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Syria's Crackdown on Protesters; Gadhafi Compound Hit; NATO Confirms Death of Top Insurgent in Afghanistan

Aired April 26, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


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

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

More gunfire heard in the city of Daraa as Syria cracks down on anti- government protesters.

Twenty-five years after the world's worst nuclear disaster, we remember Chernobyl.

And with three days to go until the royal wedding, we look at the secrecy around Kate Middleton's dress.

Now, the international community may formally condemn Syria's crackdown on protesters. And scenes like this one, a tank rolling into the southern city of Daraa, are spurring countries to act.

Now, an activist reports that soldiers and security forces shot indiscriminately and killed at least seven people. And it seems the terror has not stopped.

Now, this video posted at YouTube is set to show fresh gunfire in Daraa. That is not the only place under siege. Witnesses in a suburb of Damascus say people are afraid a day after security forces made widespread arrests. One resident reports that checkpoints in the area are manned with heavy machineguns.

Damascus has repeatedly denied CNN's request to enter the country. Our Arwa Damon is following developments from neighboring Lebanon and she joins us now.

And Arwa, what is the latest you're hearing on the assault in Daraa and elsewhere?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, earlier in the day we spoke to an eyewitness from Daraa, and we could actually hear the gunfire, sporadic gunfire, while we were talking to him on the phone. He was telling us and, in fact, gave us the names of 21 people that he says were killed during that crackdown by the Syrian military, by the Syrian security forces. Among them, he said, a father and two sons -- the sons in their 20s -- and a teenage girl.

He said that he did not know when the funerals would be taking place, as he claimed that the Syrian military had in fact taken over the cemetery. He was also telling us that the wounded were not being treated at the hospital, because that location, too, said to be under the control of the same security forces. People having to tend to the injured at undisclosed locations. The situation, still incredibly tense.

For their part, the Syrian government has been saying that it actually entered into Daraa at the request of the citizens of Daraa saying that they wanted to be saved from terrorists who were destroying their city. Of course, all of the activists and opposition leaders that we were speaking to, staunchly denying that, saying that this crackdown by the Syrian military is simply an even greater indication that this is a regime that is going to use brute force to try to silent those voices of dissent -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, Arwa, there are reports of division in Syria's military, reports of soldiers refusing to fire on civilians, some of them defecting. What have you heard?

DAMON: Yes. Kristie, we've been hearing those reports as well, and it is, of course, incredibly difficult for us to independently confirm any of that. We've heard a series of reports that some high-ranking Syrian officials have been detained because they refused to issue orders to their troops to fire on demonstrators.

We've heard the reports of people defecting from the military as well. But since we have repeatedly been denied access into Syria itself, since we do not have our own people on the ground there, we cannot independently verify any of those claims.

That being said, a number of analysts that we have spoken to, though, have been saying that President Assad's strength does lie in the fact that he still does, even if these defections should turn out to be true, he still does, by and large, still have the support of the military at this stage -- Kristie.

STOUT: As you said, Arwa, CNN, like other news organizations, has not been granted access inside Syria to report on events on the ground. So what sources are you using to understand the scope of the unrest?

DAMON: Well, Kristie, it's incredibly challenging, especially if we just look at what we had to do to news-gather out of Daraa over the last 48 hours, where landlines and cell phone lines were basically shut off. We are in touch via Skype, via e-mail with a number of activists who are somehow in touch with individuals inside Syria. They, for example, keep repeatedly sending us satellite phone numbers, and then we get in touch with people who say that there are eyewitnesses on the ground who, during the assault, said that they were going out, literally risking their own lives, to try to get a signal on these satellite phones to get their message out.

We also rely incredibly heavily on videos that activists and opposition members are uploading to YouTube. But again, that, also, incredibly difficult for us to use because we cannot independently verify the images that are being uploaded in there, which is why it is so difficult for us to pain an accurate picture of what is going on. We are also though hearing that even though a lot of this information is getting out in these various methods, people, activists keep telling us that what is happening inside Syria is much, much worse -- Kristie.

STOUT: Arwa Damon, giving us a glimpse of what is happening inside Syria right now, joining us live from Beirut there.

Thank you for staying on the story for us, Arwa.

Now, Syria holds an important position in the Middle East, and what happens there could ripple across the entire region.

Rima Maktabi explains.


RIMA MAKTABI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Assad dynasty has been in power for more than 40 years in Syria. Hafez, and then his son Bashar. They have run a state based on tight control on political activity and ever-present security police. But after decades of one-party rule, tens of thousands of Syrians in towns and cities across the country have said enough.

So, can the reforms offered by Bashar al-Assad calm the streets? And, if not, will repression, as in the past, stamp out the protests?

