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Inside Europe's Debt Deal; Thailand Flood Crisis; Gruesome Discovery in Libya; Kenyan Military Chases al Shabaab Back Into Somalia; Google Releases World Government Transparency Report

Aired October 27, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


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

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

And we begin in Brussels, where this man, the Greek prime minister, breathes a big sigh of relief on Wednesday. After nearly 11 hours of talks, a deal on tackling EU debt was done.

Helpless in the face of rising floodwaters. Thai authorities say all areas of the capital will be flooded Thursday.

And as Kenya fights armed gangs, it says they're launching raids across the Somali border. Now it seems al-Shabaab wants to talk.

Clearing the hurdles. European leaders have achieved what many were calling the unachievable. After meeting well into the early hours on Thursday morning, representatives from all 27 EU member countries finally reached an agreement on handling Europe's debt crisis.

Now, here are some of the details, starting with Greece.

One of the toughest hurdles was striking a compromise with private investors, but they finally agreed to take a 50 percent loss on Greek bonds. Now, that translates into roughly 100 billion euros and will help significantly reduce Greece's debt load.


HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: We want to put Greece on track where, in 2020, it will have reduced its public debt to 120 percent of GDP. Since July, market conditions worsened. The new program includes an extra effort by the official sector, a new EU/IMF program of up to $100 billion will be put in place by the end of the year. It also includes a voluntary contribution by private creditors who had lent to Greece.


STOUT: The European Financial Stability Facility is also getting a boost, and this bailout fund, it's being expanded from its initial rescue power of 440 billion euros, to one trillion euros, or about $1.4 trillion. Now, that will provide an extra buffer if Italy and Spain need emergency aid, but European banks may be feeling the pressure.

And under the new deal, they must increase their core capital reserves to nine percent. Now, that is to protect against potential losses from future write-downs or defaults.


JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: Let me emphasize that our goal is to ensure banks maintain lending to the real economy. The national supervisor of authorities must work to make this happen; namely, with the EBA. And tonight's conclusions also make clear that -- I quote -- "Banks should be subject to constraints regarding dissolution of dividends and bond (ph) payments until recapitalization is complete," because increased responsibility and a fair contribution of the financial sector is also central to our approach.


STOUT: And as the European Union's two anchor economies, France and Germany, each played a high-profile role in leading the negotiations to this point.

And we have Jim Bittermann in Paris and Fred Pleitgen in Berlin with a look at how Europeans are taking in the news.

Let's start in Berlin.



And at this early stage in the game, the Germans are very satisfied with the compromise that was reached at the euro summit in Brussels. However, also, it still is far too early to tell what actual effect all of this is going to have, what effect it's going to have on interest rates for loans for people, but also what effect it could potentially have for economic growth here in Germany. And that's one of the main things that the Germans are very worried about. It's inflation and how all of this could affect economic growth.

They're worried about their taxpayer dollars. What's happened within the crisis that's going on right now is that the Germans have already had to slash their growth forecast for this year and for the coming year several times.

When I talk to companies here in this country, they say they're slightly worried about the future, but also, they say that right now, they feel that the economy and their businesses are still fairly robust.




The French have long loved to hate their banks. So the fact that bankers here will have to write off Greek debt and come up with more capital won't displease anyone. But there's deep skepticism here that the banks will somehow find ways to pass along their new financial burdens on to their customers with higher fees or interest rates.

President Sarkozy will appear on the two main television channels tonight to talk about the resolution of the financial crisis. He's almost certain to reassure the citizenry, especially since he's up for reelection next year, that they will not be paying for this. However, one part of the accord consumers will soon be paying for, little noticed in the agreement, are measures to make governments more financially responsible in the future. And the French government is already talking about measures including a new level of value-added tax to reduce its government spending.


STOUT: Now, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman says that Chinese President Hu Jintao and French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke by telephone on Thursday. She said the two discussed the global economy, as well as next week's Group of 20 summit in France. Mr. Sarkozy has publicly expressed that his hope, that China will contribute to a fund that European leaders are setting up.

And Jiang Yu speaks for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.


