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Hurricane Irene Approaches East Coast; Fight for Libya Continues; Fierce Fighting at Tripoli Airport; Steve Jobs Resigns as Apple CEO; Inside Virginia Nuke Plant Hit by Quake

Aired August 24, 2011 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: hugs and tears of relief in Libya. Dozens of international journalists, including our own Matthew Chance, now free after being held hostage for days by Gadhafi forces.

Plus, much of the U.S. East Coast bracing for the wrath of Irene, the monster Category 3 hurricane forecast to hit just days from now and the damage could be devastating. Our Chad Myers is at the CNN hurricane headquarters tracking the storm's path.

And one day after being rocked by a rare earthquake, the whole area is feeling a big blow. Ahead, we will show you the crack literally running deep through history right here in the nation's capital.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Joe Johns. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First to a dramatic turn of events in Libya hitting very close to home for all of us here at CNN. Dozens of international journalists, our own Matthew Chance and team among them, being released just hours ago by gun-wielding Gadhafi loyalists. That's after being held against their will in a blacked-out hotel for five days. Many feared they wouldn't make it out alive. Take a look at how it all unfolded.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This crisis -- and we have been here under these conditions for about five days now, unable to leave, sort of corralled on the top floor of the hotel, about 35 journalists together not knowing what's happening.

And we are all kind of hoping that this episode in this conflict will come to an end with a kind of fizzle and everyone will just drift away, rather than with a bang, which is what we're all sort of fearing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has been trapped inside the Rixos Hotel.

Matthew, are with you us? Tell us everything you know.

CHANCE: Well, I can just tell you a breaking new situation here. We have now left the compound of the Rixos Hotel. All of the 36 journalists that were kept inside essentially against their will in what we all considered all along to be a hostage crisis, it's been a very complicated and a very frightening and a very emotional roller coaster of the past five days.

I can tell you, we are sitting in vehicles of the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross. We managed to negotiate the Red Cross to get in through the checkpoint of the Gadhafi loyalists.

It was fantastic of them to essentially go through the checkpoints and to come and pick us up, all of the journalists in four cars. We had to get another car as well, a civilian car, to cram all the journalists in. We were literally crammed in. There was about seven or people in the small little ICRC car that I was in.

We went through a rebel checkpoint. The rebel checkpoint all along was just about, what, 150 meters down the road from the Rixos Hotel. They hadn't approached the hotel presumably because they didn't want a big gunfight to take place, where all those international journalists had been holed up over the course of the past five days.

We were worried about being shot and -- but, happily, we weren't shot. We were not even injured. We were absolutely fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have finally been able to get out of this hotel. I want to ask you, though, were you ever threatened? Were you ever told to say or not say anything? Give us a feel for what was being said to you and also a feel for your safety.

CHANCE: It has been an absolute nightmare for all of us. They have been very hostile towards us at times. They have often told us about how they think we are spies, NATO spies and bent on destroying Libya. I can't tell you how pleased we all are and how relieved we all are and how relieved our families will all be that we have...

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Great to see you right now. We have been talking to you throughout the last couple of hours. You are now in front of the cameras. And just describe for us -- I know you have got a crowd behind you. What's going on?

CHANCE: Yes, they are celebrating their freedom. They're not celebrating my freedom. They are celebrating Libya's freedom obviously.

But I have been given loads of flowers. I don't think they realize that we have just gone through this ordeal of being held captive essentially in the Rixos hotel and it's only now that we have come out to speak to them because we have been essentially set free.

It's amazing, because the whole country, the whole city is celebrating its freedom. And I feel a sort of bit of a connection with -- I feel a connection with them, because I am celebrating.


JOHNS: We will be back live with an interview with Matthew Chance in just a few minutes. Meanwhile, there signs the international community is preparing to secure Libya's stockpile of chemical weapons before they potentially wind up in the hands of terrorists. NATO is just beginning high-level internal discussions.

And our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, joins us now with exclusive information on what could happen to it -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, what we know, what is on the table is a growing concern about what to do about the 10 tons of Libyan mustard gas agent that is located south of Tripoli in a place called Rabta.

