All Rights Reserved.
SHOW: CNN NEWSROOM 11:00 AM EST
March 5, 2011 Saturday
SECTION: NEWS; International
LENGTH: 7032 words
HEADLINE: The Fight for Libya; Libya's Opposition United; Stop Gap Bill Includes $4 Billion in Cuts; "East Coast Rapist" Arrest; Charlie Sheen Custody Battle; Libyan Weapons Pose Danger; Airline Ticket Prices Go Up; Square Dance Struggles to Survive
BYLINE: Randi Kaye, Elise Labott, Ben Wedeman, Sandra Endo, Susan Candiotti, Paul Steinhauser, Brian Todd, Tom Foreman, Mario Armstrong, Sunny Hostin
GUESTS: Carolina Espina, Ryan Alexander, Jenny Lindehaur, Rick Seaney
Higher gas prices are tied to the jump in the price of oil, it's above $104 a barrel right now and investors are worried about supply disruption if the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East keeps spreading. Libyan rebels scored key victories, but there's growing concern in the U.S. about who the opposition really is and if they could actually be worse than Moammar Gadhafi. The government is still up and running because of a two week stop-gap funding measure passed this week; it includes $4 billion in spending cuts and that's a devastating financial blow for several federally-funded programs. There has been an arrest in the case of the so-called "East Coast Rapist"; he's blamed for attacks on 12 women in four states. Charlie Sheen lost custody of his twin boys earlier this week but he apparently had a custody deal worked out with his wife to get them back; however, after he revealed details of the deal to the media, she decided to keep the kids. While pro-and-anti-Gadhafi forces fight it out, some worry about looted army weapons winding up in the hands of terrorists. With the fighting in Libya intensifying, talk of a civil war is growing. For the sixth time this year big airlines bump up prices. American square dance struggles to survive. Tips on how to score deep discounts.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Good morning, everyone. I'm so glad you're with us. I'm Randi Kaye.
Libyan rebels scored key victories, but there's growing concern in the U.S. about who the opposition really is and if they could actually be worse than Moammar Gadhafi.
In the U.S., several states inundated with floodwaters are about to get hit again. We'll tell you just how bad it is going to get.
And saving big bucks with online coupons; yes, now we have your interest. We'll show you how to cash in.
We begin with a story that has an impact on every household in America; soaring gas prices. The unrest in Libya of course is helping fuel that surge. Since yesterday, you're paying on average two cents more for a gallon of regular unleaded, the national average, $3.49.
And this is going to shock you. This time last year, the average price for that same gallon of gasoline was $2.72. Higher gas prices are tied to the jump in the price of oil. It's above $104 a barrel right now. And investors are worried about supply disruption if the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East keeps spreading.
The fight for Libya is now in its 19th day, the violence escalating every hour. Rebel fighters captured the strategic oil town of Ras Lanuf. But forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi are striking back on the ground and also from the air.
A new offensive is under way in the town of Zawiya, about half an hour or so from the Libya's capital of Tripoli. It has changed hands several times in recent days. And right now the rebels are in control.
We've been talking to a resident of Zawiya. And for his own safety, we are not going to identify him. But we do have him with us to tell us exactly what's happening there.
KAYE: Sir, can you hear us?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. I did not know if the question was toward me or not.
KAYE: What -- what is the situation there? Can you tell us what's happening?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. The situation since this morning was heavy fighting started at 6:00 in morning. Lasted until about 10:15 this morning as well and a lot of casualties from both sides.
Gadhafi's troops came to the city from east and west. They are trying to capture the -- the center of the city, which is the square where we came our -- our fallen comrades. They -- they -- they made a cemetery there. And right there there's a (INAUDIBLE) team of the fallen one day there at the -- in the cemetery in the square.
The fight lasted until about 10:15. Gadhafi's troops had left because they encountered a lot of resistance. They left behind tanks and personnel carriers, a lot of weapons of all kinds. And -- and the latest moves, Zawiya has no electricity for the last two hours or two and a half hours, of course, Tripoli and I hear also Benghazi has no Internet --
KAYE: And is the opposition -- is the opposition -- oh, well we were going to ask him a little bit about that. But we'll -- we'll have to get back to him a little bit later on.
