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CNN International's World One

Aired March 24, 2011 - 05:00   ET


MONITA RAJPAL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. It is 5:00 a.m. in Washington. It's 11:00 a.m. in Tripoli. I'm Monita Rajpal.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zain Verjee, you're watching WORLD ONE live from London.


VERJEE (voice-over): Also ahead, more bloodshed in Syria. Thousands demonstrating after protesters are killed in clashes with security forces.

RAJPAL (voice-over): Emergency workers at Japan's crippled nuclear plant are rushed to hospital after into direct contact with radioactive materials.

VERJEE: Portugal's prime minister calls it quits after parliament rejects his latest austerity plan.


RAJPAL: We begin this hour in Libya where allied attacks on the capital are continuing into a sixth day. These latest pictures are from Libyan state TV. They reportedly show the destruction at a military base in Tripoli after a coalition's air strike.

A government official says there were more air strikes on both military and civilian targets on Wednesday night. A U.S. military official has told CNN it is unlikely any civilians were involved. The coalition attacks on military targets have grounded Gadhafi's air forces and crippled its air defenses so strikes from now on are focusing on ground troops as they move toward rebel-held towns to try to recapture them.

VERJEE: A U.S. official described Colonel Gadhafi's ground forces as relatively well organized and able to fight effectively. They've been fighting rebels in the cities of Misrata and Ajdabiya for the past week.

The U.S. says government troops are using tanks, artillery, and rocket launchers. We spoke to a member of the Libyan opposition about the situation in Misrata, but we can't verify his reports. Here's what he what told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): I think their ammo just about to finish. The Gadhafi force has been patrolling Tripoli Street. That's it for them. The uprising has taken control, like they are blocking them inside the street. They will not let them go out. It's just a matter of time to win this battle.


VERJEE: We'll bring you more on Libya a little later in our show.

Human rights activists in Syria say 21 people have died in clashes between protesters and security forces. And just the past week, local TV is reporting that the government has fired the governor of Daraa that's there southern province where the protests have erupted.

Let's go now to Abu Dhabi where Stan Grant joins me now with the latest. Stan, how is it looking there today?

STAN GRANT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, interesting, isn't it, Zain. We're seeing more of these images, the images that are coming out of Syria, southern Syria, the city of Daraa becoming more troubling by the day.

Certainly, the number of dead is increasing each day according to human rights activists and observers on the ground. These protests appear to be gathering more momentum. Initially started out very localized in Daraa about local issues, people trying to have some of the political prisoners being released from prison.

It has grown since then, as we've seen more people being killed, more people have come out on the streets to join into these protests. They're now talking about much wider aims and overturning the emergency law that's been in place there for 48 years outlawing this type of dissent.

Trying to have more recognition of human rights, democracy, speaking to people within Syria, of course, a difficult place to get information out of. A very much a closed state, and the government there having an iron grip on the country.

Speaking to people, the one thing we're hearing now, this motto that's being shouted, this rallying cry of an end to fear, that the people think that there is momentum within that, seeing events in other parts of the Middle East, and that's galvanizing them.

Of course, we're also seeing this response from the security services. And different sides of the story -- state TV there are saying that it is the protesters who have been the instigators, perpetrators, of violence, and hearing from others saying that it is, in fact, the state security that is firing on the protesters themselves.

So a murky situation, these images becoming more troubling. Of course, as you say, CNN can't authenticate this video, but it certainly shows that tension is rise, violence is increasing at least on the streets in southern Syria. Zain -- VERJEE: Stan, what's the realty here? I mean, it is hard to predict, but with most of the people you've spoken to, do they think that Syria and the regime of Bashar Assad could fall?

GRANT: Well, people have been watching and waiting. This, of course, has been contained to the southern part of the country, a country that has seen this type of unrest before. It's very tribalized part of the country and others are watching how these events unfold to see how the government reacts.

If you look at the trend of this, it's following a similar trend that we've seen in other parts of the Middle East. It begins localized, it grows, the aim of the protesters, demands of the protesters increase. You get a security crackdown, and then some form of -- of consolidation or some form of olive branch reaching out from the government.

