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Syria Unrest; Golf's Golden Boy; War in Afghanistan

Aired June 20, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


ANNA COREN, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

Hello. I'm Anna Coren, in Hong Kong.

Well, Syria's president promises reform in the face of violent protests, but says he won't work with the opposition.

Golfing glory on the putting green. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, he wins the U.S. Open in record-breaking style.

And is this really what Japanese women want (INAUDIBLE)? Well, Burger King hops so, and it starts serving them Spam.

Well, Syria's president speaks to his nation for the first time in two months. Well, critics say Bashar al-Assad had mostly questions and excuses about the months of deadly unrest. One human rights group estimates more than 1,100 people have been killed since protests started in March.

Well, al-Assad's long speech to a friendly crowd started with what sounded like a tone of reconciliation.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We meet today. And at the turning point in our country, a moment we wanted to be a turning point between yesterday's trouble past, where blood has been shed that has pained every Syrian, and to bring back to our country peace and tranquility built on freedom and partnership.


COREN: Well, Mr. al-Assad once again blamed a conspiracy for the chaos in Syria. And he went on to say reforms are not possible in current conditions.

Well, let's bring in our Phil Black. He's near the Turkish/Syrian border.

Phil, what has been the reaction from the refugees that you have spoken to?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anna, we've had limited contact with the refugees here. We've spoken by phone to some of them who are still on the Syrian side of the border. They watched that speech, they say, and their reaction is, well, they're not really buying it.

They don't, first of all, buy his claim that they can return home safely without the threat of punishment from the Syrian military. They believe their lives would be at risk if they were to do so. Nor do they believe President Assad's insistence that he is committed to broader political reform in Syria. What they want is for Assad to go immediately.

Now, Assad spoke in fairly general terms. He talked about a majority of Syrians having legitimate political demands, and he says in order to answer those demands, the solution would be something called national dialogue. It sounds pretty vague, but he's talking about an inclusive process that would represent the whole fabric of Syrian society.

He said a committee has been established. It's already looking at who will take part, what they'll be talking about, what the time frame will be. But even that committee is months away from answering.

But let's take a listen now to President Assad explaining a little bit more about this concept of national dialogue.


AL-ASSAD (through translator): When we are trying to plan the future of Syria for generations and decades to come, we have come up with the idea of national dialogue. If I was part of national dialogue, I cannot say that I achieved it. I am, at the end of the day, an individual, and those that I met (ph), hundreds or thousands. But the nation involves tens of millions.

This is why we want to have a national dialogue.


BLACK: So, national dialogue, the president says, can be the bedrock from which the state can go on to consider other serious reforms like constitutional changes, and particularly the potential for a multi-party system. There was no detail in regards to any of that except his insistence that he is committed to it as an idea, and he believes that all of these issues can be wrapped up in some way by the end of the year.

That is far too long for the protesters who have been risking their lives on the streets of Syria. They still want Assad to step down, they want the end of his regime to take place immediately -- Anna.

COREN: Phil, we know that some 10,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey, where you are. I mean, what did the president have to say directly to these refugees?

BLACK: As I said, he asked them to come home. He said that without them, their cities will die. He assured them that they were safe and there is no truth to the rumors that the Syrian military would in any way harm them or punish them should they do so. But the initial reaction from those refugees across the border, from the ones that we've spoken to so far, is that they simply do not believe those assurances, and nor are they satisfied with the plans -- no actions, just the plans -- that President Assad has outlined today for the political future of Syria -- Anna.

COREN: Phil Black, on the Turkish/Syrian border.

Thank you for that.

Well, more than 10,000 Syrians, as we say, have left their homes and fled for Turkey. But for weeks, the Turkish government did not let refugees speak with reporters.

Well, our Arwa Damon got rare access to one of the camps and the people calling it home.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This baby was born a refugee. He's just a day old and named Recep Erdogan, after the Turkish prime minister. His parents say it's out of gratitude to the country they believe saved them from imminent death in their homeland. His father, who did not want to be filmed, angrily states, "It's better to die in Turkey than in a Syria ruled by Assad."

