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Rough Seas Could Delay Rescue Efforts On Board Costa Concordia; New Gingrich Gaining Ground On Romney; 10 Years After Singing Anti-Child Labor Laws, No Progress at Cocoa Plantations in Africa

Aired January 19, 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 the Arab League monitor's mission to Syria is coming to a close, but for the country's people daily life remains a struggle against food and fuel shortages.

Rescuers have resumed work aboard the wrecked cruise liner off the coast of an Italian island. But questions are being asked about how long the search for survivors will continue.

And the heartbreaking story behind this reunion between a young woman and the mother who sold her into slavery. We'll bring you the latest from the CNN Freedom Project.

The flag of independence has been raised in the Syrian town of Zabadani. Opposition fighters have reportedly taken control of the town from government troops. But they say tanks remain perched on the outskirts. And they are preparing for more confrontation. Now activists say government troops killed more than 21 people across Syria on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Arab League monitor's mission has officially ended, but the observers are being told to stay in position for now. And CNN has learned that all 15 monitoring teams have been ordered to remain at their bases even though their mandate expired on Wednesday.

Now the Arab League monitors have traveled across Syria. And CNN's Nic Robertson went with them witnesses the sometimes ecstatic receptions they received.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The crowd has gone absolutely wild now the monitors have arrived. Even carrying them on their shoulders here. They're treating the monitors as if they are gods who have been sent here to save them.


LU STOUT: Now this large crowd gathered in Zabadani on Sunday filled with bitter anger against the Syrian government. Their message to the monitors, "say to prevent reprisals from the Bashar al Assad regime."

Now chanting also greeted them in Damascus suburb of Kudsea (ph). And you can see the protesters, they wasted no time in surrounding the monitors desperate to talk to them.

And on Tuesday, monitors visited the town of Kisweh. And there fewer protesters, but the same complaints of government brutality.

And this is one of the cries for help that greeted monitors there, a demonstrator spray paints SOS on a wall.

Now ten months of protests and a bloody crackdown are taking a heavy toll on Syria. The economy is shrinking for the first time in almost a decade. And there are food and fuel shortages. Even areas previously insulated from the unrest are now feeling the fallout.

Nic Robertson has that.


ROBERTSON: In the heart of Damascus streets clogged with traffic give the impression of normality, a president, Bashar al Assad, firmly in control. It is a facade that's beginning to crack.

In recent weeks in the capital several large bombs have shown it is not immune from the violence engulfing much of the rest of Syria. And in the suburbs increasingly close to the capital, anti-government protests are becoming more common. But it could be the tanking economy that rocks the regime the most.

Talk to the car mechanic and this is what you hear.

"They can't pay. So we write it in the book. It's this big," he jokes. "We are getting a little work, he says, but no one has any money."

But next door money is no laughing matter. This mechanic tells me repairs have dried up. He can't pay the rent in his workshop, his house, or even feed his family.

Like most here, he won't publicly criticize the president, but blames the old guard around him. Says, it's time for change.

And it's not just the little guy that's hurting. This boss of a pharmaceutical company is keeping his 150 employees on while he says others in his sector are laying off. Raw material imports tougher to find, lines of credit in short supply.

DR. MICHAEL MASSOUD, CEO MASSOUD & GADDAH: The real problem is with the SC (ph), they don't give any cooperation (ph). We know the other people are telling us, they need cooperation from the SC.

ROBERTSON: Lines of credit?

MASSOUD: Lines of credit.

ROBERTSON: A rare exception in the economic glue, generator stores. Business is up, but for all the wrong reasons. Power outages in the capital, a result of unrest elsewhere, getting longer.

No one here will admit on camera that they're selling more generators, but privately they do admit to it that the more electricity gets cut, the more customers they are getting.

It seems, despite appearances, the country's crisis is closing in on the capital.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Damascus, Syria.


LU STOUT: Turning now to Pakistan where the Supreme Court hearing a prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been adjourned until next month. Now the hearing stems from a contempt notice issued after Mr. Gilani failed to reopen corruption cases against the Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and other officials. Now if convicted, the prime minister could face a prison sentence.

Now CNN's Reza Sayah has been following the court proceedings for us. He joins us now live from Islamabad. And Reza, how did Mr. Gilani appear in court today?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Prime Minister Gilani, Kristie, looked confident. He looked positive. He actually drove himself to the courthouse today in his white Toyota Prada (ph) with his lawyer by his side. It was a dramatic scene with hundreds of journalists gathered to the courthouse, thousands of security personnel throughout the city as the city was on high alert. Security still a major concern in this country and that was before the hearing.

