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Syria Violence; Anger in Athens; U.S. Troop Opinion About Afghanistan Pullout

Aired June 28, 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, fire and anger on the streets of Athens again. Greeks hold another protest against the government's planned austerity measures.

CNN gets a firsthand look inside a town at the center of a military crackdown in Syria.

And we take you to the site of some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan, a tiny border outpost on the route to Pakistan.

Greece is at a virtual standstill right now. Demonstrators are filling the streets to protest the government's anticipated new austerity measures. Well, here you can see people flooding the main square in Athens earlier on Tuesday.

The 48-hour general strike is shutting down transport across the country. Other public services are disrupted as well. And within the past hour, those protests have turned violent.

We'll continue to watch the situation in Athens throughout the hour, and we'll hear from our Diana Magnay, who is on the ground, in just a few minutes' time.

Let's now turn to Syria, where activists are calling for a transition to democracy. Now, that is nothing new, but in an unprecedented move, Syria's embattled government allowed them to meet unchallenged in Damascus on Monday.

Well, about 200 dissidents gathered in a hotel, but some activists say the group does not represent Syrians on the street. The White House called the event worthwhile, but insists the violence, which some reports say has claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people, has to stop.

One place where many reportedly were killed is the northern town of Jisr- Al-Shugur. But there's a discrepancy over who is responsible for the bloodbath. Thousands of residents have fled, and of those remaining, few are prepared to talk.

Independent accounts of events are hard to find, but as Arwa Damon discovered, no matter who you talk to, one thing is clear, a lot of blood has been spilled.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's unsettling arriving in the town of Jisr-Al-Shugur. For weeks, we heard stories of brutal attacks by Syrian security forces, of thousands fleeing, of mass graves. Now the government is bringing journalists to this dusty and very empty town.

We're escorted not only by officials, but two truckloads of military. That's for our own protection, we're told. Armed gangs that once controlled all of Jisr-Al-Shugur are still a threat. Military officials tell us the crackdown here was unavoidable to stop terrorist elements whose aim is to bring down the Assad regime and to establish an al Qaeda-style Islamic state.

Most of the shops are closed. A handful of people wander the streets. This is what is left of the post office, where we're told security personnel trying to surrender were gunned down.

Abdul Rahman Najid is presented by government minders as an eyewitness.

"They were pretending to be peaceful demonstrators, but they had guns hidden here," he tells us, gesturing elaborately. "Grenades and all sorts of heavy weapons."

It's a version of events fiercely disputed by opposition activists who say security forces gunned down protesters without mercy. Many were reported killed, thousands more fled to the border with Turkey. But getting independent firsthand accounts of what is happening here is almost impossible.

When I approached a group of men, they are clearly uncomfortable. Some walk away muttering they don't know anything. Others are reluctant to talk.

We're then taken to the scene of what the government says was a massacre where over 100 Syrian security personnel were slaughtered. Muhammad Tajo (ph), who owns a shop down the road, tells us more than a thousand gunmen attacked the compound. He says his wife fled to Turkey fearing the shabiha, a ruthless government militia, and she refuses to come back.

The first time she's disobeyed me in 20 years, he says. Saquan Asi (ph) tells us he entered the compound and found it littered with bodies.

(on-camera): So, Saquan Asi (ph) is just saying that when he arrived into this room back here, he found three bodies. One of them, he says, was decapitated. The others had gunshot wounds to the torso, and he's saying it seemed as if they had been beaten as well. Back here, there's little bit of debris, a shoe and some dark stains on the wall. Hard to tell exactly what it is.

(voice-over): At the back of the compound, we're shown the location of one of many mass graves. The bodies horrifically mutilated according to the government. Video of the corps is being unearthed was broadcast on state TV. The opposition has a very different narrative, claiming the massacre was a result of a mutiny within the security forces.

Whatever happened in Jisr-Al-Shugur, it was enough to drive thousands to flee across the border into Turkey. For weeks, we heard their horrific stories, and their fear the military would massacre them to punish them for daring to stand up to the regime.

