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Battle for Libya; Japan Nuclear Crisis; 'CNN Freedom Project'

Aired March 28, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

Rebels advance. Libyan opposition fighters head for Moammar Gadhafi's hometown.

Japanese medical staff overwhelmed with guilt for the ones they couldn't save.


PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: As beautiful as this view is, well, let's just say we really, really want to get out of here.


STOUT: And you can feel his frustration. CNN Special Correspondent Philippe Cousteau and his team are desperate to get going. Mother Nature is still standing in the way.

Now, Libya's opposition fighters like these have reason to cheer. They are advancing west and credit coalition air strikes with clearing the way.

In less than 24 hours, the rebels have regained much of the ground they lost to government forces. Leader Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte is now in their sights. Several explosions have recently been heard in that area. Rebel fighters and Gadhafi troops are facing off in a nearby town.

Now, separately, coalition air strikes have come under fresh criticism. Russia's foreign minister says the military action supports Libya's rebels going beyond the U.N. mandate. Now, this comes after NATO agreed to take complete command of operations.

Now, let's show you exactly where the rebels reversed their losses.

Now, on Friday, the picture for them, it looked somewhat bleak. And the green line here on the map, that represents the areas controlled by Gadhafi forces. The opposition, shown here in gold, was largely pushed back to its stronghold of Benghazi.

But then, on Saturday, the rebels, they took back Ajdabiya. And after that gateway city fell, so did other key towns. Opposition fighters claim that they captured Al Brega, right here, as well as Ras Lanuf, from Gadhafi loyalists on Sunday.

Now, let's get the very latest on the battle for Libya. Arwa Damon is traveling with rebel fighters as they head west. She joins us now live from central Libya.

And Arwa, rebels have turned their attention to the cities of Gadhafi's birth, Sirte. What is the latest there?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kristie. They have. And just to add to the list of cities that you mentioned in opposition control, we can also add Bin Jawad, to the west of Ras Lanuf. And right now we're outside of the small town of Nawfaliyah.

Opposition fighters who were gathered around saying that they were waiting for the front line. Their advance team to push through have in the last few minutes moved forward. There's still a handful of them here, but now they're telling us that they control Nawfaliyah as well, which brings them significantly closer to Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.

This is not only the opposition regaining territory that it lost to Gadhafi's military, this is pushing further west than they have ever been able to come before. A number of them you can see moving down the road, moving more towards that front line. They're hoping, they were telling us, to reach the outskirts of Sirte today, but it's still a long ways to go, at least 100 kilometers, before they reach that city.

Many of them very optimistic, feeling as if they can accomplish their final goal. They are also telling us that all of this, Kristie, is due to those air strikes, what we have been seeing repeatedly. The opposition has been able to push through these various cities and towns because the air strikes have initially come in and cleared out Gadhafi's troops, or bombed them, basically, and forced them to withdraw -- Kristie.

STOUT: You know, when the rebels retook all this territory including Bin Jawad, Al Brega, Ras Lanuf, how much resistance did they face?

DAMON: Not a whole lot, Kristie, and that is what was surprising for some of them. When they came into Ras Lanuf yesterday, they were telling us that there was no resistance, there was no sign of Gadhafi's forces whatsoever.

At this location where we're at, we have been hearing explosions in the distance. The fighters telling us that they were receiving artillery fire, they were being shot at with tanks. And so it seems as if Gadhafi's military is now beginning to fight back, or at least stand their ground. There were reports, according to opposition fighters, of air strikes on Gadhafi's positions outside of Nawfaliyah earlier this morning. And as I was saying, we are still hearing explosions in the distance, but the opposition fighters are now telling us that they do in fact control Nawfaliyah itself -- Kristie.

STOUT: And Arwa, the humanitarian situation, as the fighting for Libya continues, how is it affecting food supplies, daily life, the local economy?

DAMON: You know, Kristie, interestingly, it has not had the severe impact that one would expect. Of course there are some shortages, but there is not a humanitarian crisis per se.

In these various areas, the big concern was, of course, the civilian population that was trapped there at the mercy of Gadhafi's troops. In Ajdabiya, we were hearing reports of no water, no electricity, intimidation by Gadhafi's forces, house-to-house searches by them.

We were also speaking with a number of refugees who had fled Ajdabiya, who were literally camped out in the desert around it. But they were receiving supplies, convoys coming down from Benghazi, effectively being put together by the civilian population. And we've really seen the civilian population here rallying, supporting one another. There are a number of places where people would offer free, safe housing to cars that were trying to evacuate from one location or another.