JIANG YU, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): The Chinese side welcomes the EU summit consensus on the European crisis. We hope it will be conducive to lifting market (INAUDIBLE), promoting the sustainable economic development of the EU and eurozone, and injecting vitality into the European integration. China is ready to work with the international community to promote the stability in the international financial market, and world economic recovery and growth.


STOUT: This deal has broader global implications to varying degrees.

Our Andrew Stevens, here in Hong Kong, has been following this story, watching the early reaction.

But first, your thoughts on this deal?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, I think the important thing here is that there is a deal.

If you go back to the last weeks, months, years, even, we've been in constant crisis mode. We do now have a deal which has been signed to by all the EU members.

This is important, Kristie. Is it the deal that draws the big, thick black line under the whole euro crisis? Probably not. Research suggests that a lot of people in the financial industry are saying this is a good step forward.

What's so crucial here is that Greece, which we've been reporting for so long now about the likelihood of a default, not paying its debts, that default scenario now looks like at least it's been pushed right into the background, because it's got $100 billion in debt relief. This is a good thing.

The ESFS -- this is the bailout fund -- it looks like it's going to be lifted, as you were saying, to a trillion euros. That's about $1.4 trillion. This is also a very strong message to the markets that Europe is prepared to put their money where their mouth is. But -- and there's a big "but" on this one -- is, where's the money going to come from?

The details, we don't know yet. So how the mechanism of this crisis finally works, we don't know, but certainly it's a big step in the right direction.

STOUT: You call it a strong message to the markets. How are the markets reacting?


STOUT: We have to talk about China next. And the head of the European bailout fund is heading to Beijing on Friday, presumably with cup in hand.

What is China's role? Will China ride to the rescue?

STEVENS: Good question. I don't know about going with cup in hand.

What he wants to see is that ESFS I was telling you about, the bailout fund. Now, the Europeans would like this to be more of an international effort. And what would probably happen is the International Monetary Fund would get involved. So that would take in more money from countries like India and China, specifically.

What would be the quid pro quo here? What will China get out of this or India? Probably more voting rights in the IMF. This is all speculation at the moment.

And China is not going to be throwing money in willy-nilly, no doubt. As China has always done, it will drive a hard bargain on this if it needs to.

The other thing too, though, is it's in China's interest to see Europe growing again. I mean, it's such a huge export money. So China is not going to cut its nose off to spite its face.

Which brings me just to the final point, Kristie. OK. Crisis over, but the longer issue now is, how does Europe return to growth?

And this is being masked -- this whole growth story is being masked by the fact we've had a crisis. We've now got underlying growth issues. How does Europe kick-start itself? A lot of people talking about lower interest rates from the European Central Bank fairly soon.

STOUT: Europe is China's largest trading partner, isn't it?

STEVENS: Of course, yes.

STOUT: Andrew Stevens, thank you very much indeed.

Andrew Stevens there.

Now, the pressure that had been building in the run-up to this deal, it appears to have gotten the better of some Italian lawmakers. Check it out.

This was the scene in Italy's lower house of parliament on Wednesday. Lawmakers had been debating pension reform when a brawl broke out, reportedly over televised comments by the house speaker about a party leader's wife. After the brawl, parliament was briefly suspended.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, higher and higher. The floodwaters just keep on rising. Can residents in Bangkok get out of their way in time?

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're very disappointed that the NTC still hasn't sent anybody down to Sirte to investigate. And their failure to investigate risks invoking the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. This is a war crime.


STOUT: -- gruesome discoveries in a Libyan city that became a battlefield. What really happened in Sirte as revolutionary fighters ousted Gadhafi loyalists?

And going after the Taliban on Twitter.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, it is a slow-moving crisis that is entering a critical new stage. Residents of the sprawling city of Bangkok are being urged to flee as floodwaters inundate houses, businesses and roads. And these new aerials show the extent of the flooding, which is mostly in the north of the city right now. And a huge runoff of water is expected to reach the Thai capital this weekend, at the same time as seasonal high tides.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra now says that all of Bangkok will be flooded by 10 centimeters and one meter of water. And although most of downtown Bangkok is still dry, there is now water on the grounds of the Grand Palace.