AYMAN ABDEL-NOUR, EXILED SYRIAN WRITER/ACTIVIST: He's following some political reforms and dealing nicely with the families of the martyrs, and received them in his palace, presidential palace. And on the other hand, he put and nominated a very harsh and very well-known background (ph) as the minister of Interior, who is very famous about dealing very tough with demonstrators. So he allowed both camps to go and -- to see which one at the end he will support.

MAKTABI: And the stakes are high, not just for Syria, but its neighbors. The Damascus regime holds key cards when it comes to war and peace in the Middle East. It supports and is highly influential with hard-line Palestinian factions and Hamas, whose leader, Khaled Meshaal, lives in Damascus.

It actively supports Hezbollah, the Shiite militia in Lebanon that has become a major political player there. The United States accuses Syria of delivering sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, which is believed to have some 40,000 rockets ready for another conflict with Israel.

Then there are the Golan Heights, Syrian territory captured by Israel in 1967. The Assad regimes have been the most hostile in the Arab world to peace with Israel. As Henry Kissinger once said, "The Arabs can't make war without Egypt, and they can't make peace without Syria."

Syria also has a strategic alliance with Iran, helping spread its influence among Arab countries. Iran is one of the main sponsors of Hezbollah.

And finally, Syria's border with Iraq means that it has become an entry point for insurgents, but also home to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled the violence there.

(on camera): Analyst say many Syrians fear their country could become engulfed in an Iraq-style sectarian war if neither reform nor repression works, and that would bring new danger to a region that's already a powder keg.

Rima Maktabi, CNN.


STOUT: Now, the Libyan government is denouncing a NATO airstrike Monday on leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli. Now, the government says Colonel Gadhafi is alive and well after the attack.

He was shown here on state television meeting with officials on Monday with the date clearly displayed. A Libyan official says that Colonel Gadhafi is not hiding, but is in a safe place.

Now, CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Tripoli and has this look at the damage on the ground.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Libyan government says that this is an office building in the Bab Al-Aziziyah compound. And as you can see, the structure was pretty much flattened by the bomb or bombs that hit here last night.

Now, the Libyan government also says that three people were killed in this air raid. At least 15 were critically injured, and about 30 have sustained lighter injuries.

They called this an assassination attempt on the leader, Moammar Gadhafi. They say that NATO is directly targeting Moammar Gadhafi in violation of the U.N. resolution to enforce the no-fly zone here in this country.

MUSSA IBRAHIM, LIBYAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: To attack this building is unnecessary and is another proof that the coalition forces are not seeking peace, are not seeking the protection of civilians, but are seeking political assassination.

PLEITGEN: The Libyan government claims that Moammar Gadhafi was not here when this building was targeted, that he is alive, that he is well and that he is still directing the daily affairs of this country, of course, also, leading the battle against the rebellion.

Now, NATO of course, has a very different take on what this building actually was. They say that this was "a command and control" headquarters in the heart of Tripoli and that civilians were being attacked from the structure.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tripoli, Libya.


STOUT: Now, in Pakistan, three deadly attacks targeting buses. We'll have the latest on the violence.

And in Sri Lanka, the U.N. accuses both sides in a decades-long war of crimes against civilians. We'll have more on that investigation.

And today, on the 25th anniversary of the devastating Chernobyl nuclear explosion, Ukraine remembers the victims of the blast.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, authorities in southwest Pakistan are searching for a gunman who fired on a parked passenger bus and then set it on fire. An official says 15 people on board were burned to death, and most of them were women and children. Insurgents in the region are fighting a battle for self-rule.

Now, seemingly unrelated attacks in Karachi targeted two buses carrying navy personnel. Now, the attackers detonated remote-controlled bombs, killing three people and wounding more than 30 others. Pakistani officials blame terrorists.

In Afghanistan, a top al Qaeda leader has been killed. Now, NATO just confirmed the death of its number two most-wanted insurgent.

Nick Paton Walsh joins us from CNN in Kabul with more.

Nick, tell us more about Abu Hafs al-Najdi. How pivotal a role did he play in al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, NATO, as you say, say he's their second priority target. He's also known as Abdul Ghani (ph). He's accused of running bombs, guns, militants in the Kunar province up in the north, near the border with Pakistan.

It's said that on the day on which he was killed by a NATO airstrike, he had actually arranged the killing of an important elder in that region who was very close to Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Obviously, it's taken a number -- two weeks to identify his remains.

The Saudis had him on their most wanted list. Perhaps that's the suspicion (ph) of number 23. But that gives you some evidence of his international status.

