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Greek Prime Minister Backs Away From Referendum on EU Bailout; Demonstrators Take to the Streets Again in Syria; 'Death in the Desert'; Heavy Rains/Snow Grip Western Europe

Aired November 4, 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 Greece, where the prime minister has backed away from a controversial referendum on the EU bailout deal.

And we are watching the latest pictures coming out of Syria. Protesters are testing the government's pledge to end its crackdown.

And Bond is back. We'll give you the first details on the next 007 film, "Skyfall."

Now, we are just getting word from the Greek finance minister's office that plans for a potential EU bailout referendum have been called off completely. Nevertheless, Prime Minister George Papandreou is facing a critical confidence vote in parliament later today.

His handling of Greece debt crisis has drawn a lot of criticism, even from within his own Socialist Party. He now maintains only a one-seat majority in parliament, and calls have been growing louder for his resignation. After he shocked stock markets and EU leaders who had plans to hold a referendum on the latest EU bailout, Mr. Papandreou said it wouldn't be needed if the opposition supports the planned austerity measures.


GEORGE PAPANDREOU, GREEK PRIME MINISTER (through translator): For the moment, we had the dilemma between a consensus or a referendum, and as I said to our partners and to you a few days ago, that if we did have the consensus, then that we would be clear and we wouldn't need the way of the referendum. If the opposition joining us at the table were ready to go ahead, voting for this agreement, and we don't need (INAUDIBLE) solutions.


STOUT: Let's head straight to Greece for the latest. Jim Boulden joins us now live from Athens.

And Jim, why has Mr. Papandreou called off the referendum? Is it Greek political pressure or international pressure from the G-20?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's everything, Kristie. Obviously, this is a very unpopular decision he made, and it was unpopular within his own government, within his own high-ranking officials.

Now, the statement we have from the Finance Ministry here in Greece which has just come out in Greek, we have got some of it translated. This is from the finance minister, not the prime minister, let's be clear. But it says that the finance minister, Mr. Venizelos, today had a phone conversation with Olli Rehn and Mr. Juncker of the European Commission, and the German finance minister, and he has announced a decision that there won't be a referendum.

So that -- and there's a much longer statement going on with that as well. We are having that translated as we speak. But the bottom line is, the Finance Ministry has told the European Commission and the German finance minister that this whole idea of this referendum is off.

That's now really a surprise. Certainly, the prime minister was backing off last night, as you said. It's just a matter of the last few hours, this morning, of any kind of deal that he might be able to get with the opposition.

Now, we haven't heard specifically if there is a deal, but certainly one thing has to lead to the other. So, hopefully, in the next few hours we will hear exactly what it is that the Greek government, if it survives today's confidence vote, will do to push this austerity package through parliament -- Kristie.

STOUT: Yes. And your thoughts on that vote later today? With the referendum now called off, will the government of Prime Minister Papandreou survive that confidence vote?

BOULDEN: Well, he has a majority of either one or two, depending on who you believe, only of one or two in this parliament behind me. So he would have to have every single member of his party vote yes, supporting him.

One of the theories that we're hearing -- and again, it's just a theory, this place is full of rumors -- is that he could survive this vote. He could survive the confidence measure, but still stand down, still retire. And then a national unity government would take over, and they would push through the austerity measures.

There's a long way to go between now and midnight tonight, but that is one of the theories in the newspapers. He would save face by winning the confidence vote, but then also step down.

However, people said yesterday he was going to step down within minutes, and he certainly did not sound like a prime minister stepping down yesterday. So anything could change and anything could happen in the next few hours -- Kristie.

STOUT: And there must have been a lot of discussion the last couple of days about why Mr. Papandreou made that call for a bailout referendum in the first place. What do you think was his motive?

BOULDEN: Yes. I think his motive was anger. I think it was personal.

He came back from Brussels, as he said in his speech last night, with what he thought was a remarkable deal last Wednesday and Thursday morning. You'll remember that overnight bashing (ph) out of a deal that allowed a 50 percent cut in some of the debt that some of the banks hold, that allowed another 130 billion euro fund to come this way to re-capitalize the banks, to build up the EFSF. We all know about that.

He came back here. He didn't feel like -- as a number of people here, he didn't seem to get the support that he thought he would get. That's my view.

And then he was really, really unhappy about that. So he said, OK, you know what? Going to let the people decide. Do you want this deal or not? We did the best we could.

