remains.

And now the salt may be getting in between the rods, although it's just becoming a real -- you couldn't even imagine how salty now this water is inside. And if it all dries up, or for whatever reason we get this on the outside of the rods, the rods are not going to be able to cool themselves, because that will be on the outside of the rod.

That won't be in touch with the water. And so, therefore, the rods could overheat all by themselves.

We knew days ago when we said, Suzanne, that they're pouring saltwater in, this is a last-ditch effort. When you run a reactor, you need the purest possible water in that reactor all the time. And that's why it's a problem when you flood it with junk. And that's the junk.

Not just plankton and everything else that's in there. You start to get this highly-corrosive mixture now in the pumps and in the -- you have a problem, especially if it's not calming down.

MALVEAUX: That's going to be a long-term problem.

All right, Chad. Thank you.

MYERS: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Very good demonstrations.

Well, question: Is Moammar Gadhafi looking for the door? Maybe even a deal? Well, Gadhafi's brother-in-law is said to be calling the State Department almost daily.


MALVEAUX: Members of Moammar Gadhafi's inner circle are in contact now with the United States and other Arab states. It's not exactly clear what their intentions are.

I want to bring in our senior State Department producer, Elise Labott.

Elise, you brought us this story, and it's fascinating to hear what kind of interaction is going on behind the scenes.

Does the United States believe that Gadhafi's close aides are going to defect? Do they think there's a deal on the table? What do we know about these communications?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: Well, Suzanne, I think it's a bit of wishful thinking, and I think it's a bit of, as they say, PSYOPS, trying to play games with Colonel Gadhafi.

We have heard that some of his close aides, his brother-in-law, Abdullah Sanussi, who's a very close aide, and also the foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, ever since the no-fly zone started, they have been in touch with the State Department and other Arab states. At first, it was to say we're going to abide by the no-fly zone and that you can't really let the opposition win here, because trying to make us -- that al Qaeda could win. They're saying that they're really fighting terrorists.

But as the days have rolled on, they're keeping in touch, but they're not really clear about what their aims are. They haven't said specifically that they want to abandon Colonel Gadhafi, or that Colonel Gadhafi is looking for a way out. But they are still staying in touch.

So, what the State Department, what the Obama administration, what others are trying to say, send a message to these aides around Gadhafi -- save yourselves. The end is near, and you should really try and think of a way out.

And that's really what the administration is trying, I think, to send a message. But intelligence officials are telling us that they think that Colonel Gadhafi is hunkering down. So really not sure what's going on. MALVEAUX: And Elise, what would be in it for them, for Gadhafi and for even his aides, these folks who are reaching out to the United States?

LABOTT: Well, you have heard Gadhafi, both Colonel Gadhafi and his son, Saif Al-Islam, say that, we are in it to the death, we're going to die in Libya. So what the U.S. is saying is, save yourselves.

You know what the International Criminal Court has started an investigation against Colonel Gadhafi and his close aides. These aides could be indicted by the court, maybe, sent to The Hague. They have a lot of money that could be frozen by U.S. officials.

And so what they're trying to say is, Gadhafi is ultimately not going to be in power much longer. Who knows how long this will go on, but you can save yourselves. And, I mean, I think that there's a lot of psychological operations going on trying to send a message to Colonel Gadhafi that, you can't trust your inner circle, trying to get him to stand down.

MALVEAUX: Fascinating. Fascinating report. Elise, thank you very much.


MALVEAUX: Well, how will the conflict in Libya affect what you pay for in gas? Well, that's what CNN's Carl Azuz is breaking down for us today. He's starting to take a look at the crude oil.

What do we know about this? I mean, people are watching to see if it's going to go up, it's going to go down.

CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS: It's been high. I mean, yesterday, we know that crude oil prices hit $106 per barrel, and that's really, really climbing. And what we're looking at today is how Libya impacts that.

If you look at the African continent, we have been told Libya is a major producer, it's the number three producer of crude oil in Africa. But as you see on your screen here, Libya only produces two percent of what the world uses per day.

