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Exclusive Look at Anti-Government Protests in Syria; More Quakes Rock Christchurch, New Zealand; Breast Implant Risks; Arsonist Targets Cars in Los Angeles; North Korea Blames U.S. Military Presence for Delay of Reunification

Aired January 2, 2012 - 00:08:00   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 Syria, as we continue our exclusive look inside the restive city of Homs.

A string of aftershocks shake Christchurch, a city that knows only too well the power of an earthquake.

And more than 40 arson attacks in Los Angeles leave a city wondering who did it.

Now, the Arab League is sending more monitors to Syria this week despite new criticism that its mission gives cover to the regime's crackdown on dissent. Activists say at least 10 more people were killed on Sunday.

CNN cannot verify those reports. Syria has restricted access for foreign journalists. But one filmmaker managed to get into the restive city of Homs between December the 15th and the 20th. Remember, that is before the recent report of unrest there. And still, his pictures provide an important snapshot of life inside an embattled city.

Already we have shown you how snipers make just crossing a street potentially deadly and how a group of army deserters is trying to take on Syrian security forces. And now we want to take you inside an anti- government protest and let you hear from the people who are demonstrating. It's a story you will see only here on CNN. And for safety reasons, we are not naming this freelance reporter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): On the outskirts of Baba Amr, in Homs, there's massive destruction. But inside this neighborhood, one of the first to be completely free of Bashar al-Assad's forces, people can take to the streets without having to fear government snipers.

In the early days of the uprising there were large protests that would often draw the fire of government forces. Now the demonstrators are much smaller in size, but there are more of them in places government troops can't reach every day and every night.

Many women and children are among the protesters in this area, where the rights to protest is protected by the fighters of the Free Syrian Army. The ports are among the most popular at the gatherings and among the most hated by the regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ben Ali flew from Tunis. Ali Saleh is burned by fire. Mubarak is in court and Moammar killed by the revolutionaries. Your day is coming soon, Bashar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This poet says that he is inspired by the atrocity committed by Assad's forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I write about the destruction that Bashar has inflicted on us, about the tanks that strike us on Bashar's orders, about the warplanes that he sent to us while he claims there are no warplanes. I write on everything. Everything that Bashar denies happening I write about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Others vent their anger in moments of despair. Activists took me to this funeral in the village of Dar al-Kabir outside of Homs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My God, we will hold anyone accountable who is oppressing us, all of them. We know the officers who are giving the orders. We know all the people who are killing our children. We are the sons of this country. We are not leaving this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A man named Malik (ph) was being laid to rest, and almost the whole village turned out. Malik (ph) was shot to death by government militia at a checkpoint. His little brother couldn't hide his despair.

With every civilian killed, the hatred for the regime grows and any chance for a peaceful end to the bloodshed in Homs seems to fade a little more.


STOUT: The head of the Arab League's monitoring mission says observers have not seen evidence of sniper attacks.

Mohammed Jamjoom joins us now from the Egyptian capital of Cairo. He's been following this story very closely for us.

And Mohammed, an Arab League official is calling for an immediate withdraw of the monitors in Syria. Why? And will that call be heeded?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, Ali Salam Al- Diqbasi, he was quoted in a statement. He's the head of an advisory board of the Arab League. This is the Arab parliament. He's calling for the withdraw of observers from Syria, claiming the mission has allowed Syrian officials to continue a brutal crackdown on protesters.

He said, "What is allowing the Syrian regime a cover for the exercise of its inhumane acts is under the Arab League's watch." Now, that having been said, the Arab League maintains that their mission is going on. We've been told today by Arab League officials that in fact more observers will be sent in in the coming days to bolster the mission that is already there.

We were also told by somebody with the Arab League that in fact the Arab parliament has, from day one, objected to monitors going in, thinking that it wouldn't be able to change things on the ground there, and that it's only the Arab League Council that would be able to change the mandate of the mission and withdraw those observers at this stage. So, at this stage, Arab League officials we're talking to say the mission is very much still happening, they are committed to continuing it, and they are going to bolster the numbers of the observers on the ground there in the coming days -- Kristie.

STOUT: So more observers to arrive there in Syria. And since the Arab League observers arrived in the country last week, how many lives have been lost? Has there been any letup in the violence in Syria?

