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Looking Forward in Libya. Mixed Reaction from US Congress After President Obama's Address Last Night. Misrata Under Siege. Violence in Acapulco. Partial Meltdown at Fukushima Plant. Australian Cricket Captain Ricky Ponting Steps Down.

Aired March 29, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet. I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

Libyan rebels encounter stiff resistance as world leaders discuss ways to turn up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi.

Love him or loathe him. Australia's controversial cricket captain Ricky Ponting steps down.

And we go inside Baidu and look at the unique culture that is driving China's web giant.

Libya's rebels have hit a snag on the road to Sirte. Reuters says forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi has pushed the opposition fighters back to Ben Jawad. That is near Ras Lanuf. And as you remember, Ras Lanuf is one of several cities that the rebels were able to take over the weekend since Saturday.

But as a top US military official points out, those gains are tenuous, because the opposition lacks organization. That is a critical problem they will have to overcome if they hope to reach their ultimate goal, the Libyan capital, the Gadhafi stronghold of Tripoli, right here.

Right now in London, world leaders are planning to pile more pressure on Libya's leader. Representatives from more than 40 countries and international groups including NATO, the Arab League, and the African Union are meeting. Organizers say that they will look at ways to strengthen the UN resolution protecting Libyan civilians.

The meeting comes after US president Barack Obama defended America's role in the conflict and explained why military action had to happen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and, more profoundly, our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances, would have been a betrayal of who we are.

Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.


STOUT: Our Brianna Keilar is standing by on Capitol Hill, but let's begin with that meeting underway in London. Paula Newton is at Lancaster House in London. Paula, there are some 40 delegations there from around the world. Will there be agreement about the way forward for Libya?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there is a lot of agreement around the table. The problem is, they need to put that plan together to see what is going to be effective.

As you've just pointed out, the situation on the ground in Libya is not necessarily getting all that much better for the rebels in the sense that we're still at that same stalemate. A stalemate the leaders here are really desperate to avoid.

Now, we're just awaiting for British prime minister Mr. Cameron to come in any minute now. The rest are in the room.

Key points, here. They want to see what they can do to strengthen the humanitarian aid. We have heard from a lot of cities in Libya saying that food, water, gas, medicine, is running low. That is going to be one priority.

The other priority, Kristie, is to be able to reach out to Gadhafi and his loyalists to see what they can do to convince them that, in fact, it is time to step down their arms.

We do have more arrivals continuing here at Lancaster House, but they're just about to get underway. Kristie?

STOUT: Let's go to our Brianna Keilar in Washington. Brianna, did President Obama, after making that speech, convince the American people and fellow policy makers that the US needs to be involved with the campaign in Libya?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN US CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as soon as he made those remarks, Kristie, a lot of reaction came pouring in from Capitol Hill. And I think that both the president's own party and Republicans really welcomed his remarks.

But there still is a considerable amount of criticism, especially among Republicans, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner saying that the American people waited too long to get too few answers.

And also, Senator John McCain, a senior Republican, saying, really, that the president needs to go further, that US -- that the US needs to be assisting those rebel forces in Libya, as well.

Now, when it comes to Democrats, the president's own party, you had leaders who were supporting President Obama following his remarks, really zeroing in on his emphasis of a limited US role.

But there were also some Democrats, especially the liberal contingent, who want much more consultation with Congress. They also just have a problem with the idea of US forces being involved in Libya when there are wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Specifically, Dennis Kucinich actually invoked a -- he said the -- he's seeing an Obama doctrine that the president believes that war is an executive privilege. Some harsh criticism, kind of isolated but, certainly, all of these responses running the gamut, and a lot of criticism from Republicans, some from Democrats, Kristie.

STOUT: All right, Brianna Keilar in Washington, there. Let's go back to our Paula Newton in London. And Paula, the rebels movement is losing momentum. Is that changing the tone of the talks at all there?

NEWTON: Absolutely it is. You know, the conference before this was last Saturday in Paris. We're more than a week away from that, now, Kristie. At the time, around that table, those leaders were told and thought that, look, if we continue with these air strikes, quote, "Gadhafi won't last long."

That certainly hasn't happened. And more than that, they understand the constraints on the ground with that rebel movement, the fact that they don't really have anything to kind of propel them forward and keep this kind of momentum.

At the same time, they also have to worry about what might ensue in those cities in terms of house-to-house fighting. There is no appetite for troops on the ground by any of these nations, and they're really hampered by what they'll be able to do from the air. Kristie?

STOUT: All right, Paula Newton, thank you very much, indeed.

Now, US military planes, they fired at three Libyan boats. They say they were targeting merchant vessels off Misrata. The war-torn city is in desperate need of supplies. It has been under siege by pro-Gadhafi forces for weeks.