Two versions of history that can't be reconciled. The last word perhaps best left to a group of children who say they learned pro-Assad chants on TV. And then after exclaiming armed gangs forced us out, they dissolve into giggles.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Jisr-Al-Shugur, Syria.


COREN: Well, for the latest on the ground, let's go to Hala Gorani, who is live in Damascus.

Hala, you have spoken to the president's senior adviser about the crackdown, about the bloodbath. What did she have to say?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was once again the armed gang theory that she put forward that these are the people responsible for the violence we've seen across the country. But for the first time, I heard her say there are legitimate protesters among these armed gangs and terrorists -- these religious extremists, she called them - - and that these legitimate protesters need to have their voices heard.

So this is somewhat of a development. The question is whether or not the government, the regime here, is going to act on the promises of national dialogue that it's making, or whether or not this is just all for show while it continues its crackdown on protesters across the country. And that's what activists say will happen.

They say this regime will not allow any room for a true opposition, for dissidents to truly express opposition to the government, and that these are all empty promises. When I asked Bouthaina Shaaban why security forces continue to shoot and target peaceful protesters, this is what she told me. Listen.


BOUTHAINA SHAABAN, SYRIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: We're not targeting demonstrators. I think peaceful demonstrators have made their points, and they're making their points every day. We have no problem with that.

The have legitimate grievances. But I think it is a complex problem. You have peaceful demonstrators, but you have extremists who are using demonstrations as a cover to incite sectarian violence in Syria. This is our biggest challenge at the moment.

GORANI: And this is a new development, because in the initial days of these demonstrations, really coming from the government, we heard only that these are armed gangs. Now you acknowledge that among them, there are peaceful demonstrators that have been targeted as well by security forces.

SHAABAN: No. Right from the beginning, the president spoke two months ago and said that they have legitimate grievances and there are peaceful demonstrators. But I think we were not reaching the international media. That was our major weakness, really.

GORANI: But there are peaceful demonstrators. Now you acknowledge it. But they're still being targeted. We're still seeing violence.

Why do security forces continue to target them?

SHAABAN: Well, the security forces are there to -- against the armed groups. They're not there against peaceful demonstrators. And, in fact, last Friday, in many cities, like in Hama and (INAUDIBLE), the security and the police forces were not there at all.

What we are trying to do, to test every possible way that will put an end to violence or will show us where the violence is exactly coming from. We have no problem with peaceful demonstrators. We have no problem with their grievances. And I feel the national dialogue will be addressing all issues that were requested.


GORANI : All right. Bouthaina Shaaban there talking about the national dialogue.

There was a conference, a meeting of dissidents, in Damascus yesterday, but not all who were invited showed up. Arraf Zalilah (ph), for instance, a prominent dissident here in Syria, said he would not attend, that this would give legitimacy to a regime while the crackdown continues.

So the opposition here is not entirely represented, especially when you consider, Anna, that those who are out on the streets, those demonstrators, the younger generation of opponents to the regime in Syria, weren't represented either.

Back to you.

COREN: Hala Gorani in Damascus, Syria.

As always, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

Well, let's now go to Greece, where a volatile situation is certainly unfolding on the streets of Athens. Thousands are protesting possible new tax hikes and government spending cuts.

Well, let's go to our Diana Magnay, who joins us in the capital.

Diana, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to obviously protest those austerity measures. But those protests in certain parts have turned violent. Tell us what's happening.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anna, interestingly, I would say that the numbers are far less than 10,000, which is surprising in itself for this day of general strikes. And we'll just pan down and show you something that is pretty typical of what's been going on in the last hour, really just in the Parliament Square here, in front of where the parliament is basing that extremely unpopular austerity program.

We've seen waves of attacks between riot police and what are essentially a small group of sort of black (ph) block mixed with anarchists. There has been a corner of this square where the anarchists have set up camp for a while now, and they're certainly at the forefront of this kind of violence, where we've seen Molotov cocktails and rocks being hurled by police.

There's a lot of digging up of cobbles off the street, use of marbles being thrown against them. And the riot police, in turn, firing back tear gas. And that's been going on for, you know, an hour or so now. There's been quite a significant amount of rioting.

