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CIA Operates in Libya; Libyan Rebels Lose Several Cities; Traces of Radiation Found in Milk; CIA in Libya; Inside Misrata's War Zone

Aired March 31, 2011 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is 9:00 a.m. on the East Coast, 6:00 a.m. in the West. I'm Carol Costello in for Kyra Phillips.

The waters off the Fukushima nuclear plant are practically growing by now. More than 4,000 tons the normal radiation limits. But officials still don't know how it's seeping into the sea or how to stop it.

Brand new numbers out of the Labor Department this morning. It turns out jobless claims plummeted last week. Down 6,000 to 388,000.

Get ready to meat seven mega-millionaires. And get this, the eighth member of their lottery group did not buy in. That happened to be the night of the $300 million jackpot.

And Libya, we have seen the airstrikes aftermath of the firefights but the real intrigue may be in what we're not seeing. A U.S. intelligence source tells CNN that CIA operatives are secretly moving about Libya and dealing with the rebels.

We've also learned that CIA officers played a role in last week's crash of a U.S. fighter jet. They actually helped rescue one of the downed U.S. airmen.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Tripoli.

First of all, Nic, what can you tell us about these CIA operatives on the ground? I don't think anyone is exactly surprised by this but what exactly are they doing? At least as far as you can tell.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that they're gathering political and military intelligence. And as we can already presumably (ph) learned, they've obviously been involved in working with the coalition and helping downed U.S. airmen.

So clearly, they are at least in direct communication with the -- with the coalition forces as they're making these air strikes and one would expect them to be trying to provide information that can assist -- can assist in those strikes as well.

But perhaps their biggest asset at the moment is providing insights into exactly who constitutes the rebels, what weapons do they need the most, what are the risks of arming the rebels, can they really achieve quick military victory. If they can't, what are the -- what would be the problems that would follow on from that. So all of these things is very likely what they're doing, specifically what they're doing. Of course, with the CIA one rarely gets routine updates. And it's only by chance you're going to bump into them in the field. We're certainly not aware we're meeting any here at the moment -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Right. And I say probably not many Americans are surprised by this because how else do you get information? Somebody has to be on the ground getting that information.

The other part of the Libya story today, the defection of this foreign minister. Tell us how significant that is.

ROBERTSON: I think one of the ways to judge how significant it is at the moment -- and nobody in the government here has given us an official response to this. Last night, they were really scrambling, denying that it was happening.

The deputy foreign minister was telling us that the foreign minister was there on an assignment for the government and he'd be back very soon. In fact, in plane back within a few hours. They were completely caught off guard and at a loss. And we still haven't heard a response from the government.

This foreign minister isn't just -- isn't just sort of a diplomat. He was the head of intelligence through the '90s, through much of the -- until 2009. He ran covert operations for the government. Before that he was a wanted terrorist figure in Europe before he became the head of intelligence, and negotiated many deals for the government here. So he will be a big loss for the -- and the question here will be who else is going to follow him -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Thanks very much, Nic Robertson in Tripoli.

In the meantime, rebels are losing ground in cities. Gadhafi forces have halted their march toward the capital and actually forced them to retreat.

CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us by phone from eastern Libya.

And Ben, I was watching "Inside the Arena" last night and a reporter from the "New Yorker" was saying that there are maybe less than a thousand remotely trained rebels fighting against Gadhafi forces? That doesn't sound so good.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, it's really hard to put a number to the rebel forces and certainly in terms of those who are minimally trained, definitely less than a thousand. I mean I'm on the front now. And they've lost more ground.

The Libyan army now controls the town of Brega where there of course is an important oil refinery. And what -- last week rebel advances become simply a rebel retreat. They seem to be holding their ground today but by and large the problem has been all along, Carol, that they don't have a real command and control structure. Most of the people don't have adequate training and those who do don't seem to have a lot of weight with young men who have taken up weapons to fight against Moammar Gadhafi's regime -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Ben Wedeman reporting live from eastern Libya this morning.

Today marks a new milestone in Libya. NATO is now in sole command of the skies. Operation Unified Protector is broken into three main objectives. The military alliance is in charge of enforcing an arms embargo and the no-fly zone. It's also empowered to protect civilians and civilian centers.