JAMJOOM: It's of course very hard to try to verify the information, impossible to do so because the Syrian government won't allow us to report from inside Syria. But according to activist groups and residents in Syria, we're told that dozens of people have been killed since this past week, that the crackdown has not let up one bit, that the violence remains. And, in fact, we're told multiple reports -- and we've seen a lot of videos purporting to show -- that residents and activists there have been emboldened by the presence of the Arab League observers, that they are coming out more and more into the streets to protest against the Bashar al- Assad regime, even with the threat and the specter of violence, which we are told has continued on a daily basis. Even today, we were told of more deaths happening, more protests happening.

So, even though this observers mission is there, it doesn't seem it has let up on the crackdown that's going on, and that's really only causing more international groups and activist groups from within Syria to call on the effectiveness of this mission, and ask, if those observers are there, and they're mandated to try to ensure the end of the violence there, why is it still going on when they're there on the ground doing this observation mission?


STOUT: So are only protesters and activists there, are they at all hopeful about what the Arab League mission can do, or are they largely skeptical about what the group can do for their country?

JAMJOOM: Kristie, we heard from a lot of activists and a lot of opposition groups this past week in Syria saying, look, it would have been better if perhaps a U.N. mission had come in to Syria. There have been questions about the effectiveness of this mission even before they arrived on the ground there.

You had lots of groups saying that they didn't believe that the Arab League was really going to be able to effectively counter the violence that was going on, and many people questioned how many observers were being sent. The fact that we hear that between 10 and 12 observers go to the cities that they go to, at each different city, many people say that's just not enough observers on the ground in these different places to really get an accurate picture of what's going on and to try to stop what's going on.

So this has been going on from the beginning. Before they got there violence was still going on. After they got there we had reports that violence was still going on, that deaths were still occurring on a regular basis. And the fact that it seems to still be going on, really just making people question this mission, question the people that are on this mission, question the Arab League. And there seems to be more calls for the Arab League to either really do something more to be able to counter what's going on, or to send in more international groups to try to help the situation there on the ground in Syria -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right. Mohammed Jamjoom, watching this story inside Syria for us from Cairo.

Thank you.

Now, Iran claims to have successfully test-fired what it says is a long- range missile on the final day of war games in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's state-run news agency reports that the missile was launched for the first time and hit its intended target.

Now, the surface-to-sea missile reportedly has a range of 200 kilometers. Tehran has warned the West in recent days that it might shut the narrow Hormuz Strait if more sanctions are imposed over its nuclear program. Two other missiles were also due to be tested today.

Still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, the new year has started with new tremors in Christchurch, New Zealand. Will it be the last straw for some city residents?

Plus, dozens of women in Argentina ask to have their faulty breast implants replaced free of charge.

And U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls campaign in Iowa. We'll take a closer look at the first contest in the country's nomination process.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, Christchurch has been rocked by another set of quakes. More than a dozen tremors hit New Zealand today, and they're just some of the thousands that have rattled the country in recent months.

Daniel Faitaua reports for CNN affiliate TVNZ.


DANIEL FAITAUA, REPORTER, TVNZ (voice-over): Another early morning wakeup call for feared-up sleepers.

JEREMY ROSS, RESIDENT: Just the whole baby at night crying, the earthquake hits, and the train (ph) had on the wife. (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bit of rocking and rolling when the kids woke up.

FAITAUA: Woken up by a severe set of shakes, 15 in total. The biggest measured 5.5, leaving 10,000 homes on the eastern side without power.

STEWART KILDUFF, ORION OPERATIONS MANAGER: The vibration obviously -- you know, it went on a bit longer than normal, and it (INAUDIBLE) surge and tripped the transformer.

FAITAUA: While power was swiftly restored, Orion wants customers to expect more blackouts from tremors measuring more than 5.

KILDUFF: This will go on for a while longer. We've got to build the resilience back into our network, which can take three to five years. It's a big job to get some big cables through from the other side of town to feed these transformers.

FAITAUA: It's 15 months since the 7.1 September quake rocked the city. It's been shaken more than 8,000 times since. The most recent big jolt just before Christmas, so the airport closed for hours and Christmas shoppers evacuated from malls. Remarkably, this morning's aftershocks caused no damage and there have been no new reports of liquefaction.