So we're still to see how this will unfold, but it's certainly bringing very much into focus the rule of Bashar Al Assad. Now, he's a person who came to power ten years ago now with the death of his father, Haffiz, a man who ruled for 30 years very much with an iron fist.

So much more was promised, so much more was expected. It was going to open up, become more liberal and move towards greater expression of human rights and democracy. Last year's human rights watch put out a report calling it the lost decade. That a lot of these promises simply did not materialize.

And now with this uprising we're seeing -- if you listen to human rights activists and others on the ground, seeing this stone response from security forces. Some are asking if he is indeed his father's son. Zain --

VERJEE: CNN's Stan Grant following development in Syria. Thanks, Stan.

RAJPAL: Dubai police say they have intercepted an illegal shipment of pistols allegedly bound for Yemen. The city's police commander in chief said smugglers attempted to send 16,000 pistols from Turkey to Yemen.

Israel has carried out the latest in a series of attacks on the Gaza strip as tit for tat assaults continue. The Islamic militant group, Hamas, which controls Gaza, says Israeli fighter jets attacked targets including a smuggling tunnel and the electric power grid causing a power blackout.

Medical workers say no one was killed. Israel says Palestinian militants have fired a barrage of mortars and rockets across the border since Saturday. It follows the first serious bombing in Jerusalem in years.

U.K. officials have revealed a British national was killed on Wednesday when a bomb went off near Jerusalem's central bus station. VERJEE: You're watching WORLD ONE live from London. On the brink, how the decision being made here left a country without a leader and brought it a step closer to a bailout.


VERJEE: A country without a leader mired in debt and teetering on the brink of a bailout. That's the situation in Portugal where the prime minister's resigned after failing to push through his plan to pull the country out of the red.

Jose Socrates stepped down after parliament rejected austerity measures including spending cuts and a freeze on pensions. Opponents say that that would have piled too much pain on the poorest people.

The whole stalemate is reigniting speculation that Portugal will need a bailout like Ireland and Greece before it. Its problems are likely to take center stage at the European Union's summit meeting in Brussels in the next few hours.

Every time anxiety over European deficits flares up, what it does is it increases pressure on the other debt-laden countries like Portugal's neighbor Spain.

Let's bring in Madrid Bureau chief Al Goodman. Al, what kind of effect is it having?

AL GOODMAN, MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: Hi, Zain. Well, let's start in Portugal. What many people are saying is they already had a very difficult economic situation with the specter of a potential bailout because of their high debt, which means they have high borrowing costs.

Investors won't get in unless they get a high rate of return and that means they can't pay back their debts. They have a nearly $13 billion bond debt, Portugal does, to pay off by June. There's a lot of concern that they won't be able to sell fresh bonds between now and then to be able to meet those payments.

Now all of this triggered with the parliament on Wednesday in Lisbon, rejecting the prime minister's latest austerity plan. He's had several austerity plans trying to cut the budget, trying to squeeze things so that they can bring down this debt.

But the opposition parties this time on the left and the right rejected it. They said the prime minister had not consulted them. He'd worked out a deal with the European Union. They didn't like it. He said he would resign if they rejected it and that's exactly what happened. He submitted his resignation.

However, the government will stay in place, according to the Portuguese president through Friday, which means that the outgoing Prime Minister, Mr. Socrates, will be able to go to Brussels and represent Portugal, although he's going up pretty empty-handed. Zain --

VERJEE: And the effect on Spain, Al?

GOODMAN: Well, it has renewed the concerns because a lot of people have said after Greece and after Ireland, those two countries taking bailouts, that Portugal might be next. If Portugal is subjected to a bailout then Spain, the pressure increases on them. Why is everyone looking at Spain?

Because the economy of Spain, the size of the economy of Spain, is twice as big as the economies of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal put together. And many people say if it came to it, the amount of money that would be needed to bail out Spain if it came to it would really put pressure on the currency itself, the euro.

Right now, Spain says and many analysts outside of Spain say it has done its homework. It has made a lot of structural reforms. It's actually gotten breathing space. There are a lot of indicators that show that.

So maybe it's not quite as much pressure as some months ago, but clearly, there's still concern here. Zain --

VERJEE: Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman reporting. Thanks a lot, Al.