Libya also the topic on Capitol Hill as you might expect. At any moment Defense Secretary Robert Gates will testify before the House Armed Services Committee. He'll be joined by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Yesterday both men gave lawmakers a classified briefing on the conflict. Behind closed doors they assured lawmakers that no decision has been made on possibly arming the rebels.

Could it be a breakthrough? Congressional negotiators have agreed on cutting $73 billion from this year's budget but the devil is in the details.

Vice President Joe Biden announced the bipartisan agreement on the figure after he met with Senate Democratic leaders, but there is no agreement yet on what exactly will be cut and the clock is ticking down on the temporary spending bill. If there is no extension the government runs out of money on April 8th and of course it shuts down.

Ohio state lawmakers have passed a bill limiting collective bargaining rights. The bill would prevent public employees from striking. It would also allow state workers to refuse to pay union dues. Governor John Kasich says the bill will save money for local governments.

The governor could sign the bill into law this week. Opponents plan a referendum drive to try to repeal it.

Turning now to Japan where officials have come up with an estimated cost of the quake and tsunami. The price tag? More than $300 billion. Authorities are working on a supplemental budget to inject money immediately into the hardest hit areas.

The ocean waters near the damaged nuclear plant are recording the highest levels of radiation yet. More than 4,000 times above normal limits. Authorities don't know where the radioactive water is coming from. And the company that owns the plant has decommissioned four of its six reactors. The company also announced plans to spray a water and synthetic resin mix around the plant to stop the spread of radioactive materials.

The EPA is stepping up its radiation monitoring here in the United States. The move comes after very low levels of radiation were found in milk in two states, California and Washington.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here.

And I know you're going to say trace amounts, small amounts, but this is disturbing.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is disturbing. I mean I think even if you know that these are teeny tiny amounts, you're going to feel like, yikes, this is milk. I drink this with my cereal, my kids drink it, what do I do?

The answer here is that public health officials say it is fine and that the reason for that is that it's the levels of radioactive iodine in the milk in the United States are 5,000 times lower than safety limits set by the Food and Drug Administration.

So when you hear that number, I hope that makes people feel a little better.

COSTELLO: I hope so. Why do we concentrate so much on milk?

COHEN: You know why? Because milk -- because radioactivity gets into milk. And if you take a look at this, you'll see -- we have an illustration of how that happens. Radioactive material lands on grass so it went across the ocean, across the country. Lands on grass. Cows eat that grass and so it gets into the milk.

Now this is -- so that's the bad news. The good news is, is that it gets out of the milk very quickly so it's in there for a very short period of time. We don't expect to see radioactivity landing in this country, you know, forever obviously. This is just for this episode and so it won't be in the milk forever.

COSTELLO: So we know that tiny bits of radioactivity were found in the air as far away as Massachusetts from Japan. Could this affect milk in other parts of the country, too?

COHEN: Right. Right now they've only found radioactivity on the West Coast but theoretically yes, absolutely. You could find it as far as the East Coast because you have radioactivity being found as far as the East Coast, but again those numbers would be teeny tiny.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks as always.

COHEN: Thanks.

COSTELLO: There are reports that the CIA is in Libya. Next, we'll ask -- we'll ask a retired CIA officer what kind of work they might be doing. And what lessons the agency learned from the Iraq war after when we come back.

And it is one of Libya's most brutal military brigades but would you believe just days before the fighting, Khamis Gadhafi was here in the United States. That's Gadhafi's son. It was a month-long tour, cut short for civil war. Why that fact is compelling the U.S. State Department for an explanation. That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: This bit of news just in to CNN. And you can see how unrest in the Middle East is spreading because of these protesters.

In Kuwait, the entire cabinet has resigned. That's according to the state-run Kuwaiti news agency. When we get more information on this, we'll pass it along.

Also today a source telling CNN that CIA operatives are in Libya trying to help decide if the United States should give the rebels weapons. A former CIA officer who did similar work in Iraq says there are lessons from that war.

