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Italian Prime Minister Denies He Will Step Down; Greek Prime Minister Will Step Down After Replacement Lined Up; Syria Unrest; Israel Weighs Options In Dealing With Iran Nuclear Program; Beckham, L.A. Galaxy Reach MLS Final

Aired November 7, 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.

And we begin in Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denies that he is about to step down.

Meanwhile, in Greece, Prime Minister George Papandreou will step down, but only once a replacement is lined up.

And one of the biggest entertainment launches in history is just hours away. Gamers wait to get their hands on the latest "Call of Duty" game.

Now, in Italy, rumors that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is planning to resign are being vehemently denied. A press aide to Berlusconi tells CNN that he does not plan to resign.

Now, earlier, speculations swept through the media and the markets, causing stocks to rally.

And for the very latest, Matthew Chance joins me now live from Rome.

And Matthew, what are you hearing?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, suddenly, there's been a very, very severe storm strike up in the Italian capital, so we're being blown all over the place. You'll have to forgive the weather.

What we're hearing at the moment is that Silvio Berlusconi has denied these rumors that he intends to step down. He issued a statement on Facebook page, saying the rumors of his resignation were without foundation. Also, his press office, separately, denied those rumors as well. But nevertheless, there has been increased speculation around Rome, in political circles, amongst journalists, amongst those political allies close to Silvio Berlusconi that his days as Italian prime minister are coming to an end.

He faces a tranche vote tomorrow in the Italian parliament to try and vote through the budget law from last year which he's so far not been successful in getting passed. That will be a crucial test of his parliamentary majority.

What political analysts say is that if he doesn't manage to get the required votes to get that vote through tomorrow afternoon, that will perhaps be the straw that breaks the camel's back and will mean that he will either have to step down or, at the very least, call a vote of confidence in his government. And so we could see all these crises that have been dogging Silvio Berlusconi, the political crises, the economic crises, the personal, legal crises as well, kind of converging over the course of the next 24 hours or so -- Kristie.

STOUT: Yes, Berlusconi has been a political survivor for so long, and he has survived so many challenges and confidence votes before. Why is it that this time around, things could be very different?

CHANCE: Well, you're right, he survived 51 confidence votes since he came to power, and he's of the expectation, or at least he's been saying publicly, that he's going to survive this one as well. But it is very different this time.

First of all, there have been some very high-profile defections from his governing coalition. People who have been his political allies for decades have switched sides and gone over to the opposition.

There's also this economic crisis. And the economic crisis in Italy, where the country is facing higher and higher interest rates to repay its public debt, part of that, if not most of it, is being fueled by the fact that the markets simply do not believe that Silvio Berlusconi has the credibility, the political power to push through the economic reforms that the country's economy so badly needs.

And so, there seems to be a growing perception amongst people in Italy, among the political elite as well, that perhaps the country needs to change, perhaps somebody who can push through this legislation, these austerity measures, perhaps that person needs to be put into power and Silvio Berlusconi needs to step aside. So there are all these, as I say, converging criteria which are making the situation very different this time.

STOUT: And Berlusconi has been defiant. He's been making comments on Facebook, making comments to the media about the debt crisis and Italy's economy. What has he been saying?

CHANCE: Well, he's, first of all, been saying that he has no intention of stepping down, as you said. He's also been saying that the media, the newspapers in particular, have been misrepresenting the economic situation of the country. And he's also expressed confidence that the rebels from his governing coalition who have gone over to the opposition side -- he's called them traitors -- they can be attracted back with the lure of government jobs. And he said outright that he will attempt to do that as he tries to, in his horse trading, regain the parliamentary majority.

When all these rumors -- it's interesting. When there were all these rumors about him stepping down imminently were circulating around over the course of the past several hours, the yields on Italian bonds actually went down. The markets were viewing that speculation favorably. But as soon as the denial was issued, they went back up again -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right.

Matthew Chance, joining us live from Rome.

Thank you very much for that.

Now, Italy's economic woes present a potentially huge problem to the future of Europe. Now, let's recap.

Italy is the third biggest economy in the eurozone. With $2.6 trillion in public debt, Italy's borrowing amounts to 120 percent of gross domestic product. That's more than the borrowing of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland combined.

Now, Italy has seen its borrowing cost soar to record highs, with markets concerned about the government's ability to get its fiscal house in order. And yields, as Matthew was saying just then, are close to the level that drove Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts.