We've been seeing neighbors banding together, collecting food. There's a regular supply chain down to the front line that is being put together by volunteers in Benghazi, and that is how people tell us they've been able to stave off the type of humanitarian crisis everybody was so worried about, because they have managed to stand together as a community.

STOUT: Fascinating picture on the front line of this civil war.

Arwa Damon, joining us live from central Libya.

Many thanks indeed.

Now, we are trying right now to track down the whereabouts of a woman who made a desperate plea to journalists in Tripoli. Iman Al-Obeidy, the woman you see here, she burst into a hotel restaurant on Saturday. She screamed that she had been raped and abused by members of Gadhafi's militia.

Now, government minders roughly led her away and forced her into a car. Al-Obeidy's cousin says she's concerned about what may happen to her in custody.


WEDAD OMAR, COUSIN OF EMAN AL-OBEIDY (through translator): We were surprised when we saw what happened to Eman. We didn't recognize her. Her face looked different. She didn't look like herself. We hope this problem passes, but we're afraid Gadhafi's people will give Eman something to make her go crazy.


STOUT: Now, the Libyan government says Al-Obeidy has been released and her case is being investigated. And CNN has not been able to confirm that announcement.

Now, our Nic Robertson has posted some additional perspective on Twitter. He writes this: "Just to be clear, Libyan government spokesman says Eman Al-Obeidy, she was released, but no one here will believe it until we are allowed to see her."

Now, earlier, Nic shared additional details of exactly what happened at the hotel. Here, he writes, "Within minutes of beginning to tell her story, government officials and hotel staff moved in to shut her up."

And this riveting bit of detail: "Waitress threatened her with a knife, calling her 'traitor.' Government officials began beating journalists trying to interview her."

And finally, Nic sent this out over the weekend. "CNN camera violently snatched, systematically smashed to pieces, and video footage stolen. Some journalists beaten in blatant display of regime thuggery."

Now, Gadhafi's government claims that allied attacks are killing innocent civilians, and coalition officials reject that claim. The U.S. defense chief, Robert Gates, says it is a grim ruse by the regime. Now, here's what he told the U.S. network CBS.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The truth of the matter is we have trouble coming up with proof of any civilian casualties that we have been responsible for. But we do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Gadhafi taking the bodies of people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we're attacked. We have been extremely careful in this military effort.


STOUT: Robert Gates there.

Now, the U.S. president Barack Obama, is due to speak about the situation in Libya on Monday night. He is expected to provide an update on the multinational military action, and you can see that speech live on CNN from the National Defense University in Washington. It's at 7:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time. That's 23:30 GMT, 7:30 a.m. in the morning here in Hong Kong.

Now, elsewhere, many part of the Middle East and North Africa remain volatile amid deadly civil unrest.

In southern Yemen, at least 40 people were killed just a short time ago as an ammunition factory they were ransacking exploded. Now, a group of al Qaeda militants had purportedly looted the very same factory on Sunday, making off with cases of weapons.

Now, the shoes have come off as anti-government protesters continue their call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Mr. Saleh had been considering a deal struck over the weekend, but has since backed away, saying he is through with making concessions.

As with all social media, we cannot confirm the authenticity of what you're watching here, but this YouTube video out of Syria speaks to the violence that erupted in Daraa during anti-government protests on Saturday and Sunday. President Bashar al-Assad is expected to address the nation soon, and there is talk that a 50-year-old emergency law will be lifted, although no one is saying when.

Now, coming up on NEWS STREAM, we will have the latest on the nuclear crisis in Japan and the erroneous radioactive reading that set off alarm bells before it was corrected.

After it was washed out by the tsunami, Sendai's airport is trying to get back on its feet. We'll look at the rebuilding efforts there.

Still, for those who made it out of the tsunami, the guilt of surviving weighs on. We'll bring you their stories.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, in Japan, officials are trying to figure out what to do with highly radioactive water pulled in parts of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. They say there is no place to put it.

That water was the source of confusion over the weekend. TEPCO mistakenly reported it had 10 million times the normal dose of radiation instead of 100,000 times normal levels. TEPCO apologized, saying it got the reading wrong because of worker fatigue.

Now, here's how Japan's chief cabinet secretary responded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Measurement of radioactivity is vital for the ensurance of safety for the workers there. So, such a mistake is not something that should be forgiven or acceptable.


STOUT: Now, CNN's Martin Savidge has been covering the story. He joins us now live from Tokyo.