Ahmed Abdul Aziz (ph), faltering as he stands, is 103 years older than baby Erdogan. After just a few questions about his life, he starts to cry. He's from Jisr-Al-Shugur, one of the towns that had been the focal point of the Syrian military crackdown in recent weeks.

Thousands of refugees have streamed into Turkey. The media, until now, officially kept away from them. Turkish authorities finally granted the press limited access to the refugees in this camp on a carefully coordinated tour. We're able to break away and briefly hear some of their harrowing stories of survival.

This 4-day-old baby's uncle says he was born on the border before an ambulance arrived. "It was a miracle," he told us. Nine-year-old Jamiya (ph) remembers how she could hear the gunfire and see smoke before her family fled.

Row upon row houses terrified families. They live in bare tents. Most fled with just the clothes on their backs.

The refugees are provided with food, water, and other basics. As the tour progresses, a small demonstration. Chants of "Thank you, Turkey!" coupled with cries of, "The people want the downfall of the regime!"

As we depart, children perched on their playground chant anti-government slogans. All the parents who we spoke to tell us they dream of going home. But it's a dream that can't be realized, they say, until Assad leaves.

Arwa Damon, CNN, at the Boynuyogun refugee camp in Turkey.


COREN: Well, last week, Arwa spent time with people inside Syria. Some say they will stay there and look for loved ones, hoping they can go home.

You can hear their stories on our Web site as part of our complete coverage on Syria, and you can find it all at

In Europe, EU finance ministers decided to hold off on giving Greece a new 12 billion euro, or $17 billion, loan payment, at least for now. It would be the second emergency loan for the debt-laden country. Without it, Greece risks facing default on its sovereign debt for July.

Well, the EU ministers who wrapped up their meeting in Luxembourg today said Greece won't get the money until it passes additional austerity measures, including nearly $40 billion in spending cuts and tax increases.

Golf has a new golden boy, Rory McIlroy. He led the U.S. Open from the start. The 22-year-old has led other majors before, although falling short each time. But not this time.

Well, after a stellar fourth round, he strolls to the 18th green for this long putt. Well, let's just wait.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a great put. Not just a good putt, but a great putt.



COREN: He is just inches from the win. He taps it in to steal his U.S. Open victory with an eight-stroke lead. Well, that brought him home 16 under par overall, crushing Tiger Woods' U.S. Open record.

Well, CNN's Shane O'Donoghue talked with McIlroy after the big win at the congressional course, and he joins us now live from Washington.

Shane, you, of course, met McIlroy when he was a teenager. And I think back then he certainly had his future mapped out. What does this mean win to him?

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST, "LIVING GOLF": This is the beginning of a new era for Rory. He came on stream as a 19-year-old when he turned pro initially, and there was a lot of expectation for Rory. And he didn't quite deliver.

He was really learning a lot, and then he was inspired, I think, Anna, with the victory Graeme McDowell, his fellow countryman, last year at this same event, the U.S. Open. And then he raised his game and he started contesting all of the biggest championships.

There are four majors every year, and he's been in contention, tying for the lead or being a joint leader, in all four of them. And he's had, you know, some big disappointments certainly over the last 12 months, but it's been a real learning curve for him. And this victory really sets him on his way.

This is what golf needs. And it was just tremendous to be able to sit down with him and interview him last night, and talk about learning from those defeats and treating those two imposters (ph) just the same, (INAUDIBLE). That's really how we began the interview.


O'DONOGHUE: It's been 70 days since you left Augusta National on a very disappointed Sunday. Has it been the longest 70 days of your life?

RORY MCILROY, U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: No, I've actually enjoyed them. I've enjoyed the challenge of trying to get myself back up for this tournament, felt as if I needed to prove a lot to myself and to prove a lot to everyone else, that I learned from Augusta. And I went back this week and played some of the best golf of my life.


