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NEWS STREAM

Syrian Family's Tragic Loss; Battle for Libya; U.K. Hacking Scandal Deepens; Wolf Blitzer's Interview with President Obama

Aired August 17, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

Now, Syrian security forces say they have completed their mission in Latakia. And we'll bring you the heartbreaking story of one child caught in the crossfire.

Letters and lies, why the latest twist in the phone-hacking engulfing News Corp. is so troubling for the British prime minister.

And as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the U.S. president tells CNN he fears an attack my a lone wolf terrorist.

And we begin in Syria, where the country's state-run news agency says security forces are now pulling out of the flash point cities Latakia and Deir Ezzor. Now, the government says it made a number of arrests on Tuesday, and its mission of wiping out what it calls armed gangs in the cities is now complete. But activists are telling a different story.

They say (AUDIO GAP) and that snipers remain perched on buildings. Well, here you can see security forces gathered on trucks, whistling and chanting support for President Bashar al-Assad as they drive through Latakia on Tuesday. Activists say the death toll now stands at more than 2,500 since uprisings began in March.

Arwa Damon has the story of one family's tragic loss as they tried to flee Latakia on Sunday. And we must warn you, some of the images you are about to see are graphic and not suitable for all ages. And we are showing them because we believe it is important to grasp the horror experienced by the innocents caught in the middle of this conflict in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Syrian security forces' crackdown on the coastal city of Latakia has focused on the al-Ramel neighborhood, a center of anti-government demonstrations. Residents say they were bombarded by sea and by land.

We are about to show you video said to be from that neighborhood. It is difficult to watch.

Syrian security forces told residents to get out. So it's understandable that many families would decide to leave.

According to anti-government and human rights activists, that's exactly what Arlad Jablowi's (ph) parents tried to do -- flee.

"She's just a child. He killed her, the evil Bashar al-Assad!" the voice on the clip shrieks. According to activists, the 2-and-a-half-year-old was with her family when the car came under fire. Her father, activists said, was shot in the shoulder and believed detained. Her mother's fate, unknown.

(on camera): From outside the country, it's very difficult to determine precisely who was responsible for this child's death. The U.N., various global leaders, and human rights organizations have all urged the Syrian government to allow humanitarian workers, U.N. representatives, and the media to the country. All to no effect.

(voice-over): The Syrian government denies it used naval forces against the neighborhoods in Latakia. Its forces, it says, were in pursuit of armed gangs. A state-run news agency reported that casualties were caused by gunman shooting and blowing up dynamite.

This, a second video posted to YouTube, shows Arlad's (ph) body wrapped in a white shroud. A voice on the clip says, "Look. These are Bashar al- Assad's reforms." An innocent caught in the crossfire of the intensifying battle between those calling for freedom and a regime intent on staying in power.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Arwa Damon joins us now from Beirut, Lebanon, where she's been following events in Syria.

And Arwa, that report there, it was horrific, but very necessary for us to watch to understand the human toll, the violence there in Syria. And that little girl, she was from Latakia. Syrian forces, they have reportedly finished their mission there.

Arwa, what does that mean?

DAMON: Well, that is the narrative that the Syrian government is putting forward, saying that it has effectively cleared the al-Ramen neighborhood of these armed gangs that have been terrorizing citizens, that it is clearing the roads of various blocks that were set up by these armed gangs, clearing them of explosives that have been put into place, and that life is basically beginning to return back to normal.

However, when we speak to activists who are from that area and those who have actually been incited recently, they paint quite a different picture. They say that shops, pharmacies, bakery stores remain closed. Most residents have fled. Those who have remained behind for whatever reason are staying largely indoors. And they say that the security forces are still fanned out throughout the entire area, setting up checkpoints, checking people's I.D.s. Arbitrary detentions are still taking place.

And so once again, Kristie, when it comes to what's happening inside Syria, we still have these two competing and contradictory narratives. So it's very difficult to determine exactly what is taking place.

STOUT: And you're still not allowed access inside the country.

Also, Arwa, the humanitarian fallout -- what do you know? I mean, there has been indiscriminate killing of civilians, water and food supplies disrupted. Arwa, what is it like to live in Latakia, in Hama, Homs, in other epicenters of unrest inside Syria?