But this announcement really comes at a vital day for NATO after the appalling news yesterday of the prison break in Kandahar in which over 400 militants escaped. Officials, today, saying they caught only 65 of them. And actually, an MP there telling us -- talking about the sophistication of that jailbreak. Apparently, an oxygen system was placed inside the tunnel to make it easier for the inmates to creep out -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, al Qaeda in Afghanistan is not something we hear about too often. People usually talk about the Taliban there. So what is the significance of al Qaeda in Afghanistan today?

WALSH: Absolutely. I think you hear about al Qaeda in Afghanistan now for two reasons.

Firstly, it's some people trying to say to you there are less al Qaeda than there used to be, they're across the border in Pakistan, and therefore the unpopular domestically, certainly, American presence here in Afghanistan is less necessary, because they're just (ph) terrorists to fight. Sometimes though you also hear al Qaeda being raised again when people are trying to argue that this terrorist threat, so-called, exists still here in Afghanistan, and it's important that Americans don't leave a job unfinished.

So, today's release, I think, reminding people of the fact that al Qaeda is still here, although this militant killed, along with another al Qaeda militant, apparently, in the same airstrike, and also perhaps long-needed good news for NATO -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, the death of al Qaeda's number two in Afghanistan is a propaganda victory in the ongoing war on terror. But what real impact does it have in al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan? Could it lead to less attacks in the region?

WALSH: To be honest, I think this turnover, over the last four or five years, of senior militants here have been enormous. And I recall back in 2007, talking to the British in Helmand about how regularly they were targeting senior or middle-level leadership here.

The insurgency may be shaken by that, and the Americans call it dysfunction. And I think people have noticed an effect of those attacks. But more people come up through the ranks to replace those individuals.

So, as you've seen recently, there's not a sudden cessation of attacks when one of these leaders is taken out. It disrupts the organization, causes confusion and panic and fear, which is exactly what NATO wants. But I think as we've seen over the last 10 years, the insurgency hasn't stopped regardless of these assassinations and attacks. It doesn't seem like the Taliban are necessarily finding themselves broken -- Kristie.

STOUT: Number two was just waiting in the wings.

Nick Paton Walsh, joining us live from Kabul.

Thank you very much indeed for that.

Now, a United Nations panel says it has strong reason to believe that both the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels committed war crimes during the final stages of the country's decades-long civil war. The panel cites reports that the military carried out large-scale and widespread shelling on hospitals, U.N. food stations, even civilians in no-fire zones, and that rebels used civilians as human shields. Now, Sri Lanka's government says it strongly rejects the report.

Now, Gordon Weiss is a former U.S. spokesman in Sri Lanka.


GORDON WEISS, FMR. U.N. SPOKESMAN IN SRI LANKA: It really speaks volumes about the kind of war that this was, because unlike Libya, where people are twittering and photographing, and you have humanitarian workers and reporters on the ground reporting the war day by day, that wasn't the case in Sri Lanka. The government pretty much had a free hand in its final assaults on the Tamil Tigers, and that accounts for the tens of thousands of alleged deaths that this report has highlighted.


STOUT: Now, Richard Roth has more now on the U.N.'s allegations from New York.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: The United Nations delayed several times the issuance of this report, hoping to get the Sri Lankan government side included, but the government was not willing to participate in that, and the delay does not soften the very strong, stark conclusions by this panel of inquiry.

They looked into the final stages of the 25-year war between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tamil Tigers. According to the report, if the allegations are proven, it's possible thousands of civilians died as a result of crimes against humanity or war crimes by the government of Sri Lanka and also the opposition rebel Tamil Tigers.

According to the report, the government shelled hospitals, indiscriminately fired in zones where it declared a no-fire zone. Despite a promise of a zero casualty pattern by the government, the report says the government sought to intimidate and silence the media and other critics of the war through a variety of threats and actions, including the use of white vans to abduct and to make people disappear.

The report says the government purposely underestimated the number of civilians who remained in the conflict zone. Tens of thousands lost their lives, says the report, from January to May of 2009, many of whom died anonymously in the carnage in the final few days.

The report also says the government subjected victims and survivors of the conflict to further deprivation and suffering after they left the conflict zone, including summary executions and potential rapes of women. The rebels are accused of using civilians as a human buffer and killing civilians who were attempting to flee.

Secretary-General Ban says he can establish an inquiry into the U.N.'s own actions which came into criticism for how the U.N. handled the relationship with the government in the final stages, but the U.N. may not be able to set up an international investigation, which is urged by human rights groups. China and Russia oppose such action by the Security Council.

Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


STOUT: Well, a border standoff between Thailand and Cambodia escalated on Tuesday when both sides exchanged fire briefly. Now, a Thai military official says a misunderstanding about a routine air force drill sparked the fighting, but it was quickly calmed. Now, Thai health officials say 30 people have been injured and five killed in clashes over the past week. Thailand and Cambodia are fighting over two disputed ancient temples situated on their shared border.