So why does that have such an influence on crude? Well, it said two things drive the market, greed and fear. And in this case, we are looking at the fear of traders that the unrest we've seen in Libya and Egypt and Yemen might spread throughout that region to nations that are bigger producers of crude oil.

MALVEAUX: So, Carl, greed, fear, how does that impact the gas prices here in the United States? Does that play out here?

AZUZ: It does. It does.

I mean, when you look at crude oil prices and gas prices, they're inextricably linked. Crude oil accounts for around 65 to 68 cents of every dollar you spend at the gas pump. So, when crude oil goes up, usually gas prices follow. But there are other factors here.

I mean, in Japan, there were some refineries knocked down, knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami. Now, those are getting back up and running, but traders were concerned that Japan would need refined oil, refined gasoline. That would impact the price.

And then guess what, Suzanne? The United States is entering its busy driving season. Over the next 90 days, we're going to see Americans driving more. Right now, a lot of people already driving, people on spring break. And as people drive more, demand for gas goes up, and that can affect the price as well.

So I wouldn't expect to see gas prices go down any time. We're probably going to see a climb over the next few months, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, Carl. Thank you.

AZUZ: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks for the breakdown.

Well, don't forget to "Choose the News." Vote by texting 22360 for the story that you'd like to see in detail. Here are the options.

A look back at the life of Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor.

Or a new phone app developers say is as revolutionary as Facebook and Twitter.

Or the drawbacks of paying for gas with your credit card.

Vote by texting 22360. Pick 1 for "Elizabeth Taylor's Life"; 2 for "Revolutionary Phone App"; or 3 for "Paying for Convenience."

The winning story is going to air later in the hour.


MALVEAUX: Checking what's ahead "On the Rundown."

The cost of war. Funding the military operation against Libya is already stirring debate in Washington. There's a military side and a political side to the U.S. role in Libya.

We're going to talk strategy with retired Major General Spider Marks.

Plus, two planes land at Reagan National Airport without any direction from the control tower. We're going to take a closer look at who's controlling the skies.

And we'll look at the humanitarian side of the late actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Well, the goal of the coalition air strikes on Libya is to save lives. You can't put a price tag on that, but the military operation is costly, and it set off some debate over funding.

I want to bring in our senior writer Jennifer Liberto of

Jennifer, great to see you. You had a great article out on the cost of the operation in Libya, and you say the tab, already now running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

What does this mean, do you think, for defense spending?

JENNIFER LIBERTO, SENIOR WRITER, CNNMONEY.COM: Well, these hundreds of millions of dollars, it's a pot of money that they haven't -- they haven't planned on. They didn't plan for this operation at all.

And so what we're looking at is potentially, at some point in the future, the Pentagon might have to ask Congress for more money. They have a special emergency pot that they can dip into now, but they might have to ask Congress for more money in the future. And Congress hasn't really been in a giving mood lately.

MALVEAUX: So what do we think are the estimates for establishing and maintaining a no-fly zone?

LIBERTO: For establishing the no-fly zone, it's $800 million. And just for keeping it up, they're talking about $100 million every week to maintain that no-fly zone.

MALVEAUX: And cruise missiles?

LIBERTO: Cruise missiles run about $1.4 million each missile. And we know that they've fired 175 so far, and that gets us to, you know, $245 million as of this morning.

MALVEAUX: And the fighter jet that crashed as well, how does that weigh in?

LIBERTO: Well, the fighter jet that crashed, if you're assuming that they're going to replace it with a top model, that's going to run about $100 million to $150 million.

MALVEAUX: And are there other costs as well, jet fuel?

LIBERTO: Jet fuel ends up being a really big expense. It's $10,000 per hour for one jet to fly over this no-fly zone. And there are as many as 80 U.S. jets doing this right now.

MALVEAUX: Clearly, members of Congress are going to be debating whether or not this is worth the cost.

