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Emboldened by International Monitors, Tens of Thousand Flood Streets in Homs; Kim Jong-Il's Funeral Wrought With Political Symbolism; Crocodile Makes Lunch out of Lawnmower

Aired December 28, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet. I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And we begin in North Korea with the funeral of Kim Jong-Il.

And as he attempts to become president of Russia again, we look back at the rise of Vladimir Putin and examine the challenges he now faces.

And what happens when a crocodile takes a liking to a lawn mower. We'll show you what happened next.

A grand funeral procession is taking place in Pyongyang for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

Mourners filled the snowy streets for a glimpse of Kim's casket. The procession lasted three hours. It started and ended at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where Kim's body will remain on display just like his father's.

Now soldiers fired a 21 gun salute as Kim's son and designated successor Kim Jung-Eun looked on. South Korean media points out that is three fewer shots than eternal president Kim Il-Song received.

Now the funeral procession was full of symbolism. Kim Jong-Il's coffin is draped in the Worker's Party Flag. It sits on a bed of white flowers believed to be magnolias, the national blossom. And you can see Kim Jung-Eun here at the front of the car and his uncle Jung Song Tak (ph) is walking right behind him.

Analysts say Jung (ph) will serve as the power behind the thrown as the young Kim takes control.

And over on the other side of the car is the country's military chief.

Now North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world. And soldiers dressed in green stretched as far as the eye could see. Many cried openly with hats in hand referring to Kim as their general.

As the procession drove by some soldiers seemingly tried to push through their formation to get closer and guards with guns had to hold them back.

Now the route, it seemed to follow the one taken in 1994 for Kim Il- Song's funeral. Dozens are cars took part, most looked like Mercedes and Volkswagons, but the car carrying Kim's coffin it appears to be an American made Lincoln.

Now foreign delegations were not invited to the ceremony, though China was represented by its ambassador to North Korea. Now let's get the highlights from the funeral of Kim Jong-Il with Paula Hancocks. She joins us now live from CNN Seoul.

And Paul, this was an elaborate three hour long ceremony. What details struck you the most?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, this was certainly a highly choreographed event, this sort of pomp and ceremony is really what North Korea does best. Now it did know that the country, and more importantly the rest of the world would be watching the funeral proceedings very closely and that is why it is choreographed so closely.

Now what was interesting was right at the beginning of the coverage that we saw from North Korean television was the fact that Kim Jong-Eun was walking alongside his father's hearse. Just behind him, as you said, was his uncle who we do believe will be his regent, or his mentor over the coming months and weeks -- months and years. And then on the other side you had the head of the military and other leaders who will likely be very important when it comes to Kim Jong-Eun trying to consolidate his power over the short-term.

So that was the most significant thing to be able to see right from the very beginning that Kim Jong-Eun was going to be front and center.

It wasn't just a chance this Wednesday to say good-bye to Kim Jong-Il and pay respects to Kim Jong-Il, but the North Koreans it was also an opportunity to show the world that as far as they're concerned this succession is going by script, it is going by the book. It is going as Kim Jong-Il wanted it to go and that there is stability within the country.

Now of course in the short-term many experts assume that nothing much will really change within North Korea as Kim Jong-Eun will be trying to consolidate power. And of course he has no military or political experience. He's not even 30 yet. So he will be listening to many of those around him -- Kristie.

STOUT: And what has been the reaction in Seoul to all this? What has the death of Kim Jong-Il and North Korea's shift in leadership mean for South Korean?

HANCOCKS: Well, clearly the South Korean government and officials and military will be watching today extremely closely to get any kind of indication that they can of who is in control at the moment.

The South Korean government was completely taken off guard and didn't know that Kim Jong-Il had died until that announcement on North Korean television. So the intelligence services in South Korea have come under fire. They would likely have been learning about what's happening this Wednesday at the same time as we were, as we were watching North Korean television.