Really quite early in the day of this general strike. But it's interesting, because on this path of the square, you see the most sort of action between the police and the rioters. And on the other, you have the peaceful protesters who, as you can see, are fairly limited actually in number. And they've been saying things like, don't let the police ruin our day, don't let a minority ruin what should be a peaceful protest.

And you also have groups in the square who have been playing music to try and dispel this tension that is obviously very prevalent here and has been erupting into violence. And expression, of course, of people's rage and anger at the austerity measures, but also, as is the case in Greece, it is a country that's used to rioting. And there has been always a small element who uses opportunities like these to fight, and to fight extremely aggressively with police. And the police, of course, extremely used to fighting back -- Anna.

COREN: Diana, you speak about the rage and anger that these protesters are feeling. I mean, it's certainly made their case very clear that they don't want these austerity measures to go through. But reality is Greece is going to have to go through some pain to actually get through this crisis.

What is their response to the facts?

MAGNAY: Well, the Greeks have already had to go through a lot of pain to deal with this crisis. And a lot of people out there on the streets say, look, we don't have to put up with what are external measures being forced upon us, especially if it means that where we are already, a breaking point, will be pushed further into poverty.

You know, you have unemployment at 16 percent. You have another 20 percent of jobs expected to be cut in the public sector when 10 percent have already gone. You have huge tax hikes.

People here though are very good at saying that they do not agree with what is going on and that they don't like the prospect of further pain, of further cuts. But of course they are less clear about what to do.

They argue that the Greek parliament should really negotiate far more with the Europeans, that the Europeans are effectively trying to blackmail them to follow these measures for the sake of European banks. And there are many people who feel, why should we have to put up with this austerity when -- and just to cite a rather astonishing figure -- when, actually, it will only reduce our debt to GDP ratio -- how much debt Greece has -- by 17 percent. And that is going from 157 debt to GDP ratio to 140 percent.

And that small, tiny, marginal cut will mean five years of extreme pain for these people. And they say this can't be the way to solve the underlying problems of this economy. And frankly, we want to be able to solve our problems ourselves -- Anna.

COREN: Diana, as you've been speaking we've been watching these protesters. Some there obviously avoiding the tear gas, others just milling around, as you were saying a little bit earlier.

But that's our Diana Magnay in Athens, who will be following the protests throughout the day.

Thank you for that.

While Greece's parliament debates more austerity measures, one of its loan partners, the IMF, is making some big decisions of its own. Well, the fund's 24-member executive board could decide as early as today who to tap as their next chief.

Well, these are the two that are competing for the top spot, Mexico's Central Bank chief, Agustin Carstens, and French finance minister Christine Lagarde. Well, she is largely seen as the frontrunner.

Well, if she is elected, Lagarde will fill the role left by fellow French national Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as chief last month amid allegations he sexually assaulted a hotel housekeeper in New York. Well, here's what we know so far about both candidates.

Well, Agustin Carstens already has experience working for the IMF. He served as the deputy managing director from August, 2003 to October, 2006. Well, he has been in charge of Mexico's Central Bank since January of last year, and was finance minister before that. Well, he would certainly be the first non-European to serve in the top spot.

Christine Lagarde has served as France's finance minister for four years now. In 2009, she was ranked by "Forbes" magazine as the 17th most powerful woman on the planet. She's a business leader and lawyer, previously running a large American law firm. And if elected, she would be the first female to head the IMF.

We'll have much more on the upcoming IMF decision on the next hour of CNN. Felicia Taylor is outside IMF headquarters and will be live on "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY." That starts in about 45 minutes' time right here on CNN.

But still ahead on NEWS STREAM, the price of war in Afghanistan. Come with us to a remote outpost where death is a part of life.

Plus, Libya's rebels rejoice as the International Criminal Court goes after Gadhafi. We'll bring you reaction from the streets of Misrata.

And a raid in India frees hundreds of bonded laborers. Find out what their lives were like.


