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Syrian State Media Report at Least 25 People Killed in Damascus Explosion; Baghdad Blasts; U.S. Defense Shift; Joran van der Sloot Pleads Guilty To Murdering Stephanie Flores; U.S. Economy Adds 200,000 Jobs In December

Aired January 6, 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, where state TV says a terrorist attack in the capital has killed 25 people.

Now, the U.S. reorganizes its military and announces a focus on the Asia- Pacific. We'll look at China's reaction to the move.

And as iconic photography firm Kodak sits on the edge of bankruptcy, we'll look at companies that were left behind by technology's evolution.

Syrian state media report an explosion in Damascus has killed at least 25 people, mostly civilians. It happened in this densely-populated neighborhood in the heart of the city. The SANA news agency claims a suicide bomber exploded at a traffic light near a school. It is airing this footage of the aftermath, and much of it is quite gruesome.

State media report large protests condemning the bombing are taking place across the country. Just two weeks ago, Damascus was also rocked by two powerful car bombs.

Now, CNN is not currently allowed to report from inside Syria. Arwa Damon is following developments from neighboring Lebanon, and she joins us now.

And Arwa, what more is Syrian state TV saying and showing about this explosion in Damascus?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, the images, as you mentioned there, are quite gruesome. We should once again warn our viewers of that. But it is showing the aftermath.

You see vehicles that have been damaged, glass that is strewn about, pools of blood, bits of flesh. It's really atrocious.

This specific neighborhood is fairly densely populated, as you mentioned. It's in the very heart of the capital.

Syrian state television is blaming a terrorist suicide bomber. It is blaming terrorists for all of this. And Let's remember that since the onset of this uprising, the Syrian government has maintained it is quite simply targeting terrorist armed gangs. However, activists who we have been talking to say that they had absolutely nothing to do with this, and they, in fact, are blaming the Syrian government for this attack -- Kristie.

STOUT: Who else is being blamed for today's blast? And who is denying responsibility?

DAMON: Well, all sides are denying responsibility, and all sides are blaming each other at this stage. What the activists are arguing is that they had planned today to all converge on central Damascus, especially since the Arab League observers were there. They really wanted to get out in mass numbers.

They're accusing the Syrian government of carrying out this bombing in this specific neighborhood because it is in the heart of the capital, and that then would give the Syrian government a pretext to block off the roads and prevent this mass demonstration from taking place. That being said, we still did see demonstrations throughout the capital and even in Midan itself, that very same neighborhood.

I was just skyping with an activist who said that they went out and demonstrated despite the explosion, despite the risks, that they were met with tear gas, shootings, the usual status quo. Now, the Syrian government is saying these are terrorists, and it has from the beginning been arguing that its crackdown is quite simply part of an effort to target this foreign conspiracy of these terrorist armed gangs.

STOUT: Now, the blast and the demonstrations all taking place during a visit by Arab League observers. Just how much access and real testimony are they getting about the crackdown?

DAMON: Well, it's incredibly difficult for the activist to actually reach them, quite simply because they have been traveling around, surrounded by a massive and significant security escort. Activists have been able to speak to them on some occasions. We've seen videos where people are simply imploring them to listen, pointing out sniper positions, pointing out signs of torture on their bodies, telling them stories about relatives who have been detained. But by and large, the activists say that they have been left bitterly disappointed and, to a certain degree, disgusted with the reaction they were getting from these Arab League observers on the ground and from the mission as a whole.

We've been hearing repeated cries during demonstrations on this Friday not just for the downfall of the regime, but for the observer mission to leave the country, because activists are saying at the end of the day, it is proving to be entirely useless. They had hoped that it would somehow bring an end to the killing, that it would somehow bring about some sort of a resolution, a bit of a break from the violence. And that has not materialized, not in any shape or form, according to activists -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right.

Arwa Damon, all across this story.

Thank you very much indeed for that.

Now, in Iraq, at least three explosions have gone off near the Green Zone in Baghdad. That is where the Iraqi military held this parade to mark Army Day. It comes on the 91st anniversary of the founding of Iraq's armed forces.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other top government officials attended the ceremony. It is the first held without a U.S. military presence in Iraq since 2003, but it also follows a day of bombings that killed at least 60 people, mostly Shiites.

Those deadly attacks are deepening fears of renewed sectarian violence. It is unclear if any government officials were targeted in today's attack.

Let's bring in Jomana Karadsheh from Baghdad.