Now, 25 years after Chernobyl, Ukraine remembers the victims of that nuclear disaster. And coming up on NEWS STREAM, we'll look at the legacy of the world's worst nuclear accident.


STOUT: Welcome back. You're watching NEWS STREAM, coming to you live from Hong Kong.

And in Japan, the company that operates the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has announced big pay cuts. The Tokyo Electric Power Company says it is cutting low-level employees' salaries by 20 percent and slashing executive pay by half. Now, the company hopes to save more than $600 million with the move as it fights to stabilize the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Now, Tuesday marks 25 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. And Matthew Chance joins us now live from CNN Moscow.

And Matthew, how is this grim anniversary being marked today?


It's being marked all over the Soviet Union, particularly in the countries that were so terribly affected 25 years ago, and still today by the radiological cloud that exploded from that Chernobyl reactor at number 4 on this day, 25 years ago. So, there's church services being held in Ukraine, of course, where Chernobyl is now located, in Belarus, a neighboring country, and, of course, here, in Russia, all formerly a part of the Soviet Union.

And so, we've seen these church services going on. The Russian president has been with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, at the only church that's still standing in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, to lay flowers and to pay their respects for the many people who died trying to fight the radiological nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

And there's also been other, as I say, ceremonies around the region as well. In addition to that, state television here in Russia and, of course, in Ukraine, have been broadcasting documentaries about what happened 25 years ago, the circumstances that led up to the world's worst nuclear disaster, and documentaries as well looking at what the situation is today and the various survivors, and their terrible -- often very terrible stories in the 25 years since then -- Kristie.

STOUT: And 25 years on, what does Chernobyl look like today? You mentioned the exclusion zone. Is that still in place?

CHANCE: Yes. I mean, there's a very big area, tens of thousands of square kilometers, that have been affected by the contamination from Chernobyl. But there's a 30-kilometer exclusion zone, a radius of 30 kilometers, around Chernobyl reactor number 4 that is still sealed off.

You have to undergo nuclear checks when you come out of there if you visit. But in the middle of it is that reactor number 4, and it's encased in a concrete lead and steal sarcophagus which was built in the months after the explosion 25 years ago in a bid to try to contain the radiation. But, of course, in recent years that sarcophagus has been decaying, it's been rusting. There are cracks that have appeared, and it's become much less secure.

So there's a big effort under way right now to try and raise the funds to build a cover, a further shield, for that whole area to protect to the region and protect Europe at large from the effects of the radiation. But it's still very dangerous. The fuel rods are still very much molten inside that reactor, and so it's still potentially a very great threat indeed to its surroundings.

STOUT: Wow. So a quarter century on, it's still a threat.

Now, the recent nuclear crisis, meanwhile, in Japan has revitalized the global debate over nuclear power. But what is the feeling in Russia about the debate after not only Japan, but of course its own disaster, Chernobyl? What is their feeling in Russia about using nuclear energy in their own country?

CHANCE: Well, you know, you don't see the kind of debate here in Russia that you see in other countries like Germany, for instance, where you've had large swathes of the public come out onto the streets and protest against the future use of nuclear power. You certainly haven't seen that in Russia.

But, clearly, in a country which has suffered very strongly, as well as neighboring Ukraine, of course, and Belarus, from the effects of the world's worst nuclear disaster, there are big misgivings amongst the population at large about the use of nuclear power, the security and safety of nuclear energy. And I think that's why President Medvedev, the Russian leader, has gone to Ukraine, gone to Chernobyl earlier today, saying that he's going to be announcing proposals to try and fix some international standards, to try and make sure that in the future, there are firm standards that can be enforced around the world to try and prevent accidents like Chernobyl, 25 years ago, and, of course, Fukushima, more recently than that, from taking place again in the future.

And, so, that's something that he's doing to try to ease concerns in this region as people here look back 25 years ago at the world's worst nuclear disaster.

STOUT: Matthew Chance, joining us live from Moscow.

Thank you.

You're watching NEWS STREAM. We'll be back right after this.


STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

You're watching NEWS STREAM, and these are your world headlines.

Now, the United Nations Security Council could take up the issue of human rights abuses in Syria today. It follows what witnesses describe as a bloody crackdown in two cities on Monday. The U.S. is joining Britain in calling for citizens to leave Syria if they can and is threatening to impose new sanctions.

In Nigeria, there was more violence as the nation prepares for Tuesday's gubernatorial elections. A bomb blast killed three people and injured dozens more in the northeastern state of Borno. The violence raised fears that there could be more attacks on voters.

Now Afghan authorities, they say that they've recaptured 65 of the more than 400 inmates who escaped from a prison in the country's south. Now the prisoners, they slipped out through a 320 meter long tunnel on Monday. A massive search is still underway for the others.