Now, right now, officials say they believe it's secure, but NATO indeed with the United States has begun high-level classified discussions about what to do if it is not secure any longer. Their concern is not so much an attack using this material. It's not weaponized. It would be very tough to put into attack mode.

But what if the facility suddenly -- if the material disappears, if whoever is guarding it sells it out the backdoor, if you will, to either terrorists or third parties? What if it just goes walking away?

So what is happening is they are looking right now at what kind of security force, what kind of technical experts, what kind of surveillance would have to be put in place if there is a sense that it's no longer secure.

Right now it is being watched 24/7 by intelligence assets. That means satellites, aircraft, even personnel watching it to see that it remains secure, to see that it remains in place. But this is the first sign we have that they are looking about -- at a potential security force. We are told no U.S. troops on the ground, but a force from NATO countries, not NATO itself, European or Arab countries that would contribute the force to go there and make sure all this stuff remains secure -- Joe.

JOHNS: So if I understand your reporting correctly, we have intelligence assets watching the stuff, but if somebody were to go and try to take it out the backdoor right now, no one would be able to intervene at the moment?

STARR: Well, that's a key question right now.

If this surveillance capability which we understand to be satellites and aircraft suddenly saw things moving around, could anybody get to it fast enough to keep it from moving around? What I can tell you is that the U.S. government and NATO have talked extensively to neighboring countries about making sure that illicit material doesn't cross their borders, in other words, that it doesn't leave Libya.

And this is not just the mustard gas. This is the thousands of weapons, especially shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons, Scuds, missiles, artillery, rockets. Libya is armed to the teeth. And right now with no functioning government in place, the concern is all of this stuff could start moving, Joe.

JOHNS: Barbara Starr with a very scary story there, a tricky situation that the whole world will be watching with those chemical weapons. Thanks so much for that report.

CNN International correspondent Matthew Chance now joins us live from Tripoli.

And we were waiting just a couple minutes ago for to you get wired up there, Matthew. I know it has been a very long day for you. Just want to continue our conversation about the people who were holding you in the Rixos Hotel. Tell us about these guards and if you know who was giving them orders.

CHANCE: Well, they were clearly getting orders from their superiors.

The thinking amongst the journalists was that Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the eldest son of Colonel Gadhafi, was essentially in charge of what happened to us. We didn't have any direct evidence of that, of course, but that was the assumption along which we had worked in the past when we have been at the Rixos in more I suppose you could say circumstances, when the officials were there and when the press minister was there and things like that.

And we continued to assume that it was him who was giving the orders on our fate as well and what these people should do. For the most part, these guys who were in the lobby of the hotel, they had sniping rifles on the roof of the hotel. Yes, these were die-hard loyalists to Gadhafi. Many of them were pretty young. They had Kalashnikov assault rifles.

They were very angry about the situation. They believed in many ways that the international media was perpetuating a lie about Libya. All along there has been this kind of spin that the Libyan governments with Gadhafi have been saying the international media is making all this stuff up about Libya.

The advances that the rebels made in Tripoli, the Libyan government said that that was a lie perpetuated by the international media. And the loyalists who were carrying those guns and keeping us captive essentially in that Rixos Hotel very much prescribed to that point of view.

And I think what changed, why we were eventually set free is that there was a gradual realization amongst those individuals that in fact the reality of the world outside the hotel gates had become very different. Libya had changed. Moammar Gadhafi was no longer in power. And so when they realized that and accepted it, they dropped their weapons, handed those weapons over to us and set us free.

JOHNS: So, if I take what you are saying correctly, you basically saw something of a metamorphosis or change over these several days that you were being kept from captors who felt that they were in the command-and-control of Colonel Gadhafi to captors who realized he wasn't even around.

So if you could sort of describe for me the change in attitude, if you will, of your captors over those days.

CHANCE: Actually, that change in attitude came very suddenly. It came as far as we are aware -- in their sort of outward signs, it came just today. It came a couple of hours before we were eventually set free.