COREN: Well, Yemen's president has not been seen since a June 3rd attack on his compound in Sana'a. Well, that was supposed to change by Tuesday, but a senior official has pushed back a promised public appearance by President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The 69-year-old has been receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for the last three weeks. Well, anti-government demonstrators do not want him to return. They staged a march in Sana'a demanding his immediate resignation.

The man tapped to take over as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is backing the size and pace of President Barack Obama's drawdown. Lieutenant General John Allen faces the Senate Armed Services Committee later on Tuesday. More than 30,000 American troops are slated to return home by next summer.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is embedded with U.S. forces in Kunar Valley, where he heard some opinions on the pullout.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is COP Pirtle King, one of a handful of tiny outposts America has to project its power in the extremely hostile Kunar Valley on the border with Pakistan. This base is surrounded on both sides by mountains in which militants regularly mass for an attack, but it's also on a strategic road running through the valley. Still, the presence here comes at a cost.

(voice-over): Kunar Province, on Afghanistan's eastern border, is as alluring to outsiders as it is unwelcoming.

It's a key transit route for militants from Pakistan confronted by Americans in some of the fiercest fighting of this 10-year war.

This tiny outpost called Pirtle King tests its mortars against an insurgency that they rarely see, but who frequently attacks from all sides. Sometimes they watch the valley burn. Other times they reach out to build.

This neighbor and ally against the Taliban, perhaps because they built this house on his land.

(on camera): While the Americans can build their way into the affections of these people, it's further south down the valley, frankly, the problems begin. The road, pretty much impassable because of the insurgency.

(voice-over): It was here the unit experienced its worst losses: a roadside bomb ripping through their armor, killing four soldiers.

Lieutenant Ryan Peterson saw the blast that killed the men he led and loved.

LT. RYAN PETERSON, U.S. ARMY: When I walked up to it there was a pair of legs leaned out, kind of crossed over, and they were hanging out of one of the doors. And that's always stuck with me. If I ever think about it at night or I ever dream about it, that's the first thing that comes in my head.

WALSH: Private Seth Blevons (ph) began dying in his arms.

PETERSON: We were trying to pull Blevons (ph) up, and as we were pulling him out, because he was upside-down, he was in my lap. And so that was like -- the whole smell was the most intense -- that's probably the point that everything was the most intense, when I was trying to, like, hold him and make sure his head was stable, kind of like a child. And I was just holding his head, trying to make sure he didn't hurt his neck anymore. And at that point he was still alive.

I felt like he could at least maybe hear me a little bit. And we'd keep giving a little bit of encouragement that we were going to make sure he got out of there.

He was -- he was a little older. I think he was 24. I can't even remember his birthday right now.

WALSH: Death may become routine here, but grief does not. A memorial service for another loss nearby and a pep talk from the general.

But still, growing disillusion at home in America, and a clear timetable for departure. Some glad it's ending.

PETERSON: My gut feeling right now is that it's good, that it's time to be done. I think that we've done as much as we can. We've done what we've done here. It's time to be done.

WALSH: A few days after the losses here, the unit dropped $3 million worth of bombs in just 24 hours. That stopped the attacks for five days.

The massive cost of this war: its blood, its treasure, that is speeding it to an end.

(on camera): Now, if America is going to maintain a presence here in Afghanistan, arguably being in control of Kunar Valley, a key transit route for militants from Pakistan, it's absolutely vital. But being here is both costly in terms of lives and money, but locals aren't enormously keen on them being here, and places like this are incredibly hard to defend. So, here, COP Pirtle King, as U.S. troops begin to withdrawal, will be one of the stark choices ahead for the Obama administration.


COREN: That was Nick Paton Walsh reporting there.

Well, coming up on NEWS STREAM, fierce fires in the Southwest U.S. Well, they've forced evacuations and destroyed thousands of acres in the state of New Mexico. We'll have more on those fires and a complete weather update coming up.


COREN: You're looking at pictures of Two IFC. It's the second tallest building here in Hong Kong. We've had some pretty huge storms here throughout the day, but the big weather story around the world, fires that are raging through parts of New Mexico. I know that it's forcing many people to evacuate their homes.


