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Former Editor of 'News of the World' Resigns; News Corp. Probe; Media Privacy in France

Aired July 15, 2011 - 08:00   ET


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

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

The controversial former editor of the "News of the World" resigns. Rebekah Brooks leaves Rupert Murdoch's News International.

Mexican authorities discover the country's biggest marijuana plantation, and we'll show you just how massive it is.

And what happens when you close down one of the busiest highways in a city that relies on the car to get around? Los Angeles is about to find out.

Now, Rebekah Brooks is out at Rupert Murdoch's News International. A statement announcing her resignation was released just hours ago.

Now, Brooks had been the editor of "News of the World" at the time that some of the most serious abuses allegedly happened. In a statement, Brooks says this: "I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place."

Brooks' replacements has already been named. Tom Mockridge will be the new CEO at News International, and he is a former newspaper journalist.

Dan Rivers is at Abingdon Green in London, where Rebekah Brooks will appear before legislators next week. He joins us now live.

And Dan, you've been speaking to British MPs. What is their reaction to the exit of Rebekah Brooks?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been an all-around welcoming of this news that Rebekah Brooks has stood down. We're told from News International, from James Murdoch himself, that there will be a full-page advert in papers coming up over the next few days in which they will apologize to the nation for what has happened.

Earlier on I spoke to the former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, and asked him how far up the company this scandal went, if it went all the way to Rupert Murdoch, at the very top.


RIVERS: And how high up the company do you think this went?

JOHN PRESCOTT, FMR. BRITISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think the big spider is Mr. Murdoch, isn't it?

RIVERS: He knew?

PRESCOTT: I don't know whether he did. Perhaps now he's decided to change his mind again and come and explain. I think they'll probably duck the inquiries. There's a public and a criminal inquiring going on board, and will have to leave that. But he's at the center of it.

I don't believe for a moment (INAUDIBLE). And I look what he did in China. He's got Fox News and what he's been doing here.

This isn't a man who doesn't know what's going on. Everybody around him is scared to death to do anything that he doesn't like. So he's in the spider, in the middle of this web. And it's about time we took him on instead of running away from him.


RIVERS: That kind of language was almost unthinkable just a few days ago. Parliamentarians, politicians were clamoring to be as close as they possibly could to Rupert Murdoch and his papers. Now just listen to that kind of description describing Rupert Murdoch as a spider at the center of the web.

Well, Rupert Murdoch himself may have lost his chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, but his troubles are not over yet. He's due to appear here with his son James and Rebekah Brooks on Tuesday to face a grilling by politicians -- Kristie.

STOUT: That's right, all three will be there -- Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch, his son James. They'll be answering MP questions.

Given the kind of tone that you're hearing from MPs, what kinds of questions, what kind of grilling will they get next Tuesday?

RIVERS: Well, there will be several things, we are told. We've been talking to the chairman of the committee, John Whittingdale.

I think, first and foremost, you know, how much did they know about this phone-hacking scandal? They've maintained that they were unaware of what was going on, but a lot of people have just been kind of ridiculing that suggestion, saying it's just not conceivable that Rebekah Brooks, as editor at the time, would not have known where numerous front-page stories that were splashed across the front of the "News of the World" wouldn't know the provenance of where those stories came from.

Also be questioning closely particularly Rebekah Brooks, because she told this committee back in 2003, I think it was, that they had bribed police officers. That was -- or paid police officers. That was then kind of quickly contradicted by her deputy, Andy Coulson.

They'll want to know why then -- and in subsequent letters, they denied that that was the case. They'll want to know now why parliament was misled over this, because it's emerged clearly now that there was some payment to corrupt police officers to try and get contact details, for example, of the royal family. Misleading parliament is seen as very serious, we're told by the chairman of the committee. They'll want answers to those questions.

STOUT: Dan Rivers, joining us live in London.

Thank you, Dan.

Now, meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch and his son James now say that they will appear before British legislators at a phone-hacking hearing on Tuesday. The British House of Commons issued a summons for the Murdochs to appear. Now, that is after the pair told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that they wouldn't be able to make it.

And in an interview with one of his own newspapers, "The Wall Street Journal," Rupert Murdoch says he wants to address the things being said in parliament, some of which he adds are "total lies." Now, in The Journal, "Mr. Murdoch said the company had handled the crisis 'extremely well in every possible,' making just 'minor mistakes.'"

But the Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff has harsher words. In a tweet he writes this: "Rupert only gives interview to his own news outlets. Controlled reality. Closed loop."