After the hearing, he actually looked even more confident. A producer who was inside the courthouse telling us that Mr. Gilani was so happy with how the hearing went, he gave his lawyer a bear hug.

But this hearing is far from over. The crux of these proceedings have to do with old corruption charges against current President Asif Ali Zardari. In 2007, the President Musharraf granted amnesty to Mr. Zardari and other politicians. Two years later the supreme court said that amnesty was unconstitutional. They've called on the government to reopen the cases. It had yet to do so. And a fed up supreme court has issued a contempt notice to the prime minister and called on him today to explain why the government hasn't reopened the cases. And that's the process that started today.

The next hearing February 1, the court has exempted the prime minister from attending that hearing, but his lawyer will be there, Kristie, and that's when the drama will continue.

LU STOUT: All right. The story far from over. We'll be sure to check in with you again. Reza Sayah joining us live from Islamabad.

And to Italy now, where the search for survivors on the Costa Condordia has resumed. But a coast guard spokesman says a decision is looming about when and if to change the operation from rescue to recovery. And that would allow salvage experts to start pumping fuel out of the ship.

Now late on Wednesday Carnival Cruises, the company that owns Costa, said it had started refunding passengers affected by the incident. It's also providing lodging, transport and counseling services.

And then there was this piece of irony, the Costa Serena, the sister ship of the Condordia sailing past the wreckage on its voyage around the island of Giglio.

Coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, we head to the scene of the disaster to find out the very latest on the search operation.

And online, the day after the internet went dark. We look back on global protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

And in the U.S., the race for the Republican nomination for president is heating up. And we'll be live in South Carolina.


LU STOUT: Now we want to bring you a remarkable story from the CNN Freedom Project. A young woman from Taiwan that we're calling Isabel has been reunited with her mother, but this is no ordinary reunion. Isabel's mother sold her daughter into slavery to a wealthy Taiwanese family who later moved to the U.S.

Now we featured her story last year. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In her 20s, Isabel has grown up a Southern California girl, yet she can barely read.

ISABEL: Glue, truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't know how to drive. Only recently learned how to order at a restaurant. And didn't know how to use money.

ISABEL: The first time I remember I just walk out the door, I walk out the door, because I don't know how and embarrassed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't a medical or mental problem, it wasn't because she comes from another country, it was because of something her parents did when she was very young in Taiwan.

You were sold by your family.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know why?

ISABEL: I know why. My family is poor.


LU STOUT: Now Isabel, seen here after she escaped. She was kept in squalid conditions. And during a childhood of constant work and beatings, she never went to the park, to the movies, or to a birthday party. Her bedroom, a garage. Her bed was the floor. And her food, scraps.

And eventually some two decades later, the chance to escape her life of slavery and abuse appeared and she took it. And there was only one thing on her mind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the mom who sold you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to find her?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what would you say when you found her?

ISABEL: If I find her, I'll say. Mom I love you so much. I just want to find you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And today Isabel's wish was granted. She met the mother who sold her into slavery some 20 years ago. And these are the first pictures of their meeting.

As you can see, smiles all around.

Now CNN's Freedom Project is also shedding light on the dark side of the cocoa trade. And chocolate is an $83 billion a year global industry. Europeans are among the biggest consumers. Each year, the average European will eat 11 kilograms of chocolate.

Our David McKenzie has been investigating the use of child labor in chocolate production in Africa and he joins us now from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi with the story -- David.


You know, it's hard to overestimate how important chocolate is as an industry. As you said, a multi-billion dollar industry. And really universally a favorite in Europe and the U.S. and increasingly in Asia. So a huge demand for the product by these big companies. And 10 years ago, the companies (inaudible) government, Ivory Coast government and also members of the U.S. government promised to stamp out the worst form of child labor on the cocoa plantations in West Africa.

We went with the Freedom Project team to sort of investigate whether they'd actually managed to do it. And what we found was a lot of promises, but really no action. And even the farmers on the ground were very quick to admit they used child labor.


MCKENZIE: Leaving the capital city behind us, we drove to the remote northwest of Ivory Coast, the center of the cocoa trade.

Here there are tracks, (inaudible) footpaths. (inaudible) bus of a local co-op leads us through the dense bush to one of his farms. Like more cocoa plantations, it's a tiny plot of land run by sharecroppers in neighboring Bakina Faso (ph).

So this is a week old.

Cocoa beans dry in the sun. It's the middle of the harvest he says, and they have no choice but to use children.

Everybody helps, adults, children.