And he made that announcement which seems to have shocked not just his European partners, but shocked people here in Greece as well.

STOUT: All right.

Jim Boulden, joining us live from Athens.

Thank you very much, indeed.

And with Greece's political and financial future still uncertain, questions are popping up again about a potential default. And in turn, Greece's position in the eurozone.

Now, Nina Dos Santos breaks open the EU's member treaty to help give us some answers.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A few months ago, the topic of a Greek default was almost a dirty word among political circles. And now, well, world leaders and world markets, alike, are resigned to the fact that Greece will have trouble paying off its obligations.

And the next big taboo to tackle is Greece's future within the eurozone. Will it decide to leave the monetary bloc? And can it do so if it wants to?

This is uncharted territory. It's also fraught with difficulties and legally complicated, which is why I've come to the London offices of the law firm Edwards Wildman to speak to Charles Proctor, who is a specialist and finance partner dealing with exactly these kinds of issues.

Charles, you have a copy of the European Union treaties here. Which are the offending paragraphs?

CHARLES PROCTOR, EDWARDS WILDMAN: Well, I think Article 128 of the treaty makes it very clear that all of the members of the eurozone have delegated to Europe the right to issue a currency. Greece doesn't have a right to issue its own crisis anymore. It's irrevocably delegated that to the union.

DOS SANTOS: Now, you have Article 50 here, which is one of our copies of the treaty, and I'm going to read it to our viewers here. "Any member state may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitution requirements."

They're talking about the European Union though here, not the monetary union, the eurozone.

PROCTOR: Certainly, Article 50 of the treaty on the European Union allows you to withdraw from the union as a whole, but not just from the monetary union. So, in order to withdraw from the single currency, Greece would have to withdraw from the union as a whole, which of course is a very major step.

Article 49 allows it to reapply, but any such re-application is subject to the approval of all of the other member states. So there can be no guarantee that, having left, they would be able to get back in at a later stage.

DOS SANTOS: So, out of all this framework we have, it's woefully inadequate. Greece can't live the eurozone of its own accord. Is that right? And people can't expel it either.

PROCTOR: In terms of the treaty, no, they can't force it to leave. Of course, there are a lot of financial issues that could be brought to bear to impose pressure. But certainly in terms of the legal documentation, there is no basis for member states to push Greece out of the eurozone.

DOS SANTOS: So, I suppose we need to add more stuff to documents like these.

PROCTOR: Well, despite the length of this documentation, unfortunately departure from the eurozone is not covered. We're therefore working at the moment in something of a legal black hole.

DOS SANTOS: Gosh. And you know what that means. That means that we could well see more pages added to documents like this, and that means more bedtime reading for people like me as the crisis continues.

Nina Dos Santos, CNN, London.


STOUT: Now, Greece continues to be high on the agenda at the G-20 summit in Cannes, and right now the EU Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, he's speaking with Jose Manuel Barroso.

Let's listen in right now.


HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, EU COUNCIL PRESIDENT (through translator): Then the automatic stabilizers have to come to play in order to stimulate internal demand and, as I said earlier on, bring about greater flexibility in the exchange rates. So, once again, a comprehensive effort is required, but each individual player also has a particular task to carry out.

Our partners -- and this is my second point -- fully support the action plan that was adopted on the 26th and 27th of October by the euro area. Besides the dates of October the 26th and 27th, have been repeated so many times. They were repeated many times with this meeting.

If we had forgotten these dates before this meeting, we can't anymore. So we've been supported in this action, and we have been supported in the decisions we took on October the 26th and 27th. The euro area also has to work at two levels, at the state level, particularly those who are undergoing market pressure, and also at the European level for the euro area.

Now, President Barroso just referred to Greece. Greece has to adopt the new plan that was agreed and adopted once again on October the 26th and 27th. That is a precondition for any financial aid to be disbursed.

I'd like to take advantage of this opportunity to say that Greece has already made enormous efforts. If you take into account everything that has been done in the last two years, you see that the effort represents about 12 percentage points of GDP, so that is a gigantic effort that has been put in. But for us to be able to continue to demonstrate our (INAUDIBLE) through financial assistance, then the new plan agreed upon at the euro area summit needs to be approved by the parliament.