If Gadhafi does go, who will lead Libya? Is it on the brink of civil war? That's what a lot of people are asking. How much is the unrest affecting that region?
Our state department producer, Elise Labott joins us all afternoon with -- with more insight and all morning of course. But first, what do we know about the opposition -- Elise?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: Well Randi, not much. They know that it's a -- the United States knows that it's a very diverse and wide group of people in Libya. Some of them are former officials. Some of them are former military loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. Some of them are tribal leaders. And then there are long- time oppositions of the regime.
So what the U.S. is really doing right now is trying to reach out to the various opposition members to find out who they are and what they want. The U.S. is trying to formulate a response here, but they're really in the dark because as you know the U.S. has pulled all of its diplomats out of Libya. The U.S. really didn't even have relations with Libya. Only for a few years they just restored ties in 2005. So they really don't know much about who these people are.
KAYE: The U.S. it seems to be watching and waiting. But -- but can you tell us, what -- waiting for what?
LABOTT: Well, waiting for a couple of things. First, as we said, they're waiting to get more clarity on who these opposition members are. They don't want to be arming them or giving them any training or anything until they figure out who these people are. And they don't want to put someone in place that is just as bad as Gadhafi if not more.
So first that, trying to get more international support, there's not really an appetite right now whether at NATO or in the United Nations Security Council where the U.S. will have to seek authorization for a no-fly zone. There is no appetite for any military action.
And so until they consider a no-fly zone they really have to see what's going on in the ground. If things get really bad, if there are more massive air assaults and you have a lot more casualties, unfortunately, that I think is what it's going to take until the international community starts to rally around the idea of some kind of more robust response.
Right now they're watching and waiting to see what Gadhafi does over the coming days and weeks -- Randi.
KAYE: All right, Elise Labott for us. And she'll be back in 30 minutes to tackle this question. If the opposition is armed, does that mean Gadhafi is on the defensive? So we'll talk to her in about a half hour.
Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman is traveling with rebel fighters in eastern Libya. They're gaining some ground, but at what cost is the question.
Ben, last I spoke with you, you were in the middle of what seemed like an attack by a helicopter on the rebel forces. You still seeing activity like that?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, there have been several more air strike by helicopters in this area. Despite that, it appears that the rebel forces have advanced a few more miles up the road.
They've consolidated their control of the town of Ras Lanuf. And we're told they're expecting more reinforcements to come between today and tomorrow -- Randi.
KAYE: And what is the mood among the fighters? We know -- as -- as we watched everything unfold, does it seem that -- that they're getting more optimistic about ending Gadhafi's rule or are they losing hope?
WEDEMAN: No, they've -- they've definitely seem to be encouraged by the fact that they've been able to gain ground despite the fact that they're fairly exposed to these air strikes. We're seeing more and more people basically driving from other parts of eastern Libya to join the fight.
So if anything, they're gaining more -- they're gaining more support, they're gaining more, so that the morale is getting higher. And it seems that everywhere they go, every time they have a confrontation with the Libyan army, more of those soldier -- more of the Libyan army soldiers go over to the rebel side.
And so they certainly are still buoyed by this and they seem to (INAUDIBLE) that the momentum is on their side -- Randi.
KAYE: All right, Ben Wedeman for us, watching the rebel forces there. Ben thank you.
In other news, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is upping the ante in his budget standoff with public workers. The Republican governor has sent out letters to union leaders, warning them 1,500 workers may get laid off next month if the Democrats don't return to the state to vote on his budget bill, 14 Democrats remain holed up in a hotel just over the state line to prevent Walker from having the necessary quorum to hold the vote.
A large crowd of union supporters is expected to converge on the capitol building again today to protest the bill which cuts their bargaining rights and their benefits as well.
A Democrat assemblyman was tackled by capitol police last night when he tried to re-enter the capitol building after it had closed. Apparently he didn't have his identification. That's why they stopped him that way.
There's also a budget battle being waged in Washington. And that fight dominated President Obama's weekly address and the Republican response. The President called on Democrats and Republicans to come together to hammer out a compromise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration has already put forward specific cuts that meet Congressional Republicans halfway. And I'm prepared to do more. But we'll only finish the job together by sitting at the same table and working out our differences and finding common ground. That's why I've asked Vice President Biden and members of my administration to meet with the leaders of Congress going forward.
