Tonight as Americans try to flee on board a ferry there are reports that Moammar Gadhafi has unleashed not just mercenaries, but young thugs, letting them loose in the capital, armed with machetes and guns.
Plus, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on why the uprisings sweeping the Arab world should be a wake up call for the Untied States and more.
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CNN Senior White House Correspondent
Washington (CNN) - While President Obama has taken heat for a relatively muted response in the early days of the crisis in Libya, U.S. officials privately believe it was the best strategy because if Obama had bashed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi it could have put the thousands of Americans who are in Libya in harm's way.
U.S. officials said there was a fear inside the administration that some of those Americans could have been taken hostage by Gadhafi, who once again made his distaste for America clear in rambling public remarks earlier this week and would relish the chance to escalate the crisis and drag U.S. citizens into the crossfire.
It's no accident that aides now say Obama is planning to make his first on-camera comments about the matter late Wednesday or early Thursday, just as a chartered ferry is expected to evacuate more than 500 Americans from Tripoli to nearby Malta.
Asked by CNN if Obama was being more cautious in his public comments because of the Americans in harm's way, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged it was an "important factor" in the calculations.
"The president is obviously concerned about the safety of American citizens - no question," Carney said at his daily briefing with reporters. "And that is an important factor in any country. And the circumstances of American citizens are different in each country. The protections they have, say, at the embassy, might be different in one country than the protections they have in another. All of those factors are important in how we approach these situations and how the president looks at them."
Carney added the president is also "extremely concerned and alarmed by the horrific violence and bloodshed that's happened in Libya" in recent days.
Obama has been blistered by some critics for being too soft on Gadhafi, with columnist Jackson Diehl writing in the Washington Post that Libya "ought to be the easy case in the Middle East's turmoil" for the White House to deal with because of Gadhafi's government killing at least hundreds of its own people.
CNN Wire Staff
Tobruk, Libya (CNN) - Even as Moammar Gadhafi called on the military to crack down on anti-government protesters, reports emerged Wednesday that the Libyan leader was facing growing international and domestic opposition, including from his own military.
An opposition figure told CNN that a pilot who had been ordered to bomb oil fields southwest of Benghazi refused to do so and instead ejected from the plane.
Citing military sources, the Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that the two people aboard - the pilot and co-pilot - parachuted out and that the plane then crashed into an uninhabited area west of Ajdabiya, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Benghazi.
Quryna itself is a sign of the changes sweeping through Libya. When protests began last week, it carried regime propaganda. But it later reported on the protests and casualty figures.
CNN could not confirm reports for many areas in Libya. The Libyan government maintains tight control on communications and has not responded to repeated requests from CNN for access to the country. CNN has interviewed numerous witnesses by phone.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
Actress Whoopi Goldberg opens an exhibition of Oscar statuettes at Grand Central Station in New York, February 23, 2011. (Photo credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images) )
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
Update: Beat 360° Winners:
“After giving Bieber his new haircut, Whoopi looks for her next victim"
"It's a prequel. I play Depps mom, Edwina Scissorhands."
CNNMoney.com Senior Writer
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Oil production in Libya is shutting down as companies operating there begin to close facilities due to the ongoing violence.
Oil prices surged Wednesday, passing $100 a barrel, after a report in the Financial Times said half of Libya's production has been suspended. The report cited unnamed industry executives.
Italian oil giant Eni, the largest foreign oil company in Libya, and Spain's Repsol said they had suspended some of their production operations in the North African country.
An Eni spokesman declined to specify how much of its production has been shut in, saying that disclosing that information could jeopardize the remaining output.
"Certain oil and gas activities in the country have been temporarily suspended in a precautionary way," said the statement, released Tuesday. "Security measures on those facilities have been undertaken."
Eni (E) produces about 250,000 barrels a day from Libya, which has a total oil output of 1.6 million barrels per day. Worldwide oil consumption is pegged at 87.5 million barrels per day.
CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - A woman was pulled from earthquake ruins Wednesday in one of New Zealand's largest cities, bringing a rare ray of hope as rescuers frantically searched for survivors.
Ann Bodkin took cover under her desk when the 6.3-magnitude quake struck Tuesday in Christchurch, killing at least 75 people. She had been trapped in her office building for 24 hours.
"The sun came out the moment she was removed from the building," Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said. "It was like God turned on the lights."
Rescue workers applauded as Bodkin was pulled alive from the rubble of the Pyne Gould Corp. building in the central business district.
She was one of around 30 people rescued Wednesday from that building and the Canterbury Television building, the two blocks most severely damaged in the quake.
One woman who was trapped, Ann Voss, spoke to the media from her mobile phone beneath the rubble.
Washington (CNN) - Politics is serious business - but not all the time.
They want me! They really want me!
Christine O'Donnell, the headline-grabbing former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, recently announced on her Facebook page that the producers of ABC's hit show "Dancing with the Stars" asked her to be a contestant on the upcoming season.
Calling it a "Facebook Exclusive," the Tea Party favorite wrote: "I just got the Official 'Ask' from Dancing With The Stars!! Although I am utterly flattered, my initial thought was to decline, as 2 year old nephew has more rhythm than me, and my two left feet!!"
The post had 231 "like" responses and 375 comments as of Wednesday morning.
"Do it. You will drive the liberal community insane," commented Edward Rush. Julie Dilworth Brewington wrote, "Would you really cheapen yourself enough to become a character of yourself?"
Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: The president, while watching everything else in the world, is also keeping an eye on the continuing disputes between politicians and state workers across the country. It’s a wonder he has the time to read these letters. At least, I think it is…
Dear Mr. President,
As the clash between state budget hawks and union folks spreads to another state, (Ohio, for those who are scoring at home) I find myself listening to many of the workers saying some version of the same thing: “We don’t mind taking a hit to help balance the budget, but it’s unfair that only we are being targeted. Shouldn’t everyone else, including those in the private sector, shoulder some of this burden?” Some version of that.
At first blush, I understand. As I have written before, I think it is much easier to unite people in hard times if it is clear that everyone is suffering in the same way to make things better. Certainly if the governors in these states were calling for some kind of across-the-board measure to fix the budget, say a temporary tax on every gallon of gasoline, it would make voters angry, but at least no one group would feel unfairly targeted.
On the other hand, there is a catch to that way of thinking.