I just think it became unsustainable that this lie that was being put out that Gadhafi controlled much of Tripoli, that Gadhafi had broken the back of the rebels fighting in various parts of the country, that was the line of the government, but that just became unsustainable in the face of the facts, in the face of the reality.

And that took a time in this kind of little bubble that we were all trapped in together, the press corps and these captors, these Gadhafi loyalist gunmen. It took a while for the information to seep into their level. But when it did, the transformation was quite dramatic.

And it's interesting, Joe, because when I came out of that hotel eventually, we were very elated obviously, very happy we had got out with no injuries and no deaths. And everyone was fine. It was a very positive outcome.

But in Tripoli, we found that many people are celebrating their freedom. We were kind of privately celebrating our freedom, whereas all over the streets now, even tonight, there are gunshots being fired into the air in celebration. I saw fireworks going off earlier, people just out in the streets celebrating their freedom.

And so there is this whole national sense of transformation. They are kind of beginning to understand, they have already understood that no longer does Moammar Gadhafi rule this country. He ruled it for 42 years as its dictator. But that's no longer the case. And that has produced this dramatic transformation in people's attitudes. And in some small way, I think we experienced that with those guards in the lobby of the Rixos Hotel, Joe.

JOHNS: Matthew Chance, a very dicey several days certainly with no sleep. We hope you get some. And I can tell you this. We here at CNN are all celebrating your release.

Much more on the bitter chaos unfolding in Libya. Ahead, our Arwa Damon is at the airport near Tripoli amid burning planes and vicious artillery fire.

Plus, a monster Category 3 hurricane barrelling towards the United States' East Coast. We are tracking Irene's path.

And a Washington, D.C., icon shut down indefinitely after yesterday's stunning earthquake -- the latest on efforts to repair deep cracks in the Washington Monument.


JOHNS: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Joe, that so-called congressional super committee has a gigantic task ahead. They have to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 10 years, which means that these 12 lawmakers will have to address the politically sensitive issues of entitlement programs and tax increases all coming up on an election year.

So far, the super committee has done -- wait for this -- nothing. In fact, nobody even knows where they are.

Politico reports these dedicated public servants are enjoying the August congressional recess along with the rest of Congress and they don't plan to even convene until after Labor Day, even though their deadline to come up with $1.5 trillion in cuts is Thanksgiving.

Several of the members tell Politico they're ready to get to work sooner -- but don't hold your breath for that.

One aide says that one of the co-chairs has been reaching out to every member of the committee, but so far those conversations are more introductory than substantive. And no work, zero, on cutting the deficit or raising taxes has been done. Nothing. Did I mention that?

Critics are putting a lot of pressure on this committee to make sure that these meetings, whenever they get around to them, are open to the public and transparent.

One committee member says he's -- quote -- "confident we will have public hearings." Really? The same kind we had maybe with the health care reform bill, all put together behind closed doors, out of the public view, rushed onto the floor for a vote before anyone, even the members of Congress, knew what was in it.

The law doesn't require the meetings of the super committee be open to the public. Earlier this year, other debt ceiling negotiations were held behind closed doors.

It's your money, but your government would rather you not know what's being done with it.

Here's the question: What is the super committee waiting for?

Go to Post a comment on our blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Joe.

JOHNS: Well, I guess we shouldn't say they have a secret plan. That wouldn't be good, right?

CAFFERTY: Well, if they do, it's a well-kept secret, because I haven't heard a word about it.


JOHNS: That's for sure. Well, we will see.

All right, thanks so much, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right, Joe. JOHNS: Residents up and down the East Coast are bracing for what is shaping to be a fierce monster storm. Hurricane Irene now a Category 3 is battering the Bahamas this hour and could gain even more strength before it hits the United States.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the storm's path in the CNN hurricane headquarters.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Joe, I'll tell you what, 120-mile-per- hour storm, gusts to 150, nothing to take for granted.

And these people here in the Bahamas with literally elevation of about 10 feet are seeing storm surges in the 15-foot range, so water washing over their islands right now. Right there is our reporter Jim Spellman. We will see how he survives the night. It's going to be a rough night for him and all the people that didn't get out of the Bahamas.