And CNN's Sarah Sidner joins us live from Bangkok.

And Sara, first, could you describe the scene around you there?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, yes, we're standing out in front of the Grand Palace, one of the most beautiful and adored landmarks here in the city. And what we're seeing are a couple of streets that are starting to get flooded here.

We are now seeing that water come in to the inner parts of Bangkok, a great concern for the citizens and great concern for Bangkok officials. The governor saying today, look, we can no longer stop this deluge of water from coming into many parts of the city.

Now, earlier today, we were able to get an aerial view. We went up in a helicopter with the U.S. Navy and Marines, who have been doing daily missions to try and ascertain exactly what is happening with the water, where it's going, how quickly it is moving. And again, what we're seeing is this odd scenario where, you're not seeing necessarily water rushing in, you're seeing waters creeping in.

But we've seen roads that are being swallowed by water. We are seeing the airport from now, an aerial view. And this is the domestic airport, not the international airport. The international airport, still running. The domestic airport, though, closed. And we're seeing more water ending up on the runways there.

We also flew over an area that would normally be dry, and what you're seeing is water, just kilometers and kilometers of water going there.

You're also seeing factories inundated or surrounded by water. We're talking about factories like Toshiba, for example. We're talking about factories like Toyota. And they are having difficulties now distributing things.

So, making business areas very, very difficult. Thousands of factories either flooded or surrounded by water.

And, of course, the residents. The residents having to deal with this. Their houses flooded, their belongings ruined, their lives turned upside down.

More than 300 people have lost their lives so far. We're talking about more than nine million people affected. And more people will be affected because we are waiting for the high tide, which is expected 5:00 (ph) Bangkok time, and then another push on a Friday afternoon.

So, there is concern, of course, in this city. And we are starting to see some of the water. You heard from the prime minister today, saying that 10 centimeters, somewhere around four inches, to up to a meter will be coming in to almost all of this city. And we are waiting to see exactly how high the waters will go -- Kristie.

STOUT: You know, Sara, what you're telling us is very, very alarming. And the scene behind you is absolutely amazing. It looks like there is a lake between you and the Grand Palace, and yet, just a moment ago, a bus just went through the water right behind you.

So, to what extent is Bangkok in crisis mode? To what extent is the city thinking, we're going to get through this and everything's going to be OK?

SIDNER: Yes, I think it's one of those things that no one can actually predict. Where is it going to get really high floodwaters, and where is it just going to be like it is here? Which is about a little less than a foot, and so cars can still make their way, or buses can still make their way through this area.

One thing we do know is that there is international help coming in. And I want to share with you what the U.S. says that it's now doing for Bangkok.


KRISTIE KENNEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THAILAND: Water pumps, water purifiers like this, all of that sort of thing. We have two helicopters that are flying survey missions, telling people where the floodwaters are and aren't with the Thai military. We have the U.S. Marines, a humanitarian assistance team on the ground.


SIDNER: So we are seeing that, and we went with them today and we saw a lot of the help that's being provided from outside and also from inside of the country. But again, the command center where the airport is, where they've put people, they've had to sort of evacuate some of those people because the water is starting to come in. And this is really a wait and watch situation, but we are starting to see water get further and further into the city -- Kristie.

STOUT: Sara Sidner, joining us live from Bangkok.

Many thanks indeed for that.


STOUT: And coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, lingering questions about apparent atrocities committed in Libya in the aftermath of civil war.

Stay with us.


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

Now, Human Rights Watch wants to know what happened to dozens of men whose bodies have been found in and around the Libyan city of Sirte. That's where Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed last week.

And Dan Rivers reports the city may have witnessed a bloodbath. And we warn you, some of the images you're about to see are disturbing.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the dust settles on the Libyan conflict, there are increasing questions about the atrocities that appear to have been perpetrated by militia loyal to the transitional government. These are just some of the bodies found around Moammar Gadhafi's convoy. Some were killed in a battle as the former dictator tried to flee, but some appear to have been executed as prisoners, contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

(on camera): Plenty of evidence around here of other bodies here, some of which Human Rights Watch claim were also executed. They say there are 95 bodies in this area, and at least 10 of them have been shot at point-blank range.