Charles Faddis tells CNN the CIA talked with hundreds of Saddam Hussein's military officers before the invasion and most of them had no love for their leader but they refused to ever actively assist the United States and they emerged after the invasion never psychologically defeated to lead resistance against our occupation.

Charles is with us now.



COSTELLO: So what does the CIA need to do in Libya to make sure something like what happened in Iraq doesn't happen in Libya?

FADDIS: Well, first thing, obviously, is they've got to gather information and figure out exactly who the opposition is. But the key lesson, I think, from Iraq is that we have to convince the folks that are supporting Gadhafi that they have to make a choice. They have to either side with us or they have to face ruin with him.

COSTELLO: And when you say "us, side with us," what do you mean?

FADDIS: Well, with the United States, with any of the forces that are in opposition. I mean, what we need is a unified message that says this only ends one way and that's with Gadhafi gone and then the individuals close to him would be forced to make that choice between riding this down with him or deposing him, handing him over to us, and bringing it to a conclusion.

COSTELLO: I don't think many people are surprised that CIA operatives are on the ground in Libya. So I kind of want to get into what exactly, how exactly they may accomplish what you just said. So if you're a CIA operative in Libya, what are you saying? Where are you staying to make these things possible?

FADDIS: Well, the first thing you've got to have if you go into an environment like this is you've got to have individuals who are obviously going to give you safe haven. You're not simply going to be running around in the desert. So that means you're going to be lashed up with various opposition groups on the ground and that's probably a very, very murky situation right now, because there probably is no unified opposition. Not one single group to attach yourself to. COSTELLO: Well, something interest that's just come out -- you remember when that plane went down, that F-15 e-fighter plane, and the pilot and -- it wasn't a co-pilot but it's a weapons specialist, that was the other man in the plane, both U.S. troops. It went down and we made a big deal of the rebels rescuing this weapons officer. But it turns out the CIA was sort of involved with these very rebels that rescued this man.

What are we to make of that?

FADDIS: Well, that would be one of the jobs of individuals on the ground in this situation. When I was on the ground in Iraq, well in advance of the last war, our team that was certainly one of our missions to be prepared to get down flyers out, so you would have the contact necessary to do that and bring in the air transport to get them out of the area.

COSTELLO: So, those CIA operatives on the ground were on the ready in case something like this happened?

FADDIS: Absolutely. That's -- on your long laundry list of tasks, that's certainly at the top of the list. We used to basically drop everything if we had any indication there was an American missing. You got to get those folks out and to safety.

COSTELLO: Charles Faddis, thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

FADDIS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Parts of the Southeast battered by a series of severe storms, roofs torn away in a mobile home park in central Florida. We'll show you the damage, just ahead.

And ugly threats hurled at a beauty queen simply because of her religion. We've got a live interview with her, next.


COSTELLO: Looking at stories making news later today.

At the top the hour, the National Urban League releases its annual State of Black America Report at Howard University. Early outlook shows blacks faring slightly worse than whites than they did last year.

The Tea Party and potential presidential candidate Michele Bachmann rally at the U.S. Capitol today. That starts at noon.

And time to play ball. It is opening day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season.

And it's the start of baseball season but, boy, the weather is nasty in parts of the country!


COSTELLO: -- what is up with that?

WOLF: You know, we got -- we have a stationary front that's draping across parts of the Southeast and there's been some very rough weather. And it hasn't been just today. It's been over the past several days.

And we got some of the video to prove it. Let's go right to it.

We had a little bit of wind damage. At the same time, we also had some hail damage across parts of central Florida. It has been a big mess for a lot of people.

They really haven't had the opportunity to get out and clean up just yet. Reason why is because we have another line of intense storms that are going through. You see the airport there with the planes that have turned over by some very strong straight line winds. And there's the potential for not only strong winds but possibly a few tornadoes as they make their way through the morning hours.

In fact, we got a tornado watch in effect for parts of central Florida. Take a look at the map here. You see the area and it's just surrounded by that red, that square shape.

Well, that rectangle is going to show you where the best possibility for the storms and we have had a couple of sightings in terms of funnel clouds near (INAUDIBLE) and other, near Kennedy Space Center. Right now, we do have a tornado warning that is in effect just to the west of -- southwest of Orlando, not far at all from the I-4 corridor. No visual confirmation on this as of yet. It is just Doppler- indicated.

