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Silvio Berlusconi's Future; Greece's New Leadership; Interview With Chinese Activist and Artist Ai Weiwei; Conrad Murray Found Guilty; Agents in Barcelona Work To Uncover Human Trafficking Rings; Much of Thailand Remains Underwater; Asteroid To Pass Between Earth, Moon Today

Aired November 8, 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. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's political fate could be largely determined by a crucial vote expected in less than two hours.

Also ahead, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei speaks to NEWS STREAM about the donations pouring in to help him pay his massive tax bill.

And Earth is set for a close encounter with this asteroid. We'll hear from one of the scientists getting ready to study it as it flies by our planet.

We begin in Rome, at the Italian parliament, where it is crunch time for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Let's bring up some live pictures of lawmakers there as they debate a public finance measure. And a vote is expected in the coming hours in what will effectively be seen as a judgment on the prime minister himself and his waning support.

For the very latest on the situation, I'm joined live by Matthew Chance in Rome.

And Matthew, how vulnerable is the Italian prime minister?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he could be pretty vulnerable, indeed. The Italian media is full of speculation that between 20 and 40 of his coalition MPs have defected to the opposition. That would be more than enough to bring down the Italian government, but I think it's also important to remember that Silvio Berlusconi is a better and horse trader, and behind the scenes he's been working very hard to try and attract those rebels back into the coalition fold.

And so even though the odds at this point may be stacked against him, he's coming out fighting. Within the last few minutes, though, there has been some pretty bad news for Silvio Berlusconi potentially, which is his main coalition partner, Umberto Bossi, of the Northern League, has told journalists that he wants Silvio Berlusconi to step aside. Now, his press office has played down to CNN the significance of those comments, but if it does mean -- if it means that the Northern League withdrawing their support from Silvio Berlusconi, then that's not something that the Italian prime minister is going to be able to recover from -- Kristie.

STOUT: Well, a key ally is asking him to step down. And if Mr. Berlusconi does resign, who would replace him?

CHANCE: Well, that's a good question. Much will depend on what kind of government Italy will have afterwards, whether it's merely the prime minister who is replaced and somebody from his own party is installed as prime minister. That's a definite possibility.

It could be that new elections are called. And, of course, then it would mean it would be up to the people of Italy to decide who they want as their prime minister. Another possibility is that a technical government, a technocratic government is put in power, possibly with Mario Monti, who is a former EU commissioner in charge, to see Italy through these very difficult, very stormy economic times -- Kristie.

STOUT: Matthew Chance, live in Rome for us.

Thank you.

Now, Silvio Berlusconi's current challenges are, in some ways, a fitting climax to what has been a colorful life.

The 75-year-old, he calls himself the most persecuted man in history. And indeed, he has weathered more than 50 confidence votes in Italy's parliament since 2008.

He is dealing also with a number of legal troubles. Mr. Berlusconi faces at least three different trials on corruption, bribery, and abuse of power charges, and allegedly paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl. Mr. Berlusconi maintains that he is innocent, and he claims to have made more than 2,500 court appearances in more than 100 trials, and spent almost $270 million in legal fees over the past 20 years.

But he can afford it. In fact, according to "Forbes" magazine, it says that his fortune is about $6.2 billion, making him 118 on its list of the world's richest people. And the wealth, it comes from a media empire which includes TV networks, magazines, newspapers, and a publishing firm, and one of the world's premier soccer teams, AC Milan.

Now, there is no word yet on just who will replace Greece's outgoing prime minister, George Papandreou. But a Greek government spokesman says an announcement will come soon.

An emergency cabinet meeting has just ended, and Greece's main parties, they've been discussing the formation of a new unity government. Now, the new prime minister, whoever it is, will have to oversee implementation of the EU debt deal and lead the country to early elections, expected in February.

Let's go straight to our Diana Magnay. She is standing by live in Athens.

And Diana, any agreement yet over who will be the next prime minister?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it would seem as though the wheels are in motion, Kristie, after two days of excruciating negotiations between the two main parties, and presumably also those leaders, possible new future interim leaders, whose names are in play here. Discussions over both the program of that new government and of course who will be in it and who will be in it and who is going to lead it.

