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NEWS STREAM

Russian Foreign Minister Meets With Syrian President; Hong Kong Expands Subway System; Three More Primaries For Republican Presidential Candidate This Week; The Maldives President Steps Down

Aired February 7, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNA COREN, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM where news and technology meet. Hello, I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong.

We begin with a sharp contrast in Syria. Russia's foreign minister is warmly welcomed by Syrian President Bashar al Assad while the city of Homs is again pounded by government forces.

The president of an idyllic island nation steps down. So who is in charge of the Maldives.

And we go deep down beneath the surface of Hong Kong to see just how this city is expanding its subway network.

Well, Russia's top diplomat is in Damascus for talks with Syrian president Bashar al Assad. Well, state television showed video of large crowds that turned out to welcome Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to the capital. Well, Lavrov says he hoped to encourage dialogue, but Moscow is facing international condemnation for vetoing a UN resolution on Syria.

Well, further north in Homs, the brutal siege of the city shows no signs of slowing down. An opposition group says nearly 130 people were killed in Syria on Monday, most of them in Homs.

Well, these YouTube videos show terrified family fleeing a building amid the sound of explosions. The government blames the violence on terrorist gangs.

Well, CNN cannot verify the authenticity of these videos, because Syria has replaced restrictions on foreign journalists. Well, our Arwa Damon takes a look at some other dramatic footage that has been posted online in the past few days.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "What did we do for you to treat us like this," this little girl asks, her head bandaged after injuries to her eyes.

We can't tell if she's being prompted to speak out against the Assad regime, but the pain and misery emanating from Syria is echoed in various videos posted to YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been bombarding us with more bombs and tank shells for the last...

DAMON: Danny, an activist that CNN has regularly been in touch with, knows it only too well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw really horrible things I've never seen in my life -- kids in a hospital, a kid with his whole jaw gone; a little girl, a kid, she's 4-years-old, she's dead; her sister, 6-years-old, she lost her left eye and her mother is in intensive care.

DAMON: No one has been spared the violence that reached unprecedented levels, just as the UN debated and failed to unite on Syria over the weekend.

The vetoes by Russia and China of what was already a watered down version of a resolution condemning the violence seemed to have emboldened the regime, although the Syrian government denies the crackdown.

These are chaotic scenes from a field hospital in Homs said to have been hit by rocket or mortar fire.

The doctor hysterical as he moves through the injured, pointing to a man whose leg has to be amputated, he says, and another who they were unable to save.

This clip was posted from the town of Brestan (ph) just outside of Homs. A little girl lies in a hospital bed saying she is scared, scared of needles and scared for Hassan (ph), lying in the bed next to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know if the rockets are going to come in your living room, or in your kitchen. Everyone is becoming used to death here. Blood in the streets. People think our blood is just like water.

DAMON: Many of the videos are simply too graphic to show. This clip also from Homs, a child whose leg has been blown off.

No matter how Syria plays out, the suffering will be felt for decades to come.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, those scenes of growing desperation in Homs and other Syrian cities is sparking international outrage. And Russia is viewed as one of President al Assad's few remaining allies.

Let's got to Phil Black who is covering the story from Moscow. And Phil, the talks taking place between Russia's foreign minister and the Syrian president really strictly what can they achieve?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an interesting question, Anna. We've seen the Russian foreign minister who received something of a heroes welcome on the streets of Damascus today. What appears to be thousands of people clearly Assad's supporters welcoming the Russian foreign minister in seemingly thanking Russia for its role in shielding Syria from the harshest sanctions, the harsher measures that much of the international community would like to employ against Syria.

What influence Russia can bring to bear is still unclear, because up until this point it has not been able to use or influence Syria very much at all. They've now shielded Syria from two attempted resolutions in the security council. It has repeatedly call for Syria to stop fighting, to begin talking to the opposition groups and also to implement democratic reforms. Syria, until now, has largely shown very little interest in any of these Russian initiatives of finding a solution to this.

So Russia will want to try and come away from this meeting today with some sort of commitment, some sort of sign, some action from the Syrian regime that it is prepared to listen, that it is prepared to work constructively with Russia so that Russia can come away after receiving such strong international condemnation for that veto and be able to show that it is able to influence events in Syria and show that it does have a credible alternative to what much of the international community is trying to make happen at the UN, Anna.