It's such a secretive state, but it was very difficult to even get any information about what to expect beforehand. And really all we can see is what North Korea wants us to see and wants South Korea to see. Obviously all the South Korean media were covering this funeral quite heavily and obviously it will be on the front pages of the newspapers as well on Thursday.

Now there is one more day to go. We do have the memorial on Thursday. And at the end of that day we understand that the mourning period, at least, will be at an end.

STOUT: All right, Paula Hancocks joining us live from Seoul, thank you very much for that.

Now North Korea is one of the world's most secretive states. And Kim Jong-Il was one of the world's most reclusive leaders. But a few outsiders did meet him, including a French neurosurgeon who was flown to North Korea after Kim had a stroke in 2008. Now that doctor sat down with CNN's Jim Bittermann.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell me exactly what the circumstances were that you were brought to North Korea and treated Kim Jong-Il?

DR. FRANCOIS-XAVIER ROUX, NEUROSURGEON: It was in 2008. And I was on vacation. And they called me when I was on vacation. And I came back to France. And they accompanied me to Korea.

BITTERMANN: And did you know who you were going to treat?

ROUX: No. And when when I arrived in Korea I still did not know who was the patient.

BITTERMANN: Really? So you saw a file...

ROUX: I saw a file, only a file here when I arrived back in Paris. And a file when I arrived in Pyongyang. But at that time I didn't know who was this file of -- who this file was belonging to.

If I could not see the patient, it was impossible for me to give a correct advise. It took a few hours, or all night in fact, before deciding that I could go and see the patient. And on the following day they told me, well, finally please come and see the patient. It is (inaudible).

BITTERMANN: And what did you see when you arrived to the patient's bedside?

ROUX: Well, as I told you I can't betray my medical secrets. So I won't give you any medical details.

BITTERMANN: Was it a life or death situation? Was he in a coma?

ROUX: The issue was in the very critical situation.

BITTERMANN: Was he unconscious?

ROUX: Yes, he was unconscious. I can say that.

BITTERMANN: Why do you think they brought you in?

ROUX: That's -- I can't tell you that. I don't understand that. I don't have the answer that it was they asked me to come and see this patient. I don't know.

(inaudible) has been an (inaudible) real problem taking good decisions for a bad president. So surely they had to ask where they felt like asking our advice is from other teams. They were not paralyzed taking decisions that clearly were (inaudible) concerned.

Of course, it's always a particular -- special situation. I was not really prepared to it. But once you have a (inaudible) patient, as a medical doctor -- a patient is a patient, that's all.

BITTERMANN: How did he seem? How did the patient seem to you?

ROUX: Normal. With normal relationships. He seemed -- I had no problem discussing with him, through a translator of course, but he was interested in plenty of things. At least he was really keen about French wines, French cinema. It -- he was a normal guy when discussing these things.

BITTERMANN: Was he aware of how serious his condition was?

ROUX: I'm sure of it. He was scared.

We can -- I guess that after this medical event he shortly decided to organize his succession, that's how I understood it.


STOUT: And that was the French neurosurgeon who treated Kim Jong-Il in 2008 describing their doctor/patient relationship as "normal."

Now a national memorial service for the Dear Leader is expected on Thursday. It is believed that gun volleys will be fired across the country. Cars, trains and ships will sound their horns or sirens. It will be followed by three minutes of silence.

Coming up next on News Stream, scenes like this have brought Arab League monitors to Syria. And now they want evidence that Damascus is ending a deadly crackdown on opposition protesters.

And rise to power: 20 years ago Vladimir putting was a little known official, now he is Russia's all-powerful leader who has carefully nurtured his public image. But can he fend off growing opposition.

And Japan's triple blow, it is still recovering from March's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. We will look back at what it has endured as 2011 draws to a close.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now the trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, it resumed in Cairo today after a three month break. And a repeals court rejected a motion to dismiss the judge, paving the way for Mubarak's return to the courtroom. The ailing former leader arrived on a stretcher. He is charged with corruption and ordering the deaths of anti-government protesters.

