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Cracks in Dominique Strauss-Kahn Case?; Cairo Protests; Unrest in Syria

Aired July 1, 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.

Serious doubts are reportedly surfacing about the credibility of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser. Could the sexual assault case against the former IMF chief collapse?

China throws a big birthday party for the country's Communist Party, but in the midst of the celebrations there's a serious segment about corruption.

And last-minute campaigning for the top candidates in Thailand's upcoming election. We'll hear from the frontrunner.

We begin with stunning new developments in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case. We're told New York prosecutors now have serious doubts about the credibility of his accuser, a hotel housekeeper who alleged Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her in his hotel room.

Well, it is a major turnaround from earlier prosecution claims about the strength of the woman's allegations against the former director of the International Monetary Fund. Well, one of the stranger aspects of these developments, DNA evidence is said to suggest there was in fact a sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and the hotel maid.

Well, CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has more on that part of the story.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: this is just an extraordinary, extraordinary development, considering that this case was brought with such great fanfare by the Manhattan district attorney, and they very loudly trumpeted the credibility of the accuser here.

And the credibility appears -- and I -- and I hasten to say appears -- to have collapsed. What makes it even more extraordinary is that the evidence apparently shows DNA evidence of a sexual encounter between Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the woman who's the maid.

Yet, even with DNA evidence, the prosecution is considering dropping the case. That shows how bad her credibility may be, that, even with DNA --


COREN: CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin there.

Well, this, of course, could be a major game-changer.

Let's head straight to New York, where Susan Candiotti is standing outside the court.

Susan, just a few weeks ago, the prosecution thought they had an extremely credible witness. Now the case is on the verge of collapse.

What has happened?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's happened is that as the case, as the investigation was moving along at this stage, it's important that both sides obviously start looking into some of the particulars involving the background of the accuser. In this case, the hotel maid.

During the course of that, according to a source familiar with the case, investigators for the prosecution developed and found out about what they are calling serious credibility issues, problems with some of the stories that they had been hearing from the hotel maid in her background. I'm told that there are at least four or five issues.

One of them, as an example, involves the political asylum application that she made when she was coming from her native Guinea to the United States. And according to a source, there were "outright lies" made during the course of that application in which she claimed she had been sexually assaulted. Told that she admitted that that didn't happen. Investigators found out that it didn't happen. That's just one example.

As a result, when you put it all together, this prompted prosecutors, because they must disclose what they find to the defense team, and they did. They called a meeting on Thursday, told the attorneys about problems that they were having. And that's when this court hearing was arranged for today, Friday, in just a few hours from now.

That's when prosecutors will formally outline some of these problems for the court. And that will prompt the defense team to ask for DSK's bond to be modified. I'm told that the prosecutors probably will not debate that issue. However, there may be some restrictions that may remain. We'll have to see.

For example, the defense might be asked for him to be released on his own recognizance and be given his passport back. I'm told that that's unlikely to happen, but of course we'll have to see.

Anna, that's just an example.

COREN: All right, Susan. Certainly fascinating developments there. And you'll be following this court case as it develops throughout the morning.

Susan Candiotti, live in New York.

Well, many in France have questioned the case against Strauss-Kahn ever since the allegations against him first broke. So how is the country reacting now that cracks have surfaced in the case?

We'll go live to our Jim Bittermann in Paris for a full update a little later in the program.

Well, it is Friday, the day of the week when Friday prayers often boil over into violent demonstrations across several Middle Eastern countries. You are watching video said to show protests Thursday in the Syrian city of Al Ipal (ph).

Well, according to one activist, busloads of "government thugs" attacked marchers there. Protesters wanting President Bashar al-Assad to step down and urged Syrians to rally again today. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Syrian government is running out of time to begin meaningful dialogue.

Well, large crowds are expected to gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Protests like this one earlier in the week have called for faster political reforms. And there is growing discontent over the military's role in the protest.

Well, after Wednesday's protests, there are fears of more violence today.

Our Diana Magnay joins us from Cairo with the latest.

Diana, what's the feeling where you are?


Well, behind me, in Tahrir Square, it's a fairly muted demonstration right now. There are probably less than 1,000 protesters. But they are ready (ph) to complain about the violence that rocked the square and much of the neighboring streets on Tuesday and Wednesday. Really very intense rioting for a period of around 24 hours between protesters and police and various other elements here in the city.

A lot of rumors going on about who was actually involved, who was fighting who. But the people here say, you know, we don't want to see that kind of police brutality.

