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France to Send Troops to Libya in Advisory Role; Blurring the Battle Lines?; Children Caught in the Crossfire

Aired April 20, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNA COREN, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

Hello. I'm Anna Coren, in Hong Kong.

Well, France pledges to support Libya's rebels, and says it will send military officers in an advisory role.

Nigeria's president speaks exclusively to CNN about how he plans to unite the country after deadly violence following his election.

And one year ago today, an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and unleashing an ecological disaster.

In Libya, thousands are desperate to flee the war-ravaged city of Misrata as heavy shelling continues. Well, more than half a million people have already fled Libya. These are some of the refugees who arrived in Italy on Tuesday.

Well, some rebel pleas for more international help are being answered. The U.K. says it will send military advisers to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. And the EU is ready to deploy troops for humanitarian assistance, but only if the U.N. asks for it.

Well, France also announced Wednesday that it will send troops to Libya in an advisory role.

CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Paris and joins us now live.

Jim, tell us, what does this operation entail?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, what both the government spokesman and the foreign ministry spokesman confirmed to us today is that there's going to be sent what are being called liaison officers who are going to work with the diplomatic presence already on the ground, the French diplomatic presence, to talk with the rebels and to sort of guide them in what lies ahead in terms of their fight with Colonel Gadhafi's troops.

So both the spokesmen, both the foreign ministry spokesman and the government spokesman, deny that there will be any combat troops. They're calling these just liaison officers, going to be in contact with the rebel governing committee.

Now, the president of that government committee was here in France today and met with President Nicolas Sarkozy. And afterwards, he had this to say about relations with France --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUSTAFA ABDEL JALIL, PRESIDENT, TRANSITIONAL NATIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): There will, first of all, be a cooperation and friendship with Italy, France and Qatar. After them come all the other ones, the United States and Great Britain, who have helped us, each one, according to how much support they've given us today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BITTERMANN: And President Sarkozy apparently told the president of the Transitional Council that, in fact, France will intensify its attacks in support of the rebels -- Anna.

COREN: Jim, we know that the rebels are in disarray, they're arguing over who's in charge. So they obviously need help.

Do we know how long these military advisers will be in Libya? And what do they hope to achieve?

BITTERMANN: Well, no clue, but what they're being told is that, basically, this is to aid the diplomatic mission that's already present there. So one would think that they would probably bring in their military prowess and talk to the military commanders, the rebel's military commanders, and perhaps giving them advice on the best way to go about attacking Colonel Gadhafi's troops.

By the way, it's been widely reported here that the number of these advisers are going to be less than 10. So it's going to be even less than the number that the British have said that they're going to put on the ground there in coming days -- Anna.

COREN: Jim, as you say, both France and the U.K. say they won't be putting troops on the ground. But does this move open the door?

BITTERMANN: Well, I think in some ways, one of the things that a lot of military experts have been saying is that it's difficult to coordinate these kind of air operations, these close support operations, without some kind of forward air controllers or some kind of advice being given to the rebel troops on the ground, some kind of liaison so that the NATO forces are not striking rebel forces that they're trying to help. So I suspect that these liaison officers are going to be people who will be able to coordinate and come back to NATO officials, come back to French officials, and coordinate the kind of air attacks that have been taking place and perhaps make them more effective -- Anna.

COREN: Jim Bittermann, in Paris.

Thank you.

Well, as European nations draw up plans to possibly provide additional support in Libya, CNN's Brian Todd looks at the risks and rewards of sending forces on humanitarian missions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Misrata, the shelling is relentless. There are horror stories about conditions, and the humanitarian crisis may only get worse in the days ahead.

Now the European Union has drawn up contingency plans to put forces on the ground in Libya. But an EU official tells CNN this would only be to guard humanitarian aid operations. It would only come if the U.N. asks for it, which it hasn't. And it would be purely logistical, with no plans for any combat.

Is that realistic?

COLONEL ROBERT MAGINNIS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: It's totally unrealistic to expect that if you're going into a combat arena and you're driving a truck -- think of Iraq, Afghanistan, driving through Pakistan -- all of these U.S. soldiers and even contractors have been fired upon, involved in combat, killed.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Maginnis is an analyst who served in four infantry divisions. He says there are positives to sending EU forces into Libya. They could help secure ports and other areas, and give hope to local residents and rebel forces.