Now, if things go according to plan, the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, will soon be giving up his job. His replacement will be in charge of passing a painful but necessary bailout deal.

And these two men are considered the top contenders to succeed Mr. Papandreou. You have Evangelos Venizelos -- he's the current finance minister -- and Lucas Papademos, who served as vice president of the European Central Bank.

And the political uncertainty, it just adds to the volatility playing out on the stock markets. It is a mixed picture in Europe right now. And markets here in Asia finished moderately lower.

Negotiations to select the country's new prime minister are still ongoing. And Jim Boulden joins us live from Athens.

And Jim, just tell us, what needs to happen before the Greek prime minister formally steps down?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, there is a constitutional process here where a new leader needs to be chosen, and then the prime minister needs to set down the main party -- the opposition party would need to be able to agree to this person. So what's happening now is they're looking at how the main two parties, PASOK and the New Democracy, could come up with a name that they could present to the president, and then be voted on in parliament that would be acceptable to both sides.

And they will come to that kind of agreement, or the whole thing would collapse. So, I think the markets would be looking positively to the movements over the last few days.

It's interesting. You were talking to Matthew about Italy. You know, Greece is such a small economy, yet we saw the markets fixated here on Athens last week. And you can imagine with Italy being so much bigger, I really think that the problems that Greece is having Italy can look at and see they don't want to be going down this road.

And so Athens has, time and time again, come up short where the markets are concerned. Just when it looks like things are getting better, they get worse.

This time around, the markets are expecting Greece to do the right thing, what the European partners want them to do. And so, with these two leaders talking with the president, with the leaders of smaller parties talking to the president, they are trying to come up with some sort of grand coalition, if you will, in Greece for a temporary government over the next few months to get them to new elections, which would be in February. That should be enough time, they hope, to be able to pass the austerity measures that have already been agreed to with European partners and the IMF -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, Greece is, you're right, a cautionary tale for Italy and for Silvio Berlusconi. We just talked about just then a number of contenders for the top job there in Greece, but who do you think will be the next prime minister of Greece?

BOULDEN: What we keep hearing here is that the best idea would be an elder statesman, a non-political person. So, Mr. Papdemos, as you mentioned, formally the vice president of the ECB, a professor, would be the kind of elder statesman who could see a government through. Now, I haven't seen a word from him on whether he wants to do that.

Mr. Venizelos would be interesting because he is the finance minister. He is the one who goes to the Euro Group. He's the one that gets the earful from his contemporaries, from other European countries. Would he actually want to be leader of this temporary government or, in fact, would he want to be the next prime minister come February? Only he knows that for now.

So it will be interesting to see if they go the elder statesman route, or do they go to someone from one party? But that would be very for the other party to swallow, I suspect.

STOUT: Jim Boulden, live from Athens.

Thank you very much, indeed.

Now, no matter who is in charge, Greeks will likely face further austerity measures. And that means more layoffs and pension cuts.

Diana Magnay shows us who will feel the most pain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the streets are clear of protesters, it's hard to get a sense of how much the Greeks are hurting. Even after the drama of the week inside parliament, come the weekend, Athenians still fill the main shopping boulevard. Cafes pulsing with life, as the well-to-do sip lattes.

There's still conspicuous wealth on display. Down at the marina, a father and son fish beside their yacht, a chance to get away from the endless talk of crisis. "We need agreement between the politicians," Achilles Renas (ph) tells me. "We need to convince Europeans we want to stay in the euro, because if we go to the drachma, it will be very difficult."

Live has been far more difficult for the have-nots in Greek society for the last couple of years. Every Sunday, there's a flea market where scavengers who have collected goods from garbage go to sell their wares. It's mostly immigrants or gypsy families who do the selling under the auspices of the Scavengers Union. Union president Spyros Mageolos says even here you don't see much money changing hands. "We all share our poverty now," he tells me.

Kristos Ruvales (ph) comes down here each Sunday. "Here, you see the whole life of Greek society," he says, "people from different races and classes. What you find here is what the rich don't need."

Ruvales (ph) is a retired teacher who is living on 30 percent less this year after a series of savage pension cuts. He says he sees more and more people on the brink of poverty.

"There are so many people committing suicide from the debts they have," he says. "This time, every Greek person needs psychological help, because they planned their future a certain way and now everything changes."