Martin, that mistake in radiation reading from TEPCO, is that an indication of greater issues with the operator, issues about its reliability and whether it has a handle on the situation?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, TEPCO says, Kristie, that the problem there with the figure they put out was the fact that people were just simply tired and they did the math wrong. However, it does seem to indicate that they are stressed, that they are in fact fatigued. And this does lead to the overall concern about whether there is real safety issues at the nuclear facility and how well they're sticking to their safety issues.

I want to bring up another subject, and that's the issue of the U.S. military presence here, because it should be pointed out that the military, on the part of the United States, has been working hand in hand both with trying to get help up to Fukushima and to other places. Case in point, the Sendai airport, which is crucial to opening up and bringing in humanitarian aid, but it suffered greatly due to the tsunami. However, they're making progress.

Here's what we found.


SAVIDGE: If you remember some of the most amazing images that came out in the first hours after the tsunami, one of them would have to be the airport in Sendai. It's just so amazing to see that this massive airport, overrun with water and debris. Now we're going back to see how it looks today.

(voice-over): But first, we have to avoid Japan's ongoing nuclear disaster.

COL. RON TOFT, USAF SPECIAL OPS: This is the Fukushima reactor, the 25- mile restricted area. This is our airplane here.

SAVIDGE: Colonel Ron Toft was aboard the first plane to land at Sendai after the tsunami.

TOFT: I think anything that you see on TV with Hollywood, with their greatest special effects, can't put into perspective the amount of destruction that was down there on the airfield the day that we arrived.


SAVIDGE: Sweeping in for landing ourselves, we see none of that.

(on camera): You can probably see that for the most part, behind us it looks great. It really does.

(voice-over): The transition is amazing given what happened here the day of the disaster. But get away from the runway and you see the reminders, which a literal army of 240 U.S. airmen, soldiers and Marines, alongside Japanese civilians, frantically worked to clear.

By just dumb luck, there were no large passenger planes here when the wave hit, but hundreds of smaller, mostly private aircraft weren't so lucky. They look as though they fell from the sky. Even ones in the hangars weren't spared.

(on camera): This is the main entrance here at Sendai. It's like any normal American airport, only it's not so normal now.

(voice-over): Sendai is an international hub. Think Logan airport or Dulles. Japanese officials had written the place off.

(on camera): Did you think it would be able to be reopened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be honest, the answer is no.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): But it is open and now serves as a center for humanitarian aid distribution. And guiding those planes from the same roof on which so many sought shelter now stand American Air Force air traffic controllers who saw a tragedy and were able to help.

MASTER SGT. MICHAEL CHARVAT, USAF COMBAT CONTROLLER: You feel kind of sand that you know you're here for a job, and hopefully you can bring some relief to the Japanese people.

SAVIDGE: Once an iconic image of a disaster, Sendai airport has now been transformed into an early sign of hope.


SAVIDGE: Japanese officials say that opening up that airport is really sending a very strong signal to the surrounding area. That if they can get this place open, there are a lot of areas they can start to open up. It's hope, and that's the biggest sign they can give to the people -- Kristie.

STOUT: You know, Martin, crews from all over the world have pledged assistance. And crews, as we've seen there in your report just now, the U.S. military, is on the ground offering assistance. But there is a huge need on the ground.

So just how well-coordinated is this massive rebuilding and recovery effort?

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, they're just getting started. And the truth is, as they try to deal with the initial aftermath -- the early planning stages has only begun. Right now the main thing is to get people out of the temporary shelters and get them into full-time housing of some sort. But you're talking hundreds of thousands of people that are going to have to be moved to other prefectures.

That is beginning to happen. Many have gone to extended families. The rebuilding though, that's barely begun.

STOUT: Martin Savidge, joining us live from Tokyo.

Thank you very much indeed.

Now, we want to take you back to March the 11th, when Japan was hit with that 9.0 earthquake and, just minutes later, that devastating tsunami. Now, this is new footage of the incredible power of that tsunami as it hit the coastal town of Kesennuma.

STOUT: The tsunami just roars ashore. Dramatic video from the March 11th tsunami that claimed thousands of lives.

Now, more than 28,000 people are dead or missing in Japan's disaster. As our Kyung Lah reports, for those who survived the devastation, the guilt weighs heavily.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the haunted shell that remains at Sakata (ph) Hospital amid the broken beds, the IV bags filled with mud, nurse Fumiko Suzuki (ph) hears the screams of the lives she could not save.