O'DONOGHUE: So it's been astonishing, really, just to see his development in those 70 days, because all the commentators and all the speculation that was going on about whether he would fill that potential after having that disastrous last round at the U.S. Masters, as I said, just 71 days ago, as it is now, and to be able to come through, but to take heed of valuable insights and lessons from the likes of Jack Nicklaus, who has taken a real shine to Rory -- Jack says he likes Rory's moxie, he expects big things from him.

They spent a bit of time together two weeks ago. And Rory really did put into play a lot of those experiences that Jack was sharing with him about how to get it finally done in a U.S. Open and, indeed, all the majors. And the U.S. Open is where Jack began his incredible start as far as amassing all of the majors that he has over his amazing in career, 18 in total. But it started in 1962, when he was a 22-year-old in the U.S. Open.

And we have a 22-year-old in Rory McIlroy finally coming through as well with the United States Open.

COREN: Shane, I think we all expect huge things from Rory. You mentioned Augusta and the fact that he led these major titles, but hasn't been able to hang on.

What do you think was different about the U.S. Open?

O'DONOGHUE: What was different about the U.S. Open was that he did a lot of self-examination over these past 10 weeks or so, and he searched deep inside himself. It's very clear that he has done that. And as he said there in the interview, he enjoyed that.

And he's analyzed why things have gone awry for him in the previous four majors, and he knows that he can win them. So he was just trying to analyze what to do better.

And he did most of that himself, but obviously he's got great support in his parents. You saw in that shot himself and his great dad Gerry embracing on the 18th green yesterday evening. I mean, they're very close. And his parents -- he's an only child -- they're very supportive.

But he sought the help of the best people. And he's got a great team around him. But listening to mentors like Jack Nicklaus, you can't go wrong. And to take heed of what people like him can share, I think that's massively important in what's just happened here in allowing Rory to not get in his own way and take this major step, as he did so brilliantly over the last four days.

COREN: Shane, I saw your interview with Rory. He has such poise, doesn't he? Such confidence. A huge future ahead.

Shane O'Donoghue in Washington.

As always, good to talk to you. Thank you.


COREN: Well, coming up on NEWS STREAM, U.S. concerns. It's in talks to end the war in Afghanistan. Details on who Washington has been talking with. That's next.

And in China, torrential floods claim more lives and wipe out farm fields. We'll find out when those deadly waters might recede.

And then, CNN goes to the front line of Libya's civil war for a look at how rebel medics are hoping to make a difference on the mismatched battleground.

That's ahead on NEWS STREAM.


COREN: Well, the war in Afghanistan is approaching its 10-year mark. U.S. President Barack Obama has promised a significant number of troops will come home next month. But is that realistic?

Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins us live from Washington.

Barbara, we know that al Qaeda has been crippled, if not paralyzed. But does this mean a quick exit for the Americans?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think that's the question on the table, Anna. And most people at the Pentagon and in the administration would say, maybe not quick.

You know, the president is within days of announcing his decision about a schedule, a timetable to bring home the 30,000 troops that he ordered in as part of the surge about 18 months ago. He had promised at that time he would make an announcement in July and they would begin coming home in July. But it could take months for that 30,000 to fully come back to their home bases.

Nobody really knows at this point what the president will announce. It is believed he's very close to making a decision, if he hasn't already. And what's on the table are really a couple of competing interests.

One, Osama bin Laden is dead. So do you still need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan from the United States? And on the other hand, is the government of Hamid Karzai strong enough that the Taliban and other insurgents groups believe that that is the legitimate government of the country, that they must support it, that they have no option, if you will, but to come in from the cold?


COREN: Barbara, we're hearing reports that the U.S. is in talks with the Taliban. What are you hearing?

STARR: Well, just that, indeed, and that may figure into some of all of this. Over the weekend, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke to CNN's Candy Crowley on "STATE OF THE UNION," confirming that some very preliminary contacts were under way. They're not exactly sure, but they're talking to the representatives of Mullah Omar, so that's a big issue. Gates offering a lot of caution about it.