"Yes, the children who are old enough to work," he tells me. "While people are emptying the shells, the children can be next to their parents emptying shells too."

He says most of the children are just helping their parents.

But UNICEF tells a different story. It estimates that more than one half million children work on cocoa farms across Ivory Coast. Most engaged in the worst forms of child labor, many trafficked across borders.

We asked Tory (ph) about that. If children work here, shouldn't his co-op take some of the blame?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We work to earn money. We work to earn money. We are not interested in other people's problems. We are all born into this world with our own problems. We all go through hardships. And we all fight to get through them as best we can.

MCKENZIE: He's heard of the Harken-Angle protocol he says, but he's had no help from industry implementing it. Since the protocol has signed, no one has visited his farms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In 10 years, nothing has been done, nothing at all.


MCKENZIE: Well, Kristie, that certainly was a trend with everyone we spoke to on these farms. Though the chocolate industry and industry representatives say that one of the key successes they've had was getting the message out that at least people know now about child labor and it's bad. But, you know, the people we spoke to, every single one of them had never been met by an industry representative, but a government representative, or even an NGO trying to stop this scourge of child labor and trafficking in the fields of Ivory Coast -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, it's incredible how frank, how brutally frank that cocoa farmer was with you in that interview. And David, if ending child slavery isn't the farmer's responsibility then whose is it?

MCKENZIE: Well, the problem is everyone seems to kind of abdicate responsibility to someone else. And certainly one of the tricky things in this industry is the different levels in it. You have the small-scale farmers who then often sell their cocoa to middle-men, just guys driving around with a truck picking up sacks of cocoa.

And then they sell it to a bigger cocoa company which then might give it to an export company, which then exports it and sells it on the commodities market to a major chocolate manufacturer. So all those different layers means that every layer has kind of tried to get away from responsibility.

Ultimately, though, all the big names in chocolate and U.S. government officials as well as the Ivorian government put their names on the protocol. They signed a protocol in 2001 saying that it was their responsibility to fix this problem.

LU STOUT: That's right that was signed a decade ago. And the chocolate industry promised to end child labor abuses in African by 2005. And then that deadline was extended to 2010. And this year, I mean, children are still being exploited. So why is there such lack of action?

MCKENZIE: Well, what they will say -- the chocolate industry say well partly it's the conflict in Ivory Coast, partly they didn't realize how difficult it would be to figure out their supply chains in terms of stopping this problem.

But you're right, you know, 2005 was the initial deadline to certify cocoa free from the worst forms of child labor. Then they extended it. They extended it again. And all three deadlines have been missed. Now the latest deadline, in fact, Kristie is 2020. They say they want to stop 70 percent of the, you know, the child labor going on, on these farms.

The problems is for this nearly 20 years that will pass by between when they sign the protocol and when that comes into effect, there's be generations of children who have just been virtual slaves to this industry -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: I'm sorry, but the pushing of deadlines and diffusion of responsibility has just go to end, doesn't it?

David McKenzie joining us live. Thank you very much for your reporting.

And you can see more of what David and his team discovered about the chocolate industry in Ivory Coast this Saturday. It is a CNN Freedom Project investigation called Chocolate's Child Slaves. It's Saturday 10:00 pm here in Hong Kong, 6:00 pm in Abu Dhabi right here on CNN.

Now still to come on NEWS STREAM, as rescue teams resume their search for survivors on the Costa Condordia we will discover if rough seas will put an end to their efforts. Now Mari Ramos will join us from the world weather center with that next.


LU STOUT: Live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.

And one day after major web sites like Wikipedia shut down to protest a U.S. anti-piracy bill it looks like their voices were heard. Some U.S. lawmakers are rethinking their support of the controversial SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy bills. Now Republicans senator Roy Blunt tweeted, quote, "this bill is flawed. And that is why I am withdrawing my support."

And Representative Lee Terry, he wrote on Facebook that he's asked to have his name removed from the bill. Now Terry was one of the original co- sponsors of SOPA.

The two bills are aimed at stopping piracy on the internet. And CNN's parent company Time Warner supports the proposed legislation, but sites like Wikipedia and Google claim that the bill would effectively censor the internet.

Now Apple is due to host a media event in less than two hours, but they're not unveiling any new hardware. Reports say that Apple is set to unveil a system for digital textbooks on the iPad. Now Steve Jobs' biographer told the New York Times that textbooks were one of the three areas he wanted to work on before he died. And sources told us that the iPad was originally set to include a case to make it easier for students to throw into their bags, but worries about how much it would cost forced Apple to sell it separately.

