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March 6, 2011 Sunday


SECTION: NEWS; International

LENGTH: 7714 words

HEADLINE: Uprising in Libya; The Message Behind Carnival; Evacuated from Egypt

BYLINE: Randi Kaye, Nic Robertson, Bonnie Schneider, Ray D'Alessio, Nadia Bilchik, Sandra Endo

GUESTS: Col. Robert Maginnis


Coverage of the crisis in Libya. The carnival in Brazil or Trinidad happens before Lent, the period without meat. One diplomatic family who lived just three miles from Tahrir Square were ordered to evacuate by the U.S. government, and traveled all the way to the United States where now they say their lives are in limbo.



As violence spreads throughout the country, Libya has a new flash point, the battle for Misrata. That town, like many others, has been held by opposition. But Libya's leader is bringing brute force and lots of firepower to this rebellion. A chilling eyewitness account coming up.

A deadly tornado in Louisiana, just the start of a weekend of extreme weather. Today, snow, flood threats and wind are in the forecast. Find out what you need to know before you hit the road or maybe head to the airport.

From CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It's March 6th. I'm Randi Kaye. So glad you're with us this morning.

We start you off in Libya with a dispute over British troops. Opposition forces tell CNN they're negotiating with the British over eight special forces troops detained in the eastern city of Benghazi.

A short time ago, Britain's foreign secretary confirmed that a small diplomatic team is meeting with Libya rebels, but he offered no other details on these talks. He did say that troops had been in Libya to evacuate British citizens.

In other parts of the country, we're hearing differing accounts of who's in control. The government is claiming victory but witnesses tell us a very different story, saying the opposition is still in control. Within the past hour, I talked with one witness in Misrata, who was watching fierce fighting in the street.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): For the last 60 minutes or so, I've been in the middle of gunfire, live gunfire between pro- Gadhafi militia and opposition, people taken to the streets. It does seem like the fighting is taking place in the city center, what we describe as the courthouse. I believe is this is the center of operations for the opposition.

And we had reports this morning, around 10:00, of three military groups, three pro-Gadhafi military security groups coming to city from three different angles. And I have seen people confirming the report that tanks have been deployed in this attack. Six in particular is the number that has been mentioned frequently by people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: Let's move now to the capital where our Nic Robertson is standing by in Tripoli.

Nic, we saw massive celebrations this morning. They seem to believe that the government is still in control, that Gadhafi is still in control -- which would explain the celebrations. Is that right?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is correct. I think we have two really conflicting views of what's going on here. The people who are actually in the cities, Misrata, Zawiya, Ras Lanuf in the east of the country, that the government claimed to take control of.

People in those cities report a completely different situation, that there's still fighting in Zawiyah. That there's fighting in Misrata, independent reports from journalists who -- in Ras Lanuf -- say that government forces are not in control there.

But what the government has been able to do in Tripoli is really whip up a firestorm of support for the government based on their claims that they have taken victory in these towns and state television has announce the cut in sales tax to zero on many goods at stores as a celebration for the success in these areas.

And what we've witnessed over the last three days, if you take Zawiya alone as an example here, the government has described rebels in there as being 30, 40, 50, 60-strong, we've seen several thousand over a week ago and this claim Friday to have had victory and then claim on Saturday to have had victory.

What the Gadhafi government seems to be doing is building up expectations here at a time when they can't really deliver on what they're claiming and building up expectations that they have victory -- and that they may fall short is what we've seen over the last few days, at least, Randi.

KAYE: And you were actually supposed to go to Zawiya today to see the aftermath of what some call a slaughter there yesterday. What are the chances do you think that the Libyan army is actually going to let you do that today?

ROBERTSON: I would say pretty limited right now. It's now 3 p.m. in the afternoon. We could be there and back in a couple hours. There's no problem with that. But if they haven't commissioned us by now, I don't think they're going to give us permission. They told us Friday night we'd go Saturday, all day Saturday, was on again, off again. Saturday evening, they said, for sure it's just mopping up.

They held -- and this is a strength of their vision and view here, not only did they tell us this in off-record briefings and on record statements, they held a press conference last night where they said they were in 99 percent control of the town, and it was mopping up and that we should be going in today. So, it just doesn't sound up -- what the government says is fact doesn't stand up to the reality and time, Randi.

KAYE: Certainly trying to keep the -- win the PR war, I guess we could call it.

All right. Our Nic Robertson for us in Libya -- Nic, thank you.

With the violence spreading, the U.S. State Department is warning Americans not to travel to Yemen because of what it calls a high security threat level. And citizens already there should consider leaving. Anti-government demonstrators are clashed with security forces in several parts of the country. In addition, we're hearing reports that al Qaeda fighters killed four soldiers near the capital of Sana'a.