And he came back to this key question: If Osama bin Laden is dead, what is the rationale for still being in Afghanistan? And how can you talk to the group, the Taliban, that sheltered him for so many years?

Have a listen to what he had to say.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think, first of all, we just killed the guy who was responsible for attacking us on September 11th, and we have taken out a lot of other al Qaeda as well over the years. Look, we ended up talking to people in Anbar Province in Iraq who were directly killing -- had directly been involved in killing our troops. That's the way wars end.


STARR: That's really one of the points that Gates is making here. Most wars do end through political accommodation, some type of peace talks. You don't go on until the last man is left standing, of course.

But Gates is pointing out that it may take a while, still. The Taliban must be convinced that their only hope for survival is to reject violence, join in with the Karzai government. Gates says it could take another fighting season in Afghanistan before that happens -- Anna.

COREN: Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr in Washington.

As always, thank you.

Well, ahead on NEWS STREAM, serious flooding in China. More than a million people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the rising waters. Is there any relief in sight?

We'll have a full update. That's next.


COREN: Rising floodwaters wreak havoc in parts of central and southern China. Well, the government says the death toll now stands at 175 people, but there could be more.

Jaime Florcruz takes a look at the personal and economic impact of the flooding, and what Beijing is doing to provide relief.


JAIME FLORCRUZ, BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Several days of heavy rain has battered at least 10 provinces in central and south China, causing severe flooding and mudslides, and forcing the evacuation of at least 1.5 million people. Roads and highways have been destroyed, and some railway lines have been disrupted.

In central Xiushui (ph) province, relentless rain inundated 44 counties, forcing 250,000 people to evacuate to safety. Rescue teams, spearheaded by Chinese soldiers, have rushed to help stranded residents and distribute food and relief goods. Chinese soldiers were mobilized around the clock to impair and reinforce breached dikes.

In the eastern province of Xinjiang, lakes and rivers are now swollen at alarming levels. Nearly 1,000 businesses have shut down.

Chinese officials estimate that direct losses from flooding now stands at $5.4 billion. Floodwaters in many villages have destroyed houses and large tracks of farmland. Officials warn that food shortages will trigger a spike in prices of food and commodities not just in affected areas, but also nationwide. This could worsen China's inflation, which hit 5.5 percent in May, its highest level in nearly three years.

Jaime Florcruz, CNN, Beijing.



COREN: In NEWS STREAM ahead, we'll bring you the latest from the front lines of Libya's civil war, where civilian fighters battle government tanks on the Libya's mismatched battlegrounds.

And then an historic finish at the U.S. Open. We'll look at this 22-year- old record-breaking round.

That's still ahead on NEWS STREAM.


COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines.

Well Syria's president is promising reform in the face of violent protests, but Bashir al Assad says it will take time. In a speech to the nation, the president blamed armed gangs for the violence and said it has damaged the country's image.

Europe's own ministers say they won't had Greece its next slice of bailout money until it commits to tough new austerity measures. Well, Athens is being told to cut its budget even more and sell off state assets before $17 billion of badly needed rescue funds are released.

Rory McIlroy is the toast of the Northern Ireland and the golfing world. He won the U.S. Open in Maryland on Sunday. The 22 year old is the youngest winner since 1923. The win started wild celebrations in Hollywood, Northern Ireland. The fans watched the final round from McIlroy's home golf town.

Well, the trial of Tunisia's former president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has begun in his absence. The Tunisian leader fled to Saudi Arabis this year after a wave of protests across the country. Well state media is saying he faces dozens of charges including misappropriating public funds. Ben Ali says he's being unfairly portrayed and discredited by political opponents.

Well, turning to Libya. And NATO is strongly denying claims by the Libyan government that 15 people died in a NATO attack on Tripoli on Monday. Well, that accusation comes after NATO said one of its missiles may have missed its target on Sunday and killed civilians in the capital.