Now, in the U.S., some are protesting Murdoch's media empire, and the FBI has launched an investigation into allegations of phone hacking possibly involving 9/11 victims.

Our Susan Candiotti is in New York. She joins us now live.

And Susan, the key question for the FBI, did News Corp. hack American 9/11 victims?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what the FBI wants to try to find out. And one of the things they'll be looking at is an allegation that was publicized in a British tabloid, "The Mirror," talking about a private investigator who was said to have been contacted by someone connected with "News of the World" who hacked into phone records and voicemails of 9/11 victims. So that's the key element that FBI agents will be trying to track down to find out whether this is true and, frankly, to see where the investigation will lead.

The FBI investigation was confirmed by the U.S. attorney general himself, Eric Holder.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, there have been serious allegations raised in that regard in Great Britain, and there's an ongoing investigation there, as is appropriate. There have been members of Congress in the United States who have asked us to investigate those same allegations, and we are progressing in that regard, using the appropriate federal law enforcement agencies in the United States.


CANDIOTTI: So the investigation is only about 24 hours old now. Very unclear at this early stage how long it will take.

STOUT: And Susan, why is the FBI launching this investigation? Is it due to political pressure from Capitol Hill?

CANDIOTTI: Well, there's a degree of that certainly acknowledged by the U.S. attorney general himself -- you just heard him say it -- as congressmen, senators have been after him to look into this because there's been so much publicity about it. But not only pressure from them, but also from 9/11 families, who say if these allegations are true, it's gruesome, it's horrifying, and they believe a criminal act has been carried out. And they want the FBI and the Justice Department to get to the bottom of it -- Kristie.

STOUT: And Rupert Murdoch, he defended himself in "The Wall Street Journal." How is that going down in the United States? How are Americans reacting to this entire phone-hacking scandal?

CANDIOTTI: Well, it certainly is interesting, as you just pointed out a little while ago, that the only comment we have from Rupert Murdoch is in one of his own newspapers. Of course, not surprisingly, but the question is, will it go beyond that at this stage?

A lot of people are curious about it. A lot of 9/11 families in particular are very angry about what might have happened. And so there is a lot of curiosity and a lot of interest to see what the FBI will be able to find out.

STOUT: All right.

Susan Candiotti, joining us live from New York.

Thank you.

Now, it is just a quick Eurostar train ride across the English Channel, but because of tradition, laws, and public conscience, media analysts say that you'd be hard pressed to find a "News of the World" style tabloid at any French kiosk.

Jim Bittermann looks at media privacy in France.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Parisians browse their Belle Epoque newspaper stands, they're unlikely to find any reporting that even remotely resembles the tabloids found in London. With the recent exception of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, which was reported in exacting and sometimes almost gleeful detail, newspapers and magazines here, for the most part, stay away from the pursuit of shocking revelations about the private lives of public people.

The editor of the weekly magazine "Paris Match," which has published thousands of scoops over the years, believes that French readers are demanding more and more dirt and dish on public figures. But that tradition and the law are working against it.

Olivier Royant says the French press has always focused more on ideas than on gossip, and that tough privacy laws prevent editors from delving too far into private lives. In fact, he points out that there are so many restrictions on the press here, that France has now slipped to 44th place in a Reporters Without Borders ranking of freedom of the press in countries around the world.

OLIVIER ROYANT, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, "PARIS MATCH": It's not a easy to (INAUDIBLE) for investigative journalism. And you're being sued all the time. You're being sued by singers, you're being sued by actors, but you're also being sued by politicians, by people who recognize themselves walking in the streets. So it's a very different landscape with what you see in England, or even in Germany or Italy.

BITTERMANN: And a "Perry Match" executive says it's unthinkable that French journalists could employ the kind of methods that allegedly were used by the British press to tap phones and bribe officials.

For media observers here, there are systemic problems with the relationship between powerful people and the press.

ERIC FASSIN, SOCIOLOGIST: One of the problems is that, of course, there's not a clear-cut separation between politicians and the media. And in particular, there are personal links, including conjugal links that are quite important. So it's very difficult to separate the two.

So, the question is, who decides what's public? Who decides what's private? And it seems to me that, at the moment in France, it's still politicians who decide who could say what and when about them.

BITTERMANN (on camera): So those who are aware of the "News of the World" scandal here are following with a curious combination of satisfaction, because it confirms a widely-held belief in France that the British tabloid press goes too far, and envy because it demonstrates how much farther the French press could go in revealing the private lives of public figures.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


STOUT: Turning now to Yemen, where several areas of the country have fallen into the hands of militants. Two Yemeni security sources say a suspected U.S. drone has killed at least 50 people in the southern province of Abyan. Yemen's government says its forces carried out the raid. It counts nine fighters dead, but says dozens were injured.