As you say, a cabinet meeting has just concluded in which the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, said to his cabinet members that they should have their resignations at the ready, and that he did anticipate a positive outcome by the end of the day. This is something that we heard from his spokesman on Sunday already, and it is now Tuesday. And you get a sense from the Greek public, from the Greek newspapers that they are extremely frustrated that, what with all the sort of swan song about a new government announced on Sunday, it has taken still this long to actually hammer out a deal between the parties at this crisis point. And of course it is also what European lenders are looking to find here in Greece, cross-party support for this new government so that it can push through the terms of the bailout deal agreed on October the 26th and then take the country to elections -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, there are a number of contenders, but who at this hour is the leading candidate for the job?

MAGNAY: Well, the name that you keep hearing and seeing in the Greek media is Lucas Papademos. Now, he is an adviser to George Papandreou. He's a former vice president of the European Central Bank. He's a former Bank of Greece governor, and actually helped steer Greece into the eurozone all those years ago.

And most recently, he's been a professor at Harvard. He flew back to this country late on Monday night to have talks with the prime minister. So his name is out there.

Also, rumors in the media that he's been discussing wanting this interim government to be there for a longer period of time than just the 100 days until elections, and that he's been sort of discussing nominations of his own into the new cabinet. His name is the most common one.

And then there are another couple in the fray, Nikiforos Diamandou who is the EU ombudsman, and also Panagiotis Roumeliotis, who is Greece's representative at the IMF. Of course, at this stage, we really do have to wait to see who it is -- Kristie.

STOUT: Diana Magnay, live in Athens.

Thank you very much, indeed.

And still to come, donations to a dissident. Now money is pouring in to help Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei pay off his towering tax bill. He tells NEWS STREAM he did not ask for the handouts.

Plus, a search into two suspected brothels in Spain. The CNN Freedom Project gains unprecedented access to an anti-trafficking investigation.

And tributes pour in for Smokin' Joe Frazier. The boxing legend lost his fight with cancer on Monday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, from detention to donations, we have been following the story of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. It has been one week since authorities ordered him to pay more than $2 million in back taxes, and his supporters are helping him pay that bill. They have given him more than $950,000 so far. That's according to his latest post here on Google Plus.

And in return, Ai has sent little packets of sunflower seeds to donors as a gesture of gratitude. That's a reference to one of his famed art pieces.

Now, Ai insists he will pay his supporters back. And I spoke with Ai Weiwei just a short time ago. He says his supporters range from young people to retirees, and I asked if they are making a political statement with their wallets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AI WEIWEI, CHINESE ARTIST/ACTIVIST: Yes, they're appearing (ph) to me they all had a little message there. They would say, "We support you. We never had a chance to express it. We've also been watching you, but today, under this fine, it's not a fine to you, but to us all. So we want to show people they are behind you and they are supporting you." And the use of the money as a ticket (ph) to (INAUDIBLE).

STOUT: Have you seen any police around your compound? And do you fear retaliation?

WEIWEI: Yes. Yes, I see it's much tighter control. And police follow me. And also, I have to go to see them every other day. Even tomorrow morning I have to go see them.

STOUT: If your tax bill -- and you owe about $2.4 million U.S. dollars, according to Beijing -- if it is paid mainly through donations, how do you think the government will respond?

WEIWEI: Well, I think they will pretend they won't notice this, or they would say this is a small group of people. And also, the director (ph) told me, "If you pay, that means you agree to the fine. That means you accept accusation."

But the law (ph) is, if you don't pay, they can accuse you for another crime. And either way, you're not going to be out. So that's why they are very comfortable. They said, if you pay, you agree with this.

But (INAUDIBLE). You know, we can heal (ph) and we can go to the court. Otherwise, you don't even have that chance.

STOUT: And to confirm, all the donations you've received so far, as of 4:00 p.m. today, over 6 million (INAUDIBLE), you consider it a loan that you will repay?