DAMON: Well, based on what we've been hearing from the various activists and residents from those areas is both a combination of an utterly terrifying existence, yet one, when it comes to those individuals who are providing us with eyewitness reports, who are providing us with those YouTube videos, one that has made them even more resilient and determined to bring down this regime, you've got the multiple horror stories that we hear from residents trying to flee, oftentimes under gunfire. People who have stayed behind, suffering a lack of power, of water.

We repeatedly hear stories about lack of medical supplies, people dying from their injuries, quite simply because the doctors are unable to save them due to power shortages, due to supply shortages. And when we speak to these activists and we ask them why they choose to stay behind and risk their lives to document videos, to speak to us on the phone to get the word out, they simply say it's because they don't have a choice. They have come so far, and they are so determined not to allow this regime to stay in power, because of all of the atrocities they say that have been covered out by this government, especially those that have been carried out in the last five months -- Kristie.

STOUT: Arwa Damon, on the story for us, live from Beirut.

Thank you for that update, Arwa.

Now, Yemen is also battling a wave of unrest, with some parts of the country enduring months of nonstop violence. Witnesses say at least 26 people were killed in government clashes there on Tuesday.

In response, Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, addressed the country in this message he recorded from Saudi Arabia. In his speech, Saleh condemned the violence and he pledged to return to Yemen. He also reaffirmed his commitment to holding elections there in a couple of years. Saleh has been in Saudi Arabia since June, recovering from injuries he sustained during an attack on the presidential palace.

Now, the events in Syria and Yemen make up just a fraction of the unrest that's been sweeping the Arab world since the beginning of the year. And as we've been telling you, they are still bearing the brunt of ongoing violence.

Here's a look at some of the other degrees of violence in the region.

These countries here, they're highlighted in orange. Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others are all experiencing some form of protests at this moment, while Libya, here in the center of the map, is in the midst of a full-on civil war. Now, the countries highlighted on either side of it, Tunisia and Egypt, were the first two to boil over, ultimately toppling their governments.

So will Libya eventually meet the same fate?

Now, Sara Sidner is traveling with a group of rebels, and she joins us on the line from the city of Zawiya.

Sara, just how much of Zawiya is in rebel hands, and how long can they hold on to it?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're all very good questions. Here's what we're hearing from Colonel Rawan Saed (ph), who was just coming out of Zawiya. He says that most of Zawiya is in rebel hands, but that there are snipers and there's still quite a bit of shelling coming from the east of the city.

We also were able to talk to some of the residents who were fleeing Zawiya, who were saying that they were hearing things. They couldn't tell if it was the difference between (INAUDIBLE). Well, certainly early this morning, there was quite a bit of shelling this morning, a lot of families leaving, fearing for their lives. And that they're having trouble, for example, getting food and that sort of thing, so they're hoping to get their families out to safety.

But, as the rebels are clearly not in full control of Zawiya at this time, they say they have control of quite a bit of the city, but they are still fighting Gadhafi forces there.

STOUT: OK. Now, the U.S. defense secretary, Leon Panetta, on Tuesday he said that Colonel Gadhafi's days are numbered.

Now, is this six-month-long conflict nearing the end? What are you seeing there on the ground?

SIDNER: Look, the general consensus is -- from the rebels' perspective -- that they are closer than they ever have been to putting this at rest and to removing the Gadhafi regime, but we have to be very honest about what happens here. Because oftentimes, if NATO is not involved in some of these significant battles, then often the rebels cannot hold these towns.

And NATO has been involved in this battle in and around Zawiya. There have been strikes over the past 24 hours that really helped the rebels out. And we also heard from folks that are inside of the town, and we talked to them about whether they think Tripoli will fall anytime soon, because we were hearing from a commander who said that they believe Tripoli will fall by the end of the month.

What we heard from residents was pretty interesting. What they said was, look, there has to be really good coordination with the rebels, they have to come at it from many different sides, or there's just no way they can see that happening.

It is all a game of trying to figure out strategy. And the rebels have had quite a difficult time of once they get into a city, of holding it. But they have certainly pushed forward. They're only now about 30 miles to 35 miles outside of Tripoli from the west, and so you are seeing some significant gains. Whether they can hold on to those and push forward is another matter.