But experts say these operations can turn chaotic and bloody very quickly. The British are now planning to send military officers to Benghazi to advise rebel forces and help with humanitarian aid. Robert Maginnis says there's a good chance those British soldiers will be targeted by Moammar Gadhafi's forces. Could there be a perilous repeat of history?

Somalia, 1993, U.N. forces went in to feed the hungry, but got drawn into a fight between warlords. It ended with "Black Hawk Down," 18 American Rangers killed in the streets of Mogadishu.

(on camera): Boots on the ground for humanitarian assistance, that smacks maybe of Somalia in many people's eyes. Is this what we're looking at in Libya?

LT. COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS (RET.), MILITARY ANALYST: Well, very different tribal situation. The Somalis were well equipped with small arms and the like. The tensions aren't quite the same. You know, the loyalists with Gadhafi, you know, are getting to be brutal at this point. That's not totally out of the question, but I don't think we're quite there yet.

TODD: Maginnis says that doesn't mean it couldn't get to that point, and quickly. He says if Western boots are on the ground, and Moammar Gadhafi turns this into a battle against what he's already called crusader forces, it could degenerate in a hurry.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, Libyan rebel leaders are again pleading for international military intervention. Well, this time, to create a path for humanitarian aid and protect civilians in cities besieged by the fighting.

Well, NATO is leading the international military charge to protect civilians and says it has destroyed seven of Moammar Gadhafi's ammunition bunkers in Tripoli this week. But that hasn't stopped the barrage of bombings in Misrata and Ajdabiya.

Well, the fighting has claimed rebel and civilian victims alike, including children. Well, they depend on medics who are, themselves, short on supplies and equipment.

Well, ITN's Emma Murphy looks at one hospital's struggle to help a little boy caught in the crossfire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EMMA MURPHY, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): He'd escaped from the terror of Misrata, but there's no escape from the pain Mohammed must now endure. Even gentle cleaning of his wounds results in dreadful distress. So much is talked about the impact of war. This is the reality.

From x-rays, doctors can see some of the damage the shrapnel did when it tore through this child's face. However, he faces days of tests in order to establish the true extent of his injuries.

The first of those tests came this morning. Benghazi is one of the few hospitals in Libya to have a state-of-the-art CT scanner, and its imaging has given doctors a better idea of what they're dealing with.

Doctors showed us this 3-D image of Mohammed's skull.

DR. GEBRIL HEWADI: We can see the injury like that. OK? You can see here, it's distracted (ph) at the bone.

MURPHY: It's the best way to see the projectory of the shrapnel that hit Mohammed as he played with a friend outside his home in Misrata.

HEWADI: You can see all fragment bones complete distracted (ph).

MURPHY: From the images, it's clear that Mohammed is going to require extensive internal reconstructive surgery. It will be on a scale that's not possible in Libya at the moment. His naval cavity, sinuses and lower eye sockets are badly damaged and will need to be completely rebuilt.

The hope for the doctor treating Mohammed is that a hospital outside Libya will be able to care for his young patient.

HEWADI: It's very difficult to do, like, these operations, because the facility is limited in these days. So we cannot do a lot of work for Mohammed.

MURPHY: There's no escaping the fury felt by those tending these children of war.

HEWADI: I want the world to think that Gadhafi, he don't kill the revolutionaries. He kill the child, he kill the civilians.

MURPHY: Mohammed is now at least in a place of safety and care. But for his father, though, the agony of tending to his injured child, whilst living with the knowledge that back in Misrata, his wife and four other children are alone in a city under attack.

"I feel desperate for my child," he tells me. "And I worry for my family left back home. I have no way of contacting them."

(on camera): The doctors treating Mohammed are pleased with the way he's responding. But as they look after him, they know that they had to leave behind the little boy he was playing with, the little boy who is now on a ventilator in a Misrata hospital with very little that anybody can do for him.

(voice-over): Mohammed has not been told that his friend is unlikely to survive. He has his own battles to fight and a long, painful journey ahead. The evil of war has changed his life entirely. It will be the kindness of strangers that can refill that life.

Now this child and those trying to help him must wait to see which doctor and which hospital can offer him the help he so desperately needs.

Emma Murphy, ITV News, Benghazi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, let's hope Mohammed does get that help.

Ahead on NEWS STREAM, post-election violence in northern Nigeria forces thousands to flee their homes. We'll talk to the president about what's being done to stop the rioting.

