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Syria Crackdown; Benghazi's Weapons Factory; More Than 400 Prisoners Escape From Afghan Prison

Aired April 25, 2011 - 00:00:00   ET


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

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

Now, the Syrian government launches a major military operation in the town of Daraa amid reports of gunfire and casualties.

More than 400 prisoners escape from an Afghan jail, the same facility that saw up to 1,000 prisoners escape in 2008.

And the countdown is on. In five days, London's Westminster Abbey will be packed for the marriage of William and Kate.

Now, there is panic and fear in Syria's southern city of Daraa. The government is moving to stamp out dissent there and has reportedly launched a major military operation.

Witnesses say the attack on Daraa started before dawn prayers. People were heading to their mosques when the gunfire began.

Now, CNN cannot independently confirm those accounts. Damascus has refused to grant foreign journalists access, but cyber-activists are posting information to social media sites. This vide from YouTube is said to show this morning's assault on Daraa.

And for the last five weeks, unprecedented anti-government protests have persisted all across Syria. Now, President Bashar al-Assad has gone back and forth between concessions and crackdowns. Late last week, he lifted the decades-old emergency law, and that was followed by a violent response to post-Friday prayer protests.

Daraa sits some 100 kilometers south of Damascus. It is the origin of these demonstrations. And Syria's southern cities are primarily agricultural and poor.

Now, protesters, frustrated by a lack of growth, they demanded reform, but there are also religious roots to the unrest. Now, people in Daraa are mostly Sunni-Muslims.

President al-Assad, whose family has ruled the country since 1970, is of the minority Alawite faith. Some are now calling for the end of his regime.

Now, Jordan says Syrian authorities have closed the border between the two countries. Now, that is believed to be part of the military operation in Daraa.

Our Rima Maktabi is following developments from Abu Dhabi. She joins us now.

Rima, what is the latest that you are hearing on this crackdown?

RIMA MAKTABI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, Daraa is besieged by the Syrian army. The troops are deployed are all over the streets, and witnesses tell us there's no electricity, phone calls are down, no water. And the city is in exile.

We spoke early in the morning as we got phone calls from the people of Daraa alerting us about the crackdown. We spoke to one witness. This is what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They have surrounded Daraa with eight tanks. They have snipers and automatic weapons. They are targeting homes. They turned off power and there are no phone lines at all.


MAKTABI: Another man I spoke to early morning was crying on the phone. I could even hear the gunshots in the background. He was saying, "Allahu Akbar," "God is great." And he said, "Are these the reforms that President Bashar al-Assad promised? Please tell the world what's happening in Syria" -- Kristie.

STOUT: It's a very dangerous situation there, especially for civilians.

Rima, time and time again, we've been hearing the phrase "breaking down the barrier of fear." Now, even after this brutal crackdown, what is the mood among the opposition? Are they still not afraid? Are they still not intimidated?

MAKTABI: Obviously, the fear has been broken by the protesters. This crackdown has been happening over the past five weeks. Many people were arrested. There were accounts of torture that happened against the detainees.

Now, today's crackdown is the most important one. It was the first time that the Syrian army itself gets involved in oppressing the protesters.

Now we're getting these videos through social media. We're not on the ground. We're not in Syria. We cannot verify the authenticity of these videos.

However, listening to the Arabic in these videos, it's obvious that the army is crushing anyone moving in the streets. And we are told there are snipers and live ammunition shots at the protesters. If these demonstrations continue in the coming weeks, it means the barrier of fear is totally broken in Syria -- Kristie.

STOUT: And tell us more about the target of this crackdown under way in Syria, more about the opposition. Who are they? Who is their leadership? How well organized are they?

MAKTABI: They are not organized. It's a spontaneous movement by the people of Syria.

Now, historically, we know that the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria has opposed the regime. However, Syria's opposition members have always lived out of Syria. They fled the regime.

The people we talked to are young people, activists. Some of them are part of political groups; others are simply people of Syria who want to see reforms happening. They want more freedoms. But all the demands that started with better living conditions and freedoms five weeks ago has escalated now to demand for a regime change in Syria. They want to see Bashar al-Assad and his family leave the power in Syria.

STOUT: Rima Maktabi joining us live from Abu Dhabi.

Thank you very much for staying on this story for us.

Now to Libya. NATO continues to ramp up its air offensive. Loud explosions and the sound of jets were heard over the capital city of Tripoli early on Monday.

And this was the scene shortly after a NATO airstrike hit Moammar Gadhafi's Bab Al Azizia compound, flattening a building there. Now, according to wire reports, a Libyan state media official invited foreign press to tour the wreckage. By his estimates, 45 people were injured and others are still missing. Now, this follows a series of NATO airstrikes around the capital city in recent days.