STOUT: OK. Sara Sidner, joining us live on the line from Zawiya.

Thank you very much for giving us that update from the battlefield.

Sara Sidner there.

Coming up next on NEWS STREAM, the News of the World's sign has been removed, but the story, it just runs and runs. Fresh allegations are emerging in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal, and they are potentially explosive.

Barack Obama is in the American heartland, talking about the economy and more, and keeping you posted online. We'll tell you where he's checking in.

And we'll tell you how the detention of a well-known activist in India is sparking mass protests.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now to new developments in Britain's "News of the World" phone-hacking scandal.

A letter suggests the acts may have been far more widespread than first thought, and newly released documents could be bad news for James Murdoch and others.

Dan Rivers has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's already faced the ferocity of a parliamentary grilling by British politicians about phone hacking at his company. New documents released by those politicians now cast doubt on James Murdoch's testimony.

Murdoch has always denied knowledge of a damning e-mail entitled "For Neville," which included transcripts of 35 hacked conversations believed to be intended for the News of the World's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck. The "For Neville" e-mail was disclosed during the settlement of a case brought against News International by Gordon Taylor, the former U.K. soccer chief.

James Murdoch signed a check for almost $1.6 million to settle that case, something he was quizzed about in parliament.

TOM WATSON, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the "For Neville" e-mail, the transcript of the hacked voicemail message?

JAMES MURDOCH, NEWS INTERNATIONAL: No, I was not aware of that at the time.

RIVERS: But now this letter released by parliament contradicts James Murdoch's evidence. In it, News International's former lawyer, Tom Crone, says Murdoch was all too aware of the "For Neville" e-mail. "I have no doubt," the letter reads, "that I informed Mr. Murdoch of its existence, what it was, and where it came from."

Now James Murdoch may have to explain himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's highly likely James Murdoch will be invited back to give evidence. Before that, we want to take a very detailed account of what the former editor, Colin Myler, knew and the former lawyer, Tom Crone, knew.

RIVERS: And this second letter may show more evidence of a cover-up. It was sent by former royal correspondent Clive Goodman in 2007 to News International's human resources department after Goodman left jail for phone-hacking the royal family. Two copies were sent to parliament. The version from News International is missing key details, revealed when News International's own lawyers sent a fuller version of the same letter to the committee.

In the blacked-out paragraphs, Goodman says phone-hacking was widely discussed in the "News of the World" daily editorial conference until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor. That's devastating for the then-editor, Andy Coulson, who told politicians in 2009 --

ANDY COULSON, FMR. EDITOR, "NEWS OF THE WORLD": I never condoned the use of phone-hacking, and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where phone-hacking took place.

RIVERS: It's also a further blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, who later employed Coulson as communications director, a post Coulson resigned this year.

The full Goodman letter also includes claims the disgraced reporter won promises from the company as he faced jail time. Goodman says he was promised "I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and expect the paper to honor its promises to me."

For lawyers representing phone-hacking victims, that letter may be crucial.

MARK LEWIS, LAWYER FOR HACKING VICTIMS: He pleaded guilty to something on the basis that he didn't implicate others at the "News of the World," and it was payback time for him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now, the more revelations that emerge, the more precarious James Murdoch's position may be. He has not commented, nor has anyone else implicated by these letters. But News International's latest statement says it "recognizes the seriousness of the materials disclosed."

So what happens next?

Dan Rivers joins me now live in London.

And Dan, will James Murdoch be called again to testify? And if so, when?

RIVERS: Well, I think it's almost certain that he will be called to come and give evidence again. The committee has to get together and go through the formal procedure of taking a vote on that, but it seems inconceivable that they wouldn't ask for him to come back. Whether he actually does turn up, or whether he persuades them that he can just give them sort of written evidence, we'll have to see.

They were talking perhaps about him coming back in October, after they have talked to the former editor of the "News of the World," Colin Myler, and Tom Crone, the former legal executive for News International. They want to get them back as well, first to clarify the things that they have said.

Don't forget that Tom Crone and Colin Myler are now directly contradicting what James Murdoch had previously told this committee, that he was unaware of this so-called "For Neville" e-mail which detailed 35 hacked conversations in it, that he was unaware of that when he signed a check for $1.6 million to settle a case with Gordon Taylor.