(voice-over): We witnessed this during the battle for Sirte, piles of bodies with their hands bound behind their backs, shot through the head, with no clear sense of who they were or who shot them. The bodies lay here for days without any revolutionary forces attempting to bury them.

But now Human Right Watch investigator Peter Bouckaert says he's found clear evidence some of the victims were Gadhafi officials, and he is concerned they may have been executed by revolutionary forces. This is the aftermath of a massacre at the Mahari Hotel in Sirte, 53 bodies with evidence on the walls that this hotel was occupied by revolutionary brigades before the people were killed.

PETER BOUCKAERT, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: We're very disappointed that the NTC still hasn't sent anybody down to Sirte to investigate, and their failure to investigate risks invoking the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. This is a war crime.

RIVERS: The transitional government has promised to bring those responsible to justice.

AHMED BANI, NTC MILITARY SPOKESMAN (through translator): I assure you that we will not turn a blind eye or forgive any crime that might have been committed during this conflict.

RIVERS: But the true scale of the killing in Sirte is only now becoming clear. Some 300 bodies have been found so far, with no one from the transitional government attempting to gather evidence before the bodies are removed.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Tripoli.


STOUT: Now, Twitter is the newest battleground for coalition forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Our Errol Barnett reports on who may be winning the online war of words.


ERROL BARNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bullets, bombs and tweets. U.S. forces in Afghanistan, fearing they were losing the information war to the Taliban, are now fighting back with Twitter, using the Web site's short, 140-character messages to get out their side of the story.

Here's a recent example of what the coalition forces call Taliban propaganda. A tweet from a Taliban spokesman who uses the Twitter name ABalkhi reads, "Mujahideen bring down U.S. helicopter in Kunar." Well, coalition forces fired back with their ISAF media Twitter account, "We have no reports of any missing helicopters. Take any Taliban reports with a block of salt." And later, this one, "Reports of a shoot-down are false."

The online war of words really started last month, with the Taliban attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Seven Afghan police officers and civilians were killed, along with six insurgents. But even before the 20-hour gun battle was over, the tweets were flying.

ISAF media sending this: "The outcome is inevitable. The question is, how much longer will terrorists put innocent Afghans in harm's way?"

ABalkhi fired back in tech speak, "I don't know. You have been putting them in harm's way for the past 10 years, razed whole villages and markets, and still have the nerve to talk about harm's way."

ISAF media then responded, "Really? UNAMA reported 80 percent of civilian casualties are caused by insurgent (as in your) activities."

With 14,000 followers on its Twitter account, ISAF media may have the advantage here over Taliban spokesman ABalkhi, who has just 1,700 followers. But a coalition spokesman acknowledges that this war of words is far from over.

For CNN, I'm Errol Barnett.


STOUT: Now, ahead on NEWS STREAM, the world's population clock is ticking closer and closer to the seven billion mark.

Plus, the fight against terrorism in Africa takes a new twist between two tense numbers. We'll have a live report from Kenya.

And what governments are asking Google to keep you from finding.


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

Now European Union leaders have announced a deal to tackle the EuroZone's debt crisis. And the plan has three main elements. Private banks have agreed to write down the value of their holdings of Greek debt by 50 percent, European banks will boost their core capital reserves, and the EU will leverage its bailout fund to give it an effective strength of $1.4 trillion.

Now people in Bangkok are being urged to flee as the flood stricken Thai capital braces for its highest water levels yet. Thailand's prime minister says all districts of Bangkok will be flooded with some areas seeing water as high as one meter. Now the floods in Thailand have killed 373 people and affected more than 9.5 million.

Now the death toll from Sunday's massive earthquake in eastern Turkey has now risen to 534, that's according to Turkish officials. There were reports of another earthquake earlier on Thursday near the border with Iraq, but there are no reports of any casualties from that 5.2 magnitude tremor.

Now one of the largest populations on the planet is celebrating Diwali this week, the festival of lights. Like these people visiting the market in the Indian city Amedabot (ph) had the celebrations.