We have been talking about a right-hand turn that the storm was supposed to do. Well, sometimes they just take their sweet old time making that turn. And that's the issue and that's the problem why we have a cone. If this thing turns tonight, the cone will be off to the right side. If this thing takes a little bit longer to turn, if it does that out to sea, no problem. It's gone. It takes a little longer to turn, guess what, it will be closer to the coast of Florida and that's why there is this cone in the first place.

But look at this, though -- 135 mile-per-hour storm off the coast of Florida with battering waves. Even without the wind being really close, the waves are going to be tremendous. And then a little bit of a storm surge possible right through the Carolinas even with a miss. Now, look, this is not a miss. That's a hit. OK, half the storm potentially misses. The other half of the storm potentially hits. We have to watch.

And then right through and up into possibly New England. That right, that's the Hamptons. That's Montague, up into Boston and then even up into Maine before it's done.

Why the discrepancy? Why can't we just say, all right, it's going to go here? Because the computer models, they all think are right, but they're not. And, in fact, about every 12 hours, the models are about 20 miles wrong. So 20 miles, then another 20 miles and then another 20 miles. So by the time you are out 48 hours, you are already about 140 miles wrong one way or another.

And then you put it in motion again and now we are talking four days out, the wrong can be 200 miles either way. So this thing could be out to sea, Joe. It could be in New York City. It's not out of the question. So, this could be a big deal. At 100 miles per hour for any big city in the Northeast, that will do some damage -- Joe.

JOHNS: Chad Myers, thanks so much. That's a really good graphic take that just shows you all the possible variations. Appreciate that.

MYERS: Sure. JOHNS: The U.S. military is also getting ready for Irene. The Air Force now says it will move more than 20 warplanes from an air base in southeastern Florida as the storm gets closer to the state. Evacuation plans at another air base in the area are pending. No word yet from the Navy or Marine Corps about their plans, but the Pentagon says it is watching this storm very closely.

Burning planes and blasts from artillery fire in Libya. Our Arwa Damon is at the airport near Tripoli.

Plus, his father's whereabouts remain a mystery, but one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons is reaching out to our own Nic Robertson -- details of what he wants to offer next.

And a Washington icon shut down indefinitely, the latest on efforts to repair cracks in the Washington Monument after that stunning earthquake.


JOHNS: Groups of Moammar Gadhafi loyalists are refusing to give up their battle for Tripoli. They're fighting rebels in several areas of the capital and their attacks on the Tripoli Airport are especially fierce.

CNN's Arwa Damon is the only network journalist at the airport right now. She joins us live with details you will only hear on CNN.

Arwa, what's happening?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, this place has been getting pounded nonstop all day and well into the night, intense artillery being fire, Grad rockets, heavy machine gun fire as well. A plane on the tarmac and caught fire. There was a small explosion there because of that. Some of the other ones caught fire as well.

(AUDIO GAP) has been an intense assault. And we have been seeing these types of attacks only grow greater in the last few days since we have been here. Now, the rebels say that they are coming mostly from the east. This is an area east (AUDIO GAP) do not (INAUDIBLE).

There two Gadhafi military bases located there. They also don't control that vital highway running from the airport north to the capital, Tripoli. Now, the senior military commanders here believe because of the intensity of the attacks, because they are launched often simultaneously coming at this complex from multiple locations that perhaps this is so that Gadhafi loyalists can try to keep these routes clear, saying that they could be trying to move Gadhafi from Tripoli through here.

They believe they saw a convoy that had an armored Mercedes last night that could have been carrying him. They think that he would be trying to move here, either go south or loop around to Sirte. That's east of the capital.

JOHNS: So what you have described perhaps is an intense search should Gadhafi appear somewhere near the airport.

DAMON: Most certainly the rebel fighters here want to get out. They want to go and start combing through these areas.