WEIWEI: Yes. Well, I will repay to the people who lend to me. I think that this is a very strong support, and I appreciate this. But I am definitely not going to use it to just pay this kind of strong (ph) accusation there. But every penny will be paid back by me.

STOUT: And why, may I ask, do you need donations? Why do you need the money?

WEIWEI: I never asked for the public's donations. It's really (INAUDIBLE) by the public. And they (INAUDIBLE) cash and money. I said, wait a minute. We have to set up a (INAUDIBLE). I cannot accept other's cash. It's a lot of money.

So we went through it openly. But of course we didn't expect too many people are going to be involved. And over 20,000 people in the past few days send money in. And this has never happened.

It's unthinkable in this nation's history. And people do it in many different ways. People even put money in my telephone account. You know?

It's very, very interesting. They throw money into my garden and they make like a little airplane flying into my garden at midnight. You know, you just cannot stop them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: And you can read more about my conversation with Ai Weiwei online. Check out the blog, CNN.com/newstream.

Michael Jackson fans erupted in cheers after an L.A. jury convicted his former physician of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's death. Conrad Murray could get up to four years in prison when he's sentenced on November the 29th.

And Sandra Endo has more on the reaction to Monday's verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "We, the jury in the above-entitled action, find the defendant, Conrad Robert Murray, guilty of the crime of involuntary manslaughter."

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Conrad Murray showed little emotion as he learned his fate, but the verdict elicited cries of joy from the hundreds of Michael Jackson fans outside the courthouse. Jackson's family later expressed their happiness as well.

JERMAINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BROTHER: Justice was served, yes.

LA TOYA JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S SISTER: Thank you, America. Thank all the fans. Thank the prosecuting team. Walgren, you were great. Everybody was wonderful.

ENDO: It took the jury nearly 10 hours of deliberation to find Jackson's personal physician guilty. He was convicted of administering a lethal dose of the anesthetic Propofol to Jackson the day he died.

STEVE COOLEY, L.A. COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: And it was a very strong and powerful message that this sort of conduct does rise to the level of criminal negligence. And to the extent someone dies as a result of their playing the role of Dr. Feelgood, they will be held accountable.

ENDO: Murray's attorney says he wasn't surprised at the verdict, but he says the defense wasn't allowed to present evidence pertinent to their case. They are considering an appeal.

NAREG GOURJIAN, CONRAD MURRAY DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, he loved Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson was a close friend of his. So this is just devastating for Dr. Murray.

ENDO: The doctor was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs. The judge ordered him held without bail until his sentencing.

(on camera): Murray's sentencing is set for the end of the month, and he could face up to four years in prison.

In Los Angeles, I'm Sandra Endo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now, we heard briefly there from some of Michael Jackson's family members. And Jackson's parents and several of his brothers and sisters had been in court to hear the verdict. And as they were leaving, some of them spoke to reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN: Katherine is approaching me now, surrounded by law enforcement.

J. JACKSON: Justice was served, yes. There wasn't enough time though.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What would you say for Michael?

J. JACKSON: Michael is with us. Michael is with us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell us what you would say to America right now.

REBBIE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S SISTER: Just thank you so much. I'm just happy it's over with. Nothing will bring him back, but I'm happy he was found guilty.

L. JACKSON: Thank you, America. Thank all the fans. Thank the prosecuting team. Walgren, you were great. Everybody was wonderful.

I just want to thank you for -- Jane, I love you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And what would you say to Michael if you could say something to him now?

L. JACKSON: I'm going to say something. Michael loves everybody out here. I love them. We all love them.

And guess what? He was in that courtroom, and that's why victory was served.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: The deputy district attorney in the case expressed his sympathies to the Jackson family, who he said lost "not a pop icon, but a son and a brother."

Now let's turn to the aftermath of Libya's civil war. The city of Misrata was the target of a bloody military campaign by Moammar Gadhafi's security forces, and residents of a nearby town are accused of taking part in the attacks.