"The patients couldn't walk," she says. "I heard someone screaming, 'Auntie, I can't save you!' I'm sorry.'"

"I looked out, and the wave was as high as a fourth-floor window. 'I'm sorry,' I said, as I ran upstairs."

(on camera): You had to leave patients behind.

(voice-over): "It is the biggest regret I have."

(on camera): The tsunami flooded ever single floor of this hospital. Fifty-one people were hospitalized that day; 12 drowned in their beds; three died on the roof awaiting rescue. But it wasn't just patients who died that day.

Ten of Sakata's (ph) hospital staff died with the patients. Among them, a man who ran for a satellite phone so survivors could call rescue crews. The hospital's director says he tossed it to the roof seconds before the tsunami killed him.

"This handwritten note reads, 'He's helping us from heaven,'" says Dr. Ishiki (ph). The doctor himself lost his own wife, but won't leave his makeshift clinic, a survivor burdened with the echoes of lives left behind.

Nurse Suzuki (ph) feels the same. She's been here ever since she was rescued.

Cheerfully treating patients, despite losing her house, her friends and her family, everything. The clothes she's wearing, donated.

"When I hear that," says Suzuki's (ph) lifelong patient, "it breaks my heart. It's a natural disaster. They want to save everyone, but in this situation they can't."

Nurse Suzuki (ph) says she can do something now. She can stay on the job.

"Whatever the situation, I will stay here. Talking with the patients will be my cure."

Caretakers pledging to heal and hoping to heal themselves.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Rikuzentakata, Japan.



STOUT: Now, this year, CNN is doing what it can to help counter the very real problem of modern-day slavery. Now, correspondents and production teams around the world are working to show you the individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments alike whose actions are having an impact on an unthinkable trade -- the trade of human lives.

Now, we're bringing all our platforms to bear to inform you about the problem, and we hope hold authorities accountable for as many cases as we can. And we're calling it the "CNN Freedom Project."

Now, the United Nations defines human trafficking as the act of transporting, harboring or receiving a person through the use of force or other coercive means in order to exploit them, and it calls that a crime against humanity.

Now, Nepal's Anuradha Koirala is the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year, and she seemingly never tires of helping sex-trafficking victims and advocating on their behalf. Now, take a look at some of what she is doing in Nepal and why.


TEXT: Thousands of people cross the border between Nepal and India every day. Among them, countless girls and young women who have been sold into sex slavery. But one woman hopes to rescue them before it's too late.

ANURADHA KOIRALA, 2010 CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: We are at Najungar (ph). This is the exit point of the Kathmandu Valley. And when the trafficking happens, all the girls are brought to Kathmandu. And from Kathmandu, then they are distributed to different exit points of Nepal and India.

The girls we find are from 6 years up to 16 years. We are looking -- checking all the buses for girls going out, who can be trafficked, probably (INAUDIBLE) trafficked. And we have got two girls who have been missing and just reported. So we are looking at every bus now to see if our girls are there.

The trafficking of the girls is done by people who are basically known to the girls, who are from the same village, or who can lure them and tell them that they're getting a nice job. Now, every day our girls are intercepting four girls to five girls per day.

It is dangerous, but at this moment police is always there. So, we go into the bus, and police follow us, and then they help us to ask questions. But even when the police is there if the criminals really act very hard, then it is very difficult for us.

I appreciate my girls who are working as a patrol, border patrol guards, because they have been trafficked themselves, and who came back from India, and now they are working as border guards here. And it is not traumatic to them, I think. And they are very active and strong, because they are intercepting and helping (ph) the girls.

If they find a girl, and if a man is over there, then the police take the man into custody and the girl is handed over to us. We find the parents of the girls, and if the parents of the girls want to take the girls home, then it's OK. Otherwise, then the girl stays with us and she does some training. And then after that, when she (INAUDIBLE).

I do not think this is a sacrifice. It's duty of each and every Nepali to save our girls by stopping them from being trafficked.

TEXT: Since Maiti Nepal's founding in 1993, more than 12,000 girls have been rescued from sex slavery.


STOUT: Now, this is the type of story you may want to e-mail to someone so they can see it, too. You can find it at, or you can share it by e-mail or social media. That address again,

Well, many people all over the world are joining the CNN Freedom Project by uploading images to iReport, holding signs with the same message, "I am taking a stand to end slavery."

Now, here's a few.