We can now talk to an eyewitness, Mohammed, a witness to today's events in the city. He joins me, now, on the phone. And can you please give us your experience of the fighting there and whether or not rebels are retreating from Misrata?

MOHAMMED, EYEWITNESS (via telephone): The state's forces are overwhelming Misrata, and that is partially and maybe mostly due to the fact that the international forces planes are reluctant, and we understand why.

To hit the tanks and the heavy artillery in the streets of Misrata, we call upon the international community to take some risks and hit those heavy artillery and tanks in the street, because they are causing carnage and destruction.

And they -- they are making the humanitarian situation much, much worse, by going to door -- door-to-door and evicting Libyan families from their homes and terrorizing them and not allowing them even to take some of their belongings or take their cars.

They tell them, "Run for your lives," and fire bullets just above them. The ground now --


STOUT: Now, Mohammed, you are -- you are reporting -- you are reporting and telling us that pro-government forces are, quote, "overwhelming Misrata." Can you give us more details as to how? Sniper fire?


STOUT: Heavy shelling? How?

MOHAMMED: Yes, heavy shelling, using tanks, using mortar bombs in all directions, now. And in each neighborhood they reach, they evict and the people are now running scared for their lives now are in the mosques and schools to accommodate people, and the humanitarian situation is very, very, very dire.

We need the international community to hit the tanks heavy artillery in the streets. They used to hide when they hear the --


MOHAMMED: -- they don't hide anymore because they know that they will not hit them. We need to take it to the next level, I guess. We have informed the international community and the international forces of those forces of, those murderous, dictator forces that already are in the city.

And they are now firing in all directions. The destruction and the carnage is something not to be believed. It's incredible.

STOUT: Mohammed, may I ask you, do you have a role with the rebel movement?


STOUT: Are you with the rebel movement?

MOHAMMED: Yes, I am. Yes, I am a member of the local council here in Misrata.

STOUT: You mentioned earlier that you witnessed the evicting of civilians. Did you see the targeting of civilians that led to -- a number of wounded or to any fatalities in Misrata?

MOHAMMED: Yes, because the fatalities of Misrata are now around at 134 for nine days. The number -- we stopped counting the number of injured. We stopped counting, literally stopped counting the injured. Too many injured.

We have 9 -- about 91 critically injured people. Critically injured. Their lives are -- they're -- we don't know if they will make it or not. The carnage and the destruction and the human suffering from both eviction and terrorizing the neighborhoods and terrorizing the city, it's beyond imagination. It's incredible.

STOUT: You mentioned 134 people have died in the ongoing unrest there in Misrata, 91 people critically injured. Can you give us a description of what is a scene like at the hospital?

MOHAMMED: The 134, that's not for the whole six weeks. The whole six weeks runs for over 400. The 134 is since Friday before last.

The scene at the hospital is one of chaos and the hospital -- the main hospital, we have to evacuate that because mortar shells fell on the hospital, and the doctors couldn't take any risks with the patients and with themselves. And we had to evacuate that.

Now, we have to -- we have moved, now, onto another -- to a much smaller clinic. We see people on the ground, we see people in corridors, we see -- I have seen myself some minor operations carried out without anesthesia.

The supplies are running low, the doctors are overworked, there is no place -- who knows? Maybe even those two clinics will come in the range of their mortar shells and we have to evacuate and go to a school or something. It's really -- it's just getting so much worse here in Misrata. We call upon the international community --

STOUT: OK, Mo --

MOHAMMED: -- and the international -- especially the American -- the American forces and the American people to really save -- save Misrata from a massacre. Mr. Obama was talking about averting a massacre in Benghazi. Please do the same in Misrata. Please.

STOUT: OK, Mohammed, an eyewitness member of the opposition council joining us on the line. Thank you very much, indeed, Mohammed, there, joining us on the line from Misrata. His urgent appeal for international intervention, for allied cooperation, to help end the misery in Misrata.

That according to the eyewitness on the line, mentioning that 134 civilians are dead, 91 critically injured, and that pro-government forces are overwhelming the city of Misrata.

Now, you may remember that yesterday, we told you about this woman, Iman al-Obeidi, the Libyan woman seen here, who burst into a Tripoli hotel over the weekend saying that she had been raped by Gadhafi forces.

We're now learning from the Libyan government that the men accused of raping her have filed counter-charges for slander. Despite an earlier assertion from the government that she had been released, her mother said Monday that her daughter is still being held. She will, of course -- we will, of course, bring you more on this story as we try to clarify this situation.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Syria, but this time, they're showing support -- support for the president, President Bashar al-Assad. Now, these pictures are being shown on Syrian state TV today, and the rallies follow nearly two weeks of anti-government demonstrations and violent clashes.