Well, the Libyan government says nine people died when this house was destroyed Sunday. NATO says the intended target was a missile site, but one of the rockets missed.

Well, meanwhile fighting intensifies east of Tripoli. In Dafnia rebels face off with Libyan soldiers. They're hoping to hold their ground with light arms against a powerful military.

Well, CNN's Ben Wedeman has more from the mismatched battleground.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Walif (ph) calls for medics to attend to his friend, Majib (ph) critically wounded in the head during a bombardment by Gadhafi's forces on Dafnia, west of Mizrata.

"Oh lord, save them, save them," he prays for his wounded friends.

"We were in Dafnia on our defensive positions," Walib recalls. "We moved forward and they started to fire rockets and mortars."

"Was it intense," I ask?

"It was very, very intense," his friend Atia (ph) tells me. "We hardly have any weapons. What we have are old, they're almost useless. They have brand new weapons."

At least eight fighters were killed in the bombardment Sunday, more than 30 wounded. Walib's (ph) friend Majib (ph) was among the dead.

This force, mostly civilians with little military training, manage with NATO's help, to drive Gadhafi's army out of Mizrata. But now progress is slow. Every day more die. Their bravado sometimes collapsing into despair.

Nearby a new well equipped field hospital has been set up by the International Medical Corps. They expect more casualties to come.

DR. DMITRIOS MOGNIE, INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS: It's 125 dead. So our target, first, is to reduce the mortality. And to be near the front line.

WEDEMAN: That front line is just a few minutes away by car. They're trying to reinforce it.

The opposition fighters have moved forward from here, but often time they come under intense bombardment and they're forced back. This road here, this position, seems to be the static line standing for the moment between Gadhafi's forces and the rebels.

Those forces, well equipped and seemingly unhampered by NATO aircraft are just a mile or two away. The fighters here well aware their modest weapons may not suffice if the enemy goes on the offensive.

"We're just young civilians with light arms," Salem (ph) tells me. "But we're armed with our faith, the Koran, and god willing, will be victorious."

Faith notwithstanding, victory doesn't seem to be coming any closer.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Dafnia, Libya.


COREN: Well, Israel's president is calling for an urgent peace deal with Palestinians. Shimon Perez says neither side has much time.

Well, he sat down with our Matthew Chance for a conversation about the region at large.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's move on to this issue of the revolutions that are taking place around the region, the Arab Spring, pro-democracy revolutions. Do you see these as a positive thing for Israel, or a threat to this country?

SHIMON PEREZ, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: completely positive thing for us and for the Arabs.

The real problem of the region is poverty even more than democracy. There is a lack of water, lack of food, lack of health. There is no chance to escape poverty without entering the modern age, namely the production of science and technology.

And science and technology is not just a technical matter, it's a composition of the country. If, for example, you discriminate women and (inaudible) best, higher up machines, it won't help. So it's a revolution in the social structure, the Arab young generation for the first time saw the cost of poverty, the ugliness of dictatorship, the crime of corruption.

And they see other young people live different. They say why? This question will remain.

CHANCE: But these dictatorships were often very predictable from the point of view of Israel's security. How concerned are you that what will follow will be much more unpredictable, much more dangerous for this country?

PEREZ: We have to understand the world is changing all the time. And that would change (inaudible). We are talking about a time about secure borders, secure borders. It's not enough. We have to have secure states, because they have missiles. And borders don't defend against missiles, for example.

So we have to adapt all of us, the whole world, to new situations including the global situation, including which I mentioned, this (inaudible) for example. It's a new danger. A new (inaudible).

So the fact that you have a new danger doesn't mean that you don't have -- you can't have a new defense. And we should have all the time to watch our strengths so we shall be able to defend ourselves without risking anybody else and understand that actually peace is out of our defense. It's peace of all defenses, all security all over the world.

CHANCE: Do you Israel should in the future, when the situation is stabilized a little, reach out to the new democracies in the Middle East?