So I think it is highly likely that he will be asked to come back. Whether he physically turns up or whether he can persuade them that it's good enough for him to submit written evidence, well, we'll have to wait and see.

STOUT: Now, Andy Coulson is also facing these embarrassing new allegations of a cover-up, and that leads back to the British prime minister, who hired Coulson as a communications chief.

So, Dan, what is the political fallout for David Cameron?

RIVERS: Well, David Cameron has been speaking about this again today. In the last few minutes, he said, "Clearly, if I had known all the things I know now, obviously I would have taken a different decision" in relation to the hiring of Andy Coulson.

This is acutely embarrassing for the prime minister, David Cameron. It is a nightmare that will just not go away, constant headlines about Andy Coulson, and a picture now being built up from those latest documents, if they are to be believed.

And this must be caveated that that letter from Clive Goodman is from a man who had just been put in prison for phone hacking. So you have to kind of weigh that up when you're thinking about what he said. But basically he was saying phone hacking wasn't just going on, it was being discussed in the morning meetings at the "News of the World" until Andy Coulson himself said they should stop referring to it. That is completely at odds with what Andy Coulson has said, that he didn't know anything about it and didn't realize it was going on.

It further undermines his case. And in turn, that further puts pressure on David Cameron as to why on earth he decided to hire Andy Coulson in the first place.

STOUT: And from political impact to corporate impact -- and Dan, back to News Corp. itself, what further damage have these disclosures done to the image of News Corp. and also James Murdoch's future at the company?

RIVERS: Well, it's painting a pretty bleak picture of James Murdoch, if these documents are to be believed, as someone who has basically misled this parliamentary committee in his evidence. I mean, he was already in this kind of strange situation where had signed a check for $1.6 million, saying he basically didn't know the reasons why they were settling such a huge amount of money with Gordon Taylor.

Now these documents seem to suggest, in fact, he knew full well why they were paying so much, because part of the evidence the lawyers had gathered was damning for News International, and they wanted to settle this huge amount of money in order to try and effectively bury this legally so that this didn't come out. It paints a picture of a cover-up, frankly.

That is something that James Murdoch has denied all along. It's something News International is denying. But it doesn't look good for them.

STOUT: Dan Rivers, joining us live from London.

Thank you, Dan.

Now, there are a lot of individuals caught up in this scandal, so let's remind you once more of the key players.

At the top of the pile is, of course, Rupert Murdoch. And below him, his son, James Murdoch, who heads News International. And the letter that came to light on Tuesday may prove damaging to him and other senior executives.

Now, this is the man who wrote that letter, Clive Goodman. The News of the World's former royal correspondent alleged that other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures. Now, he was sent to prison in 2007.

And the day that he was jailed, this man, Andy Coulson, he resigned from his post as editor of the tabloid, a position that he had held since 2003. Now, Coulson went on to work as Prime Minister David Cameron's press secretary, and he denies knowledge of any phone hacking.

And this was the headline on "The Daily Telegraph" on July 20th of this year: "Murdoch Eats Humble Pie." But this story still has legs, and if Goodman's allegations are true, the possibility of even more humble pie.

Now, coming up, Arsenal took to the field for the first time since Cesc Fabregas' move to Barcelona. We look back on their Champions League qualifier.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And these are your world headlines.

Now Britain's phone hacking scandal, there are new questions about whether News Corp executives covered up illegal practices. A letter from a former News of the World journalist says eavesdropping on private phone messages was widely discussed in the news room.

Syria's state run news agency says security forces are now pulling out of the northwestern city of Latakia after arresting an unspecified number of gunmen on Tuesday. Latakia has been at the center of violent crackdowns for days. And residents say at least five more people were killed there on Tuesday. Venezuela and Iran are the latest countries to condemn the Syrian violence.

In Libya, NATO says rebels have made significant advances in Misrata and El Brega. Spokesperson says anti-Gadhafi forces are taking control of key sites on the way to Tripoli, but the rebels also acknowledge strong resistance. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she feels Moammar Gadhafi's days are numbered.

And Standard &Poors, the company that removed its AAA rating on U.S. bonds is now turning bearish on Google. It is lower its recommendation on the web giants stock from buy to sell after Google agreed to buy Motorola mobility. S&P says it sees greater risk to the company following that purchase.