Plus, one year on from the accident that triggered BP's disastrous oil spill, we'll check in on the Gulf of Mexico.

And the U.S. first lady gets a flight fright. We'll explain the latest apparent air traffic controller incident.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Well, only a few days after winning Nigeria's presidential election, Goodluck Jonathan has his work cut out for him. The president is urging his country to unite and end deadly rioting in the north.

Well, Nigeria's Red Cross says post-election riots have prompted nearly 17,000 people to flee the area. It's a predominantly Muslim region, and many there dispute Goodluck Jonathan's win, saying the presidential vote was rigged. Well, Jonathan is from the Christian south.

Nigeria's recent elections have been praised by the international community as a vast improvement from the past, when observers say corruption ran rampant. Well, Goodluck Jonathan says this is part of a "new dawn" for Nigeria.

Christian Purefoy got an exclusive interview with the president and joins us now from Abuja.

Christian, what does the president mean in saying a "new dawn"? What does he mean by that?

CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anna, President Jonathan hopes that by giving Nigerians what he promised, a free, fair and credible election -- and although there are huge problems with it, international observers and Nigerians are saying it's a huge improvement on elections -- he's hoping that that would give Nigerians a chance to make their voice heard at the ballot box and not on the streets, which has been one of the major problems in Nigeria for the last 50 years.

And it has to be said, you know, just the benchmark of Nigerian elections is extremely low. In 2007, it was ballot box theft, intimidation, some printing. You name it, they were doing it.

The EU said that they were the worst elections they had ever seen in Nigeria. And across the board, people are saying it is a dramatic improvement this time.

However, despite his claims of a "new dawn," Anna, it's been greeted with - - this election, the result of the election, has been greeted with the same old problem Nigeria has faced for 50 years, and that's one of regionalism. Goodluck Jonathan is from the south of the country, predominantly Christian south, and that's where the majority of the votes he received came from.

And the north, the predominantly Muslim north, voted for the Muslim candidate, General Buhari. And that is where we're seeing the violence now.

But as you said, he's calling for unity, and here's what he had to say when we sat down with him, Anna.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PUREFOY: You have widespread violence across the north of the country that we haven't seen in Nigeria for many years, along the regional and religious divide that has always threatened Nigeria's unity. There comes the time of your election. How are you going to deal with that?

You have the military on the ground right now, but that is only a short- term fix.

GOODLUCK JONATHAN, NIGERIAN PRESIDENT: This is not the very first time we have crisis in this country. This, probably because it's linked up with a presidential election that may be certain (ph) contested and won. But it was when (INAUDIBLE) not likely make it, then we now witness the violence. There are some people who are being (INAUDIBLE).

PUREFOY: Who?

JONATHAN: It's not a spontaneous reaction. So you cannot see the whole notch (ph).

PUREFOY: So who would you say is behind the violence?

JONATHAN: Don't worry. We'll find out. I don't want to -- because government will find that formally.

So if I make some statements, I will be (INAUDIBLE) of people. And I don't want to accuse anybody. I don't want to accuse anybody, but we believe that people (INAUDIBLE).

PUREFOY: But how are you -- because there is a border problem behind this that has always, as I said, threatened the unity of Nigeria, a regional and religious one.

JONATHAN: Yes. Yes. Everybody has --

PUREFOY: How will you deal with that problem?

JONATHAN: -- seen that. That's what I'm saying, that with another (ph) crisis in the south, what are the early symptoms that we see (ph)?

We have a number of young people that have no source of income that we must provide. Because without providing a source of income, then of course anybody will give somebody a little money, as little as $500 to $1,000 (INAUDIBLE).

PUREFOY: Why are those promises any different to the promises that have been made to the Nigerian people before?

JONATHAN: We had the 2007 election which I contested as a presidential candidate. At the end of that election, when you look, international observers believed that the elections, they are not properly done. This time around, one of the differences you have noticed (INAUDIBLE) international observers said yes, there's a significant departure from the past. So that will tell you that what we are saying we are going to do -- and this is a new dawn -- we are going to work with all Nigerians to make sure that (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PUREFOY: So, President Goodluck Jonathan is now being faced within days with a major crisis in Nigeria. It's a test of the quality of his leadership that will set the stage for the next four years, Anna. But although he's managed to deploy the military and put a lid on the problem, it is certainly not over yet.