PEREZ: We have to let them handle it in their way. And Israel should not appear as being ambitious to each other countries.

I mean, everybody sensitive to its own (inaudible), their own face saving. We must be very careful not to appear as a teacher, and not appear as a (inaudible) that involved -- is getting itself involved in the business of other countries.

We can support. We can help upon request. We are the only country on Earth that doesn't have land almost -- and doesn't have water almost and yet have the best agriculture on Earth. We have shown that even with less water -- little water, and less land, you can produce food. This is our message. And whoever would like to learn from us, we have open meeting.

We shouldn't push ourselves, but we should be open and (inaudible) our strengths.

CHANCE: I'm also interested in this idea that the Arab Spring revolutions represent, and the changes that are happening in the Middle East, represent an opportunity for Israel to -- you know, fortunate -- sort of a grand bargain, a Palestinian agreement that would take it out of the equation a little bit in terms of problems in the Middle East.

You articulated this issue, haven't you?

PEREZ: There are two things. First of all, I believe democracy is security. Usually democratic countries doesn't enter wars. Dictators are dangerous. So I would like to see a democratic Middle East.

Secondly, I would like to see the Arab world escaping itself from the present situation. There is no reason why they shouldn't become an advanced region and advanced countries. Why should they suffer from poverty and sickness? Why?

So I think the better they will have it, the better it will be for us.


COREN: Shimon Perez speaking to our Matthew Chance.

Well, the president has warned the Palestinian leadership against declaring independence outside of a peace deal. The Palestinian Authority has said it will ask the UN for recognition in September if talks do not resume.

Well, still ahead on NEWS STREAM, record-breaking rounds at the U.S. Open as the sand settles on McIlroy's historic win. We'll look at golf's newest golden boy.


COREN: Well, Rory McIlroy wowed the golf world this weekend with a sweeping victory at the U.S. Open. He is the youngest to win that event in decades, but not the youngest ever. And as the sand settles on his record- breaking round, well fans are left to wonder how he'll stack up against golf's biggest names.

Well, CNN's Mark McKay is at CNN center. And Mark, let's put his performance in context. How remarkable was it?

MARK MCKAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was remarkable -- and in the fact that he was able to bounce back so quickly from the disappointment, a major disappointment in the first major of the year. You remember how he blew that four shot lead at the Master's going into the final round, just completely unraveled and lost. A lot of people wondered how this young man would be able to rebound from it coming to Congressional this past weekend.

Well, what he did was go out and set four rounds in the 60s and set more than a dozen records in the process, becoming the youngest player to win the U.S. Open in 88 years. Bobby Jones back in the 1920s, the youngest at the time.

And so many comparisons, Anna, to this man now to Tiger Woods. At 21 years of age Tiger Woods won his first golfing major back in 1997 at the Master's. And CNN's Living Golf sat down with the then 20 year old McIlroy in 2009.

Now get a load of this, back in 2009 we asked him if he had heard what Tiger Woods had to say about him. Wood's said someday Rory McIlroy will be number one in the world. Here's what he had to say back then.


RORY MCILROY, GOLFER: (inaudible) for Tiger to say that about me is -- you know, you can't get a higher compliment than that. And you know I can't really like into my head. It just -- but it gives you a lot of confidence and a lot of motivation that you -- that if you do work hard you can get to that level.


MCKAY: And he has certainly worked hard and gotten to a level now that many can only hope to achieve. At 22 years of age, Anna, he's already had $10 million in earnings in the bank. And he is a marketers dream. He's a very likable young man. A lot of folks, I think, will be on the Rory bandwagon from here on out wanting to have him endorse their products.

COREN: Yeah, a likable young man indeed. And certainly got his feet on the ground, which is what I like.

Mark, good to see you as always. Thank you for that.

Well, as one championship comes to a close, another is just kicking off in London. It's day one of Wimbledon, as the famous tennis tournament enters its 125 years. Well our Pedro Pinto is there and joins us live. Pedro, who is shaping up to be the main contenders?