Now in Afghanistan, there are fresh concerns about the security forces on the other side of the U.S. hand off. A U.S. audit reveals problems with the way Afghan police are being trained by Americans. David Ariosto has this look at the struggles on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPOONDENT: So we're driving through the streets of Kabul here on a police convoy and what is called the Ring of Seal (ph). These are municipal police forces that patrol in and around these streets. And you can tell they're very heavily armed.

And it's individuals like these that are going to be taking increasing responsibility for the security of their country.

Key to America's strategy, these forces are part of the transition process orchestrated by NATO.

BRIG. GEN. CARSTEN JACOBSEN, ISAF SPOKESMAN: We're doing that by building the Afghan security forces up as quickly and as strongly as we can.

ARIOSTO: And yet despite scathing reviews that spotlight Afghan corruption, and at times incompetence, a new U.S. audit report suggests the U.S. government may share some of the blame for delays in their training. The report points to a plan to switch control of police training from the State Department to Defense, a project they say, is rife with poor coordination and a lack of oversight.

It also says the U.S. contractor involved in the process failed to have 428 of the 728 required personnel in place within the 120 day transition period. That shortage has, quote, placed the overall mission at risk. And time is running out.

ASHRAF GHANI, HEAD, AFGHAN TRANSITION COMMISSION (through translator): Importance of Afghanistan after three years we think within these three years we are the focus of global attention. And we need to make use of this unique opportunity.

ARIOSTO: But out on the streets, some police say they're lacking needed resources.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One of the problems is that many of our ammunition pouches are old and broken.

ARIOSTO: Others say what these forces really need is more training.

Still, as America invests heavily in the region, the new report comes under growing scrutiny over how U.S. taxpayer dollars are spent and how ready this country will be once NATO soldiers leave to return home.

David Ariosto, CNN, Kabul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: In just over three weeks from now, the United States will mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And CNN's Wolf Blitzer say down with President Barack Obama to find out what that means for national security.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I've covered the Middle East for a long time, covered terrorism for a long time. And I have to tell you, I'm worried that on the 10th anniversary, approaching the 10th anniversary of 9/11 al Qaeda, or what's left of al Qaeda or their supporters will try to do something to seek revenge for your killing of bin Laden. How worried should we be about that? How worried are you about that?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, we are vigilant and constantly monitoring potential risks of terrorist attacks. And I think that the men and women in our intelligence agencies as well as the FBI have done a terrific job. And Department of Homeland Security.

But the risk is always there. And obviously on the seminal event like the 10th anniversary of 9/11 that makes us more concerned, that means we've got heightened awareness.

The biggest concern we have right now is not the launching of a major terrorist operation, although that risk is always there, the risk that we're especially concerned of right now is the lone wolf terrorist, somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out widescale massacres of the sort that we saw in Norway recently.

You know, when you've got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage. And it's a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.

So we're spending a lot of time monitoring and gathering information. I think that we generally have to stay vigilant. There may be a little extra vigilance during 9/11.

On the other hand, keep in mind the extraordinary progress we've made over the last couple of years in degrading al Qaeda's capabilities. They are a much weaker organization with much less capability than they had just two or three years ago.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying is we don't have to worry about a spectacular 9/11 kind of event more like a lone wolf could do some damage, kill a lot of people, but not a nuclear, radiological, or anything like that?

OBAMA: Look, as president of the United States I worry about all of it, but I think the most likely scenario we have to guard against right now ends up being more of a lone wolf operation than a large well coordinated terrorist attack. We still have to stay on top of it, though. And we're never letting our guard down, that's part of our job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now Mr. Obama also talked about the U.S. economy. The White House plans to release a new jobs program in September. And Wolf Blitzer asked him what's taking so long to get employment numbers back on track.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The truth is everything we've done has been related to jobs starting back with the Recovery Act. And that's the reason why we've seen over 2 million jobs created over the last 17 months in the private sector. But what's happened is that number one, you've seen a lot of layoffs at state and local government. And that has been an impediment to the kind of robust job growth that we'd like to see.

And there have been some headwinds over the last six months -- Japan tsunami, the European debt crisis, what happens in terms of the Arab Spring that raised gas prices for consumers.

