March 23rd, 2011
05:40 PM ET

Boehner challenges Obama on Libya military mission

Deirdre Walsh
CNN Congressional Producer

Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner complained Wednesday of "limited, sometimes contradictory" information so far from the Obama administration on the U.S.-led military mission in Libya and asked for the president to provide "a clear and robust assessment."

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Boehner, R-Ohio, said that he and other House members were troubled that 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 and what America's role is in achieving that mission."

"In fact, the limited, sometimes contradictory, case made to the American people by members of your administration has left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered," Boehner's letter said, adding that there seemed to be greater consultation with "foreign entities such as the United Nations and the Arab League."

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March 23rd, 2011
05:39 PM ET

The Tunisian fruit seller who kickstarted Arab uprising

Ivan Watson and Jomana Karadsheh

(CNN) - When cousins visit the Bouazizi family's humble cottage, they take turns paying homage to the family's most famous son - the man credited with kick-starting uprisings around North Africa and the Middle East.

"Kiss the martyr Mohammed," a woman says, as she holds her daughter up to a portrait of the young man, which hangs halfway up an otherwise bare wall. The large poster identifies Mohammed Bouazizi as "the spark of the uprising of dignity." It's not only his family that feels this way.

Several blocks away, another huge portrait of the 26-year old man hangs from the top of a golden monument in the center of Sidi Bouzid, alongside banners proclaiming it is now "Martyr Mohammed Bouazizi Square."

Many Tunisians call Bouazizi a hero for setting himself on fire outside a government building. He is credited with galvanizing ill-feeling against governments across the Middle East and North Africa into actions that has seen demonstrations, uprisings and revolution.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Ivan Watson
March 23rd, 2011
05:38 PM ET

Libya questions swirl as Obama comes home

Alan Silverleib

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama is returning home Wednesday to a firestorm of criticism over his handling of the crisis in Libya, and mounting calls for a clearer explanation of U.S. policy in the war-torn North African nation.

The president, who just wrapped up a five-day trip to Latin America, has insisted that the goal of the U.N.-sanctioned military mission is strictly to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Specifically, the mission is meant to prevent a slaughter of Libyan rebels and other civilians by forces loyal to strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Obama, however, has also said the administration's ultimate objective is Gadhafi's removal from power. U.S. officials have indicated they hope the dictator will be removed quickly by forces currently loyal to him, though they haven't publicly called for a coup.

"Gadhafi has a decision to make and the people around him each have decisions to make," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday. "We would certainly encourage that they make the right decision."

Critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere are angry over what they consider inadequate administration consultation with Congress before the start of the military mission over the weekend. They also continue to have questions over the conflict's cost and consequences, as well as the U.S. endgame.

Obama himself conceded in an interview with CNN Tuesday that Gadhafi could "hunker down and wait it out even in the face of (the U.N.) no-fly zone, even though his forces have been degraded."

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March 23rd, 2011
02:15 PM ET

Nuclear crisis highlights operator's checkered past

David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffin
CNN Special Investigations Unit

(CNN) - The operator of the nuclear reactors and power plants on the northern coast of Japan has a documented history of errors and cover-ups and, according to anti-nuclear activists, a pattern of hiding the truth when things go wrong.

Amidst the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the exact nature of the stress and damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, even Japan's Prime Minister, Naota Kan, was overheard demanding from officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) why the company withheld some information from the government.

Those reported comments were in themselves unusual because in the past, critics say, there has been close cooperation between the two.

"The history of the Japanese nuclear industry and the government is that is very tight and is less than glorious in regard to public information and full disclosure," Arjun Mahkijani told CNN.

Mahkijani is director of a small Washington-based public interest group called the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and has long been critical of nuclear power, both in the United States and around the world.

"These events are unprecedented," he said, "and there's every reason to believe TEPCO has not told the entire truth of what's been happening."

TEPCO officials deny they have been hiding critical data from the Japanese government.

But there's a detailed history of just those kinds of events in the recent past.

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March 23rd, 2011
09:15 AM ET

The status of six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

CNN Wire Staff

Tokyo (CNN) - Workers at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been scrambling to cool down fuel rods and prevent the release of additional radioactive material since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit the area on March 11.

Here is a summary of the status of each of the plant's six reactors and surrounding buildings, according to the non-profit Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Reactor No. 1

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Wednesday that temperatures had spiked above 400 degrees Celsius in this reactor, forcing workers to inject more seawater into the reactor to cool it down.

On Tuesday TEPCO reported that seawater did more damage electrical and cooling systems for this reactor than previously believed, and the unit will take longer to repair than expected.

Fuel rods have been partly exposed, and the core of the reactor is believed to have been damaged. The building that houses the reactor was severely damaged in a hydrogen explosion March 12, but the containment vessel - the steel and concrete shell that insulates radioactive material inside - was not damaged.

Workers have been pumping a mix of seawater and boron into the reactor to prevent further core damage until coolant systems can be brought back online.

Reactor No. 2

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March 23rd, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #793 'The ever changing battlefield'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The troubles in Libya continue, as do my letters to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

I read the news of that U.S. fighter jet going down over Libya, and I was simultaneously relieved and concerned; the former because the crew escaped safely, the latter because it suddenly felt as if our brief, arm’s-length involvement could become a lot more than just that.

That's the whole problem with wars, of course: They can be dreadfully complicated and no matter what you intend at the start, you may soon find yourself in wildly different circumstances. For example, if the Libyan Army had captured that downed crew, what would our response have been? A quick rescue? Alright, but what if that failed...then what?

I understand that this is the nature of war, and often even in the most surgical strikes, events can spin off in unexpected directions. Despite the massive superiority of our military to any other force on Earth, we ought not ever deceive ourselves into thinking we are untouchable. The best boxer can be laid out by the worst if the right punch comes through at the wrong moment.

I'm not saying any of this to discourage you. Making the decision to pursue this course in Libya was, I am sure, difficult. You are taking heat from a variety of fronts over it, and I won't join in the fray either for or against.

All I am saying is that the crash of this jet, even though it was simply a mechanical failure, is a cautionary tale for any president. Wars are unpredictable. They are messy. They can seem straightforward and promising at the first shot, and can be hopelessly confused and filled with uncertainty by the second shot. Success depends on daily reassessments of the battlefield, your resources, your enemy, and your goals.

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