Now Apple is not the first company to tackle digital textbooks. When Amazon launched the Kindle DX in 2009 it boasted that its bigger screen was ideal for displaying textbooks.

Now time now for a world weather check with a focus on conditions around the Costa Condordia. Mari Ramos joins us for that -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, yeah we've been talking about this already for probably since the beginning of the week, remember how we saw this trend going toward the end of the week where we could definitely see the sees getting a little rougher. And when we talk about rougher seas, we're probably talking about maybe a meter, a meter wave. That's pretty significant -- a meter-and-a-half.

This is from the Italian weather service, from the Servicio Meterologico. And what you have over here is the warnings. And you can see that there are warnings over Corsico and Sardinia. Here's Italy. Right over here with Giglio is there are no warnings there. This area is somewhat protected, but still the waves there expected to be like I said about a meter to a meter-and-a-half. And that's significant, because of course it kind of changes things from the relatively calm seas to now a little bit more activity.

We also have some cloud cover starting to move in. There is the outside chance that you could see some scattered rain showers, maybe a little bit of drizzle coming through overnight. Maybe the rain showers could get a little bit heavier, but they should just be moving right along. We're not expecting it to be an all day or all night kind of thing.

This is our weather -- this is our wind forecast. And it's in kilometers per hour. Of course the darker you get, the higher the wind. But we're here at the lower end of the scale. 30 to 40 kilometer per hour winds. And you see that right now off the west coast of Italy it's relatively calm. You're going to start to see a lot of yellow then oranges kind of pop up. And then it kind of starts to go away.

So I think -- you see it right there -- over late on Thursday and into Friday that's going to be the days to really begin to monitor.

And this is a picture from one of the divers. And look at all the equipment they have on. The camera on their head, the lights on the sides of their helmets. You know, he almost looks like a climber as opposed to a diver. That's something that struck me when I saw this picture. And just some indication of how dangerous the work that they're doing there in the rescue and the search efforts there.

And this picture, kind of interesting, this is kind of newer today. These are salvage crews, Kristie. And they're preparing to take some of the diesel fuel off the ship. Well, this is extremely important, because the thought is that if the ship continues to slip off of that barrier, off of that slope that -- the rocks that it's over, it could spill some of that fuel, so they're also setting up these booms like the ones that you see right over here.

So we'll continue to monitor what's happening here and of course bring you the latest.

But watch out late on Friday and into Saturday. I think it's going to be the days to watch for the higher wind.

Let's go ahead and move on. I want to show you some pictures from the U.S. It's pretty interesting, a lot of snowfall. Some record setting snow. I'm getting word right now that the Seattle-Tacoma airport is closed due to icing right now. It's pretty interesting. That's happening because of some very heavy snow, woo, that's a yardstick. So about two-and-a-half feet, maybe about half a meter of snowfall. Record setting snowfall in Seattle also in Olympia, Washington they had an all-time record level of snow. Expect travel delays and of course already a lot of airlines have canceled flights into that area.

One more thing. Come back over to the weather map over here. This is in South Asia, Kristie. Dense fog advisory for this area yet again. Actually this is going to stay for the next three days or so -- not that the fog is going to stay for the next three days, but every day we're going to see this problem late evening, early morning hours. Visibility less than 200 meters. Very dangerous driving. Rail, and of course flight conditions.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Yeah, thank you for that fog warning there. Mari Ramos, take care.

Now ahead here on NEWS STREAM, we'll bring you a live update on the search effort at the Costa Concordia as rescue teams brace for those bad conditions.

And New Zealand is still dealing with one of its worst maritime disasters. It has been three months since Rena ran aground. The salvage efforts are far from over. Stay with us.


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

Now the Arab League's observer mission in Syria has officially ended, but its monitors have been told to stay in their posts while talks continue on extending the mission. Now Syrian activists say that army defectors have driven government forces out of the town of Zabadani about 50 kilometers north of Damascus.

Photography pioneer Eastman Kodak has filed for bankruptcy protection. The 130 year old company has been struggling to adapt to the digital age last turning a profit back in 2007. Now Kodak says it is obtained nearly $1 billion credit from Citigroup so it can still operate while it restructures.

Italian rescuers are bracing for rough weather at it continues searching for survivors on the wrecked Costa Condordia. And authorities tell CNN that the conditions could force them to once again suspend operations. Now 11 bodies have so far been recovered, but around two dozen people are still unaccounted for.

Now let's get more now on the search effort at the Costa Condordia senior international correspondent Dan Rivers joins me now from Giglio Italy. And Dan, rescue divers they have resumed their search for the missing. How are they conducting the search. And what kind of conditions are they working in?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've been lowered by helicopter once again onto the super structure of the Costa Concordia earlier this morning. We're being told that they're planning to use explosives once again on deck four to try and blast their way into one of the mustering areas where they think people may have gathered.

