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NEWS STREAM

Russian Parliamentary Polls; Saving the Euro; Afghanistan's Way Forward; Thai King Celebrates 84th Birthday; Tiger Woods Wins First Tournament In Over Two Years

Aired December 5, 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 Russia. Results of Sunday's election show support for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could be waning.

Reduced to tears by Italy's austerity measures. Emotions are running high amid a week of talks to try and save the euro.

And how times change. Ten years ago, Afghanistan was planning on life without the Taliban, and this time they're trying to bring them to the table.

Now, with nearly all of Sunday's votes counted, Russia's ruling party is facing a sharp drop in public support. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party has a clear majority in the State Duma, the country's lower house of parliament, but has lost the so-called supermajority it had in the past. And the outcome is in stark contrast to Russia's parliamentary polls in 2007.

Then, United Russia won two-thirds of the Duma's 450 seats. With Mr. Putin making another presidential run in March, many analysts see Sunday's vote as a test of his personal popularity.

Russia's current president and Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev says Sunday's results "reflect people's attitudes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I would like to thank all the supporters, all of those who voted for a united Russia. I think tremendous hard work has been done in the past few months by everybody, the leaders, and also just regular supporters, to show that the UR Party has the moral right to continue their chorus. To be frank, to achieve this wasn't simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: And joining us now to help explain what these results mean, CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is in London.

Matthew, this is a surprise setback for Putin's United Russia Party. So how did this come about?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a setback for the party. It's also a setback for Vladimir Putin personally, because obviously he's the leader of the United Russia. And even though many Russians regard him as being separate to the corrupt political class, and not particularly personal for the stagnant economy, he obviously has to share a proportion of the blame.

The timing is also very important, because these parliamentary elections come just three months before the all-important presidential polls that are happening in March of next year. And, of course, Vladimir Putin is hoping to come back with a resounding majority as the new president, or the next president of Russia, possibly for the next six or even 12 years. And so, on a personal level, this is a blow to his sort of loss of face for him. It's a sort of embarrassment for him as well -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, in Russia, opposition Web sites and radio stations say that they came under online attack. In Moscow, on Sunday, some 100 protesters were arrested.

So what's happening here? Is the Kremlin stepping up pressure on opposition voices?

CHANCE: Well, I think the Kremlin has always maintained a very high degree of pressure on opposition voices. For instance, the opposition groups in the country that really do represent an alternative vision for Russia than the ones have been elected over these parliamentary elections, they weren't even permitted to stand because of various restrictions that are placed upon them by the authorities.

But you're right, there has been a lot of election irregularities. Even though election monitors say that the polls themselves were very well- organized, there have been a lot of irregularities. There have been accusations of ballot-stuffing, of people being intimidated, of votes being misused in other ways as well.

Golos, which is the main independent election monitor in Russia, has registered some 5,300 complaints across the country which obviously casts a shadow, puts a question mark above even the legitimacy of the relatively low amount of support that the United Russia Party has achieved, just under 50 percent at this point in the count -- Kristie.

STOUT: And the big picture here, give us a sense of the political grip that Vladimir Putin and his party have had on Russia in the last decade, and whether this election is a critical turning point in the era of Putin.

CHANCE: Well, it may be a turning point. We'll have to wait to see. But I don't think we should overstate the extent to which this is going to disrupt Vladimir Putin's plans to come back as the president.

He's still the most popular politician in the country by far. The other parties that have been elected, even though United Russia is now down to just 50 percent, the other parties, for the most part, are also pro-Putin, pro-Kremlin parties. And so there's still little doubt that he will be able to achieve his presidential ambitions and return to the Kremlin in March of next year -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right. Matthew Chance, thank you very much for that.

Now, on social media, many are saying that the election shows nothing changes in Russia. In fact, this Twitter user writes this: United Russia received majority of votes, but nobody voted for them."

And on Live Journal, another person sent this message out, putting it another way, saying that, "United Russia has its own math. They don't care about us."

But this person tweeted a different perspective, writing, "Many said that there was no civil society in Russia. This election has shown that it's emerging."

Now, meanwhile, in Europe, government leaders are preparing for a week of talks to try and save the region's embattled currency. And looking at the stock markets investor seems pretty, as you can see, optimistic -- all green arrows here -- that there will be progress in the eurozone.