There was a lot of tear gas fired. There were rubber bullets fired by police. People very angry at this kind of police sort of levels of violence that they last saw during the revolution.

Many people in that square feel that their demands haven't been met, that the pace of change since the revolution is really moving far too slowly. They want more accountability by the people in charge.

They want to see, for example, the previous minister of the Interior, very much hated by many Egyptians, they want to see his trial speeded up. They want to see police officers who may have been involved in the killing of protesters during the revolutions. They want to see those trials take place.

And some of the chanting that you're hearing today in the square is, "We want a civil government! We do not want a military government anymore!"

So very angry people who want to hear their demands met. But at the same time, Anna, those protests on Tuesday and Wednesdays, those riots, have really made this whole city very worried about the state of security.

It is obviously still extremely unstable, and an explosive, volatile situation here. And that is the last thing that people want as this country moves on this very rocky road to democracy -- Anna.

COREN: Diana, as you say, it is generally a Friday when things kick off after Friday prayers.

Tell us, what has been the response from those in charge?

MAGNAY: Well, this Friday is probably not going to be -- and I would hate to hazard a guess -- but it's next Friday that a lot of the sort of revolutionaries, activists are calling for people to take to the streets. So we're probably going to see more numbers build up in the square this time next week.

The authorities aren't commenting at all. They will obviously be watching the situation. They're not present in the square at the moment.

But next Tuesday, we're going to see the Coalition of January 25th, which is a sort of broad grouping of activists and liberal parties, present their demands to the military council. And on Friday, we will see probably far more numbers in he streets demanding a quicker pace of change in this country -- Anna.

COREN: Diana Magnay, in Cairo.

Thank you for that.

Well, now let's check the situation in Syria, where Arwa Damon joins us from Damascus. She recently witnessed an anti-government demonstration.

Arwa, what can you tell us?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anna. This is the first time that the government has given us permission to attend one of these demonstrations.

We were taken there by our government escorts. However, they did say a fair distance away. We were able to move into the crowd, hear their chants for the downfall of the regime, hear their stories.

This is the neighborhood of Badza (ph), where last week, according to activists, a number of people were killed in anti-government demonstrations. And the government, of course, saying that it's to target these armed gangs.

The people we were talking to were insisting that they were peaceful demonstrations. They were chanting. They were unfurling a massive Syrian flag.

We met a number of people that -- one of them was a young doctor who said that he had set up a makeshift clinic because that is where they had to treat the wounded. And he took us back to see it.

It's really nothing more than a tiny little room. He's only got basic supplies. He really doesn't have enough.

He was describing how the hardest thing for him was when those who have been wounded -- all of them gunshot wounds, he was saying -- would bleed out on the floor of this makeshift that he had set up. And he was also saying that, in many cases, when people needed to go and get surgery, they were refusing to go to the general hospitals because they were afraid of being detained.

Other people who we meet also very fearful at the same time. A lot of people we spoke to unwilling to show their faces on camera, saying that they were afraid that the government would come and arrest them simply for uttering the word "freedom."

But for the first time, we were able to attend this demonstration. It was around 300 people. And what we have grown to realize is that the demonstrations in Damascus do tend to be fairly small in size. But activists, again, on this Friday, the holy day for Muslims, were calling for nationwide demonstrations -- Anna.

COREN: Arwa Damon, in Damascus.

Thanks for that update.

Well, you are watching NEWS STREAM.

Still ahead, they are seeing red in communist China as the political party marks 90 years of history with events and flag-waving in Beijing.

They're also talking politics in Thailand, as the campaigning ahead of this weekend's general elections comes to a close.

And we'll meet a virtual pop star. (INAUDIBLE) uses computers to generate a dream girl.


COREN: Well, call it Red Letter Day. China's Communist Party was founded 90 years ago, and that means a big bash in Beijing.

Well, the Xinhau news agency says more than 6,000 people attended the morning rally at the Great Hall of the People. The party has grown to more than 80 million members since its founding by a few dozen people down in 1921.

Well, China wrapped up its red propaganda ahead of this anniversary. Eunice Yoon shows us the revolutionary revival.


EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not every day you get to shake hands with the founder of China's Communist Party. Well, OK. This is a Mao Zedong impersonator. But Wang Guoxin is in high demand, booked at this hot springs resort for a private party marking the 90th anniversary of the communist Party.

"I'm really busy," he says. "I'm invited to perform all over China."

Good business and not surprising, given the Communist Party solidified its power through economic reforms, allowing millions of people here to make money.