Maybe if I step out of the way you can see the team there. Lots of activity again around the ship with small vessels, (inaudible) boats, tugs and so on. There are booms now going all the way around this section of the islands to stop any oil or fuel coming ashore.

And more details sort of emerging of some of the really harrowing stories on board, particularly catching the media's attention here in Italy is that of a young five-year-old girl, Dayana Arlotti who hasn't been seen since the disaster. Her mother, Susy Albertini made it to shore, but both the little girl and her father, William Arlotti, hadn't been seen since.

Now she has been appealing -- you know, very emotionally for information. They are suggesting she may come to Giglio later today to again ask for information and to liaise with the rescue center here, but at the moment she is the youngest missing person involved in this tragedy. Dayana Arlotti who is just 5-years-old.

LU STOUT: Dan, it's heartbreaking to hear this missing 5-year-old little girl. What are the prospects right now of finding any more survivors?

RIVERS: Well, I think that the best chance of finding missing people is that they have got ashore. And in the confusion after the accident didn't contact the authorities. I think the chances of finding anyone alive on the ship now is sadly pretty slim.

There were reports earlier in the week, Kristie, of a German woman, for example, who was on the missing list and then suddenly there was a suggestion that she turned up in Germany. Now the German foreign ministry was saying, no, they don't think that's the case. So even this far after the accident, still confusion about the number of missing. The German foreign ministry saying 12 still. The Italian foreign ministry saying 14 Germans are unaccounted for.

And so I think just because of the sheer numbers of people, 4,000 odd people involved in this, you can image how long it's taking to process all of those names and all of those lists of passengers.

LU STOUT: Of course. And there is a lot of activity behind you. And I understand that salvage crews are standing by. What will they do to make sure the fuel on the ship won't leak into the sea?

RIVERS: Well, we're told they may start pumping the fuel off as early as tomorrow. They're sort of in the hands of the search and rescue team. When they call an end to it, then they can crack on with pumping out the oil.

We're already seen bits of equipment being dropped by helicopter onto the ship, so they are getting things in place. A huge, big crane has been brought in as well into the port here in preparation for the salvage operation. And we're told just pumping the oil off, the fuel off, could take two to three weeks. And then they start the process of trying to do something with the ship, you know, write it or salvage it in some way.

So, I think the reality is that, you know, this is going to take possibly several months to refloat the Costa Concordia and move her. You know, obviously, they're going to have to patch up the hole in the haul, first. And pump out all the water inside. So it's going to be a massive operation that will take a long time.

LU STOUT: Dan Rivers, joining us live from Giglio. Thank you.

Now the captain of the Costa Concordia has been under intense scrutiny for the decisions he made last Friday, managing thousands of people at sea is a high pressure job. And Brian Todd talked to one captain about what it takes to run a ship.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill Wright remembers the first time he took the helm of a major cruise ship. He calls it a humbling experience.

BILL WRIGHT, ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL: As soon as we have left the dock it was a departure from Miami. The ship was the sovereign of the seas. And immediately after having left the dock we had to go back to the dock to take on -- or to evacuate a medical emergency.

TODD: Wright is a captain with Royal Caribbean International. He's piloted at least half a dozen cruise ships in their line over 20 years. Wright says the average captain has four to five college level training, then has to build up to 10 years of hands on sea time as a junior officer before being given command of a cruise ship. He says most captains make between $125,000 and $225,000 a year in salary. They're pilots, he says, but also diplomats, policeman on what he calls a floating resort.

Your average shift as a captain?

WRIGHT: Sometimes we'll be up at 4:00 in the morning. If we're the pilot to arrive in a single port. But there are other activities that take place during the days. Our training drills and also in the evening time. You obviously have a departure from that port. We work what we call a one- one system. You mean that the time you spend on board is equal to the time that you have off. In our case, 10 weeks on board, and 10 weeks off.

TODD: Wright says it's not stressful, because you can build in rest time, especially on a so-called sea day when the ship is not coming into port or departing. Others disagree about the stress.

One maritime attorney says many cruise ship captains are overworked, underpaid, not given the support they need by the cruise lines or into cutting corners he says for the bottom line.

Jack Hickey represented major cruise lines for 17 years. He now represents passengers. He says this about captains.

JACK HICKEY, MARITIME ATTORNEY: They work basically 24/7. They're on duty seven days a week. And they go out to sea for months at a time, which is something that captains all around the world are faced with. But these are stresses. And these are people who are in charge of 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 people.