The real Greek tragedy plays out behind shuttered windows: the pensioners who can no longer fill their fridge, the newly unemployed scouring the Internet for jobs, too proud to showcase their pain and frightened that it will only get worse.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Athens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Ahead on NEWS STREAM, it is supposed to be a time of celebration in Syria, but a Muslim holiday has only brought more bloodshed.

Plus, Bangkok's governor has concerns about the city's flood defenses as unrelenting waters inch toward the center of Bangkok.

And the CNN Freedom Project undercover. We'll show you how police in Spain fight sex trafficking and forced labor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Gunfire and deadly anti-government protests are marking the start of the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha in Syria, and the violence comes despite last week's announcement by the Arab League that the Syrian government had agreed to pull its army off the streets.

Now, CNN's Arwa Damon is following this story from Beirut. She joins us now.

And Arwa, the violence rages on, especially in Homs. What is the latest?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the crackdown appears to continue to be centering on what particular neighborhood, the neighborhood of Baba Amr. This has been one of the main epicenters of anti-government revolt. It is also one of the main areas that has seen a fair number of defections taking place.

We are hearing that not only is there this very intense military crackdown taking place there with activists saying that people are in very short supply of food, medicine, being very difficult to treat the wound, homes, of course, being damaged as well, but in these particular areas there have also been clashes between these groups of defectors and the Syrian security forces.

This is despite the fact that last week, the Syrian government did technically agree to an Arab League proposal that would have hypothetically seen an end to the violence. Under this proposal, the Syrian military would have been withdrawn from the cities, and there would have been the release of all political prisoners, eventually paving the way two weeks down the road for some sort of a negotiation to take place.

Activists are saying that rather than withdraw their forces, the Syrian military has actually beefed up its presence in many areas. And it most certainly seems as if the violence has not eased up, not one bit. The Arab League is now planning on convening an emergency meeting, Kristie, on Saturday.

STOUT: That's right, the Arab League, they will meet again on November the 12th, next weekend, to discuss this crisis.

Does this group have any leverage on Damascus to end this bloody crackdown?

DAMON: It would be fairly surprising if the Arab League were somehow be able to come up with either a solution or a way to put real pressure on the Assad government to try to alter its current course of action. One also needs to remember that there is not consensus amongst the members of the Arab League when it comes to how Syria should in fact be handled.

The Arab League is the entity that came out when the uprising in Libya had begun, eventually calling for that no-fly zone to be implemented. Syria, interestingly, one of the states that actually voted against the implementation of a no-fly zone, but there isn't even that sort of majority consensus amongst Arab League members when it comes to Syria itself.

STOUT: Arwa Damon, on the story.

Thank you very much, indeed.

Now, Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid-al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice. Millions of people have started this year's Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in his or her life.

And for the first time, you can watch the pilgrimage online, right here on YouTube.

Now, 25 of Thailand's 64 provinces, they remain flooded this Monday, even as the governor of the capital, Bangkok, expresses fresh concerns that the situation there could get worse. He says 14 floodgates in the west of the city are not working properly.

(WEATHER REPORT)

STOUT: Up next here on NEWS STREAM, gamers are getting set to answer the "Call of Duty." In just a few hours, "Modern Warfare 3," it's set for release. And we'll be speaking live to the developer behind the game after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: The CNN Freedom Project is all about taking you to the front lines of the fight against modern-day slavery, and this week we're following police in the eastern Spanish region of Catalonia as they tackle human trafficking. Now, they have granted CNN access to footage you won't see on any other network.

And in this report by Martin Savidge, we take you inside the investigation into prostitution rings in immigrant communities in Barcelona.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This might look like a resolution to a case, but this is just one step out of hundreds taken in the course of a routine investigation for the human trafficking unit of Mossos d'Esquadra. This is the unit that broke up one of the largest human trafficking rings ever discovered in Europe.

The case, involving Chinese sweat shops that made brand name clothing for unsuspecting department stores. It led to the arrests of 150 people, with 450 victims freed. The case took three years to investigate, and exposed such an elaborate network of organized crime, the unit began to wonder if there were similar illegal activities going on involving Chinese prostitution and its growing residential brothel business.

It was only recently the Chinese population exploded in Barcelona, the biggest city in the Catalonia region and a major trading route for Chinese goods into Europe. While the influx wasn't a surprise, the unit's head, Sub-Inspector Xavier Cortes, says a criminal element that came with it was. Detectives quickly learned that investigating crime within this community would not be easy.