The party was formed by a handful of revolutionaries in 1921. Today, it's the largest political party in the world, hosting over 80 million members.

The party is now hearkening back to the glory days of Mao in a Red Culture revival.

(on camera): These (INAUDIBLE) events are happening all over the country. The Communist Party is hoping to promote them to usher in a celebration on this 90th birthday on a high note.

(voice-over): In its drive to re-ignite loyalty to the party, the government is orchestrating revolutionary tours and other patriotic events where singers can prove (ph) their devotion to China, even if it's staged for the cameras.

"The singing here is held once a week on Sundays," she says, "but today is an exception."

No one would speak of their experiences surviving Mao's cultural revolution, when tens of thousands of people died. Yet, even in this controlled environment, sometimes people drift off script.


YOON: Off camera, many young people said they don't feel as connected to the party. Guoxin says they're getting distracted by Western trends, but he believes the party and Mao's ideology can fix that.

"Mao's thoughts provide guidance for young people," he says. "That means more acting gigs for me as Mao."

So he can promote Red Culture and profit from it.

Eunice Yoon, CNN, Beijing.


COREN: Well, President Hu Jintao is also the head of the Communist Party. He addressed the party's future in a speech to the nation.

Well, in addition to fighting corruption, Mr. Hu says the party must promote its young members in order to survive. About one quarter of the Communist Party is under the age of 35.

The changing of the old guard is set for next year. Vice President Xi Jinping is widely expected to take over from his boss.

And as we told you, the party staged a massive propaganda campaign ahead of this anniversary, but leaders have also recently been cracking down on dissent. They're afraid of potential uprisings inspired by the Arab Spring.

One analyst summed up China's challenges like this: "The Communist Party at 90 is a bit like many 90-year-olds: increasingly infirm, fearful, experimenting with ways to prolong life, but overwhelmed by the complexities of managing it."

Well, here in Hong Kong, police say that tens of thousands of people turned out for a protest march on the anniversary of its handover from Britain to China. Protesters chanted and waved banners over a number of issues. They included soaring property prices and proposed changes to buy elections in the territory's legislature. In recent years, the annual July 1st holiday has served as a catchall for anyone wanting to protest against the government.

Well, basketball in jeopardy. Talks between officials and union leaders have broken down, and now the National Basketball Association in the U.S. has locked out its players. We'll look at the issues and the likelihood for compromise. That's ahead in sports.


COREN: Well, welcome back to NEWS STREAM.

The U.S. professional basketball season only wrapped up a few weeks ago, but industry insiders say the entire next season is in jeopardy. Well, the NBA says it has begun a lockout of its players. Owners want to reduce their salaries. The current average, by the way, is about $5 million.

Well, NBA Commissioner David Stern explains the lockout impact.


DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: The lockout has its impact. Our arenas will be closed to the players. Our practice facilities will be closed. There will be an entire set of rules out there.

And to the extent that there are payments due and owing for the coming season, those will not be made. Payments that are due and owing from the past season will be made. And that's where we go, but there will be collateral damage as we go through this summer.


COREN: Well, negotiations are expected to resume over the next two weeks.

The hopes of Britain are back on the shoulders of Andy Murray as he takes on defending champion Rafael Nadal on Wimbledon's center court. But right now, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is playing Novak Djokovic. The reward for the winner, a place in the finals.

Our Pedro Pinto is soaking up the atmosphere at the All England Club and joins us now.

Pedro, can Andy Murray do it?

PEDRO PINTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: A lot of pressure on Andy Murray, as is usual every year he enters this Grand Slam event, Anna. No doubt about that.

But as you mentioned, there is a match going on at center court behind me. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, fresh off his upset of Roger Federer in the quarter finals, playing Novak Djokovic, who can become world number one for the first time in his career if he wins this semifinal here today.

Early on, I can tell you that Tsonga has taken an early lead, 2-0. He broke Novak in the first game of the first set, but of course it's still very early.

Let's get some insight on what we can expect in these two fantastic matches here today. I'm joined by Todd Martin, former world number four, two-time semifinalist here at Wimbledon.

Todd, you worked with Novak as part of his coaching team. Let's talk about him first. How big is it for him to reach world number one with a victory here?

TODD MARTIN, WIMBLEDON SEMIFINALIST, 1994, 1995: Well, it's very important to him. It was a lifelong goal, and it's a reality now. I think it's just a matter of time before he is number one in the world. It's a mathematics situation, but for him to be able to do it on this stage will be most important to him.