As Jomana Karadsheh reports, the end of the war does not mean the end of revenge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Faraj (ph) just wants to go home, but doing that may mean his death. Faraj (ph), like thousands of other displaced Libyans, comes from the town of Tawergha. Libyan rebels claim that many of the town's men took part in one of the most brutal assaults by the Gadhafi regime on the neighboring city of Misrata. It was an offensive that left more than 1,000 civilians dead.

As the tide changed in Libya's civil war, for some it was payback time. "We might forgive Gadhafi before we forgive Tawergha," this Misrata fighter says.

Tawergha, a town with Berber origins, was once home to more than 30,000 people, many of them darker skinned than other Libyans. Now it is a ghost town. Houses ransacked are burnt, its people displaced across the country.

Faraj (ph) says he got to this camp in Tripoli after fighters from Misrata captured him and shot him. He says they left him in a remote area to die. After a two-week ordeal, he was rescued, and he is bitter.

"Everyone believes Tawergha destroyed Misrata," he says, "but they don't know that Tawergha was destroyed by Misrata. Look at all these displaced families. This is all from Misrata."

This man from Tawergha who was too afraid to speak on camera says he's too terrified to even walk out on to the streets. He says rebels from Misrata have pursued them to Tripoli. "Some people from the town have disappeared," he adds.

Human Rights Watch has reported cases of arbitrary detention by Misrata militias and torture in their jails, in some cases leading to death. Many Misratans believe the people of Tawergha should never be allowed to return, but that is not everyone's view.

"It is impossible to forget in a short period of time," this Misrata fighter says. "Maybe over time, people can forgive and there would be reconciliation."

But Tawergha is just one of a growing list of places where vigilante justice has taken hold. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte is in ruins. Residents say it bore the brunt of the rebels' revenge.

The newly elected prime minister says Libyans want to build a nation that respects human rights and that does not permit abuses, but he says that will need time. But human rights groups say the cycle of revenge must be broken if Libya is to emerge from its nightmare and begin building a better future.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Tripoli.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: A boxing legend loses his final fight. Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier passes away, and Don Riddell will be here to look back at his remarkable career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

And the sports world is mourning the loss of a boxing legend. Don Riddell is here with much more on the life and career of Joe Frazier -- Don.

DON RIDDELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Kristie.

Yes, tributes are pouring in for one of the all-time greats, Joe Frazier, who sadly died of liver cancer at the age of 67. He was known as "Smokin' Joe," and the American heavyweight was best known for his three fights with Muhammad Ali, including his victory in the bout dubbed "The Fight of the Century."

Mark McKay looks back at Frazier's incredible career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK MCKAY, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Frazier made his indelible mark on boxing during the sport's heavyweight heydays. Born the son of a South Carolina sharecropper, Smokin' Joe, as he was known, rose through the ranks to become one of the most recognized fighters in history.

After winning a gold medal for the United States at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Frazier turned professional and quickly began ringing up opponents in the ring. Using a vicious left hook, Frazier floored fighters at a dizzying pace en route to capturing the undisputed heavyweight crown in 1970. It was the catalyst for one of the greatest rivalries the sport has ever known.

In 1971, Frazier stared down Muhammad Ali in a bout dubbed "The Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden New York. Through 15 bruising rounds, Frazier staggered Ali and was awarded a unanimous decision.

Three years later, Ali finally got his revenge by winning a 12 round unanimous decision which set the stage for the "Thrilla in Manilla" in 1975. Frazier battled through 14 rounds before his corner stopped the fight, handing victory to Ali, who'd say years later that Frazier was the toughest opponent he had ever faced.

In typical boxing fashion, Smokin' Joe retired in 1976, only to make a short-lived comeback in the early 1980's before retiring for good.

Frazier left boxing with 32 victories, four defeats, and one draw, but he never truly walked away from the fight game. In his latter years, Frazier owned a gym in Philadelphia, where he taught the finer points of the sport to a new generation of boxers eager to learn from one of the all-time greats.

Mark McKay, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIDDELL: Some wonderful memories there.

Ali and Frazier had a bitter relationship when they were fighting, but it's understood they were on much better terms towards the end. Ali led the tributes to Smokin' Joe, saying, "The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration."

