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Syria Remains Defiant; EU Pressure on Iran; Taking on Florida; 84th Academy Awards Nominees Announced; Sun Activity to Ramp Up in 2012

Aired January 24, 2012 - 00:08:00   ET


ANNA COREN, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

Hello. I'm Anna Coren, in Hong Kong.

We begin in Syria, where the foreign minister lashes out at the Arab League just as Gulf states tell their observers to pull out of the country.

Under pressure. U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attempts to deflect criticism by releasing his tax returns.

And we'll take you live to Los Angeles, where the Oscar nominations will be announced in about half an hour's time.

Well, Syria's foreign minister says the Arab League is trying to steer his country away from what the people want. On Sunday, the Arab League called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down to help bring an end to months of attacks on protesters by security forces.

Speaking on state television within the past two hours, Syria's foreign minister said the league put forward a plan it knew Syria would not agree to.


WALID MOALLEM, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): They presented a proposal and proposed a plan, a political plan they knew in advance that we would reject because it clearly violated the integrity, and it is (INAUDIBLE) interference in Syria's affairs.


COREN: With more on that speech and the situation in Syria, let's go live to Mohammed Jamjoom. He's following developments from Abu Dhabi.

Mohammed, you'd have to say from that press conference Syria has no desire whatsoever to cooperate with the international community.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Anna. It was expected that Walid Moallem, Syria's foreign minister, today would lash out against the Arab League. Indeed, that is what happened and more.

In addition to what he said there, the foreign minister repeated his government's contention that the Syrian uprising is driven by a conspiracy. He said, "We are perfectly aware of the dimension of the conspiracy and we will deal with it firmly." He also said, "It's the duty of the Syrian government to deal seriously and firmly with armed elements."

Walid Moallem also said that "The solution to Syria's problems is a Syrian solution driven by Syria's interests, that is based on achieving President Bashar al-Assad's reform plan." And lastly he said that on Tuesday, the recent Arab League report tried to forge a future for his country away from the desire of the Syrian people.

So very much in line with what was expected here. What's yet to be clear is, will the Arab League mission continue?

The Arab League has stated they wanted to continue it for another month. They had put that before the Syrian government. In this press conference, it was stated that that was under review, even at a time when the Gulf Cooperation Council just announced today, even before this press conference, that following Saudi Arabia's lead, they will be withdrawing their monitors, up to about 50 to 55 monitors, from the Arab League observation mission that's been going on in Syria.

What that will do to the mission right now, it's just unclear. Many people wondering if this mission is really just coming apart at the seems. There's been so much questioning about its effectiveness from the beginning. Even before they got there, violence was still going on. Since they've gotten there, reports that violence really just spiraling out of control. Many people wondering if the Arab League can really keep it together, especially at a time when these GCC countries are calling more and more on some sort of intervention by the U.N. and the U.N. Security Council to make sure that the crackdown in Syria can stop -- Anna.

COREN: Mohammed, let's talk a little bit more about that, because you'd have to say that this observer mission is certainly in tatters. As you mentioned, those Gulf states are pulling their observers out.

I mean, what does this mean for the Syrian people and for the hope to bring an end to this violence?

JAMJOOM: What is clear right now is that the Bashar al-Assad regime has no intention of backing down from its contentions that it's a foreign plot that's targeting Syria. They're saying conspiracies, even when they're talking about the Arab League and the observers' mission that's going on there, it's clear that Bashar al-Assad remains defiant, really, and that he is going to continue this position that they have for quite a while, now saying that there are armed terrorist groups within Syria.

Now, we know from the opposition there -- they say that the Bashar al-Assad regime is just trying to blame armed terrorist groups within Syria so that they can go after pro-democracy groups, so that they can go after the opposition, so that they can continue their crackdown. The Arab League, nobody knows right now where this leaves us.

The fact that there are GCC countries that are pulling their observers from this mission, that seems very damaging. At a time when the Arab League is also calling for the U.N. Security Council to back their plan -- and their plan that they announced on Sunday was that Syria create a national unity government, was that Bashar al-Assad give his power to the vice president there, that he start speaking with the opposition -- even at a time when this is happening, the fact that the Arab League is losing monitors or will lose monitors from this mission, really just calling into question its effectiveness, how strong the unity is within the membership of the Arab League, and what exactly they'll be able to do even if they do continue this mission for the next month or so -- Anna.

COREN: Mohammed Jamjoom, joining us from Abu Dhabi.

Thank you for that.

Well, the government crackdown began back in March. Since then, the U.N. estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed. Opposition fighters put the figure upwards of 6,000.