Back in the U.S., emergency workers are going door to door in Rayne, Louisiana, this morning, checking homes damaged by a tornado that killed a 21-year-old woman. The town's mayor says the victim was killed when a tree fell on her house as she was protecting her daughter.

The little girl, we're told, was not hurt. The tornado with winds as strong as 135 miles an hour left a five-mile path of damage.

Earlier this morning, I asked a spokeswoman with the Acadia Parish sheriff's office about damage to the town some 80 miles west of Baton Rouge.


MAXINE TRAHAN, ACADIA PARISH SHERIFF'S OFFICE (via telephone): A lot of damage. I would say, probably, a quarter of the city of Rayne has been damaged in the storm. As of this morning, probably 80 percent of the power has been restored to the city.

The mayor, Mayor Jim Petitjean, chief of police Carroll Stelly, are planning to make assessments of each home.


KAYE: For Indiana's Democratic lawmakers who are missing in action, starting tomorrow, it's going to cost them. Their Republican counterparts approved a $250 fine for every day the Democrats are absent from the statehouse. Like Wisconsin, Indiana's Democratic lawmakers are stalling the vote for bills that would limit the collective bargaining rights of state employees.

Well, this next story sure caught our attention -- a professor at Northwestern University now apologizing for a recent demonstration during his human sexuality class. That demonstration involved a couple and a sex toy. The university's president says it was inappropriate. The professor says he was only trying to engage real people in conversation with, quote, "useful examples."

The famed Iditarod sled dog race gets underway in Alaska today. They had a ceremonial start yesterday in Anchorage. Sixty-two teams taking part this year. The mushers and their dog teams will travel more than 1,000 miles in the competition.

What do they win if they win? If they win -- well, around $50,000 and a brand new truck. I think the dogs also get a little bit of kibble as well. That's their reward for all that hard work.

You could call this next race a triple threat. A man in a wheelchair is tackling a triathlon with a little help from his brothers.

And later, a restaurant worker comes to the aid of a customer in distress and it is all caught on tape. We'll show it to you.

KAYE: Welcome back. Ten minutes past the hour.

I want to take you over to Bonnie Schneider who's watching some severe storms to the Southeast.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. You know, Randi, we were tracking several tornados that worked their way through southwest Louisiana yesterday. One was an EF2 tornado with winds between 111 and 135 miles an hour. Unfortunately, one person was killed in that storm in Acadia Parish.

And now, we have more extreme weather in another part of the world. You can see some pictures of the debris and damage as that storm really just tore off roofs and lifted homes from their foundation -- a devastating storm across the southern parishes of Louisiana. I'm glad to tell you that severe weather threat has passed, but in a whole other part of the world, in fact, another hemisphere, we're tracking an earthquake that just occurred.

Let's zoom in right here to this red dot. That shows you where the earthquake was in northern Chile on Google Earth.

Now, even though the magnitude is 6.2, it's important to note that the preliminary reports coming in is saying that this earthquake was very deep in depth, over 53 miles deep. And that is a good thing. When the earthquakes are deep, they tend to absorb more shock and we see less shaking -- only reports of moderate slight shaking further off on the distance. This is the northern mountains of Chile.

Let's get back to the U.S. mainland and I'll show you what's happening here. We're watching for a flood threat across many states, al the way from Tennessee up into Maine and certainly through New York and New Jersey and Boston, Massachusetts, you're under a flood watch. The warnings still persist for parts of South Carolina and into areas of North Carolina as well. So, this is going to be a messy situation as we go through the day. You can see the steady rain sweeping from the Carolinas up into Washington, D.C.

And then where the colder air is wrapping in behind the system, we have snow. It is snowing right now in western Pennsylvania and in parts of West Virginia. Heavy snow expected for parts of New England and upstate New York. We could see a foot or more of snow. That's why all these winter weather advisories are posted for tonight and into tomorrow -- Randi.

KAYE: All right, Bonnie, thanks so much.


KAYE: And HLN's sports anchor Ray D'Alessio here with a very heart-warming story out of Atlanta.

This is such a nice story. Good morning.

RAY D'ALESSIO, HLN SPORTS ANCHOR: It is. Yes, three brothers about to share really, Randi, in the experience of a lifetime. Now, I am not ashamed to admit, I'm a softy. I cry --

KAYE: Did you cry?

D'ALESSIO: I got a little misty-eyed with this one. I got to admit.

Talking about the Pease brothers. Now, coming in May, they're going to be taking part in the 40-mile Tampa triathlon.

What makes this story Kyle, who was two years younger than his twin brothers was born with cerebral palsy. However, he has not let that -- let his physical limitations stop him from pursuing his dream of taking part in the triathlon. He actually --

KAYE: He's going to do this?