So let's take a look at what's on the agenda this week.

And as we speak, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, they are meeting right now in Paris, and they're trying to hammer out an agreement over proposed EU treaty changes ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and on Friday. And it seems that the crisis in the eurozone is taking a heavy emotional toll.

In fact, on Sunday, we saw Italy's government minister, the welfare minister. She broke down into tears when talking about the country's proposed pension and tax reforms. Take a listen.

Italy's new prime minister is proposing $41 billion in new taxes and spending cuts over the next two years.

And also this week, big developments in Greece and Ireland, two of the countries hardest hit by the debt crisis. Ireland is releasing its new budget, while a budget vote is set in the Greek parliament on Wednesday.

Now, as we mentioned, the French and German leaders, they are meeting in Paris today. And CNN's Nina Dos Santos is there following those talks.

And Nina, there are key differences between France and Germany on how to resolve this crisis. So will those differences be resolved this week?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of hope here in Paris, where I am, Kristie, that they will indeed be resolved. Let's just remind you exactly why we've got the two heads of France and Germany meeting in the first place.

Essentially, what this is, this bilateral summit, is the two largest economies in the region gathering together to try and hammer out some kind of plan that they're going to be proposing to the rest of the leaders of the European Union when they gather in Brussels at the end of this week. So they want to go there with some kind of paperwork that they can all agree upon, and paperwork that hopefully would restore market confidence that has gradually ebbed away.

Now, they have clashed, as you said before, Kristie, and particularly on exactly how to get countries in the eurozone to balance their budget in, let's say, a stricter fashion. Now, Germany, on the one hand, wants to impose all sorts of sanctions. Perhaps, even, that could involve, let's say, nominating a budget czar, some kind of super commissioner, who would have a right to veto over these countries and budgets, and also perhaps even the ability to pursue them in the European Courts of Justice if countries don't stop spending. That perhaps could, to a certain extent, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, says, prevent the kind of bailouts needed that we've seen for countries like Greece, Ireland, also Portugal.

On the other hand, France says -- in the other camp, it says it wants a softer approach. It's concerned about the erosion of sovereignties of some of these countries. Those are the things that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are discussing right now over a working lunch -- Kristie.

STOUT: And meanwhile, Italy and Ireland are preparing tighter austerity measures. The severity of those measures made an Italian government minister literally break down into tears.

So, will tough reform plans get approval?

DOS SANTOS: Yes, the severity of those measures is one of the things that's important. But the other thing is, if you actually just look at the number of (INAUDIBLE) on the ends of the kinds of figures we're talking about, we're talking about $40 billion worth of austerity measures for a country like Italy, which has a debt pass (ph) of over $2 trillion. So the figures here are really significant, but as you were saying, the question is, will they get approval from their own parliaments? Well, given the kind of proposals that Angela Merkel is putting forward here in Paris today, the scene quite severe, one would have thought that getting the approval from your own country would be more palatable than perhaps being, let's say, sued in the European Courts of Justice because you overspent.

Now, Italy, in particular, has got very ambitious plans here. It's trying to balance its budget deficit by next year. There's a lot of skepticism about whether it's going to be able to do that, but as you just saw, some of the ministers there, knowing that in order to try and achieve those goals, it really will be tough going forward. They're going to have to raise the age of retirement, also crack down on tax evasion. These are really contentious issues for countries like Italy.

STOUT: All right.

Nina Dos Santos, joining us live from Paris.

Thank you.

Nina will be back at the top of the hour on "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY."

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, mapping the future. World leaders meet in Bonn to discuss the path ahead for Afghanistan. We'll take you there.

A small victory. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wins the right to a supreme court hearing, but the battle is far from over.

And facing his demons. Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo is appearing before the International Criminal Court over alleged crimes against humanity, but his allies say his custody is an illegal action. We've got the details coming up on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, the former president of Ivory Coast is appearing before the International Criminal Court. In fact, it's happening right now.

Let's bring up some live pictures from you from The Hague. And Laurent Gbagbo is there. He is facing judges for the first time over his alleged role in post-election violence that killed thousands of people.