Sources say the attack targeted a police station under the control of al Qaeda fighters. And two eyewitnesses say at least 30 civilians are among the dead. U.S. officials have not commented.

You are watching NEWS STREAM. And still ahead, we return to Cairo's Tahrir Square and a familiar scene as pro-democracy activists plan another day of protests.

And take a look at this plantation in Mexico. Look closely. It is the biggest of its kind in the country. The Mexican army says it will burn it down. We'll tell you why.

And with the clock ticking, the U.S. president decides to speak out on the country's debt ceiling negotiations.


STOUT: Welcome back.

And we are watching Tahrir Square in Cairo, where pro-democracy protesters are calling for another major demonstration. Now, some people have been camping out for weeks, vowing to stay until their demands are met. They say that they're frustrated by the slow pace of reforms.

Now, the military has been in charge for the last five months, ever since large-scale protests forced president Hosni Mubarak from office. But there are signs that these recent sit-ins are losing some support among Egyptians.

Our Frederik Pleitgen joins us now live from Cairo.

And Fred, first of all, how many people are there in Tahrir Square today?


Well, it's several thousand. I would say it's about 5,000 to 6,000 people who have turned out so far.

Now, what we have to keep in mind, of course, is that it is very oppressively hot here right now, and the sun is just blazing down over Tahrir Square. So we do envision that more people are going to come once the heat becomes a little less oppressive, more people are going to show up here into the evening hours. It will be a little less than we saw last Friday, simply because the largest group here, the Muslim Brotherhood, in this case, is not participating in these protests right now.

But as you said, the sit-in here in Tahrir Square seems to be becoming a little more controversial among many Egyptians, as many say they would like the country to move ahead, they would like some more stability in their national politics, and in their society as well. We sort of investigated that issue, and have a look at what we found.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): From above, it looks like the uprising never stopped. Tahrir Square is blocked off by protesters again these days. Organizer Ahmed Saleh says those camping out here want to take back their revolution. They believe change is happening too slowly and is not going far enough.

AHMED SALEH, ACTIVIST: We don't see a good sign yet. We are still waiting for a good sign. We have only seen intimidation, threats, and some attempts to try to pretend that they are doing what they are not doing.

PLEITGEN: Tahrir Square is a different place than it was during the original uprising against Hosni Mubarak in late January. Protesters are better organized. Many tents have satellite TV and Wi-Fi.

Ahmed says one thing that has not changed is their resolve, although he does admit there are divisions among the groups represented here.

SALEH: Sometimes we meet and sometimes we don't between the secular powers on one side and the Islamists on another.

PLEITGEN: The protesters shut down Cairo's largest administrative building for two days this week, trying to make the government meet their demands, like faster trials for Hosni Mubarak and former members of his regime, deep economic and social reforms, and harsher punishment for police officers accused of killing protesters during the uprising. The government is trying to meet some of these demands and has announced it will sack almost 600 high-level police officials in the coming weeks. But that was not enough to appease the protesters, and some say those staging the sit-in in Tahrir Square are in danger of losing support of the masses.

Analyst Hisham Kassem believes they already have.

HISHAM KASSEM, ANALYST: There's 500 or 600 people who hijacking the square by morning, and then in the evening, it turns into thousands because there's lots of people out there who haven't anything better to do with their time. So they hang out there. This is the disgruntled bloc.

PLEITGEN (on camera): Do you think that you represent the majority of Egyptian society?

SALEH: No, this is because the majority of the Egyptian society doesn't know what's really going on.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The military council currently running the country says it will allow protests to happen, but has warned against disturbing public order. Some on the square take that as a direct threat against them and believe the army might raid the square, a move that could throw a country looking for stability into further turmoil.


PLEITGEN: So, Kristie, as you can see, there are still many people who believe that the revolution is not finished yet, who believe that the revolution might be going into a wrong direction, they believe, who think that the system Mubarak essentially is still in place, even though Hosni Mubarak is not in power anymore. And they certainly want people who were part of the Mubarak government to be purged from any sort of positions of authority here in this country. And, of course, there are a lot of other people here in Egypt who believe if that actually happens, that could lead to a massive breakdown of public order.

And one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that Egypt is in a very difficult economic situation at this point in time. It wants and needs more foreign direct investment, and also needs more tourists to come back to the many lovely attractions here in this country. As long as the stability doesn't come, it appears as though neither the investment nor the tourists at this point are coming back -- Kristie.