Well, Damascus is expected to lift the state of emergency that has been in place for nearly 50 years, but has not given details.

Still ahead on NEWS STREAM, worries over radioactive runoff water and plutonium in the soil. The latest on Japan's nuclear crisis.

And a man said to be one of the most polarizing figures in world cricket steps down as captain of Australia. We'll look at Ricky Ponting's controversial career.

And the online search engine Baidu dominates the internet in China and the secret is -- hacky sack? Believe it or not. We'll take you inside Baidu's unconventional campus.


STOUT: Welcome back. Now, the beautiful beaches of Acapulco have long been a favorite getaway for international tourists, but since a series of gruesome murders last year, the resort town has seen a major change. Rafael Romo takes us inside one building that's been at the heart of the escalating violence, the Acapulco morgue.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): From the outside, it looks like a small warehouse, but as you approach the building, the smell of death is unmistakable.


ROMO (voice-over): Dr. Keynes Garcia Leguizamo is the director of the Acapulco morgue. He says you get used to the stench. I'm about to find out for myself.

He's agreed to talk to us about the gruesome new realities the Acapulco morgue faces. Last November, Garcia and his team of eight forensic doctors processed 18 badly-decomposed bodies found in a shallow grave near Acapulco.

In January, their task was to identify 15 headless bodies dumped outside a shopping mall in the beach resort. Sadly, he says, dismembered bodies are no longer rare.

KEYNES GARCIA LEGUIZAMO, ACAPULCO MORGUE DIRECTOR (through translator): Missing fingers, hands, cut off at the forearm, the shoulder, the head, ears, or even those whose skin has been completely ripped off.

ROMO (voice-over): No one foresaw this level of violence and cruelty stemming from a bloody turf war between drug cartels. Four dissection tables used to be more than enough only a couple of years ago, but not anymore.

ROMO (on camera): This is a new refrigeration unit that morgue personnel just finished installing. It has a capacity for up to 30 bodies, which hold double what they previously had. After more than 1,000 deaths last year, they quickly realized that they needed to expand.

ROMO (voice-over): So far this year, the morgue has processed the bodies of more than 300 people killed in the drug war. Its main door is plastered with pictures of the missing.

People show up daily asking for relatives or loved ones. Some bring fliers with handwritten descriptions. Dr. Garcia and his team sometimes have to reconstruct the faces of some victims when there are no tattoos, marks, or other ways of identifying the bodies.

GARCIA (through translator): It's very difficult for me to see this violence, all of this, what awaits your children as they grow up. It's very difficult to understand the violence that these people generate.

ROMO (voice-over): As the day comes to an end, a worker methodically cleans up the dissection tables. Tomorrow will almost certainly bring more victims of Mexico's drug-driven violence. Rafael Romo, CNN, Acapulco, Mexico.


STOUT: Japanese officials and international experts say that they believe there has been a partial meltdown at three of Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactors, and the water used to keep radioactive fuel from overheating is creating a fresh concern. Workers are using sandbags and concrete panels to keep that now-radioactive water from overflowing into the ocean. It's been found in maintenance tunnels at the plant.

Radioactive runoff isn't the only potential complication on the ground. TEPCO now says that low levels of plutonium have been detected in soil near the Fukushima plant. CNN's Martin Savidge has been covering the story, and he joins us, now, live from Tokyo. And Martin, pools of contaminated water inside the plant. Are we any closer to knowing where they came from?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they think it's coming from leaking pipes inside, perhaps, reactor number two. It could also be leaking valves. But they haven't actually seen it, so, that's just speculation at this particular point.

Kristie, we had another aftershock, too, it should be pointed out, 6.4, it was just about 45 minutes ago. And where was it centered? Well, very near the Fukushima prefecture, just offshore.

Fortunately, no reports of any serious damage, and no reports of any tsunami warnings, but it just adds to the anxiousness, of course, and the last thing they need is more problems out there with the Fukushima Daichi nuclear facility.

The water has been the serious problem, and you pointed out what it has been. For two weeks, now, they've been pouring that water to keep the reactors cool and keep the fuel pools under control. But they've poured so much water, now, it's gone everywhere. It's gone into the electricity tunnels, it's gone into the basements of the turbine buildings, and all of that water is highly radioactive.

Because of the fact that it's so radioactive, it's dangerous for the employees to go into those areas, which they need to get into, to try to hook up the electricity full time and restore the full time pumps, because that would stabilize things. They can't do it with all that water.

Now, they're trying to pump the water out. The other problem, they've got no place to put it. The storage tanks they would normally use are all full.