Now, Gbagbo, he refused to step down after he lost the presidential elections a year ago, throwing the country into political turmoil. And let's listen in. He's speaking now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LAURENT GBAGBO, FMR. PRESIDENT, IVORY COAST (through translator): On the 11th of April, the residents had already been razed to the ground, and we were fighting in some of the chambers of the residents. About 50 French (INAUDIBLE) had surrounded the residents while the helicopters were throwing bombs. It was under those circumstances that I was arrested.

I observed my minister of the interior killed right in front of me. I saw my eldest son, who is still in detention. And incidentally, I do not know why he was arrested. Maybe it's simply due to the fact that he is my son. I saw him beaten.

Dr. Blay (ph), who is in Cohogo (ph), and who was my personal physician, I witnessed him being beaten. I thought he was going to die. But, fortunately, he survived, contrary to the case of the minister --

STOUT: All right. Former president of the Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo is speaking there. Live pictures from The Hague as he addresses the ICC. He faces four charges of crimes against humanity, and he is the first former head of state to be brought before the ICC.

We'll have more on this story a little bit later here on NEWS STREAM.

Now, meanwhile, Afghanistan's future is on the table, and delegates from around the world are meeting in Germany. And the conference, presided over by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. They're examining what's been done and the challenges that the country still faces, but one of the region's biggest players is not pulling up a seat. Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan, is boycotting the talks after a NATO cross-border strike killed 24 of its soldiers.

It's been 10 years since Afghan leaders first gathered outside Bonn. That was in the immediate aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion. And back then, dealing with the Taliban was unthinkable. Now it is very much on the agenda.

CNN's Elise Labott is there in Bonn, Germany. She joins us now live.

And tell us, what is the goal of this meeting?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN STATE DEPT. PRODUCER: Well, Kristie, it's a couple of things.

First of all, it's for Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai is now running the show. He's hosting this conference, and it's for him to lay out his vision for Afghanistan, not just through the transition, but beyond. And his plans to assume complete control for security by 2014, when all international forces leave, to possible reconciliation with the Taliban, which, as you mentioned, is very important.

And also, it's also to establish a partnership with the international community even after forces leave. You know, the World Bank, the United States, all warning that Afghan's economy, already so fragile, ,once forces leave, once the security situation is not guaranteed, the economy could reduce by even a half, and perhaps could be on the verge of collapse.

So, what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here, other leaders are warning, is that even though the troops are planning to leave in 2014, they can't abandon Afghanistan. They really have to continue to make these investments to make sure that these gains that are hanging by a thread right now are not lost. And so that's what the international community is doing here to really recommit to Afghanistan for the long haul -- Kristie.

STOUT: So the economy, security and governments, all on the table. Pakistan is notably not there at the conference. It is a critical player in the region.

So, how much, realistically, can be achieved at this meeting?

LABOTT: Well, as you know, Kristie, these international conferences are really kind of set before they even start, and these documents that were started to be negotiated with Pakistan, now we understand that, even though Pakistan is not here negotiating the final language, countries like Russia, China, Iran really speaking up for Pakistan's interest, saying that issues of sovereignty are very important to make sure. It really doesn't seem as if these countries, anyway, and probably Pakistan, doesn't really want international forces on the ground for a very long time.

Obviously, Pakistan not being here is very symbolically important, because Pakistan is a critical player in the region, really the critical player. Hamid Karzai saying himself that it's not even worth talking to the Taliban if you're not going to talk to Pakistan because it has so much influence over these insurgent groups. But what U.S. officials are trying to say is, listen, even though Pakistan is not here, it's regrettable, we don't see this as affecting the outcome of the conference, and we expect Pakistan to be a partner in the future. But what happens in the wake of that NATO attack and the investigation that comes with it really remains to be seen for Pakistan's cooperation going forward.

STOUT: All right.

Elise Labott, joining us live from Bonn.

Thank you very much indeed for checking in with us.

Now, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be allowed to pursue an appeal against extradition to Sweden. In London today, two high court judges ruled that Assange can apply to Britain's supreme court in his bid to block extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning. Although he has not been charged with a crime, Assange is accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden. He denies the allegations.

And here is Assange's reaction to today's ruling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: Today, the high court has decided that an issue that arises from by own case is of general public importance and may be of assistance to other cases and could be heard by the supreme court. I think that is the correct decision, and I am thankful. The long struggle for justice for me and others continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now, Julian Assange has been under house arrest in England for almost a year.