XAVIER CORTES, SUB-INSPECTOR, MOSSOS D'ESQUADRA (through translator): We are talking about a totally culture, and this difference is in how they structure their social relations and how they go about their activities. Submission to structures established in their country of origin affect the way they conduct themselves here. They are very closed organizations.

SAVIDGE: Another obstacle to investigating the trafficking of women into the Chinese brothel industry are Spain's prostitution laws. Prostitution is not illegal under Spanish law, but forcing someone to sell themselves is illegal. The challenge for investigators is proving someone has been coerced.

In Spain, you can find prostitutes on busy city streets, in bars, or on the side of the road. But detectives say Chinese operation operates out of apartments. And in just two years, it has eliminated any other competitors in the residential brothel market.

CORTES (through translator): First, when it began offering a different product set, offering an exotic consumer of sex and very low prices, compared to the rest of the market, others had to close and go, because, evidently, the climb dropped them. The prices were much lower and the product was innovative. It was exotic.

SAVIDGE: When investigators started to notice the increase in Chinese brothels advertised in newspapers, they decided to take a closer look. Were the women inside willing participants?

For the CNN Freedom Project, I'm Martin Savidge.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Then, tomorrow, Martin Savidge takes us along as the unit searches two suspected brothels. It's just one of 33 operations conducted during this massive investigation, and here is a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Fifteen undercover agents make up Cortes' team. And when they go out on operations like this, their mission is always to blend into the crowd.

One of the agents explains what that requires. He calls it a gray profile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You have to be refined with very well-educated people, and you have to be vulgar with very vulgar people to speak the same language that they speak to you. It is complicated. It is very easy to say that sometimes, it's very complicated to do.

SAVIDGE: That ability is put to the test in the first apartment. They're trying to get into the brothel as a client. And once inside, they'll announce they're doing a police check. But the man who answers the door senses that something is not right, and he won't let them in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: A fascinating peek there at the next installment of our undercover Catalonia series. See it tomorrow, right here on NEWS STREAM.

And remember, you can learn more about the CNN Freedom Project on our Web site. Just go to CNN.com/freedom.

Now, still to come on NEWS STREAM --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this (ph) is important. Not the Palestinian issue, not the situation between Israel and (INAUDIBLE), just Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Will Israel's tough talk on Tehran's nuclear program translate into action?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now a message on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Facebook page says he does not plan to resign. The (inaudible) reports earlier said that two journalists close to Mr. Berlusconi claimed he would step down. On Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Rome to voice opposition to Berlusconi's government and its economic reforms.

Now Greeks are waiting to learn who their next prime minister will be after George Papandreou decided he will step down in favor of a power sharing government. He is meeting with the opposition party to discuss who might replace him. Now whoever leads the new government must oversee the controversial bailout deal and the implementation of tough austerity measure that go with it.

Now Syrian activists say 23 civilians were killed in clashes with government forces on Sunday. But Syria's media restrictions make it impossible for CNN to verify such reports. Now the Arab League issued a statement on Sunday criticizing the Syrian government for failing to honor its latest pledge to end the violence.

A notorious convicted terrorist known throughout the world as Carlos the Jackal is facing a new trial in Paris this Monday. Now the Venezuelan whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez is already serving a prison sentence for the murder of two French secret agents. And today he's on trial accused of bombing French trains and a train station in 1982 and 1983 killing 11 people.

Now gamers around the world are counting down the hours until midnight when the latest Call of Duty game goes on sale. Modern Warfare 3 is the latest in the long running series that has become one of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world. Now the series of military shooting games have attracted critical acclaim and strong sales in the early days, but as you can see from this chart it wasn't until the fourth game that sales really took off. And that's when call of duty went away from its traditional World War II setting and moved to the present day with the Modern Warfare series.

Now the publisher, Activision, boasts at last year's BlackOps racked up over $650 million in sales in just five days. And over 6 million people play a Call of Duty game every day.

Now the franchise even has its own expo. In September, thousands of gamers gathered in L.A. for a variety of activities including of course playing Modern Warfare 3.

Now let's bring in Mark Rubin. He's the head of Infinity Ward, the developer behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. He joins me live from CNN London.

It's good to see you.

And Call of Duty, congratulations. It's a blockbuster franchise. It has sold more than 65 million units in the U.S. alone. Why has it become so big?

