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Inside Homs, Syria, Undercover; Police Search 17 Offices of Local and Foreign Rights Groups in Egypt; Russian Nuclear Submarine Fire; 2011's Iconic Images; Mitt Romney Leading Polls In Iowa

Aired December 30, 2011 - 00:08:00   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 Syria. As protesters call for another day of demonstrations, we take an exclusive look inside Homs at defectors fighting the Syrian army.

The U.S. presidential race is set to officially begin in just a few days. We'll go live to the first stop on the campaign trail, Iowa.

In Syria, opposition groups are urging demonstrators across the country to join in what they're calling the "Crawl to Freedom Square." They want protesters to gather in public squares in dozens of Syrian cities and to remain there in defiance until President Bashar al-Assad's regime falls from power.

The government appears to be stepping up its deadly crackdown, even with Arab League monitors inside Syria right now on a fact-finding mission. Amateur video captured shots ringing out in a suburb of the capital, Damascus. Activists say more than 30 people were called across Syria on Thursday alone, and there are unconfirmed reports of more deaths today.

Now, the government crackdown appears to be causing cracks within the Syrian military. Some soldiers are deserting their units and say that they have driven army troops out of parts of the flash point city of Homs. A freelance journalist managed to get inside Homs. We are not identifying him for his protection.

Take a look now at this exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): In this Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, anti-Assad fighters took me into a house where their men were engaged in a shootout with snipers from the Syrian military. These men say they are all defectors from Assad forces. They call themselves the Free Syrian Army.

One of the men managed to take a ride with a precision scope with him when he defected, but most of the fighters from the Free Syrian Army are ill- equipped, short on guns and ammunition, and with no heavy weapons. Still, they have managed to take Assad forces out of Baba Amr and hold that area. It's possibly the first place in Syria beyond government control. Checkpoints like this mark the front line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Assad's troops are about 25 to 30 meters away from us with soldiers and tanks. We are here to prevent them from passing and killing young and old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man introduced me to one of their leaders. Abdel Razzaq Tlas is one of the few willing to be identified. He was a lieutenant in Assad's army before defecting. His uncle is a former Syrian defense minister.

ABDEL RAZZAQ TLAS, SYRIAN ARMY DEFECTOR (through translator): We got orders in the army that went against my oath as a soldier. I had sworn to protect civilians, but when I saw what the government forces were doing to the people, I defected on June 2nd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People like Abdel Razzaq Tlas are heroes for the people of Baba Amr. He was cheered at an anti-government demonstration. But Baba Amr is surrounded by the Syrian military and constantly shelled by tanks and artillery.

At a meeting in a safe house, Abdel Razzaq Tlas insists that even though Assad has not used his air force against the uprising, only a no-fly zone imposed by the international community could help the rebels win.

TLAS (through translator): We are in contact with soldiers who are in the army. They tell us that a no-fly zone is essential to prevent them from getting bombed if they defect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For now, the men of the Free Syrian Army are fighting a guerrilla war against an overpowering foe. They smuggle fighters in and out of the neighborhoods they control, evading government checkpoints. At night, they search everyone entering and leaving the area to stop government death squads, the so called Shabia (ph), from getting in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The street you see over there is controlled by the Shabia (ph). They are known to kidnap our women and children. We try to prevent this. When strangers come here, we stop and search them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of this part of Homs are not afraid to take to the streets. There are regular nighttime rallies. But after months of casualties, they have long lost their faith in nonviolent protests. In Baba Amr, many believe that real change in Syria will only come from the barrel of a gun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now, the freelance journalist took those images inside Homs about two weeks ago. At last word, he was still in touch with the Syrian army defectors inside the city, and they were still alive.

And you can see the dramatic photographs he took inside Homs online. Just go to CNN.com.

Now, in Egypt, police stormed the offices of several pro-democracy groups. Seventeen raids were conducted on non-governmental organizations including three U.S.-based entities. It's part of an investigation to claims that the groups received illegal foreign funding and had been operating without licenses. The head of Freedom House, one of the raided rights groups, says the crackdown shows Egypt's military rulers are not interested in establishing democracy.