Charles Rodriguez (ph) is a photojournalist in the Dominican Republic. And Arthur Klesovich (ph) is a student in Moscow. Oksan Omar (ph) lives in Malaysia. And this is Lindell Palmer Clark (ph) from Stockholm, Sweden.

They're also sending in videos. You can join us, too. Just go to the Web site to find out how.

And a reminder. Starting today, we'll begin a week of extensive coverage on sex trafficking. "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson will take us inside a ring to fight sex trafficking. You can find more about that project right here on CNN.

Now, still ahead on NEWS STREAM, we'll be meeting China's netizens. We'll introduce you to three of China's 450 million Internet surfers.

And rebel forces, on the move in Libya. We'll take you live to Libya as opposition fighters near Gadhafi's birthplace.

And extreme weather gets in the way of extreme science. Our CNN team of icy explorers takes a detour on their way to the Arctic Circle.


STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines.

Now officials at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant say they need to extract highly radioactive water that is pooling in the turbine building of the number two reactor, but there is no safe place to put it. Government officials have criticized Tokyo Electric for releasing an incorrect reading of radiation levels on Sunday. The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11th are now known to have killed nearly 11,000 people.

Medical officials say at least 40 people have been killed in an explosion at a Yemen ammunition factory. Ninety people have been wounded in the blasts in Abyan Province in southern Yemen. Now security officials say the victims have been ransacking the factory after it was taken over by militants on Sunday.

Now German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party is poised to lose its grip on power in a key state. Now early results from voting on Sunday show the party fail gain a majority in Baden-Wuerttemberg where it's been in charge for more than half a century.

Now opposition fighters in Libya are pushing forward after key weekend victories. They are now facing off with government forces near Sirte. Now that's leader Moammar Gadhafi's hometown. Now taking the town will be a major win for the rebels, but they admit could be their toughest battle yet.

Now Libya's rebels have credited coalition air strikes with helping them regain the ground they lost to government forces. Reza Sayah joins us now from the opposition stronghold at Benghazi. And Reza, a major comeback for the rebels this weekend. Is momentum now firmly with them?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think there's any question about it, Kristie. I don't think too many people predicted that in a matter of three days opposition forces would gain at least five key town within about 300 kilometers of territory and that's exactly what's happened. The latest town that they've captured, the town of Ben Jawad, which is right in the middle of the Libyan coastline in northern Libya. And right now they're moving westwards towards Sirte, which is of course Gadhafi's hometown.

All this momentum started Saturday morning when the rebel fighters finally took over the key town of Ajdabiya. There was fierce fighting for several days for Ajdabiya, but once that town fell, of course with the help of allied air forces and those air strikes and Gadhafi forces on the ground, then came the town of Brega that fell later Saturday, then Ra's Lanuf, Ben Jawad. And now it's on the way for these rebel fighters to Sirte.

There were some reports overnight that Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown had fallen. We couldn't get much sleep here last night in Benghazi, because of all the celebratory gunfire and explosion, but it looks like that celebration was a little premature. Opposition officials telling us that Sirte is still being fought over. It's not in the control of opposition fighters.

Sirte, of course, about 360 kilometers east of Tripoli, which is the final destination for this opposition that has a lot of momentum behind right now, Kristie.

STOUT: After battling to take over so many towns in just the last couple of days and the battle underway for Sirte, are the rebels spreading themselves thinly? What kind of arms do they have? How much ammunition do they have left?

SAYAH: Well at this point it doesn't appear that they need more ammunition because the Gadhafi forces aren't putting much of a fight, at least that seems to be the impression. We're getting reports from these cities that Gadhafi forces are abandoning their artillery vehicles, their tank units and running away. But certainly you have to anticipate these opposition forces, say, that there will be some sort of resistance moving into Tripoli. And if that's the case, they're going to need supplies. They're still continuing to ask for weapons. And they key, they say, is for these air strikes to continue.

They say it's their rebel fighters that are liberating these cities, but when you go to these towns, when you go to Ajdabiya for example, and you see these tank units that are destroyed, it's not the AK-47s and the rocket launchers belonging to the rebel fighters that are destroying them, it's these air strikes. It's these missiles from these jet fighters.

So certainly the supply line is a concern for rebel fighters, but they also want the coalition to keep up these air strikes with that same pace, that same aggressiveness.

STOUT: All right. Reza Sayah joining us live from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi. Thank you Reza.

Now a NATO briefing, it wrapped up just a short time ago. Diana Magnay joins us now from NATO Libya Naval Force headquarters in Naples, Italy.