Jennifer, thanks again. We appreciate it. A great write-up on

Thanks, Jennifer.

LIBERTO: Thank you very much. MALVEAUX: We want to go beyond the headlines now for a closer look at what is happening with the military mission in Libya. Gadhafi's forces are keeping up ground attacks after six days of air strikes.

Well, joining us with some perspective is retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks. Thanks for being here with us.

General, thank you so much for being here with us.


MALVUEAX: First of all, what do you make of the military operation so far? if you can even say who's winning, who's losing?

MARKS: I think if you look at the applicational force by this coalition, it's absolutely phenomenal. It was put together really, really quickly. It really speaks to maturity, professionalism, the level of training, these great relationships that the United States and our partners have forged over the course of many, many years. So, it's phenomenal if you look at it exclusively of great young men and women and great leaders that have put this together to achieve an in- state.

Now, there's a gap between what we see right now and ostensibly what the political goals look like. We hear a lot about what the U.N. is trying to achieve. We hear a lot about what the president has said he's trying to achieve. Those are two separate and distinct objectives. But what we have right now is we have men and women that are putting themselves at risk for a limited objective that now appears to be conforming into something else.

So, the short answer is it's a great, phenomenally great application of military force.

MALVEAUX: So, General, help us understand this. Because the military mission obviously to protect the civilians from Gadhafi and his forces and establish this no-fly zone. The political mission, however -- and we heard from the White House, that it's not regime change, but they say Gadhafi must go. How does the U.S. fulfill that mission, getting Gadhafi out? This political mission?

MARKS: I have to tell you, Gadhafi is extremely perverse, obviously very cynical and very much a survivalist. He is tuck - from a military perspective, he is tucking his mobile military capabilities: his tanks, his fighters, his mobile air defenses, his artillery pieces in with the populated areas. You go after those, you're going to end up with collateral damage where civilians are going to be killed. And it becomes extremely difficult to target those capabilities very precisely.

So, in order for Gadhafi to be gone, I have to tell you, somebody's going to have to walk up to Gadhafi and shoot him in the face. And it's going to have to be confirmed that he's gone, he's dead. Now let's try somebody else and facilitate some replacement that we think we can trust. MALVEUAX: How does the U.S. carry out that political mission? Do they supply the rebels, the opposition with money? With weapons? With training? Perhaps even backdoor conversations we heard from the State Department with Gadhafi aides and loyalists?

MARKS: Correct. We have a mixed record in terms of trying to achieve results through proxies. And Suzanne, that's what you're really asking about. Who can carry this heavy load? If not the United States overtly and in a lead position, which we clearly should not be - so that's a good point -- who else will step up and facilitate for this?

Now, frankly, we have pick size (ph). We are, in fact, trying to separate Gadhafi's forces from the rebels and in order to do that, we're going after Gadhafi's forces. So, it appears to us, we're on the side of the rebels. Overtly, we're not. But we clearly are in terms of this operation.

MALVEAUX: And General, real quick here, if you can, how do we define the rebels, the opposition? Clearly there's a lot of tribal factions, warring faction in Libya. Do we have a clear sense of who these folks are that we're going to be dealing with?

MARKS: Clearly not, and I think job one for our intelligence community is to try to figure out who's making up the central core of this rebel force? Can we in fact trust them? Is in fact a new leader going to be found from these ranks, or is it someone else who's going to have to step up? I don't think we know that quite yet, I think we need to figure out more.

MALVEAUX: All right. General "Spider" Marks, thank you so much for joining us.

MARKS: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Not much time for you left to "Choose the News." You know how to do it. Vote by texting 22360. One for "Elizabeth Taylor's life," two for "Revolutionary Phone App." Or three for "Paying for Convenience at the gas pump." The winning story airs in just a few minutes.

Silence from the control tower at Reagan National. It is not the only time in recent memory that air traffic controllers have dropped the ball. We're taking a closer look at who's watching the skies.