BLITZER: So give us a preview what you're going to do in September.

OBAMA: Well, look, there are some things that we've been talking about on this trip that we could do right away that are already pending before congress. We know that we did in December by cutting the payroll tax so that the average family gets an extra $1,000 in their pocket makes a huge difference not only for their purchasing power, but also businesses having more customers and being able to hire.

We've continued to renew tax breaks for businesses that are willing to move up investments that they're planning into 2011. And we'd like to renew some of those for 2012. Trade deals with Korea and Panama and Colombia we know can create tens of thousands of jobs here in the United States.

So there are a number of things pending before congress. And what I've been saying to crowds all across the country and it's been getting a good reception is what they want to see is Democrats and Republicans putting country before party and going ahead and taking action in order to move the economy forward as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: But you've got something much more ambitious in line for September. There's been reports you want to create a new department of jobs, something along those lines. Is that true?

OBAMA: That is not true. But what is true is that I think we missed an opportunity a month ago when we could have dealt with our debt and deficit in a serious, balanced way, that would have avoided these huge gyrations in the financial markets, given businesses a lot of confidence that Washington had its fiscal house in order, and included in that, because of the savings that we'd be getting over the next 10, 20 years, more efforts on the front end to spur job creation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: And you can read more about Wolf Blitzer's interview with the U.S. president and watch it yourself in streaming video on our web site. Just go to CNN.com.

Now the U.S. president is on foursquare, well, the White House is. The social networking site allows users to check in and share their location with others. Now you can follow the White House, following where Barack Obama is, what he's up to, even interact with the administration. And the first 24 hours, the page is already attract almost 20,000 followers.

Now two big engines of the Eurozone have agreed to streamline their economic policies. French and German leaders Nicolas Sarcozy and Angela Merkel wrapped up talks in Paris. Now they will push for mandatory balanced budgets across the continent, but they rejected the idea, for now at least, of creating a common European bond, which would be stronger than individual countries sovereign bonds.

And we will have full coverage of the talks, the fallout, and the shaky market response in the next hour. Nina Dos Santos will bring us live coverage from Paris on World Business Today.

And in India, a frail 72 year old man takes on the government demanding stronger measures against corruption. And find out how the activist arrest has provoked thousands of ordinary Indians to protest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now across India thousands are protesting in the streets in support of Anna Hazare. The activist and several followers were jailed on Tuesday because they would not agree to certain restrictions to a public protest they've been planning. Now they were set free within hours, but say they won't leave the prison office until the conditions are lifted. India's prime minister says that Hazare's anti-corruption efforts are totally misconceived.

Now CNN producer Harmeet Singh is in New Delhi where solidarity protests for Hazzari are going on. He joins us now live. And Harmeet, there are more protests today not only there, but across India. What's the latest?

HARMEET SINGH, CNN PRODUCER: Kristie, as you mentioned there is a ground swell of both from Mr. Hazare and the cause he's fighting for.

The whole day passed in demonstration -- sit-ins, marches. And as the deadlock continued between Mr. Hazare and police over conditions for a hunger strike that he planned to hold at a place of his choice in New Delhi.

Thousands of demonstrators, in fact, backed Mr. Hazare's fall (ph), that he be allowed to hold protests unconditionally and that the government bring in a bill (ph) of his choice and not the choice -- not of his own in Parliament, which is of consideration -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now the cause is obviously gaining momentum. So why has it become such a politically explosive event?

SINGH: Perhaps, yes. This is a -- there have been a lot of politics involved in this issue and other issues facing India today and the Indian government in particular. And India's ruling Congress party which ruled this nation for most of the period post independence in -- since 1947 is under attack from different corners. It's not just activists but the opposition congress party -- the opposition parties also, which are targeting the ruling Congress party.

And the prime minister, in fact, tried to justify the arrest in Parliament. This is what he had to say to lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANMOHAN SINGH, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: I acknowledge that (inaudible). We be inspired by higher ideals in this country to set up the strong and...

(CROSSTALK)

SINGH: The path (inaudible) chosen to enforce his draft of a bill upon Parliament is totally misconceived...