Mohammed Jamjoom has been following developments for us. He joins us now live from the Egyptian capital.

Mohammed, tell us more about the groups that were targeted and how they are reacting to these raids.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, the raids are eliciting condemnation not just from the U.S.-based groups, but also a lot of Egyptian rights groups.

Now, we spoke a little earlier to the country director for the National Democratic Institute, Julie Hughes. We asked her what was taken from her offices during these raids. Here's more of what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIE HUGHES, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INST.: You know, I don't know that I know what they were looking for. We asked them if there was something specific we could help them find. They refused to answer.

They confiscated laptops and desktop computers, some video conferencing equipment, other electronics, cell phones, a video camera that we used to do media training with political candidates and NGOs, and probably about 15 to 20 boxes of paperwork, financial records, programmatic records. Now, that's just in Cairo. Simultaneously, they also raided the offices in Alexandria and down in upper Egypt, in Asyut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAMJOOM: These raids, Kristie, not just causing outrage here in Egypt. A lot of people we've spoken with really just perplexed. Many people saying that this is a return to repressive tactics of the Mubarak regime. Some people saying that this goes even further than what the Mubarak regime would have done. But a lot of people scratching their heads here today as far as what message precisely is being sent by the ruling military council in Egypt -- Kristie.

STOUT: And there's also outrage overseas. What is the U.S. State Department saying about the raids, and how does it affect the relationship between Washington and Egypt's military rulers?

JAMJOOM: The U.S. State Department was quick to put out a statement condemning the raids, also calling for an end to the harassment of NGOs here in Egypt, and calling for all the materials to be returned to these NGOs. That response was pretty swift yesterday after these raids happened.

As far as the relationship, you know, this comes at a time with a lot of volatility in Egypt, and it couldn't come at a worse time when it comes to the relationship between the U.S. and Egypt. Right now, a lot of tension as to what exactly is going to happen in this country, and many people wondering how this, the fact that U.S. entities as well were raided in these raids, how this will affect the relationship between the U.S. and Egypt. Such a crucial alliance in this area of the world coming at a time of great uncertainty in this country -- Kristie.

STOUT: Mohammed Jamjoom, live from Cairo.

Thank you.

Now, al Qaeda could be trying to gain a foothold in Libya. That's according to a Libyan source who says the terrorist network is mobilizing forces in eastern Libya. He says al Qaeda is sending jihadists to the region and claims one veteran fighter has already recruited 200 fighters since arriving near the Egyptian border in May. But our source added that it is not going unnoticed. He says Western intelligence agencies are aware of the group's activities.

Coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, authorities investigate the cause of a fire in one of Russia's nuclear submarines. We'll bring you the latest.

And in the United States, the first vote in the race for the White House. It kicks off in just a few days. We'll bring you the political landscape from Iowa.

And could Arsenal's record goal scorer, Thierry Henry, be on the brink of a return?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Russian officials say a blaze on board a nuclear submarine is now out, the sub fire on Thursday while it was being repaired in dry dock. Now, material on the dock, it caught fire, spreading flames to the sub. The government says radiation levels in the area are normal.

Phil Black has been monitoring the situation. He joins us now live from Moscow.

And Phil, describe the status of the submarine.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We understand, as you say, Kristie, that the fire is out. Russian officials confirmed this only a short time ago.

The submarine Yekaterinburg was in dry dock, as you say, for scheduled repairs. We're told that some timber scaffolding near the vessel caught fire. That fire then spread to the rubber coating on the outer hull of the submarine, and that rubber has then burned intensely, through the night, through the better part of the day.

They poured enormous amounts of water on it. We understand they even submerged part of the submarine and, still, it burned, until recently. As I say, they have confirmed that the fire is now out.

This is a nuclear-powered sub, but authorities here say the reactor was shut down before it went into dry dock for these repairs. It also normally carries 16 ballistic missiles with multiple nuclear warheads. They were also removed.