REP. DIANE BLACK (R), TENNESSEE: What we need is a new approach, a path to prosperity that gets government out of the way by cutting unnecessary spending and removing barriers to job growth. We need to unleash our nation's economy instead of burying it under a mountain of regulation, taxation and debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: The government is still up and running because of a two week stop-gap funding measure passed this week. It includes $4 billion in spending cuts and that's a devastating financial blow for several federally-funded programs.
CNN's Sandra Endo explains.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SANDRA ENDO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carolina Espina enjoys school lunch time with her two kids. She's part of a language program called "Even Start", geared toward low income immigrants who want to learn English but can't afford to pay for classes.
CAROLINA ESPINA, MOTHER: It's yours, not yours. It's yours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yours.
ENDO: While she's in class her daughter gets to play in day care. When Espina first moved here from Honduras six years ago she didn't speak a word of English.
(on camera): If this program wasn't available, what would you do? Do you feel like you would be this far along in your English and being able to spend time with your kids?
ESPINA: This program is -- is great because you can study and learn English and at the same time we don't have -- I don't have to worry about my daughter because my daughter is in the same place.
ENDO: But maybe not for much longer. While the program helped Espina, federal funding for "Even Start" just got cut in the recent two-week extension of the budget after officials deemed the program ineffective.
Other programs included in the $4 billion spending reduction include election assistance grants, the LEAP Educational program which helped states give need-based student aid and highway funding. The cuts also included many earmarks for homeland security, education and housing. And the budget axe is about to fall again as lawmakers wrestle over more cuts as part of a longer term spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year.
RYAN ALEXANDER, PRESIDENT TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: This is going to be a very contentious fight. There may be very deep cuts where there's going to be some immediate pain felt on the ground in communities and it may be that they look at their own communities and try to protect what's in their communities.
ENDO: For "Even Start", they'll have to find other ways to stay alive.
JENNY LINDENHAUR, EVEN START: We'll work very hard to make sure that the program continues to exist.
ENDO: Sandra Endo, CNN, Arlington, Virginia.
KAYE: The so-called East Coast rapist has spread fear across four states. Now he may be in police custody. We'll go live to New Haven, Connecticut where the suspect was arrested.
KAYE: There has been an arrest in the case of the so-called "East Coast Rapist". He's blamed for attacks on 12 women in four states. CNN's Susan Candiotti, live now from New Haven, Connecticut where a suspect is in custody. Susan, authorities seem awfully sure that they have the right guy after all these years.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do indeed. And that accused man is not going anywhere. He's being held right here at the New Haven Police Department where we're talking to you from.
This is an investigation that started 13 years ago when the first rape they're accusing him of happened in 1997 here in -- rather, in Connecticut and down in Virginia eventually. And after that there were a string of attacks that finally ended in 2009. But while they believe they are able to link him to 12 rapes, they do suspect him of several more.
Now, everything seemed to come together in the last week, authorities say, when a number of things happened. Including an anonymous tip, some DNA matches and they put together some electronic billboards and a Web site with a composite sketch of the suspect. Eventually this led to an arrest that happened yesterday near the suspect's home. His name is Aaron Thomas. And it happened as he was walking down a street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. JULIE JOHNSON, NEW HAVEN POLICE DEPT: Recent information was developed in this case. DNA was collected and subsequently matched by the Connecticut state forensic sciences lab confirming that Thomas was the "East Coast Rapist".
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Now, authorities are not releasing his mug shot at this time. He's being charged so far with sexual assault, one case of that so far in Connecticut and on that he's being held on a $1 million bond; and two rapes in Virginia. They do expect more charges down the road.
They're not releasing his photograph at this time, Randi, because they say of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation. They say there may be many more witnesses out there, other possible victims. And they don't want to taint a possible photo line-up. But clearly authorities here say that a lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief, especially the victims. Back to you.
KAYE: I'm sure. Susan Candiotti for us in New Haven, Connecticut this morning. Thank you Susan.