And Jomana, any more details about what happened today?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN PRODUCER: Kristie, about half an hour after state television started airing the ceremony on television -- it was a recording -- it was a delayed recording of the ceremony taking place in the Green Zone -- we heard three consecutive explosions. And according to eyewitnesses, these explosions were caused by mortar or rockets near the Green Zone.

We understand from an Interior Ministry official that at least one mortar did strike somewhere close to one of the main checkpoints leading into the Green Zone. He also reports that there were five other mortar attacks in the capital in different neighborhoods today.

Kristie, this is a real embarrassment for the Iraqi government. This ceremony, this celebration of Army Day, has been really taking place under real tight security after yesterday's attacks. And before that, streets, roads around Baghdad have been cut off. A really heavy security presence on the streets ahead of this celebration.

They were anticipating some sort of attack, that they even kept really -- they were really secretive about this celebration. Yesterday, an army general even refused to confirm to us that this ceremony, the parade, was going to take place today.

So, again, with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military sending a message with this show of force in this parade today, extremists in Iraq, Kristie, were also able to send a message.

STOUT: Two messages sent today. And the Iraqi military, I mean, they may be hailed in today's Army Day celebration, but just how able are they to secure their own country and to stop more attacks?

KARADSHEH: Well, these questions do always come up after attacks like the ones we saw yesterday and what we saw today. There is no denial here that the Iraqi security forces have made great improvements over recent years, but they're still lacking in capabilities and equipment. They're still missing some equipment.

For example, the Iraqi air force is almost nonexistent, and this is really necessary, they say, for the country to protect itself from any foreign aggression. That is why the Iraqi government is signing arms deals with countries like the United States. That is meant to provide it with F-16 fighter jets.

But there are concerns about arming the Iraqi security forces now, especially during this political crisis that Iraq is going through, one of its worst since 2003. And sectarian tensions are really running high. We're hearing from opponents of Prime Minister Maliki that he is using the security forces against political rivals, something the prime minister denies.

STOUT: Well, here's hoping that the country can pull together to counter the violence.

Jomana Karadsheh, joining us live from Baghdad.

Thank you.

And now that U.S. troops have pulled out of Iraq, President Barack Obama is planning a makeover for the military. The Obama administration unveiled its new defense strategy on Thursday. It proposes paring back troop numbers as the Pentagon seeks to slash spending.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in the capabilities that we need for the future, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction, and the ability to operate in environments where adversaries try to deny us access. So, yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.


STOUT: So, translation, fewer large counterinsurgencies like those you've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan and more electronic espionage in cyberwarfare.

The U.S. military's eyes are also turning farther east. Some analysts say the new plan implies a smaller military presence in Europe, but a stronger commitment to combating perceived new threats from Iran and China.

Now, the U.S. already has tens of thousands of armed services personnel in the Asia-Pacific region. More than 100 are based in each of the countries highlighted in green, right here, with the largest concentrations in Japan, South Korea, and their surrounding waters.

The Pentagon fears China is developing weapons capabilities which could curb U.S. power in the area.

Stan Grant brings us the reaction to the new U.S. strategy from Beijing.


STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China may need to get used to this sight, American military might right in the face of the People's Liberation Army. President Obama is making the Asia-Pacific region priority number one for a leaner U.S. defense force. Iraq and Afghanistan are the past, he says. A rising China tapped as a potential threat, a looming face-off in this new super-heated superpower rivalry.

TENG JIMENG, BEIJING FOREIGN STUDIES UNIVERSITY: This is a very wrong move on the part of the U.S. to create this enemy in a sense that may sound very offensive, that's, in a sense, very, very unrealistic.

GRANT: Some analysts say China's leaders already have a siege mentality when it comes to the U.S.

WILLIAM CALLAHAN, MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY: I find that the attitude of the hard-liners in the party is still very much a Cold War mentality. They see politics in terms of conflict and struggle, and international politics is a competition between the U.S. and China over which has the best model, whether it's an economic model or a civilization model or a military model.

GRANT: China bristles at displays like this off its coast, the USS George Washington carrying out war games with allies like South Korea and Japan. But China is showing off its own firepower.

This satellite image shows a refitted ex-Russian aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea, part of China's drive to ramp up its navy. The world has also caught glimpses of the PLA's new radar-evading stealth fighter the J-20.

Take a look at the numbers.

In spending power, China lags the U.S. America's annual military budget is over $700 billion. China officially spends around $90 billion, but the U.S. Defense Department says the real number may be double that. In troop size, China is bigger -- more than two million soldiers. The U.S., nearly 1.5 million.

