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Arab League Ultimatum; Sudden Outcry in Kuwait; Occupy Wall Street Protesters Call for Mass Day of Action; Google Introduces Google Music; Sepp Blatter Criticized Over Racism Comments

Aired November 17, 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 with the growing pressure on Syria. The Arab League is giving President Bashar al-Assad three days to end the violence against protesters.

Also, FIFA president Sepp Blatter sparks a furious backlash over his remarks on racism in football.

And Google finally unveils its own music service, but can it compete with Amazon, Spotify and Apple?

Now, the Arab League tells Syria stop the crackdown or face painful consequences. This, as Damascus has three days to let observers and prove it has ended violence against protesters. And if not, the group warns Syria will see sanctions on top of its suspension from the league.

The Syrian government did not send a representative to Wednesday's meeting, so that message was delivered in front of this empty chair.

Now, the league has also called on members to withdraw their ambassadors to Syria. Morocco is doing just that after a pro-Syrian mob attacked its embassy.

Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman joins us now live from CNN Cairo.

And Ben, why are we seeing this action from the Arab League on Syria?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've seen really since the beginning of this month, Kristie, is a daily increasing death toll at levels that have not been seen since the beginning of the uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. So what we heard from the foreign ministers of the Arab League, meeting in Morocco yesterday, is that time is running out for Syria.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): The trappings haven't changed. Still, flags and protocol. But a group derided since its founding in 1945 as ineffectual appears to be growing teeth in its old age.

Arab League foreign ministers gathered Wednesday in Rabat, Morocco, to finalize Syria's suspension from the body, having failed to get Damascus to implement an Arab action plan to stop the violence. But they spared the rod, giving Syria an additional three days to carry out the plan, which requires it to release prisoners, pull security forces off the streets, and open a dialogue with the opposition.

Syria, which angrily denounced the suspension as shameful and malicious, didn't attend. Arab ministers addressed an empty seat. But if Damascus doesn't agree to cooperate with the league, the Qatar foreign minister warned, sanctions will be adopted. The Arab states, he declared, had reached the end of the line.

(on camera): Twenty-nine years ago, Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez al- Assad, oversaw the suppression of an uprising in the central city of Hama, leaving more than 10,000 dead. At the time, the Arab League was silent, but with revolts and revolutions shaking the region, this time the Arab League has suddenly found its voice.

(voice-over): Next week, the league plans to host a large meeting of the divided Syrian opposition in Cairo. Reportedly, on the agenda, Syria, after Bashar al-Assad.

Days after protesters attacked Turkish diplomatic missions, the once friendly leadership in Ankara has demanded an apology, threatening to cut off vital power supplies, ratcheting up pressure on an already faltering economy. Russia, an old Syrian friend, has held talks with opposition leaders in Moscow.

A year ago, French officials welcomed Bashar al-Assad to Paris. Wednesday, France announced it will recall its ambassador to Damascus and shutter its consulates in Aleppo and Latakia.

Syria now has three more days to stop itself from plunging headlong into a cold and uncertain winter of isolation.


WEDEMAN: Now, officials at the Arab League say that they are beginning to assemble a team of observers to go to Syria to check out the situation there, but it's not at all clear at what point they'll actually be able to travel.

And just one other piece of information, there were reports in the Egyptian press this morning that Nabil al-Arabi, the secretary-general of the Arab League, had been threatened by Syrian intelligence. Officials at the Arab League say they weren't threatening messages from Syrian intelligence, but they did see that he did receive text messages on his phone of a nasty nature, and those messages were coming from Syria -- Kristie.

STOUT: Syria is lashing out, it is defiant. The Arab League has set a deadline for this weekend for Syria to end the crackdown. The regional condemnation is growing, especially this week, but will Syria listen to anyone?

WEDEMAN: Well, it's really hard to say. Certainly, the regime is really fighting for its life. But it still has important allies. It is still very friendly with Iran. The Russians, even though they have had meetings with the Syrian opposition, still back Damascus and say they will continue to supply weapons to Syria.

But as the situation on the ground becomes more and more difficult, more and more bloody, those friends outside may not be able to save the regime of Bashar al-Assad -- Kristie.

STOUT: Ben Wedeman, live in Cairo for us.

Thank you very much for that.

Now, the Arab League has taken a big step by suspending one of its founding members, but it went even further with Libya. Remember, it suspended Tripoli's participation in the group on February the 22nd. That was about one week after protests started.