STOUT: You know, Fred, you mentioned in your report just then that the protesters are losing support of the people. There's also the possibility of Egyptian military intervention.

So what are -- what is your thinking about the scene behind you? Will this go on? Will this be a prolonged demonstration?

PLEITGEN: Well, it certainly appears as though the protests might be somewhat losing its steam. But when you talk to the folks who are organizing the sit-in here in Tahrir Square, they have absolute resolve.

They say they are going to stay as long as all of their demands have been met. And keep in mind that some of their demands have actually been met in the past week or so.

They said they wanted the police force purged of anyone who used violence against protesters in the uprising that started January 25th, anyone who killed protesters. What happened this week is that almost 600 top-level officers are going to be purged from the police force. That was announced by the country's prime minister.

There are other concessions that have been made as well. Folks down there say that does not go far enough. They want the system Mubarak, as they say, to be eradicated basically from public life here in Egypt. And there are others who believe that, obviously, they want a little more subtle way of doing this, if you will. They want the change to have more stability within it.

It doesn't look at this point in time as though the military is going to raid Tahrir Square or is going to move in on Tahrir Square and try to clear it, because at this point in time, that's simply not something that will be good for public order. But this is certainly a big sticking point here in Egyptian society. This is something where many people believe that the protests that are still going on are preventing the country from moving on, while the folks down there say the big problem is that the old system is still in place -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much indeed for giving us an understanding of what's happening there in the Egyptian capital.

Now, the Mexican army says it has found the nation's largest marijuana plantation. Soldiers discovered 120 hectares of pot growing in a crop of tomatoes, and they are set to burn the plants. And if you're wondering how much that marijuana is worth, the estimated street value is $153 million.

Now, let's put the size of that plantation into perspective for you. New York's famed Central Park consists of 341 hectares. So imagine marijuana growing in roughly one-third of this area. And need it be said, that's a whole lot of pot.

Now, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, says he has never been so motivated to win a battle. On Thursday morning, his Twitter account seemed to say it all. It said this: "Good morning, happy world. Good morning to living."

Rafael Romo now with the latest on Mr. Chavez' battle against cancer.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A gentle slap on the cheek for the president after he takes communion. In a very public ceremony broadcast nationally in Venezuela on state television, President Hugo Chavez attends mass as his supporters pray for his health.

It's been a week since Chavez returned to Venezuela after undergoing surgery in Cuba, the first step of his cancer treatment. In a phone interview aired by the Venezuelan state channel, Chavez said the tumor in his pelvic area was the size of a baseball. He said the second phase of his treatment includes an organ-by-organ evaluation, and he was meeting with doctors to learn about his progress.

"I may need radiation or chemotherapy to attack the disease strongly," Chavez said.

After a physical therapy session earlier this week, he told his cabinet it's necessary to make sure the armed forces stay united. This, after he announced there would be no shakeup of his top military command, as some had expected.

The government's stability does not seem to be an issue at this point. Chavez himself led a failed military coup in 1992, and as president he was the target of another coup 10 years later.

For now, he seems to be focused on surviving cancer, a challenge the former military officer discusses in military terms.

"This is a new battle," he said. "A new battle. I have never been more motivated about winning a battle."

(on camera): Chavez spent almost a month in Cuba for the initial phase of his cancer treatment which included surgery. The opposition repeatedly called for Chavez to name a temporary head of government in his absence. Now that he's back, Chavez says he is under 24-hour medical supervision, but made it clear that he's still calling the shots.

"I am in my barracks," he said, "but still commanding."

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


STOUT: Now, still ahead on NEWS STREAM, L.A. drivers, beware. You're on the verge of "Carmageddon." We'll bring you survival tips for this weekend's 405 shutdown.


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

Now, a dangerous typhoon is eyeing southern Japan and the Koreas. So let's bring in Pedram Javaheri, who's at the World Weather Center for more.

And Pedram, just how big a concern is this?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Kristie. You know, we were hoping this wasn't going to come to what it looks like, the computer models indicating as far as where this storm is going to head.


JAVAHERI: Take a look at this, the dramatic rescue video out of Surat. This is in India.

We have the monsoon season in full swing. It's a pretty healthy one. But the firemen, they're here trying to save a girl who was stuck and swept away in the Ambika River.

And three folks actually went out to rescue this girl. They were also stuck. Fortunately, the firefighters out there able to help and bring everyone back to safety. There they are. But incredible stuff.

And again the monsoon season, this is what they live with, this is what they deal with. And they need the rainfall for the agricultural needs out there, but when it comes extreme this is what happens. And again that's going to continue there as we have another several months left in the heart of the monsoon season. And the forecast, Kristie, does show very heavy rainfall once again in this region.