You mentioned the plutonium, that was another grim discovery that was made. It was found in five different places in the soil, on the facility out there, three different types of plutonium. It is potentially very lethal stuff, and it has an extremely long half life of thousands of years.

Fortunately, very, very minute quantities, but they do believe it's come from one of the reactors, and it would be an indication that something seriously went wrong, such as a partial core meltdown. Kristie?

STOUT: And that has prompted the Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, to say his government is in a state of maximum alert over the crippled plant. Can you tell us more about what that means and whether more resources will be mobilized to deal with this crisis?

SAVIDGE: Well, what it essentially means is that they are in this kind of balance. They are trying to not spray too much water, but at the same time, they need the water to keep the reactors cool, because if for any reason those reactors overheat or if those fuel pools, once again, expose the rods that are in there, then you're talking about a massive radiation leak, which is what they are trying to contain.

Every hour, there is something that changes out there. It's mainly crisis management. They have not got it to a point of stabilizing, where they can feel like they can progress forward. They are merely trying to hang on to where they are, Kristie, and that's why they consider it so hazardous.

STOUT: Martin Savidge, joining us live in Tokyo. Thank you very much, indeed, Martin.

Now, he has been called one of the most polarizing figures in world cricket. Ricky Ponting steps down as captain of Australia. Kate Giles will be here to look at his long career.


STOUT: We come to you live from Hong Kong, you are back watching NEWS STREAM. Now, one of the most successful batters in cricket history is stepping down as captain of Australia. Our Kate Giles is here with more on the career of Ricky Ponting. Kate?

KATE GILES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Kristie. It's an end of an era, really, in Australian cricket. He was their skipper, he isn't anymore. Ricky Ponting, of course, the most successful captain in 134 years of Test cricket, has now decided to step down. And in many ways, it really is a bitter end to what has been an incredible career.

Ponting resigned as both the Test and the One Day skipper, but he said that he does remain available for selection. Now, he has assured that this was his decision and he was given no prompting to make it after Australia crashed out of the World Cup, which they'd won for the past 12 years.

It really did become very difficult for him to stay on as captain. His record in the game really is outstanding, though. He is the country's most prolific batsman, he's the country's highest run scorer in Test and the second worldwide. He's won more tests as captain than any other Australian and, under his captaincy, Australia have won 164 of the 228 ODIs that they have played.


RICKY PONTING, MOST SUCCESSFUL AUSTRALIAN TEST CAPTAIN: It's the right time. Getting through the Ashes series the way that we did and the World Cup, now, being over, I wanted to make sure that I gave the next captain every opportunity I possibly could to make sure he had as much experience going forward into the next couple of big events that we play, which will be a One Day champions trophy within two years and, of course, an Ashes series coming up in 2013 and 2014.

So, I just felt that it was an opportune time. The possibility of me being around, probably, for either of those series is probably remote as well, so I just think the timing was spot on.


GILES: And when you look back at his career as a whole, Ponting did lead one of the greatest sides that the game of cricket has ever seen, but he was also still in charge as that team began to, then, fall to pieces.

He made his international debut in 1995 -- 19 -- in -- sorry, in 2002, he was made the One Day captain. The following year, he already led Australia to World Cup victory. In 2004, he was named the Test captain as well, taking over from the legendary Steve Waugh.

A year later, though, it was the first big mark against his name. He became the first Australian captain to lose an Ashes series in 18 years. He bounced back, though, and he was named man of the series as Australia regained the Ashes five-nothing at home.

In 2011, under his leadership, Australia slumped to their third Ashes loss in four series, though. That was, of course, as well, their first Ashes loss at home in 24 years. And that is really when the pressure began to mount on him.

Add to that, of course, the exit at the World Cup last week, and it almost seemed inevitable that he would take this next step. And as great as his general record is and as much as he tries to defend it, rightly so, of course, he may well always be remembered as the only Australian skipper to fail to win the Ashes three times.


PONTING: It's funny how we talk about losing the Ashes three times. Winning -- playing in three World Cup-winning teams never comes up very often. Winning 16 consecutive Test matches doesn't come up very often. Winning 30-odd consecutive World Cup games doesn't come up very often.

But that's the world we live in. I know within myself, and my teammates know, and everyone at cricket Australia knows what I've been able to achieve in the game, and that's what I'm very proud of, the things that I've been able to achieve as a captain, as a player, and with the players that I've played with, I have memories that I'll never forget.


GILES: So, the cricket World Cup now goes on without the defending champions, Australia. One of the contenders, though, for the world title this year will be either New Zealand or Sri Lanka. They're out on the pitch right now in their semifinal, fighting for a pass to the final in Mumbai on Saturday.