And then, by March the 12th, the Arab League agreed to ask the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Now, the U.N. passed Resolution 1973 five days later, and that gave international forces a mandate to protect Libyan civilians.

And Syrian protesters are also asking the Arab League for a no-fly zone. That has not been put on the table though. Even if it were, the U.N. Security Council is deeply divided.

There are signs that Syria may be edging closer to civil war. Military defectors struck an intelligence base near Damascus on Wednesday. The Free Syrian Army is warning the regime it can strike any place at any time.

Hala Gorani tells us more about this group of fighters.


HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These seven military officers are believed to be original members of the Free Syrian Army, announcing their defection in a video posted on YouTube in July. Now in exile in Turkey, the group's leaders say they're directing a guerilla war effort against the Assad regime. The Syrian regime acknowledges an increasing number of deadly attacks on its soldiers, like this bombing of a Syrian army tank near Daraa in recent days.

On Wednesday, the rebel group claimed responsibility for an attack on a military intelligence base in Harasta, outside Damascus, saying more than 20 of its soldiers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, targeted the security complex. The group also claims to have carried out recent operations in a number of cities including, Hama, Homs, Daraa and Idlib.

Keep in mind, Syria has restricted reporters' access into the country, so CNN cannot independently confirm the group's claim.

Colonel Riyadh al-Assad (ph), a 30-year veteran of the Syrian air force, claims to lead a force of some 10,000, a number impossible to verify, comprised of mainly low-ranking soldiers hidden in many Syrian cities. But these opposition fighters are believed to have little firepower, planting bombs and carrying out hit-and-run attacks. And they're a small force in comparison to Syria's military, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

The group has a Facebook page which calls on other soldiers to join them. They say their aim is to bring down the Assad regime, fight the Syrian army, and work with the Syrian people for freedom.

Hala Gorani, CNN, Atlanta.


STOUT: And now to Kuwait, an Arab nation that has largely been untouched by the Arab Spring.

And local media say Kuwaiti leaders held an emergency meeting on Thursday, one day after angry protesters stormed parliament. Demonstrators want the prime minister to step down. They insist he hasn't done enough to tackle corruption.

Now, the oil-rich emirate has been relatively calm even as uprisings and protests have spread across the Arab world.

And we go live to Rima Maktabi in Abu Dhabi.

And Rima, why are we seeing this sudden outcry in Kuwait?

RIMA MAKTABI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, this story has started back in 2006, when the opposition's (ph) prime minister -- he's a member of the royal family, and the opposition do not like him. They accuse him of corruption, of mismanaging the country. And this same prime minister has formed seven governments over the past few years.

However, the divide and turn that these protests have taken last night was quite alarming, not only to the ruling family in Kuwait, but to other countries in the Gulf. And this is why it's become a story. And the question is, how long will the opposition go and how far with these protests -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, the government held an emergency meeting today, crisis talks. So, is the government at risk, is the monarchy at risk?

MAKTABI: Well, the Kuwaitis do love the emir. And really, over the past years, we've rarely heard remarks or even slogans of dissent against the emir. But the major problem has been with the prime minister.

Now, surprisingly, there was a statement issued just after the emergency meeting was held. And the emir has ordered the national guard and the security forces to take all necessary measures to maintain security. There's no mention of the prime minister, no mention of dissolving this parliament and calling for free elections, or even a government change.

And now we're looking out for a meeting that's going to be held by the opposition today in Kuwait to see what the next steps are and if Kuwait is going to slip (ph) into another (INAUDIBLE) we've seen in the region.

STOUT: All right.

Rima Maktabi, joining us live from CNN Abu Dhabi.

Thank you very much indeed for that.

And our apologies for the technical disruptions during that feed.

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, their tents may be gone, but Occupy Wall Street protesters say that they won't be stopped. And today, they plan to shut down Wall Street.

And this is what it looks like in parts of Thailand months after floodwaters first began to sweep through much of the country. Is there any relief in sight?

And comment controversy. FIFA president Sepp Blatter sparks an uproar over what he told CNN about racism in football.

All that, ahead.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, a grassroots movement gone global. From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Berlin, Belgium, Madrid, and other places all around the world, protesters are venting their fury at what they say is a growing social and economic divide.