It is the moment the small town of Fennville, Michigan will never forget. Minutes after scoring the winning basket, capping an undefeated season, 16-year-old Wes Leonard collapsed on the court and later died. An autopsy report said the high school basketball star had an enlarged heart. He died of cardiac arrest and the whole town is stunned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're shocked. Our granddaughter has known him since the sixth grade. The whole school is in turmoil over this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to get up this morning and tell my 10- year-old that his hero passed away. That was very hard to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Leonard's mother, the school's drama coach, cancelled a play so she could watch her son's game that Thursday night.
A potential presidential candidate mistakenly says President Obama grew up in Kenya. Find out who made the gaffe right after the break.
KAYE: Potential presidential candidates are flooding in to politically critical states this weekend including Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour and on Monday, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul head to Iowa.
CNN's deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, live in Washington this morning. And Paul, Newt Gingrich had a pretty rough week, didn't he?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He did. He was the first of the, I guess, major names to announce like a first step in running towards the White House. But there was some confusion. The day before Newt Gingrich was supposed to have this big announcement, we got mixed signals from two of his top aides about what he would do the next day and there was a lot of confusion.
And then Thursday in Atlanta, Georgia at the state capitol at this event that the former house speaker had, most of the media thought he would take a lot of questions. He took one question, and then kind of abruptly left.
So Randi, in a way, the process became the story rather than his -- what he wanted to say and his announcement. It was the process itself which became the story.
I guess you could call that a setback for Newt Gingrich but it's very early in the race and most people are not watching so it may not hurt him in the end -- Randi.
KAYE: Yes. We saw a couple of missteps from Mike Huckabee.
STEINHAUSER: He was definitely in the news all week, making headlines, creating controversies. First, beginning of the week, he talked about President Barack Obama growing up in Kenya. And his aide said he misspoke, he meant to say Indonesia. But remember, a lot of those in the birther movement who don't believe the President was born here, they believe he was born in Kenya. So, what kind of mistake was that?
Then later in the week, take a listen to what he said on a conservative radio show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER GOVERNOR, ARKANSAS: I have said many times publicly that I do think he has a different world view. And I think it's in part molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with rotary clubs, not Madrassas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: Madrassas -- what are those? Those are Muslim schools. This is a kind of a wait a minute, been there, done that moment because in 2007 when then-Senator Barack Obama was first running for president there was a story that he attended Madrassas when he was growing up part of the time in Indonesia.
CNN was one of the networks that actually looked into this and found it was not true that he attended secular schools, but here is Mike Huckabee bringing this up years later.
Randi what is going on here? Is Huckabee thinking about running again for the White House? He did it the last time around, the former governor from Arkansas. But maybe it's also partially about this. This is his new book and maybe he's trying to sell books. Either way, he's getting in the news but some say for the wrong reasons.
KAYE: It's all about publicity and all about attention.
STEINHAUSER: No doubt, yes.
KAYE: Paul Steinhauser, good to see you. Thank you.
STEINHAUSER: Thank you.
KAYE: First Charlie Sheen's show was put on hiatus, now he's lost custody of his two sons. Legal analyst Sunny Hostin up next with a Charlie Sheen update.
KAYE: It is 25 minutes past the hour.
Charlie Sheen lost custody of his twin boys earlier this week but he apparently had a custody deal worked out with his wife to get them back. However, after he revealed details of the deal to the media, well, she decided to keep the kids.
Earlier I talked with legal analyst Sunny Hostin and I asked her what Charlie Sheen needed to do to get his kids back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, "IN SESSION": She's got this temporary restraining order. The judge found that they -- that the best interest of the children are met by being with their mother at -- at this point. So he is going to have to prove that the best interest of the children is to spend time with him. Given what has gone on in the media, Randi, I think that's probably going to be an uphill battle for Charlie Sheen.
His best bet is to make a deal with his ex-wife. And apparently that deal is off now. So my sense is right now he is not going to get custody of those children any time soon.
KAYE: But she too has said that she also had a little bit of a substance abuse problem. So, does it sound like either one of them are going to have an easy way of this with the court?
HOSTIN: Well, certainly it's a balancing test, Randi. They've got -- the judge has to determine what is in the best interest of these children? Staying with their mom who, yes, is admittedly getting treatment for -- for some drug abuse problems and substance abuse problems -- but the keyword is getting treatment; or with their father who insists that there's nothing wrong with him?