Still to come here on NEWS STREAM, a pricey pileup in Japan. An apparent slipup from one driver leaves a trail of twisted metal and quite the price tag.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now, a highly classified U.S. stealth drone may be in Iran's hands. The Iranian military says it shot down the aircraft over eastern Iran. NATO acknowledges it has lost control of a U.S. spy plane over western Afghanistan, but it is unclear if it is the same aircraft.

Iran's state-run press, "The Voice," reports the nation's electronic warfare unit targeted an RQ-170 Sentinel and quotes a senior military official who says the drone has been seized with minimum damage.

Iran is vowing an aggressive response, so let's bring in now our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with more.

And Barbara, what more do we know about this claim from Iran and the U.S. response?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, Iran is claiming that it show down this RQ-170 drone. I think we have a picture to show our viewers.

This is one of the most classified drones in the U.S. arsenal. It was developed for the Air Force. It is stealthy, very difficult to detect by radar, has a number of highly-classified sensors on board that provide intelligence, reconnaissance and targeting information.

Iran says it shot it down. The U.S. is saying, through a statement from NATO in Afghanistan, that it knows that a drone went down. Let me read to you exactly what that statement says.

It says, "The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week. The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status."

Officials are telling us that, yes, the flight crew reported right before the drone went down that it lost control of it. Very importantly, the U.S. is not saying it was an RQ-170, that crucial stealth drone, and it's not saying that it believes the drone was shot down, only that a drone was lost.

Clearly, the bottom line here is, if the Iranians have their hands on the wreckage, and it has any secrets to offer, any of that secret, classified technology, the U.S. knows it's not getting it back from Iran -- Kristie.

STOUT: So what options does the U.S. have now?

STARR: Well, it's very tough. You know, in the past, when a drone has gone down, or sadly, perhaps, a helicopter with classified technology on board, what happens typically in Afghanistan or in years past in Iraq, the U.S. calls in a bombing run, and they bomb the wreckage so that insurgents or militants can't get their hands on it. That is not an option in Iran, of course.

So, what the U.S. really wants to know now is, do the Iranians have the wreckage, and what condition the wreckage is in, so they can determine what Iran may actually have. That is going to be very hard to do -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right.

Barbara Starr, live from the Pentagon.

Thank you.

Now, coming up next on NEWS STREAM, a former president facing trial. Now, this is the moment when the former leader of the Ivory Coast was arrested, and now Laurent Gbagbo is in court for alleged crimes against humanity.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now results from Russia's parliamentary elections show a significant drop in support for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party. With 96 percent of ballots counted, United Russia has 49 percent of the vote, down from 67 percent four years ago. But Mr. Putin runs for President in March.

European Leaders are bracing for a week of crisis meetings as they try to solve the EuroZone debt crisis. Now French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting in Paris today. They're expected to discuss proposed EU treaty changes ahead of Friday's European council meeting in Brussels.

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo appeared before the International Criminal Cour of The Hague today accused of crimes against humanity. Mr. Gbagbo is allegedly responsible for contributing to the country's post-election violence that killed thousands of people. The former leader was voted out last year, but refused to cede power to his successor.

Let's bring you more now on the case of the former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo. CNN's Dan Rivers is monitoring his appearance at the International Criminal Court. He joins us now.

And Dan, give us your thoughts and reaction to the hearing so far.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've just been watching him speak. He was calm. He seemed relatively relaxed, appearing well dressed and not sort of railing against the court itself. But he was very unhappy in the manner in which he was arrested, saying he was detained under bombardment from the French army helicopters and sort of complaining bitterly about the manner in which he was arrested with the help of French forces, he says, in April this year. And then the manner in which he was detained in Ivory Coast before his transfer to The Hague. Now he's in The Hague he says that there are no problems.

But it seemed to me a kind of dignified first initial performance. They haven't got into the nitty gritty of the charges before him, that will be at a hearing on the 18th of June. This was just a procedural matter, but a hugely significant one, clearly, for Ivory Coast and for Africa at large and for the ICC. It's the first time they've ever brought a head of state to trial. Others have been indicted, but this is the first time a head of state has actually appeared here.

LU STOUT: Now troops loyal to Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara are also suspected of carrying out human rights abuses. So will Mr. Ouattara or his supporters be called to account next?