Now, 250 kilometers to the east, in the contested city of Misrata, fighting has escalated yet again. Now, witnesses and opposition leaders are telling CNN that more than 50 people were killed there over the weekend, despite government claims that its forces were withdrawing.

Witnesses say that loyalist forces randomly and extensively shelled the city on Sunday. Misrata has seen some of the bloodiest clashes since the turmoil in Libya began back in February.

Rebel forces have been relying heavily on foreign donations and their own ingenuity to continue the fight.

Our Reza Sayah reports on one factory in Benghazi that's turning old spare parts into new ones.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two months ago, 20-year-old Massoud Ojeli was in college studying English. Today, he works at this secret makeshift weapons factory, welding together rocket launchers out of old spare parts for Libya's opposition forces.

MASSOUD OJELI, VOLUNTEER WEAPONS MAKER: Yes, it's a very weird feeling, but I'm proud of it.

SAYAH: The rebels have granted us rare access to a place where elbow grease and ingenuity turned damaged and dented old weapons into rough and ready killing machines.

(on camera): Two hundred volunteers here. They get in about 8:00 in the morning, leave around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. They don't get paid.

(voice-over): But there's no shortage of help. Massoud's father volunteers, too. His two little brothers come to offer moral support, he says.

OJELI: I do this for my country.

SAYAH: Many here are soldiers who have defected from the regime. Others are newcomers.

(on camera): Do you know what you're doing here?

RAMI TARHOUNI, VOLUNTEER WEAPONS MAKER: I don't have an idea. I don't have an idea, but I'm trying.

SAYAH (voice-over): A few weeks ago, Rami Tarhouni was an insurance agent. Ali Abdul Salaam (ph) was in pharmaceuticals. Hussein Mansour (ph) was a driver.

"People who have never seen weapons in their lives are making them from nothing," says Colonel Mohammed Adarabeli (ph), who says he defected from Gadhafi's air force.

(on camera): What this used to be is an old weapons pod on a jet fighter. By the time they're done with it, if everything goes well, they'll turn it into 32 shoulder-fired missile launchers.

(voice-over): Soviet-era rocket launchers are broken up to fit on smaller vehicles.

(on camera): Once these makeshift rockets are put together, they're mounted on vehicles like this, and off they go to the front line. And look at this. This is how they're launched, these light switches. Just remarkable ingenuity.

But like anything that's put together by amateurs, there's never a guarantee that they'll work.

OJELI: Yes, sometimes we'll have something that doesn't work.

SAYAH: Massoud says if he had his way, Gadhafi would be gone and he's go back to college. Until then, he says he's keeping his new job.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Benghazi, Libya.


STOUT: Now, violent clashes along the Thai-Cambodia border have killed another soldier. At least five Thai and three Cambodian soldiers have died since Friday. The fighting erupted near two ancient temples. Now, authorities have evacuated thousands of people from Thailand's nearby Phanom Dong Rak district, as each side blames the other for the violence.

In February, the United Nations Security Council called for a cease-fire to stop similar border clashes near another temple straddling the two countries. At least 10 people died then.

Now, in Afghanistan, there are more than 400 prisoners on the loose. Now, they escaped through an underground tunnel, raising a lot of questions about security at the facility in Kandahar.

Now, for more on this story, Nick Paton Walsh joins us now live from Kabul.

And Nick, tell us more about this brazen prison break. How did it happen? How long did it take?

NICK PATON WALSH, JOURNALIST: While the government is confirming that there was a tunnel dug out of the prison, it's (INAUDIBLE) emerged at a house about 100 meters south from the actual jail itself. Now, the Taliban are reveling in this, frankly. I mean, they emerged with a statement, a press release, seemingly the first people actually to break the news of this incident and refer to how it had taken them five months to dig this thousand-foot-long tunnel through which 400 -- they said 541, sorry -- people had in fact crawled, all of whom were militants loyal to them.

So we're getting an incredibly detailed picture of an operation that's taken a large amount of time. And obviously this provoking questions as to, how was it possible that the authorities at this jail could let this go on without actually noticing it? And obviously from that, the suggestion, perhaps, and the question, was there any collusion between the Taliban and the people at the jail?


STOUT: Well, the search for the escaped inmates is under way. What is the latest on that?

WALSH: Well, I mean, we have heard from the government they believe over a dozen people have been picked up so far, but I have to put this in some kind of context. I mean, if we're talking about an operation quite as sophisticated as the Taliban claim, the chance that the police weren't able to prevent that, being able to go around the capital of Kandahar, Kandahar City itself, and pick these people up again, I would guess it would be pretty slim, to be honest -- Kristie.

STOUT: The Taliban, has you said, has claimed responsibility for the prison break. What is the propaganda value of that? Do Afghans believe that the Taliban is behind it and that they are strengthening?

WALSH: Yes, I think, actually, the Afghan government believes that as well. There's very little doubt the Taliban was involved in this. And the exceptions by the government there was a tunnel gives some credence to the Taliban's versions of events.