COREN: Phil, Russia is of course one of only a few of Syria's allies. Why is Russia protecting the Syrian government?

BLACK: Well, the reasons that Russia states publicly point to concerns over the blame or the partition of blame between the regime and the opposition groups. It believes that those opposition groups deserve international condemnation as well, or at least some degree. It also raises concerns about sovereignty and international community unduly and illegally, it says, try to mettle in the sovereign affairs of the Syrian state.

But analysts also point to other reasons, because these two countries have known each other a long time. They've been allies going back to Soviet times. It is a vital strategic relationship to Russia. Syria is one of Russia's few remaining friends in the Middle East. And they also point to the trade that these two countries still engage in, notably but not exclusively billions of dollars in arms that Russia still sells to Syria as well.

But some analysts say very clearly that if Russia isn't able to secure some sort of guarantee or commitment or action from Syria today, it will be leaving Damascus with a warning, a final message and that is that if they do not begin to comply in some way with the international community there is very little else that Russia may be able to do to protect Syria from the growing international anger over its behavior -- Anna.

COREN: Phil, you mentioned the international condemnation that Russia and China both caught for vetoing that UN resolution. Some say it's really given the Syrian government the green light to act without restraint. What do people on the street in Russia say about it? Do they support their government on this issue?

BLACK: There's a degree of mixed feelings here, I think Anna. I think certainly those of which we have seen many who oppose increasingly the Russian government do not side with the way the Russian government is handling its policy on Syria. For many other Russians, though, they are very much concerned with their own problems and so forth.

But from the Russian government itself, it has reacted with some degree of offense to many of the very heated comments that have come from European leaders, from the United States. The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov before traveling to Syria today said some of the language was indecent and bordering on hysteria. So a very strong reaction there, but delivered in a somewhat calm way. And foreign minister Lavrov also made the point that he believes that rarely when people are angry do they ever prove to be right. He accusing the international community of seeking to throw blame around rather than really trying to fix this problem, Anna.

COREN: Very interesting to see what comes from the talks. Phil Black in Moscow, thank you for that.

BLACK: Well, the Maldives is a small nation with a population of just 350,000 people. And earlier today the actions of 200 police officers helped change the face of the country. Well, President Mohammed Nasheed resigned after a protest by policemen in the capital Male. It was a mutiny against the government and a message of support for opposition groups. Well, they are pushing to Islam to play a greater role in the running of the country.

Well, Mohammed Nasheed was the country's first democratically elected president in 30 years. His departure paints an uncertain future for the Maldives. And now Sara Sidner has been following this story from New Delhi.

Sara, we know that the president has stepped down. And the vice president has been sworn in. And he says that a coup has not taken place. What do we know about the vice president?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this point we know that he has been sworn in and has become the new president. His name is Waheed Hassan. He also has worked for the UN, is seen as a pretty even keeled person.

But as you said, you know, this all took place because Mohammed Nasheed, a man that was a former pro-democracy political prisoner and the Maldives president who is really credited with ushering in a full democracy to the Maldives in 2008 was forced to resign after weeks of protests and a police mutiny.

This morning there were some pictures out of the Maldives showing the police going in and taking over the state broadcaster. And then outside of the national defense force headquarters where the president was apparently inside, there were hundreds of protesters and suddenly the police also joined them in calling for his ouster.

A few hours later that is exactly what President Nasheed did. He resigned live on television saying that he did not want to use force against his people.

When we spoke to a government official close to the president, they told us, quote, there has been a coup. We believe the people supported by the former regime in conveyance with the police conducted the coup. Now they're referring to the opposition who supported former president Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years in what is really seen as an autocratic type of rule.

But as you mentioned, the vice president who has now become the president and the army are both saying, no, this was not actually a coup it was a political settlement -- Anna.

COREN: Sara, what lead to the protest against the president?

SIDNER: These protests started to escalate really after -- under the president the military went and arrested one of the chief judges for the criminal court because that judge had released someone who was critical of the government. A government critic was put in jail. He released that person and said that basically that person was arrested illegally.

After that, some of this unrest started to build more and more and more. And last month they started to protest in the streets. There have been weeks now of protests. And suddenly you're seeing this. It all seemed like it happened very quickly. You went from within 12 to 15 hours you went from seeing the vice president become the president and the president resign, Anna.