D'ALESSIO: He's going to do this. He got -- he got the idea from watching his brother Brent complete in an Ironman -- compete in an Ironman triathlon last year. He asked Brent, what was it like, the physical limitations, you know, those challenges that you face? And Brent told him, he said it's a lot like the daily challenges that you face but you move past them.

And that's what Kyle asks him and he says, why do you think part in a triathlon? He says, absolutely. And that's when they launched this plan and how it's all going to work, since Brent has the experience in the triathlons, he's actually going to be doing most of the legwork during the biking and swimmer portion, he will be pulling Kyle -- during the swim portion, Kyle will be riding in a boat.

KAYE: Oh, my goodness.

D'ALESSIO: Then once they're in the bike portion, they'll be pulling him in one of those special joggers like you see, like a joggers.

KAYE: Right. Right.

D'ALESSIO: Strollers almost like. And brother Evan will join them for the running portion of it. And they're being told this is the first time that three brothers will try to complete a triathlon of any distance.

KAYE: And they're really doing it together.

D'ALESSIO: They're really doing this together.

KAYE: I mean, this gives a whole new meaning to brotherhood.

D'ALESSIO: Absolutely.

And speaking of races, somebody that -- she's already, you know, made her mark in Indy car racing and now she's turning really turning some heads in NASCAR. Danica Patrick making history yesterday by playing -- placing fourth in the nationwide series race.

KAYE: That's pretty impressive.

D'ALESSIO: Yes. She's going to take part in like 12 or 13 races. She's slowly but surely trying to make her transition to the stockcars. And she looked phenomenal yesterday.

I predict -- I'm going do make a prediction here, Randi. There's a very good chance that Danica will win a nationwide event this year.

KAYE: All right. I'm holding you to that.

D'ALESSIO: She's got some of the best equipment underneath her as far as the car goes. So, I really think that she could do it this year by taking the checkered flag.

KAYE: OK. So, you heard it here, folks. We have that and we have the fact that there will be no NFL lockout from you. You told us that yesterday.

D'ALESSIO: I'm going on record with all of that.

KAYE: Keep track at home whatever Ray is saying.

D'ALESSIO: I'm positive. I remain positive.

KAYE: All right.

D'ALESSIO: All right, Randi.

KAYE: Ray, good to se you. Thanks.

Chaos grows wider in Libya this weekend. First, we saw large crowds of antigovernment demonstrators. Now, take a look at this. Thousands of Moammar Gadhafi supporters appear to fill the streets have streets of Tripoli. Sorting it out for us, Retired Colonel Robert Maginnis joins live in just one minute.


KAYE: As we told you earlier, we're getting two different images coming out of Libya this morning. On one side of the screen, a sea of green in Tripoli's Green Square -- you see it there. Gadhafi supporters celebrate when told by state TV that government forces had taken control of several cities.

On the other side of your screen, images out of Zawiya where antigovernment protesters were celebrating yesterday. Witnesses tell CNN the opposition is still in control while the government says it's in control.

Let's bring in now retired Army officer and columnist Robert Maginnis, who joins us from Washington this morning.

Good morning, Bob.

I want to talk about next steps for Libya with you. It seems to be heading in a very different direction in Egypt, and Tunisia before it. Our Ben Wedeman from Libya told us this morning that this isn't a really protest. He says this is war. And both sides are claiming victory.

So, do you see how this is all going to play out?

COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): No, it's hard to tell, Randi, at this point. Clearly, not having people on the ground, other than some reporters that are, you know, watching the every movement of the Gadhafi regime and, of course, the opposition, it's hard to predict exactly how this is going to transition.

Now, are we going to go to a full out civil war? Is this a revolution that's going to topple Gadhafi? Is Gadhafi going to listen to President Obama and leave the country with some welts and then allow this transitional council to take over?

Clearly, we would like to see a transition like in Cairo or Tunisia. But at this point, it's hard to know.

KAYE: It also seems like the U.S. is laying low. The U.S. seems unclear as to who really it should talk to, who the opposition even is. And I guess is it possible that if Gadhafi does go, that the opposition, whoever comes into power, could be worse?

MAGINNIS: Well, of course, that is possible. The opposition right now appears to be former Gadhafi ministers, some of the army, clearly, the pro-democracy demonstrators and perhaps some other groups that are, you know, kind of cobbled together, forming the opposition and some of the fighters out there.

But, you know, I think it's wise to be cautious at this juncture, and especially to threaten U.S. intervention. You know, I think the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is doing the right thing by using our humanitarian assistance with Tunisia and Egyptians, trying to persuade the regime there in Tripoli to step down.

But at the same time, you know, if we go in there, you know, we will have dreams of back to Kosovo, back to Somalia and even Iraq. So, I'm not sure we're prepared for that. KAYE: And when we were watching the revolution in Egypt, there were a lot of names -- you know, a short list, I should say, of names being tossed out as to who might take over if and when Mubarak step down. We're not really getting a sense of somebody who might step into control in Libya, are we?

