State of the Union Early Bird for March 20, 2011
March 20th, 2011
05:16 AM ET
3 years ago

State of the Union Early Bird for March 20, 2011

(CNN)–It's early, and State of the Union is bringing you the best of the morning headlines to go with your cup of coffee.

On our radar today:  "Operation Odyssey Dawn" in Libya and the nuclear and recovery situation in Japan.

Check out what we're reading, and make sure to watch a special extended version of our show from 9am-1pmET with our lead guest, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.

LIBYA

Libyan ruler defiant as airstrikes by coalition forces enter 2nd day

International coalition launches strikes on Gaddafi’s forces in Libya from sea and air

Shortly before midnight, Gaddafi made an uncharacteristically brief speech, lasting less than three minutes, in which he called the attack “a second crusade.” Libyan state television reported that targets in the capital and four other cities had been attacked and that large numbers of civilians had been injured. The report could not be independently confirmed.

U.S., allies launch missile strikes on Libyan targets

Libyan officials accused international forces of hitting a hospital and other civilian targets. The armed forces said in a statement that 48 people had been killed in the strikes and 150 injured. Kadafi declared he was willing to die defending Libya, and in a statement broadcast hours after the attacks began, condemned what he called "flagrant military aggression." He vowed to strike civilian and military targets in the Mediterranean.

U.S. officials acknowledged that they were seeking to oust Kadafi, but also that they did not have a clear path to do so. For now, said a senior administration official, the military strategy was aimed at driving Kadafi's forces into retreat and protecting civilians.

Factbox: Military assets in play in Libya crisis

Libya attacked from air and sea

Sources in Tripoli told BBC Arabic that the attacks on the city had so far targeted the eastern areas of Sawani, Airport Road, and Ghasheer. These are all areas believed to host military bases.

At Qaddafi Compound, a Human Shield

Even as the allied intervention began, a group of foreign journalists were bused on a rare visit inside Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound — a labyrinth of concrete barracks, fortified walls and barbed wire designed to deter potential military coups.

There, hundreds of supporters offered themselves up as human shields, cheering to newly minted dance songs about their adoration for their leader. “House by house, alley by alley,” the catchiest song went, quoting a Qaddafi speech. “Disinfect the germs from each house and each room.”

As Libya war widens, Obama stays in background

Using military force to dislodge Kadafi required soliciting help and political cover from Kadafi's Arab neighbors. But even some who back the intervention argue that Obama has failed to clearly explain why he has launched airstrikes against a despot in Libya, but has been unable to restrain American-backed autocrats in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen from shooting live rounds at unarmed, pro-democracy protesters swarming in their streets.

Obama’s Move to Join No-Fly Assault on Libya Shows Multilateral Strategy

Libya Oil Chief Says Crude Production ‘Could Reach a Halt’ Due to Conflict

Liberal Democrats in uproar over Libya action

A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) “all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions” during that call, said two Democratic lawmakers who took part.

JAPAN

Food Contamination Fears Could Harm Japanese Brands

The Japanese Health Ministry said Saturday that it had detected elevated levels of radiation in spinach and milk at farms up to 90 miles from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors. The ministry did not make reference to any contaminated farm animals, seafood or fishing grounds in Japan. And no food exports from Japan have failed quality tests being done by other countries.

But even the perception of contamination, one Japanese agriculture expert said, could cause long-lasting “brand damage,” especially if there was evidence of radiation spreading across Japan.

Pressure Stabilizes at Japanese Nuclear Reactor, Operator Says

The operator of a crippled nuclear plant in Japan said on Sunday that it was no longer necessary to relieve pressure inside its most troubled reactor by releasing radioactive gases, saying pressure had stabilized.

At an afternoon news conference, officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company said venting from Reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station would not be needed.

Earlier Sunday, nuclear regulators said Reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima plant, some 170 miles north of Tokyo, had experienced a rise in pressure even though military and civilian firefighters had doused it with 2,400 tons of seawater for nearly 14 hours through early Sunday. The government had said on Saturday that the reactor, which contains a mixed fuel called mox that includes reclaimed plutonium, appeared to be stabilizing.

Thanks for reading!

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