I think the PR value is huge, frankly. We're talking about the fighting season, as it's so called, beginning in these summer months. And these men, according to the Taliban, all militants loyal to them, may well have a significant role to play in fighting back on this territory over which NATO claimed it's had significant territorial gains in the past summer. The troops sent in by President Obama, having focused their efforts down there in the volatile south -- Kristie.

STOUT: Nick Paton Walsh, joining us live from Kabul.

Thank you very much indeed.

Now, WikiLeaks has revealed a new series of secret documents disclosing details of alleged terrorist activities and behavior. Now, the intelligence comes out of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where nearly 800 classified documents talk about everything from ongoing violence at the camp to specific al Qaeda operatives.

Now, CNN was not among the news organizations granted early access to the files, but according to "The Washington Post," they include intelligent assessments of almost all the 779 individuals who have been held at Guantanamo since 2002. Now, the papers say the documents suggest evidence against many of the detainees is contradictory, while the leaks show little new information on interrogation techniques used at the camp.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, royal wedding bells are right around the corner, and we've got a peek at the guest list.

And rebuilding after disaster. St. Louis, Missouri, picks up the pieces after its worst tornado in more than four decades.

Plus, we'll take you to Japan next, where the country is preparing for a grim search mission after last month's quake and tsunami.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, the wait is almost over. By the end of this week, Prince William and Kate Middleton will be husband and wife. Westminster Abbey will be bustling on Friday, and that's where the royal wedding ceremony will take place.

Now, some 1,900 guests will watch Will and Kate say "I do" in person. Now, the invitation list, it can be tricky for any wedding. And this one holds some surprises.

Let's bring in Monita Rajpal from London's Westminster Abbey. She's got the list -- Monita.

OK. Let's see if we can try Monita one more time. Monita, joining us live in London.

I hope you can hear me.


STOUT: We want to hear all the details about who is on the guest list -- Monita.

RAJPAL: Well, as we heard over the weekend, a lot has been released now by Clarence House, more details in terms of who's coming, who's not coming, but also the plan for those guests who will be arriving here, who will be lucky enough, one of the 1,900 who will be in for the ceremony here at Westminster Abbey. The seating chart has also been released by Clarence House.

Also released, the guest list, the infamous guest list of who will be coming, everyone from Rowan Atkinson, a good friend of Prince William, also known as Mr. Bean; Sir Elton John; also David and Victoria Beckham; and other celebrities of the like. But perhaps what's a little bit more interesting is who has been omitted from this guest list, and that's including former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

There have been lots of questions surrounding why these two have not been included, when other former prime ministers such as John Major and Margaret Thatcher have also been invited to this event. Clarence House has said that it's not really political, it's just the fact that both John Major and Margaret Thatcher are orders of the guard, or they have been knighted by the queen. And also, John Major was also a guardian of both Prince William and Prince Harry when Princess Diana, their mother, passed away.

So that's the reasoning that they're giving, that it's not really a political event, but of course you can read into it what you will.

Also, they're saying that the Obamas have not been invited simply because this is not a state event. Prince William is not the king. He is next in line after Prince Charles, who's the next in line to the throne. So it's not really a state event, this is more of a family semi-state event. That's what they're calling it.

So, heads of state have not been invited. Heads of state who are royal though in other countries have been invited.

Now, Bahrain, the Crown Prince of Bahrian, was also invited to this wedding, but over the weekend he then said he was not going to be coming because there had been some controversy over his invitation because of also what's been going on in his country. There had been some criticism over the way he has been handling the uprising there. So he has said that he's not going to be coming -- because, also, he didn't want to take any attention away from both Kate and William.

STOUT: You know, it's funny, isn't it? Any wedding guest list will be politically fraught.

Now, let's talk about Kate Middleton. Now, what type of impact does Kate have in pop culture -- social media, fashion?

RAJPAL: Well, she's certainly being seen as someone who is being photographed a lot because of the fact that she -- we've been watching Kate Middleton's life transform from a fairly regular, albeit privileged, life, into that of an icon. Royal watchers are saying that they're seeing parallels to Prince William's mother, Diana, but of course there are some important differences, too.

Take a listen.


RAJPAL (voice-over): The image of the future queen of England in the iconic Warhol-esque depiction, a statement perhaps by "Tatler" magazine on Kate Middleton's place in our pop culture psyche.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a sort of beautiful, young English girl who we don't know very much about. So that's very appealing.

RAJPAL: From the moment she was seen on the slopes with Prince William, Kate Middleton's face was one photographers wanted to capture. For them, she represented a new chapter in the story of Britain's royal family.

ALISANDE HEALY ORME, AUTHOR, "KATE STYLE": She seems like the archetypal good girl, the nice girl. And I think that's kind of what Britain wants for a future queen at the moment.