But the U.S. has the edge in technology and firepower. But to Chinese analysts like Teng Jimeng, any conflict would be disastrous.

JIMENG: Neither side can win. This is not a win-win situation. This is a kind of mutual destruction.

GRANT (on camera): For decades, the Asia-Pacific has been U.S. turf, but this is also where China lives. Two powers, one region. Is it big enough for the two of them?

Stan Grant, CNN, Beijing.


STOUT: Now, ahead on NEWS STREAM, the government of the world's newest country declares a humanitarian disaster in its largest state as fighting for resources drives thousands from their homes.

The British government prepares to release a report on the risks of PIP breast implants, while in France, there are concerns that the scandal could be widening to include other types of implants.

And a group of U.S. college students takes a stand against human trafficking, as the CNN Freedom Project continues.


STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, new unrest is raising fears of more sectarian violence in Nigeria. Gunmen in the northern city of Gombe attacked a Christian church on Thursday. Six people were killed, 10 others were injured, and no one has claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government's sudden decision to end fuel subsidies has set off a series of angry protests. The country's main trade unions say they may go on strike next week.

And police in Cameroon's economic capital, Douala, say that they are trying to prevent violent protests from spreading throughout the city. Riots first broke out in a residential neighborhood six days ago after a motorcyclist stabbed and killed a man on New Year's Eve. You're looking at the scene there on Tuesday as police used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to break up the crowd. At least two people have died.

And fighting over scarce resources in South Sudan has led to a humanitarian disaster. The United Nations says at least 50,000 people have fled their homes in the country's largest state, and the U.N. Humanitarian Office says it is now mounting a massive release operation.

And for more on this story, let's bring in CNN's Nima Elbagir. She's following developments from our bureau in London.

And Nima, first, describe the scale of the violence and humanitarian need there in Jonglei.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is really only the latest wave in inter-tribal warfare that's been blighting Jonglei state for the last few years. It's been escalating recently because of this really intense competition for resources, as you said. And that's being pushed further by an influx of nearly 80,000 refugees from the continuing conflict between the north and south along that still undemarcated border.

What we're seeing is a lot of cattle rustling between the Lou Nuer tribe and the Murle tribe, because, really, at the moment, cattle is the only means for survival. It's what they trade with, it's a source for the family in terms of as their last resort. Of course, they could use its milk, they can eat, but really, it's also a way that they define wealth in a situation where there isn't really that much wealth.

It has, of course, exacerbated and highlighted the problems that South Sudan faces as a state. You have that ongoing conflict with the north, but you also have the fact that the central government really hasn't managed to establish itself. Riek Machar, the vice president of South Sudan, who is himself from the Lou Nuer tribe, actually traveled to Jonglei state to try and end the violence, and even he couldn't find a way through this -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, you've been to South Sudan and reported from there just as it became the world's newest nation. Can the government handle this additional challenge?

ELBAGIR: Well, even at the time, Kristie, I remember we were talking about all the issues still remained on the table even as South Sudan was celebrating its independence. All of those issues are still on the table - - the lack of demarcation between the international border of North and South Sudan. Even just issues like the splitting of the oil wells, how that oil, which is the main source of income for the Southern Sudanese government, it has to go to markets through the market. All of these issues remain unresolved.

Meanwhile, because of that, the main artery for goods to come into South Sudan is still North Sudan, especially for states like Jonglei, that are on the border. So they're being squeezed from both sides. They have this influx of new displaced people. They're not getting any goods in from their nearest port, which is through the north.

And then, the Southern Sudanese government is saying that it feels that after those celebrations, after all those festivities six months ago, the world has forgotten it. Salva Kiir is heading to Davos at the end of this month to try and remind the international community of what he says are their responsibilities to this newly independent state -- Kristie.

STOUT: And with disaster now declared on Jonglei, at least some help can move in. But what kind of assistance will go there? And will it get there in time?

ELBAGIR: The issue now is that they're trying to help the displaced people, but this is what we're seeing time and time again, not just in South Sudan, but in other emergencies around Africa. What they get is emergency aid, but really the capacity building that somewhere like South Sudan needs so critically, a lot of that isn't coming because of the economic downturn around the world. Donors are more and more reticent to put money into longer-term projects.

When they see death and devastation and disaster, as we're seeing horrifically in South Sudan now, they move. But when there is the opportunity to help people so that competition for resources doesn't get so intense, it's more and more difficult to justify opening up their national exchequers. So, unfortunately, the U.N. is raising alarms on South Sudan and across Africa so early in the year -- Kristie.