But they have really been largely pinned down to a certain degree because of this incoming artillery fire. They have really had to focus all of their efforts on trying to make sure that Gadhafi forces do not breach this compound. And they are really struggling because they are telling us that the Gadhafi forces have been using villages just to the east of here as cover to launch the artillery, to launch their Grad rockets.

And so they say they have been unable to fire back. They also say that the concern for civilian casualties is preventing NATO from firing down at these locations. And so the big concern is that while they are bogged down trying to defend this position, Gadhafi could possibly be moving through this area and he still continues to evade them.

JOHNS: Who is there at the airport with you?

DAMON: A fairly large number of rebel fighters. There are around 500-plus. They are called the Zintan fighters. There some elements from other units around the country as well, but these are the fighters that pushed up through Zintan. A bunch of them broke off, went to try to free Zawiyah. That is west of Tripoli.

The rest of them came here to the airport. And they have been launching these side missions, trying to go up -- some of them are actually taking part in what they were calling the Rixos rescue operation that saw those journalists eventually released.

They say that they were the ones that managed to clear the area around the airport sufficiently so that the ICRC could then negotiate access and get those journalists out of that location. So, they are kind of spread out throughout, but they are also really focusing their efforts right now on trying to keep this compound safe.

And they're growing incredibly frustrated. We just had the senior military commander coming through here, cursing Gadhafi, cursing the incoming artillery rounds. And so it's been -- it's been pretty tough going for them at this airport complex.

JOHNS: Sounds like a very pressure-filled and intense situation there. Thank you so much for that reporting, Arwa Damon.

Gadhafi's businessman son Saadi is offering to negotiate a ceasefire. In an e-mail exchange with CNN's Nic Robertson, Saadi Gadhafi says he has the authority to broker a deal to stop Tripoli from becoming, quote, "a sea of blood." No reaction yet from rebel leaders.

Joining us now, Middle East expert Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. So what do you make of this, Fouad? Isn't it a little late, perhaps too late for a ceasefire?

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, absolutely. When someone like Gadhafi or any of his sons asks for a ceasefire, you know it's the end. You know, they have been defeated. You know they're on the run.

I know the term has kind of a mixed pedigree, and a shadow trails it. These are dead-enders. The fight for Libya is over. Effectively over. There is a new Libya.

And behind you, Joe, there's a flag of Libya. What's interesting about this flag, this is the flag of the old monarchy. This is the flag that -- of the monarchy that Gadhafi and his fellow officers overthrew in 1969 and then turned the country into a veritable hell.

So I think this regime is done. I think what remains is the mop-up operation.

JOHNS: Now, if he is captured -- and certainly, that's a big if. We've been asking for days. If he is captured, do you have a sense that there is still a nucleus of people who would actually stand with him? Or is it that all done, too?

AJAMI: Well, you know, Joe, I don't think there many people with him. If you go back and look at Saddam Hussein, Saddam had the Sunni community of Iraq with him. It was a ruling community, but the minority, and they were invested in his regime.

If you take a look at Syria, there is -- Bashar Assad's regime, and his own community is behind him.

This man is the killer of our time, Moammar Gadhafi. He is a predator. He is a cannibal in many ways, and he ruled with terror. And when people rule with terror, they will make a run for it. And look at the fraud of the man. He talked about dying for his country, and he talked about heroic struggle. He fled. And what he is now doing, obviously, is looking -- again, forgive the metaphor, the Iraq metaphor -- he's looking for a spider hole.

JOHNS: Fouad, many people here in the United States, politicians, in other words, have suggested that Libya ought to be able to move or transition to a democracy. Given what you see and what you know, is that a reasonable or realistic expectation?

AJAMI: Well, Joe, I don't know what really -- what democracy would mean. I think they will have a good secular government. All the odds favor it. If you take a look at the people in this transition council in Benghazi, we've observed them for quite a bit of time, we know something about them. We know something about their aspirations. They want a free country, and they want a secular country.

And what's interesting, the head of the transitional council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, an older gentleman who had been a minister of justice for Gadhafi for a number of years -- four years, I think -- he is proposing to put himself on trial -- on trial for the years he spent under Gadhafi. So you take a look at the cast of character in the transitional council, and they want a democracy.