RAJPAL: It was billed as a summit that would finally draw a line under the euro zone's debt crisis. Instead, Thursday's E.U. meeting in Brussels is being overshadowed by Portugal's problems.

For more now on Europe's response to the crisis, we're joined by Emily Reuben. Emily --

EMILY REUBEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Monita, for months, European leaders have talked about using the summit in Brussels to finally reach an agreement on a comprehensive package of measures to contain Europe's debt crisis.

The expectation was that this would include strengthening the European financial stability facility, raising its capacity to lend money from 250 billion euros to 440 billion euros.

However, documents leaked to the Reuters news agency suggested that there won't be a decision on this now until June when the leaders formalize the European stability mechanism, a new permanent fund that will replace the EFSF in 2013.

RAJPAL: The question, I guess, Emily, is there is Ireland, there's Spain, there is Greece, and now Portugal. The question is how is this going to be contained and if there are the worries of it spreading throughout the rest of the continent?

REUBEN: Well, you're right there, Monita. Greece and Ireland, as you say, have both received bailouts. Portugal is very likely to be next after its prime minister resigned last night. The big worry is what will happen to Spain, as we've been hearing the fourth largest economy in the euro zone.

There was some good news overnight. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard Fisher, says he believes markets have underestimated its ability to repay its debt. Athens got a bit of a break recently. The E.U. is easing term of its bailout package. That will save Greece almost $8.5 million.

But, you know, Monita, the problems here are as much political as they are economic. A quick look at Ireland explains why. The new (inaudible) with a mandate to renegotiate Ireland's bailout. He's reported to have been told that he'll get a cut in interest rate, but only if Ireland raises its super low corporate tax.

Well, Ireland's would be unwilling to do this. It's a symbol of national sovereignty. Yet, the French and German governments will find it very hard to persuade their voters to give Ireland concessions when it's seen as stealing jobs through tax dumping. Monita --

RAJPAL: All right, Emily. Thank you very much.

VERJEE: This is WORLD ONE live from London. The search for loved ones continues in Japan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No matter what's happened to him, I just want him back, she says. My child should come home to me. I need to find him.

RAJPAL: We meet a mother who lost everything, but still managed to find hope.



VERJEE: Welcome back. We want to get you a quick update from Libya and Benghazi. That's where CNN's Reza Sayah is and he joins us now. Reza, what can you tell us about the fighting today specifically in Misrata and Ajdabiya?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the push, Zain, continue by opposition forces for the key city of Ajdabiya. That's one of two key locations and really two key developments that really show that this conflict is far from over and also shows the stage is set for what could be a complicated and long, drown-out war.

Let's talk about Ajdabiya, strategically critical city for both sides, widely viewed as the front line in this conflict. Over the past 24 hours, opposition forces have gained key ground toward Ajdabiya. Remember, this is a town that opposition forces had. They lost it to Gadhafi forces.

And once the momentum shifted, with the implementation of a no-fly zone, opposition forces started moving forward towards Ajdabiya over the past 24, 36 hours. They have come to within a few kilometers of Ajdabiya with heavy fighting, nine people dead over the past 24 hours. Six people injured. Let's move west to Misrata, another key city just west of the capital of Tripoli. That's where witnesses say Gadhafi loyalists, Gadhafi troops are terrorizing, picking off civilians indiscriminately with snipers. An attack on a hospital, two people killed in that incident there.

So these developments show the conflict, the stage is set for what could be a long, drawn-out war, and could fuel the criticism that's coming against this operation. Those critics are saying yes, the civilians in Benghazi, the rebel stronghold are safe.

But this war is not just isolated to Benghazi. There are other locations, two of those locations in Misrata, in Ajdabiya where there's a lot of questions as to where things are going.

VERJEE: CNN's Reza Sayah reporting from Benghazi in Libya.

RAJPAL: Another earthquake has struck off the coast of Japan with a magnitude of 6.1. It was centered 91 miles from Sendai, among the hardest hit areas after the original quake and tsunami.