PINTO: His record this season is unbelievable. He won the first 41 matches of 2011. What do you put that down to? What's changed with him since you stopped --


MARTIN: Yes, there's a few things. First and foremost, I think there's been a reworking of the way he thinks about the game. He seems more focused. I'm sure he's more disciplined on and off the court.

But then, specifically, his serve has improved, which really needed to happen. And his tennis has always fallen well into place after his serve. He returns great, he's got great ground strokes. His forehand is a little bit more vulnerable than his backhand, but if he's serving well, his forehand becomes a real weapon.

PINTO: There's a special atmosphere here because Andy Murray has reached the semifinals again for the third time in his career. Talk us through the pressure that this young man has on his shoulders, because you faced Tim Henman when he was starting out and reached the quarter finals here against you.

MARTIN: Yes. It was years ago, and I remember shaking hands with Tim and just saying, "I can't believe what you've had to deal with these last couple of weeks."

Andy's gotten very experienced with it. And that doesn't make it easy. It makes it easier than it was probably when it first started, but, boy, it's a mess, in my opinion.

And I feel badly for the British players. And one of these days, they'll win again just like the Chicago Cubs. One of these days a Brit will win Wimbledon, and hopefully the noise will calm down a little bit.

PINTO: When you have a look at the head-to-head record, 15 minutes between Rafael and Andy. Rafael has one 11 of those. How much do players pay attention to their previous matches and their head-to-head records?

MARTIN: Well, not that much. And they understand very well what the match-up entails strategically.

They know the patterns that each other will play. There will be some adjustments today relative to the last few times that they played, but deep down inside, they both know, I've won this match several times, or I've lost this match several times. And Rafael's record against everybody looks like that, and so I think that's a big advantage for him today.

PINTO: I want to put you on the spot since we have a chance to speak with someone who was out there doing the business for so many seasons and knows these players so well. Who are you picking, and why?

MARTIN: Well, I'm picking Djokovic and Nadal to be in the final. I think both matches are up for grabs today, but I do think in a pinch, you're going to see the guys who are more experienced and also more comfortable in this setting rise to the occasion when it's necessary.

PINTO: Todd, it was a pleasure to speak with you.

And we'll enjoy a fantastic day of tennis. I can give you an update on the match between Tsonga and Djokovic right now. Djokovic winning his first game of the first set. Tsonga, though, still 2-1 up with a break as well.

Anna, back to you.

COREN: Pedro, an exciting day at Wimbledon. We'll let you get back to it. Many thanks for that.

Well, now it might not be the kind of workout you get on court on Wimbledon, but playing video games is no longer considered passive entertainment. A new generation of games is designed to get you up on your feet, so we sent World Sport's big kid, Patrick Snell, to try them out in Los Angeles.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This is my good friend Dave Plose (ph), producer with us at CNN Sports. We're good friends, of course, in the office. But outside of it, a bit of rivalry sometimes, don't you think?

Why don't we do a bit of Kinect Sports: Season 2, American football, as we Brits like to call it, Dave. Look at the gallery. I'm watching at least one person there.

Got to keep your hand up because it's all about interactivity and motion- detecting sensors. And now I've got to get down in position.

Ready, Dave? Hike! Hike! Hike!

Make your move! Make your move! There you go!

Where is he?

Where are you? Go! Go!

Oh, you got snagged.

Hike! Hike!

Where are you? Where are you? There! You're over.

Oh, I missed you (ph).

Dave, come on.

DAVE PLOSE (ph), CNN SPORTS PRODUCER: I'm out of here.

SNELL: Don't blame the quarterback.

He's blaming the quarterback.


COREN: Boys and their toys. They look like they're having way too much fun.

Well, Patrick wasn't too successful on the virtual football field, so his neck challenge was set in a galaxy far, far away. Yes, this is him wielding a virtual lightsaber for a "Star Wars" game.

Well, you can see why gaming is a $50 billion seemingly recession-proof global industry. And you can watch more of Patrick's report in a special World Sport's show this weekend. Tune in for "The Gaming Galaxy," right here on CNN.

Well, ahead on NEWS STREAM, is the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn beginning to crumble? We're waiting for a hearing that could shed light on new doubts prosecutors reportedly have about the accuser. We'll get reaction from France.

And overcoming a volatile political past. Will Thailand be able to pull of a peaceful general election this weekend? We'll take a look.

That's next.