MALVEAUX: Have some breaking news here. CNN has now confirmed with the French defense ministry that a French warplane fired an air- to-ground missile at a libyan military plane and destroyed it. This happened just after it landed at Misrata Air Force base. This is according to French armed forces spokesman. A French newspaper, Le Figaro, is reporting that the Libyan jet fighter was about to land in an area that was near Misrata. It was shot down by this French jet fighter as it was about to land. This according to an unnamed U.S. official. That newspaper also adding there are conflicting reports regarding whether or not that Libyan jet fighter was landing or already on the ground. But CNN is now confirming that this French war plan fired this air-to-ground missile at that Libyan military plane.

All of this essentially to say there is a lot of activity that's going on there in Libya in the skies as you have a no-fly zone that is being established to make sure that Gadhafi's military air capabilities are defeated.

This also just in. The FAA has now suspended the air traffic controller who was not reachable when those two pilots tried to land at Reagan National Airport on Wednesday. You remember the story that we have been following and talking about today. How they landed their airplanes, no one in the air traffic control tower.

The FAA administrator Randi Babbit says, "As a former airline pilot, I am personally outraged that the controller did not meet his responsibility to help land these two planes." So, clearly this is unacceptable and there's been action already taken regarding this.

But those two commercial pilots, you recall they were looking for clearance to land, no response that they got from the control tower. They landed safely with all the passengers, that was fine. But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is directing the FAA to put at least two air trafficker controllers on that midnight shift at Reagan National Airport. There's already been disciplinary action taken for that air traffic controller.

Earlier I spoke with the - with one of those who was investigating -- director of the -- I'm sorry, it was not the director. We're speaking with the military safety airport expert about what had taken place, Steve Wallace. And here's his perspective.


STEVE WALLACE, FORMER DIRECTOR, FAA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATIONS: Clearly procedurally something went wrong here, and the investigators will get to the bottom of that. But 90 percent of the airports in the country don't have control towers; many airports have part-time control towers.

So what the pilot did at the instruction of the radar controller, the prior controller he was talking to, was treated as an airport where the control tower either had closed and landed. The risk to the passengers here was very, very low, negligible.

MALVEAUX: Why do you say that? I mean, because we would assume that the control tower, the guy in the control tower, would help both of those pilots know that the runways were clear, that it was safe to land.

WALLACE: That's correct, but the pilots fly into -- there are probably between 100 and 200 airports in this country that are served by air carriers that do not have control towers. So there are procedures to do that, and they're done safely every day. MALVEAUX: Explain to us, help us understand that, because this is not just any airport. This is Reagan National. It's four miles from the White House. I mean, it's a very busy airport and a really important place.

WALLACE: Well, you're absolutely right. It's a very special airport. It's right next to some of the most strictly-prohibited airspace in the country.

I think there are special procedures for high-speed communication to the Secret Service and whatever else. And, so, it is a highly- sensitive airport. But to say it's busy, it's busy at some times of the day, but it's definitely not busy after midnight. It's very slow.

MALVEAUX: The secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood, says this was not a good idea, that you have to have at least two people in the tower. Why is it acceptable to just have one? Is that typical?

WALLACE: Well, I would go back to the point that 90 percent of the airports in the country have no towers at all. And it's largely dictated by traffic counts.

And so, after midnight, departures are about zero and arrivals are very few. So, staffing levels are done typically based on traffic counts. But, you know, the secretary has made a decision -- I'm not questioning that -- that he will require to controllers in that tower.


MALVEUAX: That was Steve walleye, the former director, FAA's accident investigations unit.

The incident at Reagan National is not the first time air traffic control has been called into question.


(voice-over): In air transportation, there are no second chances. But there have been a number of close calls and even tragedies that have been cause for alarm.

VOICE OF CHILD: JetBlue 171, cleared for takeoff.

VOICE OF PILOT: Clear for takeoff, JetBlue 171.

MALVEAUX: Like the case of the controller's kids landing planes at New York's JFK last year.