COREN: All right. Sara Sidner in New Delhi covering this political unrest in the Maldives. Thank you for that.

Well, coming up on NEWS STREAM, eastern Europe's winter misery. Well, dire weather is in the forecast. The countries already paralyzed by the bitter cold.

And the latest on the race for the U.S. Republican presidential nomination. Four candidates contest three more states this week. Stay with NEWS STREAM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Well, more record low temperatures and snow are in the forecast for Europe which is already suffering a brutal winter. At least 250 people have died in the cold snap sweeping the continent. Well, hardest hit is Ukraine. CNN's Matthew Chance reports from Kiev.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Europe really is in a deep freeze. And no country has suffered more than Ukraine. It's experienced some of the lowest temperatures in recent days.

It's also had the highest death toll. Health officials say 135 people have lost their lives because of these icy, frigid conditions, most of them are homeless. And so what the authorities are doing are setting up tents like these -- look, this one is called (INAUDIBLE) which means a mobile heating point where people can just come in for a few days when they've got nowhere else to go a few hours and warm themselves in and escape this ice and snow.

Right, so here we are. And you can see there are a number of people who have gathered here to try and escape from the cold. They're warming their hands around this room heating stove fueled by wood. It's a very basic situation inside. The smell is not great. They're offering some basic food over here, some (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

Kasha, porridge. And he said, it's porridge and bread, and some hot tea as well.

There's also a computer over the back there where they can watch movies and I think even get on the internet.

But generally people are coming here -- as you can see, this guy warming up his feet, to just try and escape from the icy frigid conditions outside. And everybody here we've spoken to knows that if it weren't for places like this, they'd be in real trouble.

How important is it for you that there are places like this where you can come and get warm, drink some tea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's very important here, especially for people like us in this unfortunate situation. For these people, it is most important.

CHANCE: Why do you come here? Why have you come to this tent? (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDNETIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is very cold. The frost is very strong. It's very slippery out there. Here, it's warm. We can eat and drink.

CHANCE: Well, there you have it, these oasis of warmth in the center of this freezing continent. The bad news is that the icy temperatures we've been experiencing here aren't expected to get any warmer any time soon.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kiev.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Let's find more about those bitterly cold temperatures in Europe with our Mari Ramos. And Mari, what is causing this cold weather? And why is it so extreme?

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this has definitely been very extreme. And it's lasted for so long. And I keep saying that. And that's what made it so bad for so many people that the temperatures are not going up and they've been in some cases up to two weeks already with these temperatures that are so extreme.

I want to talk to you about something a little different. And normally we wouldn't be talking too much about this, but I really want -- we're getting a lot of questions about why? Why? What is going on here? Well, we're going to talk about the polar air.

And imagine a belt right over the top of the Earth. And that belt is nice and tight. And that belt holds in the cold air at the top right over here. Well, sometimes that belt when it's nice and tight it doesn't allow the cold air to spill over. But when you get it a little bit weaker, it's called a negative arctic oscillation. And you get these weaker polar winds and that belt loosens up and that air is allowed to spill out over the lower latitudes. And that is what is causing this extreme cold air.

In this case, it's not happening over North America. The spilling, so to speak, of this polar air is happening over Europe and also over parts of Asia. We've had extremely cold temperatures also over parts of Asia. And that very heavy snowfall in the Korean peninsula and also Japan over the last week or so.

Another way to look at this is when it's considered positive, you tend to have less of this cold air breakout. So earlier this season we had a strong positive arctic oscillation. You can see these lines going here to the top. You know what that looked like as far as temperatures over Europe? They had temperatures well above the average in November all the way through mid-January. Six degrees above average over parts of Russia.

So people were saying, wow, this is a great winter. Look how good it looks. We're having barely any snowfall. Remember the Alpine region with barely any snow? Well, things change. And then that belt loosened up and that cold air spilled out. Now we have this negative AO, or the negative arctic oscillation. And you want to know what it looks like now? Completely different. We're talking about temperatures 15 degrees below the average across those same areas that were basking in the sunshine just a few weeks before.

Across central Europe five degrees below the average. And even as we head, of course, across the Mediterranean we're dealing with extremely cold temperatures.