Another of the era's great heavyweights, George Foreman, who fought Frazier twice, said, "Goodnight, Joe Frazier. I love you, dear friend."

Another boxing great, Oscar De La Hoya, said, "I will miss you, my friend. RIP, Joe Frazier."

And Floyd Mayweather said, "RIP, Smokin' Joe. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Frazier family. We lost an all-time great tonight."

And incidentally, Mayweather, who is one of the greatest fighters of the current generation, has volunteered to pay for Frazier's funeral services.

Kristie, no word yet on whether Frazier's family have accepted.

STOUT: Some very touching tributes there. Don Riddell, thank you.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, go undercover with an anti-trafficking unit in Spain's Catalonia region. CNN gets rare access as we work to shine a light on slavery.

And authorities in Thailand race to save factories from the floodwaters, but will they succeed this time?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now Silvio Berlusconi's main coalition partner says he should step down as prime minister. Northern League leader Umberto Bossi made the comment as parliament prepares to vote on a budget measure which is seen as a crucial test of confidence in Berlusconi's leadership.

The doctor convicted of causing Michael Jackson's death has spent his first night as an inmate in the L.A. County jail. On Monday, the jury found that Conrad Murray was responsible for the overdose that killed the singer in 2009. His lawyers say he is devastated, but is trying to stay positive. They plan to appeal his conviction.

A Greek government spokesman says a new prime minister will be named by the end of Tuesday. Outgoing prime minister George Papandreou has asked the cabinet to have their resignations ready. One top candidate is former Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos.

And former heavyweight boxing champ Joe Frazier died Monday after a battle with liver cancer. He's famous in part for handing fellow boxing legend Mohammed Ali his first professional defeat. And Ali issued a statement saying the world has lost a great champion. Joe Frazier was 67.

Now CNN's Freedom Project has been working to help end human slavery in the 21st Century. And all this week we're taking you to the front lines of the fight. Now police in Spain's Catalonia region have given us rare access inside an anti-trafficking unit as it tries to search two suspected brothels. And here is Martin Savage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVAGE, CNN CORREPSONDENT: This briefing is a rare glimpse into how the human trafficking unit as Mossos d'Esquadra operates. It's one state of many in an investigation into prostitution in the Chinese community.

After this briefing in an operation too sensitive to show us, the undercover officers check out a man they suspected was bringing in women from China illegally, shuttling them through European cities to eventually land in Barcelona, the biggest city in the Catalonia region.

The unit's boss, Sub-Inspector Xavier Cortes, he says moving the women in this way makes them less detectable.

SUB-INSPECTOR XAVIER CORTES, MOSSOS D'ESQUADRA (through translator): There are no direct flights for rather little trips to different European capitals. In a way, that gives them a tourist profile when they reach passport control at the airport.

SAVAGE: The team will be investigating whether women are being forced into prostitution at Chinese residential brothels. And that is complicated for many reasons. One, the Chinese community is very tight lipped.

CORTES (through translator): In this case we came up against a group, the Chinese, that is extremely closed. That moves in an environment very much his own. The community has a full relationship with the police forces.

SAVAGE: The second obstacle relates to Spain's prostitution laws. Prostitution is not illegal, but one cannot become a licensed prostitute. You can't force someone into prostitution either. And brothels are technically illegal. But there are ways to work around that. Many brothels have licenses to operate as bars or hotels with waitresses.

In this operation, the undercover team is investigating Chinese brothels that operate out of apartments sometimes without any licenses at all raising the alarm that perhaps something even more clandestine is happening here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When we find a brothel located in a flat which obviously is not advertized, we will go in and investigate, confirm whether prostitution is taking place, and from there to identify who is inside if possible, especially the manager, the person who is profiting from the victims.

SAVAGE: On this day, the team conducts a reconnaissance mission. They're checking out two suspected brothels to get an idea of what's going on inside.

CORTES (through translator): The concern is that we have information that this particular brothel a few days ago took two or three women directly from China is of great interest for the issue of certification. If they (inaudible) women so quickly that once they reach a city, passed into prostitution in brothels.