Pedro, I just want to know who is shaping up to be the main contenders?

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, welcome to Wimbledon. Day one of the 125th championships underway. I can tell you that Raphael Nadal, the top seed, the defending champion is a break down in the first set against Michael Russel, the 33 year old American ranked number 91 in the world. That's a little bit surprising so far. We'll have to see whether Rafa can find his stride and go into the second round. He is many people's favorite here to win a third Wimbledon crown.

Later on, the local favorite Andy Murray will be in action on Center Court as well. And most people queuing here over the last couple of days have battled for a ticket so they can see their prized man in action.

There is Murray mania is what they call it over here with fans flocking from all over the country trying to get a ticket.

The Center Court holds 15,000 fans. The capacity here overall is around 38,000, 39,000 in all the courts when you bunch them all together.

Now there's no question this is one of those dates that all sports fans mark on their calendar to make sure that they can be here, present following all the action. Great atmosphere throughout. And we had a chance to speak with a couple of people who were here queuing, some of the stewards as well who are helping gather the crowds before the tournament started.

Let's get some reaction on what was going on here as far as the fans and the stewards were concerned early on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has to be in line. When they arrive, they all get a queue card which fixes their position in the line. Now obviously if they're queuing for more than, say, 24 hours if they come here as they did yesterday morning at about 8:00, they obviously need to go away from time to time and we allow that.


PINTO: Well, I can tell you that everyone is hoping that it'll be a fantastic fortnight. And many people hoping there won't be much rain either. We started quite well. Now there's some dark clouds. But at least now there's a roof on Center Court so we won't have delays as far as the main matches are concerned. Back to you.

COREN: Pedro, who are pundits picking to win Wimbledon?

PINTO: Well, it really depends on who you ask. You have Roger Federer who is a 6 time champion going for a record equally 7th crown. Pete Sampras holds that particular mark. But on the women's side, it's so difficult to predict as well, because you've got the Williams sisters coming back after a long injury layoff. The world number on Caroline Wozniaki has never won a Grand Slam title. So that's really tough to predict.

I had a chance to speak with three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker earlier today. And he talked about how tough it is to predict the winner on the men's side, but he's got no doubt that it'll come from one of the top four players -- either Roger Federer, Raphael Nadal, Andy Murray, or Novak Djokavic. This is what he had to say.


BORIS BECKER, FORMER TENNIS PLAYER: I don't think there's a clear favorite this year. You know, normally you would go with the defending champion, which is Nadal. But Federer is probably the most talented of all of them. And then you have Andy Murray, you know the great hope of this country, the Queen's Cup winner. And then you have Novak Djokavic, really the player of the year, losing only one tennis match.

So I want to see the first week a little bit, how everybody does in the first couple of matches. And then I can give you a name.


PINTO: Well, I can tell you that Nadal has just broken back to get back on serve. He's in action today right now. Andy Murray will be playing later on. Novak Djokavic and Roger Federer in action on Tuesday as will be Nicholas Mahu and John Isner. Why do you care? Well I can tell you that they were the protagonists in the longest match in tennis history, 11 hours 5 minutes they took out on court number 18 last season. A lot of people couldn't believe that they were drawn to play each other again in the first round. That tomorrow.

Nadal on serve against Michael Russel right now.

Back to you.

COREN: Pedro, we certainly do care. We'll let you get back to the court. Pedro Pinto in Wimbledon. Thanks so much for that.

We're all familiar with web site addresses ending in .com or .org, but now internet minders have voted to allow virtually unlimited new domain names in the systems biggest shake-up in its history.

Well from January, (inaudible) can apply for names using any combination of letters and numbers. So, get set for retail brands to use their company names as the suffix like .apple or for cities to promote themselves with web addresses ending in, let's say .london. And yes, that means we'll even have .xxx

Well, you could even have a site names news.string. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, envisions hundreds of new suffixes from the first round of applications. But there's another major part of their announcement, now you can have web addresses in other languages.