So, Russian authorities are very keen to stress they do not believe that there is any risk of any sort of radiation leak. And as you say, they have been monitoring levels regularly, and they say those levels are normal -- Kristie.

STOUT: This is a very sensitive piece of technology. Just how badly was the nuclear submarine damaged?

BLACK: Well, it appears from what we're told that the fire was contained to the outer hull, and in particular, this rubber layer. These vessels are robust. They are designed and engineered to operate at great depths, under enormous water pressure. And so Russian authorities say there was never any risk of the fire burning through the hull to the interior, and they actually tell us that they actually kept some members of the crew on board to monitor things inside the sub while the fire was still burning.

So they say it can be repaired, but it's going to take months, and they're not happy about it. They have already launched a criminal investigation to determine precisely what happened and just whose fault it was -- Kristie.

STOUT: Phil Black, live in Moscow for us.

Thank you.

Now, more than 1,000 people are being housed in a monastery in Myanmar after a deadly explosion and fire destroyed their homes. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited the shelter in the former capital of Yangon earlier today, donating food and money. At least 20 people were killed when an explosion ripped through a warehouse compound on Thursday. They attribute (ph) a fire that burned down several nearby wooden homes. And authorities still have not said what caused the explosion.

And we have much more coming up here on NEWS STREAM. A sports update is just ahead. Alex Thomas will tell us why an Arsenal legend may be heading back to the club.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Quite a display of lights here in Hong Kong.

And coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.

Now, China is laying out ambitious goals for a space program over the next five years. Its top priority is building better launch vehicles. The new generation Long March rockets will be able to haul more into space.

China has two docking missions planned for next year. At least one will carry a crew.

Here's the unmanned Shenzhou-8 which carried out a successful mission. Now, the upcoming missions will also practice maneuvers with Tiangong-1, which launched in September.

China hopes to send up more lab modules over the next five years. It's working toward a future space station.

China's biggest long-term goal is a manned lunar mission. There's no official timetable, but experts predict it could happen between year 2020 and 2030. China is expected to send an unmanned rover to the moon in 2013.

Now, backed by wealthy owners from Qatar, one French football club is on the verge of a major announcement. And Alex Thomas is here to tell us what it is, and he's got the other sport headlines -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, Kristie. The next stage of the Paris Saint-Germain revolution should kick off later after the club scheduled a news conference due to begin in the next three-quarters of an hour, and that's just a day after holding talks with Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Despite reports, there are still a few stumbling blocks. It's thought that Ancelotti, a four-time European champion both as a player and as a coach, is about to be named as PSG's new boss, even though current manager Antoine Kombouare hasn't officially been dismissed yet.

And another football deal on the verge of going through is the return of Thierry Henry to Arsenal. The goalie's boss, Arsene Wenger, says the 34- year-old Frenchman will join for a two-month loan between now and the new major league soccer season, where Henry plays for the New York Red Bulls. That's subject to issues around the player's insurance.

Henry is Arsenal's record goal scorer and left the club in 2007 after eight years there.

Now, the new NBA season is less than a week old, but already we've seen some surprising results. And the most notable team to struggle early on is none other than the reigning champions. Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks trying to avoid a third success at defeat. Their latest game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma Thunder.

They were trailing with less than two minutes to go until this three pointer from Nowitzki ties the game at 96 points a piece. This one will go right down to the wire. The Thunder back in front when Russell Westbrook hits the pull-up jumper, extending Oklahoma's advantage to five points.

With only 46 seconds on the clock, back come Dallas. Jason Terry grabbing the loose ball here and then nailing the three from the wings. A two-point game again, and the Mavs must have thought their luck was in when Sergio Vacca (ph) misses two free throws.

Into the final 10 seconds, and Nowitzki kicks it out to a wide open Vince Carter at the top of the key (ph). He gets the three. Dallas up by one, surely a first win of the season in the bag, but no. With just a second on the clock, here's Durant hitting another three-pointer to steal the win from under the Mavs' nose, winning 104-102.