It comes after two emergency workers were taken to the hospital because of exposure to radiation after stepping in contaminated water. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Tokyo. She joins us with the latest developments. Paula --

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Monita, we understand from TEPCO, the company that's in charge of the Fukushima nuclear plant, that two workers were hospitalized. They say that actually three workers were contaminated as they were working in the basement of an engine room.

They say that all three were walking in contaminated water and say that one was in his 30s. He had the contamination of something like 180 millisievert. Now the limit of the millisievert was 100 up until this disaster. The government has lifted the safety limit to 250.

So that worker is still below that, but still significant enough to take him to the hospital. A second man in his 20s had a similar exposure. The third man, we don't know at this point.

So certainly this is of some concern to TEPCO officials. They do say they think it was skin exposure, though, as opposed to the airborne radiation that we may see in other cases. Monita --

RAJPAL: Paula, what more do we know about getting the nuclear reactors under control in terms of damage control. Give us an update on that.

HANCOCKS: Well, we know that they have managed to get electricity to reactor one, that at least the control room of reactor one. And of course, this is the most crucial issue for them at this point, trying to get electricity back to all elements of this plant and trying to get those cooling systems back on line.

So we understand reactor one and reactor three, the control rooms, now have electricity. And the blackish-grayish smoke that we heard about has now dissipated and is now just vapor from the reactor three.

TEPCO officials believe that the previous black smoke may have been from oil machinery. They're not quite sure exactly what the source was of that smoke. We know there's been around about 581 workers that have clocked in this morning, been working there since 6:30 a.m., and also still trying to cool down those reactors.

So they're still trying to pump sea water into the areas to try and keep them cool. Crucially in number three, which has been the problem reactor really, they've been completely concerned with reactor three. We know that once they finish the sea water exposure. They were going to try and introduce fresh water back into that reactor.

That's crucial because, of course, sea water is not what these reactors are used to. It's corrosive so it should be good news that they are trying to consider fresh water once again, Monita.

RAJPAL: Yes, it just show how difficult this is as we are going into the second week as we actually was completing the second week after the tsunami. Paula Hancocks there in Tokyo. Thank you.

VERJEE: According to Japanese police the number of people dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami is now at more than 25,000 and 9,523 are known to have died and 16,067 are listed as missing. The Education Ministry says at least 125 of the victims were children.

"International Business Times" reports about 1,600 children are missing and from the Myagi prefecture, this is the scene, soldiers carrying out a mass burial. Japanese custom is usually to cremate the remains of the dead, but they're making an exception now because the people in the tsunami zone badly need the fuel for the heat and transport.

RAJPAL: The emotional trauma in Japan is hard to imagine. But for many people, the daily effort just to survive is leaving little time to mourn. In one town, the list of dead and missing includes large numbers of children. Kyung Lah reports now on how their parents are trying to cope.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Kaiko Naganuma, coping with loss comes by denying grief. She stays upbeat for her 6-year-old son, Ron. Silently counting the number of her missing family members, seven or eight, she says, from her mother to her other son, 8-year- old, Koto.

He is presumed dead. His body washed away by the tsunami. He was at school. No matter what happened to him, I just want him back, she says. My child should come home to me. I need to find him. It's a feeling shared by this community searching for so many young children and mourning a loss that defies life's natural order.

(on camera): When the earthquake happened students at the elementary school evacuated out of the school. They had no idea a tsunami was coming. Out of 108 students at the school that day, 77 are either dead or missing. That's 70 percent of the children at the school.

(voice-over): Only a shell stands where children learned. Backpack after backpack sits for parents to retrieve, along with a picture of the school little league team. The bats they used, art bags filled with crayons, all waiting to be identified and brought home.

But there are no homes for these Ishinomaki evacuees. You may notice there are hardly any children in this shelter. Those who survived will struggle emotionally.

Aid organization save the children hopes to ease the onslaught of the trauma, giving child tsunami victims something simple -- a place to play inside the evacuation centers.

SHANA PEIFFER, SAVE THE CHILDREN: To have a sense of safety and to actually also work with the parents on how to support them in this process. It's going to be a long recovery process for children.

LAH: For 8-year-old Miku, one of the 30 survivors of the elementary school, it's a relief, a chance to draw something pretty away from the devastation of the world around her. The day ends for Kaiko Naganuma without any word about her missing son. She will not fall apart, she says.