COREN: Hello. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Well, doubts are emerging about the sexual assault case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Prosecutors are said to have serious concerns about the credibility of his accuser. Well, Strauss-Kahn denies all charges against him. Prosecutors are expected to present their information in court totday.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has finally made a public appearance explaining his lengthy stay in Cuba. In a speech televised from Havana on Thursday he says he's recovering from cancer surgery. Well, Chavez did not say when he would return home.

China is celebrating 90 years of the Communist Party. President Hu Jintao says the party's future depends on its fight against corruption. Well, China has ramped up its red propaganda ahead of its anniversary with pro revolutionary singalongs and a media blitz.

Well, though he suggested otherwise, Timothy Geithner is believed to be considering resigning his post as U.S. Treasury Secretary. A source tells CNN that Geithner will not make any decisions on his future until after a deal to raise the country's debt ceiling is reached. Well, Geithner himself told Bill Clinton this week that he'd been doing his job for, quote, the foreseeable future.

Well, let's take you straight to France where the country is reacting to those shocking new developments in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. Our Jim Bittermann joins us from Paris. Jim, the French felt particularly aggrieved after the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn particularly the following day, that perp walk in particular. What has been the reaction in France to these latest developments?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course it's a big bombshell here and I think that's the first reaction. The second reaction we're still waiting for but I have a feeling the other shoe then will drop here is that there's going to be a lot of criticism of the American justice system if it turns out that those charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn are less than substantiated.

They believe about that perp walk, by the way, that when you put someone in handcuffs and parade them in front of cameras it makes them look like their guilty, except that so many people have believed that over the last couple of weeks that maybe perhaps they're right about that.

In any case, it has been a big bombshell here, especially politically. Dominque Strauss-Kahn was the leading presidential candidate even though he hadn't declared, but he was the leading presidential candidate in all the opinion polls before he got arrested in New York, was basically written off over the past couple of weeks here and other socialist leaders have come to fore to take on the mantle of leader.

Now it's all thrown up in disarray again, because there is this question mark of whether or not he might have enough time to come back and declare himself in the presidential race.

The Socialist Party has a primary and the deadline for filing as a candidate for the primary is the 14th of July. So technically we have time enough to come back, get his name in the ring and then go ahead and run, but he's got to be exonerated of the charges. He probably at some point has got to be able to travel to France. And it's not clear that it's going to happen this afternoon in this court hearing. It really depends on what we hear from there.

Now we were out on the streets with a camera today listening to what people had to say. And of course the big question was, has he been written off politically or could he still have a chance in his political career and here's the kind of thing we heard.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think he can come back. You mean in the presidential competition, no I don't think so. I don't think so. I think it's not white and black.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he'll be out of the presidency, because anyway this (inaudible) so I don't think he will be able to make it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think for him to political career is over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There will always be a doubt. So even if they say, yes, he is innocent there will always be people who will think the contrary.


BITTERMANN: And despite that skepticism among the public, in fact in the political class here a lot of people believe he could come back and run -- Anna.

COREN: Jim, how realistic is it that he would actually reenter the presidential race considering all the indiscretions that have since surfaced from his arrest?

BITTERMANN: Well, the indiscretions have not be indiscretions that have flood the legal cases, not like this one certainly. So if he were exonerated from this legal -- the one in New York City, the others are really just affairs on the side. And of course in French politics it's almost (inaudible) among French politicians to have mistresses and affairs on the side and whatnot.

So it probably would be damaging to a certain part of the public here. There are certainly people on the right who do not believe that that's the best way for politicians to behave. But for the Socialist Party I have a feeling that they would probably back him because he would be such a strong candidate and such a hopeful to defeat President Sarkozy -- Anna.

COREN: That's a fascinating story, but it's constantly changing,. Jim Bittermann in Paris. We appreciate the update. Thank you.

Well, let's now go to Thailand where we are expecting a high turnout for this weekend's general election. Well, the country has suffered political turmoil since a bloodless coup in 2006 and that's why this vote is so important. Well, it's the first since 2007. Allies of ousted Premier Thaksin what won the most seats in that vote and led the coalition government.

But court rulings removed two pro-Thaksin prime ministers from office.

Well a parliamentary vote in 2008 put the Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vajjajiva in office.

Well, Thaksin supporters, known as the Red Shirts, have argued ever since that Abhisit's government is illegitimate.

Well, last year their occupation of Bangkok's commercial district ended in a military crackdown and 91 deaths.

Well, the main opposition candidate is Thaksin's youngest sister, Yingluck. Well, she is currently ahead of Prime Minsiter Abhisit's in the polls.