We've got very controversial, high-stakes governorship elections coming up next Tuesday, Anna. The elections are not over yet. And these governorship elections are for Nigeria's 36 states, some of them with budgets and populations the size of small African countries.

So, a lot at stake. And this widespread violence, it's feared, will be another opportunity for people not just in the north, it has to be said, but also in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, where there's been continuous problems in elections in the past with militants and young boys stealing ballot boxes, all being paid by politicians for political -- to aspire to their political ambitions. But it's worried that that could also affect the last and perhaps most difficult part of Nigeria's elections -- Anna.

COREN: Christian, as you say, these elections will be held next week. Is there a real fear that that violence will spark up again?

PUREFOY: It is a serious concern. The first concern is one of logistics.

The young men and women, the NYSC, National Youth Corps, if you like, who are in charge, they're young graduates in charge of actually deploying out across the country and handling the ballot boxes and handling the voters, and taking care of the whole system. They've actually been targeted in the recent violence, and they're extremely concerned that they will be targeted by these crowds of angry young men wanting to influence the vote and express their grievances, because although President Jonathan is now president, the governorship elections are what many of these young men on the streets, across the states to the north, will now be focused on.

They feel that their governors and also their political and religious leaders have betrayed them in supporting Goodluck Jonathan. A lot of them have attacked, for example, emir palaces across the region, and they feel that they've been bought off, if you like, by the president.

They will now be -- it's feared they will now be targeted. But even if there isn't widespread violence, there will have to be a widespread deployment of the military. So, how you can hold an election with widespread deployment of the military is another logistical problem -- Anna.

COREN: Yes. As you say, the president has a huge job in front of him.

Christian Purefoy, in Abuja.

Thank you for that.

Well, more than a month after the 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami, Japan is still reeling from a nuclear crisis, and government officials said today they will begin taking greater steps to enforce a 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Before that announcement, our Stan Grant got a rare look inside the evacuated region.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STAN GRANT, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing here inside the exclusion zone. Now, this is the area that has been evacuated as a result of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

As you can see, I'm having to wear this mask. This is part of the protective material that you have to don when you come into this zone.

Now, we've been measuring the radiation levels here. We took a measurement before we actually came through to this so-called hot zone. Now, the radiation levels do drop and rise quite sharply depending on where you are, but they're still not at a level that's going to cause any effects to my health.

Having said that, looking around this area, it is a ghost town. Any life that had once existed here has now gone. People have largely deserted, their homes have been abandoned.

There is still, as you can see, wide destruction as a result of the earthquake and tsunami last month. Many of the houses have been severely damaged. There are still some farm animals, some horses, some cattle, some chickens that have been left here, but very, very few signs of any residents.

Now, the people who are the guards who are actually blocking the entrance to the exclusion zone, say that they do allow residents to come back in here. They can come and check on their homes. And people have been doing that.

As you can see, occasionally there are cars that come in and out of here as well. But no sign of anyone who is actually living, at least, in this particular village that I'm standing in.

I did get to speak to one man. He said his family has lived here for generations. In fact, more than 150 years.

He says that they have lost their livelihood, they planted (INAUDIBLE) here, and their crop has been destroyed as a result of the tsunami. Their house has been damaged. He says that he is concerned of his health. He wonders if he'll ever be able to come back here. He's concerned -- he has a family -- whether there will be any ill effects to his children.

There's concern that, widespread, people here don't really know what to believe. They hear the assurances of the government that the radiation levels are not at a point it's going to cause any ill effects, but they simply don't believe that. They see the images of the plant, they hear the stories about the radiation levels, they hear about how difficult it is to bring it under control, and they simply don't believe what the government says.

In the words of this man I spoke to, he said he's scared, but he is hopeful. And that is a sentiment on shore that is shared throughout this area.

Looking around here now, it's truly going to be some time before any life can return to anything that resembles normality.

Stan Grant, CNN, inside the Fukushima exclusion zone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, it's been a year since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

Coming up, we'll look at BP and the oil industry after the disaster.

And Philippe Cousteau takes us to Louisiana to find out how U.S. borders and their residents are recovering. That's ahead on NEWS STREAM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. And you're watching NEWS STREAM. These are your world headlines.

Half a million people have fled Libya since the civil war began. And as the humanitarian crisis gets worse, Britain and France now say they'll send military forces to advise the rebels. The EU earlier said it was prepared to put humanitarian troops on the ground, but only if the U.N. asks for the help.