But there's going to be a chance at the rest of the day that we could see more of this unfolds, so just be advised.

This area, believe it or not, is place -- is a place that's known to have more lightning strikes than any other place in North America. But, today, it's not the lightning. It will be that potential for tornadoes that's going to cause a big concern.

For parts of the Northeast, it seems as though winter will never let go -- a combination of rain, sleet, and snow. The heavy snowfall back towards Syracuse, Buffalo is getting a light touch of snowfall. And also in parts of 81, we're going to see, again, that combination of the rain, sleet and snow. So, kind of a messy day in some places. The other is just your spring storms, kind of a loud and rude way to wake up. No question about it, Carol.

COSTELLO: A rude way to welcome the baseball season.

WOLF: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: Hey, I want to talk to you about these mega-million winners because seven of them are going to come forward in just about 90 minutes. We'll get to meet them for the first time. The interesting twist about this is the eight New York state worker that did not buy into the lottery.

WOLF: Unbelievable.

COSTELLO: As they usually did. And he'll get nothing.

WOLF: You think that he's having a few odd thoughts this morning? Do you think this person is probably questioning himself? I would think that would be kind of tough to get over that one.

COSTELLO: Well, I was just wondering. I mean, what would I do in that situation? Let's say you have a great friend at work and they donated to your lottery pool every week, and one week, they just didn't and you win. I mean, would you feel obligated to give them something, a little tiny sliver of the winnings?

WOLF: Maybe so. But even more, what would you think if you happened to be one of the winners? How would that change your life? How do you -- I mean, honestly how would you react?

Because some people would say, well, I'll give to charity and I'll do this. For me, to be honest, I would probably set my hair on fire and rip off all of my clothes and do cartwheels and stand on the freeway. Seriously. That is one of those things that when that happens, I mean, there's going back. It changes everything forever.

COSTELLO: Well, have you ever watched the E! News special about lottery winners? It always turns out badly.

WOLF: That's true. That's very true. It's always interesting.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, we're going to -- when they come out, we're going to take it live and everyone will get to meet these seven winners.

WOLF: It's going to be weird and fun.

COSTELLO: I know. It will be fun. Thanks, Reynolds.

The first Muslim Miss USA, Rima Fakih, is enjoying the last few months of her reign. All of the criticism she faced from religious conservatives now a distant memory.

But another beauty queen has waded into a similar situation and things have gotten ugly. Shanna Bukhari hopes to become the first Muslim to represent Great Britain at the Miss Universe pageant and she joins us now from Manchester, England.

Thank you so much for joining us.


COSTELLO: What kind of pushback have you gotten as a Muslim modeling and competing in beauty pageants? BUKHARI: I've had a lot of support from all communities and I have had some hate mail from all communities as well. I think a lot of people out there are using -- a minority of people out there are using my religion as a tool to attack me. And --


COSTELLO: Has it gotten much worse than nasty e-mails? Because I've heard you've even had death threats.

BUKHARI: Nothing as direct. Indirectly threats have been made and -- where video links have been posted by e-mails and suggesting things could possibly happen. However, one may seem to see it as a threat because it is upsetting to receive links of certain things that could possibly endanger someone's life.

COSTELLO: Absolutely.

Some people have asked why just not participate as a British citizen and not bring your religion into it? I mean, was it you who made Islam an issue or was it the media?

BUKHARI: I believe the media made my religion and where I come from an issue and a highlight. My intentions were not to bring my religion into this. I'm proud of where I do come back from and my heritage and my origins. However, it's not something I thought I would be getting attacked on.

COSTELLO: One of your -- one of the big issues, I guess, is the swimsuit competition and some people are saying that you shouldn't wear a bikini. But I guess I have to ask you, are you going to do it?

BUKHARI: There is a swim round and a lot of people out there seem to be thinking I should be wearing a bikini and exposing many revealing part of my body.