Greece must rapidly --

STOUT: You've been listening to the EU Council president speaking live from the G-20 summit under way in Cannes, France. Just then, he reiterated what eurozone leaders have been saying throughout the summit, that Greece has to adopt the new plan that was adopted earlier in October.

Now, what's happening there in Cannes is also coming on the back of what we just heard out of the Finance Ministry's office in Greece, and Greece has backed away from that EU bailout referendum.

We will continue to monitor all the action there at the G-20 and go live to Cannes, to our Ali Velshi, a little later here on the program.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, smoke and shelling in Syria, as violent clashes erupt again today. We will have a live report of the unfolding arrest.

And Moammar Gadhafi's desperate final hours, hiding out with no food or water. So why didn't he try to flee Libya when he still had the chance? We will hear from one of his longtime aides.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, in Syria, anti-government demonstrators are taking to the streets again, as they have every Friday for months. An activist in Daraa has been broadcasting these pictures, and the Friday protests are seen as a test to the government's pledge to the Arab League to withdraw troops and end its crackdown on dissent. But opposition groups say that government forces have already killed two people in Daraa, and two more deaths have been reported in the flash point city of Homs. And that comes after at least 25 people were killed nationwide on Thursday.

Now, CNN cannot independently confirm those reports.

Let's bring in Arwa Damon now from neighboring Lebanon.

And Arwa, protesters are out in force today, but how is Damascus responding?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, other than that live stream that you were referring to earlier that showed a fairly sizeable gathering, activists are telling us that in other cases throughout the entire country, when people have tried to go out and protest, they were effectively confronted by the same level of force they have constantly been confronted with in the past. Again, they are saying that Syrian security forces used gunfire to try to disperse the demonstrators. They say that absolutely nothing has changed when it comes to how the government is reacting to these voices of dissent.

In the flash point city of Homs, they are reporting this military buildup that began yesterday, overnight, and then continued into the morning hours, that saw a very intense crackdown, especially focused on the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, one of the epicenters of these voices of dissent. Activists are saying, really, that the Syrian government only signed on to this Arab League proposal as a way to buy itself more time.

One of the main conditions that was laid out was that there would be an end to the violence, that there would be an end to the crackdown. And activists are saying that that has absolutely not materialized.

STOUT: And we're looking at live pictures on our screen, live pictures being piped in by the Internet from Daraa.

And as these opposition protests continue on yet another Friday, just how strong, Arwa, is the government of Bashar al-Assad? And how much political support and military support does he have left?

DAMON: Well, at this stage, those main pillars, the main institutions propping up the government of Bashar al-Assad are still fairly intact. We're talking about the security forces.

Yes, there have been some defections from the military, but they do not in any way, shape or form pose a serious threat to the stability of the current government. We look to the business community, the merchant middle class, the silent majority, as many are calling them, and they still do appear to be supporting the regime. And we look to the international community, where we have significant players like Iran, Russia and China still continuing to back the government of Bashar al-Assad.

There were great hopes amongst the opposition that the various economic sanctions put into place by the United States, by the European Union would begin to have an impact in the country, that would begin to really put the pinch on the Assad government. But at this stage, it does seem as if the regime is still fairly powerful and, overall, fairly in control.

STOUT: And also, Arwa, just how unified is the opposition? Do they speak with one voice, the protesters who we see on our screen, out on the streets throughout Syria, as well as the political opposition? Do they speak with one voice?

DAMON: They speak with one voice when it comes to what they want to see take place, and that is the downfall of the Assad regime. But the opposition is very fractured both within Syria and outside of Syria.

There are those who believe that there is space for political negotiations with the Assad regime. There are those who do not want to see foreign military intervention. They do not want Syria to end up like Libya.

But there are many who are saying that the time for negotiating with this government has passed, and those activists on the streets, lately they have been very outspoken, calling for international, NATO, military intervention, because they believe that they have no other option at this stage. And so, in that sense, you do end up with a fractured opposition, and that is going to be the opposition's challenge, to really begin to try to unify itself and to speak with one voice on all of these critical issues.

STOUT: Our Arwa Damon, joining us live.

Thank you very much, indeed, for that.

Let's just take a look and listen in again to these incredible pictures, this video that's been piping in through.

Did we lose the feed just now?

Anyway, an explainer there. It's from an activist in Daraa showing us, even on a live video feed, what is happening this day, Friday, in Syria, as the opposition protest continues inside the country.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, African refugees trying to flee to a better life, but some only find death in the desert. And as one activist tells us, traffickers may not be the only ones to blame.