How long will this last? Well, at least through the end of this week. There's really no telling right now. This arctic air that is pulling down that Siberian cold at the surface, pushing it across the central portions of the continent all the way down through the Med, that is what is sticking around and that's why it's so extremely cold.

Let's go ahead and check out your temperatures now.

All right, Anna. I'm going to show you something now we don't get to see very often, either. It's -- it happens. People that live in mountainous areas sometimes get to see these type of clouds, or maybe sometimes over the ocean they tend to happen. They're called Kelvin- Helmholtz clouds. And I want to go ahead and show them to you, because these were captured off the coast of Panama City.

Isn't that amazing? You're looking at Panama City Beach there. There's the water. And those are the clouds. They're called KH clouds, or Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds. And they basically happen when you have two different layers of air that are moving at different speeds. You have one layer of air that is denser, or heavier, another one that is lighter. And then this happens fairly close to the surface and you see this type of just eerie clouds that form. Sometimes people can call them wave clouds, or tsunami clouds sometimes just because of that shape that looks like a wave. You know these do not only happen here on Earth, they happen on the surface of the sun sometimes, on the corona. On the corona we tend to see this type of cloud. And sometimes you get to see them right at the beach.

Those are amazing. I love that. Back to you.

COREN: They are amazing, Mari. I've never seen that before. They look like waves. That is quite something. Thank you for sharing that with us. We appreciate it. Good to see you.

Well, still to come here on NEWS STREAM, it's been a diplomatic thorn between Britain and Argentina for decades. And now the Falkland Islands are back in the spotlight. We'll tell you how locals are reacting to their famous new visitor. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Well, it's been nearly three decades since the Falklands War, but there are still tensions between Britain and Argentina over the remote south Atlantic islands. Well, Argentina calls the island Las Malvinas. And it seems the recent deployment of Britain's Prince William as a provocative move.

Well, for more on the dispute, CNN's Dan Rivers is in the Falklands and joins me now from Sabbey Hills mine field (ph).

Now Dan, Prince Williams' visit is supposed to be a routine deployment, but it certainly comes at a very sensitive time. Tell us what's been the reaction?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been a furious reaction in Argentina, Anna, as you can imagine. They're describing it as provocative. The British government and the British ministry of defense are insisting it is routine for a search and rescue pilot. And it's completely normal, they say, for a search and rescue pilot at his level of training to go into a deployment down here in the Falklands. He due to be here for about six weeks flying a seeking helicopter.

We've been on a base where he hasn't -- hasn't seen him, but they have released video, the Ministry of Defense showing him getting his first sort of briefing and conducting his first sort of orientation flight.

But as you say, the last 30 years since this conflict, it is still very much a tense sign, especially in the last few weeks. The Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has been using some very almost bellicose rhetoric. She's due to make a speech this evening at 6:00 o'clock PM local time here. And there's a lot of speculation that she may make some sort of announcement about commercial flights from South America to the Falklands which has been threatened with being closed, or ended. And that's for the islanders here, they say, would be a hammer blow to the economy.

They do have a regular royal air force flight that operated between (INAUDIBLE) in Britain down here, but they also rely heavily on that flight over to Chile. And there's a lot of pressure from the Argentine sort of Chilean to end that flight. So that's something that we'll watching over the next few hours. And certainly everyone on the island is waiting to see what the Argentine president says.

COREN: Dan, as you mentioned, we are approaching the 30th anniversary of the Falkland War, but as you say tensions have been escalating between the UK and Argentina for some time now. What is behind all this?

RIVERS: Well, I mean essentially Argentina has always has claimed that these islands are part of Argentina. It is a long-running historical dispute. The British colonization of these islands goes right back into the sort of 1840s when the capital was built. But there are kind of conflicting accounts of what went on in the 19th Century here.

But essentially Argentina claims its -- put in an early claim for these islands, has always had sovereignty claims for these islands but has always maintained that claim. Britain, of course, vehemently disagrees. The two countries went to war over that exact issue when Argentina invaded in 1982.

I don't think anyone is suggesting there's going to be another conflict right now, but there is the deployment of HMS Dauntless, one of the British Royal Navy's most sophisticated warships which is heading down here at the moment. Again, the British government is saying that is a routine deployment, but certain it is being greeted with -- with a certain amount of contentment here, because they're obviously concerned about these increasingly aggressive statements out of Buenes Aires. There have been anti-British riots in Buenes Aires in the last week or so.