COREN: Well, just ahead on NEWS STREAM, we'll break down the results from the U.S. State Department's trafficking in persons report. And hear from former victims of bonded labor at an Indian brick kiln. And the officials who freed them.


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

Austerity protests in Greece turned violent a short time ago. Well, police in Athens used tear gas to break up some demonstrations. The two day strike has disrupted transport and public services across the country. Protesters are against government proposals to raise taxes and slash spending.

And advisers to Syrian president Bashir al Assad tell CNN that security forces are not targeting peaceful protesters. The adviser says the government is instead targeting armed groups. Human rights activists say hundreds of people have been killed in the recent uprisings and crackdown in the country.

The new managing director of the International Monetary Fund could be named as early as today. The IMF executive board is choosing between French finance minister Christine Lagarde and Mexican Central Bank chief Augustin Carstens. Well one of them will fill the post previously held by Dominique Strauss-Kahn who resigned after sexual assault charges were filed against him in New York.

Well, international forces will not be asked to carry out an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Well, that is according to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Well, Colonel Gadhafi and two relatives are now wanted for crimes against humanity. Moreno-Ocampo had also had this warning for the regime's allies.


LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO, ICC PROSECUTOR: Additionally the other aspect we are investigating the cover up of the crimes, people managing international relations, if they are involved in crimes or intent to cover up the crimes they could be prosecuted. These are the options. That's why it's a moment in which the inner circle has to understand clearly the situation. If they go forward there's no future for them they will end in jail in Libya or in ICC.


COREN: Well, the Gadhafi regime says the court has no authority and called the move political blackmail. But the colonel's opponents cheered news of the arrest warrant.

Well, Ben Wedeman brings us reaction from the war torn city of Misrata.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is how Misrata greeted the news of the international arrest warrant for the Libyan leader.

CROWD: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

WEDEMAN: With a noisy celebration and a pointed message to Moammar Gadhafi: prison is waiting for you.

Many in the crowd filling what was known as Taxi Square (ph), now renamed Freedom Square, have lost loved ones. For them, the international arrest warrant for Gadhafi is a personal matter.

Two of Moustafa Shemi's (ph) children were killed when a rocket fired by Gadhafi's forces slammed into his home. His five year old Mele (ph) lost her leg in the blast.

"Gadhafi,' Moustafa says, "should be arrested in Libya and every Libya should have revenge on him."

Nasser Adeen (ph) says his 26 year old son Zuhair (ph) was captured by Gadhafi loyalists early in the revolt. Zuhair's (ph) fate like the fate of more than 1,000 Misrata residents remains unknown.

While the international court's arrest warrants are an important moral victory for the people of Misrata it's more symbolic than real.

The Libyan leader's siege of the city is still in place. In this area his forces aren't yielding any ground. If the day comes when his regime collapses, justice will be swift.

AHMED ABU ZAID, MISRATA RESIDENT: I think that the Libyan people are the ones who are going to bring that tyrant to justice. I mean, we are the ones who are responsible to bringing him here. I mean, we will catch him. We will catch him like a, you know, like a rat.

WEDEMAN: Hamza carries a poster of relatives he says were killed in a 1996 massacre of prisoners allegedly masterminded by intelligence chief Abdullah Selussi, the subject of one of the ICC's arrest warrants.

Hamza sees no point in a lengthy trial for Gadhafi.

HAMZA AL-TAIB, MISRATA RESIDENT: We want him to take a knife and cut him member and member and member to fit what the Libyan people (inaudible) you know.

WEDEMAN: The people of Misrata, now armed and emboldened, are impatient to bring this conflict to a swift end.

Despite these celebrations, it's not clear that Libyans will be willing to wait for this slowly turning wheels of international justice to pass their verdict and carry out their sentence on Moammar Gadhafi.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Misrata, Libya.


COREN: Well, the U.S. State Department has released its annual trafficking in persons report, laying out which countries are leading the fight against human trafficking and which are lagging behind.