(CROSSTALK)

M. SINGH: ...democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SINGH: Kristie we heard the prime minister saying that he in fact was reiterating that in a democracy legislation was supreme. And it's the legislature which is the ultimate accord to decide and debate laws.

And nonetheless, the protesters, thousands of protesters out on the streets of New Delhi and elsewhere in India continued with the demonstrations in support of Mr. Hazare -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now we heard it just then from the prime minister himself calling Hazare's protest, quote, "totally misconceived." Now Hazare is staging a hunger strike which channels the tactics of Mahatma Gandhi. Now there in India, how effective is a hunger strike as a political statement?

SINGH: Kristie, this is quite a rare moment in the history of independent India when hunger strikes had become a powerful method of protests. When mahatma Gandhi used these methods, he was using them against foreign rule. But now we've seen this same technique is drawing thousands and thousands of people in support, which perhaps is quite stunning -- Kristie.

STOUT: Harmeet Singh live for us from New Delhi, thank you very much indeed for that.

Now Indians are tweeting their support for Anna Hazare's anti- corruption campaign and their anger at the government reaction.

Now Shafi Sexena writes this, "Indian protesters chanting I am Anna. You are Anna. Today we are all Anna."

And activist Kiran Bedi was jailed with Hazare this week. And after her release, she tweeted this. "Now Delhi police must remain professionally neutral and allow exercise of peaceful protest." And she goes on to write, "that this is a matter between the people and the government."

Now many are furious that hundreds of Hazare supporters were arrested. And Guarav Sawant writes this, "did Anna Hazare protest at jantar mantar disrupt public order, anti-social elements? Was it a terror threat?" And he adds, "deal with political issues politically."

Now police meanwhile in the UK say that they've now charged more than 1,300 people in connection with the recent riots. Now violence broke out for four straight days, video taken by onlookers is still trickling out online. In fact, these pictures were uploaded to YouTube. And the person who put them up there says that they're from Croydon South London.

Now a man is riding his motorcycle and a group of men run up behind him. One of them is throwing his arm around the man's neck, knocking him off. That man runs off. And then another uses the riders backpack to drag him off as another man jumps on the bike and rides off.

Now you might expect a Facebook event invite to be a party or a night out, but not this one. Two gang members who use Facebook to urge people to riot in the North of England are now behind bars. And the length of their sentence is causing quite a stir.

Now the two men, they're both in their early 20s. They've been locked up for 4 years. To some, it's too much. To others, it is rightly harsh. Irony those (ph) nobody turned up after police posted their own warnings.

Let's some more on the sentences that are being dished out by UK judges right now. Atika Schubert joins us from CNN London.

And again Atika, neither of those Facebook posts resulted in any rioting. So why were these two young men given four years prison time?

ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the judge basically said he handed down this particularly harsh sentence because he wanted it to be a deterrent for the kinds of scenes that you just saw in Croydon. I mean, we were talking about mass looting, riot -- rampant rioting across several towns here in Britain. And there has been a public demand to see these kind of tough punishments to ensure that people who were participating in this violence knows there are consequences to their actions. So this is one of the reasons the judge said for that four year prison sentence.

But keep in mind, again, as you pointed out, both of these -- both of these men from Cheshire basically invited people to a riot, or to a smashdown as one of them put it in their areas, but nobody showed up. The only ones who showed up were actually the police. So they were charged with inciting a riot, and that's what they were found guilty of, but in fact a riot never happened.

And so this is what a lot of critics are saying, is it just that they get four years in prison for a riot that never happened?

STOUT: Now close to 3,000 people have been arrested across the UK in connection with the riots. Atika, will we see more harsh sentences ahead? And can the British prison cope with it all?

SCHUBERT: Well, we're bond to continue to see these tough sentences. Remember, the courts are working overtime to churn out these -- and process these cases. Now we are talking about a huge range of crimes from murder in some cases to petty theft in others.

For example, one man faces a possible jail sentence for stealing two scoops of coffee flavored ice cream. Somebody else faces a possible jail sentence for stealing a bottle of water, or even chewing gum.

So there's an incredible diversity of the kinds of crimes that the courts are looking at. And finding a fit punishment for these various crimes is their challenge. Their other big challenge is to make sure that this doesn't happen again. And so there is that deterrent factor there.