And you take a look at the people of Libya. They've known hell. They've known tyranny. And I think nothing prepares people for democracy more than this kind of terror the Libyans lived with for four decades.

JOHNS: Again, that question overhanging the whole thing here. What about Gadhafi? If he is not captured, do you believe this rebel government can move forward and sort of take control until he's disposed of one way or the other?

AJAMI: You know, you're right. It will be best if he's captured. It will be best if his sons and presumptive -- once presumptive heir, Saif al-Islam, is captured. He will continue -- if he's not captured, he will continue in a way to taunt this regime.

It depends on where he goes. Does he go to Chad? I mean, that's one possibility. He's close to the ruler in Chad. Does he go to Algeria? Algeria is the one Arab government which remains favorable to Moammar Gadhafi, at last. And I think it depends on where he goes. If he is in Libya itself, it won't be long before they get him.

JOHNS: But wherever he goes, wouldn't the rebel government, the government that takes over in Libya, eventually demand that he be brought back, say, for trial?

AJAMI: Absolutely, but say, for example, he goes to Venezuela. That's an interesting prospect. Already, Hugo Chavez says he only recognizes one genuine Libyan government, which is the government of Moammar Gadhafi.

Well, if he goes to Venezuela, and Chavez is around, Chavez survives his cancer, his power is intact, he can remain in Venezuela.

And by the way, this may sound frivolous, but it's probably not so far off. In Venezuela perhaps they can make -- they can put him in charge of beauty pageants. Because we know these are the kinds of things that Gadhafi is interested in. You know, he traveled everywhere, as WikiLeak documents told us, with his four voluptuous, quote unquote, voluptuous Ukrainian nurses. He's a pervert, and I think, again, you know, this -- he will come to a bad end. There may be one rotten government or another in the world that would have him.

JOHNS: But he has been effectively silenced?

AJAMI: I think.

JOHNS: You think that remains so?

AJAMI: I really think he's done. And calling his people rats, while he himself is making a run for it, cursing his people, wishing them all kinds of evil and all kinds of hell, it tells you what this man is about, and it tells you what the poor population of Libya, their luck that they drew this monster in 1969. The first year of the Nixon presidency, by the way, is when he came to power. And they've endured him far too long.

JOHNS: Fouad Ajami, thank you so much. And we really appreciate you giving us your views of what's been happening. AJAMI: Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: Thank you.

A Russian rocket blasts off that never makes it into orbit. We'll tell you what happened, coming up.

A rare East Coast earthquake leaves a lasting mark on the Washington Monument. What the damage means for tourists.

And your Facebook page just got a facelift. The big change, next.



BLITZER: Breaking news now. CNN just confirming that Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Incorporated, has resigned his position. We do know that he has been ill for some time, reportedly with pancreatic cancer. The official statement coming out to CNN and other news organizations. Steve Jobs, the trail-blazing CEO of Apple Incorporated, has resigned. And we'll be hearing a lot more about that in the coming days.

Kate Bolduan here with some of the other top stories.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a pretty wild story. We'll follow up on that.

Other news that we're following, though, this hour, a Russian space freighter carrying supplies for the International Space Station has crashed. Russian officials say the unmanned spacecraft went down today in a remote area of Siberia shortly after take-off. Crews are headed to the crash site to assess possible damage on the ground. Officials say there are enough supplies on board the space station to last until the next freight mission in October. So watching that very closely.

And there are some rattled nerves in Peru after a strong earthquake hit the country today. The 6.8 magnitude quake was centered about 350 miles from Lima near the northern border with Brazil. So far, there are no reports of injuries or damage. That's good news so far.

And now Facebook is making major changes to its privacy settings. Now, when users add content like a photo or comment or profile information, Facebook will ask them who should get access to it. Everyone, friends or a specific group of friends?

Before users had to navigate some confusing setting pages, and the changes follow the launch of Google Plus, a rival social network that has similar, more straightforward privacy settings.