RIVERS: Well, I think that's the big question, yes. Because it will be wrong to characterize this as a simple fight between a democratically elected leader and a dictator refusing to move over. Alassane Ouattara had served under the former dictator of Ivory Coast. He is accused, or his forces are accused of committing human rights abuses during that stand-off, that six months of fighting at the end of last year -- or the beginning of this year -- of massacres in the west, notably Dweke (ph) where hundreds of people were killed by forces loyal to Ouattara.

So I think there is a loss of appetite, especially among Gbagbo's supporters in Ivory Coast that this shouldn't just be Gbagbo brought before the court, but others on the other side of this political divide should also be held to account for what went on in those violent months between December and April.

LU STOUT: And you reported from Abidjan in Ivory Coast on the violence in the wake of that disputed election. What are the victims thinking right now? And what is their likely reaction to seeing these pictures of Laurent Gbagbo answer to the International Criminal Court?

RIVERS: Well, Laurent Gbagbo's supporters have already described this as a political kidnapping, his extradition to the ICC. Others, I suppose, supporters of Alassane Ouattara will hope this draw a line under the past, well, 20 or more years of tooing and froing between these two men who have been bitter political rivals.

It's also worth noting, Kristie, that Gbagbo, you know, started out as a big champion of democracy in Ivory Coast fighting the repressive regime of the former dictator there. He was detained for fighting for freedoms. And it was only then when he came to power in 2000 that his attitude and ideology to some extent changed.

So I think this is an interesting study in how, you know, some of these leaders have from, you know, in the beginning of their careers in the 70s and 80s championing democracy and trying to bring a country back to democracy to then being intoxicated by the power when they finally get in.

LU STOUT: Indeed, quite a dramatic turnaround. Dan Rivers on the story for us. Thank you very much for that.

Now the UN tribunal in Cambodia has begun hearing evidence from three former high ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge regime. Now Nuon Chea, or brother number two, he told the court on Monday that he and his comrades were not, quote, bad people. He said he did not want future generations to misunderstand.

Now the trial's defendants have been charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity for their roles during the 1970s murderous regime. And all three deny the charges.

Now to Egypt now where the country's Islamist parties are looking to increase their lead in runoff parliamentary polls now underway. Now the voting will take place over the next two days. It is for the same part of the electorate that voted last week in the country's first ballot since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Now that vote ended with a strong showing for two Islamist parties, one moderate, and the other more conservative. Now leading candidates now face runoff races in seats where there was no clear winner.

Now presidential hopeful Amre Moussa says he expects a mix of parties will eventually make up the legislative chamber. And earlier he sat down with CNN's Jim Clancy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMRE MOUSSA, FORMER ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY-GENERAL: Everybody will have to take into consideration to bear in mind that the Middle East of last year is done. And it is going -- it has gone for good. We will have a new Arab world, and a vigorous Arab world. And we will have a new Middle East which means that we must have a new order, a new set of relations. We must also solve the old problems. We cannot move from one era to another era and carry with us all the problems because of the intransigence of this (inaudible).

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But you seem to be saying until and unless Israel decides to give up its occupation, the Arab awakening won't be complete.

MOUSSA: The ending the occupation is a must. And I believe the Israelis must now sit and reflect. Egypt is no more Egypt that they knew in the last four or five years. Also, the other neighbors are not the same and will not be the same.

Then, there is an opportunity, there is a window of opportunity for all of us to solve the problems and move on in a totally new era including Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Amre Moussa there.

Now Yemen is in the grip of more bloody violence. According to a medic in the southern city of Taizz three days of shelling and clashes have left 28 people dead. Both government forces and opposition fighters have now begun pulling out. And political turmoil continues to wrack Yemen. On Sunday, the vice president announced the creation of a military council with the goal of stabilizing the country. It will be composed of representatives from both the ruling party and an opposition alliance.

Now still to come here on New Stream, Tiger Woods waiting two years, but he has finally won his own world challenge event. And we'll show you how in sport next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now smog, or fog: whatever you want to call it, it is a recurring problem in Beijing. Mari Ramos is at the world weather center. She joins us now.

Mari, what's your read on Beijing's air quality?