Well, all eyes today are on New York, where protesters are marking the two- month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. They say they plan to peacefully shut down Wall Street. And the first stop, Zuccotti Park, before the opening bell rings. And then it's on to the subways.

Now, in the U.S., a violent clash between Occupy protesters and police has prompted an apology from the mayor of Seattle, Washington. He says Seattle police used pepper spray on demonstrators on Tuesday, including an 84-year- old activist. The mayor says he personally spoke to the woman to ask her how she was doing, and he told his police chief to review exactly what happened. In the mayors words, "This was not the preferred outcome."

From New York to Seattle, to Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California, all this week we've been seeing police crackdowns on Occupy protesters. And that is prompting speculation it's part of a coordinated effort. There are reports that city mayors discussed how to respond in conference calls.

In Dallas, Texas, police swept through a campground where Occupy demonstrators have been protesting for more than a month. City officials say 18 people were arrested. Earlier, a judge refused to stop the evictions.

And Mary Snow is monitoring developments in New York, where the Occupy Wall Street protesters have called for a mass day of action.

And Mary, how are the protesters marking this day, their two-month anniversary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, right now, they have turned out in the streets, marching around the area of the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve. There's heavy police presence here in lower Manhattan. And police, from where I'm standing right now, have put up a barricade about two short blocks away from the New York Stock Exchange, an area that is, on any given day, is heavily guarded.

The city, today, is saying that it expects perhaps throughout the day as many as tens of thousands of protesters to take to the streets. This, of course, is two days after New York City evicted protesters from Zuccotti Park, and that's where the Occupy Wall Street movement really started.

Those protesters have told us they could stay there, but not sleep there, and tents and sleeping bags were removed. And many in this movement feels that this has given them more resolve to turn out today and take their message to the streets.

This is the first of a planned action today. Later on in the day, they're expected to occupy several subway stations throughout New York City. And then, later on in the day, 5:00, they're expected to march on the Brooklyn Bridge. This is something that they have done before.

So, right now, I mean, there's obviously a tense atmosphere, as police are lining the streets. But so far, from what I've been able to see, this has been fairly peaceful. But I will tell you, in the two hours or so that we've been out here, it went from a very small group to a very large group marching in these streets.

STOUT: You describe the situation as tense, but peaceful so far. You describe a very heavy police presence there. And people anticipate tens of thousands of protesters turn out on the streets.

And if we see a crowd that big, what is the plan by the New York police? How do they plan to handle crowds of that size?

SNOW: You know, the police have been saying, the city has been saying that protesters are certainly able to exercise their First Amendment rights, but if they plan to enter any buildings, or, on the Brooklyn Bridge, plan to block roadways, that is illegal and they plan to arrest. And I can tell you that there are certainly protesters here who are expecting they will be arrested today, but it's going to be a pretty big day in New York, expecting about that size, potentially, of people turning out on the streets.

STOUT: All right.

Mary Snow, joining us live in New York.

Thank you very much for that latest briefing there.

Now, the pressure is on at this hour for Italy's new prime minister. Mario Monti is revealing his anti-crisis strategy during his first speech to parliament in Rome.

A short time ago, he said he plans to overhaul Italy's pension system, among other measures. And he says if Rome doesn't carry out the necessary reforms, Italy will be subjected to much harsher conditions.


MARIO MONTI, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I have decided at this stage to assume all to do with the different regions, and I will (INAUDIBLE) must be reformed, despite the difficulties of the economic agenda. And so we have to operate in order to meet the EU requests. It is very ambitious a plan to try and resolve in such a short time all these problems that are deep-rooted.


STOUT: Now, Italy's economic aches and pains are just a symptom of the financial flu spreading across parts of Europe. And for more on the market contagion, tune into "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY," in about 30 minutes from now. And the team will also be bringing you more on the story that designer Marc Jacobs entire spring collection has been stolen. That's bad news for the brand, so stay tuned at the top of the hour.

Coming up a little bit later here on NEWS STREAM, Google is hoping for grace notes from its new online music store, and we'll see how it's playing. That story, up next.


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

And there are reports of progress on the Rena. Now, this is the cargo ship that ran ashore off the coast of New Zealand. About a dozen more containers have been taken off the ship, and the weather is cooperating.

So let's get the very latest now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the World Weather Center -- Mari.