STOUT: Nima Elbagir, thank you very much for updating us on the situation in South Sudan.

Now, later today, the British government is expected to release data on the health risks from PIP breast implants. While women in the U.K. wait to hear what action, if any, the government there will take, there is a report that the scandal in France could be widening.

Jim Bittermann reports.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With 30,000 French women at risk from faulty breast implants, the government is now taking stock of what happened and what it's going to take to fix the problem. Plastic surgeons were telling reporters that they informed medical authorities about the potential hazards from ruptured implants as early as 2007, but it was only discovered last year that the implants were filled with industrial rather than medical-grade silicon, and at least one in every 30 implants have ruptured so far.

DOMINIQUE MARANINCHI, FRENCH HEALTH SECURITY AGENCY (through translator): Unfortunately, the drama which took place in France concerns us all. We have to say that this can never happen again. We have work to do, but the safety and regulation were not sufficient with regards to the manufacturers.

BITTERMANN: The government says it will pay to have the implants removed from the women who have them, something that will cost the public health care system 60 million euros. Worldwide, at least 300,000 of the implants were sold, and countries like Venezuela and the U.K. are addressing the problem. The implants were never approved for use in the United States.

Women who received them say medical authorities have to do more to get to the bottom of the scandal.

JOELLE MANIGHETTI, IMPLANT VICTIMS ASSOC. (through translator): Women have the impression that someone has been hiding something from them for some time now. They make announcements which are more political than anything else, and maybe they're still hiding things.

BITTERMANN (on camera): Adding to that suspicion, a French newspaper is reporting that the same company which produced the faulty implants for women also used the same hazardous material to produce chest and perhaps testicular implants for men. Health officials would not confirm what reporters learned from company workers, but they did say that all of these other implants were sold for export and none were used in France.

(voice-over): Lawyers for the company which made the implants have had nothing to say about any of the accusations. The breast implants were banned from sale in 2010, and the company went bankrupt later in the same year. The company's president is thought to be in hiding in southern France. He issued a communique denouncing untruths in the information coming out about the affair, but he is nonetheless the subject of two French judicial inquiries.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


STOUT: Now, next on NEWS STREAM, young people take a stand.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people call us crazy, but we believe that this generation, in their lifetime, can end slavery, can end human trafficking.


STOUT: College students in the U.S. make a commitment to do something now to end a horrible practice.


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

Now, a huge group of motivated college students is making a difference in the battle against modern day slavery. They're part of what's called the Do Something Now campaign.

Jim Clancy has this CNN Freedom Project report.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of young Christians cheered as a sculpture of an uplifted hand was unveiled and their determination to end human trafficking in their lifetimes unleashed.

BRYSON VOGELTANZ, CHIEF STEWARD, DO SOMETHING NOW: So, is it a hand of worship? Yes. Is it a hand of justice? Yes. Is it a hand of the generation? Absolutely.

It's all those things. It's a symbol of freedom.

CLANCY: More than 40,000 young people came together from across the U.S. and more than 30 countries around the world to participate in the faith- based event Passion 2012. Organizers are making the fight against human slavery the focus of the Do Something Now campaign.

BROOKE, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: I think the inspiring thing is to not even know that there would be this many people here, much less this many people willing to give. And it's great to see that once someone is willing to stand up, everyone is happy to follow, and just wants to be a part of something bigger.

BLAGIO, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: To be able to say that, you know, we're here in the name of Jesus to fight this, I think that's incredible to be a part of. So, yes, I'm definitely happy to be a part of this.

CLANCY (on camera): All of these young people are lining up to contribute money from their own pockets, or money that they've raised from family and friends to fight human trafficking. The goal: raise $1 million to help fund six ongoing projects in India, Cambodia, Nepal, Ukraine and right here in the United States.

"MELISSA", HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIM: They're actually stepping outside themselves to be a part of something bigger, to help. And they're doing something now about it. They're not waiting next week or when the emotions die down. They're actually giving now and doing something, which is amazing.

CLANCY (voice-over): Money donated by these students will educate young people about the risks from human traffickers, help free slaves and provide shelter and support for those who have been rescued.

VOGELTANZ: The fact that there's 27 million slaves today -- the most that we've ever had in history -- we just think that that's over, that's done. And you know what? We believe in this generation of 18-to-25-year-olds. Some people call us crazy, but we believe that this generation, in their lifetime, can end slavery, can end human trafficking.