She's massively accessible in that way. She looks like someone you can imagine being friends with.

RAJPAL: And that has reflected in sales of designs she has been photographed wearing, not to mention the magazine sales whenever she's on the cover, resulting in comparisons with William's mother, Diana, perhaps the most photographed woman in the world.

While Diana still looms large, the lessons learned from her tragic end are still fresh, and there seems to be greater restraint on the part of the tabloid media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a deliberate decision by (INAUDIBLE) and the palace to protect her and William, actually.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we've all got this specter of Diana and how horribly it went wrong, and how we all know that it must be unbearable pressure for a girl that age from an ordinary background to cope with this instant celebrity. So they're pacing it.

RAJPAL: And royal watchers say there's an important difference between the William and Kate relationship and that of his parents, Prince Charles and Diana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're a much more equal partnership. There was always a sense from day one that if -- even when they're engaged, if Charles and Diana went on a trip somewhere, and it was a walkabout and they split up, everyone wanted to be on the Diana side of the fence. Now everybody says people don't (INAUDIBLE), because William has a star quality in his own right.


RAJPAL: Now, of course Kate's next big fashion statement is being eagerly anticipated, and bookies, of course, in London are trying to cash in on the fun. They're taking bets on the color -- yes, the color -- of Kate's wedding dress. Bookies give 4-6 odds on ivory.

Now, you can't confuse that with white. That is second, with 5-2 odds.

The long shot Kristie -- this is a really strange one -- is a red dress at 100-1. My bet is on ivory.

STOUT: Yes. I'm going to place my bet just to be contrarian on white. So we'll see you on Friday.

RAJPAL: OK. All right, Kristie.

STOUT: Monita Rajpal, who's live in London.

Take care, Monita.

Now, some people just can't get enough of the royal couple. And paparazzi are happy to fill that need. We'll get more on the media frenzy and check on the mood in the U.K.


STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you are back watching NEWS STREAM.

Nuclear waste, it remains radioactive for generations, which means disposing of it, a delicate and complicated undertaking.

Now, CNN's Per Nyberg heads to a town in southern Sweden to show us a pilot project that, if successful, could become a model for other countries.


PER NYBERG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deep underground at a lab in the southern Swedish city of Oskarshamm, dress rehearsals are taking place for what's set to be the world's first permanent solution dealing with the nuclear industry's spent fuel. Only two of these testing facilities exist in the world, and here at the Aspo lab, the ultimate resting place is being prepared.

MATHIAS KARLSSON, SKB GUIDE: We have radioactive waste that we have to take care of. We can't continue and operate if we don't have a plan for taking care of what's dangerous.

NYBERG: The Swedish nuclear fuel and waste management company SKB is owned by a collective of Sweden's nuclear power companies, and it's spent three decades investigating the Swedish bedrock. This chosen place right next to the Forsmark nuclear power plant in central Sweden has stable bedrock that's 1.9 billion years old. It has very little flow of water and no desirable minerals. The storage method called KBS-3 is based on a copper canister five centimeters thick made to withstand any kind of worse-case scenario such as an earthquake or even an ice age.

(on camera): Now, this giant machine is the one that will be depositing the 6,000 copper canisters into large holes about 500 meters below ground. Each of these canisters will contain two tons of highly-toxic, high-level spent nuclear fuel, and the idea is for it to be safe here for the next 100,000 years.

(voice-over): So far, Sweden has accumulated more than 5,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel. It's stored here, 40 meters below ground, under eight meters of water. But this is no long-term solution.

BRITA FREUDENTHAL, SKB GUIDE: If you use water as radiation shielding, it's a vulnerable relationship. You have to be here all the time and you have to seal (ph) the facility every minute, every day. And we'll not do that for the next 100,000 years. That's for sure.

NYBERG: Even though the Swedish method is specifically designed for the Swedish bedrock, the project has attracted a global interest, including the U.S. Blue Ribbon Commission that's investigating what America should do with its nuclear waste. The Swedish industry's application is now being reviewed by the authorities and, if approved, this place will be the building site by around 2015.

SAIDA LAAROUCHI ENGSTROM, SKB: What happened in Japan shows that leaving things on the surface makes it even more important to have a concept for the underground -- for the geological repository.

NYBERG: But the project is also facing heavy criticism from the local Opinion Group for a Safe Repository. They say SKB's documents reveal that the copper could corrode and the clay might not work as planned. Instead, they want a method with much deeper holes.

KENNETH GUNNARSSON, OPINION GROUP FOR A SAFE REPOSITORY: You have to have some kind of safe method so if there is leakage in the future, it won't pollute the groundwater flow.

NYBERG: And the independent board advising the Swedish government agrees there are still questions that need answers.