Great celebrations for them. The NBA champions, Dallas Mavericks, are 0-3 for the season.

Now, with the new year looming, the top three men's tennis players are already back in action ahead of 2012's opening Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open. Not far away from that now.

Novak Djokovic up against talented Frenchman Gael Monfils at the Mubadala Championship in Abu Dhabi, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are also competing. It's not an ATP event. Serious stuff for the top pros as they prepare for Melbourne.

You can see players are maybe trying one or two things they wouldn't in a regular tournament. Great entertainment for the spectators. It all ended with a three-set victory for Djokovic. Just another one to add to his mightily impressive 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, WORLD NUMBER ONE: If I have the right mindset, if I do my preparation in the next two weeks as well as I did in 2010 and 2011, you know, I'm confident that I can still play well. And if I can repeat the year that I had in 2011, that's something that I cannot tell you. And again, I promise, but I'm looking forward to it.

I'm enjoying my game now. I have lots of confidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS: It doesn't sound like Novak Djokovic wants to rest on his laurels, does it?

Now, next, martial arts has gone from being something of a fringe sport to big, big business. More than 50,000 people have been known to pack stadiums with the sport's headline tournament, the ultimate fighting championship.

The latest event takes place in Las Vegas on Friday, with America's Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem of the Netherlands taking top billing. Let's give you a bit more detail now on the powerful Dutchman. This profile from Patrick Snell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 263.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 263 for the "Demolition Man."

PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alistair Overeem is an imposing figure and ready to take on the equally imposing Brock Lesnar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 266 for Mr. Lesnar!

ALISTAIR OVEREEM, UFC: Nobody likes to get hit, and especially not for me. I hit hard. And yes, basically, when I think of Brock, I think he's a tremendous athlete, he's a very big guy, a good wrestler, but he's going to go down when he gets hit by me.

SNELL: Overeem's career in mixed martial arts began at the age of 15, when his older brother Valentijn, who was already involved in MMA, brought him to a gym so he could start learning how to defend himself.

OVEREEM: He was actually my first idol, because he's four years older. And when I started out at the gym, I was 15 and he was 19. He already had a good contract in Japan. And basically, that was what I wanted to do back then. He was my example of what I wanted to be.

SNELL: Overeem progressed through the ranks, eventually becoming the only man in history to hold dual world championships in a major MMA organization, Strikeforce, and the world's premier kickboxing organization, K-1. It was that kickboxing title that put Overeem on the map in Holland.

OVEREEM: People in Holland do recognize me, but that's not from my MMA fights. That's from my kickboxing fights, because I've done a number of those as well. In 2010, I became K-1 World Grand Prix champion, and that was televised in Holland and people recognize me for that achievement.

SNELL: Now he hopes people will recognize him for another achievement, UFC heavyweight champ, and it starts with his fight against Lesnar.

OVEREEM: When I win it, I'm going to fight for the title in the UFC. That will be the crown in my career. So this fight is very important, obviously, because otherwise there's not going to be a title fight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

THOMAS: A determined guy. And certainly as far as the fighting ring is concerned, not someone you want to mess with.

Kristie, back to you.

STOUT: No, that's for sure.

Alex Thomas, thank you very much for that.

Now, still to come here on NEWS STREAM, we head to the U.S. state of Iowa, where Republicans are preparing to vote for their candidate to run against President Obama.

And we look back at some of the most striking images of the year with the CEO of Getty Images.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

You're watching NEWS STREAM, and these are your world headlines.

The United States is criticizing authorities in Egypt after police there stormed the offices of pro-democracy and rights organizations. They targeted several groups including three based in the U.S. Egypt says it is investigating allegations the groups are receiving funds from overseas illegally.

In Syria, Friday has brought large scale anti-government protests and more violence. Activists say at least eight people have been killed in Homs today. Now this YouTube video from Thursday appears to show security forces firing on protesters in a Damascus suburb. Now CNN can't verify its authenticity.