And I would like to voice out to those people who think I'm wearing a bikini. I will not be wearing a bikini. I will be wearing a one- piece swimsuit and a throng. So, it's not -- it's not exposure. I don't feel it is because I won't be fully revealed.

However, a lot of people are being very critical and think beauty pageant, they don't see it -- there's more to it. There's a lot more work entailed. There's charity work, and which I'm doing currently at the moment, to help the children who are suffering from terminal cancer. There's a lot of other work to do with this pageant.

COSTELLO: Well, we wish you luck and thank you for joining us this morning.

BUKHARI: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: Thank you.

Would you believe, just days before the fighting in Libya, Gadhafi's son was here in the United States? He was a student of spiritualist of Deepak Chopra. We'll have more details after the break.


COSTELLO: Just about half past the hour. Checking our top stories now.

Right now, funeral services is getting under way for Geraldine Ferraro, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the White House. Ferraro died Saturday after a 12-year battle with blood cancer.

In Japan, radiation levels are climbing higher and higher in the ocean water near the damaged nuclear plant. They are now at more than 4,000 times the norm.

And just minutes ago, we learned that Kuwait's government has resigned. The protests demanding social and economic reforms flared up there just about a month ago. Dozens of people have been wounded in that violence.

And CNN has learned that the CIA now has operatives on the ground in Libya. An intelligence source tells CNN they are secretly gathering military and political insights. They're gathering intelligence and even help rescue a downed U.S. airman last week. It comes as the White House is considering the possibility of arming the rebel forces against Moammar Gadhafi.

From America to the battlefields of Libya, not the usual itinerary for your average college student. But then, again, 27-year-old Khamis Gadhafi, the youngest son of Libya's longtime ruler, isn't your everyday college intern.

CNN's Brian Todd has the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is the man in the black beret, greeting supporters in Libya, disproving rumors that he was killed in an allied air strike. Khamis Gadhafi, youngest son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi commands the notorious 32nd Brigade, known for its brutality.

ADM. WILLIAM GOURTNEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: This is one of Gadhafi's most loyal units and are also one of the most active in terms of attacking innocent people.

TODD: Another here's another title Khamis Gadhafi's held -- intern -- in the U.S. For a month he interned with an American engineering and construction firm called Acom (ph). The L.A. based company had deep business dealings in Libya until the uprising began.

(on camera): As an intern Khamis Gadhafi wasn't exactly getting people's coffee or running to the printer every 10 minutes. He was jetting all over the U.S.. meeting with high tech companies, universities, but also with defense contract like Northrop Grumman and he paid a visit to the Port of Houston. (voice-over): And he went to these places weeks, in some cases days before leading deadly attacks on the Libyan opposition. When the fighting broke out in mid-February, Khamis Gadhafi cut short his internship and flew back to Libya to oversee the 32nd Brigade.

Contacted by CNN the Port of Houston issued a statement saying he toured several port authority facilities and received briefings on trade relations and acknowledged it was part of the port's respective future deals with Libya.

Northrop Grumman won't comment on his meetings there. But Khamis Gadhafi also visited the Air Force Academy, which told us he saw nothing classified. He went to the National War College. A spokesman there says tack tickets were not discussed. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin won't confirm or deny media reports that he went there. Khamis went to the New York Stock Exchange, got what the exchange calls a "basic tour" the day he scrambled back to Libya.

James Carafano is a national security expert with the Heritage Foundation.

(on camera): Regardless of the hostilities that would break out later, is it all right for a U.S.-based company to give an internship to something like Khamis Gadhafi?

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, it's a qualified OK, because it's a process of engagement. If it's towards moving that country out of being a closed society and actually reforming, you know, giving them access can move in that direction. But, you know, it's qualified. I mean, there are a couple of things that are common sense. I mean, you don't want to compromise national security. You don't want to give away information, and you don't want to give somebody something for nothing.

TODD (voice-over): Contacted by CNN Acom didn't want to put someone on camera with us. They issued a statement saying this internship was part of the company's efforts to improve the quality of life in Libya, that they never paid him, that they never knew about his military connection, and that when they found out about Khamis Gadhafi's son's role in the war, quote, "We were shocked and outraged."