I'm not OK, she says, of course I'm not, but I have another son. Ron saw the tsunami. His brother is not coming home so I think he understands. I can see he's pretending to be happy so we don't worry about him. So mother joins and pretends for her son and for herself. Kyung Lah, CNN, Ishinomaki, Japan.



RAJPAL: Hello, this is WORLD ONE live from London. I'm Monita Rajpal.

VERJEE: I'm Zain Verjee. Here are our top stories this hour.


RAJPAL (voice-over): Human right activists in Syria say 21 people have died in clashed between protesters and security forces in the past week. Local television is reporting that the government of Syria has sacked the governor of Daraa, the southern province where protests have erupted.

VERJEE (voice-over): European leaders are debating what to do about Portugal. Now that's the country where the prime minister has resigned. Jose Socrates has stepped down after parliament refused to pass his austerity plan killing speculations Portugal is going need an international bailout. The turmoil is likely take center stage at the E.U.'s debt crisis summit in Brussels.

RAJPAL: In Japan two people working at the quake-damaged nuclear plant in the country's northeast have been hospitalized after stepping into contaminated water at the site. That's according to officials who say it's a very regrettable situation.

Meanwhile, tests on Tokyo's tap water have shown levels of radioactive iodine from the plant, and those levels have fallen and that it is now safe for everyone including babies to drink.

VERJEE: Strikes and counterstrikes are raising tensions between Israel and Gaza. Palestinian officials say Israel staged three airstrikes over Gaza last night. Israel says Palestinian militants have fired a barrage of mortars and rockets across the border, so it's firing back.

That follows the first big bomb blast in Jerusalem in years. A British national was killed yesterday when it went off near the city's central bus station.

NIR BARKAT, MAYOR OF JERUSALEM: The key is to move on with our lives. To continue with our normal life, normal plans. This alone will decrease the motivation of people that are trying to derail our normal life. They will not be successful doing so.

VERJEE: U.S. soldier Jeremy Morelock has pleaded guilty to charges he and other soldiers killed Afghan citizens for sport last year. But Morelock's possible life sentence was reduced to 24 years in a plea deal. German news magazines have published photographs showing Morelock and other soldiers posing over the bodies of dead Afghans.


VERJEE: Allied attacks on the Libyan capital, Tripoli are continuing into a sixth day. Take a look at these pictures.


VERJEE (voice-over): They're from Libyan state TV, and they reportedly show the destruction at a military base in Tripoli. Look at that fire raging.

These were apparently filmed just after a coalition air strike. The coalition attacks on military targets have now grounded Gadhafi's air force and crippled the country's air defenses. So strikes from now on are focusing more on ground troops as they move toward rebel-held towns to try and recapture them.


RAJPAL: The Libyan government says a number of civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes including women and children. To prove it, they bundled foreign reporter on it a convoy of buses to show them a house they said had been destroyed.

Nic Robertson was on board and he picks up the story from there.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A drive through Tripoli's streets is a window on a city at war. The roads quieter than normal, half the stores closed. Like all trips we take, government officials determine when and where we go, this one to the south of the city, not quite as they planned.

(on camera): About 30 minutes ago, the government took us to set off as a trip to find a civilian house that had been damaged in bombing. They said there was a military facility nearby, but civilians had been wounded. Collateral damage, they said.

Well, we've been driving around for the last half-hour, 20 minutes in one neighborhood around what seems to be a heavily walled, guarded compound. They still can't find this house and they have been stopping to talk to people along the way.

But they're not talking to the people at the street side here because this is a government convoy and most likely for people here, even if they knew anything, wouldn't tell government officials.

(voice-over): About 12 hours earlier, not long after Moammar Gadhafi's defiant speech, state TV ran a video it claimed showed civilians being pulled from burning rubble. That's the place we were expecting to be taken.

After more waiting at the roadside, not far from a large military installation, there is still no help for the government officials.

(on camera): After another 10 minutes of indecision, we're moving on again. I'm not sure that the drivers actually know where they're going this time, but going to find out.