CARL-REINHOLD BRAKENHIELM, SWEDISH NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR NUCLEAR WASTE: That is a crucial issue. Is this material that is going to be used in the barriers actually going to protect a leaking capsule down there?

NYBERG: The outcome of the Swedish review will have a major impact on how the nuclear industry handles its waste. Finland, for example, has already started construction, hoping the method will be approved.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Aspo lab are already experimenting with new ways of storing nuclear waste, pushing the boundaries one step further.

Per Nyberg, CNN, Oskarshamm in Forsmark, Sweden.


STOUT: Now, the St. Louis airport in the U.S. state of Missouri is more or less back to normal after a tornado ripped through. But the picture you see here was very different on Friday. The story, ahead on NEWS STREAM.


STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines. Now Jordan says Syria has sealed the border between those two nations. It's believed to be part of a major military operation in the southern city of Daraa where anti-government protests have raged for weeks. Now witnesses say that tanks and soldiers poured in before dawn prayers. And they tell us that bodies of the dead and wounded are lying in the streets. Now CNN cannot independently confirm those accounts.

At least 36 people have reportedly been killed in shelling by government forces in the Libyan city of C. It comes after more NATO air strikes in the capital Tripoli. Now one strike flattened a building in Moammar Gadhafi's compound. Now the alliance is stepping up efforts to destroy his command and control centers.

NATO says about 470 prisoners have escaped from a jail in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. Now the Taliban, which claims responsibility, says it got the prisoners out by digging a 320 meter tunnel into the prison. Up to 1,000 prisoners were sprung from the same jail in 2008.

In Yemen, dozens of people are reported injured in clashes with security forces after protesters took to the streets once again in cities across the country. Now many reject a deal that would grant Yemen's president immunity from prosecution after he steps down. Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to the deal in principle, but has yet to sign it.

Now flights have resumed at a major airport in the U.S. state of Missouri. Now Lambert St. Louis International had shut down Friday after a tornado tore through the main terminal. Now take a look at this, security cameras, they caught much of the chaos caused by the powerful winds. You can see the debris swirling around, hallways littered with broken glass. Now the residents of St. Louis, they are still picking up the pieces. And incredibly no deaths have been reported.

Now Dan Simon has been talking to tornado victims. He joins us live from Bridgeton, Missouri. And Dan, we've seen just now incredible video of that tornado ripping through the airport. Walk us through the damage you've seen and also the stories you've heard.

Well, this is the worst damage that we've seen in Missouri. This is Harman Estates (ph). Most of the homes on this street are destroyed, a lot of the homes in this subdivision are destroyed. This is what an F4 tornado looks like. When there's a tornado in the United States, they rank them from 1 to 5. This is a 4. That assessment was made in part by what you are seeing here, this devastation.

But I want to show you, Kristie, what it looks like inside from a homeowners vantage point when this tornado struck. The guy who owns this home, his name is Dave Tanick (ph). He was in the bed room with his wife, the master bedroom. And they literally felt the house tear apart as they were inside.

When you come in, you can see that the roof it missing. And then we're going to turn around here and we're going to see the kitchen, just a big mess.

And we're going to the back of the house and we're going to show you how he was able to basically bear out this storm and why he's alive today. You see some of the furniture here in the hallway. This is where he went with his wife. This is the bathroom. He thought this would be the safest place to go. And guess what, he was right.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The air was being sucked out of the house. And in 30 seconds, it was over with. We come out here. And we have furniture here, glass busted. We're looking out there. And rain was pouring in and it was spooky.


SIMON: So this is the bedroom. And the rain was coming in. And check this out, the wall is gone. You can see the sky here. They believe they would have been sucked out of this room. And they probably would have lost their lives.

One thing that you really can't understate, Kristie, is that the storm happened just after 8:00 local time. A lot of people are saying that if it happened, say, at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, people would have been sleeping, people may not have heard the sirens go off and you would have seen a loss of life -- Kristie.

STOUT: It's extraordinary. That walk through that you're giving to us live here on CNN, that home in Missouri completely gutted by this tornado.

Now I've heard that the forecast, it doesn't look good, more severe storms are in the forecast for Missouri and in large parts of the U.S. Are these communities prepared for more tornadoes, more severe weather?

SIMON: Well, you know, people who live in the Midwestern part of the United States, they're accustomed Kristie, to having bad weather. And they're accustomed to the possibility of tornadoes. And so really the key for people is to have an action plan. They always say you should go to the basement, that's really the safest place to go. In the situation with this home, they went to the bathroom. Obviously they had a good outcome.

But the bottom line here is, is they need to -- you know, listen to their local forecast, have a weather radio. That helps. And before we send it back, Kristie, I want to show you something, because this also quite dramatic. You can see these trees here destroyed. One of the reasons why the people moved in this neighborhood is because it's a beautiful area, a lot of foliage, but that really tells the story right there seeing all those downed trees.