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: You know what, usually when we talk about the air quality problems in Beijing we're talking about of course a thick haze that just blankets the city, people can't breathe, it just gets worse and worse as the day goes on. And in this case, it's gone on for several days in a row. But I guess this time around, they really did have some actual fog that was making the situation worse.

Let me first of all show you over here that we have this picture from NASA from Saturday. You can see the difference. This right here is actually fog, or low clouds. And this low cloud deck was actually kind of shifting around a little bit. You can see the difference between fog and pretty much haze and smog. And some we've seen this so thick that you can't even see the ground, right?

Like I said, this picture taken on Saturday.

But we think that a lot of these fog and low clouds actually drifted a little farther to the north and made the situation worse. How much worse? Well, take a look at pictures that we have for you from this area.

What happens is when you have all of these particulates in the air -- so we're talking about places where the water droplets can actually condense on. And you get this very thick haze and this very thick fog combination that makes it even worse. Not only are you having the problems with air quality, of course, where it makes it harder for people to breathe -- anyone with respiratory problems, and even healthy adults, could really have some serious consequences from breathing in this kind of stuff day in and day out.

The air quality index has been between hazardous to very unhealthy. I think they were a couple of hours on Saturday morning where it was considered moderate. But that went out the door very, very quickly. You can see there, hundreds of flights were canceled. And Kristie, what's in the air here, construction particles, you have chemicals, you have dust. You have all kinds of just disgusting things that are going into your lungs. And it's the really, really small ones are the ones that are a problem, the ones that can cause some long-term illnesses.

So as you can see this picture from Saturday does have some of that haze and some of that fog, but longer-term I think we are going to start to see a little bit of an improvement in the air quality in Beijing and images like this one where you can barely see the aircraft out your window with all of those flights, hundreds of flights that were canceled over the weekend. We'll begin to see the improvement.

And this is why: we have a new weather system. We're going to have something mixing in the air. The atmosphere begins to react to this. And what's going to happen is with that mixing of the air, all of those particulates kind of move out of the way. We have one weather system moving out, another one coming in, and that means the possibility of some snowfall for you here as we head through the next couple of days. We need it.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: All right. Good to hear. Mari Ramos, thank you very much indeed.

Now wet weather may be to blame for this car crash in Japan. Now no one was seriously hurt, but many gear geeks are peeved by the damage to these luxury cars. One auto analyst in Tokyo says the price tag comes to about $3 million. And just 14 cars were involved in the wreck.

Now they include three Mercedes Benz, and eight Ferraris. Now one is said to be a 355 which sells for several hundred thousand dollars. And a Laborghini Diablo is also reportedly damaged. That's worth some $550,000. But many motor heads, they just want to know how a Toyota Prius got caught up in this expensive accident. A Nissan GTR was also hit.

Now time now for a sports update. And it's been awhile since Tiger Woods had something to smile about, but the former top golfer in the world has a big grin again now. Don Riddell is in London with more -- Don.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Kristie. It's taken 26 starts and 749 days, but Tiger Woods' winless run is now over.

On Sunday, the world number 52 came from behind on the final day to win his very old Chevron World Challenge tournament for the fifth time. And he did it in style.

He was neck and neck with the third round leader Zack Johnson throughout Sunday final round at Sherwood Country Clubs. Johnson was one shot clear after the 16th, but Tiger birdied the 17th by draining a 15 footer to tie it all up once again at nine under.

So it all came down to the 18th. Johnson got his approach to within 15 feet of the cup, but Woods did better. He was just six feet away. And that meant the pressure was on Johnson. He was putting first and his attempt missed to the left leaving Woods with a shot at his first victory in over two years. And cool as you like, he sunk the birdie put and marked the victory with an emphatic fist pump.

It's a long time since we've seen that trademark from Tiger.

Tiger winning the unofficial 18 man event by a single stroke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: I know its' been awhile, but also for some reason it feels like it hasn't, because when I was coming down the stretch there I felt so comfortable. I felt comfortable at Oz (ph). I felt comfortable at Augusta. You know, when I put myself there in these positions it is -- it is comfortable. I pulled it off with one down with two to go. And to go birdie, birdie is as good as it gets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIDDELL: In tennis, Rafa Nadal has said he'll skip the defense of Spain's Davis Cup title next year having helped his country to a fifth country in Seville on Sunday.