Now your second question, whether or not the jails and the prisons can cope with that. What we'll have to see. We do know that when these arrests were initially made out, the jails in London were so full that they actually had to sort of export a lot of these offenders to other prisons in other cities. We'll have to see what happens as these court cases get underway.

STOUT: Yeah, these harsh sentences obviously meant to send a message. And we'll see if the prisons can cope.

Now in addition to these harsh sentences, Atika, is the British government looking at ways to prevent the use of social media for violence? For example, stopping or interrupting communication via Twitter or on Facebook when there is periods of unrest?

SCHUBERT: There's a big debate about this. And Prime Minister Cameron last week in his speech to Parliament talked about policing, effectively, social media. Whether it be Twitter or BlackBerry Messenger. And in fact, BlackBerry Messenger seems to be the main method of communication between various groups that were involved in this rioting and looting. So that's an ongoing debate.

But as you can imagine, it sparked a lot of controversy. There is a very public backlash against clamping down on Twitter and other social media.

And remember, even though some of the rioters used social media, much of the public also used social media to out looters online. For example, if they saw somebody who was posing with the merchandise they stole, they would basically notify the police with the hashtag, #tweetalooter. So the police have been using social media as well to apprehend offenders. So it does work both ways.

STOUT: Atika Schubert, joining us live from London. Thank you very much indeed.

Now coming up next, it wasn't such a pleasant day out in the summer for many visiting a water park in Florida as lightning struck. More on that and update on the weather across the globe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now a key question that may concern climate change. Is Arctic ice disappearing before our eyes? Now it is the lowest summer time levels ever.

Mari Ramos has been looking at the numbers. She joins us now live from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. Yeah, you know scientists have always said that when we see climate change, areas such as the polls, the North Pole and the South Pole will be some of the first ones to actually see the most dramatic changes. And that's precisely what we're looking at right now.

Here we are in July, the lowest levels of sea ice usually don't happen until September. But so far these have been some of the lowest average numbers that we -- the scientists have seen in a really long time.

Let's show you this picture. It's a little bit different. So let me go ahead and show you and explain what we're looking at. This is back from July 31, 1981. Every picture I'm going to show is from July 31. We're going back all the way to 1981 right now.

This right here is Alaska. There's the Bering Strait. This over here is Russia. So we're looking at the Earth from the top of the world, OK? Over here is Canada. And this right here is Greenland.

This area that you see here in pink is the area covered in ice. I want you to notice some of the details here, particularly the thickness of the ice. These darker colors right over here indicate very thick ice. And notice how it reaches all the way over into all of these bays right in here and into northern parts of Canada.

So that's what you would expect to see during the month of July. Well, let's go ahead and move forward in time all the way now into 1991, 10 years later. It's still the same time of the year. And notice, there's still a lot of that pink and darker colors, but we begin to see lighter colors as we move into some of these bays right over here.

As we keep moving forward in time and we get to this year, 2011, it is a record minimum sea ice. And one of the most important things is that the ice that is here is very thin. It's first year ice. We like to see multi- year ice, thick ice, that takes a long time to melt. And that is something that we're not seeing.

And notice, back over here, along the coast of Alaska and then back over into many of these bays, we're starting to see almost nearly ice free areas. Also back over here as we head into northern portions of Russia.

So this is very significant. And they're saying in 40 years there could be even less ice.

Well, what about your forecast? What's in store for you? Let's go ahead and check out your city by city forecast.

Kristie, this is a park in Central Florida, Sea World. People out and about, enjoying the weather and all of a sudden lightning getting a little too close. Let's go ahead and listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told us to clear the pool -- clear the pool. So we came out the pool and we were all sheltering underneath. And then there was a huge crack.

I've never been scared by lightning until today, because it right in front of us. It was really, really scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel really lucky that I didn't get hit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAMOS: Yeah, pretty scary stuff. You know what, if you're close enough to hear the thunder or see the lightning, Kristie, you're close enough to get hit by lightning. Take shelter immediately. Don't wait for warnings. And fortunately, the eight people that were injured here, none were seriously hurt.

Back to you.

STOUT: Oh, very good news indeed. And I'm assuming that none of the animals were hurt either. Mari Ramos there. Thank you and take care.

And that is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.

END