And Diana, has NATO taken over command?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Kristie. Although it will be taking over full military command for the entire operation. So that's the arms embargo, the no-fly zone and the protection of civilians. It hasn't done so yet. So Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard who will be heading up this new operation, it's called Operation Unified Protector. So that he couldn't actually comment on, for example, the air strikes around - - the reports of air strikes around Sirte today and who was in command of that because they are still under coalition command rather than his own.

He said that that transition is in process. The exact date is soon. And I will let you know as soon as it happens.

So NATO, although it will be assuming control, has not yet Kristie.

STOUT: OK, so transition is underway. What is NATO's declared goal in this operation?

MAGNAY: Well, NATO has made very clear that its goal in this is to protect civilians and population centers. It is unclear whether it will go as far as the coalition has been going in terms of air strikes. You know, it's a tricky, gray area.

If there are forces advancing on a city a senior U.S. official said yesterday that if (inaudible) forces are advancing on a city, threatening the population, then NATO may be able to conduct air strikes against them. But it probably will not go as far as coalition strikes have been in terms of taking out ground forces when they don't pose an immediate threat to civilians.

So there are questions as yet unanswered. Of course, the rules of engagement are something that are kept under wraps, but the questions about what exactly they will be, Kristie.

STOUT: Now Turkey criticized the strikes. And with decisions taken by unanimous vote in NATO how will the rules of engagement be decided given the potential for disagreement here?

MAGNAY: The NATO ambassadors in a meeting in Brussels yesterday spent hours hammering out the rules of engagement. And I think what is important in terms of NATO taking over command is that there is much more buy-in now from Arab countries that it is much more of an international effort rather than just of the coalition.

So there is a possibility that NATO probably will not admit to -- admit this, but that the rules of engagement will be more tightly defined than what we've been seeing so far, Kristie.

STOUT: All right. Diana Magnay joining us live from Naples, Italy.

More people use the internet in China than there are people living in the United States. And just ahead, we'll introduce you to three faces representing the millions of netizens in China. That's to kick off a week long look at the impact the internet is having on Chinese society.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now with 457 million internet users, China's online community is the world's largest. It's also vibrant, filled with active netizens and entrepreneurs that are pushing boundaries and developing new ways of interacting online. And all this week, we're taking a look at the internet in China from life inside the search Giant Baidu to the growing influence of the microblogging service Weybua (ph).

And today, let's take that number, 457 million, and reduce it to 3. Now by looking at these regular internet users, we hope to get a picture of what's going on online in China.

Now Chen Gua is a 23-year-old who lives in Beijing. And like 30 percent of China's internet users, she is a student. She spends 60 hours a week on the net where she likes to talk about personal issues. And her favorite site is Ren Ren. It's the leading social network in China with 160 million users. With Facebook, Twitter and YouTube blocked in China, users like Chen have flocked to homegrown competitors. She also likes using Xianwibo (ph), the microblog service, and watching online videos on Yoku.

And this is Charles Chen. He's a consumer goods analyst in Shanghai. He's also a fan of Ren Ren and he likes reading news and celebrity gossip online. Now he spends about 100 renminbe, or $15 a week shopping on sites like Talbal (ph), the fashion retailer VANCL and online electronics vendor 360 Buy, making him part of China's growing e-commerce sector. And he also uses a mix of his PC and mobile phone to access the internet. In fact, more than two-thirds of Chinese internet users sometimes surf on their phones.

Our last user is this man right here Zhang Haifeng. He is a doctor in Hubei province. He's one of 27 percent of Chinese internet users who log on from a rural area. And for him, the internet is often more of a professional tool than a personal one. He uses the traditional Chinese medicine forum to consult other experts about his work.

But the internet in China is not quite the same as the one most people around the world see. Now censorship is a daily reality, blocking access to some of the biggest sites on the web. Just last week Google said the Chinese government was behind problems that users were having with Gmail. And Beijing denied the accusation.

Now CNN's Jo Ling Kent looks at how Chinese netizens find their way around the censors.


JO LING KENT, CNN PRODUCER: How are Chinese users who are still logging on, they're still tweeting actually using the internet that's blocked here in China? Well, what they do is they use a VPN, or a virtual private network, which allows you to take your computer and effectively put it outside China and allow you to log in as if you're logging in from another country like the United States or Europe.

So we're going to take a look at some sites here, like Facebook and Twitter, and see if we can log in without a VPN and then how we do it with a VPN like most of the bloggers are doing here in China.