(voice-over): The day before when officials took us to see bomb damage at the harbor, residents flocked there, too. Keen to see the strikes, state TV doesn't broadcast. Despite the pro-Gadhafi rallies that have become a staple of government television, this is a city of apprehension and anxiety.

Regime opponents afraid to speak out, silently, hoping for change. Everyone worried a wider war may be coming. Today, our opportunity to find out more all too brief.

(on camera): Well, we've been brought back to the hotel. Government officials couldn't find the house so here we are back at the hotel where this all began about a half-hour ago.

(voice-over): Our window closing until the next time. Nic Robertson, CNN, Tripoli, Libya.


VERJEE: The campaign by the international coalition in Libya is facing questions over its end strategy, what is it, and who's going to take over old command. European leaders are meeting to talk about it.

CNN's Paula Newton is outside NATO Headquarters in Brussels, and she joins us now live. Paula, what are you hearing from your sources? Are they going to lead this or not? PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: NATO still continually insists that, look, these meetings are tense and they still have a lot to work out. I point out, Zain, the European leaders are here across town, an E.U. summit, highly contentious summit. They expect this issue to come up on the margins of that summit.

Now their NATO ambassadors are not meeting right now. They may meet later today. At issue, Zain, exactly who is going to lead this coalition? Apparently a lot of contentious issues still arising from the French proposal that while all those military assets that NATO has are at the disposal of the coalition that politically this mission would be led by a different command. And that command structure obviously involving perhaps just the French and the British and crucially some Arab consultation and support.

The problem is countries even like the United States, Zain, are saying we can put this under the NATO umbrella. NATO itself saying that we have good relations with the Arab community. That they do operate under our command in Afghanistan already. There is no reason this can't be done from NATO.

But, Zain, you know, if you really cut through all of these political wrangling, what it means is countries that have assets in the air, in the water, what is the end game here in Libya? They want to make sure that politically they have the most control over pushing those levers, pulling strings, and actually trying to mold this mission forward, and a mission that becomes more and more complicated by the hour. Zain --

VERJEE: Paula, is all the political confusion and the political wrangling right now over at NATO affecting the military plan?

NEWTON: It isn't affecting it so far, but the longer this goes on, the more complicated it will get. We've seen a lot of confusion already over what are they really getting involved in. How widespread will this imposition of the no-fly zone go? How much will they actually back the fight against Gadhafi's forces?

All of these issues right now, we've seen a lot of aggressive air strikes in the last 24 hours by this coalition as it exists now. If it moves into a NATO command, what will that U.N. resolution, the imposition of that U.N. resolution, what tell look like on the ground?

And a lot of that has to do with discomfort with some nations, Zain, acting as they're taking sides that may become a divided Libya, a civil war in Libya and a lot of nations being very, very uncomfortable with that right now.

VERJEE: CNN's Paula Newton at NATO in Brussels.

RAJPAL: Well, U.S. President Barack Obama has been on a trip to Latin America, meeting with business and political leaders there. But he is returning home to a firestorm of criticism over his handling of the crisis in Libya.

He spoke to CNN just before returning from the five-day trip and Republican House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to Mr. Obama Wednesday complaining military resources had been committed without the White House defining their mission.

One member of Congress suggested the move was unconstitutional since the president didn't get approval from lawmakers. Well, let's take a look at what newspapers in the United States are saying about President Obama. "USA Today" has the headline "Obama's Plan Lost in Glare of Public Crisis." The paper says crisis has defined Obama's presidency from the start.

Now Obama's decision to use U.S. military forces to impose a no-fly zone over Libya has prompted criticism from Republican presidential hopefuls that the president dithered before agreeing to act.

"The Chicago Tribune," the headline says, "While Obama Seeks Clarity, We're Fighting Another War." The president must find clarity before beginning such an enterprise. To do otherwise is to risk not only American lives and his own presidency and political fortunes, but to risk America's future security and its place among nations.

And finally the "Washington Post's" headline says "Fast Trip from Tyrant to Weakling." The newspaper goes on to say "the White House justifiably complains that the criticism of Obama's Libya policy is inconsistent, but it doesn't matter if the criticism is fair. Obama left a vacuum, and his opponents filled it. For a president suddenly called weak, such is the tyranny of the new cycle."