BOB PARKER, CHRISTCHURCH MAYOR: We're going to have to have a long conversation with Father Christmas, because these were not the presents that any of us were looking for. But that is the reality of where we are. We know this too will pass with time. We just don't know how long.

FAITAUA: But one scientist says new fault cracks discovered indicate the quakes could go on for several years.

DR. MARK QUIGLEY, GEOLOGIST: The fact that this thing is just breaking in segments, propagating to the east, in faults of all different orientations, is -- it's a challenge to study and it's a challenge to live through.

FAITAUA: A challenge many locals are prepared to accept.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to keep calm for them, but inside you're worried as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm not going to move away, but you kind of wonder when it's going to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our nerves are getting a bit jangled, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) it's part of life. You just get on with it.

FAITAUA: But still a part of life they're desperate to see the back of.



STOUT: Now, if you think the Maldives, the chances are you think luxury, relaxation and pampering. But just last week, the Tourism Ministry banned the use of spas after claiming that they were being used as brothels. So that sparked a revolt by hotels, and many are now openly flouting the ruling. It all stems from opposition calls for a stricter imposition of Islamic values, but even opposition groups now say the ruling may go too far.

Now, the Maldives attracted some 800,000 tourists last year, and the ban could have a devastating impact on the economy. And now it looks like there may be some backtracking. Local media quote the tourism minister, Mariyam Zulfa, as saying this: "Several have raised concerns over are decision. We are considering allowing resorts to operate spas."

Several women in Argentina are among the latest to raise concerns over faulty French-made breast implants. We've got their story ahead.


STOUT: It's 2012 here in Hong Kong and elsewhere around the world.

Welcome back. You're watching NEWS STREAM.

Now, U.K. lawmakers are looking to new data that suggests a former French company's breast implants may be more dangerous than previously thought. The data comes from Britain's biggest cosmetic surgery chain, and according to "The Sunday Telegraph" newspaper, the new figures suggest as many as one in 14 implants made by the company PIP has ruptured since 2006.

Now, last year, the implants were banned for being made with industrial rather than medical-grade silicone. French health officials have already advised 30,000 women with PIP implants to have them removed, and now dozens of women in Argentina are looking into legal action to have their PIP implants replaced for free.

CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor Rafael Romo joins us now with more on that -- Rafael.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Kristie Lu, the PIP implants became very popular in Argentina and other South American countries in the last few years mainly because they were so cheap, but now many women who have them are concerned their health may be at risk.


ROMO (voice-over): Argentina imported thousands of the French breast implants between 2007 and 2010. The faulty implants manufactured by a now defunct company called PIP were banned last year in Europe because they were made with harmful industrial-grade silicone and prone to rupture. Argentine attorney Virginia Luna is leading a group of about 50 women, herself included, who want their implants replaced.

VIRGINIA LUNA, ATTORNEY (through translator): What we're asking for is that the prostheses be removed and that a new one be implanted at no cost. And of course we want the freedom to choose a doctor to do the implant. Some private clinics have recently offered patients with PIP implants a free removal, but they still have to pay for the cost of the new implants.

ROMO: Luna says as many as 13,500 women have the faulty implants in Argentina. Women from other South American countries routinely travel to Argentina or Brazil for plastic surgery. Quoting experts, the French health director general said it's not true that the implants may cause cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These experts said that there is no link between a risk of cancer and a link with PIP implant breasts.

ROMO: But he says the risk of rupture is very real, something that is a constant concern for Silvina Rodriquez, who got the implants in Buenos Aires in 2009.

SILVINA RODRIGUEZ, PATIENT (through translator): It causes me to be nervous all the time. Sometimes I feel pain and I don't know if it's related to the implants or not. I try to calm down but still feel I need to do something about it. I can't wait to go back to the operating room and hear the words "It's been done" so that the nightmare is over.


ROMO: (INAUDIBLE) the government has offered to pay the replacement of these faulty implants free of charge in Argentina, many are calling for the government to do the same -- Kristie Lu.

STOUT: So is there any talk of legal action?

ROMO: There is talk of legal action, Kristie Lu, and mainly from this group of women who -- it's about 50 of them who say that their surgeons should do something about it. And not only that, they say that they will consider suing individual surgeons who used these implants knowingly, knowing that they were bad, they were faulty, and that in the end, they had the potential of putting the health of these women at risk -- Kristie Lu.