A fire on board a Russian nuclear submarine is now out. The sub caught fire in Thursday while it was being repaired in dry dock. Material in the dock caught fire spreading flames to the sub. The government says crews are now monitoring the vessel's nuclear reactors. It says radiation levels in the area are normal.

Now time has run out this year for supporters of India's proposed anti-corruption law. After an explosive debate parliament's upper house failed on Thursday to vote on the plan to create a watchdog agency. Supporters hope parliament will take up the law again in February.

Now in four days the first voting of the 2012 U.S. presidential election takes place. That means Republican candidates have just 96 hours to win over the people of Iowa. Now Jonathan Mann explains why a relatively low key state carries so much political weight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The state of Iowa is a thinly populated place of farms, friendly towns and for the most part few opportunities to get America's attention. But once every four years, politicians and the press descend on this quiet corner of the U.S. Midwest to watch for one night as its people gather in hundreds of meetings across the state to talk politics and then vote for their favorite candidates for president.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: The Iowa caucuses are really like nothing else in American politics. I mean imagine it, a cold winter night, sub-freezing temperatures, it takes a lot for a person to come out, travel to their local school or maybe their local church and take part for about two hours in a caucus. You've really got to be into the caucus.

MANN: It's quaint and a little quirky. For example, there may not be a secret ballot or even a paper ballot at all. And winning Iowa doesn't predict much. Mike Huckabee won the Republican caucuses in 2008, but he didn't win the Republican presidential nomination and he's not the president today.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's listen in to Mike Huckabee right now. He's the winner for the Republicans in Iowa.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FRM. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love Iowa.

MANN: Barack Obama did enjoy a surprise first place finish in Iowa which helped put him on the map. The rest is history.

And that is Iowa. The question is why Iowa? Americans have long chosen their presidential candidates state by state with the candidates and the contests moving from one state to another. Most states hold what they call primaries. Primary elections, which use delegates to attend national party nominating conventions later in the year.

But instead of a primary Iowa has its caucuses. And back in the 70s it rescheduled the caucuses all on one evening. And it scheduled that one evening ahead of all the state primaries. Iowa made its caucuses the first event in America's long and complicated way of picking presidential candidates. It's been important ever since, because it marks the start of the nominating process even if it doesn't predict how it will finish.

Jonathan Mann, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Iowa can help make or break a candidate and predictably the campaigning has gotten a little uglier ahead of the caucuses. Jim Acosta joins us from West Des Moines, Iowa. And Jim, with just four days to go, how is the race heating up?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know I think what they're calling it here in Iowa right now is Mittmentum (ph). That's because the GOP frontrunner in this race, Mitt Romney, has really surged to a pretty decent lead in this state heading into the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday and that has surprised a lot of people, because he hasn't spent on that much time in this state. This is only his eighth trip to Iowa.

He's going to be standing outside the supermarket in West Des Moines a little while from now. And we're going to hear essentially the former Massachusetts governor make his closing arguments for why voters in this state should support him. And he's basically -- he's kind of gotten a bit of an easy ride here, Kristie, the other candidates in this race have focused less on Romney and more on each other.

If you look at the latest dust up that's flared up between Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul, each pointing fingers over a political operative here in Iowa that switched from the Bachmann campaign over to the Paul campaign.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich has promised to stay positive. The former speaker of the House is airing only positive adds at this stage. He has been the subject of a barrage of negative attacks which have really brought down his poll numbers. He once had a lead in this state, now in the latest poll from NBC and Marist he is now in fifth place in Iowa.

So it's been a pretty stunning turn of events. And consider this, Kristie, you know if Mitt Romney can somehow pull off a big victory here in Iowa and then go on into New Hampshire where he's favored to win that primary he will have basically a two-fer that no GOP presidential candidate has pulled off since Gerald Ford. And he will be very hard to stop if he somehow wins Iowa and New Hampshire, Kristie.

LU STOUT: So Mittmentum behind Mitt Romney. But there in Iowa Ron Paul is the other frontrunner. So if Ron Paul wins Iowa, how will general American voters outside the state interpret that? And will Ron Paul gain more traction or will Iowa just been seen as a kind of a one off?