Yes, this is a big story. Remember that a lot of the oil that the ship was carrying, it wasn't an oil tanker, but it did carry a lot of fuel oil, and a lot of that oil spilled onto the shores there near the Bay of Plenty, damaging many of those areas.

Those areas are continuing with the cleanup there. The main -- the biggest concern was, what's happening with this ship? And it has been tilting over to one side. Many of the containers went overboard.

And the weather in this part of the world just really never seems to give salvage crews a break. Well, we're getting that break now. And in the last couple of days, they've taken down 18 containers off the ship using cranes like the ones that you see here.

It is a very difficult operation. The ship is stuck on a reef. And for the crews that are working here, they have to be extremely careful.

Those containers could fall into the water. The ship, like I said, is lifting over to one side, and the cranes cannot operate when the wind is higher than about 25 kilometers per hour. And that can happen very quickly in this part of the world, but they've had a break throughout the day today, and I think they're going to get a break again as we head through the weekend.

So I imagine they're going to be working very hard, now that this front moved through, to try to get those containers to a safe place and avoid more of those falling into the water with possible contamination into those areas. So that's a little bit of good news there. I think it's going to be Monday when we begin to see some problems through those areas again.


RAMOS: And Kristie, ready for a light show later tonight? This is going to be pretty cool.

This is a picture from the Draconids. This is a picture taken in New Zealand. The Draconids is another type of meteor shower that peaked a couple of days ago.

It usually is not as bright as the one that we're expecting in the next couple of days called the Leonids. This is still a beautiful picture taken in Sweden with the northern lights there right below it.

Maybe some of you guys can send us pictures like this tomorrow, huh? Go to and make sure you share whatever it is that you find.

So the Leonids meteor shower is peaking on November 17th and 18th, so try to find a dark spot with clear skies. Normally, this is the time of the year where we would see them. And even though they come from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, they have this name Leonids because they appear to come out of the Leo constellation. There are documented cases, you know, about 900 years A.D. of people actually being able to observe this, so it happens every single year.

This year, you might have a little trouble seeing it because the moon will be nearby and so will Mars. And that may actually block some of the view. You've got to have a dark, dark night sky to actually be able to see it, but you never know, right? You can see as many as 20 meteors per hour, so get out there early Friday morning if you can.

Back to you.

STOUT: Yes. Stargazers, take note.

Mari, thank you for that.

Now, up next here on NEWS STREAM, FIFA's president raises eyebrows with a remark on racism in football. But on the same day Sepp Blatter told CNN it is not a problem, a player is charged with making racist taunts.

And the U.S. space agency sees its past heroes honored by the same people cutting its budget for the future.


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

Now the Arab League is telling Syria is has three days to stop the government's violent crackdown on protesters and let (inaudible) in. The group is talking tough to Damascus as Syria's embattled president grows more isolated. Now separately France's foreign minister travels to Turkey for talks on how to end the crisis.

Now media reports say the Kuwaiti government held an emergency meeting today, this after a large crowd of protesters stormed the parliament building on Wednesday. They demanded that the prime minister step down accusing him of doing little to stop corruption.

Now in the United States, scenes like this are prompting an apology from the mayor of Seattle, Washington. Now police used pepper spray on Occupy protesters, including an 84 year old woman earlier this week. Now the mayor says he has asked his police chief to review what happened.

In New York, Occupy Wall Street protesters are commemorating the movement's start two months ago.

Now controversy is brewing in football about racism on the pitch. And it's going right to the top of world football. On the same day that Liverpool player Luis Suarez was charged with allegedly making racist comments, the head of world football's governing body told CNN that racism isn't the problem on the football pitch.

Now listen to what Sepp Blatter said.


SEPP BLATTER, FIFA PRESIDENT: There's no racism. There is maybe one of the players towards the other, he has (inaudible) or a gesture which is not too polite one. But also the one who is affected by that, he should say it's a game. We are in a game. At the end of the game, we shake hands. This can happen.

But because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination - - discrimination I think all the -- the whole world is aware the efforts we are making against discrimination and racism. And on the field of play sometimes you'll say something on the field which is not very correct. But then at the end of the game, the game is over, and you have the next game where you can behave better.


STOUT: Now Blatter clarified his comments. He released a statement saying that he knows racism exists in football. And that he is committed to fighting. Unfortunately, he's right, football is not immune from racism.