Well, Japan says it will begin enforcing a 20 kilometer evacuation zone around a troubled nuclear plant. While meanwhile, work continues at the Fukushima plant to bring the situation under control. On Tuesday, a robot found radiation level in the reactor number 2 building to be lower than originally thought.

Well, Toyota is slashing production in North America because of problems getting auto parts from Japan. A decision to keep factories idle on Mondays and Fridays has been extended into June. And production is being cut to half capacity from Tuesday to Thursday.

Well, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin talked up the country's economy in his annual address to parliament. Well he says Russia's growth should lift into the top 5 economies in the world in the next few years. And he predicts inflation will not exceed 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year.

Well, remember these images, they haunted residents of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico for months and horrified people watching around the world. Well, a year ago an explosion tore through the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, 11 workers were killed, a well was ruptured, and oil began gushing into the ocean.

Well, scientists soon declared the spill the worst in U.S. history. Well, life on the coast changed instantly. The tourism industry suffered a catastrophic drop in business, fishing was banned, and birds, turtles and fish died in the slick.

Well, the oil kept spilling out like this for an agonizing three months before the leak was finally capped.

Well in total, 4.9 million barrels of oil emptied into the Gulf. Well, that's enough to fill 9 tankers like this one.

On July 19th the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration issued a shocking surface oil forecast. Well, we've recreated it here. This is the total area that was considered to be affected by the slick on that day. And it's easy to see why 229,000 square kilometers of Gulf waters were closed to fishing at one point.

But if that hasn't hit home, this might put the size of the spill into perspective. Now the area we've highlighted here centered now on London is the same size as the spill. We can see it reaches from Calais in northern France to the southern tip of Ireland, covering most of southern England in between.

Well, back to the Gulf of Mexico now, all federal waters that were closed to fishing have now reopened, but the environmental and economic impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is still being felt. Well, CNN's special correspondent Philippe Cousteau joins us now from Grand Isle, Louisiana. And Philippe, you had been covering this story for some time now. One year on, where are we?

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know it's hard to believe that a year has passed since that catastrophe happened here in the Gulf. And it certainly is still leaving a very significant mark on the environment and the communities here along the coast. And we've spent the last several days -- actually you can hear behind me -- or see behind me lots of sea gulls. Shrimp boats are just starting to come in.

And one of the problems with the oil spill a year ago is that it came right at the beginning of shrimping season and right in the middle of oyster season. And we spent the last several days visiting with fisherman, shrimpers, and oystermen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COUSTEAU: So there doesn't seem like there are a lot of baby oyster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. There's no baby oysters. That's what's scary. This should be full, full, full of oysters the size of your fingernail. It should be blistered all over this stern at this time right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The impact was our income. We lost our season. We didn't have a money. It's -- see, fishing is not a get rich business, but if you do it right you live comfortably.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's going to be a little bit shrimp out there. The problem is that the market, consumers, that's what I worry about as far as how -- persuading them to eat especially the seafood lover, you know, that's all I'm worried about in this business.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COUSTEAU: So it's clear that the fisheries are still being impacted a year on from this terrible disaster. And there's a lot of uncertainty about the future.

COREN: Philippe, President Obama said that significant progress has been made, but there's still so much work to be done. Some people are saying that there will be permanent damage to the Gulf of Mexico into the environment. What's your take?

COUSTEAU: Well, there's still a lot of anecdotal evidence from fishermen that are starting to go out and they're pulling up oil in their trawl. So even though a lot of the oil is out of sight on the surface, we know that there's still a tremendous amount within the Gulf and down at the lower levels of the Gulf of Mexico. And if Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989 or the Ishtak oil spill here in the Gulf off the coast of Mexico in 1979 are any indication, both of those spills have residual effects 30 and 20 years later.

And in fact at Exxon Valdez, the herring fishery, which is a very economically important fishery in that region collapsed three years after the initial oil spill as the toxins in the environment wore away at the health of that fishery. And we're already seeing lesions and compromised immune systems in red snapper fisheries here in the Gulf of Mexico just one year after the spill.

So while the future is unknown, there's every indication that it's going to be very, very serious. And that this is far from over.

COREN : So that we know that the government has lifted restrictions on fishing do you think that there's been enough time to allow the marine environment to recover, to rejuvenate?