MARK RUBIN, INFINITY WARD: That's a tough question to answer actually. You know, gaming has been around for a bit, and Call of Duty 4 really started to scratch the surface of where gaming could go. I really felt that that game hit the pinnacle of what gaming was, but I think what happened -- and we saw sort of a beginning it with COD 4 is it started to take form as something that not just gamers were playing, it became a social phenomenon that everybody around the world was playing and not just in the gaming arena.

So I think that's really where it became big, including we had celebrities and sports stars going on TV and talking about how much they play Call of Duty. So I think that's a big part of it.

STOUT: You call it a social phenomenon. And in a few hours, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will be released. What makes this one a standout to you?

RUBIN: For me it's actually been a great learning experience after Modern Warfare 2 which was really a massive hit. It was the first time where we became the largest entertainment launch of all time. And with that many players online at any given time we had an enormous amount of feedback.

We had a hard road ahead of us where we had to learn how to listen to all that feedback. And I think that's what we've done with Modern Warfare 3. We really finally sort of come into our own in the -- in the ability to understand our audience and understand what it is that they want to get out of Call of Duty.

So I think that...

STOUT: But last year -- yeah.

RUBIN: Yeah, sorry.

STOUT: Yeah, sorry to interrupt you. You were talking about learning how to answer your customers and what they want. But you've also had to deal with some internal problems as well. Last year, the co-founders of Infinity Ward were fired, almost half the staff left. So how did that affect the development of the latest Call of Duty?

RUBIN: It definitely made it a huge challenge which, you know, honestly makes this moment even sweeter. You know, we had a reduced staff -- about half the staff. We had -- still had people in every department so it wasn't -- it wasn't knowledge loss necessarily there. But what we knew going into it is we knew that we couldn't make the game by ourselves, not in the time frame that we wanted to. We needed some extra help.

And what I really did is I didn't want to just bring in extra help from outside and sort of stack the numbers, I actually wanted to get someone involved who was as passionate as invested in the game as we are. So I went up to San Francisco and spoke with Sledge Hammer games and got them basically on board for co-development. So they brought in all of their talent, a lot of fresh new ideas and great dedication to the projects. And together we were able to make what I believe is the best game so far.

STOUT: Modern Warfare 2, it had that controversial scene where the gamer takes part in the massacre of civilians. And Modern Warfare 3 also had some controversy. I understand as a gamer you witness a suicide bombing that kills a little girl. So from a gameplay perspective, why do you do this? Why do you include these types of scenes?

RUBIN: Well, I guess just to clarify as well. I imagine you haven't played the game yet, because it's not out until tonight, but it's not a suicide bombing, it's sort of military casualties of war. The scene you're talking about in context makes more sense.

The idea -- everything that we've always done -- and this is something that Call of Duty is known for and it's part of what makes it so popular is that we've always drawn from movies rather than trying to draw from games. We really take a very cinematic approach to the way we make games. We send our designers off to sort of Hollywood writing schools -- and being in L.A. obviously that's easy to do -- and have them learn how to tell stories in the same fashion that movies tell stories.

And so what we do scenes like that, we're not doing it for controversy. We're not trying to do it to, I don't know, make headlines. It's actually always a part of how to tell a story. And in that moment we're trying to tell a story that you know shows the impact of war and the impact it has on just, you know, civilians, non-combatants.

Because I think our games have always shown how hard and difficult it is for the soldiers, but it's also challenging for everybody else in the world.

STOUT: All right. Mark Rubin, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us. And again, good luck. You're launch is just a couple of hours away. Take care.

RUBIN: Thank you. Thank you very much.

STOUT: Iran's nuclear program is back in the spotlight. And speculation is swirling about just how far Israel might go to prevent Tehran from developing weapons. We've got that story coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now thousands of people in China are donating money to high profile artist and activist Ai Weiwei to pay a tax bill due by mid-November. Now Ai says on his Google+ page that more than 5 million yuan, that's about $830,000, has already been raised. And he reportedly needs about three times that amount.

However, an editorial at a state run newspaper says Ai could be charged with illegal fund raising for accepting the money. Now the 54 year old artist was detained by Chinese authorities for 51, or rather 81 days earlier this year, and is subsequently accused of tax evasion. He denies any wrongdoing.