ACOSTA: You know, I think there are a lot of things that could happen if Ron Paul somehow wins Iowa. And he really could do it, because he is right behind Mitt Romney in the latest polls not only from NBC and Marist that I mentioned, but from a CNN/Time/ORC poll that came out earlier this week. He has the boots on the ground, he has the ground forces in place to deliver a caucus victory, to get those caucus goers to their sites on caucus night. It's a different process here in Iowa as that piece laid out before -- before I came on to talk to you about all of this.

You know, this is essentially a process where people go to church basements and school houses and that sort of thing and get together and caucus and determine who they want to pick. And Ron Paul has the people in place to make that magic happen for him.

And I think a lot of people -- there are going to be some people who will say, oh, Iowa doesn't matter anymore. If Ron Paul wins, this just shows you that the Iowa caucuses are a flawed process.

But then there are going to be a lot of Republicans saying wait a minute, we've got to stop Ron Paul from winning this nomination. If he goes into New Hampshire with a big sense of momentum after Iowa he could be a force to be reckoned with in New Hampshire where he also has support from libertarians. That is his base of support, libertarian conservative Republicans.

So there are a lot of different things that can happen, Kristie, if Ron Paul pulls off a big victory here.

LU STOUT: Yeah, anything can happen four days from now. Jim Acosta live from Iowa, thank you very much indeed for that.

Now the U.S. presidential race is clearly heating up and apparently so are gun sales. Barbara Starr examines the connection between politics and pistols.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDY RAYMOND, GUN SHOP OWNER: These are like $3,300 rifles. We sold three of these over the weekend.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In this holiday season of peace on Earth, good will to man gun sales are on the rise.

RAYMOND: It was our busiest December ever.

STARR: Maryland gun shop owner Andy Raymond says people are buying everything from assault rifles to hand guns.

RAYMOND: We're totally sold out of almost all of our 9 millimeter Glocks, all our standard, most popular models we're totally sold out of it.

STARR: It's a nationwide trend.

The FBI is reporting a million-and-a-half background checks in the month of December alone. That is an all-time record.

Raymond says many customers already own guns and are buying more.

RAYMOND: Then there is also the political aspect of it because we have an upcoming election. So a lot of people are once again concerned about that. They're concerned about what Obama is going to do if he is reelected. So they're trying to get stuff while they can.

STARR: Criminal justice experts aren't surprised at the chatter.

JACK MCDEVITT, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: There is a set of groups out there that every time there's a Democrat going to be elected or a Democrat going to be reelected say you should go out and get guns because they're going to ban guns.

STARR: There's no indication of a new ban, but Republicans again are making sure the photo ops show them as pro-gun ownership.

RICK PERRY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm actually for gun control. Use both hands.

MCDEVITT: It's the largest increase we've ever seen, largest months of sales. It's something that has to be -- we have to look into it as public safety officials and say why is this happening?

STARR: Some of the people we talked to out there buying guns say the reason they want to buy, they want to hunt or have personal protection. And many say they are buying guns to give as gifts.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now up next, a deadly cyclone has hit southeastern India. Now the storm is weaker, but could still cause extensive damage. I'll tell you where its heading next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now a strong tropical cyclone has made landfall in India, bringing rain and strong winds to parts of the country. Now Pedram Javaheri has more. He joins us from the world weather center -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, the storm system finally making landfall in the overnight hours Friday -- Thursday night into Friday morning for them. And what we're looking at here with the storm system considerably weaker than what it was just some 24 or so hours ago. The winds weaken to 74 kilometers per hour. This storm was gusting at over 170 kilometers per hour this time yesterday.

And again falling apart here as it interacts with the Indian subcontinent, very dry conditions of course this time of year. So moisture a little to go by, but plenty of winds and the video here to prove it for you, gusts again as high as 140 when the storm made landfall.

We know multiple lives have already been lost with this. And again this comes in, in the overnight hours when folks are asleep, very populous region in this part of India, southeastern India. And Chennai actually is the sixth most populous city in all of India.