As Arwa Damon reports, for many, kidnapping, violence and gunfire are no longer unusual and have become a way of life.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): : People in Homs no longer flinch when they hear gunfire. What was once terrifying is now just routine. Trash lines the street, most shops are shut. Those opened don't have power. Homs was once a thriving metropolis. Now, its the epicenter of clashes between government and opposition forces.

There are fortified military positions on just about every street corner. It's tragic, awful.

These two women who don't want to be named tell us -- kidnappings, killings, gunfire. They won't say who is to blame, but their lives are now a never-ending cycle of fear and uncertainty. Emotions that we find everywhere we go in hopes on all sides, and among those caught in the middle.

We're in a predominantly Christian neighborhood on a tour organized by the government. Our escorts say it's one of the few that remains relatively safe.

(on camera): This couple own this shop, and they're saying that this type of ongoing gunfire that we're hearing around us has become perfectly normal, but they're really very confined as to where they can go in less than a two-minute walk up the road they're saying that's where the clashes are taking place.

(voice-over): But many in Homs don't even want to be identified. Some government supporters say they fear what they call "armed gangs" and don't want to appear on camera. Nor does that young woman who says she's with the opposition. "No one dares to talk," she claims. "You're not seeing the truth here. There are plainclothes government security listening."

Down another road, we see bullet holes in a building. Anti- government graffiti painted over. We're told not to advance any further. That part of town is controlled by what the government and its supporters call "terrorists." What the opposition calls the Free Syrian Army. Made up mainly of military deserters, it's having a growing impact.

At the military hospital nearby, a funeral for three members of the security forces. Hospital officials tell us that on average, five soldiers are dying a day, another 30 are wounded. Inside this 22-year-old soldier is in intensive care with a gunshot wound to the head. We're told he was brought in half an hour before we arrived.

"This is the hardest period that we have gone through," Dr. Halil Ibrahim (ph), who has been stationed here for 31 years, tells us. "The number of casualties, the scale of their injuries, it's been very challenging."

Dr. Ibrahim says he would understand a national Syrian opposition, but insists the armed resistance has been hijacked by what he calls "external destructive forces." "This, without a doubt, is creating fragments within society," he admits. "It's a fear felt by many Syrians we meet, whatever their opinions, that the country's divisions are beyond healing."

Arwa Damon, CNN, Homs, Syria.


COREN: Racist and discriminatory. Well, that's how the Turkish prime minister is describing legislation passed by the French senate last night. Lawmakers voted to criminalize the denial of what the bill calls Ottoman Turkey's genocide against Armenians almost a century ago.

A protest against the legislation was held in Paris, and new sanctions have been threatened against France if President Nicolas Sarkozy signs the legislation. Turkey rejects claims the killings were genocide and accuses France of its own genocide in Algeria in the 1950s.

Iran's Foreign Ministry says new EU sanctions against the country are unfair and doomed to fail. On Monday, the European Union announced a ban on Iranian oil imports taking full effect in July.

Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance reports.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Long- simmering tensions over Iran's nuclear program finally pushing Europe to act. The sanctions are a direct attack on Iran's major source of revenue meant to force the regime to negotiate.

CATHERINE ASHTON, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: The purpose of sanctions is to put pressure on Iran to come back to the negotiating table, a message that I've sent consistently through as many channels as I possibly can.

CHANCE: Iran's oil exports account for the vast majority of its income, but European countries by just 20 percent. Most is sold in Asia, China, India, South Korea and Japan. Analysts say Europe's oil sanctions may damage Iran's economy, but they won't destroy it.

MARK FITZPATRICK, ANALYST: I don't think anyone is expecting that China in particular, or India, or some of the other major Asian markets are going to cut off purchases of Iranian oil. Their economies are too dependent on it. But if Europe and Japan and a couple of other countries cut off, that will be a major blow to Iran.

CHANCE: But will it be enough to give Iran pause and restart nuclear talks?

(on camera): The answer, say experts, is maybe. There's no way these EU sanctions are going to get Iran to reverse its nuclear policy, they say, or to end its uranium enrichment activities, but it may just get Tehran back to the table. And for European countries nervous about Iran's nuclear ambitions, that's progress.

(voice-over): Tensions between Iran and the West have been spiraling in recent months. Iran's navy conducting missile tests in the Persian Gulf, saying it will close the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important oil routes, if its oil exports are disrupted. This, and the absence of nuclear talks, is adding to concerns Iran and the West are on course for military confrontation.

(on camera): Is there any alternative, do you believe, to military action, or is that inevitable?

FITZPATRICK: No, military action is certainly not inevitable, nor is it inevitable that Iran will produce a nuclear weapons. Both of those worst- case outcomes can be avoided by continuing to offer engagement, by continuing to put pressure on Iran through this dual-track strategy.