And according to Amnesty International, 840 people died and more than 6,000 were injured in the two-and-a-half weeks of protest that ultimately lead to the end of Mubarak's reign in February. And denies the charges against him.

Now Russia's March presidential elections are fast approaching. And the man expected to win is current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Today, he said he was open to dialogue with members of the opposition, but said they lacked a common platform.

Mr. Putin has dominated Russian politics for the past decade. But now his power is being questioned. Phil Black looks back at his rise to power.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In 1991 the Soviet Union was breaking apart. Russians were anxious about their future and Vladimir Putin was working for the mayor of St. Petersburg.

VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): We all feel, and I should say even I sometimes do, that if somebody will come and establish order in our country with a strong hand then our life will be better, safer and more comfortable. But in reality this comfort will go away very soon and this strong hand will start strangling us.

BLACK: Fast forward 20 years and tens of thousands of people had been protesting, because they believe the political right are being strangled by the strong hand of Vladimir Putin. The former law student and KGB officer who climbed from city official to Russian president in less than a decade. Former chess world champion Garry Kasparov is now one of Putin's harshest critics.

GARRY KASPAROV, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: I think if anybody told us in August 1991 that nine years later the country would be run by a KGB lieutenant colonel, this person would look like laughing stock.

BLACK: Putin consolidated power, bringing stability and a talent for self promotion. In 11 years the world has seen him ride without a shirt and fully clothed. He dives, flies, and throws. And every year he takes questions on national television from people across the country. This year's show went for more than 4 hours.

What do you think of the way he uses television to portray himself as this tough action man?

KASPAROV: Television has made Vladimir Putin. And he believes in the magic of television.

BLACK: But Vladimir Putin's spokesman tells me the image accurately reflects the man.

DMITRY PESKOV, VLADIMIR PUTIN'S SPOKESMAN: He's a very charismatic person. Well, he's a tough guy, but he's a very balanced guy. He's a predictable guy. And he's a constructive guy.

BLACK: Peskov says that's why Putin can inspire such powerful loyalty, especially among some young people.

Putin officially sanctions the national youth organization whose members adore and promote him. Others have set up independent groups, like the women in Putin's army.

Here they're wearing very little and washing Russian made cars, because Vladimir Putin likes Russian made cars.

The young have declared their affection in ink and in song.

PESKOV: There are lots and lots -- thousands and thousands of young people who simply want to see stable, predictable country.

BLACK: But young people are also numerous in the anti-Putin movement. And they're not buying into the personality cult. During his most recent Q&A show, the Russian word for Botox was trending on Twitter. Despite official denials, rumors persist the Russian prime minister is looking younger because he's had a little help.

PESKOV: Well, I shouldn't react closely to rumors. The less you react to rumors, the less they appear.

KASPAROV: He has changed. If you look at his face, you recognize that he is desperately trying to catch up with age.

BLACK: Putin's journey has been extraordinary, once a quietly spoken official he has grown to dominate Russian political life with a powerful mix of strength and showmanship. But that formula has now been publicly rejected by many Russians for the first time.

Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.


STOUT: Coming up on News Stream, the world watched in horror as a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck parts of Japan. The country's courage in the face of disaster touched millions. We'll look back at one of this year's defining moments.


STOUT: Live from Hong Kong. You're back watching News Stream.

And in Syria, monitors from the Arab League are visiting the embattled city of Homs for a second day. They want proof that the government is ending its bloody crackdown and that it is releasing detainees.

Now they could be hard pressed to find much, though. And Human Rights Watch says hundreds of detainees may have been hidden at military sites. And observers are only allowed to travel, quote, under the protection of government officials. And that excludes military installations.

Now activists say tens of thousands of protesters were on the streets of Homs when the observers visited on Tuesday. And because of Syria's restrictions on international journalists our Mohammed Jamjoom is following the story from the Egyptian capital from Cairo. He joins us now.