STOUT: And today we again look at "Death in the Desert," a new CNN Freedom Project documentary. And we need to warn you that what you're about to see is disturbing and graphic.

Now, deep in the Sinai desert are the bodies of refugees. They had hoped for a better life, but only found death instead. Some, apparently at the hands of Egyptian border guards.

Frederik Pleitgen tells us more.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Operating as a one-man NGO, al Azazzy searches the desert plains around El Arish (ph) three times a week. He says he frequently finds corpses there. He has made it his mission to try and make sure they get a dignified burial.

Those that can be identified are buried in a Christian or Muslim cemetery, but the ones who remain nameless end up here, outside the cemetery walls, under heaps of trash.

HAMDI AL AZAZZY, NEW GENERATION FOUNDATION: Outside here, it is named Al- Sabaka (ph) grave. This is Al-Sabaka (ph) graves. It is for unknown people.

PLEITGEN (on camera): So where you don't know the identities.

AZAZZY: We don't know names, nationalities. We have no data about them. So, we have three lines here, and it is covered 300 -- 400 -- 300 bodies.

PLEITGEN: Four hundred bodies here?


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Al Azazzy tells me a story of the man who occupies this simple grave, a grave marked only with a single stone. This is the resting place for a man he met just before he died, Hisam Abdullah Mohammed (ph), a 20-year-old refugee from Darfur in Sudan. He was shot by Egyptian border guards trying to cross over to Israel in June.

Al Azazzy recorded a conversation with him just an hour before his death. These were among his final words --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): How did you get from Cairo to here in Sinai?

HISAM ABDULLAH MOHAMMED (ph), REFUGEE (through translator): Bedouins brought me here.

PLEITGEN: Hisam (ph) stated the Bedouins left him and other refugees at the border, and the Egyptian army fired at them as they attempted to jump the fence.

Abdullah Mohammed's (ph) death is far from unusual. Egyptian border guards have shot dead many refugees. Egypt has said it's targeting smugglers and criminals, not refugees.


STOUT: Now reporter Frederik Pleitgen joins us now live from Berlin.

And Fred, just how are these refugees getting lured into this situation?

PLEITGEN: Well, essentially, what happens is that a lot of these people come from places like Sudan and Eritrea, Kristie, and obviously they're looking for a better life. And they're hoping that that better life would be in Israel, so they try to smuggle themselves there.

And essentially what they do is they talk to smugglers in Sudan and Eritrea, and those smugglers will tell them, well, it's about $2,000 to get you to Israel. So then they get smuggled from Sudan, all the way through Egypt, into the Sinai. But in the Sinai, they're not smuggled directly into Israel. They are given to Bedouin smugglers there.

And those Bedouin smugglers then tell them, well, guess what? You're going to have to pay an additional $8,000, otherwise we're going to hold you here, we're going to torture you, we're going to beat you up. A lot of the women are raped.

Now, some of those who are able to scrape that money together, or contact relatives somewhere and get that money together, are then let go near the border between Egypt and Israel. And a lot of them, as we've just seen there, are often shot by Egyptian border guards.

Now, we have to say that the Egyptian military and the Egyptian border guards are saying what they're trying to do is prevent terrorists and smugglers from getting into Israel, but form what we've seen, a lot of these people are obviously very innocent, and then wind up dying there in the middle of a desert in Sinai -- Kristie.

STOUT: You know, it's incredible that this is happening. And your reporting has shown us that there, in the Sinai, there is a thriving black market in human life, and the trade of vulnerable African refugees.

So, what is being done to stop this?

PLEITGEN: Well, it isn't very much. I mean, we spoke to a police -- the policeman who's in charge of the Sinai, of the north of Sinai, and he said that he knows that all of this is going on, he knows people trafficking is going on. He even knows organ harvesting is going on there, but he can pinpoint who exactly the people are who are behind it.

We, of course, found out that it's sort of rogue elements within the Bedouin tribes in that area. But what we have to understand about Sinai is that it's an absolutely lawless place.

The Egyptian army rarely goes into the area. The Egyptian police certainly doesn't go into the area. So any solution that could be found needs to be a solution that is implemented by the Bedouin tribes that are there.