Now, New Zealand's won the toss and elected to bat. Batting, you have to say, has not been their strength so far this tournament. To have a chance, they really needed something pretty special. Sri Lanka, of course, absolutely destroyed New Zealand when these two met earlier on in the tournament, and they have never a lost a World Cup knockout match at home, this one being played in Colombo on home turf, as well.

Right now, the game is still very much in the balance. New Zealand's are on 204 for 6 with less than 5 overs left. It's an exciting one, Kristie. You have to keep your eye on that one.

STOUT: All right, Kate, thank you very much for that update, Kate Giles, there. And still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, the online search engine Baidu dominates the internet in China, but we'll you show you how Baidu's trying to drum up international interest.

And a story of hope from our CNN Freedom Project. We'll hear from women who have broken free from brothels in India and are now working to save others.


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

Allied warplanes continue to strike Colonel Gadhafi's forces in Libyan. U.S. military says it has fired on three boats off the coast of Misurata, but an opposition councilman tells CNN government tanks continue to shell civilian areas in the embattled city.

Further east, Libyan rebels are still trying to advance on Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte. They are meeting strong resistance from government forces.

Foreign ministers and representatives from 40 countries and organizations are meeting in London to discuss Libya's future and put more pressure on leader Moammar Gadhafi. Now U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the leader of the African Union are all attending along with a number of top Arab diplomats.

Now pro-government demonstrations are being held around Syria. Now state TV broadcast these pictures from Damascus what it calls a demonstration of loyalty. Now this follows violent clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters.

Now contaminated water has been found in a maintenance tunnel at Japan's Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear plant sparking fresh concerns about radiation leaks. Now workers are using sand bags and concrete panels to keep the water from escaping. Now the discovery comes after low levels of plutonium were detected in soil at the plant on Monday.

Right now millions of people around the world are living as slaves. They are controlled by threats and manipulation, victimized and voiceless. Now CNN is using its global reach to shine a spotlight on this modern day nightmare and to show you how people are trying to stop it.

Now the U.N. says most human trafficking victims are exploited for sex. One activist says made ending sexual slavery her personal crusade. And she took our Becky Anderson inside one of India's brothels to find out how women wind up there.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These women are singing for freedom. And through their lyrics, raising awareness of the issue of sex trafficking in India.

Once a month, women's rights group Apne Aap organizes meetings like these so that women can share stories of pain and courage.

Singing right along at this gathering women's rights advocate Zinab Zalby (ph). Based in the U.S. Zalby (ph) is visiting India to meet with victims.

And the one woman army she says she's determined to save sex trafficking victims one by one. Victims like Mina Hasina (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When I was eight years old I was kidnapped from Bhutan and sold off. In the beginning I did household chores, then I was made to sleep with the brothel owner's son. They told me he was my husband. After he would go to sleep, I was forced to sleep with other men, about five to 10 a day. I then accepted prostitution as a way of life. I began to think this is what I was born to do. I had no where else to go.

ANDERSON: Mina's (ph) story is all too common here. We spoke with India's undersecretary for trafficking. He points to an anti-trafficking law that's been on the books for more than 50 years and says many programs are in place to help rescue and rehabilitate victims. But it only takes a short drive through New Delhi's red light district to see that many victims fall through the cracks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the brothel area. You'll see (inaudible) top prices, top money (ph).

ANDERSON: We follow along with Zalby (ph). She's been granted a rare glimpse inside a brothel. And even more rare, the brothel owner agrees to sit down and talk to her on camera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said some of the women come to the red light district through trafficking. What happened.

IQBAL AHMED, BROTHEL OWNER (through translator): You can't say that 100 percent of these women are trafficked here. But (inaudible) the girls are often (inaudible) to married and are sold by their own husbands. Other times, they're abducted for food.

ANDERSON: He readily admits there's no way to verify who has been trafficked. But he says it's not fair to blame the buyer and the brothel. The trafficker, he says, who should be prosecuted.

AHMED (through translator): Every single one of these girls comes to a pimp or a madam. Very rarely, say 5 percent of the time, that the girl come on her own.

ANDERSON: (inaudible) rights Nazerine (ph) agrees. And she should know, she was once a sex worker herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Only helpless women come here, not women of choice. And the ones are who traded in are bound forever.

ANDERSON: Ahmed is not only a brothel owner, he's also an activist. He says he's trying to help prostituted and their children by allowing them to live together in his brothel, a better alternative to living on the street.

There are those who make it out on their own. Like Mina (ph), she eventually escaped and is now working at Apne Aap to rescue others. The organization has reached out to more than 10,000 women since it was created eight years ago. Its premise is based on self help.