SAVAGE: 15 undercover agents make up Cortes's 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. Then 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, but sometimes it's very complicated to do.

SAVAGE: 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.

They can't force their way without a warrant. So they move on to the next apartment.

The agents have more luck getting inside, but once there they are met by a woman whose story they don't believe.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now we will pick up their operation again tomorrow as agents of the anti-trafficking unit get the confirmation they need, but they still have questions they need answers for.

And here's a preview of what's next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVAGE: This time, investigators say they found three women and further evidence of prostitution. Suspecting the women may be afraid to speak freely in the presence of the men in the apartment, the agents bring the women back to the station. They want to try to find out how they got to Spain. In other words, are they victims of sex slavery, trafficked across borders and forced into prostitution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Now fellow police are taking statements from one of the women located inside the building we last accessed. Our intention is to talk with her and find out her personal situation, how did you arrive in Spain? If you have a debt, how much did you have to pay to come here? How long have you been in the business of prostitution? Did you start here, in Spain, in Barcelona, or elsewhere?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: A peak there of our next installment of our undercover Catalonia series. See it Wednesday right here on News Stream.

Now Thailand's prime minister has laid out a plan to help the nation recover from the worst flooding in 50 years. And the crisis is not over yet. Water is still moving through Bangkok. And two industrial parks are being threatened.

Now Thailand's defense minister says the government's credibility rests on saving them. He acknowledged that authorities had tried and failed to protect factories in other provinces. And people are displaying creative ways to cope with the flood waters.

Now this man, he's made a mock VW van out Styrofoam and what looks like a kitchen sink to help him to get around. And many others are relying on simple plastic tubs to help them navigate their swamped streets.

Now these girls right here, they're near Bangkok's Choa Phraya River.

And this man, he is using as you can see a plate to help him paddle his raft made of inner tubes and cardboard.

And others are lucky enough to have real boats no matte what they look like. This picture was taken a few weeks ago in Namtamburi (ph). And it just emphasizes how long people in Thailand have been dealing with the floods any way that they can.

Now the water level is starting to go down in some of the northern provinces. Mari Ramos joins us with more from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Namtamburi (ph) is one of those areas where the flooding level is slowly starting to go down. Ayutthaya is having a little bit of better luck. They've been flooded longer, of course, but that water level continues to go down. And this week they're planning a massive clean-up along some of those areas affected by the flooding.

But there's still a lot of standing water even in those areas. And you talk about some of those industrial parks, there are at least seven between Namtamburi (ph) and Ayutthaya that have been completely flooded and it may take weeks if not months for those to be back and operational. Last week, there was a report on the Bangkok Post saying that those industrial parks will probably not reopen completely until January, Kristie. That leaves a huge void, a huge vacuum there for employees in that region.

I want to talk to you a little what happening here in the north. We're seeing, of course -- the system I guess in a way working. Those larger canals, the smaller canals flowing into the bigger canals. But you have those critical overflow points. And this has been a huge concern.

This is just north of the province of Bangkok. And this is significant, because this is where you have the most significant flooding, of course, and then back over towards the river. There's right there the airport which we've seen already. It's covered in water.

Well, we have a similar now as we head into the city proper. You have those larger canals. And then you have the smaller canals. And where these meet that's where you're seeing the most flooding, even though it's farther away from the river.

There are now 13 -- excuse me, 12 districts that have -- that are under evacuation orders. This is the latest one. Portions of Khlong Chan are now under evacuation orders. And so we see these waters, even though they're in some cases about 30 centimeters, which is still quite a bit, moving into central Bangkok. We're not seeing the 1 meter of water, for example, that we saw near Dumwang (ph), but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. But it doesn't also mean that it's going to go higher.

We were worried about some rain coming into southeast Asia, remember, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam were also flooded, but that tropical depression 24 has pretty much fizzled out. We're expecting it to move north here and bring some rain to Hainan and norther parts of Vietnam as well.

And Kristie, you heard of tropical cyclones in the Mediterranean? Well, take a look and see what this storm has done across those areas there. We have some video to show you. This is the water. This is the rain is coming down across portions of Italy. Just tremendous amounts of rain into parts of France. They've had more than a month's worth of rain in just a period of 24 hours, the threat for flooding and mudslides remains.