And I spoke to some of them who actually took us in and were very hospitable to us. And they said, "This is something that we don't want happening here." I mean, the smuggling is always going to be there, but abusing people's human rights on a constant basis is something that they are not thrilled about either, so any solution will have to involve them, simply because they are the ones who control that turf -- Kristie.

STOUT: Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for your reporting.

And again, that special CNN Freedom Project documentary is called "Death in the Desert." And you can see it this weekend. It airs Saturday night at 9:00 in Hong Kong and 5:00 in Abu Dhabi.

And ahead on NEWS STREAM, the G-20 under pressure. Can world leaders come together to prevent Greece's debt crisis from spreading and calm fears of another global recession?

And waist deep in the floods. Will the high waters finally sweep into Bangkok's inner city?


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

Now more anti-government protests in Syria. Now these are live pictures from Dayr az-Zawr broadcast online by an activist.

Incredible live pictures of the opposition protest this day in Syria. And opposition groups say that clashes with security forces have killed at least four people Friday, that's just two days after Syria agreed to a plan to stop its crackdown on protests. And activists report 25 civilians were killed by security forces on Thursday.

Now Greece's finance minister says the country will not hold a controversial referendum on the new international bailout deal. Prime Minister George Papapandreou's proposal to ask the Greek public about the latest EU rescue package prompted an uproar earlier this week. Papandreou faces a confidence vote in parliament later today.

Now after 23 days and 49 witnesses, jury deliberations are set to begin Friday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson's doctor. Now Conrad Murray is accused of giving the pop star the anesthetic Propofol which proved lethal on top of other sedatives Jackson was taking. The defense says Jackson injected himself with Propofol.

And the U.S. has just released its all important monthly jobs report. It show 80,000 jobs were added to the economy in October, that compares to 103,000 the previous month. This time the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 9.0 percent.

And leaders from the world's group of 20 major economies, they are wrapping up their second day of talks in Cannes. Greece has dominated much of the agenda. Ali Velshi joins us now live from the summit. And Ali, now that Greece has backed away from a bailout referendum, what is the mood like there now?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a little bit relaxed, because while we just really got the official confirmation that the finance minister in Greece has informed the EU that there will not be a referendum, this has been the kind of thing we've been talking about for the last 12 hours or so. We believed that the referendum was called off.

So the market reaction has been tepid. As you just said, the U.S. jobs numbers have come out and that's kind of tepid. So we probably have seen a little bit more -- you know, a little bit of the tension raised -- or lowered, but everybody is taking it a little easier here at the conference.

Here's the issue, though, Kristie by shining the light on this problem, where the 16 other countries who use the euro couldn't effectively assert enough power on Greece in the last week to even have this topic come up it's now making people wonder about whether the European Union countries area good bet for investment. And the focus is switching to Italy which is now finding that its yields, its rates, the rate at which the government can borrow money is now up about 6 percent.

And that's got people worried, because Greece is a small economy. It's the 32nd biggest economy in the world. Italy is a large and important economy. So there is the sense that does Europe really have it together? Can they keep this unity and maintain standards in the various countries in the EuroZone or not?

So while they go away, while the G20 now concentrating on some of the things that G20 wanted to concentrate on as opposed to this Greece issue, I think what the world has taken away it's kind of like the U.S. debt debacle, they walked away thinking well you know not everybody is as safe a bet as we through they were, Kristie.

STOUT: So a lot of focus on Greece, then on Italy and how to protect its vulnerable economy. And I was curious, Ali, what is the world leader dynamic like at the G20 summit? Has it been dominated by Angela Merkel and Sarkozy? What about Barack Obama? Is the U.S. taking a secondary role there?

VELSHI: It's the strangest thing, because Barack Obama and Hu Jintao are here. And generally speaking these are thought of as one of the two most important people right now economically in the world. And it's sort of a sideshow. Everybody seems to be very friendly with each other. There's great camaraderie here. They all seem to be getting along. We had pictures earlier of President Obama sort of taking a walk with Angela Merkel trying to, you know, get a little private time.

But ultimately, the Chinese were going to play a very different role here. This was supposed to be where the Europeans came forward and showed India and China that they've gotten their act together and they were now a viable investment opportunity. And in the end, the Europeans had nothing to show the Chinese.

So Hu Jintao has come here and seems to be a little less busy than he expected to be. President Obama on the sidelines as well saying they're offering technical and moral support to Europe and Greece, but no real work can be done on solving this problem.