And let me give you an example. Well, this is the Arabic version of And as you can see all the text is in Arabic characters, but the web address itself, well it's in English, Well now web addresses do not have to use the Latin alphabet that's used in English. So the address for CNN Arabic could in theory be in Arabic characters, opening up the web for everyone and not just those that understand English.

Well, coming up next on NEWS STREAM, we're serving up Spam, the canned processed meat is the newest item on Burger King's menu in Japan so we sent out Kyung Lah for a taste test.


COREN: Well, remember how your mom always said it wasn't polite to play with your food? Well apparently no one told this guy. Well this is the Aussie man behind conie, it's the latest prank to the internet. Well, basically you order an ice cream cone at the drive through and then try to pick it up in the most bizarre way possible. Yes, it looks like he's applying sunscreen.

The video has already gone viral, getting nearly 2 million hits on YouTube. And you can bet this joke will be annoying fast food workers for weeks.

I don't know what to say about that.

Well, there's nothing our Tokyo correspondent Kyung Lah loves more than a good meal. It's lucky she has a very fast metabolism. In fact, she's had her fair share of on camera gastronomic adventures, whether it's a bargain bowl of ramen noodles priced at just $10, or the world's most expensive noodles worth $120. Well, we have certainly watched her tuck in.

And who can forget the time that she bit into the Windows 7 Whopper? Well, let's take a look at this.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the fast food counter, today's special, the Spam burger, making its debut at Japan's Burger Kings.

Do Japanese people in particular like Spam?

"We do like it," says the Spam burger buyer. Especially because, "well," she says, "she doesn't like meat."

Ah, Spam, odes have been song to what sits in the can. The U.S. sustained its troops during World War Ii with 100 million pounds of the impenetrable meat.

ANNOUNCER: Spam is an important part of everyday rations...

LAH: Today, Spam still looms large in the U.S. with Spam festivals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see any Spam brownies this year.

LAH: A museum dedicated to lovers of the ham/pork gelatinous goo. So unique, you can carve it into a version of art.

So maybe the joke is lost in translation?

"Spam is very popular among Japanese ladies," says Burger King's marketing manager. Who adds, "the chain developed the burger based on feedback."

So customers asked for Spam?

"Yes, they did. They strongly asked us to create a Spam burger."

Specifically women?

"Especially the women," she says.

So why is Burger King convinced that this little Spam burger will do well in Japan, especially among women? Well, at 10 grams of fat, 270 calories, and 640 milligrams of sodium, this is one of the healthier items on the Burger King menu.

This is something you can only currently eat here in Japan. Burger King says it has no plans to expand to the rest of the world, saying the global consumer may not share the same affection for the mystery meat as in this country.

It'll always be a four letter word to American David Duncan.

DAVID DUNKIN, NON-SPAM FAN: A little bit nasty, I guess.

LAH: Would you ever eat it?


LAH: Not even free?



LAH: Not the case with Spam fans who prove its not the cover, but the mystery that keeps this meat going. Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


COREN: Lucky it's only available in Tokyo.

Well, before we were showing you Kyung eating the Spam burger, I wanted to show you against Kyung trying this massive -- what's it called, the Windows 7 Whopper. Yes, that is seven beef patties, just under a kilo of meat, and more than 2,000 calories, a whole day's recommended calorie intact. But it's certainly all in a day's work for our Kyung Lah.

Lucky she's got an appetite.

Well, some classic Hollywood memorabilia went under the hammer over the weekend in Los Angeles. Well, you must remember this white dress, it barely covered Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch. Well it sold for $5.6 million.

And then this dress, made for Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, was used only for costume tests, but along with those famous ruby slipper, the combination brought in close to $2 million.

And to top it off, Charlie Chaplin's hat, $135,000.

And who was selling all these collectibles? A Hollywood icon herself, that would be actress Debbie Reynolds. Quite a collection isn't it?

Well, that is it for NEWS STREAM, but the news certainly continues here at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY " is coming up next.