CHANCE (voice-over): But it's a process that's unlikely to produce quick results as Iran and the West lock in a potentially dangerous embrace.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


COREN: Still ahead on NEWS STREAM, the race to win the U.S. Republican presidential nomination. We'll show you the heated rivalry at the top of the pack.

And any Hollywood actor will tell you it's an honor just to be nominated. We'll find out who's in that select group. We'll go live to Hollywood for Oscar nominations in about 15 minutes' time.

And in sports, this tennis star has just played his 1,000th tour match. But was it a win?


COREN: Well, Mitt Romney's campaign will publicly release his tax returns later Tuesday, but details have already been leaked to some media outlets. News reports say he earned $45 million over the past two years and paid $6.2 million in taxes. Well, that amounts to a 14 percent tax rate, because most of his income came from investments. That is considerably less than the top tax rate of 35 percent levied on regular salary income.

Well, Romney is facing increasing pressure from rival Newt Gingrich. Polls suggest Gingrich has cut deeply into Romney's lead in Florida. The state will vote on January 31st.

And last night, the rivalry showed at a Republican debate in Tampa, Florida. Romney used the opportunity to attack Gingrich's record in Congress. The former U.S. House Speaker responded by questioning Romney's honesty. Well, here's a bit of that exchange.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't have to take my word for the facts. They're accurate. I'll point out that they're accurate. But the truth is that the members of his own team, his congressional team, after his four years of leadership, they moved to replace him.

They also took a vote, and 88 percent of Republicans voted to reprimand the Speaker. And he did resign in disgrace after that. This was the first time in American history that a Speaker of the House has resigned from the House. And so that was the judgment rendered by his own people.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He just said at least four things that are false. I don't want to waste the time on them. I think the American public deserve a discussion about how to beat Barack Obama, the American public deserves a discussion of what we would do about the economy. And I just think this is the worst kind of trivial politics.


COREN: Well, for more, let's bring in CNN's political editor, Paul Steinhauser, who joins us from Washington.

Paul, you'd have to say from that debate that Mitt Romney certainly came out swinging. Are we seeing a different Romney now, you think?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, a very different Mitt Romney than what we saw in South Carolina. And Anna, remember, debates matter so much in this cycle, a lot more influential than we've seen in past presidential cycles.

We saw that in South Carolina, where Romney had two very poor debates, Newt Gingrich had two very strong debates. Newt Gingrich ended up winning very convincingly in South Carolina.

But in the debate last night in Florida, yes, you're right, a very different Mitt Romney going on the attack after Newt Gingrich and kind of putting Newt Gingrich in an uncomfortable position. And we'll see what happens on Thursday night.

There is one more debate in Florida, Anna. That is a CNN debate in Jacksonville, Florida. Our Wolf Blitzer moderating. And we'll see if this storyline that we saw in last night's debate continues -- an aggressive Mitt Romney and a defensive Newt Gingrich -- Anna.

COREN: Yes. Some would say that Newt Gingrich was just a little subdued. I know that the audience was told to hold back their applause, so I can only assume that it created a different atmosphere and the environment.

Do you think it was hard to perhaps pick out the winner?

STEINHAUSER: You know, you're absolutely right on the audience, a major factor. The audience was so boisterous in both debates last week, extremely quiet this time around.

Newt Gingrich really knows how to play to an audience, and he does a very good job getting support from the audience. It wasn't a factor in this debate, and that appeared to be hurting Newt Gingrich.

Again, round two on Thursday night. It should be interesting to see which way it goes for our Wolf Blitzer.

As for the other candidates, Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, trying to insert himself into the debate. He didn't have has much success as he did last week. And Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas, didn't get a lot of time in the debate and didn't seem to be much of a factor -- Anna.

COREN: Yes. At the end of the day, really, this is a two-man race.

Let's now talk about Mitt Romney's tax returns. He's finally -- or he's about to release them. I know that he has released them to certain parts of the U.S. media. It certainly is an insight into his vast fortune, and he pays a far less tax than most wealthy Americans.

Do you think that this will actually hurt him?

STEINHAUSER: You know, listen, in the battle for the Republican nomination, maybe not so much. We knew Mitt Romney was wealthy. When he ran four years ago we knew that. He's already released his financial disclosure form, so we knew that he was worth at least $250 million or up to $250 million.

This stuff was already out there. We knew his tax rate, as you mentioned just now, we knew it was a lot lower because this was money earned on investment, not actual salary. So, a lot of these big headlines were already out there.

And on the Republican side, you know, it maybe is not as damaging. It could be more damaging when we get to the general election, but we're going to go through these taxes in about half an hour, when they are released, and we're going to look for things that we don't know about right now and things that could be damaging to Mitt Romney -- Anna.

COREN: Yes, things are certainly heating up.