CLANCY: More than a few shed tears as they wrote personal messages on clothing and other slave-made products that cloak the 30-meter-tall sculpture. They believe in God, in themselves, and in the noble notion that as individuals coming together, they can take a stand against modern- day slavery.

Jim Clancy, CNN, Atlanta.


STOUT: And those young people exceeded their own expectations. They raised just over $3 million.

And you, too, can help fight against modern-day slavery. You can learn more by checking out the Web site

Now, investors are waiting for the release of the latest U.S. jobs report. It's due out within the next few minutes, so stay with us. We'll have the numbers for you.

Plus, the company that brought photography and printing to the masses is now looking at its bottom line. After decades of commercial success, the "Kodak Moment" fades.


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

Now what state media are calling a terrorist bomb has exploded in the Syrian capital Damascus. State TV says at least 25 people have been killed and 46 wounded in the blast which was believed to be a suicide bombing. Now separately, opposition groups say security forces killed eight people earlier on Friday.

In Iraq, witnesses say at least three explosions have gone off near the Green Zone. And that is where the Iraqi military held this parade to mark Army Day. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and other top government officials attended the ceremony. It is the first held without a U.S. military presence in Iraq since 2003.

Now Turkey's Anatolia News Agency is reporting that the country's former army chief has been arrested in Instanbul for allegedly trying to overthrow the government. It is the first time in the republic's history that a former military chief has been detained.

And this just in to CNN, the U.S. Labor Department has released the highly anticipated jobs figures for December. They show a gain of 200,000 jobs, that's more than expected. We'll bring you more analysis of what that figure means for the American economy with World Business Today's Andrew Stephens in just a few minutes.

Now the picture is looking rather bleak for Kodak. Now shares of the iconic photography firm plunged on Wednesday after the Wall Street Journal reported that Kodak is preparing to file for bankruptcy. A company spokesman declined to comment. Now it's worth pointing out that Kodak battled the same rumors in September.

Still, it seems the 130-year-old company is on its death bed. A series of bad business decisions are blamed for its decline. For example, Kodak says it invented the world's first digital camera back in 1975, but it chose to remain focused on film instead. And rivals like Canon and Nikon now dominate the digital sector.

And in recent years, Kodak has been selling off various divisions. Now the one that invented the digital camera was just sold in November.

Now the company's costliest mistakes may have been letting go of its medical imaging business and the spinoff of its chemical company. Now both are still profitable.

Now Kodak is desperately trying to pedal its digital patents just to survive.

And the irony is that Kodak actually invented the digital camera back in 1975. It is certainly not the first company to be badly impacted by evolving technology and it won't be the last.

Now whether its Blockbuster or Borders, now retailers -- entertainment ones, they have suffered at the hands of online stores. Why travel to a Blockbuster store when you can rent a video with a few clicks from Amazon, iTunes, or NetFlix?

And it isn't just the older brands that have suffered. Do you remember the Flip video camera? It enjoyed a brief, but incredible popularity because it was cheap, small and easy to use. But with modern smartphones gaining the ability to shoot high definition video, the need for a separate gadget to shoot video virtually disappeared.

Now the smartphone, this may end up being responsible for the death of more brands, given its increasing capabilities, it has the potential to threaten anything from land line phones to GPS devices, to handheld game consoles. And one expert even told us that phones are responsible for fewer people wearing watches.

Now we'd like you to share your favorite Kodak moments with us. Just check out the assignment page Just break out those scanners, because we want to see pictures shot on film.

Now time now for the world weather forecast with a focus on India. Let's go to Jennifer Delgado for that -- Jen.

JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We are going to get to India in just a moment, but we're starting off right now in the Philippines. Of course we've been following this area, because it's been flooding there. We've had reports of mudslides as well as landslides and we do have new video and to show you the aftermath as residents go back and they try to pick through their belongings. This is coming out of the Copastello Valley (ph).

And this is such a bad situation there, because so many people now living without shelter. This is, of course, the tropical storm that passed in December and then the heavy rainfall that came earlier this week.

As I take you back over to the satellite, and if you look on here it looks fairly quiet. But while it is quiet right now we're still going to go through a period where we're going to see showers and thunderstorms popping up as we go through the weekend. And this is still going to lead to that potential for more flooding out there as well as more mudslides. They are very vulnerable and of course very saturated. So this whole area really needs to be watched as we head into the upcoming weekend.

And as we look across parts of India, you can see what's happening there -- very cold and icy in some parts. You're looking at a photo coming in out of the Kashmir Valley. And it's so cold there -- in fact, there are reports that drinking water taps have frozen in some places. And this is out of Sri Nagar not far away from this region. They're dealing with sub- zero temperatures. And I'll show you on the satellite how that moisture just coming through. And it's also been bringing some snow for parts of Kabul, Afghanistan.