Our Sarah Sidner is there. And joins us now live. Sarah what's the general mood on the streets of Thailand?

SARAH SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of excitement, actually, and of course the politicians are doing their last bit of campaigning before the polls open on July 3rd which is in just a couple of days. But there's certainly also animosity. And we've seen this animosity over and over.

And one thing that certainly joins these two groups together is hatred, or love, for one man whose not even running.


SIDNER: This is the last push before voters go to the polls in Thailand. The pace for Thai politicians is frantic. The people along the campaign trail are excited.

A virtual newcomer to politics is garnering loads of attention as she tries to unseat the current prime minister. Yingluck Shinawatra is the younger sister of the poll rising former prime minister and billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in 2006 military coup and now lives in exile as abuse of power charges await him back home, charges which he denies.

Yingluck has what you might call rock star status, especially here in the north where her good looks and charisma. But when you ask many of the people why they will vote for her, they say it is because they like her brother, Thaksin.

His supporters, known as the Red Shirts, almost worship him. But critics worry she's simply his puppet.

Your brother has said that you're his clone. How much like your brother are you?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA, CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTER OF THAILAND: Cloning means the logical thinking and the management style. Because I work with him since (inaudible). You know, first (inaudible) from him, but it doesn't mean I depend on him.

SIDNER: So you're saying you're a clone, but not a puppet.

SINAWATRA: Yes. Not a puppet.

SIDNER: Current prime minister Abhisit Vajjajiva thinks Thaksin's fingerprints are all over her campaign.

ABHISIT VAJJAJIVA, PRIME MINISTER OF THAILAND: He's got a lot of money. He's got his own network, political and also in other circles. So he continues to exert an influence. But the issue is that influence is now being exerted for his own interests at the cost of the country. And we want to move the country beyond that.

SIDNER: Yingluck says she's not going to give him any special consideration if, indeed, she ends up winning.

VAJJAJIVA: That's a way of cloaking the fact that she will try to grant a more blanket amnesty so that Thaksin can get his.

SIDNER: The current government in power says that it was her brother fueling the flames behind the 2010 political protest that turned Bangkok's commercial district into a virtual war zone for months, a situation that hurt the Thai economy and left dozens of its people dead.

Thaksin supporters blamed the military who they say stands firmly with Abhisit's government, because he was appointed to the position two years after the military coup.

This is Thailand's fourth election in seven years, an exhausting tail of the bumpy path to democracy this country has endured with a still uncertain ending.


SIDNER: Interestingly enough Yingluck Shinawatra is actually up in the polls over the current prime minister -- Anna.

COREN: Sarah, there has been so much social unrest in Thailand as you explained in your package. You, of course, covered the riots in Thailand last year. If Yingluck Shinawatra wins at the polls on the weekend, what are the chances of another coup?

SIDNER: Well, let's back up a bit, because like you mentioned, you know there has been this unrest. There is still a lot of animosity between these two groups, one known as the Red Shirts, the other the Yellow Shirts. But when this election happens, they don't automatically get the prime ministership, basically there has to be a certain number of votes from the MP's for each side, the number -- the sweet spot is 250, but really 300 is what each candidate would need to become the prime minister.

If she did, however, surpass all of those steps and became the prime minister, both sides -- both sides are saying they do not see a coup happening, because there have been a lot of lessons learned, according to analysts, also -- the military has learned the lesson that you can go in and remove somebody by force, but you then have to think about what's going to happen to Thailand afterwards. And things were not rosy after the coup in 2006. And also that both parties have learned that, you know, they want Thailand to be able to move forward. They don't want the international community to think of Thailand as a banana republic -- Anna.

COREN: Sarah Sidner in Bangkok. Thank you.

Well, you check out the News Stream blog for more on Thailand's deep divisions ahead of this election. Dozens of people have shared their opinions with us. You can add your comment. Just log onto

Well, a referendum on the constitutional reform is underway in Morocco. If the reforms pass, the country's prime minister and parliament will take over some powers traditionally held by the king. About 40,000 polling stations are open across the country. Some 13 million people are eligible to vote.

Well, King Mohammed VI announced the proposed changes last month after months of protest, calling for more freedoms and less corruption.

Ahead on News Stream, pop music perfection -- we'll tell you have the country's music industry is trading in natural talent for the computer generated kind. That's next.