STOUT: Yeah, downed trees, gutted home, the roof torn off. Thank you so much for that report and for giving us a live walk through of the aftermath of this tornado. Dan Simon joining us live from Missouri there.

So how do these storms become so strong? And is more severe weather expected in these areas? Pedram Javaheri joins us now from the world weather center -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, you know, you've got to put the right ingredients together when you get these kind of storms that develop. And the first ingredient, typically you've got to look at the calendar. You talk April, May, that's when you have warm air beginning to develop right around the southern tier of the United States, temperatures in the 20's or 30's Celsius, but to the north they're still hanging on to winter. It's about 5, perhaps 7 degrees Celsius. And that clash of air mass as you get that warm, moist air that comes off the Gulf of Mexico, cool dry air that comes right out of Canada there and where it interacts right around the areas we call tornado alley in the United States around the states of Oklahoma working your way on into the states of say Arkansas.

And eventually -- there is Missouri, that's the bull's eye right there were they saw some of the severe storms. That interaction sets up these weather patterns that we see. And certainly some more of that is on the way as a very similar pattern is similar to what we saw Friday night in the storm prediction center, an organization here in the United States that looks at these and given moderate risk of more severe weather activity.

And the storm that you just saw there, the video and the live shots that we brought to you there, the National Weather Service folks went out on the scene, they analyzed the damage. And they gave it a devastating scale of an EF4 at one point. That's equivalent to a category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin, or perhaps a super typhoon with winds over 300 kilometers per hour. So very, very difficult to fathom what's happened out there.

And here's the forecast for the next couple of days -- frontal pattern sets up, again strong storms possible, large hail possible, and tornadoes possible. So certainly they expected, and this is a pattern that you just have to be aware of the forecast around the same regions and certainly plenty of rainfall to go around as well. So we do have flash flood warnings in effect, flash flood watches that are in effect for at least the next couple of days over that part of the world that we will watch here in the next few hours.

But I want to show you what's been happening over Europe, because an entirely different story. Broad area of high pressure to the north and central portion of Europe. Gorgeous conditions setting up. And a storm system to the south here, springing in some showers to the southern portions of say Italy. But besides that, record temperatures in spots. Look at this -- Frankfurt, Germany came in with 25 degrees there on Sunday. June to July like temperature trend where the average is about 14. Amsterdam? Same score. The average, same reading there. And you can see how Paris did with temperatures in the 20s. And London even on the warm spots there.

And even as we speak, sitting at 20 degrees Celsius, sunny skies, weather pattern going to remain warm for the next day or two. And then changes in the forecast.

The forecast high tomorrow, 23 degrees, 24 in Paris. Let's take a look at your forecasts. And then the royal weather coming up next.

Ah, the royal wedding weather. You know a much anticipated forecast. And here are the next three days. There are a lot of folks making their way across towards Great Britain. And we have sunny skies on Tuesday, temperatures in the 20s. Some clouds come in. And then we go back to sunny skies on Thursday.

But of course, wedding day to this Friday, there is a forecast, some changes that you know we've stayed above average since the 19th of March, almost a month there that we've gone over a month we've gone with temperatures staying above average. And you can see we are going to remain above average as 18 degrees, but an evening shower is possible, clouds are going to be on the increase beginning Friday. The shower is, they're going to be on and off.

I think generally it is going to be an overcast kind of a day, a little above average. And a brisk northeasterly wind going to make it feel a little cooler, but you know it's been so warm for so long it might feel a little cool. But I think certainly not going to dampen the party there with the events happening out there. But temperatures are going to begin to cool off a little bit, Kristie, as we approach Friday.

STOUT: A morning wedding, so they could be in the clear.

JAVAHERI: They might.

STOUT: Pedram Javaheri, thank you very much indeed. Take care.

Now the defending NBA champions are struggling to hold on to their crown, Chris Paul and the Hornets stone the Lakers again on Sunday. Alex Thomas will be joining us with the highlights in just a few minutes.


STOUT: Welcome back. Now after a decade of dating, Prince William and Kate Middleton are only days away from tying the knot. And there is no doubt that Westminster Abbey will be bustling on Friday, that is where the royal wedding ceremony will take place.

Now also abuzz are the countless media outlets covering the event. And for more, CNN contributor Cat Deeley joins us now live from outside Buckingham Palace in London. Cat, what is the general mood in the U.K. Is there the beginning of a party atmosphere ahead of the big day?

CAT DEELEY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I mean, we've still got a few days to go here, but there really is a general party atmosphere here on the street. It's a glorious sunny day. It's -- we never have a (inaudible) like this. And everybody seems to be smiling and getting in the mood for it. And I think it's all just going to be one big party on Friday.

STOUT: And what about the media frenzy? Give us an idea of the swarm of reporters there to cover the royal wedding, including you.