STOUT: Yes. Well, I hope these women receive the best legal and medical advice.

Rafael Romo, joining us live from CNN Center.

Thank you very much indeed.

Now, still to come here on NEWS STREAM, the clock is ticking in the U.S. state of Iowa. Republican presidential candidates have just a few hours left to win over undecided voters.

And in Los Angeles, police are hunting a serial arsonist after a spate of bizarre attacks on dozens of cars.


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

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

Now, the head of the Arab League has just spoken about the situation in Syria. Nabil Elaraby says gunfire and snipers still threaten Syrian cities and urged a cease-fire. He also added that the monitoring mission there needs more time for checking on the government's promise to end its crackdown on protesters.

Iran has successfully test-fired a long-range missile. That's according to the state news agency, which says the missile hit its intended target during naval exercises. Two more missile tests will reportedly take place today. The action comes at a time of rising tension between Iran and the West over its nuclear ambitions.

Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into court on a hospital gurney on Monday. Mubarak is accused of ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising that ended his 30 year rule. Many in Cairo are critical of the court proceedings, worried that Mubarak may be acquitted of the murder charges.

And it is the last full day of campaigning for Republican presidential candidates in Iowa. The state's residents pick their preferred nominee during Tuesday's caucuses. Now Mitt Romney has a slight lead in Iowa and is trying to hold on. He started the race strong back in June, but has had ups and downs since then.

Now Romney is one of many candidates labeled a frontrunner over the course of the campaign.

Now take Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, she is now at the back of the pack. But she won the Iowa straw poll in August. Now she slipped, a number of staffers have defected.

Now Texas Governor Rick Perry, he rocketed to the top after he entered the race in August, but debate debacles hurt him.

And this has been Herman Cain. He became the next leading candidate who led national polls in October. And allegations of sexual misconduct forced him to suspend his campaign on December 3.

Now Newt Gingrich, he pulled ahead after that. But analysts say that he may have peaked too soon.

And the latest Iowa polling puts Representative Ron Paul in a statistical tie with Romney and former Senator Rick Santorum is right behind him.

Now many political pundits have already counted him out of the race. And Joe Johns explains what's behind the Santorum surge.


RICK SANTORUM, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have done nearly 358 or 59 town hall meetings in the state of Iowa in all 99 counties. And weren't speed dating.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rick Santorum's polling numbers, his surge in the race for Iowa is starting to look like love, though the question is what took so long for a staunch conservative who has been courting the state for months to finally get some traction.

SANTORUM: The crowds are bigger, but I think they'd be bigger in any circumstance because people are focused.

JOHNS: And for some of those evangelicals and social conservatives he's been with them on all of their issues for so long it's as if they're just now remembering he's actually in the race -- anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, pro National Rifle Association. On the right side, the far right side, of many things that matter to them most.

One Santorum selling point is that he appears he has no serious baggage compared to others, because he was vetted during his years in congress.

SANTORUM: You know I got a thorough cleansing, if you will, when I ran in 2006. I had everybody look at everything. And had national profiles and everything else. You know, the answer is I've been through this.

JOHNS: That 2006 Senate reelection campaign haunts him. He got crushed in his home state Pennsylvania, a battleground state.

So why would the Republican party risk giving the nomination to a guy who got bounced out of office like that? Answer number one, it was a tough year.

SANTORUM: It was the worst election for Republicans than, you know, probably -- in maybe in the history of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania.

JOHNS: Answer number two to explain that drubbing in the Senate election, principle. He got advice to moderate his positions in order to suit the voters' moods, but he refused.

SANTORUM: Yeah, I lost. But I stood for what I believed in and, you know, my feeling was that if there's one thing worse than losing and that's sacrificing your principles. I wouldn't do it. I didn't do it. And...

JOHNS: Democrats poked fun, of course, pointing out this humorous ad that makes Santorum look like quite the compromiser.

SANTORUM: Barbara Boxer and I wrote a law protecting open space.

I'm even working with Hillary Clinton to limit inappropriate material in children's video games.

Because it makes more sense to wrestle with America's problems than with each other.

JOHNS: He's also gotten slammed for earmarking while in congress. He argues there was nothing wrong with it.

SANTORUM: Yeah, well, I did.