COREN: Well it seems the world's biggest search engine's attempt to become a successful social network might be going too well. Well, Google says the initial scramble for invites to its Google+ service as being, quote, "insane." Well, so insane that Google had to temporarily shut down that feature. Well, the company's previous attempts to compete with Facebook have fizzled.

And reports say the world's biggest social network will launch a new feature next week. Well, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will only say it's, quote, "something awesome." Stay tuned.

Well, competition in the tech industry is increasingly cut throat, but maybe even more so in Japan. Well, the country has been pioneering the latest in tech gadgets and graphics for years. Well, now as Kyung Lah reports, their putting those skills into pop music that is.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The picture of perfection. Pop singer Aimi Eguchi, part of Japan's hottest girl group, has flawless features, an angelic voice to match. Too bad Aimi isn't real. She's a computer generated image built from the best features of six of the real-life members of AKB48.

Japan's biggest pop band pulled off a stunt, creating Aimi for a commercial to show the power of the country's computer technology. The creative team behind Aimi call her their dream girl.

Have you created the perfect pop star?


LAH: Aimi pulled even hardcore fans for a week. And now that they know the truth, they still say they love her.

"She's real. She's absolutely real," says this fan. "She exists in our hearts."

She's not the only virtual singing sensation in Japan. Meet Miku Hatsune, pop star, and giant hologram performing live before thousands of adoring Japanese fans. She makes her U.S. debut in a sold-out 4th of July weekend concert in Los Angeles. But as you can see, she's already a megastar at home.

So all of this begs the question, how long before a computer graphic gives a human singer a run for the money? Well, here in Japan it's already happening. Miku had a pop album that topped Japan's charts last year and this year. And she even has her own commercial deal.

ANNOUNCER: Introducing the new 2011 Toyota Corolla. It's the official car of the Hatsune Miku.

LAH: Yes, that's Japan's biggest automaker using a hologram instead of a Hollywood star to sell the Corolla.

Aimi's creators say prepare yourself, you are looking at entertainment's future.

Do you believe that CG could one day replace the human pop star?

"i very much believe so," says Takatoshi Nakao (ph). "We used to enjoy searching for the singers we love, but we're entering an era where we'll just create them."

One drawback, say fans, is you can't exactly high five a computerized pop star. But hey, maybe technology will even fix that so that one day we can say computer graphics killed the video star.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


COREN: It is quite amazing, isn't it? Well, if you think animated entertainers could only happen in Japan, well allow us to remind you of the Gorillaz. Not familiar with this group? Well, the band is actually a cartoon. And watch closely.

Yes, that signer is not real even though the crowd is. And while the Gorillaz's concerts are quite popular, they may not be as well loved as this famous tomb raider. Yes, countless kids and I must say adults, male adults, have developed crushes on Lara Croft. Her looks are a computer generated male fantasy, which certainly does not hurt her video game sales.

Well, still ahead on News Stream, Atlantis is set to launch exactly one week from today. It will be the last ever shuttle liftoff, so where does the U.S. space program go next?


COREN: So it certainly will be a sad day for U.S. space shuttle lovers. Next Friday they'll be watching Shuttle Atlantis blast off for the very last time.

Well, John Zarrella takes a look back at the U.S. shuttle program and why NASA has decided to pull the plug.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From the beginning it was a marvelous machine, releasing from its cargo bay deep space probes like Ulysses that went to Jupiter. Astronauts ventured out untethered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trip to solar maxus (inaudible) to take 10 minutes.

ZARRELLA: To capture and retrieve failed satellite, dead in space, dangerous feats unheard of before shuttle.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: Houston, I think we've got a satellite.

ZARRELLA: The great observatory Hubble dazzles with breathtaking images of the universe. And its ability to see galaxies born nearly at the dawn of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hubble has arrived onboard Atlantis with the arm.

ZARRELLA: Hubble was launched, repaired, and serviced from shuttle.

Every major building block of the football field long space station was carried up and assembled from shuttle.

Before becoming NASA's head man, Charlie Bolden was an astronaut. He flew four shuttle flights, including the Hubble launch.

CHARLIE BOLDEN, NASA ASMINISTARTION: I defy anybody -- and I will argue with my Apollo comrades -- the accomplishments, the achievements, the record of performance, the spinoffs, the capabilities that have been developed -- what we did in shuttle over 30 years dwarf what was done in the Apollo era.

GENE CERNAN, APOLLO ASTRONAUT: We can build spacecraft. We can build hardware. We can build booster. But there's no goal. There's no mission. We are wandering in a desert in space today, period.