The world number two blamed the packed tennis calendar for his decision saying that in an Olympic year and with his attempt to reclaim the number one ranking from Novak Djokovic at the top of his priority list, the team competition was simply one commitment too far. Given his loyalty to his country and his willingness to put it all on the line for Spain, Spaniards will surely understand.

He certainly needed their backing in Sunday's first (inaudible) again Juan Martin Del Potro as the Argentinian was intent on leveling up the five match tie at two wins apiece. Del Potro played an almost perfect first set, which he won 6-1. It was the first time Nadal had dropped a set in 10 David Cup singles matches since September 2008.

The 10 time major winner might have been down, but he certainly wasn't out on his favorite clay surface. And back he came. He broke in the 10th game to win the second set 6-4 and then powered through the third 6-1.

So just one set stood between Spain and the Davis Cup, but Del Potro wasn't going to leave without a fight. He kept the fourth set tight, but couldn't break Nadal's serve and so a tiebreak was needed to decide it. That's when the world number two stepped up and finished off with a trademark winner down the line.

He was mobbed by his teammates. The Spanish team celebrated in the stands. How they will all miss Rafa next seasons.

Kristie, that's all we've got time for just now. We'll have more in World Sport a bit later on.

LU STOUT: Love the scenes of celebration there. Don Riddell thank you.

Up next on News Stream, we have our eye on Thailand. The nation is celebrating a special occasion. We'll show you how ties marked the King's 84th birthday.

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LU STOUT: Now Thais are celebrating the 84th birthday of their beloved king, an auspicious age in local culture. Now Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world's longest reigning monarch. He took the thrown in 1950. Just a short time ago, fireworks lit up the sky in celebration. And they were set to go around the country at the same time.

And earlier the king greeted a large crowd at the grand palace. It is a notable public appearance. The king has been in poor health over the last two years.

Now one of the king's daughters is also very much adored. Some Thais call her the angel princess. And she gave Paula Hancocks rare access to her recent trip north.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Thailand's angel princess, a nickname clearly showing the popularity of Princess Maha Chakri Sirinidhorn. For 20 years now, the princess has been supporting schools run by the (inaudible) in the poorer areas of Thailand. Touring some of these schools, she talks exclusively to CNN.

MAHA CHAKRI SIRINIDHORN, THAILAND ROYAL FAMILY: I'm very happy that the children that I give funding for their education have (inaudible). Now they are teachers. They are policeman. They are engineer, or some nurses and doctors.

HANCOCKS: The princess says that the mobile clinic of her royal physicians that tour the country offering free treatments not only to the schools, but also to the neighboring villages.

SIRINIDHORN: Sometimes they live in the very remote area and they have medical problems. It is very difficult to visit the hospitals because of the problem of transportation.

HANCOCKS: Villagers patiently wait their turn, although most people here came just to catch a glimpse of the princess.

There's huge excitement in these school when the princess comes to visit and also an appreciation that without her personal involvement and personal support this school would never have become this well developed.

For the lucky few, the day takes an unexpected turn when the princess decided to talk to them.

This school girl tells me, "I'm so happy I was able to talk to the angel princess. I feel so good and lucky."

The princess toured evacuation shelters recently to talk to victims of Thailand's worst flooding in living memory. She has been directly involved in helping the country's efforts.

SIRINIDHORN: Sanitation, for example how to move trash away from the place. Transportation during this time.

HANCOCKS: The princess helps 178 schools, many of them along the border areas, areas which are very remote and time consuming to reach by road. Her work has made education and healthcare for these communities a right rather than a luxury.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, northeast Thailand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now time now to go over and out there here on News Stream. And we want to tell you one hell of an Effin story. I'm not trying to be rude here. Let me explain. Effin is the name of a village in Ireland that was blacklisted by Facebook. The Daily Mail reports a woman named Ann Marie Kennedy tried to list it as her hometown, but the paper says the social site came back with an error message saying offensive.

Now Ms. Kennedy is now on a campaign to get Effin recognized, because as she tole The Daily Mail, quote, "I'm from Effin. I'm a proud Effin woman. I will always be an Effin woman." That's a quote.

Now a Facebook spokesman confirmed to the paper that the company was looking into the oversight.

And that is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next with more on the talks to try and save the euro in Paris. We'll bring you comments from the French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel when we get them. So stick around.

END