RUCHIRA GUPTA, PRESIDENT APNE AAP WORLDWIDE: We organize women into small groups all over the country. And these groups are like support groups where the women help each other by sharing stories of pain and courage and discrimination and also success. And through that, they empower each other.

ANDERSON: Empowered, hopefully, and free.


STOUT: And Becky Anderson will continue our extensive coverage on sex trafficking. Just tune in to Connect the World for more stories shining the light on modern day slavery. It's all part of our year long initiative The CNN Freedom Project.

Now after Google came under fire from authors and publishers for trying to build a digital library, China's Baidu is facing criticism for a user generated library. Now Baidu Wenku is an online service for users to upload and download documents, but 50 Chinese writers said the service is hosting their work and allowing people to read and download their books for. Now Baidu apologized to authors and said it would hunter Wenku (ph) for any copywrited material, but they haven't deleted everything yet.

Now we found this, a copy of the third Harry Potter book in Chinese on Baidu Wenku.

Now as the dominant presence in the country with the world's biggest online population, Baidu is one of the biggest web sites in the world. As part of our week long look at the internet in China, Eunice Yoon looks at Baidu's unique culture.


EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A game of hacky sack is a typical part of Wang Yixuan's day at a not so typical Chinese workplace. Wang is an engineer at local search engine Baidu, a company that he says allows him and his co-workers to break free from China's strict office norms.

WANG YIXUAN, BAIDU EMPLOYEE: When we're at work we are -- we always (inaudible) and we -- (inaudible).

YOON: Baidu dominates the internet in China. The company's web site is the go to destination for Chinese to search online. More popular than Google even before the U.S. web giants dispute with government authorities here.

Baidu credit's its success to knowing when to embrace local practices and when to borrow from the free wheeling customs of the west.

JENNIFER LI, CFO BAIDU: There is no hierarchy. No politics here. And so people you know feel that they are part of the owner of the company that can contribute and that, you know, your opinion if it's good it's respected, no matter what kind of rank you are.

YOON: Wang was attracted to that approach. He joined Baidu right after graduating from one of China's top universities over three years ago. At 29, he now manages a team of 20. There's jobs to make sure if you do a search on Baidu you find what you want fast.

YIXUAN: Most (inaudible) brands they call me up, can you rank my web site to the first place. And I should tell them no I can't.

YOON: Even so, Baidu faces stiff competition to woo new workers. The internet has spawned a host of new startups. And despite Baidu's edgy image here, the average age of workers at the search engine is only 26 as China's young people look to be a part of the next big thing.

YIXUAN: My dream is to be -- just to be an engineer, a great engineer.

YOON: Whether it's on Baidu's futuristic campus or not.

Eunice Yoon, CNN, Beijing.


STOUT: Now last year Baidu launched an English language blog, it's called Baidu Beat. It's mission to introduce the trends, means and quirks of China's internet to a wider audience. Now for example, this is one of the top ten search results to today. Now Ciang Xiciushun (ph) it refers to a young man in Hunan Province who had his kidney forcibly removed by criminals. The classic urban legend retold in today's China.

And early last week, a list of uncivilized civilians, or Buwen Ming Shermian (ph) made it to the top of Baidu's real-time search results. Now officials in Ohan (ph) named and shamed bad drivers, jaywalkers and litter bugs to crack down on bad behavior.

Now Baidu Beat also keeps an eye on new phrases coined by China's netizens. For example, Mi don da (ph). It means, you know it. And it's used to indicate something better left unsaid be it something between friends or sensitive political issue. In fact, Mi don da (ph) is scored as Baidu's top new internet phrase of 2010.

Now still ahead here on News Stream, how does melting water from the Arctic ice caps affect the Earth's weather patterns? Now mother nature has finally given our intrepid Arctic team a break. I'll be asking CNN special correspondent Philippe Cousteau in just a moment.


STOUT: And this just into us here at CNN, Syrian state television now says that President Bashar al-Assad has accepted the cabinet's resignation. This just coming in, the president of Syria has accepted the resignation of his cabinet.

Now this development comes amid nearly two weeks of violent anti- government protests across the country. Mr. al-Assad is also expected to address the nation in the next day or so. We will continue to follow this story and bring you developments as they come in. And we'll continue to monitor the pro-government rallies that have been screening on Syrian state television as you're seeing right there on Syrian state TV of pro- government rallies in support of the embattled president.

But again, this just in, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has accepted the resignation of his cabinet. And we are expecting to hear from the president to make an address in the next couple of days.

Any more details, we'll bring it to you right here on CNN.

Now, as promised before the break it's time to get your cold weather gear ready, because it is time to take you to the Arctic tundra. Now it's one of the coldest places on Earth, found at the northern most point on the planet. That is where our CNN crew, led by the environmentalist Philippe Cousteau is right now.