And anyone in the world, we talk about say perhaps areas in Japan. Yes, they're prepared for earthquakes, but when you get one out to that magnitude, it causes a lot of problems. Folks in India, they're used to rainfall, but again very heavy rainfall right along the coast, up to 10 or so centimeters in the next couple days, Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, just caught a glimpse of the waters there almost engulfing the bridge. It looked like that on the video. Just a very scary situation.

JAVAHERI: It had a lot of power behind it.

LU STOUT: Pedram Javaheri, thank you for bringing us up to date.

Yes, very powerful waters.

Pedram Javaheri there.

Now up next here on NEWS STREAM, we find out what scientists are doing in the Arctic Circle to better understand the causes and effects of climate change. I'll talk with a man whose recently had a firsthand look, in fact, it's Philippe Cousteau of our special Going Green series and he will be joining me live.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines.

Now the chief executive of News International Rebecca Brooks has resigned in the face of overwhelming pressure over the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed News Corp. Now Ms. Brooks was editor of News of the World at the time it allegedly hacked into the phone of murder victim Milly Dowler. In a statement, Rupert Murdoch's son, James, says News International will run ads this weekend apologizing to the nation for what has happened.

Now the news comes as the FBI opens an investigation into phone hacking at News Corp. Now federal law enforcement source tells CNN the probe was launched in response to a report that Rupert Murdoch's company may have targeted 9/11 terror victims. Now the media baron defended News Corps's handling of the crisis to the Wall Street Journal, a News Corp publication, saying the company had made only, quote, minor mistakes.

International diplomats are meeting in Turkey to map out a piece path for Libya. The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is there with foreign ministers from France, Britain and Italy. Now Libya's opposition, the National Transitional Council, is also taking part.

The Mexican army says it has found the nation's largest marijuana plantation. Now authorities discovered 120 hectares of pot growing in a crop of tomatoes. Now soldiers will burn the plants. And if you're wondering how much the marijuana is worth, the estimated street value is $153 million.

Now all this week, we have been showing you excerpts from our Going Green special called Extreme Science. Environmentalist and CNN special correspondent Philippe Cousteau traveled to the Arctic Circle where researchers live and work to study climate change.

And he joins me now live from CNN center. And Philippe, hello there. You were on assignment to see how the Arctic is changing. Tell us, what did you learn?

PHILLIPE COUSTEAU, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, first and foremost, it's important to remember how critical the Arctic is to the health of the entire planet. It really is what we like to call the air conditioning unit of the planet. And even though it seems far away and very remote, it's the kind of place that affects every life of every human being on planet Earth.

So we were up there to explore science that's happening in the early spring and try and get a glimpse of a little bit more about how the Arctic works, what the ecosystem is like, what's happening on the sea ice, how fast is the ice melting. And unfortunately we were discovering some scary news that indeed it is melting faster than a lot of predictions.

But as you mentioned, all week long you've been showing various different clips. And it wasn't just about science and exploring the dynamics of carbon in sea ice, there was also plenty of danger and challenges to live up there and to survive up there that we had to overcome. And we have a package here for you that you haven't seen I believe this week yet about one of the challenges that we face that we had to be prepared for.


COUSTEAU: As the scientists trek off to take more samples, I set out to explore the vast seascape that surrounds us. Accompanied by Simon and our dog Took, we're sure to keep a close eye out for polar bears. Took is our first alert.

How far away can he sense them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hard to say, but he's very good. I mean, he patrols, you see him head off and patrol the area.

COUSTEAU: We trekked into an area of what looks like giant chunks of broken ice rubble. They're call pressure ridges. These are plates of ice that crack and push into each other, breaking under pressure. They can slowly thrust upwards several meters, resulting in spectacular visual imagery.

There are other dangers to take into account while trekking through this area. These are, after all, ridges produced by cracks in the ice. And if you're not careful, you could slip into a hollow area. And since it's the Arctic, medical care is several hundred kilometers away.

But dangers aside, the experience of trekking through this amazing seascape is something to take in and enjoy.

What do you love most about this place?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to say only one thing, but it just feels like it's all -- it is worthwhile work. You know there's some good scientific questions to look at and hope to answer here. So it just feels worthwhile.


COUSTEAU: And I have to say, Kristie, that it was one of the most spectacular places that I've ever been. And I've been a lot of places all over the world. And there's an austere and beautiful poetry to the Arctic and that landscape. And it was an amazing experience to be able to conduct this expedition and learn what we learned.