Well, the report focuses on steps being taken to stop trafficking. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called this a critical moment and urged closer cooperation between nations to help those in need.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Look at what the Philippines have done, you know. And a change of administration, the Philippines probably export more people of their citizenry than nearly any other country in the world. They go all over the world to work in many different settings. And until the new administration of President Aquino we didn't really have the level of commitment we were seeking. We do now. And we see a sea change of difference.

So what we are looking at is, yes, those countries that are not movie we're going to keep pushing. We're going to offer technical assistance. We're going to keep raising it. It's not going away. They can't ignore it and thereby be left alone. And then we're going to keep working with countries that are showing that they want to make a difference and do better.


COREN: Well, Hillary Clinton mentioned the progress the Philippines has made in tackling human trafficking there. So let's take a closer look at the report's findings across the Asia-Pacific region. Well, this is a map of the world color coded by the rankings of each nation.

Well, tier 1 countries, you can see that only Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan made that grade in Asia. They are in blue.

Well those countries fully comply with trafficking victims protection act. Well, that is those governments are making serious efforts to combat slavery.

Well, more countries in Asia, they fall into the tier 2 category. Japan and Hong Kong are in this category. Well this year, India, Laos and the Philippines are too after hardening their line against human trafficking.

Well, to qualify in the tier 2 group, countries have to be seen as making significant steps towards meeting U.S. standards to protect against trafficking.

Well, the next tier is the tier 2 watch list. And country at this level include China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Well, they are like tier 2 countries, but the report registers some reason for concern. And that may mean the number of victims is increasing or there may be a lack of new evidence that the country is making effort to fight trafficking.

Well, lastly there are the tier 3 countries seen here in red. Among them Myanmar, North Korea and Papua New Guinea. Well that's because they are not complying with legislation and are making no significant effort to do so.

Well, as I mentioned, India has moved up a tier this year. Well, the U.S. State Department says that the Indian government has made progress ear- marking $12 million dollars over three years for a nationwide anti- trafficking campaign. But it also says that legal penalties for traffickers are not harsh enough.

Well, Mallika Kapur went to meet workers recently freed from bonded labor at a brick kiln and saw firsthand the shocking conditions in which they were kept.


MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: April 27, officials from the government of Tamilnadu State in southern India raided a private brick kiln. They had heard the laborers inside were trapped. What the officials found shocked them. More than 500 people living and working under a brutal, oppressive system.

A few weeks later, the fields are empty, the mud huts vacant. A few personal belongings left behind the only sign of went on here.

"It was like being in jail," says 20 year old Dambru. "We worked all the time. We would only stop to eat. If we tried to rest, they'd abuse us and force us to work again."

Dambru says he often saw others being beaten with rods and belts. Seeing this, he says, no one tried to escape.

SAJU MATHEW, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION: The key things you look for is are they free? And what you realize in bonded labor is, the owner decides when the laborers will eat, when they sleep, whether they're free to leave or not. All the terms of their life are now dictated by the owner.

KAPUR: Saju Mathew is part of a human rights group that assisted the government with the raid. He says even though India banned bonded labor in 1976, the practice of paying back a loan or advance with work, not money, still exists. In this instance, the laborers were given a cash advance of $10,000 rupees, or about $225 dollars each. They were then taken hundreds of miles away to work at a brick kiln.

MATHEW: You find poverty in many places, but you don't find bonded labor in those same places. So what you're really seeing is somebody has an angle. They know that I can exploit those people because they're desperate and they can take advantage of it.

KAPUR: The hardest part, officials say, is identifying bonded labor. Often it looks like a regular business. In this case, a normal brick kiln, from a distance.

When a relative of one of the laborers tipped off a local government official about the conditions inside, the official, Kandaswamy, decided to take action.

S. KANDASWAMY, GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL: Bonded labor is against humanity, so it has to be curbed.

KAPUR: He teamed up with police officials and the International Justice Mission and stormed the kiln, taking the owner and laborers by surprise. The raiders, too, were taken aback expecting to find around 200 people inside, they found more than 500, including women and children.

KANDASWAMY: More than 14 hours they are working. The owner is forcing the work there and he is beating them. And some harassments are noticed by the laborers.