MAGINNIS: No, not at all. And, of course, you have an autocratic regime there that suppressed any opposition whatsoever, especially Islamic opposition. Gadhafi was always making them the -- you know, the enemy of the state. So, you know, for someone to have had their head above the horizon would have jeopardized their own lives and their own future.

So, I'm not surprised by this. But, you know, in the coming weeks, perhaps, if this continues, past the almost three weeks it's been going on now, that we will begin to hear about some opposition leaders.

And, in fact, there will be people that will try to return to Libya and try to cobble together opposition groups. Perhaps, and optimistically, we'll see something like what we're seeing in Cairo, where opposition groups getting ready for a political referendum are coming to fruition. That would be nice. But I'm not sure this is going to happen in Libya.

KAYE: All right, Bob, we'll have to leave it there. Bob Maginnis, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Very interesting discussion to have with you this morning. Thank you.

MAGINNIS: Appreciate it.

KAYE: And we will, of course, continue to watch the developments in Libya as they unfold. We'll take a quick break.

KAYE: Welcome back. Twenty-one minutes past the hour.

When it comes to partying, you could say Brazil is carnival central. You've seen the videos, Rio knows how to celebrate.

But would you believe all that hard partying is actually a preparation for the holiest period on the Catholic calendar?

Nadia Bilchik has more on the message behind all the festivities.


NADIA BILCHIK, CNN EDITORIAL PRODUCER: Whether it's Mardi Gras or carnival in Brazil or Trinidad, carnival actually means without meat. So, the idea was, because of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, it's the period you don't have meat. So, the celebration in preparation for not having meat.

KAYE: They're getting it all out of their system. BILCHIK: Exactly, a grand party. And Brazil has the largest carnival in the world. And you think it looks like a big celebration but it's actually very organized. They have these samba schools, and each samba school will have a theme.

Now, the themes are quite extraordinary. Some can be the movies or origin of the species but what about the theme, the enchanted island of witches and dreams come to those who dream. Look at the exquisite costumes, the feathers, the makeup.

KAYE: And it's truly a school.

BILCHIK: They actually are schools. Now, they can be organized samba schools or they can be groups of neighbors who get together and enter the competition. And then, it's always led by a king or queen.

But look at the detail and the opulence and the expense that those --

KAYE: And the fun.

BILCHIK: And the fun.

Now, you spoke about Trinidad and Tobago, the second largest carnival in the world. And this has a large African influence because of the African slaves that were in Trinidad at the time, the late 1800s -- or the late 1700s, I should say. In 1833, slaves in Trinidad were emancipated and became a greater part of the carnival.

So, you have calypso and soca music. You have steel or metal drums. And once again, this exquisite festivity and dances. And if you take a look again, this is -- what's you're seeing is the African slave influence here.

But whatever it is you look at the origins, it's really a celebration of life and opportunity to drink, celebrate, dance and samba. I didn't know that samba also had its roots in African dance.

KAYE: It's quite the party.

BILCHIK: It's quite the party. And costumes can cost from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

KAYE: Really? Oh.

BILCHIK: So, maybe we're going off to Rio.


BILCHIK: That would be fun.

KAYE: You get the tickets. I'll meet you at the airport.

BILCHIK: Exactly.


KAYE: The unrest that's been sweeping through much of North Africa has put Americans there in jeopardy. Some have been getting out of Libya by ferry. We heard similar tales during the Egyptian upheaval.

CNN's Sandra Endo has one family's survival story.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Where this was the epicenter of the revolution, thousands of protesters gathered for days, calling for the resignation of then President Hosni Mubarak.

We spoke to one diplomatic family who lived just three miles from Tahrir Square. They were ordered to evacuate by the U.S. government. They traveled all the way to the United States where now they say their lives are in limbo.

BEVERLY DEMPSEY, DIPLOMATIC EVACUEE: This is our apartment. It's not big, but it's a good size. Here's a picture of me and my mom and I in I, riding an elephant.

ENDO (voice-over): A few cherished mementos is what 10-year-old Beverly Dempsey displays in her temporary apartment in Falls Church, Virginia. She and her father had to evacuate Cairo during the uprising in Egypt.

(on camera): What was the process and journey like for you?

B. DEMPSEY: First came the tears because I had to leave my mother, and that was pretty upsetting.

ENDO (voice-over): Her mom had to stay behind for essential work. Even as American diplomatic families got only eight hours' notice to leave, the violence was right at their door step.

B. DEMPSEY: We saw all the protesters walking by our house. And that was really freaky. And once we had a tank roll by, which I was scared.

ENDO: Forced to depart with just a single suitcase per person, the Dempseys have already been here more than a month.