LU STOUT: Yes, because you see it quite clearly in all the pictures and the video that you brought back for us. But I can only imagine what it was like seeing it firsthand.

Now Philippe, the Arctic is one of the coldest places on the planet, so how did you manage with the brutal sub-zero temperatures there?

COUSTEAU: Well, you know, the thing about this ice base is it certainly was not a luxurious space. We slept in unheated tents on the ice itself. And remember, that we're actually on an ocean. There's about five feet of frozen ice that separates us from a good thousand plus feet of frozen ocean -- freezing cold ocean water beneath us. And it got down to about 53 degrees below zero the last night we were there sleeping in those tents. The only tents that are heated is communications tents and the one of the -- two of the science tents, and the mess tent thank goodness.

But out tents were freezing cold. So you really just have to be prepared. That's the key. Have the right equipment. And, you know, we have all the latest equipment. And it was tough living. I can't even imagine Arctic explorers 200 years ago how they survived. It was hard.

LU STOUT: That's right. I can only imagine that.

Philippe Cousteau joining us live from CNN Center. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us here on NEWS STREAM.

COUSTEAU: Thank you very much, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now don't miss the Going Green special. Philippe Cousteau hosts extreme science. You can see it right here Saturday night, 9:00 pm in Hong Kong, 5:00 in Abu Dhabi.

Now a few hours from now, the U.S. president Barack Obama is due to brief reporters on negotiations to raise the country's debt ceiling. Now the president and lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement after five straight days of talks to the White House. And there are no new talks scheduled for Friday.

The seriousness of the situation was reinforced with that announcement from Standard & Poor's that it is putting the United States' sovereign on credit watch. Now the U.S. has until August the 2nd to raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or risk default. And neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to want that to happen, but as Tom Foreman explains each side has a different take on what needs to be done.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing right now is essentially a philosophical fight about how to deal with a problem that everyone agrees on. This is the problem, our debt. Ever since the early 1900s we've been spending more money than we've been taking in, in this country. And so our debt has grown. Each time it's got too big for us to handle, we just basically extend the debt ceiling so we can handle more debt.

But now, once again, it's right up here. It's just about to go past that debt ceiling. And we've got to decide if we're going to make the debt ceiling higher and in effect make this bucket bigger to handle more.

And both sides have different opinions about how we do that. If we're going to raise the debt ceiling, the Republicans say first you have to address this, this big spending up here. You must reduce your spending so even if this is made bigger, it fills up less quickly.

Democrats are not so keen on this. They say these are very critical programs for many people in the country, maybe we can make it a little smaller, but they'd like to keep it -- a lot of it in place the way it is. They say you certainly have to see this to make it work -- taxes. If you can put taxes into the equation, they say, then some of what's flowing out of the debt can be taken care ahead of time. In effect, you're paying for it instead of just adding all up over here.

This is the crux of the problem, each side is pretty well cemented into their position and having a hard time budging. Republicans saying you've got to make this smaller, that's how you keep the debt down. The Democrats saying you've got to siphon some of it off with new taxes, that's how you keep the debt down. Meeting in the middle, that's the problem they're both finding. They can't figure out quite how to do that even though they agree that if they don't do something about it, this will overflow and we'll have a whole new set of problems.


LU STOUT: Tom Foreman there.

Now U.S. president Barack Obama will address talks on the debt ceiling and budget cuts in just over two hours from now. And we'll bring you that speech when it happens live.

Now drivers in Los Angeles are in for a world of pain this weekend. And it is being called carmaggedon. A 16 kilometer stretch of L.A.'s interstate 405 is being shut down.

Now this part, from U.S. 101 to Interstate 10 will be closed all weekend. Now this is for the Mulholland Drive bridge demolition project. The CNN Center in their reports, officials are expecting traffic jams of historic proportions.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is bigger than any Hollywood production, the shutdown of the 405 freeway which services San Fernando Valley all the way to Orange County. And local officials have been preparing for this for weeks. They're adding free buses over the weekend. And also encouraging people to take the metro line which services the San Fernando Valley all the way over to this side of the city.

And clearly, this is a very car dependent town, so this shutdown of the 405 is expected to affect nearly half a million drivers over the weekend. It's a billion dollar construction project to expand the 405 to add an HOV land. And they are going to be demolishing a bridge that rides over it.

And this is kind of like shutting down the 75, 85 in Atlanta, the Beltway in D.C., or the Long Island Expressway in New York. So clearly a major undertaking. And transportation officials here are telling people to stay home.