After days of delays due to bad weather, a breakthrough at last. Now the team has finally made it to the Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Base, which is about 550 kilometers from the North Pole. And that's where they're working alongside scientists, trying to figure out the environmental consequences of the melting ocean ice.

Now this is the first time CNN has broadcast this close to the North Pole. And what is such a brutal cold environment.

And Philippe Cousteau joins us now live from Catlin Ice Base.

And Philippe, congratulations, you made it. You're at Ice Base. Can you describe the place to us. What does it look like?

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, ENVIRONMENTALIST: (inaudible) minus 30 degrees. And we are standing on a desert of ice. As far as the eye can see it's just relatively flat, white expanse.

STOUT: I love how you describe it as a white desert, a desert of ice.

Now you were there to see how the Arctic is changing. So tell us more about your mission.

COUSTEAU: Well, we're hear (inaudible)...

STOUT: OK. Unfortunately -- unfortunately we're getting some technical issues here with Philippe Cousteau joining us live from very close to the North Pole. We did get to hear from him a little bit earlier there, really unfortunate. Let's try to reestablish that connection with them a little bit later, because we do want to hear about the work that they're doing to explore to fight climate change there at the very top of this planet.

Now, our Mari Ramos, she's also been watching this story with much interest over the last week. And Mari, it's great news that the CNN team, they finally made it to Ice Base, so their story, the documentation and the research can finally begin.

Let's -- fingers crossed we could talk to Philippe Cousteau a little bit later.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and let -- let me tell you, the main things that's been going on and not just during this winter, but last winter and especially in the year's past is that temperatures have been generally above average during the winter months and also during the summer months. And what that leads to, Kristie, is less sea ice every single summer. And that's significant.

You've got to think about it this way, you know, these are areas -- like you said, a white desert. It's just completely covered in ice. Well, the most important ice is the so-called multi-year ice, the ice that forms and stays every single year and doesn't even melt during the summer. But in the last few summers, they have found less and less of that multi-year ice. And that is very hard to come back.

So in other words, the less ice that happens, almost like a domino effect, the ice is white, the water is dark. The water absorbs more sunlight. It gets warmer. And it helps melt more ice every single summer. So every single winter, there's less ice that forms. Or as it forms, it's new ice, so then it melts quicker in the summer. So it just keeps going and going. And what affect, what global affect this may have that's one of the things that they're trying to figure out there at the top of the world.

I hope we can get them back on the line soon.

I want to keep you in the tropics right now. Let's go ahead and move on a little bit and talk about the weather in Thailand. I was telling you yesterday about this very heavy rain. In some cases, some of these areas have had over 200 millimeters of rain, a month's worth of rainfall in a period of just a couple of days. Some other places have had over 600 millimeters of rain.

What does it look like on the ground? Well, I think we have pictures to show you of that. Not only are roadways closed -- and let me tell you this is one of the most dangerous things you can try to do is to try to drive through flooded roadways, because that can happen very, very quickly. And there are concerns that some people may have been killed here. Local media reporting at least four deaths across this area. And the concern is that that number will rise.

There are several tourist that have been closed as well, airports that are unable to function right now because of all of the high water that is covering not just the roadways, but also the runways. So this is unfortunately that will continue. And those pictures are very dramatic there.

As we head through the next three days, the government here, the meteorological service in Thailand is still warning of the possibility of some very heavy rain, Kristie, particularly right here, peninsular parts of Thailand are going to be the hardest hit with that area of low pressure. Back to you.

STOUT: All right. Mari, many thanks indeed.

Now I understand that we have reestablished our connection with Philippe Cousteau. Once again, this is the first time CNN has broadcast this close to the North Pole in what is usually a brutally cold environment. And Philippe Cousteau joins us now live on the line.

And Philippe, good to see you. We weren't able to see you last time. Can you describe your mission to us?

COUSTEAU: Well, our mission is to come here and record the important science that is happening on behalf of the Catlin Arctic Survey. These scientists have been here for several weeks. They will continue to be here for several weeks after we're gone. And they're braving these frigid temperatures to try and understand more about the complex interplay of the various environmental systems that are at work here in the Arctic.

And the important part to remember about the Arctic Ocean is that while it is the smallest of the five oceans on the planet, it is arguably the most important and affects every single person on this planet, because it is essentially the air conditioning unit of this planet and provides a balancing effect on the climate of the world. So droughts and weather -- extreme weather conditions around the world can be affected by what happens here.

And so understanding, of course, more about the science and how we can plan for the future is critical.