(on camera): Has it been tough for you not knowing when you're going to go home?


ENDO: Are you counting the days?

B. DEMPSEY: I'm trying not to count the days because then I'll get like I -- I'll feel sad and upset.

ENDO (voice-over): But her father Jim tries to make their life as normal as possible, even though it's her first time attending an American school. Her friends, her hobbies are all in Cairo.

Many displaced diplomatic families are staying in the same apartment complex -- sharing a unique bond.

JIM DEMPSEY, DIPLOMATIC EVACUEE: Of course, we all kind of go up and down, as to be expected, and say, oh, come on, we can -- we can do this. Even now, although things have calmed down, we still don't know when we're going back.

ENDO: For now, Beverly just clings to the comforts and memories of her distant home.

B. DEMPSEY: I want to go back really badly. But, doesn't mean I don't want to be here. I just want to be able to say goodbye.

ENDO (on camera): Many families like the Dempseys are just waiting for official word as to when they can return to their homes in Egypt. But, right now, the country is under transition and the uncertainty lingers -- Randi.


KAYE: New concern this morning about weapons in the Mideast -- weapons that could end up in the wrong hands during the conflict in Libya. We'll have more on that

KAYE: Welcome back. I'm Randi Kaye. It is 31 minutes past the hour right now. Checking "Top Stories" for you.

Emergency workers in Rayne, Louisiana, going door-to-door this morning to check on homes damaged in a tornado. The storm killed a 21-year-old woman. She died protecting her little girl from that storm. Eleven others were injured. Utility companies are working to get everybody's power back on this morning.

The man suspected of being the East Coast rapist has tried to commit suicide while in custody. Police in New Haven, Connecticut, say Aaron Thomas tried to hang himself in his cell yesterday. Thomas was arrested Friday. Investigators believe he's responsible for as many as 17 sexual assaults in four states dating back to the 1990s.

The British foreign secretary says negotiations are under way with opposition leaders in Libya to secure the release of eight British Special Forces troops detained in the eastern part of the country.

Meanwhile, the violence in Libya intensifying and both the government and opposition forces claimed to be in control of various key cities.

Both sides in the Libyan battles are well armed. They've got tanks, missiles, antiaircraft guns. A U.S. official tells CNN that the balance could lead to a prolonged fight but it could also lead to a security nightmare outside of Libya. CNN's Brian Todd shows us why.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watch how they fire them. Many of them recoil or drift around these lethal tools as if they've never been around them before. The rebels opposing Moammar Gadhafi have made key battlefield gains partially with weapons taken from Libyan armories or brought over by defecting soldiers.

(on camera): But those loose weapons also pose long-term security threats. I'm with Matthew Schroeder who monitors illicit arm sales for the Federation of American Scientists.

Matt, we've got a picture here of what appears to be a Libyan rebel launching a shoulder-fired missile toward a -- a Libyan jet. Are these kinds of weapons just floating around Libya for the taking now?

MATTHEW SCHROEDER, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: Yes, those weapons are outside of state control now. And our big concern is that they will be diverted to the black market and acquired by terrorists outside of Libya.

(voice-over): There's no evidence that Libyan rebels have sold weapons to terrorists or that they intend to, but experts say arms traffickers could see the Libyan fight as a chance to stock up. One of their most popular weapons, shoulder-fired missiles moves at high speed, right toward the heat emitted by airplanes. Most civilian aircraft don't have countermeasures against them.

Militants are well versed at acquiring and using weapons like this. November 2003, shortly after taking off from Baghdad, a DHL cargo plane is hit by a surface-to-air missile. This is militant video claiming to show the incident. The plane loses hydraulics but the crew's able to land safely.

The previous year, two missiles just missed an Israeli plane full of civilians in Mombasa, Kenya.

And part of the unfortunate attraction of these things is that they're fairly easy to work, right?

SCHROEDER: Yes that's correct, the basic operation of shoulder- fired surface missiles is they're fairly easy to use and fairly easy to teach. The missile is boosted out of the -- the launch tube and then after it's a safe distance from the operator, a sustainer motor will kick-in and the missile guides itself to the target.

TODD (voice-over): Libyan rebels also have their hands on antitank missiles, larger surface to air rockets have been abandoned by pro-Gadhafi forces. Experts say neither the rebels nor terrorists are likely to use those effectively. But smaller arms from this conflict like rocket propelled grenades and machine guns could easily get onto the black market.

SCHROEDER: In fact, we expect that to happen. They -- they will circulate and they will circulate for years.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say that what may fuel that circulation is if this conflict drags on both sides could bring in more weapons like this from outside Libya. Then whenever this ends, those weapons could be sold off.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


KAYE: The body of a Wyoming father of five will be sealed in the abandoned Nevada mine shaft he fell into on Wednesday. The shaft was declared too dangerous to enter for a recovery effort. The 28-year- old man from Evanston, Wyoming, fell 185 feet down the shaft, suffering a broken jaw and shoulders and puncturing one of his lungs. He had been working on a nearby oil rig when he and two others went exploring. A camera had been lowered into the shaft on Thursday.