But the mood has been good. I think they're going to leave with a communique that suggests they're all on the same page about the things that they wanted to do at G20, but ultimately everybody has been preoccupied with Greece and the other stuff that G20 is supposed to be doing didn't get the same attention.

I will tell you, though, it wasn't a waste. Because as you know, these summits the work is done by people called Sherpas, representatives of these governments. It's done at separate meetings. It's done sort of outside. And probably 5 percent of the work is left do with these world leaders. And they're probably going to get that done.

STOUT: Ali Velshi, love having your insight. Thank you and take care.

And for more on the G20 summit and how decisions there will be playing out in the stock markets, do not miss Wall Streets opening bell, that's on World Business Today which begins in just under 30 minutes.

Now stormy inside and outside, a strong weather system is moving through western Europe and the central Mediterranean area. Mari Ramos joins us now from the world weather center with more -- Mari.


You know, I was looking -- Ali right now reporting there from Cannes in southern France and it didn't seem as bad today as it was yesterday. Everything was blowing around. You could see the sea behind us. I think they're in a more protected area today when they're doing these live shots, because it has been -- the weather has been so bad over the last 24 hours across, not just in Cannes, but across the entire region.

Here you see a couple of the delegates arriving and this is another one here. You see one of the guards outside and you see that torrential rain coming down there just outside the G20 summit.

When you look at some of the other areas around southern France pretty significant rainfall totals here. Look at that, 104 kilometer per hour winds. Montellmar 88 millimeters of rainfall. This is pretty impressive - - 200 millimeters of rain in that period of 24 hours.

And this is just the beginning. You've got a little bit of a breakthrough at the morning hours right now. And even in Cannes it wasn't raining right now, but it will rain later today. And actually this is a big event that is going to come along here across the central Med with rain that could last through Sunday. And very stormy weather as well.

Look at the radar right now, we have some strong storms that move across the parts of the UK through the Channel back over toward France and this is the stuff that we have to worry about, some very heavy rain coming down. There's cold air in place. Very heavy snowfall, significant, for portions of Switzerland, particularly in Italy as well, the southern portion of France, the Pyrenees will get some significant snowfall as well, everybody else getting some very heavy rain. You can see right through here.

Expect big travel delays if you're traveling across Europe today or even tomorrow. This is going to really slow you down, we think, as we head through the weekend. So flooding, rain, we can see dangerous wind gusts and a lot of heavy snowfall in the higher elevations. So be extra careful with that.

I'm going to show you some pictures from Thailand. One of the big things that continues to happen here is the flooding. And this, Kristie, is not going away any time soon. It's better on one side of town and it gets worse in the other. These are new roadways that are closed just today. There over 40 major roads that have already been shut down because of the rising water.

Something else I want to show you. Like I said, it's not over yet.

This I thought was pretty impressive. Have you seen this? These are all of the industrial parks, these areas that we have marked here across Alluthaya (ph) also into Pathum Thani. This is in areas just north of Bangkok. Seven industrial parks are completely shutdown, that's over 10,000 factories that are flooded and over half a million people have been left without jobs until it actually dries out.

And we keep hearing from the experts, it's going to be a few weeks before the water actually goes down. And by the time they replace everything, Kristie, production will probably not really resume until we get into January.

That's here. Amazing.

STOUT: It is amazing and very scary, over half a million people without jobs, the toll of this disaster.

Mari Ramos there. Thank you very much indeed.

And our partners at CNN go, they have set up a special page with information for tourists caught up in the floods in Thailand. For example, we have seen many pictures of the flooding at Bangkok's domestic airport. That is closed, but the international airport is still open for business.

And as you can see here, the military is helping Bangkok residents out of flooded areas. A city official says 11,000 people are staying in shelters, but many more are not evacuating. And sandbags, some much larger than you see here, have helped keep Bangkok's business district mostly dry.

But people on the outside of the city's flood defenses are up to their waist in dirty water. And they face shortages of critical supplies like food and bottled water.

Now this photo, it was taken last week in Bangkok's neighboring province of Moniburi (ph). And this striking image here, it was also taken in the same place. This was taken on October 15. And you see a boy struggling to keep his money dry. Many people in Thailand have lost everything they own to the flood waters.

Now ahead here on News Stream, there may be a web site known for bringing consumers good deals, but its stock it's getting a lot more expensive. We'll be looking at Groupons strong demand ahead of its big initial public stock offering.