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COSTELLO: Tune in tonight for the "New York Times" journalists who were captured and released by the Gadhafi regime. It's a primetime exclusive on "AC360." That's at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific Time.

Heavy storms in parts of Louisiana. Strong winds did some serious damage. We'll take a look in just a few minutes.

And the seven big winners of the $319 million Mega Millions jackpot will make their very first public appearance in just about an hour from now. We'll bring you all of the excitement live from Schenectady, New York. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: In about an hour from now the seven winners of $319 million Mega Millions jackpot will reveal their identities at a news conference in Schenectady, New York. They are reportedly IT specialists at New York State's Division of Housing and Community Renewal.


COSTELLO: In fact, in the next hour we're going to talk to an ethics expert about sharing the winnings from a lottery haul.

Heavy storms in parts of Louisiana, tops out trek Cross Country this hour. Strong winds in Plaquemines Parish outside New Orleans blew this sheet of roofing plywood into a power line. The storm also brought damaging hail and heavy flooding.

Next, a real life fish tale with these amazing pictures to prove it. This eight-foot Mako sharp jumped into the boat of a trio of fishermen near Freeport, Texas. The 370-pound shark thrashed about the boat for hours and now crowds are lining up to get a peek.


COSTELLO: I know, we had to get the ending in there. You kind of heard him, didn't you? The Santa Monica high school boy wants this girl to be his prom date and his singing classroom proposal has gone viral It is garnering hundreds of thousands of hits. No word yet on how exactly the prom date went.

Republicans and Democrats have agreed how much to cut from the budget but where to cut is a different matter. And the shutdown countdown clock is ticking. Our political update, coming your way next.


COSTELLO: Negotiators on Capitol Hill have a number for the budget cuts. Now they just have to figure out where to wield the axe.

CNN's senior political editor Mark Preston is here with that.

So they've agreed to, what, 73 -- like exactly what is the amount they have agreed to cut? And I know they haven't agreed what to cut. It's confusing.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, Carol, it really is confusing. What we heard from Vice President Biden last night is that they've reached a number and that number is $73 billion.

But let's just take a step back. We are already six months into the 2011 fiscal year. Republicans and Democrats haven't been able to reach any kind of agreement on this budget. So we're already six months into the year. Next week if no agreement reached, if they're not able to figure out what programs to cut, there is the chance that the federal government could shut down. But we heard from Vice President Biden last night that, in fact, the number of $73 billion is pretty much agreed to. It's probably going to move a little bit, but as things go in Washington, and as Vice President Biden said last night, there is no deal until there is a total deal, Carol.

So we will see how those negotiations go over the coming days, certainly.

COSTELLO: Should be fascinating.

Also, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he is everywhere, and he's talking about the 2012 GOP field.

So what is he saying?

PRESTON: Yes, you know, he's really interesting, Carol, because, you know, a lot of folks probably don't remember this, but Mr. Rumsfeld was elected to the House of Representatives four times. He served in the Nixon administration. He was also the chief of staff to Gerry Ford.

But on "JOHN KING USA" last night, John asked him about the current field, probably to try to elicit if he was going to support anybody. Well, Mr. Rumsfeld did not offer up any ideas who he would support in the race. In fact, he said that there is no logical candidate and he said that we should give the candidates a chance to run around the tracks.

But in addition to that, what I found very interesting out of that interview last night is that Donald Rumsfeld is considered to be an establishment figure and, yet, last night, he said that he's a big supporter of the Tea Party. In fact, he went on to say that he thinks it's healthy to have the Tea Party. He said think if you believe in democracy, having more people engaged and interested is a healthy thing.

So, there you are. You have the confluence of the establishment and really grassroots of the Tea Party coming together there, Carol.

COSTELLO: Mark Preston, many things. Live in Washington.

We'll have your next political update in an hour. And a reminder, for all the latest political news, go to our web site,

Chris brown, his past doesn't seem to be hurting his career. His new album debuted at number one. But Brown wonders why people seem to think Charlie Sheen's behavior is funny and cool and while his is not. Interesting question. We're going to talk about that with Roland Martin. That's coming up next.