STOUT: All right, Philippe Cousteau joining us live from Catlin Ice Base. Unfortunately, we're going to have to make it very short, but you can follow Philippe on Twitter at @Pcousteau. You can go to learn more about his journey, the research, their findings there in the Arctic. Just go to the web site

In fact, you can read about Philippe's eight pointers for surviving the Arctic. And it's a post for the team. That address again,

Now still ahead here on News Stream, a cold-blooded creature has some New Yorkers on under the collar. A cobra has slithered away from the Bronx Zoo. And we investigate the great snake escape.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now if you're on the list, by now you've probably received your invitation to the royal wedding next month in London. But only a few of the guests will be invited back to the palace for a reception hosted by the queen.

But our Max Foster has a little treat for you, because he was allowed in for a look at the preparations.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In he basement of Buckingham Palace, a team of 21 chefs will make nearly 10,000 bite-sized canape for the 600 odd guests invited to the reception. That's about 16 canape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any canape event is all about fine detail at the last minute. There is a lot of preparation, but there's lots that we would like to do earlier that we really can't do until, you know, we'll be seeing the guests coming into the room.

It will be about double checking, triple checking, and checking it again and making sure that we've got everything in the right places.

FOSTER: There will be 10 to 12 savory varieties, five or six sweet, some hot, some cold. And all personally approved by Kate and William.

The canapes will be carried upstairs on trays and plates to the spectacular state rooms.

This is home to arguably the finest private art collection in the world.

JENNIFER SCOTT, ASSISTANT CURATOR OF PAINTINGS: In the 19 state rooms which are used during state functions, adrift with opulence. They really are intended to make people think, wow, this is an incredible palace. And I think that's very much part of its history. This is a place that was intended to impress.

FOSTER: But this is also a working palace. A staff of 60 upstairs will attend to the guests' every need.

EDWARD GRIFFITHS, DEPUTY MASTER OF THE HOUSEHOLD: For any event, we're going through every single detail that we possibly can so that it's planned in advance and we don't leave anything to change.

FOSTER: And this is the level of detail we're talking about, using an antique measuring stick to make sure every class sits a certain distance from the table's edge, a perfect line for perfectly polished glasses, ready to be handed to the guests, including monarchs, prime ministers and diplomats.

Around 300 close family and friends will have the added privilege of going on to a sit down dinner hosted by Prince Charles.

During this most exclusive of wedding receptions, the public will get a chance to see the newly weds. About half past 1:00 local time we expect them to come out on the balcony over there for what's bound to become an iconic moment in British history when Prince William kisses his princess.

Max Foster, CNN ,Buckingham Palace, London.


STOUT: And meanwhile, a poisonous snake maybe on the loose in New York. The Bronx Zoo says it's hunt for the missing cobra could take days, even weeks. Jeanne Moos gives us her hysterical take on the search.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Send for the snake charmers, there's an escapee from the Bronx Zoo, a cobra, a young cobra, only 20 inches, thin as a pencil. The zoo's reptile house has been closed since the poisonous snake was discovered missing from its enclosure over the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's closed, buddy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they've got public walking through here, wonderful. I think I'm going home. It's my little precious -- my precious guy here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, who do we talk to about getting my money back?

MOOS: Zoo goers walk past the reptile house that felt more like a haunted house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're worried that we're going to get bit or something.

MOOS: Were you really worried?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not really.

MOOS: A cobra's bite can kill a person in 15 minutes. Still, this isn't exactly snakes on a plane.

Zoo officials are confident the cobra is still inside the reptile house, but right now they say it's the snake's game. Our best strategy is patience.

At this very moment we're told the reptile team is inside looking for the snake.

But officials say the reptile house contains extremely complex environments with pumps, motors et cetera. When the snake gets hungry and thirsty, it'll come out of hiding, but this may take days or even weeks.

Outside, a news chopper hovered. The New York Post dubbed the snake "Cobradini" after the escape artist Houdini. There hasn't been this much excitement over a snake since a busty model was bitten by one earlier this month. And the video went viral. So did the story that the snake had died from biting into toxic breast implants. Experts said no way that snakes aren't vampires. They don't suck when they bite.

As for tracking down the missing Bronx Zoo cobra.

JACK HANNA, ANIMAL EXPERT: If one gets loose, they can put talcum powder, some kind of powder on the floor...

MOOS: We're putting down a powder perimeter barrier so we can track the snake to see if it leaves the grounds of the zoo.

That'll be about as effective as trying to charm the snake out.

Of course, the easiest place to find a snake was in the gift shop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So my mom is scared.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


STOUT: I think all the women in the news room winced at that one moment. I think you know what I'm talking about.

And that is it for me and the team here at News Stream. But the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.