STOUT: Now today, investors will get the daily deal for Groupon itself. The web site sells online coupons for everything from frozen yogurt to yoga classes. And Groupon will begin trading this Friday on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol GRPN. And demand for the stock is said to be strong. Little wonder since it has had one of the fastest rises in business history.

Three years ago, it made its sale. And now it has more than 10,000 employees and quarterly net revenues of more than $430 million. And since it spurned a nearly $6 billion takeover offer from Google last year, the company has been the talk of tech.

And yet, Groupon is facing questions about its accounting, management, and business model. So will its IPO pop or fizzle out?

Now check out this work of online satire. It shows Groupon offering a daily deal on its own IPO and at a lower price to boot.

Now let's get the real deal now with Nick Thompson. He's a senior editor at the New Yorker and a regular here on News Stream.

So Nick, good to see you. How will the Groupon IPO perform?

NICK THOMPSON, THE NEW YORKER: It's going to be great. It's going to open at $20 which is a little higher than people said just a few days ago. And it'll probably rise considerably during the day.

They've priced it in a way that that is almost assured to happen. They're offering very few shares. The underwriters know exactly how much demand there is.

So the system is basically rigged so the people who have the shares right now will make a good profit if they sell their shares immediately. It will go up. And then it will go down. The questions are how high will it go up, and how it will fall.

My expectation is this company is not worth $13 billion. So eventually probably in the not so long-term, the shares will be below the price of $20 which is what they're going to open at this morning.

But for a little while they'll be above, so if you have them sell them.

STOUT: What are your thoughts about the business itself? Where will Groupon go next?

THOMPSON: Well, Groupon is -- I mean, Groupon is an extraordinarily successful business. They found a great market niche. They not only have they added 10,000 employees in three years, they've done it in three years which has been terrible for the U.S. economy. So you have to give Groupon a lot of credit for that.

Right now, however, they're facing a lot more competition. They're facing competition, for example, from Living Social and from all sorts of other players. So they're margins are declining on their main business. So they're going to have to try to find some new markets. Right now they've been doing kind of low end deals. They're going to start doing more high-end deals. They're also going to do immediate deals like there's a deal at the restaurant around the corner. It will be available for the next 20 minutes. That's something called Groupon Now. It's gone slowly, but they think will be a big part of the future of the company.

STOUT: Now let's talk about the CEO of the company Andrew Mason. He is an interesting guy. And earlier this year at a tech crunch conference he feigned ignorance about basic financial concepts. And he said this, we'll bring up a quote for you. He said, quote, "I plan to be stupid throughout my career."

So what are your thoughts about him, Nick? Can investors take him seriously?

THOMPSON: Well, I don't know if he feigned ignorance. I mean, it's unclear, right. Groupon has had all these problems with their financial accounting. They basically used magical accounting in the statements they filed with the SEC. So they keep having to refile them. The SEC says, that's not actually how you measure income or how you measure revenue guys. And so they have to keep refiling them. And that's delayed the IPO.

Mason hasn't run a company before. He was a graduate student in music three years ago. One of his buddies says you want to organize -- you want to help run this social organizing site? Eventually they decide, you know what, social organizing, let's turn this into daily deals. And it turns out to be a brilliant idea.

So we don't really know whether -- you know, Mason doesn't have experience. He does, however, appear to be a very amiable guy. He's a very funny guy. It works in Silicon Valley for now. It sort of surprised me that it's worked as long as it has. So maybe it'll keep working.

STOUT: You know, it's so easy to make fun of Groupon, not only because of Mason, but also because of the kind of deals that you can find there. You can find virtually anything, including this, it's a full listing of vouchers in nose jobs.

But I want to ask you, Nick, are online coupons like this, are they more than a passing novelty?

THOMPSON: Oh, absolutely.

I mean, I think they're -- it's a great business to be in. And I think part of the reason why the valuation of the company is so high is the expectation that as people get more data on consumers -- where they live, what they like to buy, this will become even a bigger deal, right. So what Groupon does is it says that you can get 20 people together, you can get a big deal. Getting 20 people together in your area is only going to become easier as we all become more connecting through the internet and as the internet becomes better at figuring out our location and our tastes.