VOICE OF CHILD: Contact departure. Adios, amigos.

VOICE OF PILOT: Adios, amigos. Over to departure. JetBlue 195.

MALVEAUX: The controller was put on leave.

And an even more disturbing case, the air traffic controller on a personal phone call when he should have been manning his post. A helicopter crashed over the Hudson River in 2009 that left nine people dead.

And then there's been cases where exhaustion and demands of a nerve-racking job have taken their toll. According to "The Washington Post," nationwide, reported mistakes by air traffic controllers were up 51 percent last year. But as federal authorities began their investigation into what happened at Reagan National, it's clear that human error is an inescapable part of life in the tower.


MALVEAUX: I appreciate -- Elizabeth Taylor was the ultimate actress, but she also won fans around the world with her battle against HIV and AIDS while a lot of other (INAUDIBLE) stayed quiet. We're going to take a look at that part of the late actress's life.


MALVEAUX: Funeral plans have not been announced yet for Elizabeth Taylor. The actress died yesterday at age 79. She's remember not only for her glamorous career, but also in her trail-blazing role in the battle against HIV and AIDS. Here's CNN's Alina Cho.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Elizabeth Taylor really was the first celebrity to talk publicly about AIDS. It was not a popular cause at the time. But after her dear friend Rock Hudson died of AIDS in 1985, she decided to speak up, and loudly. She co-founded amfAR, the most famous AIDS related charity. She testified before Congress, lobbied presidents and helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research.

But perhaps more than anything else, Liz Taylor wanted people to know that those suffering from HIV and AIDS should not be feared or shunned. And she inspired others, including other celebrities, like Elton John. I spoke with Elton John a little more than a year ago about his own AIDS foundation and he talked about the woman who inspired him.


CHO: You took on AIDS when nobody cared about AIDS. When it really wasn't even part of the national conversation.

ELTON JOHN, SINGER: I have to say Elizabeth Taylor was the inspiration for me. You know she -- she, you know, was the first celebrity to get out there when AIDS was happening and genuinely, you know, supporting the cause.


CHO: I also spoke with Kenneth Cole, the fashion designer, and current chairman of amfAR. Here's what he said about the woman who held the position before him.


KENNETH COLE, CHAIRMAN, AMFAR: People supported Elizabeth and she was very convincing and very compelling. And she didn't ask you to do anything she would not have done herself. She had the courage to do this early on when others weren't and that's invariably when you make the most impact. And, you know, you can whisper in a quiet room and people hear you. And it was very quiet in those days, and she wasn't just whispering.


CHO: Taylor, if you can believe it, was actually on Twitter. And last July, she tweeted this, "give. Remember always to give. That is the thing that will make you grow." Kenneth Cole says Elizabeth Taylor will be missed but also remembered and her message will live on.

Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: It certainly will.

We asked you what you think Elizabeth Taylor's legacy will be. Elias Louis Kotsiras (ph) posted this comment on my FaceBook wall saying that "Elizabeth Taylor will always be remembered for her iconic beauty on screen, her two Oscars, eight marriages but also for raising millions for AIDS research. She was a legend in every sense of the word."

And Dtag32 (ph) tweeted, "getting Hollywood involved in the AIDS crisis and standing by Michael Jackson."

From CNN's Eatocracy's managing editor, Kat Kinsman, on our FaceBook page, "chili. That woman loved some chili."

And from Chris Holderman (ph) on FaceBook. "Liz Taylor will remain as the example of liveliness. Her role in "Virginia Woolf" startled me permanently. She really turned on herself in that role and the result was brilliant."

We're also getting a lot of comments on today's "Talk Back" question. We asked, what do you want the president to say or do about Libya? Our Carol Costello is up with some of your responses.


MALVEAUX: Now is your chance to "Talk Back" on one of the big stories of the day. President Obama's strategy in Libya is coming under some fire from Democrats, as well as Republicans. That's the topic of today's "Talk Back" question. And Carol's got all the answers and responses.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wish I did, but our viewers have some answers.