JOHNS: But make no mistake, standing up for conservative social issues has defined Rick Santorum's career to the point that some Republicans who know him point out he's gotten pigeon holed.

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He's really revolved himself around social issues like abortion. And when you're talking about the economy is the number one issue to Americans and the Republican primary voters you know he's speaking their one language, but he needs to speak everything to voters right now.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


LU STOUT: Now still Iowa's caucuses are quite hard to predict. Let's bring in CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser. He's live in the capital city of Des Moines. Paul, it's good to see you again.

On the eve of the caucuses, just how fluid is the Republican race there in Iowa?


As you just ran Joe Johns' piece of Rick Santorum, Kristie a couple of weeks ago the former senator from Pennsylvania wasn't near -- anywhere near the top of the heap in this race. He was an afterthought. But take a look at this, this is the latest poll. This came out yesterday here in Des Moines, the Iowa poll from the Des Moines Register. And there is Rick Santorum now in the third spot basically tied for the top spot of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.

But this race has been extremely fluid. We've seen candidates go up and down in polling here and nationally.

So this poll I just showed you as well also indicates that about four in 10 Iowa Republicans who are likely to go to the caucuses tomorrow, you know what they say? We may change our minds. So anything can happen, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Everything is up in the air.

Ron Paul, according to that graph you showed just now, he is a close second to Mitt Romney. So how do you explain his appeal in Iowa? How has he been playing tot he crowds there?

STEINHAUSER: Yeah, Ron Paul is a fascinating story. He made another run for the White House four years ago. His supporters are so energetic (inaudible). They will show up -- you know, they love this man. And they firmly believe in his anti -- limited government philosophy.

He has been very popular here in Iowa among about a certain percentage of the population. And I think Ron Paul will do very well here as well as in other states. Ron Paul can maybe take his campaign all the way to the convention this summer. He may not win the nomination, he probably won't, but he's got very frenetic followers, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, he's proving to be quite the challenger to Mitt Romney. And according to the polls Mitt Romney, he could -- could, underline -- win Iowa and later the primary in New Hampshire.

Now perhaps it's a little bit too early to forecast this, but Paul you're the expert, if Mitt Romney wins both is it game over? Could he be the GOP candidate?

STEINHAUSER: It could be game over. If he wins here, and right now as you saw in that poll he's in the top spot -- in New Hampshire he is the overwhelming frontrunner according to almost every survey. Remember he was the governor of neighboring Massachusetts. So if he wins these first two states he's going to have a lot of momentum.

And Kristie, it will be tough. I'm not saying it's game over, but it would be very tough for any of the other remaining candidates to challenge him. So stay tuned. We'll see what happens with Mitt Romney tomorrow night right here in Iowa.

LU STOUT: Hey, we will.

Paul Steinhauser, live from Des Moines for us. Thank you very much indeed.

Now at least 47 fires have been set in a bizarre spat of arson attacks in the U.S. city of Los Angeles. And most of the fires were setting cars.

Now the first few reports that came in on Thursday and then they were followed by more in the same area of the city on the following day. And then on News Years Eve more attacks in the same area. And a trail of charred vehicles farther north. And then early on Monday morning, at least eight more vehicles were set on fire.

Now authorities have not revealed how the fires were started, but have issued surveillance footage of a man they would like to talk to. And the past couple of hours, they've detained one man for questioning.

And Casey Wian has been following the story for us. He joins us now live from L.A. And Casey, any new information about who is behind these attacks and why?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't have any answers to those questions at this point. But as you reported, authorities have detained a man for questioning. He was detained just a couple of miles from where I'm standing in Hollywood at the command center for the Los Angeles fire department. And he was detained near where some of the most recent fires were discovered tonight.

Now to just update some of those numbers, the Los Angeles fire department says there are now up to 55 fires since early Friday morning, with a dozen of those set tonight.

We arrived here about four-and-a-half hours ago. And arson investigators said all was quiet. Then there was a two hour flurry of activity where we were listening to the fire department scanner we heard fire after fire. We saw fire crew after fire crew responding to those incidents. And then we heard this report that this person was detained for questioning.

Interestingly enough since that arrest, or detainment happened a couple of hours ago, we have heard no more calls for fires.