So they have advantage in what is going to be a growing market as the -- you know, they all -- I guess the one thing to their advantage about the fact that the economy has been in the tank for that last few years is that it's made people even more eager for daily deals. We'll see how this company does well as the economy starts to grow again.

STOUT: That's right. We'll wait and see later today. Nick Thompson, always a pleasure. Thank you and take care.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Kristie.

STOUT: Up next here on News Stream we go into sport next. The new U.S. pro basketball season, it was due to tip off this week, but instead the players and owners are playing an altogether different game in which nobody scores.

Now here is Don Riddell with the details -- Don.


Yes, talks are due to resume this weekend in the hope of salvaging some of the stalled NBA season. With the first month of the world's highest profile basketball league already lost, owners, players, and fans are desperately hoping that a resolution can be found to end the lockout which has now been running since the summer.

But as the two sides prepare to meet in New York it has emerged that around 50 of the league's to players, many of whom are all-stars, are threatening to de-certify the player's union. By breaking the union up, it would open the way for a string of lawsuits against the league which would effectively scuffle the season for good.

The mere threat of such action may be enough to force the league into accepting a deal. We shall see.

Now then, David Beckham moved to Los Angeles on a five year contract five years ago with the hope of making the Galaxy team a national champion. It hasn't happened yet, but he may be about to go out on a high.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star has led his team to the semifinals of the Major League playoffs. And he found his way past an old foe to do so. The New York Red Bulls had Thierry Henry in their lineup. And the former Arsenal striker teed up Luke Rodgers for a goal there that leveled the tie at 1-all.

The Galaxy had won the first leg and they regained the lead just before half-time when Beckham's corner was headed in by Mike Magee. Always a great time of the game to score. And the Galaxy ramped up the win with a Landon Donovan penalty in the second half.

2-1 on the night, 3-1 on aggregate.

Kristie, Beckham is on course for a fairytale finish with the Galaxy.

Back to you.

STOUT: Nice. Don Riddell, thank you and take care.

Ahead here on News Stream, the world's favorite spy will be back again soon. James Bond will return once more to the big screen. And the scene promises new adventure will be even bigger and bolder.


STOUT: Now the name is Bond, James Bond. And he's on his way back for awhile there. It seemed like the Bond franchise was in free fall without a license to film. But instead it sky fall to 007's rescue. Here's Fionnuala Sweeney.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bond, James Bond, last seen on the big screen in 2008 in Quantum of Solace is back, or will soon be in a new movie called Sky Fall.

Plans for the 23rd installment of the film franchise were officials announced on Thursday with the cast introduced at a crowded press conference in London. Daniel Craig returns as the British superspy along with Dame Judy Dench as his boss M. French actress Berenice Marlohe and Britain's Naomie Harris are the Bond beauties.

Spain's Javier Bardem will play the villain. And Oscar winner Sam Mendes takes the director's chair.

SAM MENDES, DIRECTOR: And I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live and Let Die and the impact it had on me. I got very excited when I saw my friend Daniel play James Bond Casino Royale. And I thought it opened up all sorts of wonderful possibilities for the character.

DANIEL CRAIG, ACTOR: I've been lucky enough to get some really nice roles thrown at me. And I grabbed them, but I don't have any kind of -- it's just -- if I could do this a few more years. I'd be more than happy.

SWEENEY: Most of the plot details are being kept under wraps, but producers did say Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.

And in keeping with 007's globetrotting legacy, the film will be shot in London, China, Turkey, and Scotland with its estimated budget of around $200 million.

Look for Skyfall in theaters in the fall of next year just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Bond movie series.

Fionnuala Sweeney, CNN, Atlanta.


STOUT: Now the trip to Mars that literally went nowhere is now over. Just a short time ago that hatch opened for the first time in 520 days. One by one, the six crew members climbed out led by their mission commander.

Now this group picture was taken about 6 months into the mission. It was started back in June of 2010. And they performed more than 100 experiments during their flight, studying the effects of long duration spent in deep space. And they finally landed on Mars in February. Of course all their activities were simulated. This motionless trip never left Moscow.

And the six crew members, they had some comforts from home. As you can see here, they have their Wii, Guitar Hero games here. They also had books and movies with them, but radio communications were delayed to mimic the problems they would face on a real journey.

Now, we promised to show you a piece detailing Gadhafi's final hours. We don't have time to bring that to you right here on News Stream, but do be sure to check it out on Just go to

And that is News Stream for now. World Business Today is next.