So, you know, relations between the two countries are not good. And people here that we've spoken to on the island certainly feel that they want to remain part of -- they want to remain British. They very much relied on Britain to ensure that they don't -- you know, they're not under -- through Argentinian pressure. So this is an issue that although it's 30 years old, Anna, is one that's not really gone away.

COREN: All right. Senior international correspondent Dan Rivers join us from the Falkland Islands. Thank you.

Well, still ahead on NEWS STREAM, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street falls victim to political payback.

And Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney may be the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, but he has new worries heading into this week's contest. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. And you're watching NEWS STREAM. These are your world headlines.

Well, Syrian President Bashar al Assad greeted Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov as he arrived in Damascus for talks. Lavrov's visit comes just days after Russia vetoed a resolution at the United Nations security council condemning the Syrian regime and its violence against civilians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIDOUN, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: We are getting killed every moment. We are not able, even, just to get some basic medicine to injured people. Children are really hungry. I swear, children are hungry. No power. No fuel. It's too cold. It's too much for god sake. This is too much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Well, that was the voice of a Syrian activist.

The president of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed has stepped down amid a mutiny by the police. Well, officers joined protesters outside army headquarters on Tuesday. Well, tensions have been simmering in the country since Nasheed ordered the arrest of a criminal court judge three weeks ago. The vice president has been sworn in to replace Nasheed.

Greek workers are showing they have had enough of austerity demands. Unions are staging a general strike to protest proposed cuts to their jobs, salaries, and pensions. Well, foreign lenders say Athens must do more if it wants another bailout. Greece the money to avoid a default.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the peace process could be abandoned if a deal by rival Palestinian factions goes forward. Hamas and Fatah have agreed that President Mahmoud Abbas will head an interim unity government ahead of elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Well, politics in the Middle East is also having an impact on children in the West Bank after the Palestinian version of Sesame Street was taken off air. It's the result of a funding freeze imposed by the U.S. Congress after the Palestinian Authority pushed for recognition at the United Nations.

David McKenzie has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Palestinian Sesame Street. No Bert and Ernie here, it's Hamim and Karim (ph). Shar'a Simsim is full of the trademark irreverence loved by children throughout America. In this volatile neighborhood Sesame Street calls it Muppet diplomacy.

CAIRO ARAFAT, PRODUCER, SHAR'A SIMSIM: Sending these kind of positive images in your own language, in your own culture, when you see the colors and the schemata in the outdoors and you say this is part of my homeland and I'm hearing this, it's very important.

MCKENZIE: But production on Shar'a Simsim has grown to a halt. When Palestinian leaders pushed or UN recognition last year, the U.S. Congress froze nearly $200 million of developmental funding to the territories as punishment. It puts two dozen people out of work at Shar'a Simsim. An English teach Waffa Abdul Salam says that children will lose something special.

WAFFA ABDUL SALAM, TEACHER: These kinds of shows, kids really enjoy all the time. And it's not fair for them. They are only kids.

MCKENZIE: It's not just the children of Al Nestefal Kindergarten (ph) that will be affected, since '94 the U.S. government has given more than $2 billion dollars of funding to the Palestinian territories. And with the cutoff, every sphere of life will be affected.

In remote villages of South Hebron, USAID funding is crucial for nation building. But the money for a water project has run dry. The promised road network is on hold. And impressive looking blueprints are all that's left of a plan to improve education. So this village is left with broken classrooms.

ARAFAT: Politicians know very well, I mean, what's being funded. And I think it comes down maybe sometimes to this idea of the use of money as a leverage to get people to do what you want. And I think -- I think that for me that's sort of contradictory to what the purpose of aid is.

MCKENZIE: The U.S. State Department is pushing to unblock the funds it says is key to creating a viable two-state solution. But Congress remains unmoved. And with the Palestinian Authority unable to foot the bill, Palestinian children will be hurt the most.

David McKenzie, CNN, West Bank.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, the U.S. Republican presidential race picks up steam today. The four remaining candidates face contests in three states: caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado, and a primary vote in Missouri. Well, there are 128 delegates up for grabs. If frontrunner Mitt Romney does well, that would cement his status as the favorite for the Republican nomination.