COSTELLO: We want to take you inside Libya and one of the towns that has seen the most ferocious fighting.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen was one of the first western journalists to get into Misrata.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weeks of urban combat have taken their toll in Misrata. Badly damaged buildings, streets littered with wreckage. Libya's third largest city, the final opposition stronghold in the west is under siege by pro-Gadhafi forces.

(on camera): All right. So we're close to the front line right now we're with a couple of the fighters from the opposition forces and this is in downtown Misrata. There is a lot of destruction everywhere. Most of the buildings here have some sort of damage to them; pockmarks. There's a lot of destroyed cars in the streets as well and we can also see that the people that we're with -- the fighters that we're with are very, very tense at this moment.

(voice-over): The celebration on a destroyed armored vehicle a step too far for pro-Gadhafi forces nearby. And the scene turns ugly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire, fire, fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you see, that all is destroyed pro-Gadhafi forces. Buildings, gas stations, schools, (INAUDIBLE) police station, even fire station, they destroyed it.

PLEITGEN: Most residents have fled downtown Misrata as pro-Gadhafi forces have positioned snipers on tall buildings, used tanks and artillery in the city center. The anti-Gadhafi fighters badly outgunned, fight back with the few weapons they have.

They provided us with this video saying it shows a man disabling a battle tank with a rocket propelled grenade.

Those civilians still left in Misrata are suffering. Twelve -year-old Mohammed and his 15-year-old brother were wounded when mortars hit their parents' home. Mohammed lost several fingers on his left hand and his whole right hand.

Their father swears revenge. "Gadhafi should be killed," he says, "he's not a human and he should be killed." But for the now, the medical staff at one of the few functioning hospitals are struggling to keep many of the wounded alive. They lack even the basics, anesthetics, operating tools and space. Some patients must stay in the parking lot. The emergency room is in a tent in front of the building.

DR. ALI ABDALLAH, SURGEON: All the doctors and medical staff are here now.

PLEITGEN: And they won't leave any time soon as opposition fighters struggle to hold on to this besieged town and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continue to pound what not long ago was one of Libya's most prosperous places.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Misrata, Libya. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: We're following a lot of developments in the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM. Let's check in first with Elizabeth Cohen.

COHEN: Good morning. Radiation found in milk in the United States. I'll tell you what you need to know at the top of the hour.

WOLF: And we have a tornado watch in effect for parts of central Florida until 1:00 Eastern Time. Strong storms, possible tornados, large hail and maybe flash flooding in the forecast.

Also we're going to take a sneak peek at opening day baseball. What you can expect as you head out to the ballpark.

COSTELLO: Thanks to all of you.

Also ahead, the seven winners of the nation's sixth largest lottery jackpot come forward in the next hour. A news conference is scheduled in Schenectady. We'll bring that to you live. And then we'll talk to an ethics expert about sharing the winnings.

Chris Brown has got the number one album now. His first, then, he got a long, loud standing ovation earlier this week on "Dancing with the Stars." Fans apparently have forgiven him for beating up his now former girlfriend Rihanna and for his recent meltdown on "Good Morning America".

Rihanna told "Rolling Stone" why she's even relaxed the restraining order against him. She says, quote, "What he did was a personal thing, it had nothing to do with his career, saying, he has to be 100 feet away from me. He can't perform at award show that definitely made it difficult for him".

I asked CNN contributor, Roland Martin, to compare Chris Brown to another big star with big drama. Charlie Sheen.


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Actually Charlie Sheen never had redemption. He'd never had redemption because you know what, it's interesting, their cases were around the same time. And I remember when Chris Brown was going through his case. I was even saying, wait a minute, there's a disconnect between how Chris Brown is being treated and Charlie Sheen.

Charlie Sheen was accused of holding a switchblade to the throat of his wife, threatening to kill her, threatening to hire somebody to take her out. He was charged with three counts, one of those a felony count. It was pleaded down to a third degree misdemeanor assault, sentenced to 30 days in jail. But guess what, he got to go to a Malibu Rehabilitation Center, re-signed a new contract, never lost a job, lost nothing.