So if we type in without a VPN on regular Chinese internet, we are directed to a Microsoft Bing web site. And then I click on which comes up as the first search result. And so finally when does load it says Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage. And the same goes for Facebook here, also the same error message, and YouTube as well.

So we can't get these sites without a VPN. But with a VPN, let's try again. Look at that, Twitter incidentally. We've got Facebook. And then we have YouTube.

So the question is now how much more censorship can bloggers and internet users here in China expect? It's only gotten worse over the past few years. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see -- Kristie.


STOUT: Jo Kent there in Beijing.

Now earlier I spoke to the influential Chinese blogger and entrepreneur Isaac Mao about the recent increase in online censorship. And I asked him how far he believes the government can go before there is a major public outcry in China?


ISAAC MAO, CHINESE BLOGGER: I think (inaudible) problem. We are also trying to see, you know, how far away these censorship strategy will go. And how in depth they will do that. Because the worst thing is that China cut off the whole internet and make itself into an intranet. We don't want to see these days coming. So we try to persuade those authority that it will hurt the whole country's development in the future. And they calling (ph) eventually.

And I think people are trying to do that, the DMZ area that don't touch to each other. But the recent move from the authority. I think they (inaudible) between each other.

STOUT: A number of words are blocked in China. And here are some new words that are now blocked in China, translated in English. Empty chair, signifying the Chinese dissident leader Xiaobo, sex, protest, jasmine as the recent failed Jasmine Revolution, jasmine protests, the human rights lawyer Tiengbiao, as well as American political figures John Huntsman and Hillary Clinton.

With so many words blocked on the internet in China, how do you go about surfing the internet, sending e-mail? How do you do it?

MAO: Yeah, we can do a lot of things, you know. We're in a such kind of tough environment, because people found many creative ways to do that. If they cannot talk about Jasmine, they can talk about the tea of jasmine in some ways, you know. It's kind of creativity that people, they found their niches to try to bypass the censorship system.

But I think the problem to the whole country is that if we censor more and more keywords, you know, we can't -- we will stop the country from more innovations.

STOUT: Now, let's bring up a number of web site, a number of western web sites. You know, for example, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, they are blocked in China. And here's your Twitter page right here, just go through the VPN, you can access it. But there are Chinese equivalents. You have Kaishingwa (ph), you have Xianwibo (ph) you have Baidu.

So because China has these equivalents, does that somehow lessen the pressure on the government to say, hey, we want our Google back?

MAO: I think people are trying to be accustomized to the local services like Baidu and, you know, Kashi (ph) and Xianwibo (ph). You know, they are trying to find their own, you know, existence on those kind of services. And Baidu is now the top third international company around the world, already. And people are gathering there.

However, they try to use these kind of services to out speak as well. And the censorship there, you know, although very, very easy to be employed by the government. They can just like Google two years ago get the phone call from the officials and try to remove some key words. So these kind of things happen every day to Chinese services.

STOUT: Do you feel that the official censors are catching up? That they're becoming just as smart as the smart netizens in China who know how to circumvent the firewall?

MAO: I think the government win the recent battle already like many people outcried for the interference of Gmail, VPN and (inaudible). But from the long run, I believe the war will be won by the netizen.


STOUT: Isaac Mao there. And he has recently weighed in on the copyright controversy that is ongoing between the Chinese web site Baidu and a group of Chinese writers. And we'll be looking at that tomorrow along with the peak at what it's like to work at Baidu, China's internet search giant. That'll be happening right here on NEWS STREAM.

And still ahead on the program, in search of adventure and grounded in Resolute Bay our CNN team of icy explorers takes a detour on their way to the Arctic Circle.


STOUT: Welcome back.

And now we go to the Arctic where our CNN team will face sub-zero temperatures, severe storms, even the threat of polar bears, but for now they face life in a town of 250.

Now the team is led by special correspondent and environmentalist Philippe Cousteau. And the team has been grounded in the Arctic outpost of Resolute Bay Canada for a week. Now they were supposed to take this route to the Catlin Arctic Survey ice base to meet up with a group of scientists studying the impact of climate change on sea ice. But the bad weather has kept them from flying to the base.

So what do you do when you are search of adventure and you're grounded in Resolute? Well, you hike to the highest spot around. Our special correspondent Philippe Cousteau takes us to the top of the tundra.


PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, ENVIRONMENTALIST: It's day number five stuck in Resolute, so the weather is perfect down here, but it's still not good up at Catlin Ice Base. So we are just trying to bide our time. We've been doing a little bit of filming here and there, but everybody is pretty frustrated at the current state of affairs.

So this afternoon, we decided to get some of our aggression out and head up to the top of that peak up there. It should take about two hours round trip, we're hoping, and should provide a fantastic view of the entire surrounded area, Resolute Bay and up north et cetera.

Whoever thought you'd be sweating at minus 20 degrees? These clothes are really good for sitting around and doing scientific work, but not so good for regulating body temperature. I decided to take my coat off, because after about 45 minutes or so of hiking uphill it's believe it or not hot.

We've made it to the top. It's gotten a little bit chillier up here, so I put my coat back on. And this is the marker for the highest point on this -- and it looks like pretty much any mountain anywhere around here. And it is completely covered over in crystallized ice and snow. And it's -- this is probably about as pure snow as you can find almost anywhere in the world. And it is absolutely part of this beautiful white desert that surrounds us as far as the eye can see. It is quite a gift to be able to be up here.

And below me is Resolute, a town of 250 people on a good day. And as nice as our stay has been there, and as beautiful as this view is -- well, let's just say that we really, really want to get out of here as soon as possible and get up to the Catlin Ice Base. We'll see how long it takes, but hopefully it will be soon.


STOUT: Well, here's hoping that the weather will cooperate.

Now if you have a laptop open, head to There you'll find Philippe Cousteau's eight rules of surviving the ice. Among them, at night time, do not confuse your urine bottle for your water bottle. That's at

Now another tip for you from Philippe Cousteau, wear at least four layers of clothing. So let's get the Arctic forecast now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. As we've been mentioning, the weather has not been too kind to our Arctic explorers there. And they have not been able to make it to Ice Base.

In Resolute Bay, as we saw, the wind and the weather was actually generally very nice. And I've been talking via Twitter and via e-mail with our CNN producer Matt Veheel (ph) who is onboard with Philippe Cousteau and the rest of the crew there. And he was telling me that there have been so many explorers at Resolute Bay that have actually given up and said we have to go back because we're out of time, because the weather has been for such a long period of time not exactly cooperating with anyone trying to get into this region.

So there is Resolute Bay. There's Canada way down here. We don't say that very often, right? And there here is Greenland. There is the geographic North Pole. There is Ice Base about 500 kilometers to the north.

So this is where we are literally at the top of the world. And believe it or not, that minus 19, the temperature in Resolute, Canada and all across this area of the Arctic Circle has been above average, significantly above average for much of the spring season and much of the winter season, which is part of the reason that there is so little ice and part of the study that they're actually trying to conduct there.

The wind is actually pretty mild right now.

What's been happening is we have an area of low pressure that's been cutoff. We call it a cutoff flow, because it's cutoff from the main kind of flow in the atmosphere, so it has nowhere to go. It just kind of sits there, spins around and spins around. Right now, they've actually had some pretty quiet conditions with this area of low pressure, but every once in a while it will spinoff some more snow and ice across the area.

For them, what's happened is the weather at Resolute hasn't been too bad at all, it's been mostly sunny, but at the ice base where they don't have sensitive equipment and everything has to be done visually for those pilots to be able to fly, they actually have a wind sock so that the pilots when they come around they can see which way the wind is blowing. Those conditions can be very treacherous and it's up to those pilots to see if they are actually going to be able to land at that base.

But at Resolute, they're actually staying pretty good Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, we'll see the return of the snow. So hopefully maybe today or tomorrow they can actually make it to their ice base there.

I want to go ahead and switch gears with my last 30 seconds, Kristie, talk about something a little bit different. And there's some serious flooding that we've had across portions of Thailand. Here's one image from one of the areas to the south. We're looking at a possible tropical development here in peninsular parts of Thailand. High wind, very high waves, and also the possibility of more wet weather in the next few days to come. Some areas have already had over 600 millimeters of rain. Back to you, Kristie.

STOUT: All right, Mari. Many thanks indeed there. Mari Ramos joining us from CNN center.

Now it is time to take you over and out there. Airport security officers, they troll through thousands of bags under x-ray, but this must have been a particularly memorable one. Take a look at this guy, a bright yellow python. And just one of 40 sedated snakes that two men apparently tried to take onto a flight from Indonesia to Dubai. Now the would be smugglers reportedly told authorities they planned to sell the pythons to collectors. So, Samuel Jackson, eat your heart out.

That is NEWS STREAM, but the News continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.