You can see the low right there. And that is going to continue to bring more snow as we go through today as well as tomorrow. We're talking a good amount of snowfall, 25 to some high elevations could see about 60 centimeters of snowfall.

And across parts of China, still rather cold there. In Hong Kong -- Kristie is not wearing a sweater, but the temperature right now at 13 degrees. The good news is all the temperatures are going to warm up about 3 to 5 degrees tomorrow. And we're going to talk more about your weather.

Let's take a look at what weather is like around the world. Stay with us.

And welcome back. We have some beautiful photos to leave you with on this Friday. Let's go to the photos coming out of Harbin, China. And Kristie, I know you are familiar with this -- I love this display. This happens every year. This is the 26 annual. You are looking at sculptures that include palaces as well of course of areas including the lights behind the ice sculptures. This is the 26th annual event. They also have an Egyptian area with all the ice displays. Love the photos there.

And good news, Kristie, it's not going to be warm. We're going to see more snow moving into that region as we go to the upcoming weekend. And I know you're wearing red. It's on Friday.

LU STOUT: There we go.

All right. That's right. Like the skirt. You know my sister went to that Harbin Ice Festival. You can only go out 30 minutes at a time, because it's so cold. But really beautiful.

Take care, have a great weekend. Jen Delgado there.

Now let's go back to the U.S. jobs numbers now. Around 200,000 jobs were added last month. And that is more than analysts were expecting and offers a glimmer of hope for the U.S. economy. That employment rate also fell slightly in December to 8.5 percent.

World Business Today's Andrew Stephens joins me now. Talk us through the numbers. What's your read on this report.

ANDREW STEPHENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a good report, Kristie, no doubt about it. The number was expected to be around about 150,000. Some people have been revising that up in the last 24 hours or so, because we've had a very strong private jobs number for December which came out yesterday.

But even so, to see 200,000 is a strong number. And if you put that in context with what we've been seeing over the past few months there is this steady increase in the employment numbers in the U.S. and a steady decline in the jobless rate.

All good. Obviously this is good -- this is news to Mr. Obama's ears. And it does say that there is some sort of a recovery going on. This is not a strong recovery, because a lot of people say you need sort of north of 200,000 regularly to really eat into that jobless rate, but it's a good start. Here are the numbers -- you see to me.

You see October, November, December, these -- November has been revised down by about 10,000 or so. But you'll see there, 210,000 September. Pretty strong past four months. And it's looking good.

LU STOUT: You can clearly see the momentum at the end of the year here.

Now when the markets open, are we going to see a strong open?

STEPHENS: Yeah -- stronger open. The futures were pointing -- so the Dow being up about a .25 percent. We got the number. They went up to about .5 percent higher.

There's obviously a lot of headwinds still coming out of Europe.

Interesting, intriguing question here, though, is with the sort of jobless numbers, with this trend and with this Dow perhaps sort of being fairly positive on this, are we going to see some sort of decoupling, if you like, between what's going on in the EuroZone and what's happening in the U.S., because the consumer in the U.S. is so strong for the U.S. economy, if the consumer gets going, if confidence starts building again, you could see a stronger economic recovery in the U.S. than we expect at the moment.

LU STOUT: It could turn into a growth story.

What are your thoughts about -- well...

STEPHENS: Well, no, it's all relative.

LU STOUT: That's right. And I'm going to ask you to put -- you know, to be the prognosticator here. 2012 a big political year, big election year. Are we going to see this momentum continue?

Whoops, you lost the chart.

But what is the economic outlook for the U.S. going forward?

STEPHENS: Well, a lot of people I talk to say that the U.S. economy is actually on this trajectory which says it -- there is going to be growth throughout the year. You know, we're coming off of obviously a very low base, but it's not going to be spectacular growth, but perhaps between 2 and 3 percent. That's growth. And that's what the incumbent, Mr. Obama obviously we hold on to.

As we see these sort of numbers continue, that is going to bring this confidence thing. You can't underestimate how important confidence is. Or overestimate how important confidence is at the moment. It's just not there in the U.S. Once the confidence seeps back in, once they are more confident about keeping their jobs, indeed looking for higher paying jobs, you're going to get the spending coming through. And that's where you get this virtuous cycle.

LU STOUT: Yeah, you'll see the spending, you see the corporates hiring again.