You can read all of thsoe articles in full at

VERJEE: This is WORLD ONE live from London. We are going to long remember this famous face. What makes Elizabeth Taylor so unforgettable? Elton John will tell us later.

RAJPAL: Losing faith. Why organized religion could become a thing of the past. That's coming up.


VERJEE: We're not passing judgment on religion, but they are saying that it's dying out. That's according to new research published in the U.S. It says nine western countries are losing their faith, naming Canada, Australia, Switzerland, and Finland among others.

Take a look at Catholic Ireland here. The "no religion" category in 1961 was 0.04 percent and look at where it is in 2006, 4.2 percent in the no religion category. Let's check at the Netherlands here, about 40 percent today. Look at the number, by 2050 more than 70 percent of people over in the Netherlands will say that they have no religion.

In the U.S. now, that's an interesting one because the census doesn't really ask too much about religion so the researchers there don't have enough data to predict what will happen. But check this out -- "no religion" is the fastest growing part of the population in the United States. Let's have a chat with our religious affairs contributor, Richard Greene, to find out what is going on.

Are people just fearing God less or they don't care as much? I mean, how did these guys even predict this, Richard? RICHARD GREENE, RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, these guys are not talking about what people believe or why they do what they do. What they're doing is they're analyzing the trends. So they've got numbers from the census in these nine countries going back 100 years.

And it shows a very clear pattern, in all of these nine countries over time more and more people are drifting away from religion. So what they're saying is this is a trend that's going to continue. Given time, religion will simply die out in those countries.

VERJEE: And why those country? Is there something particular about them and not others?

GREENE: Well, it's a question of where the data is available. These nine countries have the information available. The census has been asking what the religion is. Many other countries the census doesn't ask if they weren't able to do the analysis there.

VERJEE: Richard, one of the interesting things was actually the influence of social media and social media networks on the no religiousness of some of these countries, rights?

GREENE: That's right. One of the assumptions these guys are working with is that you're affected by your friends. You see it on Facebook. They say if you look at people's friends on Facebook, you can predict their politics, religion, their income.

So what these researchers say is, look, if you know even a couple of people who don't go to church, who don't go to mosque, you are more likely not to go yourself. And the more people you know who are not church-goers, not religious, the less likely are you to continue going yourself.

VERJEE: The guys who did this research right?

GREENE: I wouldn't bet on it. There have been predictions for years and years that religion is going to wither away. I spoke to a major demographer of religion who studied religion in the states.

The first thing he said, "Richard, there's an old Jewish tradition -- prophecy is for fools and children." I put that to the researcher who put out this research, and he just laughed.

VERJEE: Richard Greene, our religious contributor, thanks so much for putting it in perspective there and giving us a reality check.

GREENE: Thank you.

RAJPAL: Coming up next, there's something missing from this picture. Something that's unfortunately all too familiar to disaster victims in Haiti, New Zealand, and New Orleans. Looters, why doesn't Japan have them?


RAJPAL: Welcome back, this is WORLD ONE live from London. VERJEE: We're coming up on 6:00 a.m. in New York, 11:00 a.m. in Berlin, 7:00 p.m. in Tokyo. Here are our top stories --

RAJPAL: Human rights activists in Syria say 21 people have died in clashes between protesters and security forces in the past week. Local television is reporting that the government has fired the governor of Daraa, the southern province where protests have erupted.

European leaders are debating what to do about Portugal now that the country's prime minister has resigned. Jose Socrates stepped down after parliament refused to pass his austerity measures. The lack of a plan is fueling speculation that Portugal will need an international bailout.

In Japan, two people working at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant have been taken to hospital after stepping in contaminated water at the site. Separately, tests on Tokyo's tap water showed levels of radioactive iodine have fallen, and it's now safe for everyone including babies to drink.

VERJEE: Let's take a look at what's trending on social media right now. This is in the number-three spot. Happy birthday, Houdini. Now today would be Harry Houdini's 137th birthday. The famed illusionist and magician has actually been honored by Google. So if you log on to, you will see that he is on the Google doodle.