And then of course after that, we have the recent drama where he goes nuts in a hotel room, a woman who is naked in a closet, she is scared out of her mind. And so it's very interesting how Chris Brown has been attacked for a longer period of time, rightfully so, frankly. And I think Carol, the difference in the Chris Brown case --


MARTIN: -- we had a photo of Rihanna. We saw what her face looked like.


COSTELLO: I was just going to say that because of this -- we saw what the face of domestic violence looked like. And perhaps that's --

MARTIN: Right.

COSTELLO: -- that's why America stayed mad longer at Chris Brown than Charlie Sheen. But is it more than that?

MARTIN: Precisely. And we've never seen -- well, yes because first of all, if you read, go to, our story from the police detective said, "I wish the judge could have seen what Mrs. Sheen looked like on that Christmas day." She was appalled. This officer, Valerie -- Valerie McFarland was appalled at the sentencing.

There is no doubt in my mind the difference between these two cases is we saw the photo of Rihanna and people said, oh, my God, look what he did to her. And we never saw it with Charlie Sheen.

And I think when you compare these two Sheen has been absolutely out of his mind. And -- and the only recent incident, frankly, with Chris Brown was the interview on "Good Morning America" where he got ticked off, where he smashed something, tore his shirt. But really he has handled the aftermath of his case far better than what Charlie Sheen is doing. He's been out of control.


COSTELLO: Interesting. And those pictures of Rihanna from 2009, we want to thank TMZ for making those available.

He's 18 years old and getting invitations to the prom. So what? He is also the hottest rookie in the NHL. Just watch what Jeff Skinner did last night next.


COSTELLO: There I am.

Hockey found itself a teen idol. Jeff Fischel from HLN Sports is here. So Jeff, the lady fans are going nuts.

JEFF FISCHEL, HLN SPORTS: They are. He's like the Justin Bieber, if you will, of the NHL. The ladies love him. He is 18 years old, Jeff Skinner, right?

The girls that show up for the Carolina games are all wearing the Jeff Skinner jerseys. He is the youngest player ever to be an NHL all-star game. And he proved why last night against the Canadians; the first period, Skinner with the puck and the score.

You know, he is so popular, NHL superstar Patrick Sharp said earlier this year, Jeff Skinner, I've got to meet him. He wasn't done -- two goals last night. The Hurricanes would win. One girl held up a sign asking him to prom.

COSTELLO: That was thoughtful don't you think? He's 18.

FISCHEL: I think they love him. They do. They love him.

COSTELLO: He's cute.

FISCHEL: There you go, confirmation.

NBA last night, The Heat taking on the Wizards; this is not so cute. Apparently still Heat angry about losing to the lowly Cavs the night before, Miami's Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Washington's John Wall and then other guys get involved.

I'll show you again, this time from Carol's seat down on the floor. There's Ilgauskas with the elbows. John Wall doesn't like it, the swing. And then other guys come in. Juan Howard gets ejected, so were Ilgauskas and Wall. Miami won. Lebron, by the way had 35 points.

NBA hall of famer Dominique Wilkins was attacked after last night's Atlanta Hawks game. The guy is accused of hitting Wilkins as a former NBA ref. He claims Wilkins owed him money for some suits he bought at the suspect's store. The man has been arrested and charged with battery.

Final four on Saturday: Butler playing in one game. The biggest Bulldog fan may be 100-year-old Dorothy Robb, the Plain Field, Indiana, resident, a 1933 Butler graduate. She's seen lots of games over the decades. She says this team is different. They play consistently.

She is also a huge fan of young coach Brad Stevens. She likes the fact he keeps his cool, and boy does he. Boy, does that team take after him. Butler Bulldogs for the second straight year in the final four. Everybody's Cinderella this year perhaps can pull off one more win to pull off the national championship. They are taking on another Cinderella on Saturday, VCU, the first of two great final four matchups and perhaps fans thinking maybe they'll see a Cinderella this year.

COSTELLO: Think so?

FISCHEL: But of course, today, opening day for baseball. Fans are excited. It's 162-game season, but nothing like day one.

COSTELLO: You're exactly right. 1:00 Eastern, Detroit Tigers versus the New York Yankees. Love it. Thank you, Jeff.