Paul Steinhauser, joining us from Washington.

We appreciate the analysis. Thank you.


COREN: Well, meantime, U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his third State of the Union Address on Tuesdays night. The speech is normally a platform for the president to lay out his priorities for the year ahead. Well, Mr. Obama is expected to focus heavily on the economy.

Indian Governor Mitch Daniels will give the official Republican response.

Remember, CNN will have live coverage of President Obama's State of the Union Address. You can see that right here. The speech begins 10:00 Wednesday morning here in Hong Kong, 2:00 a.m. in London. Our coverage will start an hour earlier.

Swiss tennis star Roger Federer says it wasn't the time to be emotional. Ahead, we take you to this year's Australian Open and the site of Roger Federer's 1,000th tour.


COREN: Well, it's time now for a sports update.

The Australian Open is only at the quarter final stage, but we know one thing for sure. There will be a new women's world number one when it's done.

Our Don Riddell is in London with all the details.

Hello, Don.


It has been a very disappointing day for Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open. The Danish star was knocked out by Kim Clijsters in the quarter final, meaning that she'll now forfeit her world number one ranking. In fact, by the end of the tournament, she'll have slipped to third in the world, and perhaps even fourth.

The result is considered an upset, but perhaps it shouldn't be. Clijsters is the reigning champion here in Melbourne, and she's a fourth time major winner. Wozniacki has yet to win her first Grand Slam title.

It was a straight win for Clijsters, and having saved four match points in her previous match, she will fancy herself for another Australian Open title. Clijsters will play Victoria Azarenka in the semis. The Belarusian had to come from a set down against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, a set which she lost in a tie break to love. The third seed Azarenka did recover though, and she wrapped up the final set in just 26 minutes to reach the second Grand Slam semifinal of her career.

Roger Federer has blocked (ph) up another milestone. His quarter final match against Juan Marin del Potro was his 1,000th professional match, and it was easy.

Federer marched into the semis for the straight set win that took just under two hours, his 814th career victory. He's now only two wins away from his fifth Australian Open title, but he's got to get past Rafael Nadal next.

Within the last few minutes, Nadal booked his fate in the semis, but he did it the hard way against Tomas Berdych in what was a repeat of the 2010 Wimbledon Finals. Berdych took the first set on a tie break, and he had Nadal rattled. But Rafael clawed his way back to win in four sets. It took him well over four hours though. He should certainly sleep well tonight.

Now, in football, Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid may be five points clear at the top of the Spanish league, but Mourinho's position has been undermined by a dressing room bust-up. And sources close to the manager say he could quit the Bernabeu Stadium at the end of this season. Madrid's top sports newspaper, "MARCA," has published details of a spat between the players and Mourinho following last week's King's Cup defeat against their bitter rivals, Barcelona.

One of the club's senior players, Sergio Ramos, has denied that he was the player responsible for the leak to the media. Mourinho is expected to speak at a press conference today ahead of the return leg of the Cup tie against Barcelona.

And the English Football Association has charged Mario Balotelli with violent conduct following his controversial stamp on Tottenham's midfielder, Scott Parker, in the Premier League on Sunday. Manchester said the so-called wild charge (ph) was caught on camera kicking Parker in the head. And controversially, he was on the field to score a last-minute penalty to win the game for sitting (ph). The referee has admitted that he didn't see the incident, but said he would have sent him off if he had. Balotelli is now facing a four-game suspension.

Anna, we'll have those stories and much for you in "WORLD SPORT" in about three-and-a-half hours' time.

COREN: All right, Don. Thank you for that. Good to see you.

Well, sticking with sports now, at least related to sports, a group of football fans has been filmed running amuck in an Argentinean hospital. The Hooligans invaded a hospital in Buenos Aires last week. Officials say they were looking to avenge the death of a gang member killed in a fight.

Well, closed-circuit footage shows the group, who witnesses say were armed with guns and knives, storming the hospital. Doctors say they searched corridors and rooms for the man they wanted before hurling chairs and medical equipment and chasing him into the maternity wing. Doctors refuse to confirm whether the man being treated for abdominal injuries received any additional injuries as a result of the raid.

Still to come on NEWS STREAM this hour, the secret world of Apple. We speak to the writer of a new book on the notoriously private company.

And we'll go live to Los Angeles for the hotly-anticipated Oscar Nominations.

Please stay with CNN.


COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren, in Hong Kong.

And you are watching NEWS STREAM. These are your world headlines.

Syria's foreign minister is blasting the Arab League. In a national address on state TV, he said the League knew full well that its plan in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside would be rejected. He blamed the unrest in his country on a conspiracy.