And three days left until "I do." Prince William and Kate Middleton are in the home stretch now as they get ready for their wedding on Friday. But before they can embark on life's journey together, they've got to make it to the church. And that is going to be quite a journey in itself. We know, because we have mapped out the royal wedding reporium (ph).

Let's check it out. The procession, it kicks off here at Buckingham Palace. It then stretches all the way down the Mall, that's the place where well-wishers can line the streets to catch a glimpse of the royal family. And then after that, they'll round a corner. They'll pass by the horse guards parade and several war memorials. And then head down patent government offices and Parliament Square to end finally at Westminster Abbey.

Our Monita Rajpal. We have traced that route. She's standing by outside London's Westminster Abbey right now. Monita, I hope I pronounce it correctly, it's the Mall right?

MONITA RAJPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the Mall, indeed. You got that right.

Yeah, the excitement here, Kristie, is quite palpable. And there's all this hubbub of activity that we're seeing right now behind me. Of course, there are always tourists around here, they're always here, but of course there's more interest in there now, because the fact that just three days from now, the nearly 1,000 year old church which is where England's kings and queens have been crowned, married and buried for hundreds of years will stage the event of a generation -- the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Friday's service will be held in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey, that's a little bit down there, and broadcast live just across the world. The international media have already fanned out across London to catch the sights, sounds and excitement of the big day. And we're seeing them all over the place, getting sound bites, getting shots of the people that's getting part -- that excitement, that energy that we can feel here.

Now one sound that no one wants to hear on Friday is the clap of thunder. It is cloudy today. It has been threatening to rain, but it hasn't rained yet. It's quite cold. Some forecasters are warning that it could rain on William and Kate's parade -- I know, not good news. The weather doesn't seem to matter, though, to fans of the couple who have crossed the world to be here just for the day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see if she goes really classic or more modern as they seem to be. And I want to see the whole ceremony, because I remember seeing videos of Princess Diana's and thinking that's so old fashioned. So this is the nice sort of everyday princess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world definitely needs it. And it's exciting to be here. Everybody is very excited, people are happy, so it's a great atmosphere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so excited to be -- I took the day off work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came like this years ago to Prince Charles' wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just very happy that, you know, such a beautiful couple have come together at this time when there's so much chaos in the world. We've got something to celebrate.


RAJPAL: And, Kristie, adding on to that excitement, we've already found a couple of people who started camping out here just below me right there for the big day so they have the primo spot to see Kate Middleton step out of the car and make her way into the Abbey.

STOUT: Already camping out, three days to go. I just hope that their well prepared for the wait.

Now Monita, one thing that many people are watching out for is what will Kate Middleton's dress look like. What is it?

RAJPAL: Well, this is the thing, that remains the biggest secret of the royal wedding. It's a secret that everyone wants to have a little bit of insight into. Well, Isha Sesay felt it was her duty to investigate. This is what she found out.


ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are the best guarded secrets in preparing for her big close-up. Who will design Kate Middleton's wedding dress? Will it compare to Princess Diana's? To get the scoop, I teamed up with this man, Hamish Bowles as an industry insider opened to worlds to us usually reserved only for top designers and celebrity.

In this area that we're in, is off limits to the public, is that correct?

HAMISH BOWLES, VOGUE MAGAZINE: Yes, yes. This is absolutely the inner sanctum.

SESAY: That's incredible.

BOWLES: We followed him through the prestigious halls of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Inside the executive meeting room and behind the doors of the acclaimed Fashion Closet at Vogue headquarters in Manhattan. Our mission: to get answers about Kate's wedding dress.

SESAY: And dress is being made at Buckingham Palace is my understanding.

BOWLES: Yes, the buzz seems to be that the garment is actually being created there to really keep it far away from prying eyes.

SESAY: She's been able to keep the designer of her dress secret.

BOWLES: I actually think it's kind of wonderful in this age where nothing is private, you know, all it takes is a cell phone picture and something goes viral.

SESAY: Do you think the dress the moment we see it, the moment the world lays eyes on it, people will be in factories reproducing it.

BOWLES: Yes, yes. Absolutely. Diana's dress almost as she stepped out of the car they were literally starting to sketch the moment the carriage appeared from Buckingham Palace.

SESAY: Diana's dress designers were so careful about secrecy that they created a code name for Diana, calling her Deborah. Every night they'd lock the dress in a metal safe and had two security guards to guard it. But will Kate's wedding dress look anything like Princess Diana's?

BOWLES: It had presence and romance and that 25 foot long cathedral train.

SESAY: While Diana's designers paid attention to several royal wedding gowns, these particularly noted this one worn by Queen Victoria. Will Kate's designers look to 1947, the start of the most successful long marriage in royal history, the Queen and Prince Philip? Or further back in royal history to the American Wallis Simpson Duchess of Windsor?