Now Mohammed, what is the latest from inside Syria and the latest from the Arab League monitors?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, we know that the Arab League monitors are back in Homs today. Part of the delegation that was there yesterday actually slept there overnight. More of the team members joined them in Homs today. We're also told that other members of the delegation will fan out to other flashpoint cities in Syria today including Hama, including Daraa, and including Idlib.

We don't know, yet, if they've reached those cities, but we are checking the Arab League to try to find out what exactly they're seeing on the ground.

Now yesterday when the observers reached Homs protesters there were emboldened by the presence of these observers. Tens of thousands of protesters went out into the street, specifically a neighborhood called Khalidia (ph). We saw huge crowds chanting slogans like we want international protection.

And the reason we were told by activists that they went out is they said they knew that they wouldn't be facing a crackdown yesterday. We were told that tanks that had been in place around the city yesterday had been moved. Activists say that those tanks have been hidden in nearby government buildings. And the concern was that those monitors would go away, then the tanks would roll out again and start attacking protesters and shelling homes.

We heard reports late in the evening from activists there that in fact another crackdown did ensue in at least two parts of the city. The security forces started shooting at and dispersing tear gas in crowds to disperse them -- Kristie.

STOUT: So the protesters, they are emboldened by the presence of the observers. But who are they? What is their background? And just how independent are they willing to be?

JAMJOOM: Well, this has been the key question in the run-up to the visit by this delegation and of this mission. We know that there are medical officials. We know that there are military experts. But there have been criticism, a lot of criticism especially from activist groups inside Syria about this delegation saying they didn't believe that they could be effective.

In particular, there's a statement that was released today by an opposition group, a Syrian opposition group, criticizing, being very critical of the selection of a Sudanese military commander to head this Arab League monitoring mission, General Mohammed al Dabi is a Sudanese military man. And the opposition group in Syria is saying that his selection is a farce because of the Sudanese government's actions in the embattled Darfur region -- Kristie.

STOUT: OK. We have Arab League observers in the country in Syria, but United Nations intervention, that is still up in the air. So what is Bashar al Assad thinking right now? Does he think that he can pacify the international community by simply allowing the observers in?

JAMJOOM: It's hard to know, Kristie. You know, at a time today when Human Rights Watch released a statement saying that possibly hundreds of detainees were being taken to military installations to be hidden from observers there, you have the Syrian government coming out with a statement on Syrian state television saying that over 700 detainees had actually been released.

Many people inside Syria -- activists and residents that we speak with, opposition groups say that the presence of this mission is simply a distraction. They don't believe the the group is effective. And they believe that Bashar al Assad only let them in so that he could try to buy time, try to placate the international community.

But international community is condemning the al Assad regime in even harsher terms because of the crackdown that has only been increasing in cities like Homs these past few days. You know, on the eve of the arrival of this mission, we have reports of dozens killed and hundreds injured in the city of Homs. We heard of so much violence by activist groups across Syria yesterday. And we were even told by rights activists and residents in the city of Homs yesterday that while the observers were there that there was violence ongoing.

So hard to know what exactly the al Assad regime is trying to say, but the activists to the opposition figures in Syria seem to believe that the al Assad regime is not serious about ending its crackdown, that they were only trying to fool the Arab League mission that's there. And that they won't stop their tactics any time soon -- Kristie.

STOUT: Mohammed Jamjoom keeping watch on Syria for us. Many thanks indeed.

Now still to come here on News Stream, a look at the sendoff North Korea gave its Dear Leader as Kim Jong-Il was laid to rest in Pyongyang today.


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

Now North Korea's Kim Jong-Il was laid to rest in an elaborate funeral on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of North Koreans lined the streets of Pyongyang to mourn their former leader. Kim Jong-Il's successor Kim Jong- Eun saluted as soldiers marched by in the funeral procession.