DEELEY: Yeah. Absolutely. It's going to be myself, Piers Morgan and Anderson Cooper. We're going to be based here right outside Buckingham Palace. So we will witness everything that's going on when the couple get back here, which hopefully with fingers crossed that we're hoping there's going to be a kiss.

Some people are saying yes, some people are saying no. I think there should definitely be a kiss. And I'm not talking about one on the hands either. I want the full on smackeroo right on the lips.

STOUT: You know, there's so much that we have to wait and see, if there's going to be a kiss and also what is she going to be wearing? The wedding dress. And Cat, I wanted to get your thoughts on Kate Middleton as a style icon. And what do you think she'll be wearing on the big day?

DEELEY: Well, you know what, I think she's going to be a thoroughly modern bride. I think in a way both her and Prince William are free (inaudible) particularly for people of my generation and also younger. But I think she's going to wear -- I think she'll wear something classic, but incredibly chic. I mean, she's known for being very, very understated, but she's very (inaudible) that she can perfectly wear anything that she wants.

There has been word that Sara Burton who was Alexander and McQueen's (ph) right-hand woman, she's now the creative director of McQueen (ph). She might be designing the dress. That's what we've heard. She actually hasn't come out and confirmed anything herself, which I think is actually a really big sign that she might actually be doing it.

I think anybody who is actually talking it isn't actually doing the dress for the day. So I think it's very likely that she actually might be designing the dress. I'd love it. She -- he does classic beautiful, but in a whimsical classic way. So I think (inaudible).

STOUT: One final question for you, another question about Kate Middleton since we have the time for it. What are your thoughts about the kind of princess and possible future queen she would be? What are your thoughts?

DEELEY: I think she's going to be -- I think she's going to be a thoroughly modern queen in honesty to you. I think that one thing that she's definitely done is learn from Princess Diana before her. And she's not as (inaudible) as Diana was going into this whole affair. And I think (inaudible), you know, the media whirlwind that's going to surround her and being in the eye of that storm. And you have to remember that this thing has gone on for 9 or 10 years now. So they actually know each other really, really well. And they can help each other get through it.

She's university educated. She's a smart, dynamic woman who's incredibly charismatic. So I think she'll only be a positive attribute to the monarchy.

STOUT: Cat Deeley joining us live from London. Thank you so much for giving us the update and sharing your thoughts with us here on NEWS STREAM. Cat Deeley there, thank you.

Now a key part of the pageantry involved in the wedding are the horses and riders that will escort the royal procession. Now some 160 horses in full regalia will parade through the streets of London. And as Max Foster reports, preparing them for the big day is no small challenge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two horses here. On my far left, I've got Katherine.. This one here is William.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got Katherine. This one here is William.

FOSTER: This isn't just a special day for the Katherine and William that we know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katherine is a proximately about 5-years younger than William.

FOSTER: Ah, so the age gap is bigger in the horse version of the royal couple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both are very good horses and should behave themselves on the parade.

FOSTER: And it's all about the horses behaving themselves. No matter how much you go out and practice, no matter how much you prepare, you never quite know how the horses will react to a crowd. And the crowds don't get any bigger than for a royal wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go from having 100,000 people to 1 million or 2 million people it changes the atmosphere and it all brings it in a lot closer. And the horses do feel it, definitely, the atmosphere in the air.

FOSTER: The horses are regularly taken out into London's crowded streets to expose them to sudden sights and sounds. But there's also an age old technique of simply taking them out into the park and tiring them out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officers horses, and some of the friskier troop horses, will require over and above the amount of exercise just before that wedding just to get the excess energy out of them, just to make sure that they're calm on parade.

FOSTER: And what about the riders? Well they are the picture of calm on the outside, but what's really going through their minds? Amongst them will be a New Yorker who happens to be on a temporary placement with the cavalry during the wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's monumental, because no one else gets to do it from America. It's just me, because I have this dual citizenship and somehow planned it so well that I'm able to take part into this royal wedding. So it is monumental.

FOSTER: In the meantime, it's all about getting everything spic and span right down to the last button.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


STOUT: You're watching NEWS STREAM. The sports update is promised after the break.


STOUT: Now for years we were used to seeing Tiger Woods dominate men's golf, but now none of the world's top players seem to be able to make the number one ranking their own. Alex Thomas is in London with more -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kristie. We came within inches of a fourth number one in less than six months would you believe on Sunday. Lee Westwood's victory in Indonesia early in the day meant he was in line to replace Germany's Martin Kaymer at the top of the rankings but only if fellow Englishman Luke Donald failed to win the Heritage tournament on America's PGA tour later in the day.

America Brandt Snedeker proving to be Donald's closest challenger, shooting 9 birdies, including this on the 18th and a final round 64, the lowest score of the day. He then had to sit around for a couple of hours to see if Donald could beat that 12 under par mark. The Englishman would have if this bunker shot at the last had gone in. Instead it went to a playoff.