And we just learned divers searching the wreckage of the Costa Concordia cruise ship have recovered another body. Officials say the victim was found on bridge 3 earlier on Tuesday. Sixteen people are now confirmed dead from the disaster off the coast of Italy.

More than 150 suspected Islamist militants have been arrested in Nigeria by a joint military taskforce. It follows a series of bombings and shootings in the city of Kano that left more than 200 people dead. Local media said the Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nine people are dead and more than 70 others have been injured in a series of bombings across Baghdad. Iraqi police say four car bombs and a roadside bomb exploded in a mostly Shiite neighborhood. One of the car bombs went off near a school. Students are among the casualties.

Mitt Romney's campaign is about to publicly release his tax returns. (inaudible) have already been leaked to some media outlets. News reports say he earned $45 million over the past two years and paid $6.2 million in taxes. Well, that makes his effective just under 14 percent. The reason it is so low is because most of Romney's income came from investments.

Well, Apple is notoriously private, but a new book is giving us insight into how one of the world's most influential companies operate. Well, Inside Apple tells of a company that is extremely secretive, highly competitive, and perhaps not a fun place to work.

Well, let's talk to the author of the book now, Adam Lashinsky joins us live from New York.

Adam, you're book certainly offers a real insight into the culture at Apple. I think that it will shock many people. It's intensely private and secretive, not just externally but also internally. Tell us about that.

ADAM LASHINSKY, AUTHOR: That's right, all companies keep secret of course -- they secrets. They don't want their products to be known to their competitors or even to their customers before they're ready. But Apple tends to keep everything secret, including from each other. So at Apple, which is a very work oriented, a very focused organization, you're given a task and you do that task. You don't get into other people's business at Apple. If you are not disclosed on something at Apple, and that's the terminology that they use internally, then it's none of your business and you mind your own business.

Now this seems very harsh, but what it does it gets people to focus on what they're supposed to be doing and not wasting a lot of time doing things that they're not supposed to be doing. There is very little politicking at Apple below a certain level, because people don't have the information they need to politic.

COREN: Adam, is this a company that governs by fear?

LASHINKSY: Yes. There is a -- there is a degree of fear. Steve Jobs ruled the company that way. He was a very harsh person. He could be charming, but he could also be brutal. And when he was displeased, people knew he was displeased. And his behavior finds its way down into the organization. That's not to say that everybody is a brutal task master at Apple, but it is to say that it is accepted behavior to say the very least.

COREN: Because I -- Apple produces products that really bring people together, you know. It integrates hardware and software better than any other company, yet the company itself seems deeply divided.

LASHINSKY: You know, the company is collaborative where they -- where they want to be. But there is this very stark contrast between the mood or the tone inside and the tone that Apple wants you to have about them. Their marketing is very good, it's very impressive. We all know the shiny, happy people that we see in Apple ads and in Apple videos, television commercials. That is all by design. It's very carefully planned out.

It's also carefully planned out that Apple really doesn't want this conversation to be happening, the one that you and I are having. Apple wants us to be talking about how fantastic the iPad is, not how Apple does business.

COREN: You mentioned Steve Jobs a little earlier. Tell us, has the culture of the company changed with the passing of its founder?

LASHINSKY: You know, there have been small changes inside the company. And it will take many months and potentially even years for the culture to change dramatically. There have been symbols. So for example one of the first acts by the new CEO Tim Cook was to institute a company- wide philanthropic matching plan. This is something that the employees had wanted or years and that Steve Jobs was against. It was a very public symbol on his part to say I'm listening to what you want.

The company has also become a little bit more transparent about its environmental record and the way it treats its factory workers in China, but it had been doing that before Steve Jobs died and because of considerable pressure.

I think Apple will be under a great deal of pressure to keep its culture intact. And the changes will be around the edges and they'll be gradual.

COREN: All right. Adam Lashinsky, great to get your insight and analysis on a company I guess not a lot of us know too much about. Adam Lashinsky joining us from New York. Thank you.

Well, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is now just minutes away from announcing the latest Oscar nominees. We'll bring you that announcement live after the break. Please stay with us for that.


COREN: You're looking at a live shot of the stage in Los Angeles where the Oscar nominations are about to be read out. It is, of course, awards season in Hollywood. And in just a moment, the nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards will be announced in Beverly Hills.

Let's go live to our Kareen Wynter who is there at the announcement for much more -- Kareen.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anna. If you just heard that, we just got the one minute warning here. So the stage is set. Jennifer Lawrence, remember her from last year? She was nominated in Winter's Bone. She's, of course, starring in Hunger Games so she'll be taking the stage making that big announcement.

And there are so many categories to watch out for, for example, lead actress. We have our eye on a couple of contenders. I'm hearing that they're going to be taking the stage in just a few seconds. So we'll toss it back to you, Anna.