SHERRY SCHNURR, AUNT OF VICTIM: The fact that he put his hands up when the camera found him, you -- you have to wonder how much hope that gave him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was expecting somebody to come and get him.

SCHNURR: You have to believe that he was expecting to be rescued. And it didn't happen.


KAYE: The man died Friday. He had been engaged to be married.

Investigating home-grown terrorism, and the focus: the radicalization of Muslim Americans, one Congressman holding hearings this week on that very divisive issue.

Candy Crowley talks to him on "STATE THE UNION." And she will have a preview for all of us next.

KAYE: Coming up at 9 a.m. Eastern, "STATE OF THE UNION" with host Candy Crowley she's joining us from Washington with a preview.

And Candy, New York Republican Peter King planning to hold these very controversial hearings this week on the radicalization of Muslims -- very divisive. I know you're going to be speaking with him this morning. What do you expect he'll tell you?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Well, listen, this is -- he knows that he is taking a lot of hits for this. There are many in civil rights community and in the American-Muslim community who say he really is unfairly singling out American-Muslims. So, based on faith, he is doing an investigation into what's going on in that community.

His belief, Congressman King will say that he believes that inside that community there is not enough done by Americans to help law enforcement search out some of the home-grown terrorists, which are -- as you know, a very difficult law enforcement problem because they tend to be, you know, by themselves or small groups. They don't move around a lot. They stay inside their communities.

And -- and King has been very critical saying, listen, you know, the American Muslim community is not being good enough at helping law enforcement. Now there are some facts and figures that bring that into question, but basically he says, judge me by the outcome of the hearings, so rather than going into it.

So, he's created quite a stir.

I will tell you we also have on Keith Ellison, the Congressman from Minnesota and the first Muslim American sworn in -- in Congress to also talk about how he feels about it. He's the lead-off witness for King.

So whatever else, it's making quite a stir. We'll see what the hearings bring up on Thursday. But it's an interesting conversation.

KAYE: It sure is. Because I know he's taken a lot of heat because he's critics saying that -- that there was home-grown terrorism long before 9/11, so why are you doing this?

But if we could also talk about this big forum in Iowa tomorrow, a lot of the presidential candidates or potential presidential contenders might be there or are going to be there.

This is getting pretty interesting pretty early.

CROWLEY: It -- it is except for, believe it or not, I hate to tell you this, it's later than it has been. In fact, Republicans -- and that's where the race is going to be -- no one expects at this point that President Obama will have any serious opposition in the primaries.

So it's all -- the focus will be on the Republicans. And as usual, at this point, you do have a lot of people going, well, I'm looking at it. You know everyone from Donald Trump to Mitt Romney. And they do begin to gather, where? Iowa and New Hampshire -- those two really first all-important states.

We have on the show two people who have kind of been there and done that Lamar Alexander, now a senator, and Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico. Both of them ran for president.

We want to have them kind of walk us through. How they are looking at the current slate of those who are out there and kind of toying with the idea. And what they actually go through when they make these decisions.

So -- but you're right, the 2012 presidential election season has opened and certainly in Iowa it is well under way.

KAYE: It certainly seems so. All right, Candy Crowley, thanks so much. It's great to speak with you this morning. It sounds like you have a really an interesting show on tap.

So, do keep it here for "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley, it starts in about 15 minutes at 9 a.m. Eastern, 6 a.m. Pacific right here on CNN and it does sounds like a very interesting show this morning.

Skateboarding, chasing girls and playing video games, three things we know teenage boys love to do. We have a fourth option though, this morning. Meet 13-year-old Connor Brantley. There he is. All he's trying to do is start his own political party at 13. He's going to tell us why in just over a minute.

Good morning Connor. Stay right there.

KAYE: Welcome back. It's 43 minutes past the hour.

Establishing a third political party is not exactly a new concept here in America. Over the years, we have seen the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and now the Tea Party. But the one we're about to tell you about is the first ever started by a 12-year-old. It is called United Now.

They haven't filed any paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission yet but United Now has started a fund-raising campaign and created a political action committee. The purpose of the developing party: to ensure bipartisanship in Washington.

Now, keep in mind, the official founder of this party was just 12 -- there he is -- when he started the process. Now he's 13. Connor Brantley, joining us to chat about his new party from Dallas this morning.

Good morning Connor.

You're just 13 years old.



KAYE: You can't even vote, so why get involved in politics already?