And on the third extra hole, they were back at the 18th. Donald's chip for par from the fringe hit the hole, but stayed out. So Snedeker wins the tournament and Donald misses out on the world number one spot.

It means Lee Westwood is back at the summit of men's golf after winning the Indonesian Open on his 38th birthday. The Englishman replacing Tiger Woods as world number one back in November. And this will now be his 18th week as the game's top player. Westwood has 34 professional titles to his name, although he is yet to break through in the majors.


LEE WESTEWOOD, GOLFER: No, the world ranking is still isn't something you think about. You concentrate on the individual things that put all that together. So I try to (inaudible) when it's good enough. And this week it was.


THOMAS: Now the New Orleans Hornets are no mugs, but their NBA playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers is already looking closer than many expected. Effectively it's become the best of three games after Chris Paul and the Hornets got back on level terms after game 4 against the two-time NBA champs.

Pick up in the second quarter, Lakers up by 2 until Paul outsmarts Kobe Bryant and gets in the lay-up. And the Hornets led by four at half-time.

On to the final quarter, and here's Paul again, gets the jumper and the foul. The 25-year-old point guard with a triple double of 27 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds.

The Lakers caused not helped by a twisted ankle for Kobe. He left the court for treatment, but did return and posted 17 points.

However, the Hornets kept buzzing around L.A. And Paul sets up Jarrett Jack for the buzzer beating shot as New Orleans go on to claim a 93-88 victory.


CHRIS PAUL, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: I play with a chip on my shoulder regardless, day in and day out. I'm not trying to make a statement. You know, I guess I tried to do that every time I play, you know what I mean. There's nothing I'm trying to do new or anything like that I'm just being me.

TREVOR ARIZA, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: What more can I say. He may be 6 feet in there getting...

PAUL: What?

ARIZA: He might be 6 feet and he's in there getting 13 rebounds.

PAUL: Oh, I've got on dress shoes today, too, buddy.


THOMAS: Elsewhere, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks were hoping to avoid a sweep against the Boston Celtics. And New York were down by 7 when Melo gets the basket off the glass plus the foul. The Knicks move within 4.

But later in the half, the Celtics up by 15 and Rajon Rondo goes in to the paint, makes the short rolling jumper, extending Boston's lead.

Onto the fourth quarter, New York have cut the gap from 23 points at one stage to 8. And Roger Mason finds Anthony Carter for the three, but that doesn't stop the Celtics.

Later in the fourth, Rondo sees Kevin Garnett. And Garnett makes the nice jumper. Part of 26 points for him on the day. The Celtics sweep the Knicks. They're out of the playoffs. Boston winning game 4 101-89.

Now to Philadelphia where LeBron James and the Heat were trying to sweep the 76ers.

Let's pick up the action in the second quarter. A fast break finished off by Dwayne Wade's alley oop to James for the dunk.

Still tied at the end of the third quarter now and LeBron makes the nice reverse lay-up. King James rolling with 31 points on the night.

Now under a minute left in the fourth. Jrue Holiday with a vital 3-pointer for the 76ers that cut Miami's lead to a single point.

And with just 15 seconds left Lou Williams makes the deep 3 from the top of the key to put Philadelphia ahead. Williams led his team with 17 points.

And with just 8 seconds remaining, LeBron James drives to the basket. Elton Brand blocks his shot. Evan Turner grabs the loose ball and gets fouled. The 76ers hold on for an 86-82 win. They're back in the series which goes on to Miami.

Well, that's all the sport for now. Kate Giles has more in a couple of hours' time. Kristie, back to you in Hong Kong.

STOUT: Alex, thank you.

Now, Nintendo is planning to unveil the successor to the Wii in June. And the company says it will reveal the new video game console at a trade show in Los Angeles. And it will go on sale in 2012.

Now rumors among gaming experts say that the new console's controller will have a 6 inch touch screen. Other reports came following news that poor sales led to a drop in annual net profits of almost two-thirds.

Now the former president of Sony, Noria Ohga died in Japan on Saturday at the age of 81. Ohga began working with Sony in 1953. And he had a hand in transforming the company from one that made only hardware to one that also produced music, movies and games. And part of that was through Ohga background. He met Sony's founders while studying at the faculty of music at a Tokyo University.

And it's Ohga's love of music that had a major influence on a product that we've all used -- the CD. Ever wondered why a CD is this size? Well, listen up, because I'm going to play the answer. You're listening to Ode to Joy. It's part of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. And when Sony developed the original design for the compact disc with Philips, Ohga wanted CSD''s to hold at least 75 minutes of music allowing people the hear all of Beethoven's 9th without interruption. And that meant the CD had to be exactly this size.

And that is NEWS STREAM, but the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.