COREN: Yeah, Kareen what's the buzz there. Is there a feeling that many of the winners at the Golden Globes will be winners at the Oscars?

WYNTER: Absolutely. Michelle Williams, she was a big winner at the Golden Globes for her portrayal as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. And so she could be going up against Meryl Streep and her riveting performance. So we'll have to see if those two will be duking it out in this year's Oscar race.

COREN: All right, Kareen. Let's go now to Beverly Hills for that announcement.


TOM SHERAK, PRESIDENT OF THE ACADEMY: Hello everybody. Good morning. And welcome to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I'm Tom Sherak, president of the Academy. This morning we will share the news we've all been waiting for. I'm very happy to be joined by one of last year's best actress nominees Jennifer Lawrence.



Good morning everyone.

SHERAK: The 2011 nominees for best performance by an actress in a supporting role are: Berenice Bejo in The Artist, Jessice Chastain in The Help, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs, and Octavia Spencer in The Help.


LAWRENCE: For best performance by an actor in a supporting role, the nominees are: Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn, Jonah Hill in Moneyball, Nick Nolte in Warrior, Christopher Plummer in Beginners, and Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

SHERAK: For best performance by an actress in a leading role, the nominees are: Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis The Help, Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Strep in The Iron Lady, and Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn.

LAWRENCE: The nominees for best performance by an actor in a leading role are: Demian Bichir in A Better Life, George Clooney in The Descendants, Jean Dujardin in The Artist, Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and Brad Pitt in Moneyball.

SHERAK: For best achievement in directing: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, Alexander Payne for The Descendants, Martin Scorsese for Hugo, Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, and Terrance Malick for The Tree of Life.

LAWRENCE: For best original screenplay, the nominees are: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig for Bridesmaids, J.C. Chandor for Margin Call, Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, and Asgar Fardhari for The Separation.

SHERAK: For adapted screenplay we have: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash for The Descendants; John Logan for Hugo, George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon for Ides of March; Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Steve Chervin for Moneyball; and Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

LAWRENCE: For best foreign language film we have: from Belgium, Bullhead; from Israel, Footnote; from Poland, In Darkness; from Canada Lazhar; and from Iran A Separation.

SHERAK: For best animated feature film, the nominees are: A Cat in Paris, Jean-Loup Felicouli; Chico and Rita Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal; Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh Nelson; Puss in Boots, Chris Miller, and Rango, Gore Verbinski.

LAWRENCE: And finally I'm pleased to announce that the film selected as best picture nominees for 2011 are: War Horse, Steven Speilberg and Kathleen Kennedy producers; The Artist, Thomas Langman (ph) producer; Moneyball, Michael DeLucca (ph), Rachel Horowitz (ph), and Brad Pitt producers; The Descendant, Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor (ph) producers; The Tree of Life, nominees to be determined; Midnight in Paris, Ledy Arronson (ph) and Steven Tenenbaum (ph) producers; The Help, Ronson Greene (ph) and Chris Columbus and Michael Barneson (ph) producers; Hugo, Graham King and Martin Scorsese producers; and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Scott Ruden (ph) producer.

SHERAK: Please join us on February 26th when we celebrate the magic of the movies. Thank you.

Thank you, Jennifer.


COREN: You just heard the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards. They were read out by Tom Sherak, the president of the Acadmy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Jennifer Lawrence an actress there.

As we heard, not too many surprises. Best actress nominees: Glen Close, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams among them. Actors -- best actor: George Clooney, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt. And as we heard just there in the final announcement best picture: War Horse, The Artist, Moneyball, The Descendants, The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, The Help, and Hugo.

So the Oscars will be taking place at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood Los Angeles on Sunday the 26th of February. It will be hosted by Billy Crystal.

Our Kareen is there in Beverly Hills. She just heard the nominations. Kareen, what do you think. Many surprises there?

WYNTER: We do -- there are a few surprises. For example, the film by Tom Hanks -- starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, many people didn't expect that it would be getting a nomination this morning, but it's right there in the list. And another surprise as well, Anna, Bridesmaids a big comedic hit from 2011. You know, so many critics are weighing in and saying it was one of the biggest films of 2011, especially at the box office, grossing roughly $170 million in domestic sales. So that didn't make the cut.

And in year's past, we've been seeing especially with the Academy widening the best picture category there's been room for animated films. There's been room for comedy, but it did not make the cut this year.

I want to talk a little bit about the performance by an actor in a leading role. George Clooney and Brad Pitt, it seems that they're going to be going up against each other again. We just saw that friendly competition at the Gold Globes. Of course George Clooney won out for his amazing role in The Descendants. And you know George is no stranger to the Academy Awards. He's won before, 2005, Syriana. Brad Pitt, however, it's eluded him. So we'll have to see if it's going to be Brad Pitt's year, perhaps.