COUSTEAU: Well, there's still limited fishing that is going on that's being allowed to happen. And actually this shrimping season was opened for five days and only five days in the beginning to try and get a sense of where the shrimp fishery is. So the authorities are trying to be sensitive to be happening with the fisheries. They are monitoring the seafood. And it's really a wait and see game at this point and trying to take step by step and make sure that we invest in the science and the monitoring that needs to happen not only now, but over the long-run as well.

COREN: All right. Philippe Cousteau in Louisiana, great to have you with us. Thank you.

Well, if the gusher cam footage became synonymous with the BP oil spill, images of oil soaked wildlife along the Gulf coast came to signify its environmental impact. Well, this pelican was spotted in the surf off East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana on June 4th last year.

Well, rehabilitation centers -- (inaudible) centers across the region worked flat out to save wildlife caught in the large volumes of oil washing ashore. What fishermen feared -- fishermen feared the worst as scenes like this were caught on camera on beaches in Louisiana.

Well, this dead sea turtle was discovered further up the coast in Waveland, Mississippi on May 5th, 2010 as concerns ramped up about the oil spill's impact on animals.

But there are some happier stories. Well, this dolphin named Louie was found washed up on a beach in Louisiana last September with oil on his skin. He was nursed back to health in New Orleans as seen here in his new home at a dolphin research center in Marathon, Florida.

Well, BP still faces billions of dollars in potential fines and payouts of the spill. It's already facing 300 lawsuits. The wider oil industry has also taken a hit.

Well, oil drilling is only slowly returning to the Gulf of Mexico after a moratorium. Well, CNN Money's Poppy Harlow took a chopper to one of Shell's biggest deep water oil platforms to look at the state of the industry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: We are on the Mars platform. Just take a look. We are about 150 miles out from the coast of New Orleans. Below us there are 24 different wells drilling thousands and thousands of feet down into the Gulf. So oil production here goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It never stops.

Overall, what would you say that the spill here in the Gulf a year ago has cost Shell in terms of having idle production.

MARVIN ODUM, PRESIDENT, SHELL OIL COMPANY: Well, let's see, it's a difficult thing to say exactly. I can tell you it's at least hundreds of millions of dollars. I can put in in production terms. When I look at how my business in the Gulf of Mexico for 2011 we'll produce an average of about 50,000 barrels a day less than we would have without the moratorium.

HARLOW: So what is this showing us?

WOODY WOODWARD, OFFSHORE MANAGER: This is showing us how many barrels we're pumping to town -- how many barrels of oil we're pumping to town through this one meter.

HARLOW: How many barrels a day go out of this rig?

WOODWARD: Out of Mars as a whole about 90,000 barrels.

HARLOW: Shell monitors its deep water drilling in the Gulf around the clock from this operation center in New Orleans. And says it can help prevent disasters like the Gulf oil spill.

You basically have one station operating right now monitoring drilling in the Gulf.

JOHN HOLLOWELL, EVP, SHELL: Yeah, because right now this is the only drilling rig that we have active in the Gulf doing an ejector at the Mars platform. We don't have any other active drilling rigs.

HARLOW: It took months to plug the hole after the BP spill. Do you have to prove now that you have the technology to plug that hole pretty quickly if that were to happen on one of your rigs?

HOLLOWELL: We have to prove that we have the capability to cap the well, hopefully cap and contain it as it is. And we also have to prove we have the ability to respond to it in the very unlikely event that it was to occur again.

HARLOW: What's the biggest misconception about deep water drilling?

ODUM: I think the thing I worry about most, it relates back to the spill because that's, I think, where most of people's perceptions come from now. And I think there was a perception that built up during part of the response to that spill that said, doesn't the industry actually have the technology to do this?

HARLOW: Does it?

ODUM: Should we be down there? And the answer is yes, we do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Poppy Harlow reporting there.

Well, for months BP struggled to bring the oil spill under control. And during that time they used several techniques to plug the underwater leak with a variety of catchy names. Well, an early idea was termed the junk shot as you can see here. And that involved closing the source of the leak by filling it with debris. Well, Admiral Thad Allen described the junk as anything from tires to golf balls.

Well then there was top hat as you can see there. And that was the name for a small containment dome that teams lowered over the leak to try to catch the oil.

Well, BP started with the top kill procedure on May 26th, 2010. It involved inserting a large amount of kill mud or heavy fluid used in drilling operations into the well bore. The aim: to reduce pressure and reduce the flow of oil.