I've read the temporary restraining order and her affidavit and it really outlined a lot of physical abuse as she alleges and it also outlined substance abuse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: And Sunny went on to note that, unfortunately, for Charlie Sheen, he will have to approve that those abuse allegations are not true.
The NFL and the players association have decided to keep talking, trying to avoid a work stoppage that would threaten next season. The new deadline: March 11, giving the two sides an extra week or so. Most people can't understand how such a lucrative sport can make the owners and players so unhappy. The league is a $9 billion business. Owners want an 18-game season and more of the profits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: You know, again, I've repeated over and over again, this is going to get resolved through negotiations, not through litigation. So talking is better than litigating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Next hour Ray D'Alessio of HLN Sports will have much more to say about these negotiations.
Check your pantry. That's the advice today. The peanut butter you might be using to make your kid's lunch might be part of a recall. Just two minutes from now, we'll fill you in on which brand is affected.
KAYE: Top stories now.
More protests are planned today in Wisconsin, as state workers battle Governor Scott Walker over union rights. The governor has sent letters to 13 union heads warning of possible layoffs. He says they could be avoided if 14 Senate Democrats would return to the Capitol to debate a budget bill that would strip most state workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Another food recall to tell you about. Unilever has announced a limited recall of Skippy reduced-fat peanut butter because it may be contaminated with salmonella. So far, no illnesses reported.
You can check the Web site peanutbutter.com for a list of the products being pulled off store shelves.
Just what you don't want the hear, another hike in gas prices. The national average for regular unleaded now $3.49 a gallon. That's up two cents from yesterday.
The battle for Libya could move to a third front. While pro-and- anti-Gadhafi forces fight it out, some worry about looted army weapons winding up in the hands of terrorists.
Here's CNN's Brian Todd.
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 arms 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 Libyan jet. Are these kinds of weapons floating around Libya for the taking now?
MATTHEW SCHROEDER, MONITORS ILLICIT ARMS SALES: 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.
TODD (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, move at high speed, right toward the heat emitted by airplanes. Most civilian aircraft don't have counter measures 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 is able to land safely.
The previous year, two missiles just miss an Israeli plane full of civilians in Mombasa, Kenya.
(on camera): 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-to-air missiles is fairly easy to use and fairly easy to teach. The missile is boosted out of 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 anti- tank 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 the conflict, like rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns, could easily get onto the black market.
SCHROEDER: In fact, we expect that to happen. They will circulate, and they will circulate for years.
TODD: 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: And with the fighting in Libya intensifying, talk of a civil war is growing.
Let's bring back our Senior State Department producer, Elise Labott.
Elise, how well armed are the rebels? And what would that mean for Colonel Gadhafi?
LABOTT: Well, Randi, as we heard from Brian's piece just now, the rebels do have some sophisticated weaponry. A lot of the opposition, as we spoke a few minutes ago, are former military officials that have brought some weapons as they defected. And so they have these shoulder missiles, they have these anti-fire missiles.
And the concern is right now that this could dampen the will in a little bit of the international community to intervene, because if this opposition is armed, if there's a prolonged struggle, then we're talking about a civil war. And so if these people are armed and are fighting Gadhafi, is Colonel Gadhafi defending himself now?
This is a question that we posed to U.S. officials this week. They're saying that, you know, Colonel Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to rule, and so these people have had to take up self-defense against themselves because Colonel Gadhafi had fired on them.
And so, still, they're talking about self-defense. But if they're going to continue to use these sophisticated missiles, sophisticated arms against Gadhafi, then we're talking about an arms struggle. And it doesn't really look like the international community is going to want to get in between that -- Randi.
KAYE: And I just want to leave Libya for just a moment, Elise, and ask you about this other story that, really, a lot of people are talking about, gaining a lot of interest. That's the case of this missing American, Robert Levinson, last seen in 2007.
LABOTT: That's right.
KAYE: And now there's word that he may actually be alive?
LABOTT: That's right. Actually, CNN has been following this for many year.
Four years ago, Bob Levinson, a former FBI official, disappeared in Iran. No one knew what happened to him. There were various reports, could he be alive, could he be dead?