Now earlier I told you about Liverpool's Luis Suarez. He is accused of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra during a match in October. And that same month Chelsea's John Terry was accused of racially abusing an opponent. Now Terry is the England captain. And London's Metropolitan Police are investigating the claim.

And then there is the Brazilian star, Roberto Carlos, after someone threw a banana at him during a league match in Russia, Carlos walked off the pitch in protest. And he later told Pedro Pinto about the experience.


ROBERTO CARLOS, FOOTBALL PLAYER: It was hard at the time, but after you stop to think about it, you can help the person who did that. A lot of people apologized for it and the person who threw the banana onto the pitch just wanted attention. Now, he can't go to games to have fun. He has to stay at home and watch on television.

It's a shame, though, that racism still exists. Some people don't understand that football is universal. It doesn't have a race or a nationality. It's one group of people. Everyone wants to have fun playing football.

A person goes to the stadium to have fun.


STOUT: Now in light of incidents like that, Blatter's comment attracted a storm of criticism online and from the football community.

Now let's get more now from Alex Thomas. And Alex, what is football community saying about Sepp Blatter's comments?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, no surprise that footballers past and present have taken to Twitter to voice their outrage over Blatter's comments. The former England captain Rio Ferdinand for one, who by the way has more than 1.5 million followers, plenty of people following his tweets on this story. He tweeted our own Pedro Pinto who did the interview with Blatter to ask if it was true, because he really couldn't believe it at first.

He actually then addressed Blatter directly via Twitter saying to him you're comments on racism are so condescending it's almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants, but shake our hands is that OK?

Former Premier League player Robbie Savage said, "is Sepp Blatter for real? This guy needs to go. Blatter out. Simple."

And Queens Park Rangers striker Jay Bothroyd simply says, "I think Sepp Blatter is winding me up."

Now Blatter's denial that racism on the football pitch has perhaps raised the most eyebrows here in the UK where those two high profile incidents that Kristie was talking about are being investigated. And only to be with CNN later on Wednesday, after Blatter's comments, the Premier League's chief executive also weighed on to the racism debate.


RICHARD SCUDAMORE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE: The idea that racism -- you know, racism exists in the world. Racism certainly still exists in football, in albeit in a reduced, albeit, you know, there are -- there are still issues. Of course there are. And we're not complacent about that. But I think it's a little stretch to say it doesn't exist, because it does.

The English game has led and has been at the forefront of reducing incidents of racist behavior. It's totally unacceptable. Everybody in the game in England understands it's totally unacceptable, and therefore as I say, we have that reputation. As far as I'm aware that reputation is still intact until proven otherwise.

And of course we will -- the game will deal whatever is thrown against it. But it's -- just there is no place for it in football and in England. And we will continue to strive to eradicate it.


THOMAS: And you can hear plenty more from that interview with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore in the next addition of World Sport, Kristie, which is around three-and-a-half hours time.

STOUT: And Alex, with all this pressure on Blatter, can he hang on as FIFA president?

THOMAS: Well, in a word, yes quite simply. If you think about all the other verbal gaffes he survived in the past and all the political pressure and claims of corruption inside and out FIFA he seems to be a bit of a Teflon man, doesn't he? You think of those comments he made after Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup. Homosexuality is illegal there. And when asked about gay football fans going to the World Cup in 2022 Blatter said they should refrain from sexual activity.

His most famous gaffe was back in 2004 when he suggested female footballers should wear tight shorts to improve the popularity of women's football.

And when you think again at the controversies in the build-up to his re-election as FIFA president earlier this year, Kristie, when many thought there will be protests from delegates within FIFA. They would vote Blatter out. Instead they voted him back in unanimously.

The head of European football, Michel Platini is supposed to be the next FIFA president in waiting, but he's been pretty silent over this affair. Maybe he's biding his time, thinking that Blatter won't resign and no one can force him out at this stage, Kristie.

STOUT: And he could just ride it out.

Alex Thomas joining us live in London. Thank you very much for that.

"Now our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region." With those words, U.S. president Barack Obama began what the White House hopes will be a Bali high for American and Asian leaders.

Now Mr. Obama is in Indonesia for economic talks. The region is of paramount importance, not lease because it accounts for more than half of the world's GDP.

Now the Asian leg of the U.S. president's trip follows two days spent in Australia. Now prime minister Julia Gillard reaffirmed that Australia and the U.S. remain comrades in arms.


JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: President Obama is here because he and I have been working to strengthen the great alliance between our two countries, working to make sure that the alliance lives anew in this place in the Northern Territory by bringing 250 marines here initially, going to 2,500 marines over a stage process so that shoulder to shoulder with our American friends we can train with them, we can be with them to meet the contingencies in our region.


STOUT: Now at a steaming hot Australian military base, Mr. Obama thanked the troops there for standing shoulder to shoulder with America. He says the U.S. will boost its military presence in the region.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now here in Darwin and Northern Australia we'll write the next proud chapter in our alliance. What the prime minister and I announced yesterday, some of our marines will begin rotating through these parts to train and exorcize with you and to work as partners across the region for the security we all want.

Today, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank the people of this community for welcoming our men and women in uniform. We are grateful for your friends and we are grateful for your hospitality.


STOUT: Now under the agreement announced on Wednesday, the number of U.S. marines sent to northern Australia is eventually expected to climb to 2,500 hundred. And to put that in perspective, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Defense, a total of 127 U.S. army, navy, marine, and air force personnel are stationed in Australia -- were stationed there in December of 2010.

Now Australia is just one of the approximately 150 countries where U.S. military personnel are stationed. The largest number of troops outside the U.S. itself are in Afghanistan and Iraq, but more than 50,000 U.S. troops are based in Germany, more than 30,000 are in Japan. And Reuters reports a similar number are in South Korea.

Now a further seven countries host more than 1,000 U.S. troops, including Italy, Spain, the UK, Turkey, and the tiny African nation of Djibouti. Now most of the other nations, they host just a handful of troops, but there are some notable postings. For instance, did you know that there are 43 U.S. troops based in the island chain of the Bahamas. It must be such a hard place to be sent to.

Now still to come here on News Stream, Google's music store opens online. The company hopes it will provide the soundtrack to its Android smartphones, but it's not music to everyone's ears. We'll check out how it works after the break.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Google has finally opened its online music store in the United States, allowing users of phones, tablets, and computers running its Android software to buy, store, and stream songs and albums. So, how does it work? Well songs purchased from the store are automatically uploaded to Google Music. And that's a free web storage locker that can be accessed by an Android app. It could hold up to 20,000 uploaded songs.

And one unique feature is that you can share songs through Google+ so your friends can stream songs you bought for free through the social network. But you can only share a specific track with a friend once.

But the service, it hasn't really hit all the right notes. Now it has 8 million songs, and that's just less than half the number found on the iTunes store. Now Google also has signed deals with just only three of the big four record labels. Warner Music Group is still holding out, which means disappointment for fans of Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Van Halen, or Vanilla Ice.

Now the verdict from critics online Google Music is OK, but nothing new. So lets check out what our very own regular tech contributor Nicolas Thompson thinks. He's a senior editor at New Yorker magazine. He joins me now live from New York. And Nick, what's your thinking? What's your verdict on Google Music?

NICK THOMPSON, NEW YORKER: It actually looks pretty good. There's nothing amazing about it. There's nothing earth shattering about it. There's no reason why people who are totally comfortable with another music service are going to shift immediately. But what it is, is it's good. It's solid. It has good music storage. Testing it out, it seemed to work just fine. It has a couple of new features. And it will help the Android ecosystem.

What Google wants to do is it wants to make listening to music on your Android devices as easy as listening to music on your iPhones. So this actually takes them there.

STOUT: Now can Google compete with three players in particular? And we've got the web sites up here. We have, of course, Spotify, Rhapsody, and Amazon. What's your thinking?

THOMPSON: Well, I think they can compete to a certain degree. But remember, Google doesn't necessarily want to beat them. Google just wants to do competently and do pretty well. They would love it if they became more popular than Spotify over the next couple of years. I don't think they're expecting that.

What they really want to do is make Google products work better and then get as much data on you as they can. They realize that knowing what music you listen to and what music you have will help them serve you more ads. So every little thing they can do here helps their other businesses.

Right now, Spotify is -- you know, it's better. So they're not going to catch up to Spotify immediately. We'll see.

STOUT: And what about Apple? I mean, Google Music, it arrives some eight years after the launch of the iTunes Store. So, should Apple be taking the Google threat pretty seriously?