TODD: I ran that by Greg Purdy who monitors captains and crew members for Royal Caribbean.

GREG PURDY, ROYAL CARIBBEAN: I think, again, you just have to consider the source. And where I work day to day with the captains, this is isn't the message that I hear.

TODD: One captain says most of his colleagues can manage whatever stress they face because of the tradeoff. He says one of the best things about the job is that every day is different.

Brian Todd, CNN, Miami.


LU STOUT: Now we have seen plenty of striking images of the Costa Concordia. But this might be one of the most amazing pictures. Now this is the ship from space. A digital globe satellite took this picture of the ship two days ago as it sits on the rocks off the island of Giglio.

Now it has been three months since the cargo ship the Rena ran aground on a reef off of New Zealand's North Island and salvage teams remain at the site. And this is an image taken this Thursday by the Maritime New Zealand agency. You can see the ship's bridge is almost fully submerged now.

And as TVNZ's Kim Vinnell tells us, efforts to contain the damage may continue for quite some time.


KIM VINNELL, TVNZ CORRESPONDENT: This is the closest we've been to the Rena since she tore in two. Thousands of tons of twisted steel protruding from the water, containers still precariously perched. And now those that can't be reached by crane are simply being pushed off.

KENNY CRAWFORD, MARITIME, NEW ZEALAND: But two empty containers have been released -- what they've done is let them go and basically they've gone into the sea. It's like a controlled released. And they pick them up from there and put them onto one of the barges there.

VINNELL: Decomposing food and cow hides are producing a pungent smell that's lingering for kilometers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly monitored on the time. There have been chemists on board, there are gas detectors and we are monitored. And that's purely for the safety of the salvers and anyone on board the vessel. Comfort wise, it's not pleasant at all.

VINNELL: Ten containers have been lifted off since she split, but more than 500 remain unaccounted for.

Despite the progress that's been made taking containers off the front section of the Rena, divers are still working to ascertain exactly where containers from the back section have fallen.

It's part of all some of those could be on the ship sunken stern. And authorities are now considering remote controlled submarines to assist the (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason being that the containers have landed 150 meter lanes and above that, that's OK. Anything underneath that, the divers can't get to. So what they're looking at is bringing in -- these remote operated vehicles.

VINNELL: Maritime New Zealand, meanwhile, is estimating a much smaller amount of oil on board.

MICK COURTNELL, NATIONAL ON SCENE COMMANDER: We're probably now in anticipation of tens of tons rather than hundred tons plus.

VINNELL: But are still wary about putting a definite figure on how long it may take to get the Rena off the reef.

CRAWFORD: We're certainly not looking at months, I don't think, no. I wouldn't say months. I'd say longer than that, yeah.

VINNELL: Authorities well aware plans can change in an instant when the weather is in charge.


LU STOUT: Coming up on NEWS STREAM, faith and politics. We'll look at why god often makes an appearance on the campaign trail.

Plus, the latest on the Republican race in South Carolina. That's next on CNN.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now there are five men still in the running for the Republican presidential nomination. But right now the focus is on two of them. Now according to a CNN poll, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are most popular with primary voters in South Carolina. Now Romney still holds the lead with 33 percent support, Gingrich is backed by 23 percent of likely voters. But Romney's lead over his rival has almost halved in the last two weeks.

We are just two days away from the South Carolina primary. And in a few hours from now, the candidates will have their last chance to impress voters there at a debate in Charleston, South Carolina. And CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser is there and he joins us now.

Paul, how is the race shaping up there in South Carolina?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It is getting tighter and tighter and tighter, Kristie. And I tell you, it is so exciting what's going on here.

You mentioned our CNN poll which came out about 24 hours ago. And that made a lot of news, because it indicated the race here in South Carolina definitely tightening up. Well, just in the last three hours two brand new polls of people who are likely to vote in the South Carolina Republican primary here. And one of them, take a look at this, this is by Politico. And right there are the top, there's Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. But you can see his advantage, his lead over Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker just 7 points. We're down to single digits in this brand new poll.

This poll was conducted yesterday, that's Wednesday and Tuesday. So it was conducted entirely after Monday night's Republican presidential debate here in South Carolina where most pundits agreed Newt Gingrich had a very, very good night and Mitt Romney was on the defensive, especially over the taxes he pays and what the percentage is and if he would release his taxes, his income tax report.

So another poll out this morning, Kristie, illustrating what's going on here also was conducted half before and after that debate. Before that debate, Romney had a 15 point advantage over Gingrich, after the debate down to 5.