But the good news right now, again it looks like more of a wind event than a rain event.

Is it all done with? Yeah, for the most part. Some rainfall expected with this. We have a lot of rivers in southeast India. And I just want to show you on the Google Earth graphics here major runoff a possibility with this if we get more rainfall coming out.

But one thing we know is of course being the dry monsoons right now as opposed the wet ones they see during the summer months. The conditions here, the river beds, the levels going to be lower. And official actually have set up up to 20 instruments around these three rivers to analyze the observations, see the gauges and see how they're going to react to the water that's forecast to fall. And that's again about 3 to 5 centimeters.

Some isolated pockets could still get up to 8 centimeters of moisture associated with what's left of the storm system. But right now the good news is that the storm less destructive than we had expected this time yesterday.

Take a look, travel problems, around Taipei. We're going to see 30 to 45 minute delays with winds. And Seoul is seeing some snow showers. You may have seen in Pyongyang we had some video there of course with the Kim Jong-il funeral out there. And there was snow there. That's going to be pattern. Light delays possible out of Seoul associated with the snow showers.

And over China, look at the generally clear skies. Really no large weather pattern to speak of in the next couple of days. The temperatures on the cool side. Seoul minus 4, that'll support snow showers.

It's seasonal in Hong Kong sitting at 19 degrees.

And Taipei locked in at 14 as of this hour.

Let's take a look at your city by city forecast.

And Kristie, News Years Eve nearly upon us here across much of Asia. And you take a look, the conditions we talked about, not going to see too many problems out of Hong Kong. Mostly clear skies. 16 degrees at midnight there local time. So weather not going to impact any of the fireworks activities. No winds really to speak of in and around Tokyo funneling up a good idea, down to 2 degrees, but certainly no moisture to work with, so should be a good time around much of Asia with quiet weather this time around, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right. Good news. Like that graphic behind you.

JAVAHERI: It's a lot of fun.

LU STOUT: Very festive. Pedram, thank you. Have a great weekend. Take care.

Coming up next here on News Stream, sometimes remarkable images like these can capture a story better than words ever could. And we've been looking back at some most dramatic pictures of 2011. That, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: 2011 has been a year of stunning news stories and photojournalism. From natural disasters like this incredible shot of ash and steam billowing from a volcano in Chile, to historic political upheaval like this economic protest in Greece, and this photo of a policeman whose clothes caught fire after a petrol bomb was thrown, to a truly unbelievable moment like this Polish airliner making an emergency landing without landing gear.

Now the photographers of Getty Images have captured some of the year's most extraordinary moments. And these are a tiny selection of all the photos Getty releases. In all, Getty uploads up to 45,000 photos to its web site every day.

Now I recently spoke to Jonathan Klein, the co-founder and CEO of Getty Images to hear which shots he thought best represented the year. And we started with this photo. From the front line in Libya, two weapons fired at the same time in the fight against Moammar Gadhafi.

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JONATHAN KLEIN, CEO, GETTY IMAGES: This photo was taken by Chris Hondras (ph). Chris joined Getty images about 11 or 12 years ago. And unfortunately died in Misrata, Libya when he was fired upon by pro-Gadhafi forces in April. Chris always got very close to the action. And I think in this image you can see quite how close he is.

There's a lot of energy. There's a lot of literally fire in the image. Two images being -- two weapons being fired at the same time.

To me it also shows that the fire and the determination of these rebel groups, many of whom were ill-armed, were up against a very powerful army, yet were absolutely determined to succeed. And in the case of Libya, with some help from NATO and the U.S., were able to succeed and to remove Gadhafi after four decades.

A lot of action, a lot of energy in the image. And I also like the composition. And as you said, two weapons being fired at the same time quite stunning.

LU STOUT: Now the next image is unforgettable. It's a shocking and bizarre moment when pro-government thugs, they enter Tahrir Square in Cairo on camel back. And they're holding whips and clubs and they're attacking anti-government protesters. What were your initial thoughts when you first saw this photo?