Recently, Secretary Clinton came out with a statement saying that the U.S. has reason to believe that Levinson is in Southwest Asia. Now, don't want to really say exactly where he is. We've always seen that Southwest Asia is really a code word for Iran, Iraq and that region.
CNN has been told that there was a proof of life that Robert Levinson is alive in recent months. The U.S. has been quietly talking to Iranian officials about this. And now they're really looking for Iran to help out, to take some action.
Secretary Clinton asking for Iran to intervene on humanitarian efforts. So, officials are cautiously optimistic that this could be resolved soon and Bob Levinson could be home with his family.
He's in poor health. His family has been talking about how much they miss him. And four years and the anniversary of the day he went missing, there could be some resolutions here hopefully.
KAYE: It is a fascinating story to follow. And boy, it would be great to have some great news coming out of that.
Elise, thank you.
KAYE: Coming up at the top of the hour, Elise will be back to talk about why the U.S. has not pushed for a no-fly zone over Libya.
As gas prices go up, some airline ticket prices are going up, too. After the break, I'll introduce you to a guy who tracks this stuff, and we'll show you a way to save a few dollars the next time you head to the airport.
KAYE: And Reynolds Wolf joins us now, tracking some storms and possibly some floods.
KAYE: For the sixth time this year the big airlines are bumping up ticket prices. American Airlines, United, Continental, U.S. Airways and especially Delta are raising their prices and blaming it on the rising cost of gasoline. However, none of the low-cost airlines -- Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran -- none of them have raised their prices. At least not yet.
But earlier I talked to Rick Seaney. He's the CEO of FareCompare.com. And I asked him what consumers could do so we don't get burned as these ticket prices are going up.
RICK SEANEY, CEO, FARECOMPARE.COM: To be honest, if you are going to be traveling this summer, especially with fuel prices so high, it's going to be about getting a better bad deal. And to get a better bad deal this summer, you're going to have to have a little bit of flexibility. So let me give you a couple of tips.
The perfect time to shop is Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
KAYE: You know, I've heard that before, that you can actually get a deal.
SEANEY: Exactly 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
KAYE: And that really works?
SEANEY: Yes. So what happens is, is typically what happens is an airline, one of them, will file a sale late Monday evening. All the other airlines scramble to match in the morning. The last airfare feed is at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It takes about two hours for it to hit the reservation system. That's when the maximum number of cheap seats are in the system.
You've got to be careful though, because typically these sales are only lasting for about three days. So, if you're shopping on Friday or Saturday, you're probably paying too much for your tickets.
KAYE: All right. So that was Tuesday afternoons around 3:00 p.m., Right?
SEANEY: That's correct. KAYE: All right. Marking that down.
So, is it better to buy now, as fares seem to be going up, or is it better to wait and give them a chance to come back down? Is there any hope of that?
SEANEY: Yes. It depends on when you're traveling.
If you're traveling for March and April, you need to go ahead and lock in right now. If you're traveling in the summertime, like, in June, you need to be waiting at least two or three weeks.
I hate to turn travelers into commodity traders for oil prices, but we saw back in 2007/2008 a lot of people, when oil was at $140, lock in their tickets in the summertime for Christmas travel. Then oil prices dropped from $140 to $70, and everybody else was getting great deals, and they locked in too high. So you're going to be spending way too much money right now for June travel. Wait about three weeks.
KAYE: I mean, I know that we're watching what the airlines are doing. But are the airlines watching what the consumer is doing as well? I mean, is this a bit of a test to see how far they can push the traveler?
SEANEY: It is. So, basically, yes, when you see airlines hiking airfares every week, that tells you exactly one thing -- that demand is strong, seats are completely full on airplanes. No middle -- empty middle seats out there, and they're going to continue to hike airfares until they see that we're not buying those tickets.
When they see that people are not buying those tickets, they're going to start ratcheting back. It's a lot different today than it was three-and-a-half years ago, during the fuel crisis. Back then, a third of a plane was typically empty. Now every seat's full. So the airlines have a lot more power, you know, to raise prices than they did back two and a half, three years ago.
KAYE: So, getting back to your do's and don'ts, I know you said that we should -- one do is to buy a ticket on a Tuesday afternoon. What else can you tell us? We should be flexible.
KAYE: What about last-minute trips? Is that a good idea?