And this is the Duchess of Windsor's wedding dress?

BOWLES: Yes, it is indeed. It's a dress and a jacket. And it was created for her by Mambo Shay (ph), born Main Bocher, Chicago. And of course he dressed all the chicest American, and indeed international ladies of the 1930s. She, of course, was a double divorcee. So she wasn't really going to wear a fairy tale wedding dress.

SESAY: And wasn't it blue originally?

BOWLES: The die has actually proved fugitive. It's incredibly unusual. So we're looking at sort of gray dress, but actually you have to imagine that it would have been the color blue of the shoes.

SESAY: Is there anything in it that you feel gives us some clue to Katherine Middleton?

BOWLES: She is also drawn to very simple tailored lines and solid color that discretely reveal her wonderful body. Wallace was probably the bride whose choice most closely reflected her general wardrobe sense and taste.

The Duchess Simpson was high fashion, Diana was fairytale romance. I think from Katherine Middleton we could probably expect something very streamline modernity, something unfussy and modern.


RAJPAL: Unfussy, but undoubtedly absolutely gorgeous. That's what we're all waiting for on Friday. Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: I'm still waiting for a Vivian Westwood. I want her to rock something really unusual. We'll see. The odds are probably against that. Monita Rajpal, joining us live from London. Thank you Monita.

Now two big questions: what will she wear? And what will the weather be like? Will there be rain on Kate and William's parade? Let's check in with Pedram Javaheri for the answer to that maybe -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie. You know, the conditions out there going on 38 consecutive days where Londoners have enjoyed reading some above average. For almost a month and a week or so out there. But you take a look, the next couple of days we bring back sunshine. I know it's been a little gloomy today. Some sunshine comes back into the forecast. We'll take you up to 17.

And then look at this, goes back down to 16 on Thursday. By Friday, we're talking showers possible. Should be slightly above average, but again afternoon to evening showers is what we're looking at.

And there is the official forecast. The overnight temperature now is going to be a little chilly. I mean, we know it's been above average, so anything really that gets below 10 degrees I think is going to start feeling a little chilly for some of the folks that are already camping out. And the wind is also going to be 15 to 30 kilometers per hour. So certainly going to see changes in the forecast, but I think the rain could hold off for at least the later in the afternoon into the evening hours there across portions of London.

But I want to switch the story here, take you across the pond out towards portions of the Midwestern United States, because speaking of rainfall, they have dealt with plenty of it. And we have flood warnings, flash flood watches that are in effect for much of the area in and around the Midwestern United States that encompassed around St. Louis, south into the city of Memphis there in portions of Arkansas where they're not only have they seen very heavy rainfall, but also dealing with severe storms.

And just going back since Saturday, look at this, Fayetteville, Arkansas has picked up near 300 millimeters of rainfall even out towards portions of Poplar Bluff, Missouri where they're reaching near record values as far as flood levels and river levels are concerned some 200 millimeters of rainfall have accumulated since the last couple of days. And some video coming out of Poplar Bluff to share with you.

And this again is south of St. Louis in southern Missouri where if you may know there we've had large scale tornado move through portions of the airport there causing substantial damage. And the Black River now we know 1,000 people have been evacuated around Poplar Bluff as we're recording some of the highest level -- river levels in over 75 years across the Ohio and Mississippi Valley. And unfortunately, more rainfall going to continue for at least a couple of more days before we begin seeing things taper off towards the later portion of the week.

And again, this is just one part of the weather event that's occurred out there as we show you a graphic here that shows you storm damage, the line of storms and tornadoes spawned over the past 24 hours from eastern portions of Texas all the way out towards Arkansas where we had seven lives lost in the last 12 or so hours with large scale tornadoes. And again, wind damage, hail damage across the board. And these severe weather threats certainly going to continue.

The ingredients are still in place. We have that warm, moist air coming in off the Gulf, cool, dry air interacting with it and a strong jet stream that goes right towards those regions that have been hit the hardest there, Kristie, the past couple of days. And that's going to continue for at least a few more days out there across the Midwestern U.S.

STOUT: Yeah, so many regions affected, just cuts right across the United States.

Pedram Javaheri there. Thank you very much indeed.

Now coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, we talk to a father and CNN columnist who is fed up with sexy clothes for grade school girls. Now stick around for the battle of the tween dress code.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now a short time ago, CNN contributor LZ Granderson saw a little girl in an airport dressed like a sex symbol. And what he saw was so disturbing that he wrote a column called "Parents, Don't Dress Your Girls Like Tramps." Now LZ accuses companies like Wal-Mart of selling over sexed clothes for preteen girls.