The polls are indicating, all of them, it's getting tighter, it's getting closer here. And of course, just about 12 hours from now right behind me here, this is the North Charleston Coliseum. This is where the CNN Southern Republican debate will be held. The last showdown for these five major Republican presidential candidates before Saturday's primary -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, it's incredible seeing the stats on the screen and just watching Newt Gingrich closing in on Mitt Romney.

Now separately, Paul, a new development out of Iowa, news that Mitt Romney did not in fact win the caucus there, but rather it was a quote virtual tie between him and Rick Santorum. Now does this headline change the race at all?

STEINHAUSER: It may have a little bit of an impact. Let's go back 16 -- it was just 16 days ago that Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses, remember that's the first contest in this primary caucus battle. He won it by eight votes. But they had to certify the vote. It took two weeks. And well now the Republican Party, according to a report from the Des Moines Register is saying, well, it looks like Santorum, Rick Santorum the former Senator from Pennsylvania is now up by about 30 votes. But guess what, they say some votes can't be certified. They may never know the winner in Iowa.

It is significant, because Romney was trying to become the first person to win Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina back to back to back, first person in history on the Republican side. That may not happen now. For Rick Santorum, it may give him a little boost. But of course the race is now all about South Carolina -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And it has been increasingly aggressive there on the campaign trail. Do you think that will be the tone of the debate later today. What should we expect?

STEINHAUSER: Yeah, I think we're going to see Mitt Romney once again with a bulls eye or a target on his back, the same thing we saw the other night in the first debate here in South Carolina. Why? He's the frontrunner. I think he will come under attack, especially by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum who are trying to become that conservative alternative for Republican voters in this battle for the presidential nomination.

It should be a pretty boisterous, pretty interesting debate. And you know what these debates have been so influential, so influential in determining the polls and determining the outcome of the results of these primaries and caucuses. And I think our debate, just about 12 hours from now, will be equally, equally influential, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right. Paul Steinhauser, always a pleasure to chat with you. Take care.

Now if you've been following the campaign trail in the U.S. you may have noticed that the candidates, they often refer to god. Now for example political leaders often ask god to bless the United States of America.

So what role does faith play in U.S. politics? Jonathan Mann takes a closer look.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: God is invoked in many of the American president's speeches.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: God bless the United States of America.

MANN: God comes up when American candidates campaign.

MICHELE BACHMANN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My faith in the lord god almighty, this country, and our Republic is unshakeable.

MANN: The belief in god influences the way many Americans view their country and the world.

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody who reads the Bible knows that Jerusalem is the city of David and that the claim of the Jewish people on Israel goes all the way back to god giving them the area.

MANN: And even the currency proclaims "In God we Trust."

Religion plays a role in the lives of many Americans, with a dizzying number of faiths and denominations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States, unlike Europe, we didn't have state backed religion. There weren't state sanctioned churches. And so what they did is create the conditions for this kind of vibrant spiritual marketplace. And to this day you have all these churches: the Mormon church, the South Baptist, Catholics all competing very vigorously for American worshippers.

MANN: There's a strong constitutional tradition separating church and state, but not church and electoral politics. Faith has an impact on elections. Protestants tend to vote Republican, Jews and religiously unaffiliated voters have been more likely to back Democrats. Catholics have leaned towards Democrats as well for the most part, but that may be changing.

And faith is having an impact on this election.

In South Carolina, where Republicans are going to the polls Saturday, an estimated 60 percent of the party supporters consider themselves evangelical or born-again Christians.

RICK SANTORUM, REPUBLICAN PRESIDNETIAL CANDIDATE: The whole premise of America is that every person has rights and dignity because we are a creation of god. I mean, that's the premise of America.

MANN: Rick Santorum is a Catholic, campaigning largely on economic issues, but he keeps god and opposition to abortion and gay marriage on his agenda. That may help him in South Carolina.

But for Mitt Romney, who has won in New Hampshire and Iowa and leads in most South Carolina polls, religion has been seen as a potential pitfall. Romney is a Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a denomination many evangelicals regard with suspicion and is not Christian even though Mormons say they are.

Some experts say religion will be a factor, but it won't play a decisive role at the polls.

RALPH REED, FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: In Iowa, 61 percent of evangelicals voted for either a Mormon or a Roman Catholic. Contrary to the stereotype, this is not just a dog whistle politics game where all you have to do is get up and quote scripture and say you're born again and you're going to get their votes. It doesn't work like that.