Andrew Stephens, thank you very much for that. And you'll be back at the top of the hour. Andrew Stephens there.

Now six years ago he was a prime suspect in the case of missing American teenager Natalee Holloway. And today he is on trial for the murder of 21-year-old Stephanie Flores. You look at the case against Joran van der Sloot when News Stream returns.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now the trial of Joran van der Sloot is set to get underway a couple of hours from now in Peru. He is accused of murdering a young woman there in 2010. Now back in 2005, he was never charged but he was the prime suspect in the disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway. And she went missing in Aruba.

Now van der Sloot was never charged in connection with the Holloway case, but he looks set to plead guilty to the murder case in Peru.

Now senior Latin American affairs chief Rafael Romo is following the trail for us. He joins us now live from CNN Center. And Rafael, how does van der Sloot's team plan to defend him?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have a breaking development on this story, Kristie. We just received a statement from his attorney directly saying that he plans to plead guilty. And let me read it to you. "He will do this with the intention to receive all the legal benefits of the sincere confession. We think the pressure from the media coverage and other factors will take away from the independence of the judging panel."

Again, there is a lot of evidence in this case, Kristie. And chances were that he was going to be charged with first-degree murder, which in Peru carries a maximum sentence of 30 years behind bars. There's the evidence -- the bloody shirt. There's the evidence of the items that he took away with him when he fled to Chile. There's video of the couple playing poker at a casino. There's also video of the couple entering his hotel room in Lima. So in spite of -- because of all that, that's the reason why the attorney is deciding to do this, this morning Kristie.

LU STOUT: So a lot of evidence stacked up against him. He's now saying -- or his lawyers now say van der Sloot plans to plead guilty. Is there any link between this crime, this case in Peru, and the case of the missing American teenager Natalee Holloway?

ROMO: There is no link so far, but there are many eerie coincidences between the two. The murder of Stephanie Flores, 21-years-old in Lima, happened exactly five years to the day of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Natalee Holloway, the body has never been found, but she spent the last hours of his -- of her life in the company of Joran van der Sloot. Same thing with Stephanie Flores. Young women, very popular young women. One in America, the other one in Peru. They were just trying to have fun and they just happened to spend time with Joran van der Sloot the last time they were seen alive -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now the Natalee Holloway case, it gripped the United States when it was under way. Is there a similar reaction in South America as this trial begins for the killing of Stephanie Flores?

ROMO: There is a lot of indignation. I was in Peru when he was originally arrested. And Stephanie Flores comes from a family that is very well known. Her father is a business man. And so the country -- I remember the story grabbing headlines. This is a very high profile case in Peru. And it's expected to be gathering a lot of -- generating a lot of media attention today when the trial starts at 10:00 am local time in Peru, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right. Rafael Romo. We'll be following this trial very closely for us. Thank you very much for that Rafael.

Now up next, combat communications have spawned the idea for one of the latest social apps. We'll take a closer look at this, the Voxer walkie talkie when we come back.


LU STOUT: Now it seems like there is an app for everything these days. And developers are finding inspiration for apps from the most unlikely of places.

Dan Simon tells us the unusual story behind an app that turns your smartphone into a walkie talkie.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Tom Katis, the idea arose from the heat of battle.

You were a communications specialist in the army?

TOM KATIS, CEO, VOXER: Yes. I was special forces communications seargant.

SIMON: And he found himself fighting in Afghanistan a year after 9/11. It was actually his second stint in the army after this east coast native graduated from Yale.

KATIS: If I ever thought of myself as a Green Beret, you know, then now is the time to do it. You know, if not me, who? If not now, when?

SIMON: Katis found battlefield communication challenging. And something he says that hadn't really evolved since World War II.

KATIS: You can only talk to one group or one individual, one channel at a time, yet you have to maintain multiple separate of them simulataneously.

SIMON: 10 years later, Voxer hits the Apple App Store born out of his wartime experience. It's an app that essentially turns your Apple or Android device into a walkie talkie, a 21st Century version.

KATIS: It does all these other things. And so people are attracted to it, because it's a walkie talkie and then all of a sudden they realize, well, it doesn't actually interrupt -- when I can talk. And they just get a notification.

SIMON: It acts differently by storing all your messages in the cloud, so users can listen to the message live or later and then respond.

KATIS: Hey, Dan. I'm here. I'm showing off the software. Hope this is...

SIMON: It's a lot like text based messaging, but adding a voice to it.

KATIS: And as I'm speaking, it should be streaming live. So what you see is that...