CONNOR BRANTLEY, FOUNDER, UNITED NOW PARTY: Well, I mean, I don't think you necessarily have to vote to make a difference. This just goes to show that, you know, you can spread the word, tell people, you know, about what you think is best. You don't have to cast a ballot to, you know, make a difference. This is just a great way, it's a great way to learn and a great way to talk to people. KAYE: And I know the focus of your party, or the purpose of your party is to ensure bipartisanship. Do you see a problem with that in Washington and a need for it?

BRANTLEY: Absolutely. I mean politicians in Washington focus more on scoring political points than serving us. You know, they work for us. We hire them. And they should stay true to their word and do what they think is best. That's the main focus of United Now.

KAYE: I know you're early in the process but you have to have some supporters by now, maybe besides your father, so what kind of support are you getting out there?

BRANTLEY: Well, we're -- we have -- most of our support comes on a local level. We have some people who are willing to donate and some people who have contacted us through our Web site willing to volunteer. So, I mean, we really -- we do have some support on the local level. But you know, right now we're just trying to expand and tell people about what we're trying to do.

KAYE: And do you want a career in politics one day?

BRANTLEY: Absolutely. I would love to go into politics and do whatever's there.

KAYE: All right. Connor Brantley with a new party that he's working on, United Now; I'm anxious to see where you take this, Connor. Thanks so much for joining us. Great to talk with you.

BRANTLEY: Thank you.

KAYE: Now, more on the fierce gun fight in Misurata, Libya, a city under the control of opposition forces but at this hour Gadhafi supporters are fighting to take it back. In the middle of all of this a witness to the clashes joining us live; we're not going to reveal his name because, of course, we want to protect his identity.

Sir, can you tell us, as you're there in Mesrata, what are you seeing there on the ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I just arrived at the courthouse, which was the center of the assault by the Gadhafi loyal militias on the city of Mesrata. And I'm literally in the middle of a -- what seems to be or what is a battlefield, an exact battlefield. Something I only saw on TV. I can't believe it.

I mean we're talking about rockets on the ground, we're talking about blood everywhere. Talking about -- talking about vehicles, all, all.

I tell you what, I'm in the courthouse which we know as (INAUDIBLE) in the city of Mesrata. I'm facing now another big building, opposite the city court in Mesrata. The first three or four floors seems like have just been through the equivalent attack. I'm talking about six, seven story building burned. They're coming everywhere. I mean, it does seem on the ground, though, there's a jubilation. People are celebrating a victory. I personally counted four tanks walking out of the city center. Apparently that's the militia, Gadhafi militia forces have just took out of the city --

KAYE: And --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, the people of Mesrata are just gathering back at the courthouse in defiance of the Gadhafi regime.

KAYE: So, if you can hear me, just tell me -- I know earlier you told us that there were several tanks there and that it was the Gadhafi regime that was firing on these rebel forces there. Does it look as though the Gadhafi regime and the army there, the Libyan army has pulled back and pulled out? Are they gone from that area?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened is -- as I was doing that report early on, I was a block away from the courthouse where the operation was taking place. And because I couldn't get any closer, I was not seeing what's going on from all sides of the courthouse. I was only having -- had access to only two sides of the courthouse, when I saw the exchange of fire between the rebel groups, the opposition, and the militia of Gadhafi.

Now as I came in, and I was witnessing people as they were running into the courthouse, I was seeing all the vehicles that were -- that were based at the courthouse fleeing from one side of the city and four tanks. I counted four tanks. I'm walking out. Some people told me that there was six. I only counted four.

KAYE: But those tanks have left?


KAYE: Have the tanks left? Has the army pulled out? Has the opposition won this battle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they have. They have pulled out from the city center at the courthouse. (INAUDIBLE) The people of Mesrata at the center of operations of the uprising.

KAYE: And are you seeing any victims there? Were there any injuries? How --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you that I'm seeing blood spots and blood stains here and there. I haven't seen any bodies. I have seen one person being rushed out on a car to the hospital. As you can see the ambulance is coming in. We don't know how many people are injured, how many people are killed inside the courthouse because we only came about to see what's out of the courthouse at the entrance point.

We are about a distance from the operatives on the ground, the militia groups were actually based on the first and second floors of the courthouse so there could be, you know, casualties up there as well. KAYE: And were any of these opposition forces, as far as you could tell, were they well armed? I mean, armed enough to force these tanks and the Libyan army to go away?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I can tell you this myself, I'm not a weapons expert, but the last few days and weeks, obviously, I became acquainted with the military terms and terminologies used in battle. We're talking about what we call (INAUDIBLE) which is -- it's an armory, heavy machine gun. We're talking about antitank missile, we're talking about tanks; we're talking about obviously the light machine weapons of all kinds that were used.