MANN: Some evangelicals have openly opposed Romney not because of his faith, they say, but because of his politics. They see him as too liberal. But evangelical voters haven't really united around any other candidate. The results Saturday may demonstrate that religion in U.S. politics is as diverse and divided as every other element in the equation.

Back to you.


LU STOUT: Thank you.

And don't forget to join us this week for the CNN Southern Republican presidential debate. We will have live coverage from Charleston, South Carolina. That's Friday at 9:00 in the morning in Hong Kong. It's all part of our America's Choice 2012 coverage right here on CNN.

And still to come on News Steam, in football the first El Clasico of the season did not disappoint. We'll round up the action from Real Madrid's cup clash with Barcelona.


LU STOUT: Now only four players have won three straight grand slam tournaments and Novak Djokovic is aiming to join that elite quartet with a title at the Australian Open. Pedro Pinto joins us now from London with an update on how the Serbian star did on Thursday -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. I can tell you that Djokovic's quest for a third straight major title is still alive. The world number one did what he was expected to do, he advanced to the third round Down Under with ease.

The defending champ was broken early in the first set by his opponent, Santiago Giraldo, but that was as close as he got to being in trouble. It was smooth sailing after that. He showed power and finesse in his straight set win over his Colombian opponent. The Serbian star advancing comfortably 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.

Up next for Djokovic, Nicolas Mahut of France.

Here's a blast from the past, former world number one Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt locking horns on Thursday. The American won the first set 6-3, but then in the second he suffered an injury when he slipped awkwardly. Roddick received treatment and played on in pain. However, he would eventually retire from the match after losing two sets in a row 6-3 and 6-4. Roddick just couldn't carry on. Hewitt moves on for the third round as a result.

Serena Williams won her 500th career match as she advanced to the third round. The American is fourth among active players on the all-time wins list. Her sister Venus, curiously, leads the way with 598 victories.

It was pretty straightforward for Serena on the day. She cruised past Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-0 and 6-4. Even though she connected on only 53 percent of her first serves, williams was still way too good for her opponent. The 13 time grand slam champion has now won 16 consecutive matches at Melbourne Park following her titles in 2009 and 2010.

Well it may be a new year, but it was the same old story as far as the Clasico is concerned. Barcelona beat Real Madrid again. Pep Guardiola celebrating his 41st birthday with a win at the Santiago Birnabau in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey quarterfinals. Christiano Ronaldo gave the home side an encouraging start in the opening half with a goal, putting the (inaudible) in the lead. But the Catalans fired back in the second half with goals from Prujols and Eric Avidal (ph). 2-1, that's the way it finished. The second leg takes place next Wednesday in Barcelona.

Former Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham signed a new two year contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday. You'll remember that the 37-year-old helped the American team win the MLS Cup last season. The Englishman said his family is settled in L.A. And added that he's still passionate about playing in the U.S. Beckham's last season with the Galaxy was easily his most successful. And it earned him the comeback of the year award. It also generated speculation regarding a return to Europe, namely with Paris Saint Germain. But Beckham has elected to stay in the states.

FIFA and Brazil are at odds over the sale of alcoholic drinks at the 2014 World Cup. On Wednesday, the general-secretary of football's world governing body pressed the Brazilian government to allow beer to be sold at all venues during the tournament.

Speaking to journalists in Rio de Jeneiro, Jerome Valpa (ph) said the right to sell beer must be enshrined. In a World Cup law the Brazlian congress is currently considering the sale of alcohol at football stadiums has been banned in the South American nation since 2003. This is the latest in a series of clashes between the host country and FIFA. The Brazilian government has also failed to resolve difference with FIFA over Cup price tickets for students and senior citizens and also demands for sponsors of the World Cup to have their trademarks protected.

That is a quick look at what's happening in sports this hour. Kristie, back to you.

LU STOUT: Pedro, thank you.

And time now to go over and out there. And Star Wars creator George Lucas is getting ready to roll the credits on his career as a blockbuster movie director. In a New York Times interview to mark the U.S. release of his new Second World War drama Red Tails, Lucas says he is moving away from making big movies. Now he was careful to leave himself the option to make a fifth Indiana Jones film, but it looks like there will be no more Star Wars.

Now Lucas and Star Wars fans haven't always seen eye-to-eye. And over the years Lucas has recut the original Star Wars trilogy, changing the audio, visuals, even character's actions. And those changes were met by plenty of criticism by fans. And it looks like George Lucas has finally had enough. And he says this, quote, "why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?" unquote. So if you were one of those fans who criticizes changes to the Star Wars movies, it sounds like you finally got your wish.

That is NEWS STREAM, but the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.