China is disciplining 54 people following a train crash that killed 40 in July. State run Xinua News Agency says a report by investigators found that the crash was caused by flaws in the train's operational control systems. Authorities were also criticized for an inadequate emergency response.

The trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resumed in Cairo today. It had been on hold for three months while lawyers from Mubarak's alleged victims requested a new judge. That request was denied. Mubarak entered the court on a stretcher. He is charged with corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising in February. And he has pleaded not guilty.

Argentine president Christina Fernandez de Kirchner will undergo surgery for cancer next week. A presidential spokesman says the cancer is in her thyroid gland, but has not spread. The vice-president will take over her duties for the 20 days or so she is expected to be on medical leave.

Now more now on our top story, the pageantry, military might and mourning on full display in North Korea. The isolated country's Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il was laid to rest in a sweeping state funeral on Wednesday. Thousands of mourners lined the snow covered streets of Pyongyang for the long funeral procession. Many of them were weeping, and some seemed almost near collapse.

And in a politically potent image, Kim's youngest son and chosen successor Kim Jung-Een walked alongside the hearse that carried his father's flag draped coffin.

Now state news media is calling him Supreme Leader and Son of the 21st Century, suggesting that he is rallying support within the regime.

Now one North Korean soldier described his grief at Kim Jong-Il's death as heart ripping. And we have certainly been seeing striking scenes of wailing from North Korean mourners.

But Paula Hancocks reports there are subtle difference with the mourning that followed the death of Kim's father 17 years ago.


HANCOCKS: North Korean mourning is public and vocal. State owned television showed images of people crying in the streets, expressing their grief for their late leader Kim Jong-Il. How much is genuine, and how much is choreographed is impossible to know.

Rewind to 1994 to the death of his father Kim Il-Song. Experts say emotions appeared more raw and more sincere. Mourning for the founding father was intense. North Korean followers say the atmosphere appears different this time.

There are clear similarities between the deaths: both died from a heart attack, and the subsequent successions.

In 1994, Kim Il-Song was negotiating with the U.S. on nuclear disarmament. It was feared the deal would die with him. But his son followed through and signed the agreed framework, though the deal later collapsed.

Just before Kim Jong-Il's death, a deal with the U.S. was close on food aid for halting uranium enrichment, according to U.S. officials. The process could well be continued by Kim Jong-Eun.

PROF. KIM YONGHO, AUTHOR: In the short-term, the funeral process in flowing smoothly. In the short-term there will be no provocation. There will be no offer of changes in -- from a state (inaudible) in North Korea. So in the short-term I think that Kim Jong-Eun's system will be very stable, but for now.

HANCOCKS: Experts are weary of making the same basic assumption that they made 17 years ago.

PROF. CHOI JIMWOOK, KOREA INSTITUTE FOR NATIONAL UNIFICATION: In 1994, we all thought North Korea's future is over. And we thought that, you know, North Korea will collapse sooner or later. But now there is a lot of uncertainties.

HANCOCKS: In 1994, the economy was stronger than today, but the predictions were a dynastic succession would prove disastrous. Today, when the economy is devastated, millions are classed as malnourished, and freedom is nonexistent, many predict the succession will be smooth.

Kim Jong-Eun's success could rest largely on one very powerful supporter.

JIMWOOK: In 1994, there was no support from China. And at the time the relationship between China and North Korea was very poor. But now there is full support from China.

HANCOCKS: Because of his young age and his lack of experience Kim Jong-Eun is expected to have a support team around him, specifically his aunt and her husband Chang Song-Tak, buth of whom were promoted by Kim Jong-Il just a year before he died.

But the very nature of North Korea's dynasty or its (inaudible), or self-reliance, policy means that there will be no power sharing, just one supreme leader.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


STOUT: And as we watch the elaborate ceremony in Pyongyang, it is worth remembering Kim Jong-Il was considered by many to be a repressive dictator. He leaves behind an impoverished nation that faces food shortages.