SEANEY: Yes. You know, there's only a few last-minute deals out there. If you want to leave on a Saturday and come back on a Tuesday, or leave on a Thursday and come back on a Sunday, those are the only last-minute deals inside of 14 days before departure that you can get out there.
If you can travel on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, those are the three cheapest days to fly. Even half your trip, if you fly on those days, you'll be able to get half the benefit. So that's another great tip. And if you're shopping for your family of four, there's a great tip that I always tell people. Always shop for one person first, because if there's three cheaper seats, and you shop for four people, the reservation system kicks all four people to the next higher price. So if you do see a cheaper price for one person, you can split your ticket purchase, get those three cheap seats, and one of the more expensive ones.
KAYE: Before there was line dancing, America was hooked on the do-si-do. It was even part of the public school curriculum.
KAYE: Now square dancing could be a dying art.
KAYE: It was a dance created to bring order out of chaos. During America's infancy, settlers gathered for fellowship and to celebrate a week's work. But the dances from each culture were different, so the settlers created one pattern for all, and the square dance was born, an American original.
It became a community staple and was part of the nation's educational curriculum. But now the square dance is struggling to survive.
KAYE (voice-over): Meet the men and women of the Cherokee Squares, a square dance club in Woodstock, Georgia. Twice a month for the last seven years, the group has met to, well, dance. But the group grows smaller each year.
HAZEL STOVER, MEMBER, CHEROKEE SQUARES: It was. It was a big group all over Georgia at that time. We belonged to a club in Marietta. Then we would go to the state convention in Macon, and there would be 1,000, 1200 people there at that time, big crowds.
But now when we go, it's not hardly a thousand people. Eight hundred, usually, is the norm number.
KAYE: Some square dance supporters will tell you the popularity of the art is at a crossroads, a place it's been before. Its origins have been traced back to colonial New England and the American pioneer.
When the settlers gathered for food and fun on Saturday nights after a week of building cabins and toiling the land, they would dance. But the beats were different for the Scots, Irish, French and others.
So a new common dance was created with steps from all the new Americans. Groups would be divided into squares. And eventually, a caller was added to keep everyone in rhythm. As America grew, so did the popularity of the dance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relay.
KAYE: Then came the Roaring '20s, the flappers, jazz, the jitterbug, and the urbanization of America. The square dance was quickly becoming obsolete. And but for one man, it just might have faded away for good.
Industrialist Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, made it his mission to save what had been reduced to a fad. Ford set out to reintroduce square dancing to the country by sponsoring community dances, programs in public schools and colleges nationwide, and a nationally syndicated radio show featuring legendary dance caller Benjamin Levitt (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And couples, forward and back.
KAYE: Ford wanted the country to have an alternative to the evils of the Roaring '20s. Today, several U.S. states have designated it as their official state dance. And in 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed an act making square dancing the country's official national folk dance.
Then there was yet another crossroads, the popularity of line dancing. Still, square dancing survives.
STOVER: We don't draw in too many young people, but -- and a lot of the middle-aged people are busy with their children and stuff. So I'd say we've got some in their 50s, we've got some in their 40s, but most of us is 60 and above.
KAYE: In part two of our look at the fight to save square dancing, you'll meet some of the new faces of one of the country's oldest art forms. And the diversity of the groups just may surprise you. You'll see both a black square dancing club and a gay one, all on a mission to save what some are calling a dying art.
That's Part 2, beginning tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m.
And NEWSROOM continues at the top of the hour with Tom Foreman.
So nice to see you.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you.
KAYE: We haven't seen each other in a long time.
FOREMAN: Are you a big square dancer?
KAYE: No. FOREMAN: I've tried it a few -- there's actually a place near my home near D.C. where they do this kind of stuff all the time.
KAYE: Well, see, I knew you would have done it.
FOREMAN: No, I don't do it well at all.
KAYE: Do you do-si-do?
FOREMAN: No, they throw me out usually. I try, and they're like, "You don't" --
KAYE: Well, maybe when you're done with your entire afternoon of newscasts, maybe you'll show me a little do-si-do.
FOREMAN: We'll try a little bit.
KAYE: Yes. What do you have coming up?
FOREMAN: A lot of good things coming up today.
In our 12:00 show, we're with our legal guys, as usual. One topic we're going to be discussing of course is Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen.