Take a look at number two. No looting in Japan. It's a story we've been talking about for weeks, and it's still so popular on There's one reader on the site that comments that it's just Japanese culture, very refined, dignified, disciplined, and civilized.

Finally at number one, the royal download. An audio recording of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding ceremony is going be the first marriage available for you to download. It's only going to be available after a few hours when the service happens, and iTunes will let you download the audio of the whole service.

You'll be able to hear the couple's vows, as well. There's some discussion on line, too, of why people would buy a recording of another couple's wedding when most married couples don't even watch their own. For a sneak peek of the royal wedding carriages and more of the top stories, make sure you go to

RAJPAL: Heavy snowfall and severe storms have ripped across parts of the United States. Let's go to meteorologist Jennifer Delgado at the World Weather Center for more on what to expect today. Jen --

JENNIFER DELGADO, METEOROLOGIST: Yesterday was a wild day. I want to look at this graphic for you and point out to you -- look at the reports. You can see in blue wind damage as well as tornadoes. Reportedly we had five tornadoes touch down across parts of the U.S. That includes Pennsylvania as well as Tennessee and even California.

Let me show you some damage coming out of Pennsylvania. Now National Weather Service still has to go out there and survey the damage. But you can see certainly a very strong storm system coming through that region. Roofs out, you see second floors of some of those homes ripped out across parts of the U.S.

Now as I take you over to the radar, I'm going to point out things have really died down. For the northeast, that storm system moving out of there, just a little snow as well as a little wintry mix moving out of the northeast as well as New England, but out toward the west, we are dealing with another story.

We're talking heavy snow is going to be coming to parts of California once again, but let me show you some of the snow that came down yesterday. First off we're going to start off in parts of Pennsylvania. Yes, school was out yesterday. It may say spring, but it was certainly a spring snowstorm. Some areas picked up about 15 to 25 centimeters of snowfall.

We're talking five to seven inches and we have more snow. It gets worse. This is coming out of Minnesota and out of Minnesota. They actually had blizzard conditions through parts. You see people shoveling it. That's when you really need a snow blower especially when you live in Minnesota with all that type of snow.

This is not something you want to be shoveling all the time. As I take you over on the radar, you see on the west coast it's still active. As we go through today, as well as tomorrow, potentially, we could see about three quarters meters of snowfall coming down along the Sierra mountains.

If you want to know what that is, we're talking about two feet of snow. More snow, you see, for parts of the four corners and toward the Pacific Northwest, but certainly the storm system coming from the west. There's also potentially going to be bringing some more flooding problems and flooding and mud slides out of California.

Finally, I want to leave you with some video coming out of Minnesota. Now, you know, you have to have a sense of humor if you live in Minnesota and you're dealing with the cold weather. Well, this man said, hey, the freezing temperatures and the snow, no, no, no. This didn't bother him.

He decided to go to Lake Superior, Zain and Monita, and brought along a friend, did a little wind surfing. OK? That's just a bit too extreme for me.

RAJPAL: Yes, brave, brave soul.


RAJPAL: Brave soul there, Jen. My mother was telling me it was snowing in Toronto there yesterday as well. I guess, it's the last blast of winter. Isn't it always snowing in Toronto?

DELGADO: Not always, but it seems like in Minnesota lately and that part of the U.S.

RAJPAL: All right, Jen. Thank you very much.

DELGADO: See you tomorrow. RAJPAL: Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor passed away Wednesday at the age of 79. Taylor's first major role in the movie "National Velvet" made her a child star, and she remained a star for the rest of her life.

Elton John was a close friend and dedicated a song to her at his concert in Pittsburgh yesterday. Elton played "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" in her memory. He praised Elizabeth for her dedication to AIDS charity work.


ELTON JOHN, SINGER, ENTERTAINER: She stood up when no one was prepared to stand up and be counted against AIDS. She supported everybody in that with 1,000 percent of her body and fiber. God bless you, Elizabeth. God knows how we're going to replace you. This is for you and your beautiful memory, and for all those people you helped and saved.


VERJEE: You're watching WORLD ONE live from London. I'm Zain Verjee.

RAJPAL: And I'm Monita Rajpal.