So that's all we know at this point. Arson investigators are talking to this person and investigating several sites where these fires were set overnight, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, so many questions here: who did it, why, why target cars? So Casey, let's talk about the damage. I mean these arson attacks, they have targeted dozens of cars, but did the fires -- the blazes also spread to some structures? What is your understanding of the total damage from these fires?

WIAN: Well, the total damage is still being tallied. They did spread to some structures. We had one fire in the Los Angeles -- excuse me, the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles not too far from where I am. Tonight, that was both a vehicle, structure and commercial fire. So they have spread and caused some property damage.

So far, though, we're not aware of any injuries, significant injuries to people. So that's at least good news.

LU STOUT: Well, that's good to hear. Yeah, definitely.

And also security and L.A.'s fire fighting team, so they must be on alert after all these arson attacks.

Have you been seeing extra security around Los Angeles?

WIAN: Absolutely. You know there's extra police and fire officials deployed because of the New Years holiday. And some of those resources have been devoted to this string of arson fires. We had several teams of arson investigators going out tonight. And at one point there were so many fires happening that one of the scenes was still waiting for an arson investigator because they just didn't have enough personnel to cover everyone.

But yes, they had to put on extra manpower both the fire department, police departments, and even federal authorities have been called in to look at these cases.

LU STOUT: All right. Casey Wian joining us live from Los Angeles, thank you.

Now up next, North Korea is calling for U.S. troops to leave South Korea. Ahead, the air base that the U.S. military says is a necessary deterrent.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Chinese president Hu Jintao has emphasized the importance of international cooperation in his New Years speech. Promoting stability was also a focus of the address given on Chinese state TV.


HU JINTAO, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translator): The peace and development of the world face unprecedented opportunities and challenges. China will stick to the objective of its foreign policy of maintaining world peace and promoting common development, adhere to independent foreign policy, unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and stick to the principle of mutual benefit when opening itself up.


LU STOUT: Now the Chinese president may have had the Korean peninsula in mind. Tensions there continue to simmer.

Now North Korea has blamed the U.S. military stationed in South Korea for preventing reunification and is calling for their withdrawal. Paula Hancocks reports on why that is unlikely to happen.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An Apache helicopter launches a precision strike on a Korean mountainside, crucial air support for the Abrams battle tanks engaging the enemy on the ground. The enemy may be imagined in this joint military drill between the U.S. and South Korea, but the threat further north of this training ground is real.

GEN. JAMES D. THURMAN, U.S. FORCES KOREA: We know the importance of the rock (ph) U.S. alliance. So we're providing the deterrent that is necessary for the defense of the Republic of Korea.

HANCOCKS: A deterrent considered even more vital after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and referral of power to his young son.

General Thurman told the Senate armed services committee Kim Jong-un's youth and inexperience increase the likelihood of miscalculation as does the imperative for him to establish credibility with the military hardliners he needs to support succession.

The U.S. military claims it is not on any raised state of alert, unlike its South Korean counterparts. Operating under what's called normal armistice conditions, the level of readiness is as it is on any given day.

These Patriot missiles are the first line of defense for the U.S. forces of Korea. They're here to detect, to target, and then to intercept any incoming missiles.

The first Patriot formation was moved here in 1994 as the military threat North Korea posed became clearer. Pyongyang has staged a number of missile tests since.

LT. COL. WILLIAM DARNE, U.S. ARMY: The North Korea military has a very robust arsenal of tactical ballistic missiles and that's why we're here.

HANCOCKS: A second unit has since been added in South Korea. So far none have had to be fired, but with a 90 percent success rate for destroying an incoming missile, the sense of security is there.

And with 28,500 troops and the latest U.S. military arsenal at the ready so (inaudible).

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Suwan Air Base, South Korea.


LU STOUT: Now new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been congratulated by Syria's embattled president Bashar al Assad. Korea's state run media reporting that the Syrian president wished Kim Jong-un success in his new job.

These pictures were also released on Monday showing the young leader congratulating soldiers on receiving military honors.

Now it's getting toward the business end of the season in the NFL. And coming up next, we've got highlights from the Dallas Cowboys clash with the New York Giants. At stake, a place in the playoffs.


LU STOUT: Now there was a dramatic conclusion to the regular season in the NFL. Pedro Pinto joins us with that and more sport from London -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. It was win or go home for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants as the two NFC East rivals faced off on the final day of the season. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had a painkilling injection on his injured right hand for this crucial contest as he went head-to-head with Eli Manning.