KAPUR: And not enough space.

KANDASWAMY: Not enough pay.

No medical facilities.

KAPUR: Most of the laborers were poor migrant workers who had been brought in from another state.

This is where the laborers lived when they worked at the brick kilns in these tiny, tiny huts. As you can see you have to crawl to get in and out. There's nothing in there, just a mud floor, not even a toilet.

Kandaswamy led the rescue operation, which by all accounts went off smoothly. The only scenes of chaos, an outburst of excitement when laborers realized they were being liberated and ran to collect their belongings.

"When they came to free us, I thought god had come," says Surabi who had worked here with her family.

The government organized trucks to send the laborers to a school nearby. Classrooms were converted into dorms. The workers were given three meals a day, police protection, medical treatment and counseling.

MATHEW: That was fantastic to see that step by step by step anything that's needed that was urgent, because these people had no medical care, no health care, that the government provided that.

KAPUR: Each rescued laborer was given a certificate of freedom a $1,000 rupees, or about $25, the first installment of rehabilitation funds the government will provide.

The local government also organized special trains to take the freed workers back to Orissa. It gave each one a ticket to go home, a ticket to freedom.


COREN: Well, after visiting those brick kilns and seeing the evidence of bonded labor, we wanted to hear what the Indian government is doing to stop the practice. Our Mallika Kapur is standing by in New Delhi with the government's response.

Mallika, what do they have to say?

KAPUR: Well, Anna, we took the pieces to the government officials in the labor department yesterday. We played the pieces for them. And the government official we spoke to said he was really pleased to see the pieces we've done, very pleased that we've highlighted the conditions that the laborers lived and worked under for six months. And he said that he hoped more government officials would see this piece so that it would inspire them to take a tougher stand against bonded labor.

Now of course, the problem of bonded labor in India isn't a new one, but perhaps the readiness of the government to tackle it appears to be new.


ANIL SWARUP, DIRECTOR GENERAL FOR LABOUR WELFARE: Part of a new approach to handling this whole issue of bondage. So apart from attending to bondage per se, the government is now attempting to nip it in the bud in the sense of preventing occurrence of bondage.

KAPUR: We have a law against bonded labor. As you said, the government has been working to prevent bonded labor from taking place for decades now, but the problem still exists. Why isn't the government doing more?

SWARUP: So far, the government was very committed in terms of providing a constitutional provision, a law behind it.


KAPUR: Well, the government official emphasized that the key is really prevention here. He says we have to prevent the circumstances that lead people into falling into the trap of bonded labor in the first place. And most importantly said is employment.

Now even the people you've seen in the piece, the people who are working at the brick kiln near Chennai, we followed them. We went back and met up with them in their home state of Orissa. And while they said over and over again they were so happy to be free, they were still worried, because they still didn't have jobs.

So going forward, the government says the focus is going to be on helping these people get jobs so that they don't fall into the trap of bonded labor -- Anna.

COREN: Mallika, an extremely strong report and great to know that the government is being proactive. Mallika Kapur in New Delhi. Thank you.

Well, coming up, flood waters remain high in Nebraska. And not only are homes and farmland at risk, but two nuclear power plants. We'll have more in just a moment.


LU STOUT: Well, people in the U.S. state of Nebraska are battling rising waters from the swollen Missouri River. Now the water has two nuclear power plants surrounded. Here's Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Cooper Nuclear Station, one of Nebraska's two nuclear power plants, both fighting to keep flood waters at bay. The man in charge of the country's nuclear regulatory organization says he believes the plants are prepared, but hedges his bets.

So this plant in Fort Calhoun, it seems like they're going to miss a bullet.

GREGORY JACKZO, NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: I'm not going to predict what's going to happen with the water level. Our jobs is to make sure that the licensee does their job to make sure the plant stays safe. And right now they appear to be taking proactive steps to do that.

OPPMANN: Steps that include turning Cooper into a bunker against the rising water.

You see more of the tour of the plant, I've got to climb up over ladder and then down another ladder and then we're in.