And then in July 2010, scientists introduced us to a new option called static kill. Well, that meant pumping mud into the well, forcing oil back into the reservoir.

Well, coming up on NEWS STREAM, more trouble in the skies. The plane carrying the U.S. First Lady experiences a brief scare. We'll tell you what happened next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Well, first it was sleeping, then watching a DVD and now a mistake that involved a plane carrying U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. Well, in the latest suspected air traffic controller mishap a plane carrying the first lady was forced to abort its landing after crews realized it was too close to another plane. The first lady did eventually land safely.

Well, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has been trying to crack down on the recent raft of air traffic controller problems, issuing new regulations in the past week. For more on Mrs. Obama's latest flight ordeal, Kate Bolduan joins us now live from the White House.

And Kate, talk us through exactly what happened.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anna.

Well, the White House will definitely bill it more as a mishap than a close call, if you will. This happened on Monday. And we learn about it yesterday as the First Lady was coming into land at Andrews Air Force Base, that's the military air force base where the president and the First Lady always really land when they're flying in.

She was aboard a military version of a 737, so a very large plane. And as it was coming in, as we understand, pilots were alerted on board that the planes were getting too close -- the plane was getting too close to another plane, a cargo plane that was also landing, or was already on the runway at Andrews Air Force Base.

Too close here, is relative as we're learning. We're told that they got a distance of three miles while may sound like quite a distance to our viewers, but in terms of the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, they require that there be a distance of five miles between planes. And as described to us by senior administration officials here, they don't like to call it aborting a landing, they say they just briefly had to circle the airport and then come back. And then, of course, the First Lady did safely land very fortunately.

Of course we asked the White House and the FAA if the First Lady was ever in any danger and they stressed, stressed, stressed that the First Lady was not in any danger. And I think to prove their point, one official even told CNN that one of the aids on board had no idea that any incidents or mishap did really even happen, because they had -- the pilots handle it so smoothly.

We are -- they do believe, at least at this point, that this was a mistake on the part of one of the air -- of an air traffic controller somewhere along the line as the First Lady was -- the plane was approaching. So no surprise, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, they're looking into this, the FAA following up, it will be investigating to see what is happening here.

It has not been, as you mentioned, a very good few weeks for air traffic controllers in this country. And this seems to be adding to that. But it's good that we can bill this as a mishap more than a -- which is of course better than any kind of close call that we wouldn't want to think about when it comes to the First Lady.

COREN: Yeah, that's exactly right, Kate. You'd think with all the scrutiny that they're under they'd be extra careful.

All right Kate Bolduan in Washington, D.C. Thank you for that.

Well, Fidel Castro has done what dictators rarely get to do -- retire. He passed leadership onto his brother Raul years ago, but now Raul is following in Fidel Castro's footsteps as head of the country's only legal party. And for the first time in years, the two have been seen in public together.

Well, Shasta Darlington has this report from Havana.

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SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They chanted his name and some shed tears as Fidel Castro made a rare and unexpected appearance at the closing session of a key Communist Party congress.

It marked the end of an era as the congress officially elected his younger brother Raul to succeed him as the party's first secretary.

"Fidel is Fidel," the younger Castro said. "And doesn't need titles to always maintain a preeminent place is the past, present and future of Cuba."

Fidel Castro's appearance also signaled support for bold economic reforms approved by the party.

The delegates put their seal of approval on more than 300 proposals to allow more private enterprise, eliminate more than 1 million state jobs, gradually do away with the ration book, and allow Cubans freely buy and sell cars and houses for the first time in half a century.

On the political front, congress approved an initiative by Raul Castro to limit politicians to two five year terms in office. That from a man whose family has been in power in Cuba for 52 years.

We went out on the street to ask about the congress, the first in 14 years. Most people waiting in line here for an ice cream said they hadn't paid attention at all. Others said nothing ever changes.

But this man disagreed.

"This time it's different," he said. "You can see that they're opening the economy up more. And that's good for the future."

There was speculation that some new faces could begin to assume important positions in the party. Instead, delegates elected Jose Ramon Machado Ventura to the party's number two spot. He's a close ally and contemporary of Raul Castro.

With the congress over, the hard work begins, turning those hundreds of proposals into concrete reforms that will improve the economy and prepare a new generation of leaders.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Havana.