MIKE MILES, DIRECTOR, CALTRANS: We are expecting a lot of traffic, but we're hoping that we can manage it. But the biggest thing that's going to help is if the public stays away and stays home on this weekend. Most of the people go through their lives trying to avoid the 405, this is the one weekend we want to tell you, you really need to avoid the 405.

ENDO: So we'll see how bad it is. It could mean epic traffic jams, or just easy breezy. But for 53 hours, the 405 will be completely shut down.

Sandra Endo, CNN, Los Angeles.


LU STOUT: Half a million drivers. That is more than the total number of cars here in Hong Kong.

Now the city knows a massive shutdown could create mass road rage, so it's enlisted Hollywood stars to spread the word.

Now here is a public service announcement by the actor Eric Estrada.


ERIC ESTRADA, ACTOR: Hi. I'm Eric Estrada. And I'm here with real motorcycle police officers to remind you that the weekend of July 16 and 17, a 10 mile stretch of the 405 freeway will be closed from the 10 to the 101 freeway. Half of the Mulholland Bridge will be torn down as part of the major 405 improvement project.

So plan ahead, avoid the area, or just stay home.


LU STOUT: I think his career just got a reboot there.

But why sit in an epic traffic jam when you can fly over it? JetBlue is flying passengers across town from Burbank up here all the way down to Long Beach for just $4. Now the company announced a 405 special over Twitter on Wednesday and says the flights sold out in three hours. And that $4 flight does include taxes and fees unless you check an overweight back.

Now the 40 mile hop is the shortest route JetBlue has ever flown.

Now who needs another social network? Well, apparently millions do. Google says that more than 10 million people now use its brand new social network Google+. And it's an impressive number, given that it's been open to people outside the company for just two weeks. And new users can only join if they're invited by someone already using Google+. But it is still a fraction of the number of people using Google's biggest rival, Facebook now have more than 750 million users.

Now coming up on NEWS STREAM, ups and downs in the British Open's second round. A hole in one, a costly boogie, we'll get you updated on the leaderboard next.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now day two is underway at the British Open. And Don Riddell is watching it all from CNN London -- Don.


You know, much of the talk ahead of the Open championship has surrounded one man from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy. But it's actually one of his friends and compatriots that's making the running today. Shane O'Donoghue joins us live from Royal St. Georges to tell us who. Hi, Shane.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: How are you, Don? I can tell you it is Darren Clarke, the man who really got Rory McIlroy on the right road, when he was a 13 year old, bringing him into his foundation. And what a success Rory has been.

But the mentor, Darren Clarke is the man who has been stealing the headlines today. A fantastic round of 68 for him in round two which included five birdies, an eagle, a double bogey and two bogies. So a mixed bag, but that's what you're going to get on links terrain. But Darren Clarke tied for the lead at the moment in the clubhouse after that 68.

Charles Schwartzel of South Africa has also been making a very good move now. He's into the back 9 here in round two, 3 under to the day, so 2 under for the Championship.

It looked like Chad Campbell from the American side of things was going to lead the way today. He certainly looked like he was perhaps going to have the outright lead. It didn't quite happen towards the end of his end, but a 68 to his 69 means that he's also on 3 under par alongside Lucas Glover, another American who is really, you know, contending very well here at the moment.

He had that 66 yesterday. And really had a fairly faultless round today, a round of 70. So he's on 4 under. So the American flag flying high here at Royal St. Georges.

Just to confirm what's happening on the leaderboard, Simon Dyson was in the outright lead a few moments ago after opening up with 3 birdies, but he's dropped a shot at the fourth so he's on 4 under.

As we mentioned Darren Clarke is in the clubhouse on 4 under after a 68. Also in there on a 70, so on 4 under, that's Lucas Glover on that number too.

Once again, Angel Jimenez in the very beginning of his second round also on 4 under.

Let's update you, though, on the overnight leaders. Thomas Bjorn, he is currently 2 over for the day, so 3 under for the championship. And Tom Lewis similarly toward the end of his second round, he's also 2 over today, but 3 under for the championship. Playing alongside the evergreen Tom Watson who had a hole in one on the sixth.

RIDDELL: Yes, that was a great moment, wasn't it?

Shane we both know that when it comes to the Open Championship you've got to make hay while the sun shines. It was miserable yesterday and the conditions have been great today. Is it going to last?

O'DONOGHUE: Well, I don't think it's going to last, Don. That's the bad news. It looks like it's going to be fairly suspect over the weekend. We're expecting rain, a lot more wind, and darker clouds are going to return. But we're enjoying the blue skies at the moment.