And in the lead actress category, Glenn Close with Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Viola Davis as well as Rooney Mara.

I want to talk about three of those contenders there, because another theme that we're seeing this year has to do with portrayals. Of course Michelle Williams' portrayal in My Week With Marilyn. Meryl Streep's portrayal as the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, and finally Glenn Close's portrayal -- she plays -- she's a woman playing a man in Albert Nobbs and so that's one thing that we see going in.

But a clear favorite here has to be Glenn Close. She's really one of the best living actresses of our time. You know, she's just racked up so many awards in her career. So this may be her race to win here.

So a lot of surprises this morning, some snubs. But there you have it.

COREN: Yeah, when you -- you speak of some snubs. No Leonardo DiCaprio, which I thought was interesting for best actor. He missed out on J. Edgar Hoover. So might be there at least in best actor category.

Kareen, I just want to talk about The Artist, the French silent film which got so many wraps -- lots of rave reviews and obviously it's picked up a bunch of awards at the Golden Globes, it's been nominated 12 times for the Oscars. Are you surprised at the reaction at these nominations, the Oscar nominations for The Artist?

WYNTER: Absolutely not. You know, it's one of those films that really, really pays tribute to Hollywood, a love letter of sorts. And the Academy really embraces films like this, especially one a silent film. All the buzz about it.

At the Golden Globes it was really the film of the night. And who can't love that adorable Jack Russel terrier Uggy. He really, really stole the show. And so, you know, it's really no surprise going in that it would garner so many nominations, it would be in the best picture category. And it really may be the film that walks away with the Oscar on Academy night.

COREN: OK. Kareen Wynter joining us from Beverly Hills. Great to have you with us. Thank you.

Well, let's now go to Michael Musto, an entertainment journalist who can also perhaps give us some analysis. Michael, what do you think?

MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE: Well, these are pretty much expected, except as you mention Leonardo DiCaprio was pretty much expected to be nominated for J. Edgar in which he played the FBI guy J. Edgar Hoover. He had been nominated for every other award until now. So that's a snub.

But if you remember back to Titanic, he was snubbed for Titanic too and there was a loud out roar so that's bizarre.

Albert Brooks was snubbed for the movie Drive for supporting actor. And Tilda Swinton was expected to get a best actress nomination for We Need To Talk About Kevin in which he's a murderous son. But otherwise, these are pretty much according to hoyle (ph).

Most of these movies are nostalgic, candy-colored trips back to an earlier time. Film makers seem to be loving the idea of taking us back to other eras, maybe to get us away from the bad economy right now. But The Artist is a black and white audaciously pulled off stunt about the early days of film. Hugo is also about the early days of film. And Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's movie about a guy who mentally goes back to Paris in the 20s. Even War Horse, The Help, so many of these movies take us back to other eras. And most of them are pretty wonderful. So I'm happy with these nominations.

COREN: Yeah, let's talk a little bit about Hugo, because it's received a bag full of nominations, hasn't it?

MUSTO: Yes. And that's Martin Scorsese's movie about a boy on a search. He's looking for a father-figure. And in the process, he learns about an incredible film maker.

It's a beautifully realized film. And it really has the best visuals of the year. I think it should sweep those kind of visual, special effects type categories. And it's a real departure for Martin Scorsese. And it makes me wonder if David Fincher, or you know John Waters are next going to do children's movies. But Marty pulled it off.

COREN: Now, Michael, there has been a different set up of voting for the Oscars this year. Tell us a little bit about that?

MUSTO: Well, it was all based on how many points each movie gets. And we didn't know how many best picture nominees there would be. The last couple of years there were 10 nominees. This year there are nine. We were actually expecting seven or eight. So nine is pretty good.

I wonder what the 10th one was that got cut out. It might have been Bridesmaids.

But Melissa McCarthy and...

COREN: And who is your hot tip for -- exactly, though it was a fun film -- who is your hot tip for best actor and best actress.

MUSTO: Best actor is between George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Brad had a great year with Tree of Life and he's nominated, of course, for Moneyball. And he's proven himself to be a terrific actor and great movie star. And he's still with Angelina, that deserves something. But I think it's George Clooney's year to win best actor for The Descendants. It's a beautifully modulated, very subtle performance.

Best actress is really tough.

COREN: What about -- yeah, actress.

MUSTO: Yeah, Meryl Streep deserves it every year in my opinion. She's the best there is. But there's an erroneous feeling that she's already been honored enough. She actually only won one for best actress, one for supporting many years ago.

She's incredible as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, but she has stiff competition with Viola Davis in The Help and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. So at this point, it's a toss-up between the three of them.