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COREN: Well, Taco Bell has defended its beefiness, but company execs aren't ready to drop the burrito battle just yet. Coming up on NEWS STREAM, we'll bring you the beef blow by blow.

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COREN: We're getting reports of severe flooding in Colombia. For the details, let's go to Karen Maginnis at the world weather center. Hello, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Anna. And yes, we're seeing some pretty spectacular images which we'll show you in just one minute. But already we're beginning to see a pattern develop as we head towards the rainy season. And that is going to enhance what we've already seen there with severe flooding around Bogota also into Medellin and in Calet (ph) as well.

As this moisture makes its way across the Intertropical Convergence Zone, even more as we enter the tropical season, the rainy season, what we're looking at is enhanced precipitation also enhanced by a waning la nina pattern from June to March we're looking at a wetter than normal pattern across much of the northern third of South America.

And we're looking at some regions in north central portions of Colombia also into northeastern Venezuela that are expecting and have seen 400 percent of their totals that they normally would see from the month of December.

Take a look at what happens over the next 48 hours. There you can see some pockets of some intense rainfall now backed up against the mountains. This is where we see some of those coffee growing regions. Take a look at what's happened there as we look at severe flooding.

Colombia's president says that this is unprecedented flooding. The rainy season is, as I mentioned, is going to be enhanced. Last year's rainy season, they saw more than 300 fatalities. And there was an avalanche just about two hours outside of Bogota, Colombia. And that did claim the life of one person.

In the United States, the severe weather continues with almost 400 severe weather reports and about three dozen tornadoes reported. In the forecast across the southeast and Midwestern United States seeing another round of wet weather in the next 48 hours. And we're looking at a storm system that could usher in some snowfall across the northern section of the Midwestern United States.

Anna, back to you.

COREN: Winter just won't go away. Karen Maginnis, thank you for that.

Well, there's no more beef against Taco Bell and the company's CEO is thrilled. Well, a class action lawsuit challenging Taco Bell's beefiness has been withdrawn, but CNN's Jeanne Moos reports Taco Bell isn't taking victory lying down.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the battle of the beef. In one corner Taco Bell. In the other, a class action lawsuit saying their beef isn't really beef.

GREG CREED, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TACO BELL: I think it's a victory, Jeanne. It's a victory for the truth. It's a victory for our customers. And it's a victory for Taco Bell.

MOOS: The lawsuit has been resolved, the case dismissed. Maybe the superhero Taco Bell calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commander Seasoned Beef.

MOOS: Had a point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ain't going to get away with this.

MOOS: The lawsuit claimed that the meat filling used by Taco Bell was less than 35 percent beef. Taco Bell retaliated with adds saying thank you for suing us and claiming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our seasoned beef is 88 percent premium ground beef.

MOOS: The other 12 percent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think of it when you make chili. You have you own recipe of seasoning and spices.

MOOS: But what caused the lawsuit to be dropped like a hot burrito?

The Alabama law firm says that as a result of the lawsuit changes in marketing and product disclosure were made by the company allowing us to dismiss the case to which Taco Bell's president says.

CREED: Jeanne, that's completely misleading, completely incorrect, and completely wrong. I can absolutely reassure you no change to ingredients, no change to the products, no change to the advertising, no money exchanged.

MOOS: We did notice that Taco Bell seems to have beefed up its description of ingredients on its web site.

Apart from their written statement, the law firm that filed the class action suit clammed up. Saying the main attorney on the case was out of town and unavailable for interviews.

When the lawsuit was announced, Taco Bell was the butt of jokes from comedians like Conan O'Brien. Instead of think outside the bun, he suggested Taco Bell's new slogan should be, "think outside the cow."

Taco Bell says that down the road it may still sue those who sued them.

CREED: I'm definitely sure we can sue them for obviously all the damage they've caused to our brand.

MOOS: Taco Bell is sure acting like Commander Seasoned Beef, kick some buns.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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COREN: Well, royal wedding bliss is right around the corner for Prince William and his bride to be, but not without a bit of family advice. And we warn you, it's a little over and out there.

Well, Will is as you know is a chopper pilot for the Royal Air Force. And reports say that his godfather has advised him not to fly this while thinking of, yes, that's right, her. Reports say that's what William's godfather, the former King Constantine of Greece told him. Adding, it's quite dangerous to fly a helicopter when you're in love.

We'll see if Will takes his advice.

Well, that's it for NEWS STREAM, but the news certainly continues here at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is coming up.

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