SIMON: Though it was first envisioned as a technology for the military, Voxer is for everyday consumers. And since it launched in iTunes in May it has been gaining a cult following. Recently it even beat out Facebook and Twitter as the number one downloaded social networking app.

KATIS: Over the last month we've seen it just explode. And that's where we really started to feel like we've got something here that's got some legs. And we've got users in Saudi Arabia. We've got users in Brazil. We've got users in Asia.

SIMON: The company attributes the app's success to what it believes is a new form of social etiquette driven by young people, less phone calls, more texting. Katis believes he's inventing a new form of communication with a marriage of the traditional phone call and the text message.

At this point, Voxer has not made a dime, because it's a free app.

KATIS: That's right. It's lost a lot of money. It's very standard to lose money the first -- you're trying to prove something new. And if you put up a big barrier of charging for it up front then people aren't going to try it. So it's the classic sort of free/premium model. You get people using it for free and then you find another way to get some percentage of them to pay you for some better stuff.


LU STOUT: Now Voxer is available for both iPhones and Android phones on their respective app stores.

Now, less than a month after flying to Australia with ambitions to win a test series there for the first time, India's hopes have been dashed.

We can join Alex Thomas in London to find out why -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, this will certainly be remember as Michael Clarke's match after the Australian captain rewrote the record books and claimed a crucial catch to help his side thrash India with a day to spare.

Resuming their second innings in 114 for 2, India's batsman finally put up some resistance racking up over 300 runs in an innings for the first time this series. Galtan Gambia (ph) top scoring with 83. And Sachin Tendulkar yet again getting close to an unprecedented 100th international century, but the little master was out for 80, caught off the part-time bowling of Clarke. And India were dismissed for 400 to lose by an innings and 68 runs.

Australia go 2-nil up in the four match series. So the best India could hope for is to level that series.

Clarke, man of the match, not surprisingly, after his innings of 329 not out earlier in the week. He would have already won the award anyway, but getting Tendulkar out was the icing on the cake.

India can't win the series, then, but they can still see Tendulkar get that 100th 100 later in the series, something the fans would certainly love to see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wanted Australia to do well, but wanted Sachin to get his 100th 100, because we saw Bradman get his 100th 100 here in 1947, it was against India, so it would have been a nice turn of the wheel for Sachin to get his 100th 100 here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see the story from Clarke yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it was wonderful. It was great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had a wonderful match.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. In fact, even getting Sachin out. There we are.


THOMAS: True cricket fans seeing Bradman back in the 40s and also Tendulkar today.

Bradman once said Tendulkar reminded him of himself.

Many of Europe's top football clubs are bracing themselves for the loss of key footballers over the next few weeks. We're just 24 hours away from the deadline for players competing at the African Cup of nations to join up with their country's. English Premier League leaders Manchester City were hoping to keep Yay and Kolo Toure for Sunday's FA Cup tie against Manchester United, but the request was turned down and the brothers will join up with the rest of the Ivory Coast squad on Saturday before flying on to the tournament which is taking place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Their international manager said there was never any question of delaying their attendance.


FRANCOIS ZAHOUI, IVORY COAST COACH (through translator): I was surprised that people in England think that we don't know the FIFA rules about dates. I'd like to tell you that here when we have a get together for the players we know exactly what date the players need to be present according to the FIFA date. So when we call for players to assemble we know effectively that clubs need to put the players at our disposal.


THOMAS: Arsenal will also be affected. And they've moved to bolster their squad by confirming the return of Tierry Henry. The New York Red Bulls striker has joined on a two month loan four years after leaving the club. He's Arsenal's record goal scorer and will wear the number 12 shirt in his second spell with The Gunners. Henry due to make his debut in Monday's FA Cup match against Leeds United. His signing will go some way to making up for the loss of Gervinho and Merlange DeMack (ph) who are also in African Cup of Nations action.

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

LU STOUT: Alex, thank you and take care.

Now football, the English kind, is a simple enough game. There are 11 players per side, the team that scores the most goals wins. Simple rules like that. But there is one rule that even football experts struggle to explain, off-side. Now I am not going to attempt to explain it, but the British Royal Mint did. They released this coin to commemorate the sport in the London Olympics. With the diagram on the back explaining the off- side rule.

Now there's just one problem, it might be wrong. Now experts have told The Guardian Newspaper that the coin is based on an out of date rule and they've called it confusing and embarrassing.

Now the designer of the coin denies that it's wrong, but notes that it was difficult to get into the finer details of the law on something as small as the face of a coin.

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