Meantime, still with Google, Google is paying out a half a billion dollar to settle a Justice Department lawsuit. Justice officials say Google illegally allowed online Canadian pharmacies to advertise prescription drugs to consumers in the U.S. The $500 million settlement, one of the largest in the U.S., is equivalent to the revenue Google made for selling the ads and the estimated revenue pharmacies made from the sales. So they've learned their lesson or whatever is going to happen.

JOHNS: So I wonder if we're going to stop getting all that spam about different kinds of drugs companies are selling.

BOLDUAN: I highly doubt that will limit the spam...

JOHNS: Yes, right.

BOLDUAN: ... that we constantly get and you always have to deal with.

JOHNS: The Facebook story, doesn't it seem like they change it every week?

BOLDUAN: There seems to be changes all the time. Maybe that's because there so many users of Facebook that they have to be modifying and staying up with it, but people did complain quite a bit about how to let people know who was going to get access to what. So we'll see how this one goes.

JOHNS: Kate Bolduan, thanks so much.

Split-second decisions at a nuclear plant near the center of that East Coast earthquake. We'll take you inside the facility and show you exactly what happened when the quake hit.

Plus monumental quake damage to an iconic Washington structure.



JOHNS: Again, our breaking news story at this hour, Steve Jobs, the CEO of the iconic Apple Incorporated, has announced he has resigned. We've just gotten a hold of his letter of resignation, and I want to read that to you at this time.

It says, "I have always said that, if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come. I hereby resign as CEO of Apple." He asked to serve, if the board sees fit, as chairman of the board and an Apple employee.

As far as his successor goes, he asked that they name Tim Cook as the CEO of Apple. He says, "I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I made some of the best friends of my life at Apple and thank you for all the many years of being able to work alongside you."

Of course, an iconic American company that has had so much influence in this computer industry all over the world.

Joining me now on the telephone is CNN's Dan Simon.

And Dan, you picked this information up. What are you hearing?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, you know, we confirmed the news that Jobs is stepping down. And it's -- the timing is really surprising on this. We really had no indication that this day was going to come, at least so soon. And it really begs the question, you know, what is the state of Steve Jobs' health at this particular moment?

We know that he had taken a leave of absence to deal with some significant health issues. He had a bout of pancreatic cancer a few years ago. And there was all kinds of speculation that the cancer had returned, and that was never confirmed. Then he may have had a liver transplant a couple of years ago. And seemed to be on the mend. But again, this really begs the question of what does his health look like?

As far as the timing again, you know, Apple had never really been in better shape, so it would make sense to go ahead and name a new CEO at this particular juncture, given the fact that the company is doing extraordinarily well. Tim Cook, it was announced by the company, who was the chief operating officer, he'll now take over as CEO.

Apple, you know, the world's -- is the biggest technology company in the world right now in terms of revenue and earnings. It even took over the top spot for companies around the world, even overtaking Exxon for a brief time.

So in terms of succession plan, Apple is in great shape. But of course, now the question is how is Steve Jobs doing, health-wise?

JOHNS: Dan Simon, thanks so much for bringing us up to date on that. We'll be watching that closely.

Split-second decisions at a nuclear plant near the center of that East Coast earthquake. We'll take you inside the facility and show you exactly what happened when the quake hit.


JOHNS: Much of the East Coast is still reeling after yesterday's shocking earthquake. Our Brian Todd is not far from the epicenter of the quake, where an automatic shutdown was triggered at a nuclear plant -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, this plant has now canceled its emergency declarations and stood down from its alert status, but as we found out inside this facility, there were some very tense moments right after the earthquake.


TODD (voice-over): Dan Stoddard said he hates to see his nuclear plant like this, not because there's danger, he says. He just hates to see his plant not producing power. It could be worse.

Stoddard, a top nuclear official with Dominion Virginia Power, took us inside the North Anna facility to show us what it was like when a once-in-a-century earthquake struck, centered just a few miles from here.

(on camera) We're here at a simulated control room at North Anna. This is where they train the operators how to operate the reactors. This would be normally just half of a control room for one reactor. Dan Stoddard is going to show us what it was like the moment the earthquake hit and they lost offsite power -- Dan.