Come back over to the weather map, this is what it looks like on the satellite image. And you can still see right here the circulation of the storm. It's not that unusual that we're going to see tropical cyclones in these areas. This is the first storm in the Mediterranean like this since 1995, but they have happened before, as you can see here, other times. Not the first. But this definitely is causing a lot of problems across the region.

Let's go ahead and check out your city by city forecast now.

STOUT: Still to come on News Stream, incoming: this asteroid is the size of an aircraft carrier is approaching Earth. And we'll talk to a NASA scientist who is studying this rare celestial sight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Now NASA scientists and amateur astronomers alike will watch a speeding ball of rock hurdle past the Earth this Tuesday. This is the asteroid that they're so keen to study. Its catchy name is 2005YU55. And this grainy image of it was taken in April of last year.

Now in about 10 hours, it will pass closer to our planet than our moon. As scientists have been plotting its trajectory. And saying even at the point of explosive approach, it will be more than 224,000 kilometers away from us. Still, that is the closest encounter the Earth has had with a space rock of this size since 1976.

Now NASA's space guard program says it won't collide with Earth, at least not for the next 100 years. But it has still classified the asteroid as a quote, "potentially hazardous object." Now why is that? Well, if it did crash into Earth, experts say it would result in a 4,000 megaton blast. If it fell into the ocean, it can cause a 70 foot high tsunami. Now that is a lot of damage considering that the asteroid is roughly 400 meters wide, or the size of an aircraft carrier.

Now an event like this won't happen again until 2028. So scientists will be scanning this asteroid very closely. And starting today, the huge dishes at the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will start tracking this space rock. And over in Goldstone, California the massive 70 meter deep space network antenna has been bouncing radio waves off the asteroid since Friday.

Now NASA hopes radar images will provide details about the asteroid's dimensions, shape, and surface features.

Now Marina Brozovic is a scientist at NASA's near Earth object office at the jet propulsion laboratory. She joins me now live from the Goldstone Observatory via Skype. And Marina, very good too see you. Thank you for joining us here on News Stream.

But first I've got to ask, are we 100 percent sure that the asteroid will not hit the Earth or the moon?

MARINA BROZOVIC, NASA NEAR EARTH OBJECT OFFICE: Absolutely. We are 100 percent sure that it's not going to hit us.

STOUT: OK. Good to hear.

Now you and your colleagues at NASA, you have been watching this asteroid for a few days now. What have you learned?

BROZOVIC: Well, I hope that you have seen the images that we have released yesterday. So we already obtained very high resolution images on November 6. And then we were receiving excellent, excellent images yesterday, 3.75 meter resolution. We're covering rotation of this object for a full four hours. So we're already having some spectacular results. And today we're going to continue.

So everything that we knew about this object, would that be we're assuming from the RC images in April 2010 turns out it seems to be correct. So we are looking at about 400 meter object that is rotating with a period of about 18 hours. And I can tell you so far what we have -- what we have covered, what we have imaged, if you imagine that this is 12:00, and this is 6:00.

So on November 6 what we have covered is we have covered from about 3:00 to about 6:00 rotation. And then on the 7th, so yesterday, we covered -- we imaged the rotation from ab out 10:00 to about 2:00. And today, we are going to be seeing from about 6:00 to 9:00. So we're seeing a new part of the object.

And what these images are showing us that we are really -- it is not spheroid. It is not what we were initially seeing from those grainy images from RC that it's completely featureless.

Features are really starting to come up, because we are having much larger sequence of noise. And we are having excellent resolution. Here at 3.75 meters at Goldstone and wealth of surface details are starting to come up. And this is very, very interesting object. We are very excited to be observing this.

STOUT: You've been collecting some incredible images with more to come in just a few hours from now. And it's been 30 years since scientists have had a chance to study an object of this size so close to our planet. I can only imagine this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you. So just how excited are you?