Romo had a good offensive game, but the Giants took control in the first half going up 21-nothing at the break. Manning hooking up with Ahmad Bradshaw here in the second quarter.

Now Dallas would last three of their last four games were feeling the pressure. And to their credit they made a game of it. After the break, Romo's pass to Laurent Robinson for the Cowboys within a touchdown of their rivals.

But the Giants would ice the contest with a huge play here. Manning finding Hakeem Nicks for a 36 yard gain. And Nicks would then get into the end zone moments later.

The Giants winning this crucial game 31-14 to advance to the playoffs. The Cowboys see their season come to an end.

New York will now host the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs next week. The Saints take on the Lions. The best team of the regular season, the Green Bay Packers, who finished with a 15-1 record, have a bye next week in the postseason as do the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC.

Over in the AFC it's the Patriots and number two seeded Baltimore Ravens earning a bye week. The Denver Broncos made the playoffs even though they lost their last game of the season. They now take on Pittsburgh. The Texans will face the Cincinnati Bengals next week.

A lot of drama sure to come in the NFL playoffs.

While the NFL is reaching its climax, the NBA season is still taking its first steps. However, it may not be too early to call the Miami Heat as the odds on title favorite. On Sunday they improved to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history with a win against Charlotte.

Now Dwayne Wade had scored a game-winning shot against the Bobcats last week, but this time there was no need for such drama. It was one-way traffic in Miami as the Heat built an 18 point lead in the first quarter.

Chris Bosh was dynamite in the first half, scoring 20 points. He finished the game with 24. Wade has 22 points in this ball game -- here he is in transition doing what he does best. Believe it or not, LeBron James had only one field goal in the first half.

But you know what? The Heat didn't really need him to score much. LeBron still finished with 16 points in his 28 minutes of play.

The two super stars had plenty of fun in the second half as this game really turned into a laugher. Miami scored 129 points, the most by any team this season. They won easily, and remained one of two undefeated teams so far. The other one, if you're wondering, is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While the Heat can't lose, the defending champion Mavericks can't seem to buy a win at the moment. Dallas drops to 1-4 on the season by losing to Minnesota. The Timberwolves got another good outing from Spanish rookie Ricky Rubio, one of seven assists there to go along with 14 points.

The Mavs, who have struggled so far this season, had the lead briefly in the second quarter but trailed by 9 points at halftime and never really challenged after that.

Dirk Nowitzki, the only bright spark for Dallas on the night. He scored 21 points.

But Kevin Love just wouldn't let the Wolves lose -- 25 points, 17 rebounds for the all-star, including this clutch 3-pointer late in the game.

Minnesota wins for the first time in 19 games, would you believe it, 99-82 over the defending champions.

Barklay's Premier League fans around the world haven't even had much time to digest some of the weekend's shock results, but there are more games on the schedule for today already. Chelsea will try to rebound from a disappointing home defeat to Aston Villa. They play away at Wolves. Arsenal look to move closer to the top of the table with a win at Fulham. Most of these games are kicking off in a little over an hour's t ime.

Manchester United and Manchester City also in action this week.

We'll update you on the Monday's scores later, but that's all the sports for now. Kristie, back to you in Hong Kong.

LU STOUT: All right, Pedro, thank you and take care.

And finally, to go Over and Out There we go to Twitter. The microblog (inaudible) apparent arrival of 80-year-old media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. And you just got to love his profile pick.

Now despite the signature blue and white tick next to his name, proof that it is verified, many Twitter users they were doubtful about its authenticity, but a tweet from Twitter's own Jack Dorsey seems to prove the doubters wrong.

Now the chairman of Twitter, he weighed in with this, quote, "with his own voice in his own way @RupertMurdoch is now on Twitter." If it is, indeed, Rupert Murdoch he's been pretty active online with tweets saying that it's good to see Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum surging in the polls, also how George Clooney deserves an Oscar for his performance in the Descendants.

And yes, he weighs in about the future. Rupert Murdoch tweeted, "happy 2012. May it be better than all experts predict. Has to be. Must change everything to create jobs for all, especially the young."

OK, so as you can see he seems to have a certain unease with punctuation. But that's OK with his followers -- well over 46,000 and counting.

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