DAN STODDARD, DOMINION VIRGINIA POWER: Initially, the operators felt the ground motion. They recognized they had an earthquake, and they were moving toward the manual shutdown switches to shut down the reactor. At that point they experienced a loss of offsite power, and we'll see what that looked like for the operators.

TODD: Clearly an emergency. So, what do they do then?

STODDARD: They -- they, as I said, go to the reactor trip switch, manually shut -- go to manually shut down the unit, each reactor.

TODD: This is the key switch to shut down the reactor?

STODDARD: That's right. Less than two seconds, the reactor is shut down.

TODD (voice-over): The shutdown was triggered automatically. While the ground shook, Stoddard was down the hall. He says he initially thought something had happened with one of the turbine generators.

STODDARD: I was down in the control room probably within two to three minutes of the earthquake.

TODD: Was there real fear?

STODDARD: No. The -- there were a number of personnel in the control room, some additional personnel, operations personnel had come to the control room, but the operators were very calm. Very professional.

TODD: But it was still a crisis. Now the reactors are shut down, and there's no timetable for when they'll return. A backup generator powering cooling systems malfunctioned. Nuclear watchdogs say that's a concern.

Stoddard says there were plenty of backups, and there's been no leakage of radioactivity.

Then there are appearances.

(on camera) What you're seeing over here is an event that only happens when there's a reactor shutdown. While it looks and sounds very ominous, Dan, is this as ominous as it looks?

STODDARD: No, not at all, Brian. What this is, this is secondary cooling for the reactor. That is not water from the reactor cooler system, which is all contained in the concrete domes that you see. This is secondary steam that we're using to cool down both of the units to what we call a cold shutdown to less than 200 degrees.


TODD: Stoddard said that's non-radioactive water that does not come into contact with any radioactive equipment. He says it never entered his mind that this could be another Fukushima, because of how the system worked to take down those reactors and get emergency backup power running. And he said he always had confidence in the design of this plant -- Joe.

JOHNS: Brian Todd, that's certainly good news for anybody living anywhere near that nuclear power plant. Appreciate that report.

Jack Cafferty is asking, what is the super committee waiting for? Your e-mails ahead.


JOHNS: Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Joe. The question this hour: "What's that super committee, the congressional one that's supposed to cut the deficit, what are they waiting for?"

Bob writes, "They're busy working on their tans so they can look good in those public hearings they promised. When they do get around to meeting, I think if you're rich, you'll be fine. The rest of us, not so much. The old saying, he who has the gold rules has never been more appropriate to our democratic form of government."

Simon in Florida writes, "Like the scarecrow, lion and tin man in 'The Wizard of Oz,' they're still out looking for brains, courage and the heart, and the wizard is in Martha's Vineyard."

Bert in El Monte, California: "Be patient, Jack, super committee members not a mere senator or representative. Those global corporate constituents -- big oil, securities, investment, pharmaceutical firms -- which control Congress at the local level, they need more time to talk super corporate free speech, money."

Tom writes, "The Republicans have sworn to say no, so it doesn't matter if they ever meet. Nothing will come of it. In the Clinton years we had a surplus. Bush cut the taxes for the rich. We have a deficit. The correct answer to our economy is to end the Bush tax cuts for the superrich, and the Republican answer is no."

Teshia on Facebook: "The super committee is waiting for the highest bidder."

Angie writes, "The super committee will wait until the very last minute to present their plan, because the longer Americans have to vet it, the more likely it is it will sink. Washington runs on brinksmanship."

And Michael in Mexico says, "It's not a fast-food drive-up window, Jack. It's Congress. Give the souffle time to rise." If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, Post a comment there or go to the Facebook place where we have something, as well.

Joe, you've done a terrific job, as usual. It's always a pleasure when you fill in for the Wolf-man.

JOHNS: Well, thanks, Jack. And he deserves a little time off. He's the hardest-working man in show business.

CAFFERTY: Indeed he is.

JOHNS: All right, I'm Joe Johns in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers, WORLD REPORT is next. In North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.