Now the population of India, it stands at 1.21 billion right now. And by the year 2030 it is projected that India will become the world's most populous nation. And by next week, according to the UN, the global population will reach 7 billion.

No one really knows for sure, but the Population Reference Bureau says that nearly 108 billion people have been born throughout history. That means about 6 percent of all the people who were ever born are alive today.

And all this week, News Stream is examining the issues raised by world population growth. And my guest today is Fred Pearce. He's a journalist and environmental and development consultant. And his latest book, it's called "People Quake," he says the world population is peaking and will soon start to decline. And what's more, he argues that Earth, our planet, it could meet the needs of a larger population if some people consumed less and natural resources were shared more equally.

Fred Pearce joins me now live from our London studio.

And Fred, thank you for joining us. And we are counting down to 7 billion. How worried should we be?

FRED PEARCE, AUTHOR: I think we should be worried in the short-term. It's a lot of extra people that we're having every year. But the good news is that we can, I think, look forward to peak population something about the middle of this century. I think we'll go from about 7 billion now to perhaps 9 billion, perhaps a little more.

But family sizes -- the good news is that family sizes are coming down so fast that we can look forward to peak population, and maybe decline after that. The average woman today has 2.5 children. That's half as many as her mother and her grandmother had. We used to get up at five and six.

So fertility levels are coming down really remarkably fast. And if they carry on down as they have (inaudible) already. And we can see good news ahead. We can see light at the end of the tunnel.

STOUT: You know, it's interesting that you're saying that the population is peaking, because it was just yesterday the United Nations released this report and said by the end of the century the world's total population could rise to more than 10 billion. So what are your thoughts on that? Is the population rising, or is it peaking?

PEARCE: Well it's certainly rising. The peak is to come. I think most people will agree that by mid-century we'll be at about 9 billion. The question is what happens after that. And the UN has very wide error bars on its projections. So nobody really knows.

But the evidence is that fertility rates are coming down so fast, people are -- you know many countries have half the number of children that their women were having in a generation. Much of India is now down to 2 children per woman, many parts of Asia even lower. So if Africa follows that path, then by mid-century I think we will see peak population.

Absolutely nobody knows for sure. And there are big concerns about how African -- how Africa, for instance, can cope with a doubling of its numbers in the next few decades. But we can look forward, I think, with a sort of optimistic hope that we can see peak population. And that would help to solve an awful lot of global environmental problems, not least climate change.

STOUT: Now in the near-term, we are nearing the 7 billionth person on the planet. Right now, especially looking at consumption habits that are out there, can earth handle that?

PEARCE: I -- the way we consume now I don't think it can. I think we're already over the limit if everybody wants to live a western style of life and to produce what we need in the western way of doing it. We're going to have to change anyway.

But the way I look at it, we are diffusing the population bomb. The world's population isn't going to double again as its doubled in the last 40 years. We're diffusing the population bomb, but we haven't begun to diffuse the consumption bomb, that's where the real issues I think are now. How we produce our energy, whether we can recycle those scarce metals, whether we can preserve our soils.

We know we can feed 10 billion people. We're already producing enough food for that. We just don't know how to distribute it and get it to the people who are hungry. So there is hope out there. We're not up against a sort of doom's day scenario, but we do have to get things right. We do have to manage our planet's resources much more efficiently.

But if we do that than I do believe that the 8, 9, even 10 billion people that we might have by the end of the century we can give them a good life.

STOUT: So our focus should be on consumption rather than population. Fred Pearce, thank you very much indeed for joining us here on News Stream.

And as we count down to the world population hitting the 7 billion mark, we are asking our ireporters to help us visualize that massive number. And we have already had submissions featuring grains of rice or steps on a very long hike. What can you come up with? You can submit your photos or videos to and you may see them on CNN.

Now Kenya's pursuit of Islamic militants in neighboring Somalia is taking a surprising twist. A Kenyan government official tells CNN that leaders of the al Shabaab militant group want to talk. Now Kenyan troops, they swept into Somalia earlier this month to hunt for al Shabaab fighters.