Now Kim Jong-Il, he spent money on the military, the country's nuclear program, while his own people went hungry. And as Paula just mentioned, it is estimated up to a million people died from starvation before Kim Jong-Il opened the door in the late 1990s to allow food aid, primarily from the U.S.

And according to U.S. statistics, North Koreans now have a shorter life expectancy than they did under Kim Il-Song. And the UN recently denounced Pyongyang for what it calls systematic, widespread and grave human rights violations. They include torture as well as the death penalty for expression of political and religious beliefs.

And as we watched the scenes of mourning throughout Pyongyang earlier today, it was hard not to take notice of the snow and bitter cold there. Now Pedram Javaheri is at the world weather center with a look at that and more -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, wintry weather across portions of northeast Asia, Kristie, the past couple of days. And the temperature trend, you take a look -- minus 13 from Vladivastok to 1 above in Seoul. But you notice we don't have Pyongyang on this map here in the display. And really truth be told, the observations coming out of Pyongyang very hard pressed to get really any accurate reporting out of this part of the world. Often, their weather stations are not reporting. They're either blacked out or missing data. Historical data also difficult to come by. And really the last consistent weather information, as far as current temperatures are concerned, dates back to November.

Now the question is, is this some part of the government or is it just faulty equipment, but certainly the case is drawn there that you don't see too many weather observations coming out of Seoul, South Korea, but the temperatures we take were somewhere of course a couple degrees below zero there with one airport reading we saw minus 2 with light snowfall being reported. So the video certainly supports that.

But I want to show you what's been happening across portions of Australia, across the Gulf of Carpentaria. We do have what is left of Tropical Cyclone Grant in place right now. And the Joint Typhoon Warning Center still giving this a high probability of formation.

Heavy rainfall in the forecast. The majority of it initially going to fall right along the gulf coast. And then watch what happens, work your way towards Cairns and yes heavy rain as we head on into New Years Eve. You're going to see that one more time. So if you've got travel plans up towards portions of Australia around Northern Queesland, keep that in mind. Along the Coral Sea some heavy rain associated with what is left of Grant going to remain in your forecast.

How about Thane? This is the storm system that is a tropical cyclone now, very impressive right now. Winds, upwards of 120 kilometers per hour. That's equivalent to a typhoon. Now in this part of the world not considered a typhoon, of course, but you take a look Chennai the main area of concern right now as far as large population with the storm system on the horizon over the next couple of days. And again, News Years Eve into the first of January there, Kristie, the storm system going to bring in heavy rainfall, rough seas right along the east coast of India as we head on in from Friday night on to Saturday in India -- Kristie.

STOUT: Pedram, thank you.

You're watching News Stream. And still to come...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let it go, let it go, let it go.


STOUT: Man versus nature: the croc who locked his jaws on a mower and refused to let go.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now as 2011 comes to a close we are taking a look at the images that defined this year. And we witnessed a number of natural disasters. In February, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand killing 180 people. And this rail line, it buckled because of the shifting earth. Now the city is still recovering and was recently shaken by another quake.

Now Thailand battled widespread flooding. And here is a boy in suburban Bangkok, he's trying to keep his money dry. Many people lost everything they owned to the water.

And this next striking image, it comes from the United States. Hurricane Irene hit North Carolina in August. And these stairs are all that is left of this family's summer cottage. Hurricane Irene traveled farther up the eastern seaboard in a rare event for such storms.

And finally this picture captures the power of the tsunami that ravaged Japan. A boat in a sea of debris clearly illustrating the strength of the waves. And that disaster left a big impression on the CNN correspondents who covered it. Here they are in their own words.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On March 11, a 9.0 earthquake struck about 130 kilometers east of Sendai, Japan.

HANCOCKS: The magnitude of Japan's earthquake was never anticipated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst was yet to come. The powerful quake had triggered a massive tsunami with waves nearly 10 meters high traveling as fast as a jet liner. It ravaged the country's entire northeastern coast, taking the lives of more than 15,000 people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I thought Japan would disappear. I thought Japan would disappear under water. I have no idea what I will do next or where I will go.