COREN: I mean, what's the likelihood of the Oscar being predictable: that George Clooney best actor, Meryl Streep best Actress? Or do you think they could perhaps surprise us this year with a Dark Horse?

MUSTO: They absolutely could because these are actual horse races, not just with war horse, but with all of these nominees. And even though the Oscars have become a little bit anti-climactic because there are so many award shows before the Oscars and they're all televised, this year there's an actual race. And somebody would sneak in there. Like you mentioned Glenn Close is a respected actress. This is her sixth nomination. She doesn't play a man, but she plays a woman who dresses as a man to get a job. And it's another period piece. Who knows, this could be her year for the Academy to finally say let's give her something as a lifetime achievement?

COREN: And Michael, we know that Billy Crystal he is hosting the Oscars this year. I believe it's his ninth year. And he will not disappoint.

Can we expect this -- these awards to be a fun, entertaining night?

MUSTO: I think so, because last year, if you'll recall -- and most of us have just blocked it out of our minds, it was pretty bad. I like Anne Hathaway and James Franco a lot, but they are not stand-up comedians. And they weren't really equipped for that position.

They were very smart to bring back somebody who is funny, who can think on his feet. I'm sure he'll have better material than they had last year. And we're looking forward to it. It's going to be a nice, kind of safe show to sit back and enjoy.

COREN: Well, we know that we've got the (inaudible) 12th of February and then of course the Oscars on the 26th of February. So no doubt you are going to be very busy in the next month. Michael Musto, great to talk to you. Thank you for that.

MUSTO: Thank you so much.

COREN: Well, from the glitz of Hollywood to a dazzling display here in Hong Kong. Up next, the year of the Dragon. Lights up, this is good stuff.


COREN: Welcome back.

Let's get a check of the weather with our Mari Ramos. And Mari, I believe a solar flare could be affecting communications around the world. What can you tell us about this?

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is pretty interesting. And, you know, people get confused and some people get even a little scared when they think, oh my goodness, there's a solar flare coming? Solar radiation? What's going to happen? But you know what, we're fine here on planet Earth. You won't feel a thing, trust me on that one.

What's going to happen is -- what happens is this time we have what's called a solar maximum. The solar cycle lasts about 11 years. And this is a picture from NASA -- I'm going to go ahead and put this in motion -- when we're at a solar minimum, the sun is relatively calm. This picture was taken back in 1996.

But look what happens as we head into 1999 and the year 2000. You see this bursts of energy all across the sun. This is what's called a maximum. Well, guess what. It's been 11, 12 years. So we're about that time when the sun begins to become very active again.

We have seen that over and over already in the last few months of 2011 and now as we head into 2012.

Well, the main two things I want to talk to you about are solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Think of a solar flare as an eruption on the solar surface. And what happens, that triggers radiation that bursts out into space. If that eruption happens where the sun is actually facing the Earth or the Earth is facing the sun, some of that radiation can actually reach Earth, but again we're protected by the Earth's magnetic field, by our atmosphere as well.

But if you are out in space, for example, or some of those flights that take you through the poles in the highest portions of the earth, the high altitude flights, those people could be affected. So yesterday there were some flight planes changes for some of those flights that could have been affected.

A coronal mass ejection -- when you have a solar flare, sometimes actual matter from the sun can burst out into the atmosphere -- into space, I should say. And again if it's facing Earth some of that could actually reach Earth. And that's categorized into five different things. In this case what we're talking about, Anna, is a strong solar flare. What we can expect with a strong -- excuse me, geomagnetic storm in this case is going to be some power systems -- you could see high voltage problems. And every once in awhile, this is definitely right in the middle. So we're not expecting anything too bad. Space craft could be affected a little bit more dragging -- some of those low Earth orbiting satellites. And you could see some problems with satellite navigation at times.

The other thing that you will probably see or notice is the aurora, those lights either in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere. And you probably are going to be able to see this around many different areas here around the globe.

But not too far south, because this is not that strong. Back to you.

COREN: OK. Don't know if we're going to see it here. All right, Mari, good to see you. Thank you for that.

Well, celebrating the start of the Lunar New Year is all about making noise in Chinese tradition. Banging drums and cymbals and setting off firecrackers are all ways to scare off evil spirits. Well, here in Hong Kong the year of the dragon has begun with plenty of noise. And just tonight, this fireworks extravaganza was set off from the city's Victoria Harbor (inaudible) overcast earlier today. And it has been drizzling on and off, but it turns out that may be a good thing. Some people say that rain this time of year is particularly auspicious in terms of health, happiness, and prosperity. We're all standing at the New Year looking out, witnessing the fireworks display here in Hong Kong.

Well, that is NEWS STREAM, but the news certainly continues here at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is coming up next.