KLEIN: Well, first thought came into my mind is the safety of journalists covering that event. Speaking to people on the ground -- this photo was also shot by Chris Hondras (ph) -- it was very difficult to know who was on which side. There was a lot of chaos. Many, many people in the square. And the unexpected nature of the Arab Spring, which took everybody by surprise, is also encapsulated in this image where you have the, as you said, the pro-Mubarak forces coming out on camels. As Chris said to me, I'd never imagine that I'd be attack by a man on a camel. I've been in every war zone all over the world.

And it was just so shocking. And the desperation in trying to keep power, which clearly didn't last very long after this image was taken.

It's -- what went through my mind is very much those issues, but also the fact that photojournalists in the midst of complete chaos, can compose an image which is so striking and so powerful and almost brings you into the square as a viewer. Very powerful indeed.

LU STOUT: Yeah, to have that composure to capture the moment is really remarkable.

Now up next, the White House situation room photo was widely circulated after that announcement that bin Laden had been killed. The photo has been analyzed in great detail, but could you describe the drama of this moment?

KLEIN: Well, it's the iconic image. It's been a decade now we've been after bin Laden. And we all imagined that someday we would get him, or we hoped we would. And this image puts us in a place where you simply cannot be. I don't think there's access to the situation room ever, let alone at this key moment.

And you look at everybody's face. And as you said, it's been analyzed many, many time. And you try and figure what's going on through their heads. And what I love about it is what I've always said is that photographers are not intrusive. The photographer in this case, Peter Souza (ph) who is the White House photographer. I promise you they were not bothered by him, yet he has enabled us, and the White House by releasing the photo enabled all of us to actually be there when it happens.

Now of course because we have no other photos of the death of bin Laden. This image will become one of the most iconic images of all-time. Had they released photos of the burial at sea, or of the body, or live photos of the raid, or video, then maybe those would have become more important. But this image will be many, many years always seen as one of the most iconic images of a very big news moment.

LU STOUT: Now the next image, it went viral in a very big way. It's the photo of a couple kissing on the street in the middle of the Vancouver riot. And it looks like a film still. Just how much attention did this image get?

KLEIN: It was unbelievable the amount of attention that it got. As you say it went completely viral.

The whole story was extremely interesting, because to begin with the Vancouver Canucks got to the Stanley Cup final and lost in game seven, and they lost at home. And there was some rioting in Vancouver. Vancouver is not a place, or Canada is not really a place you'd normally associate with Rioting.

Rioting took place. And in the midst of it all it appeared that a couple was making out. And when the story became fully told, when the couple went on television, what had actually happened is that the young lady was hurt and she was being comforted by the young man. They weren't in fact making out.

In all the chaos it just seemed that our photographer Rich Lamb (ph), for some reason or another managed to capture that moment.

There was some controversy for a couple of days on the blogosphere where people said that the image was set up. It absolutely wasn't set up. We released all the photos, the frames before that particular frames as well as after. And it was just an extraordinary story. A big contrast to what had been going on in Vancouver last year, which had been a hockey game took place and Canada won the gold in the Olympics on home soil in hockey which is the religion in Canada.

So it was just a lovely story. And the photo did encapsulate it.

It does look a bit like a film still. The lighting is amazing. It's almost as if he was able to light the couple exactly the way he wanted to. You almost think that there was -- that there was a production crew there. But clearly there wasn't.

A fun photo, really fun photo.

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LU STOUT: Jonathan Klein there on Getty's most iconic images of the year.

But there is still one more, the royal kiss. On April 29th Katherine and William shared their first kiss as a married couple on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. It was the moment millions were waiting for. But the real highlight of this picture is down here and the look on the face of little Grace Van Cutsone (ph). Maybe it was the noise of the crowds below, maybe it was a long day, we don't know. But we can clearly see the three- year-old bridesmaid holding her hands over her ears and flashing that famous frown.

So as New Year's Eve approaches, here's hoping little Grace will be spared the midnight kiss.

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

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