Now a new report out this week is said to make detailed charges that Iran's nuclear program is geared towards military use. Now diplomats tell CNN the International Atomic Energy Agency report will contain more evidence of a secret program aimed at building nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. And the report comes as Russia warned Monday that any military strike against Iran would be a serious mistake with unpredictable consequences.

Now it's worth noting the Russians helped Iran build its first nuclear power station, but the country feeling most threatened by Iran's nuclear program is Israel.

As CNN's Kevin Flower reports, the news media there is saturated with speculation the nation may be preparing for military action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN FLOWER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A rocket lands in a suburban Tel Aviv park, releasing a noxious yellow gas. Within moments, dozens are rendered unconscious and emergency response teams, clad in protective clothing, begin the work of moving the wounded.

This, however, is not real. It's part of an Israeli government drill to prepare for large-scale rocket attacks from hostile neighbors. And it comes at a time when talk about the possibility of Israel attacking Iran's nuclear program has hit fever pitch.

Recently, Israeli media have reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister Ehud Barak are pushing the cabinet to accept unilateral military action.

This is a senior U.S. military official acknowledge concerns about Israel's intentions.

In an interview with CNN, Barak pushed back on the media reports.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: I don't think that we are in a stage of discussing any kind of military action. I don't think if and when we have to discuss it, it should be discussed the way we are talking now.

FLOWER: Compounding the speculation about Israel's plans, recent long range training exercises by the Israeli air force in Italy. There was also a test last week of a propulsion system. Israel would not confirm reports that the test was for a long range ballistic missile saying only that the test was long planned.

And add to that the impending release of an International Atomic Energy Agency report expected to offer new details that Iran's nuclear program is geared towards weapons development, you are left with a situation in which some observers believe an Israeli military strike could be more than theoretical for the Netanyahu government.

REU VEN PEDATZUR, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY: For him, this is a target. Nothing is as important -- not the Palestinian issue, not the situation between Israel and Turkey and so on and so forth, just Iran. So if Netanyahu decides this is the future of Israel we don't need a green light from the state.

FLOWER: Whether or not the Israeli government is actually moved towards initiating a military operation against Iran, recent media attention has succeeded in putting Iran and its nuclear program back in the international spotlight right where Israel wants it.

Kevin Flower, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now last year a cyber attack targeted Tehran's nuclear program. Atika Schubert explains how a highly specialized computer worm took down some of Iran's centrifuges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's called Stuxnet, the first computer virus ever specifically created to physically sabotage a target, the same one reportedly now in Israel's sites, Iran's Natanz nuclear facility.

Here's how it worked. Stuxnet hijacked the controller software at Natanz speeding up and slowing down the motors inside the centrifuges, literally wearing the centrifuges out beyond repair. As the centrifuges destroyed themselves, Stuxnet was sending back signals that everything was fine and running smoothly, so the operators may not have known this was happening until it was too late.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, IAEA records show that between the end of 2009 and early 2010 about 1,000 centrifuges had to be replaced at Natanz. Stuxnet is the suspected culprit.

But that's only about one out of every nine centrifuges there, far from derailing Iran's nuclear program.

In fact, that may not be the only cyber attack on Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. Researchers at Symantec say that the creators of Stuxnet have and released another virus in August of last year, this one is called DuQ (ph). Now they say DuQ (ph) is still in its early stages, but they also believe that virus is intended for sabotage, they just don't know what the exact target is yet.

Atika Schubert, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now the former American pro basketball star Magic Johnson was the towering picture of invincibility. And ahead will mark one of his biggest days off the court with the announcement he made 20 years ago today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

And to sports now where the biggest headline from the weekend did not involve a winner or even a player. Don Riddell has more -- Don.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Thank, Kristie.

Greg Norman has spoken up in defense of his former caddy, Steve Williams, who is now at the center of a racism row (ph) after a comment he made about Tiger Woods on Friday. Norman says he doesn't think that the New Zealand caddy Steve Williams is a racist, dismissing his remark at a private caddies function as a stupid comment.

Now Williams helped Tiger to win 13 major titles and was clearly upset at the manner in which Tiger sacked him earlier this year. Williams has since apologized for the remark he made, which dominated golf headlines over the weekend, and which took some of the gloss of Martin Kaymer's victory at the WGC event in Shanghai.

Williams current employer is the Australian golfer Adam Scott. He has declined to censure his caddy. But the sport has been criticized for not taking more of a stand. Both Tiger and Williams are in action at this week's Australian Open and will be on opposite teams at the President's Cup which starts next Friday.