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We were at an evacuation center. And this was a very, very sad moment when a father pulled up in his car and seated in the passenger seat, reclined, was his 16-year-old son. He had brought the body of his 16-year-old son to the middle school so his friends could say farewell. He was trying to create that order of the funeral in Japan for his friends.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: And then, on top of natural disaster, a man made one: looming nuclear crisis.

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You talk about a triple whammy: an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear crisis that is extraordinary, that's unprecedented. There was a fear that if anyone was inside that 20 kilometer zone they could die.

We drove up to the 20 kilometer zone expecting to be turned away, but we actually found that the radiation levels being measured there were not as high as they were in some other parts 20, 30 kilometers away from the exclusion zone.

It was an extraordinary experience for me to walk through there as a reporter and to see the homes abandoned, to see the animals that have been left there to fend for themselves, to see the damaged homes, to see the tin roofs just flapping in the breeze. It was an eerie place, and it's a place I don't think people are ever going to live in again.



STOUT: Welcome back.

Now in Melbourne, Australia the traditional Boxing Day cricket test is set for a thrilling climax. And Alex Thomas can give us the latest on that and the rest of sport -- Alex.


Australia and India's cricketing fortunes swinging wildly back and forth in the Boxing Day test, at the MSG. And the match is perfectly poised with two days to go.

On day three, India slumped from 214 for 3 overnight to 282 all hours. Aussie baseman Ben Hilfanhaus (ph) picking up 5 for 75. So the home side actually had a first innings lead of 51 runs. Although Indian's bowling attack hit back, reducing the baggy greens to 179 for 8 by stunts yet out with 4 wickets. And Ricki Ponting with a second successive half century.

Tottenham Hotspur football manager Harry Redknapp has repeated that Gareth Bale is not for sale at any price after another eye catching display from the Welsh international winger. Bale scored both goals and Spurs won 2-nil at Norwich to stay in touch with Premier League leaders Manchester City and Manchester United. Redknapp calling the midfielder a special talent and said only a Barcelona or a Real Madrid could afford to buy the player before adding they're not selling.

There's huge match-up on Tuesday night in the NBA between the Heat and the Celtics. Both teams playing their second games of the season which tipped off on Christmas Day.

LeBron James and his Miami co-stars with an opening win over the Mavericks under their belt up against Kevin Garnett and co.

Here in the first quarter, we pick it up with LeBron stealing the ball before finishing the move in convincing fashion, part of his 26 points on the night.

Miami outscored Boston by 12 points in the second quarter. Dwayne Wade with a (inaudible) basket here as he racks up 24 points for the game.

The Heat's lead was as big as 20 points at one stage, but Boston did pull back to within 3. Keyon Dooling with the 3-pointer here as he scored 13 coming off the bench. Although that's not as remarkable as Miami rookie Norris Cole who made 20 points in the game, including 14 in the final quarter alone, far more than any of the Heat's big trio of star names.

Miami go 2-nothing up for the season with a 115-107 win.

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are playing their third game in as many days and looking to avoid their worst start to a season for 33 years. And here's a great move from Ron Artest unlike the decision to change his name who now must officially call him Meta World Peace -- seriously.

Later in the second quarter here's Kobe using the crossover move and driving the baseline for the slam to put L.A. up against Utah by 10. Bryant scoring 26 points.

And there's a big 22 point contribution from Pau Gasol who jumps in here after Kobe misses the layup.

I'll show you a bit more from the Lakers' main man, though. In the third quarter where he hits the 3-pointer and L.A. finally get a win under their belts beating the Jazz 96-71.

So not a good night for Utah, then, where Darren Williams played for six seasons until a trade to New Jersey late last season. And during the lockout, Williams spent some time playing in Turkey. And described his travels to Sports Illustrated's John Wertheim.