But he also writes this, quote, it is easy to blast companies for introducing the sexy wear, but our ire really should be directed at the parents that think low rise jeans for a second grader is cute.

Now those sexy grade school garments include -- padded bikini tops like these. Abercrombie and Fitch first marketed them for seven-year-old girls.

Now CNN contributor LZ Granderson stirred up a bit of controversy of his own with the column. And he joins us now live from Grand Rapids, Michigan. LZ welcome to NEWS STREAM.

Your article has really hit a nerve. It has attracted over 5,000 comments. So why do you think it generated such a response?

LZ GRANDERSON : Well, first of all, thank you very much for having me.

You know, I've got to tell you I am completely shocked at the response myself. As a columnist all you wish for is to get people talking. I didn't realize this many people felt the same way that I did, or at least were intrigued by the conversation in general. I think that as parents of any child, whether boy or girl, you're automatically concerned about their well-being. And so the column pretty much focuses on what's best for our children, what's best for our daughters. And that is the reason why so many people were engaged in it.

STOUT: Now I'm going to share some reader response on to your column. First, this one. It says, quote, "you, sir, are 100 percent correct. God entrusted our daughter to my husband and me, not to the mall, not to Lady Gaga, and not to pop culture."

So, LZ, is Lady Gaga to blame? Is pop culture to blame?

GRANDERSON: I think if we saw a rack full of suits made of meat and bras and bikinis made of meat we might be able to blame Lady Gaga for that. But I think this conversation goes far beyond the popular artists of today, I think it's about parents taking the time to get back to basics. And that's really talking one on one with our children.

You know, one of the complaints I saw a lot of in the comments were people just talking about how television has become our baby sitters. And in a lot of ways I think they're right. We have surrendered a lot of influence to television, to pop culture. And so the piece hopefully not only incites people have a dialogue amongst themselves, but empower parents to parent again.

STOUT: Now here's another interesting response from a Murphy Max who writes this, quote, "as a parent of 7th and 9th grade girls I can tell you that it's difficult to find sensible and conservative clothing for teenage girls."

Now in your article you say that parents are to blame, but are they really to blame when according to some there's simply no options at the shopping center? What's your reaction?

GRANDERSON: You know, I certainly see that. I have a teenage boy. While I don't have to deal with, you know, the short shorts and things of that nature, there are t-shirts marketed in his size with inappropriate comments. Comments about sexual conquests and things like that. And he's actually tried to buy those t-shirts and I said no.

So I definitely see the difficulties in trying to shop in the mall, but my partners worked in retail for 25 years. And one of the things that I do know is that retailers listen to customers. And if enough parents start complaining to the staff in these stores, start asking to speak to the manager and ask how come I can't find more modest clothing for my daughter, I think we'll see a change.

I think right now there's a sort of defeatist attitude that we can't help it. Well, these retailers are here to serve us, not the other way around. And so we can influence what's out there for our children.

STOUT: And also the psychological toll. I mean, what's at stake here? What happens to a generation of girls who grow up dressing, in your words, like tramps? I mean, what is the impact of girls dressing too sexy too soon?

GRANDERSON: Well, you know, this really isn't about what my opinion is, or what another parent's opinion may be, it's really what the research has shown over the years. Recent studies have indicated that when young girls are sexualized too soon, they grow up with eating disorders, or poor body image, ideas of themselves, or depression as young ladies and as women. And as we know from eating disorders, if they go untreated, that could even lead to death.

So this isn't just about, you know, me seeing a little girl in an airport, this is really about what's best not just for our little girls right now, but helping them be health and strong women later in life/

STOUT: Well, LZ, many thanks indeed for joining us on the program. I loved your column. And as a fellow parent myself really admire your approach to parenting -- just back to basics, that's all.

LZ Granderson, a contributor joining us live from Michigan. Thank you very much indeed LZ.

Now, it is Champion's League semifinal week. We're going to go to sports next. Football fans have two very different first leg matches to look forward to. So let's switch gears, go to London. And we're going to get more from Alex Thomas now -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, just four clubs remain in the hunt for European club football's biggest prize. Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona meet at the Bernabeau Stadium on Wednesday night. Everyone's licking their lips about that one.

But let's not forget the match later this Tuesday -- FC Schalke at home to Manchester United. Schalke the underdogs despite knocking out the defending champions Inter Milan in the quarterfinals. The German club has never been this far before. In contrast, this is United's fourth Champion's League semifinal in five seasons and their 12th overall.

Manager Alex Ferguson is challenging his squad to match the records of Europe's other famous clubs.


SIR ALEX FERGUSON, MANCHESTER UNITED MANAGER: I think the present group have enough experience now in Europe. And I think it's where we should be. I think the expectation from my point of view is always high in regard to the European scene, because you do get envious of other club's great record in Europe and we're trying to get parity with that.