So, the type of weaponry that you actually not use against civilians but, you know, use against (INAUDIBLE) and other armory in battle. The people I'm seeing at the moment here are all describing the operation as the most -- what can I say -- the most severe of all battles so far in Mesrata.

I don't know the number dead. I did listen to a report by the medical officer on the ground about two hours ago confirming three people dead and 13 injured, but that was two hours ago. I mean, since then heavy, heavy exchanges took place at the courthouse area.

KAYE: Are you close -- are you close enough to speak to any of the rebel forces that are there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The rebel forces are far away from me now at the moment. Because I'm now -- I'll continue listening. We're talking about thousands of people that have just gathered and arrived at the courthouse. I can just show you -- sorry. I can come closer to the people --

KAYE: Are they still celebrating?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are celebrating, exactly. I'm seeing people distributing juice and water and people putting hands up and singing songs.

Listen to this. Listen to this. They're saying (INAUDIBLE) -- which means be patient, Gadhafi be patient, in Mesrata we'll take your prize. They are chanting this kind of slogan at the moment in front of the courthouse in the city of Mesrata, the heart of the city of Mesrata.

KAYE: If you could, just -- I know you've had a chance to follow some of these rebel forces and see what's happening there. Can you speak to their level of confidence that they are going to win this and that Gadhafi will step down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like I said earlier in my earlier report, the will and the determination and dedication that people are showing here on the ground, it just makes you speechless. I can't -- I can't describe it more than, you know, a giant will of the people that is driving people to actually face these militias, heavy armed militias, with nearly nothing. We're talking about a couple of machine guns here and there. We're talking about hunting equipment. We're talking about people who have managed to get some petro in glass bottles to make all sorts of missiles. We're talking about that kind of very, very primitive armory that people are using.

Obviously, when they come to seize what could be described as weapons and heavy machinery and armory, the Gadhafi militias, they end up using it as well. So, it's just -- it's just the will of the people that will win this battle.

KAYE: Can you please, if you will, describe the crowd there? I mean, who are these rebel forces? What -- who are these people that you're seeing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it's a mix of people. People in civilian clothes, what seems to me like, you know, the average chap on the street. Other people -- you know, the people you wouldn't expect to see in such a crowd. You know, like teachers, like, you know, religious cleric and community leaders. But also you see the people who have actually been in military, people who are ex-military, people who started with the people -- I'm hugging a couple of them as well at the moment.

You can't say -- you can't categorize the (INAUDIBLE) of the protesters and the rebels just as, you know, the community of Mesrata. This is the simplest way of describing it, the people of Mesrata.

KAYE: Did you just say that you were hugging a couple of them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I just hugged a couple of them. They came to me just -- everyone is hugging everyone at the moment, by the way. You don't need to know people to hug, you know, in this circumstance in particular. But near to me is one of the leaders on the ground.

KAYE: Can he tell you about the battle there or he can tell us about the battle?


KAYE: What is he telling you?

He's getting the details there for us. We'll have him back on the air here in a moment. We'll let you know what he's saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, very briefly, that the battle took place -- by the way, the name of the person who I was just talking to is Salah, he's the operative lead other ground in this battle.

KAYE: And what did he tell you happened there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told me that the battle started at 8:00 this morning when militia groups came from three different points into the city. And they are all in -- in a trial with the objective of seizing control of the city. What seems to be, as he described, that the rebels have actually brought them into the city in a trick to make them go into the city center and then to seize them at that -- or where they wanted them. This is exactly what happened according to the account of Mr. Salah, the operative leader of this operation.

KAYE: So you said the rebels tricked them to come into the city and then what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then they didn't show resistance in the way they wanted them to believe that this is it, or that there is a sense of resistance. In a way, they only resisted them to actually make them think that they will be easily placing themselves in the city center

KAYE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it was -- they came exactly into the trap and this is where the rebel groups actually they surrounded them in the courthouse and the heavy battle took place.

KAYE: All right. You know what; we're going to leave it there with you. We really appreciate your time speaking with us. I know that you put yourself in a lot of danger there during that live gunfire earlier and then again now back at that courthouse in Mesrata. We really appreciate it. Stay safe.

There we were, just speaking with an eyewitness to this gun fight, this gun battle in Mesrata, Libya, this morning, telling us that the army -- the Libyan army came into the city from three different points into the city for this battle. The rebels apparently brought them in there, making them think they were weaker than they were and then showed them what force they actually did have because as he told us they were armed.

And the four to six tanks that he described then decided to flee. He saw blood stains, no bodies. He described it looking as a war zone. There were rockets on the ground. Buildings seven stories high were burned. He really felt as though he was walking into a battlefield.

And then they were chanting, they were celebrating to be patient. The rebel forces really feeling a taste of victory there in Mesrata, Libya.

That will do it for us. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts now.

LOAD-DATE: March 7, 2011