THOMPSON: Well, I mean it is very interesting, why didn't Google do this earlier. It doesn't seem like a terribly hard thing to do. I mean, the negotiations with the record labels are the hard thing. And the main stumbling block there is that Google doesn't like charging people for things. Google's general business model is we give it away for free and then we sell ads against it. And so that held up negotiations with the record labels. That may be why they've waited so long.

Now, after waiting so long, are they actually going to challenge iTunes? No. iTunes has been on people's computers for eight years. We're all comfortable with it. We all know it. It's -- and there isn't some kind of crazy wonderful feature that will pull you from iTunes into Google Music as there is with Spotify.

I mean, the difference between Spotify and iTunes is that on Spotify you can listen to all the stuff you don't buy and you haven't bought and don't own. On Googe Music it's more like iTunes where you can listen to what you've already purchased and what you already own.

STOUT: Interesting. Key distinction there.

Now -- and since its Google, they're bundling it. They're bundling it with Google+. Some 40 million people use Google+ which really pales in comparison to Facebook's 800 million users. So will tying music to social get more people on Google+?

THOMPSON: Well, that's certainly what they hope. I mean, right now it's 40 million people and as far as I can tell they're all Silicon Valley geeks who are using Google+ right now. They haven't really reached out into the mainstream. So I think the feature, right, the cool feature about Google Music, you can buy a song and then everyone of your friends on Google+ can listen to it once.

That's a kind of neat feature. And it will pull people into Google+ and that is absolutely something that Google was thinking about. They're always thinking about integration with these products. So Google is not going to judge this one product on its merits whether it, you know, makes more money than they spent developing it. They're going to judge it based on how much it helps all of their other 17 million products. So that's their plan is to help Google+ and other services.

STOUT: All right. Nick Thompson of the New Yorker, always a pleasure. Thank you. And take care.

Now if you haven't heard, NASA is hiring. The U.S. space agency is looking for its next class of astronaut candidates even though it can't get them off the ground by itself.


STOUT: If you have ever picked up Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, you have seen the work of Annie Leibovitz staring right back at you. She is a photographer of some of those magazines most iconic covers. So who better to ask what camera she would recommend? Now her answer, it might surprise you.

Now she told MSNBC the iPhone. Yep, the iPhone is, quote, the snapshot camera of today.

Now China's space program is celebrating a big success. Its unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft has just returned to Earth after 17 days in orbit. It performed docking practices, a critical step towards China's planned space station.

And while things are looking up for China, NASA faces a cloudy horizon. Now John Zarrella peers into the U.S. space agency's uncertain future.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You judge, was this an honor or an obituary to the U.S. space program? Congress bestowed four American space heroes Wednesday with Congressional gold medals. The crew of the first moon landing mission Apollo 11, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.

Glenn spoke some of the same words he used 50 years ago before a joint session of congress six days after his flight.

JOHN GLENN, U.S. ASTRONAUT: As our knowledge of this universe in which we live increases...

...may god grant us the wisdom and guidance to use it wisely.

ZARRELLA: Honoring John, and Neil, and Buzz, and Mike was a worthy, long overdue gesture.

But those days, Glenn in Friendship 7, then Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon are a stark contrast to where things stand today.

Just a couple days ago, an American astronaut hitched a ride to the International Space Station on a Russia Soyuz rocket. With the shuttle retired, the Russians at $50 million a ride, are the only ride in town. We're paying the price, NASA's top man says, for past indecision.

CHARLES BOLDEN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: The problem is that we, we being NASA, we the public, we congress, the nation was not very disciplined in developing the replacement for shuttle so that we wouldn't find ourselves where we are right now.

ZARRELLA: Budget cuts, waffling, and changes in direction are why NASA is where it is now -- four years away from commercial companies being ready to fly astronauts to the station, at least four years away from the first test flight of a new NASA rocket.

For the last man to walk on the moon it's shocking how the tide has turned.

GENE CERNAN, APOLLO 17 ASTRONAUT: We're ceding that leadership back to the same people by a different name: the Russians today. They were Soviets then. Well, we're saying OK. Here it is, we're giving it back to you.

ZARRELLA: The Chinese are in the space game as well. Some experts believe they are poised to pass us.

But NASA remains ever optimistic, announcing its accepting applications for its next astronaut class. And releasing this astronaut sales pitch video.

BOLDEN: Your spaceflight experience begins right here, right now.

ZARRELLA: The application reads, "frequent travel may be required." Problem is, it won't be any time soon.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


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