Meanwhile the Met police here in London have expanded their investigation into the racism affair. They are examining a death threat that was sent to QPR's defender Anton Ferdinand. The contents of the letter were said to be so graphic that QPR did not want to show it to their player.

Ferdinand was the alleged victim of a racist comment that was made by John Terry during last months' Premier League match at Loftus Road, an incident already being investigated by the police and also the Football Association.

David Beckham is on the verge of a fairytale ending to his career with the L.A. Galaxy having helped them to the final of the MLS cup. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star has never won the biggest prize in U.S. soccer, but he'll now have a chance to in what will be his last game for the Galaxy.

Against Real Salt Lake on Sunday, Los Angeles took the lead with a Landon Donovan penalty midway through the first half, but Salt Lake were level just three minutes later. With the stadium still buzzing from the L.A. goal, Alvaro Saborio headed in to silence the home crowd.

Game tied at 1-all, and that's how it stayed until just before the hour mark. Now in the last two games, Beckham and Mike Magee have combined for a goal. And they did it here again. A beautiful Beckham cross, put it on a platter for Magee who could hardly miss. 2-1 Galaxy. That's well worth another look.

And the Galaxy were home and dry shortly afterwards. The Ireland international Robbie Keane provided the decisive goal, his third goal since arriving in August. And how valuable it might turn out to be.

The Galaxy won by 3-1. They are now shooting for the big prize against Houston in two weeks time.

Beckham has already played at the highest level in England, Spain and Italy. It's rumored that France could be his next destination. Paris Saint Germain spent big in the summer and have stormed to their league with six straight wins, but their wings were clipped a little on Sunday. PSG took the lead against Bordeaux away in only the 10th minute from the corner of Mohamed Sissoko center thumper into the top left corner.

But three minutes later, Bourdeaux were equal thanks to a fine header from Yoan Gouffran. And they could have won it, but the Paris goalie Sirgu (ph) was equal to Jaroslav Plasil's rasping shot.

Paris picked a good weekend to drop points. None of the top six won, meaning they are still three points clear.

That's all for now, Kristie. We'll have much more in World Sport at the new time at 12:00 p Eastern.

STOUT: Thank you for the reminder. Don Riddell there. Thank you.

Now 20 years ago today one of the world's most famous basketball stars suddenly called the press to California's Great Western Forum where his team, the L.A. Lakers played. And the room was packed with cameras and reporters.

And then Magic Johnson made an announcement that stunned the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGIC JOHNSON, BASKETBALL PLAYER: Because of HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers today. I just want to make clear, first of all, that I do not have the AIDS disease, because I know a lot of you are -- want to know that, but HIV virus...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now at the time HIV was thought to be a death sentence, which made that announcement even more dramatic.

Now our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now live from CNN Center. And Elizabeth, 20 years on, how is Magic Johnson doing today?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, by all accounts, he is doing well. This weekend he told the L.A. Times, "I'm not cured, but the HIV is asleep deep in my body." In other words, he has not gotten rid of the virus, because that's not the way the drugs work, but it seems that he is not ill. His T-cell count remains good. T-cell count is an indicator of what the virus is doing in your body. And he continues to be an activist to take the stigma away from this disease -- Kristie.

STOUT: And what is his secret? What has extended his life?

COHEN: You know, he got lucky twice. First of all, he was -- he made this announcement in 1991. And then three years later, he started taking the antiretroviral drugs that have saved so many lives. And he had access to those drugs about a year-and-a-half before the general public did. So that's the first time he got lucky.

The second time that he got lucky is that he's been able to continue taking those drugs and they've been doing well for him. But it seems like it was caught early. And that's really key is that when it was caught he was asymptomatic. So, you know, that's really important.

STOUT: And along with these drugs, what other advances have there been in treating HIV and AIDS over the past 20 years?

COHEN: Well, you know those drugs came out in 1996. And they've been tweaked many times since so that they work even better than they did back then. In addition, there have been advances in testing. So now you can get a test in 20 minutes. And that's so important, because for example in this country, in the United States, there are more than a million people living with HIV. And one in five of them does not know that they're HIV positive.

And Kristie, this is dangerous for the person who is sick, because they then can't get treatment, it's also dangerous for all of their partners, because they could be spreading the disease without realizing it.

STOUT: Elizabeth Cohen, fascinating discussion. Thank you very much indeed.

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

END