Now the weather certainly has changed from this morning. It's still very warm, but a lot windier. So tougher conditions for the likes of Rory McIlroy and those others like Thomas Bjorn, the joint leader overnight, who are contesting this second round this afternoon here at Royal St. Georges.

RIDDELL: You've got to expect the unexpected at the Open Championship. Shane O'Donoghue, thanks very much.

Now it's going to be a big weekend of sport. We have the Copa America quarterfinals to look forward to. And also the final of the Women's World Cup. The USA will play Japan for the title in Frankfurt on Sunday. And the American goalie Hope Solo says her team is ready to lift the cup for a third time.


HOPE SOLO, AMERICAN GOALIE: This team will fight till the bitter end to find a way to win. And it's not always pretty, but everybody on the field is trying to find a way to win. And I think it's the American way, it's the American spirit. And I think America is so behind us, because you can feel that spirit and you can feel the fight in our team. And people kind of grab onto that, they gravitate towards it. And truly, this team is a winning team. And I can hope -- I can only hope that we prove that and go all the way and bring the trophy back home.


RIDDELL: Well, she sounds very confident, Kristie. Of course, the Japanese team need no extra motivation following the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in their country this year. They're playing for pride and for their countryman.

LU STOUT: All right, Don Riddell there with the latest. Thank you very much indeed. Take care, Don.

Now up next here on NEWS STREAM, in the United States debt limit talks have gone from tense to tantrum. And coming up, we'll bring you some of the hottest moments from the House floor and the talks that make reality TV look tame.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now there's magic in the air: Pottermania has come to town for the last time. Thousands of screaming fans queued all night long at theaters across the U.S. for a ticket to the last ever Potter movie. That's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hits the Silver Screen. Hogwarts wannabes donned wizard cloaks and sorting hats to bid farewell to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Now the U.S. debt talks aren't getting any friendlier. In fact, they seem to be spawning taunts and tantrums. As Jeanne Moos reports, these days C-SPAN is rivaling the best reality TV.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are indebted to the debt ceiling for making our politicians testy, testy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama quit lying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Mitch McConnell, frankly, has lost his mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you think this mess started 18 months ago? No, it did not.

MOOS: A Democrat gets fiery. A Republican walks her back.

REP. STEVE WOMACK, (R) ARKANSAS: --chairwoman. I think we're going to have to extend the space shuttle for an extra day to retrieve that thought process. It got so far out there in orbit --

MOOS: And these politicians aren't even the ones stuck in the room where the debt talks are taking place.

Now since cameras aren't allowed in the negotiating room, we can only imagine the annoyance, the exasperation, the tension.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Temperatures began rising.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Debt negotiations turning nasty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An angry president shoves his chair back and walks out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems like the president had a, well, hissy fit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it almost came to blows between Eric Cantor and the president.

MOOS: Almost came to blows? That's almost as over blown as comparing the debt talks to the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teresa, completely, certifiably, crazy out of her mind.

MOOS: Remind you of anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Mitch McConnell, frankly, has lost his mind.

MOOS: Mitch McConnell's raise the debt ceiling plan got bashed by both sides.

DONALD TRUMP: It's called el-foldo.

MOOS: And the president got compared to a Popeye character.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he reminds me of the cartoon character Wimpy where Wimpy said.

WIMPY: I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

MOOS: This is literally become a food fight.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We might as well do it now. Eat our peas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell us to eat our peas like bratty little kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the way, did you see I got a big plate of peas. And I ate all my peas. And so now it's the president's turn to cut federal spending.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speaker Boehner reportedly said that dealing with the Democrats is a lot like dealing with Jell-O.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jell-O is slippery, slimy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love Jell-O, personally. If you mix peas in it you can get --

MOOS: Never mind the debt ceiling, just be glad there's no blood on the ceiling, unlike Al Capone in the Untouchables.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get nowhere unless the team wins.

MOOS: Made a politicians of the debt talks take a bat to the budget.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


LU STOUT: I know.

OK, it's time now to go over and out there, but not up there, at least not if you are a Shih Tzu or a Chow Chow. Hong Kong airline (inaudible) Pacific is set to ban black-faced animals from its flights starting on Monday. Now that means this pug is grounded, but these breeds, they're fit to fly. That's a golden retriever, a beagle, and a Yorkshire Terrier.

But if you are more of a cat person then this tabby it's OK. She can travel with you, but this Persian has to stay put. And it's not because this feline looks finicky, the reason has to do with its face. You see how the kitty has no snout? Well, there are concerns that animals like this will have problems breathing during the flights.

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