BROZOVIC: Oh we are ultra (ph) excited. This is really -- represents such a unique opportunity. And keep remember -- you know, in 1976 when that asteroid flew by even closely -- at roughly at this distance, a little bit closer, we really didn't know about it. We established that it flew by much, much later. And next time that we know that something is coming this close is going to be 2028. So we have a way to go.

But I just want to point out that every couple of years we do get a chance to observe something extremely interesting and put thousands of pixels on the object. And it doesn't even come -- greater is a very powerful tool. And the asteroid doesn't even have to come this close in order for us to achieve high resolution images and something that can be compared only to a spacecraft flyby.

So I do hope that, you know, we will have more opportunities to obtain really high resolution images of our cosmic neighbors.

STOUT: Well, Marina, thank you very much for joining us. I wish you and your colleagues the very best. And do enjoy the sight when that asteroid swings by so closely to Earth. Thank you so much.

BROZOVIC: Thank you. Thank you very much.

STOUT: Now NASA says that the asteroid should be easily visible to observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres. But since it will approach Earth from the direction of the sun, the best time to see it will be after 9:00 pm GMT.

Now Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has not always behaved conventionally. In fact, his infamous gaffs have kept late night comedians busy. Ahead, our Jeanne Moos gives us her take on Berlusconi's missteps.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: You just saw News Stream on Twitter, but now you can follow us on Google+ as well. Just type +News Stream CNN to Google+ and you can find us.

Now more avid fans might recall that this is not the first time we've had a page on Google+, but our page was deleted along with many other companies, because Google said that its social network was for people not businesses. But now the doors are open for companies and shows that page is. So go ahead, follow us, +News Stream CNN.

Now the Italian prime minister is holding on to power by a thread, but it may be premature to write Silvio Berlusconi's political obit. No doubt when it is written, his best gaffes will get top billing. So, take it away Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Close to calling it quits? Say it ain't so Silvio. If the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi leaves who's going to get caught on camera telling offensive jokes?

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: Who else is going to call President Obama sun-tanned?

Even when he stops talking there's never a dull moment with Berlusconi.

What other world leader inspires list after list of his worst gaffes. Rate the biggest blunder. Put his top 10 to music.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Gaffes like the time Berlusconi arrived at a summit with his cell phone plastered to his ear leaving his hostess, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on hold.

True, he was trying to iron out a summit sticking point with Turkey's prime minister, but he looked like a turkey talking and talking and talking while Chancellor Merkel greeted other leaders and waited. After about eight-and-a-half minutes, she gave up and left.

Then there was the recorded phone conversation in which Berlusconi allegedly called Merkel, well, we can't even begin to say it on TV.

The two words that will be forever associated with Berlusconi are actually one word.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COLBERT REPORT: Bunga bunga party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bunga Bunga.

COLBERT: Bunga Bunga.

MOOS: This is a massed parody of a bunga bunga party. Parties featuring like women like the poetically named Ruby the Heart Stealer, parties so hot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bunga bunga party.

MOOS: Even George Clooney bailed.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: It became a very different kind of evening than anyone thought -- it was like, I have to go. No, where are you going? It's going to be a party. I'm like, no, no I've got to go.

MOOS: Berlusconi's dirty old man image is such that he even gets blamed for pranks he didn't pull.

For instance, this comes from a film farce featuring an actor portraying Berlusconi, yet it circulates on the web as if it's the real thing.

DAVID LETTERMAN, LATE NIGHT: You know who else is in town? Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. So good luck getting a hooker.

MOOS: But even when Berlusconi gets tripped up, he still manages to land on his feet.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: And time now to go over and out there.

I want to show you an unusual performance on China's Hunan Television. Yes, that is Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" as you've never heard or seen before. So what is the point? And why does this set look like a house? Well, the singers are lamenting the absence of their adult children. And they changed Lady Gaga's lyrics. And instead say they're children are too busy to spend time with them.

And that is News Stream, not just for today, but for our very first year. Exactly one year ago today we launched the show. And we hope we've succeeded in our mission of using technology to bring greater depth and context to the news of the day. And from the whole team, we want to thank you for tuning in.

END