MALVEAUX: They've got the answers.

COSTELLO: Yes. "Talk Back" question of the day, what do you want the president to say or do about Libya? This from Peter. "Several times the president has stated his position on Libya in language simple enough for even a small child to understand. Some people are waiting for what they want to hear. Others are so deeply engaged in destructive criticism, all they can do is vent mindlessly."

This from Heidi. "Without French naval assistance during the revolution, we probably wouldn't have gained independence here in America. Are we a bunch of hypocrites?"

This from Josh. "Anyone who calls out the president in a derogatory nature is wrong. He may not have handled the situation right, but, remember, he was elected in an election and is the commander in chief. Don't hate the player, hate the game."

And this from Tom. "I'm hoping he'll land on an aircraft carrier that has a big banner saying 'mission accomplished' and declare the whole thing over. Oh, wait, that's been done already."

Continue the conversation,

MALVEAUX: A lot of our viewers have a sense of humor about this.

COSTELLO: They do, don't they.

MALVEAUX: They take pot shots at both sides.

COSTELLO: I love that.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks, Carol.

Well, our producers are quickly telling last-minute results on the "Choose the News" winner. That's up next.


MALVEAUX: You texted it. We're going to air it. The winning story for "Choose the News," well, ever take a picture with your phone, want to share it right away with somebody nearby. Maybe even strangers? OK. The designer of a new social networking app with lots of hype is banking on that. CNN's Dan Simon gives us a sneak peek.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in Palo Alto, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. For the last six months, a team of engineers has been developing a secret app. So secret that they put paper on the windows to block public view.

Well, now it's being released to the world. And if you believe what they're saying, this application will be as revolutionary as both FaceBook and Twitter.

SIMON (voice-over): Bill Nguyen is the founder and CEO of Color, a smartphone app that got some Silicon Valley investors so excited that they wrote some very large checks even before seeing a real product.

BILL NGUYEN, COLOR FOUNDER & CEO: We were given $41 million to start our company. It's one of the largest fundings ever for a private software company.

SIMON: What does Color do? It's a new kind of social network. Not necessarily for people you know, but for people you don't know. It allows users of iPhones and android devices to instantly share their photos, videos and texts with literally everyone around them.

NGUYEN: We call this multilense (ph) technology. So we describe it similar to like going to a wedding where you have all these disposable cameras laid out everywhere and you take pictures and it's great because you share a moment together. Well, we've done that except with iPhones. So every camera that takes a picture around you, within 150 feet, is going to be instantly in your application. You didn't have to upload it. You didn't have to downloads it. You didn't have to share. You didn't have to friend anyone. It just happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this view, I can see photos and videos being taken by all people using Color on their smartphone nearby me.

SIMON (voice-over): And you can keep the pictures forever. If that sounds a bit creepy to you and an invasion of privacy, Nguyen says don't use the app. But he sees it as the next generation of social networking, all on the phone in a post PC world. The app is free. Nguyen hopes to monetize in a few months through advertising.

SIMON (on camera): How do you convince someone that they should be using this?

NGUYEN: Right. Let's go back to just the basic premise of capturing information. I think today, when I capture pictures with my camera, it's just my single perspective. So we think that by using this application, it's going to be really fun.

SIMON (voice-over): Nguyen's intuition of what users will like has served him well. His last company, a music streaming service, was bought by Apple for a reported $80 million. Before that, he got more than 10 times that amount, $850 million, for a web messaging service. Not bad for a college dropout with no formal background in computers. He thinks his newest company has the potential to overshadow his other successes. But he admits there's a bit of an unknown.

NGUYEN: It's a very different audience and a very different goal and we'll see what happens.

SIMON: Whatever happens, with millions in investment, Color has a lot of smart people counting on it to be a hit.

Dan Simon, CNN, Palo Alto, California.


MALVEAUX: CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Randi Kaye, who's in for Ali Velshi. Hey, Randi.