Now Kenya blames al Shabaab for a string of kidnappings and attacks. And David McKenzie joins me now from Kenya's capital Nairobi.

And David, they're saying they want to talk, but can al Shabaab be trusted?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, al Shabaab said that it's not talking to the Kenyan government and they've threatened Kenya in fact. And I have to say that the government minister, the government spokesman Afred Mutua just had a press conference. He denied those reports.

Though I did speak to a Kenyan government very close to this military operation. He said that well the al Shabaab doesn't have time to talk, because, quote, "they're running for their lives." So certainly a contradictory statements coming from the Kenyan government.

What is becoming apparently and clear is that operation to take on al Shabaab is a very complex operation and some people fear that it'll be a very difficult one indeed.


MCKENZIE: Kenyan troops pushing into Somalia, part of a major offensive that took many by surprise. Their stated aim, to take al Shabaab head on.

The al Qaeda linked militant group has threatened Kenya before. But a recent string of kidnappings here spurred the government into action.

ALFRED MUTUA, KENYA GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: The al Shabaab group poses a clear and present danger, not only to Kenya and this region, but to the entire world. We do believe that the fight against terror cannot be won unless the power and the organization of al Shabaab is dismantled.

MCKENZIE: Security analysts say that the incursion is a big risk. They point to recent history.

America's infamous Blackhawk Down mission in the 90s, Ethiopia's U.S.- backed invasion which led to the rise of al Shabaab. And African Union's long and bloody campaign to control Mogadishu.

RASHID ABDI, SOMALI ANALYST: If there's anything we have learned, you know, in the last couple of years is that foreign domination, especially military domination doesn't work in Somalia.

MCKENZIE: Kenya's military officials say they want to push on to Kismayo, a key stronghold of al Shabaab.

But the country's largely conventional army is being hampered by heavy rains, al Shabaab's ability to melt into the background.

Kenya's key western allies, the U.S. and the UK, were quick to state that they will not give any assistance to this operation. But France says they will give some help.

The decision to attack was the Kenyan government's alone, it seems. But many worry it will make this country less safe, not more.

ABDI: You know, if the argument for going in to stop terrorism, the contrary is now the case. Al Shabaab will now have the pretense to strike Kenya.

MCKENZIE: A series of grenade attacks this week, blamed on al Shabaab, has the country on edge. But the Kenyan government says it has stepped up security and that they have just one aim in Somalia.

MUTUA: We don't want to go and get stuck in Somalia. When the United States, Ethiopia and others went there, they were trying to support an existing government. Our main objective is to just go in, dismantle the al Shabaab, and get out. So we are very clear objective.

MCKENZIE: To take out al Shabaab?

MUTUA: To take out al Shabaab.

MCKENZIE: The government says that the operation should be over in a matter of months. Some fear that Kenya has stepped into a military quagmire that has haunted this continent for decades.


MCKENZIE: Well, some latest news, Kristie, in the northeast of the country near Mandera (ph) on the border of Somalia apparently four people have been killed according to the police here in Kenya. Four people killed who were traveling a government officials who were carrying examination papers in a car. So it's unclear who caused that attack, but certainly worries here in Kenya the internal security as the army and the air force pushes into Somalia to take on al Shabaab -- Kristie.

STOUT: Very fluid situation. Thank you for giving us the updates. David McKenzie joining us live from Nairobi. Thank you.

Now China is calling for stricter control of social media sites to promote what it calls a healthy internet culture. And according to a communique from a Communist Party meeting, the central committee will, quote, strengthen guidance and administration of social internet services and regulate the orderly dissemination of information.

Now this tightening, it came as a part of the government's crackdown on online rumors with special focus on the country's leading microblog Sina Weibo. And we have a lot more on this story for you on our blog. You can check it out,

Now just ahead here on News Stream, like all big tech companies, Google gets calls from governments to take down content. But which countries make the most of those requests? We'll dig into Google's transparency report.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Google and governments it's an interesting relationship. Now the tech giant has just released its latest transparency report. And its goal is to expose how governments around the world affect our access to information on the Internet. And you can find the report on Google's official blog.