ZARRELLA: So why now? Why call it quits now?

From the time of its inception 40 years ago until the shuttles are retired, the program will have cost the American taxpayers just shy of $115 billion, that's less than $4 billion a year, a drop, if that, in the federal budget.

Still, the problem is money.

NORM AUGUSTINE, PRESIDENTIAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There's just not enough money in NASA to continue the existing programs and start a new program at the same time.

ZARRELLA: Was it time?

BOLDEN: Yes, it was time. And it has been time for some time to phase out of shuttle and go back to exploration.

ZARRELLA: Whether you hated or hailed it, whether you felt it a waste or worth it, the shuttle was an iconic flying machine that symbolized America's inspiration and ingenuity.



COREN: Certainly been an amazing part of our history, hasn't it? John Zarrella with that report.

Well, let's now go to our Mari Ramos to talk about weather. And certainly in this part of the region the rainy season here in south Asia, I believe the southwest monoon has reached Pakistan, Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: It has. It has. I love that report from John Zarrella, though. Kind of wrapped it all together there.

Yeah. Yeah.

You know, by the way, I am going to be at the next shuttle launch on July 8th, a week from today. Yes.

COREN: How exciting.

RAMOS: I am very excited. I'm going unofficially. I won the tickets. I won the ticket lottery. So I'm taking my kids, my husband, my dad. Now.

COREN: Now you've announced it on CNN, Mari. We are going to be expecting live reports.

RAMOS: You know it. And I'll be tweeting about it and sharing. I would love to share this experience with everybody. So I will be there. But anyway.

Let's go ahead and talk a little bit about the weather.

Let's go ahead and move on to India now. Let's go ahead and take a peak, first of all, what's happening over here in south Asia. You know what, this time of year is when you guys start saying, oh my gosh, the rain is here. It's so humid. It's so hot.

This is a picture from Lahore in Pakistan. You guys have had about 80 millimeters of rain in the last 24 hours.

Yes, the monsoon has arrived.

Let's see, in Islamabad, you had about 28 millimeters of rain. Across India, the rainfall totals are even more impressive as the monsoon continues its advance to the north.

Now, we need the monsoon rains. They're essentially. They're essential to fill reservoirs. They bring the temperature down. They're essential for agriculture. The problem is when the rain comes too quickly, too much at one time. Right now when we see the advancement of the southwest monsoon, it's pretty much on average, a little bit delayed here as we head into the border between southern Pakistan and India, but to the north it's gotten there about the time that it should.

Now when we look at the -- what it's been doing so far, we're about 11 percent above average as far as rainfall across this region. Very interestingly, though, even though we're still above average and you can see that again here with the amount of rain that has fallen, slightly above average, the long-term forecast for the monsoon -- and this was just recently released by the India MET (ph) department, they're saying that they're expecting a below average season, slightly below average when it comes to rainfall.

When it comes to the monsoon, you don't want it to be above average, you don't want it to be below average. Above average could mean hundreds of deaths and losses, economic losses in the area. Below average, it could be the same thing, especially as we head later on into the season.

So right now, this is what the satellite looks like. We're still expecting it to continue.

When does the monsoon move away? Well, by September 1st is usually when we see it about the location where it is now. It begins to slowly retreat until it moves -- until the middle of November and crosses the southern tip of India and Sri Lanka.

Let's go ahead and move on and talk about east Asia. For you guys, it's been rain, rain, and more rain, right? Well, we went from drought to flooding. As we head through the next few days and into the weekend, I think we're still going to see a lot of rainfall particularly across east Asia and areas here to the south. Anna, I hope you don't have big weekend plans. It looks like the biggest in flow of moisture will be just to the west of Hong Kong, actually. And then back over as we head into western Wendong (ph) and down into northern parts of Vietnam. So strong inflow moisture will continue here. That is not changing too much.

So, definitely something we'll be monitoring.

And I want to end you with a flash. Do we have that video from Chicago? This is beautiful images captured in Chicago of the -- oh, sorry, we don't have it. I'll have it for you next hour.

So don't worry -- on World Business Today.

Let's go ahead and head back to you. And I hope you have a good weekend. I will have that video. It's awesome. Hitting a tower in Chicago.

COREN : Oh, I bet. I still can't get over the fact that you are going to be there for the final shuttle launch. I'm just speechless, speechless. I can't imagine what it would be like. I'd like to hear all about it.

Mari, you have a great weekend.

Well, that is it for News Stream, but the news certainly continues here at CNN. World Business Today is coming up next.