CHRISTOPH METZELDER, SCHLAKE DEFENDER (through translator): You have to be realistic. And it's quite clear that we are the light weight in the last four. We are obviously not the out and out favorites, but feel quite comfortable in that role. I think that we are met with respect, but I played in a big team myself. And surely Manchester United are happy that they have to play against us and not against Inter or either of the big Spanish teams.


THOMAS: Maybe a few mind games being played in those pre-match news conferences.

Well, Schalke have reached the semis despite a change of manager this year. We spoke to German sports writer Raphael Honigstein of World Sporter (ph) here. And he said the Bundisliga club has certainly surprised people with their Champion's League form.


RAPHAEL HONIGSTEIN, GERMAN SPORTS WRITER: Ralf Rangnick has taken over. He's lifted the mood in the dressing room. Felix Magath, his predecessor, perhaps had overstayed his welcome. There were his methods. And under him they're a lot more relaxed and they play with confidence. And they play with desire to show what they can do at this stage. And I think they're going to be OK for tonight.


THOMAS: That was a huge surprise in the cards in the NBA playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs had the best record in the regular season, but the top seeds have found the going tough against the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis, 2-1 up in the series going into game four on Monday.

Let's pick up the action in the third quarter. And what Zach Randolf with the over his head pass, never mind behind the back pass, to Tony Allen for the lay-up. The Grizzlies up by 5 at that stage.

And they extended their lead later in the third quarter when Marc Gasol out muscles Tim Duncan for the rebound, goes back up for the basket.

And when Darrell Arthur hits the long jumper just before the break, the Grizzlies have built up what their biggest advantage of the second half, a 13 point lead at this stage.

Anyway, back for the Spurs in the fourth. Well, here's Arthur again, blocks the lay-up at one end and then releases the alley oop for the slam at the other end. Memphis win 104-86. And it's San Antonio, would you believe, who trail the series 3-1.

Now there seems no end in sight for the dispute between American footballers and NFL team owners despite a judge ruling in favor of the players. On Monday, a U.S. district judge ordered an end to the six week lockout imposed in a row over money. However, NFL owners immediately appealed against the decision. They want a bigger slice of the sports estimated annual revenue of $9 billion, arguing their costs have increased since the last deal five years ago. The players disagree.

And at a time of global economic hardship, Kristie, the American press have been rather critical, dubbing the dispute "billionaires versus millionaires." Back to you in Hong Kong.

STOUT: Nice. Not much sympathy out there right now. Thank you very much indeed Alex Thomas there.

Now still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, the media went crazy for the couple's engagement, but that hardly compares to the frenzy leading up to the royal marriage. And we'll show it to you next.


STOUT: Now around the clock coverage of Wills and Kate is just getting started and it is not limited to London. Jeanne Moos brings us the highs and lows of wedding mania in the media.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you'd rather say I don't then I do, the massive coverage to the royal wedding, well, it's too late.


MOOS: It's started.


MOOS: Don't expect to be able to get the royal theme music out of your head. And don't expect weighty questions, except for this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has Kate Middleton lost too much weight?

MOOS: Do expect anchors to be playing dress up.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You look fabulous.

MOOS: From masks to crowns...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your prince awaits.

MOOS: hats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're both sporting the ones that we picked out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; This is a little piratey, though, isn't it?

MOOS: One network has even acquired an accent.


MOOS: A British accent.

ANNOUNCER: Live at the royal wedding.

MOOS: On an American network?

ANNOUNCER: Share the moment, Friday live from London...

MOOS: Wait a minute, that's a second network. By the end of the week will all of American television sound like the BBC?

ANNOUNCER: It's Barbara Walters with a special royal 20/20.

MOOS: The media competition was fierce to find the most ridiculous souvenirs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a refrigerator, a commemorative refrigerator with Will and Kate on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will and Kate seat for your own throne.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For 200 bucks you can get a Kate Middleton statuette.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The royal wedding sick bag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The royal wedding souvenir of the day. Today we have royal wedding underwear.

MOOS: With lines like Kate stole my husband.

Anchors found excitement everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...hotel where the Middleton family will be staying the night before the...

MOOS: Yeah, well not everyone has chills. Some are downright chilly towards the wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think American really give a flying...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't care. I don't care.

MOOS: We in the media could use a crash course on royalty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That she was in the wedding of Princess Diana to Princess Charles.

MOOS: Who are you calling a princess?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


STOUT: And yes, CNN will be part of the around the clock wedding coverage on Friday. We've got our Anderson Cooper, Piers Morgan, Cat Deeley, Richard Quest that will be bringing you live coverage from London. That starts in 4:00 in the afternoon here in Hong Kong, noon Abu Dhabi time.

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