But here are a few countries that stood out. Now the first half of this year, Brazil made the most content removal requests followed by Germany, the U.S. and South Korea.

Now joining me now to talk more about the report is News Stream regular Nicolas Thompson, senior editor of the New Yorker. And Nick, always good to see you. And you have trolled through this report. What were the highlights for you?

NICK THOMPSON, NEW YORKER: There are all sort of interesting things. You can learn a lot about what a country's government cares about by what they've requested to be taken down.

Some of the things that stuck out is that in Turkey there are all sorts of requests to take down videos on YouTube that showed information about officials' private lives. Google complied with all of those.

In India, there are all sorts of requests to take down videos that show people insulting religious leaders. Because of India's local laws don't restrict that as much, Google didn't comply with those.

In Thailand, there are lots of requests to take down videos that were insulting to the monarch. And Google did comply with those.

The little bit that stuck out the most to me, there's a little nugget in the section on the United States. And it said there was a request to take down a video showing police brutality and another showing -- a request to take down a video showing defamation of a police officer. And then Google specifically says we didn't comply.

Now why are they saying that? And I think it's partly to show Google's aim with this report is both to kind of poke the countries that have lots of requests and to make it clear that they are doing something their citizens might not agree with. And also to show that sometimes Google objects to this. And it's actually a particularly good time for Google to say that it's not taking down videos of police brutality in this country in the United States is becoming more of an issue. It makes Google look like more of a good guy.

STOUT: Yeah, it's like Google in superhero mode. "Don't be evil is the mantra here."

And Google, interesting to know, it's the only internet company that releases this kind of information about its relationship with governments around the world. Do you think it will make a difference by doing so?

THOMPSON: I think it does make a difference. I think it shows -- I mean, it makes a difference in the way we perceive Google, because it actually shows the import of Google. So when you think about the information that a society gets to see and that gets circulated, it partly depends on what its users feel free to put up, it partly depends on what its government objects to, and it partly depends on Google, right?

Google has a bunch of people who make very important decisions about the information that can circulate in a society. We're moving into a world where tech companies have a lot of power in a cynic way that they didn't have before. And what's interesting about Google is it's being open about it. It's admitting to it. And it's giving us a lot of information about the choices it makes, so that we can judge those choices.

STOUT: And while we're talking about Google, your thoughts on the buzz out there that Google has its eyes on a Yahoo takeover. Is it possible? What about the other rivals eying Yahoo? And what would it mean for Microsoft?

THOMPSON: Well, I think -- I mean, I think that Google can't possibly take over Yahoo, or probably can't even take over a chunk of Yahoo. There's -- there's no way that U.S. regulators would allow the number one search company to take over the number two. It's preposterous. Google is already in all sorts of anti-trust problems at the moment.

So there are some rumors circulating that Google must have leaked this in order to irritate Microsoft and to drive up the price. Google and Microsoft, they are forever at war with each other.

I actually think it was probably somebody else who leaked this information. Google probably made some calls, but anybody who is a Yahoo shareholder is interested in a price being a high as possible. So they're interested in heated up the market as much as possible? So they're interested in floating as many rumors as possible.

So I think Google probably made a call. It's not leading anywhere. And somebody whose got a financial interest and Yahoo made sure the press knew about it.

STOUT: I love these high tech conspiracy theories.

Nick Thompson, unfortunately we have to leave it at that. Thank you very much as always for joining us, every week, right here on News Stream. Take care.

Political candidates in the United States are finding all kinds of ways to communicate to potential voters. And it seems one campaign staffer is sending smoke signals. Our Jeanne Moos explains after the break.


STOUT: The champagne is still on ice. The Texas Rangers could have become World Series champions on Wednesday, but the weather got in the way. And here is Pedro Pinto with more -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORREPSONDENT: Hey, Kristie. Heavy rain in St. Louis postponed last night's world series contest at Busch Stadium. Both teams are hoping the weather will clear up so they can actually go out there and play some baseball on Thursday.

It was pretty miserable on Wednesday with officials calling the game off five hours before the first pitch was supposed to be thrown. The rain just didn't stop all day long.