JOHN WERTHEIM, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: Just personally kind of a whirlwind year for you. I mean...

DARREN WILLIAMS, NBA PLAYER: I've been all over the place. Utah to here to Istanbul back to here. So it's been crazy. I've been traveling around a lot.

WERTHEIM: How do you describe the country? People will say what was it like over there?

WILLIAMS: It was great. Istanbul is a great -- you know, I got a chance to go out and see a lot of the other cities when we traveled, you know, also took a trip with my family. I had a couple of days off and went and saw the coast, the Turkish coast in south Turkey. So there's a lot of great places there, but Istanbul was where I spent most of my time. And that's just a beautiful city. Wonderful city, wonderful people, and I definitely enjoyed my time there.

WERTHEIM: And what about the basketball? I mean, how big of an adjustment was that?

WILLIAMS: It was an adjustment. You know, I think the whole experience was an adjustment. You know, going over there and, you know, different cultural, different language, language barrier. You know, basketball is basketball but it's different. It's reffed different. It's coached different. You know, it's a different style. So it was a bit of an adjustment period at first.

But, you know, I ended up getting the hang of it.

WERTHEIM: So how did you feel knowing after 15 games your jersey was going to be retired?

WILLIAMS: It was definitely an honor. I thought it was a little unorthodox just because you know 15 games wasn't really warrant a retirement, but I was definitely honored by the gesture. You know, I think the fans like that I enjoyed my time over there. You know, I was really well known while I was over there. Kind of surprised me how much, you know, I was noticed and recognized when I was out.


THOMAS: ...trying new stuff. And you can here much more from that interview on World Sport in three hours time including what he thinks about Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov running for president of Russia.

That's all the sport for now, though, Kristie. Back to you.

STOUT: Alex, thank you.

And now for a story about a hungry crocodile who bit off more than he could chew. Now workers at a reptile park in Australia, they were mowing grass inside a pen when a feisty croc made a lunge for the mower.

Now Network 10's Natasha Exelby has the story.


NATASHA EXELBY, NETWORK 10 CORRESPONDENT: Elvis is fairly placid for a crocodile, just don't cut his grass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let it go, let it go, let it go!

EXELBY: Billy Collett was mowing the enclosure this morning.

BILLY COLLETT, CROCODILE RANGER: The next second he was attached to the end of the mower, dragging it in, almost took me into the drink with him. And I tell you what, it happened that fast, it was that scary, but you know, glad to be alive.

EXELBY: The mower was held hostage for several hours while the rangers plotted how to retrieve it, luring Elvis away with some real food.

And apparently being on the other end of that stick isn't as scary as this morning's shenanigans.

COLLETT: When I'm feeding him it's all right. I can see him coming. When you're focused on the mower and you're going around a tree trying to dodge a tree, trying to dodge the water and then a 5 meter crocodile all of a sudden is hanging off the end of the mower, my heart almost jumped out of my chest.

EXELBY: The victim mower was no victor here. But compared to this kangaroo, it came out relatively unscathed and so did the operator this time.

COLLETT: Our worry is now that he's got this mower and he sat next to it in his pool for an hour, that's a problem for us, because to him he just won. He just won a big game.

EXELBY: Elvis lost a couple of teeth.

Right now, Elvis seems pretty content just chilling out in the sun there, but it will take a very brave person to get in here with a lawn mower next week. And I do have a stick.

Natasha Exelby, 10 News.


STOUT: Very brave reporter there.

Now a star of the 1930s Tarzan movies has passed away. Now Cheetah, the chimpanzee you see right here, he passed away on Saturday. The Florida sanctuary that took care of him says Cheetah was roughly 80 years old. Even after leaving Hollywood, he occasionally appeared in the spotlight. Now here is Cheetah on his 75th birthday enjoying cake and a diet Coke. Caretakers say he also liked finger painting and watching football.

Now Cheetah outlived his human co-star Johnny Weismuller by nearly three decades. The Olympic swimmer died in 1984.

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