The Missouri River is 10 feet higher than where it usually is along this power plant. Another three feet, officials say, and they are required to shut down operations. But plant operators say no matter how high the water, radiation will not leak.

BRIAN HASSELBRING, NEBRASKA PUBLIC POWER DISTRICT: I'm 100 percent confident that we're not going to have an issue here. They continue to -- if the river level continues to rise, we'll follow our procedures. We'll shut down the plant. We'll do whatever is required to maintain our safety.

OPPMANN: Fort Calhoun, Nebraska's other nuclear power plant is reeling from flooding and authorities temporarily took it off the power grid. Diesel generators kept spent fuel from overheating. A plant worker Sunday accidentally punctured a 2,000 foot long aqua berm, built to protect the plant.

Still, officials maintain, the facility is safe.

JACKZO: Well, the plant is designed when they get to these higher flood levels to use their diesel generators if necessary. That's just a part of their program and their system. And the aqua berm and some of the other modifications they've made weren't strictly there to ensure the safe operation of the facility.

OPPMANN: Officials say because this is a slow moving disaster they can stay one step ahead of the flood waters. But the people who live here say until those flood waters subside they'll just have to hope those efforts are enough to keep the nuclear power plant in their backyard high and dry.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station.


COREN: Well, the reigning champion came through a stiff test at Wimbledon. Juan Martin Del Potro could not stop Raphael Nadal, but could his Wimbledon end because of injury? Don Riddell will be up next with the latest.


COREN: Well Raphael Nadal battled through to the next round at Wimbledon, but will he be fit to play? Our Don Riddell has the latest from London. Hello, Don.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, how are you doing? Good news for Rafa Nadal and his fans. He says, Anna, that he'll be OK to play in tomorrow's Wimbledon quarterfinal against Marty Fish. The defending champion and world number one thought he might have broken a bone in his foot during Monday's epic match against Juan Martin Del Potro, but he says that an MRI scan which he had in London last night hasn't revealed anything to worry about.

Nadal said that he was expecting to practice later on this afternoon and that he will resume the defense of his title tomorrow. Nadal is on an 18 match winning streak at Wimbledon and is on course to face the home favorite Andy Murray in the semis.

Not too sure if he'll actually get to practice today, because it is currently raining at Wimbledon. They've got the roof on, but there is a match on Centre Court.

Of course you may know there was a slew of upsets in the women's game yesterday with the likes of Caroline Wozniaki and both Williams sisters eliminated. Marion Bartley was one of the players that knocked out Serena Williams. She is currently struggling, though, in her quarterfinal match. She is down by 4-2 against the German player Sabine Lisicki. She's already had a great tournament. She knocked out the French Open champion Li Na pretty early on.

As you can see, those are the other matches that are scheduled for today, but if the rain keeps up, then we may not get through one of them.

Quite an amusing scene a few minutes ago, though, with a massive clap of thunder which gave both the players on court quite a fright.

Now despite filing for bankruptcy protection on Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers thrashed Minnesota on the road by 15-0 later in the day. They filed for bankruptcy just a week after Major League Baseball blocked a new TV deal that would have given the club the money it needed to meet the payroll.

It has been a turbulent time for the Dodgers whose co-owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, are locked in a bitter divorce case. The league's commissioner Bud Selig said he blocked the $3 billion deal with Fox Sports, because it was, quote, "struck to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers' assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt."

Past and present players are owed a significant amount of money. Manny Ramirez, for example, is due almost $21 million.

Anna, back to you.

COREN: All right, Don, good to see you. Thank you for that.

Now we're going to take you over and out there with some bizarre traffic warnings in Canada. Well, it's not the usual alerts like caution ahead of expect delays, morning commuters in Newfoundland fou8nd this on Monday. Yes, warnings of imminent apocalyptic doom and zombie invasion. And no, it wasn't a message from above, just the work of some pranksters who reprogrammed the electronic highway sign the night before.

City officials did not find it very funny, though. They, when notified of the impending zombie attack, city crews promptly turned off the sign and took it away.

I'm sure a few people got a kick out of that.

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