The Rangers lead the best of seven series three games to two with game 6 now set to be played on Thursday. The Rangers are looking for their first ever World Series title.

Should the Cardinals stave off elimination, a deciding seventh game will be played on Friday. Both teams' managers said they welcome the rest that they weren't expecting. And they guarantee the players will be ready to go on Thursday.

Now let's focus our attention on football. Al Sadd have qualified for the final of the Asian Champion's League for the first time since 1989. They did so by knocking out South Korea's Suwon Bluewings.

The first leg of this tie in Suwon was marred by an ugly brawl. Fortunately, there were no such issues in Doha on Wednesday night. The Bluewings have lost the first leg at home 2-nil but they got back into the semifinal by taking an early lead.

Great goal, it was as well, Oh Jang-Eun with a fantastic volley, definitely worth another look.

The home side tried to reestablish their two goal lead in the tie and came close to doing so. Khalfan Ibrahim with the effort that was saved onto the crossbar by Jung Sung-Ryong.

As time passed, the Bluewings knew they needed to force the issue. And Park Joon-Jin had a shot on target from close range right at the keeper, though.

The match finished 1-nil Suwon. Not enough for the South Koreans. Al Sadd won 2-1 on aggregate. They'll face Jeonbuk in the final.

Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the WTA tour championships after suffering a recurrence of a recent ankle injury during her second match in Istanbul. This means she no longer has a chance to overtake Caroline Wozniaki for the world number one ranking.

Sharapova made the announcement shortly after losing her second consecutive match on the hard courts of the Turkish capital. She went down to Li Na in straight sets.

Is was an unexpected score, considering it was actually the Russian that had a 4-1 lead in the first set. Her opponent rebounded well and actually had the lead before Sharapova then forced a tiebreak.

Again, the Russian had an advantage in the tiebreaker, but failed to hold on. Li Na winning the first set.

In the second, the French Open champion was on top and managed to seal the deal in the 10th game. Leading 5-4 and serving for the match, she was down 15-40 before prevailing to finish off Sharapova in straight sets.

Also on Wednesday, Caroline Wozniaki lost surprisingly to Victoria Zvonareva.

That'll do it for now. Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: Pedro, thank you.

Now the U.S. presidential hopeful Herman Cain, he has turned into surprise frontrunner for the Republican Party's nomination. But his unusual smoking campaign ad is causing a stir and sparking plenty of imitators. Jeanne Moos checks out the competition.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suddenly, everybody is pretending to smoke. And it's all because this man, Herman Cain's chief of staff.

MARK BLOCK, HERMAN CAIN CHIEF OF STAFF: We can take this country back.

MOOS: One little drag in a campaign ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's weird, right?

BLOCK: I'm not the only one that smokes in America for gods sake.

MOOS: Now everyone is inhaling his smoke. One parody even paraphrases Charlie Sheen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on a drug. And it's called Herman Cain. Herman Cain has tiger blood.

MOOS: That's from a left leaning political group in South Carolina asking Herman Cain what are you smoking?

Not since the famous witch ad.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I'm not a witch.

MOOS: Have we seen a political spot so parodied.

So we thought we'd hand out the silvery smoke ring awards to some of our favorites.

We award one measly smoke ring to the Letterman Show for its video parody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rich Lowry here, chief economic adviser for Herman Cain.

MOOS: And for all those who replace the cigarette with booze, we award two smoke rings.

Our three smoke ring award goes to Conan Show for most imaginative prop.

We award Jimmy Kimmel and his crew four smoke rings for inventive voice over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Herman Cain. And I approve cigarettes. And if that doesn't make me sound crazy, check out this smile.

MOOS: Herman Cain's smile that takes eight seconds to develop prompted Stephen Colbert to challenge Cain to a slow smile contest.


MOOS: Colbert managed to stretch his smile 25 seconds.

COLBERT: We'll be right back.

MOOS: The coveted five smoke rings award goes to the Colbert Report for replacing smoking with sniffing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Herman Cain's personal assistant. We hope you share our vision.

MOOS: By the way, we'd like to bestow a shortened lifetime achievement award to the human smoke machine who provided us with our smoke screen.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


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