You've been following Charlie, haven't you?
FOREMAN: Oh my gosh. Out of control.
KAYE: Lost his kids, trying to get them back.
FOREMAN: Oh my gosh. It's unbelievable.
Also in the 12:00, the big buzz in sports is still about the NFL. Are we going to have a season or will we not next year? Will the owners lock out the players?
Ray D'Alessio of HLN Sports, he's going to join us with the latest discussion on that.
And also today, we have a special 3:30 "Building up America." One business I visited was Zappos. Zappos.
Have you ever ordered shoes from them?
KAYE: I order from Zappos all the time.
FOREMAN: I love them. They're the coolest.
KAYE: Yes. And they come so fast. Like, in days.
FOREMAN: And their story is fascinating. So we'll have the story of Zappos later on today. And then our "Building up America" trip to Nevada, which is really interesting, because that's one of the states that has been hit absolutely the hardest.
So a busy, busy afternoon of great stories here. You should just hang around.
KAYE: I will be tuning in between my naps.
FOREMAN: Get a cup of tea. Hang around. We'll have a good time.
KAYE: I've had plenty of tea.
KAYE: Thanks, Tom. We'll see you then.
Gone are the days of clipping coupons. These days, you can get a personalized text as you approach the stores. We'll tell you how to sign up, next.
KAYE: Groupon, Living Social, Scoutmob, these are Internet companies that are promising huge savings for everything from restaurants to salon services. And while they have become increasingly popular over the last six to 12 months or so, many people still don't understand exactly how they work.
Earlier, I talked to our digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong, and I asked him to walk us through the process.
MARIO ARMSTRONG, CNN DIGITAL LIFESTYLE EXPERT: Many people still have no idea how these things work. It's really simple.
You can either use your mobile device or you can use the Internet. But basically, what you do is you go to these Web sites, the ones that you mentioned, specifically Groupon and Living Social, and you send in your e-mail. And they will send you a daily alert, a daily deal that you can buy, customized for your area, for where you live.
So it should be local merchants and local vendors that you're able to take advantage of. And it's a way of new discovery. You can find new places, new restaurants, new services that you may not have purchased before, but you may go and try out because many of these deals are over 50 percent off.
KAYE: And it doesn't cost you any money, right, to sign up and do this? I mean, you have to buy the coupon, but other than that, it's free.
ARMSTRONG: Great point, Randi. It's free to use. It's free to download the mobile applications for these services, as well.
And also, on the vendor side, in many cases, it's free for the business to also upload their deal. They'll have to pay a commission for those, but most of these deals, like I said, have to be 50 percent or higher, and they're localized to your area. So you really can't miss out.
And one quick point to make with Living Social's Web site. If you get three of your friends to also buy the deal, you can get that deal for free.
KAYE: Oh. That sounds like an even sweeter deal.
ARMSTRONG: It is.
KAYE: How about businesses? Obviously, you're saving money, but are the businesses making money?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, this is a great point because it's hard to kind of tell, right? Businesses have been seeing an explosion in the amount of people that come to their store or use their services when they do that digital deal. Those deals have fine print like 24 hours, one limit per customer. So they have to use them relatively quickly. So the businesses can see an immediate response.
So I do believe that businesses are really liking this. They can focus in on their local area and it saves them over costly things like maybe radio advertising that they would have to normally do.
KAYE: What about AT&T? They're taking this to a whole new level.
ARMSTRONG: Yes, they have a new thing called shop alert and this is really cool because it's all on your mobile device. When you're up, you go to AT&T shop alert, sign up on your mobile phone out and when you're out and about say shopping, it will actually pinpoint the areas where you are and send you deals to your phone.
Say you're out at the mall and you're shopping in Atlanta, it will alert you to deals that are happening in the mall on that day that you can take advantage. Beautiful idea.
KAYE: My husband's going to love that. That's if it's not a problem already.
ARMSTRONG: This is supposed to save you money, Randi, not help you spend more money.
KAYE: Oh, Mario, I disagree. Every good shopper knows that 50 percent off means that you can buy twice as much. Yes, it's true.
CNN NEWSROOM continues now with Tom Foreman.
LOAD-DATE: March 6, 2011