Well, here is the current delegate count. CNN estimates Romney has 99 delegates. That's well ahead of his nearest rival Newt Gingrich who has 33. Romney added 14 to his total after winning the Nevada caucuses last weekend.

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination.

Well, Rick Santorum finished well behind Mitt Romney in Las Vegas, but he is hoping conservative voters will halt his rivals momentum. And that seems to have Romney worried. Jim Acosta has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rick Santorum is out to show Mitt Romney what happened in Vegas will stay there, hitting the GOP frontrunner once again on his health care plan in Massachusetts.

RICK SANTORUM, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: ...Governor Romney is absolutely incapable of making the case against Obamacare successfully and therefore greatly damages our ability to win this election.

ACOSTA: After toiling for weeks in obscurity, Santorum is suddenly seen as the Romney campaign's latest threat. Santorum mostly skipped Nevada to focus on this week's caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado, and a non- binding contest in Missouri.

TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDNETIAL CANDIDATE: His votes and his behavior in the congress reflected that drift away from fiscal discipline.

ACOSTA: In a sign Minnesota could be a tight race, Romney is using the state's ex-governor Tim Pawlenty to tear into Santorum's record of backing congressional pet projects. Santorum likes the attentions.

SANTORUM: I just want to say that for the record as you know Governor Romney had -- was an advocate of earmarks, number one. But number two, this is typical Romney.

ACOSTA: Romney's other worry is a wounded Newt Gingrich who is out for blood.

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We nominated a moderate in 1976 and he lost. We nominated a moderate in 1996 and he lost. We nominated a moderate in 2008 and he lost. The elite media would love to talk us into nominating another moderate.

ACOSTA: But the former speaker has problems of his own. With Saturday Night Live turning his proposal for a colony on the moon into a planetary punchline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a surprise to see you here, Mitt. As I recall you found the idea of a moon colony silly back in 2012.

ACOSTA: But it's Romney who is losing altitude in a head-to-head match-up with the president, trailing Mr. Obama by 9 points in an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been the most anti-jobs, anti-investment, anti-growth administration I've seen since Jimmy Carter.

ACOSTA: Then there's the potential headache in the making coming from his latest top surrogate Donald Trump who boasted he helped put Romney in the Nevada caucuses. Romney won the state by double digits.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: And a lot of people are giving me credit for that. And I will accept that credit.

ACOSTA: After huge victories in Florida and Nevada Mitt Romney would like a clean sweep this week, but these caucuses could be more like the Super Bowl, a down to the wire finish for all teams on the field.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Golden, Colorado.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, CNN will have results and analysis from today's Republican contest in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. Well, that starts 9:00 am Wednesday for viewers here in Asia. It's all part of our America's Choice coverage for the 2012 U.S. presidential elections.

We open up a shiny new tech toy, you may not think about the hands that made it. The workers at Foxconn touch 40 percent of the world's electronics. On Monday, we shared Stan Grant's conversation with one Foxconn factory employee. She would not show her face or use her real name for fear of losing her job. Well, here's a bit of that conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ms. Chen is one of more than million workers at Foxconn in China. She works at this factory in the city of Chengdu installing iPad screens. The company makes the iPads, iPods, and iPhones that has made Apple a commercial and cultural icon, but there are no I workers here, only we workers. And Ms. Chen says we work whenever Foxconn says so.

MS. CHEN (through translator): They use women as men and they use men as machines. There's another way of saying it, they use women as men and they use men as animals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: While Apple has been getting the most attention, Foxconn does business with many of the world's biggest electronics brands. Well, Foxconn says it works hard to give employees a safe and positive working environment. Well, Author Leslie Chang wrote a book on China's factory workers. She says it's not fair to look at conditions strictly from a Western perspective.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE CHANG, AUTHOR: I think what's important here is to look at the context. To us, working for a dollar a day in a factory 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, doing repetitive tasks for 10 or 12 hours a day sounds like hell, but to them this is a big step up from the alternative which is living in a small Chinese village with no future.

So to us, the situation -- the conditions that we would condemn to these young men and women from rural China it feels like an opportunity and even an adventure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Well, still electronics companies profit from cheap Asian labor. But Apple is only tech company in the Fair Labor Association. As a member of the FLA, Apple publishes a list of its oversees suppliers and audits their working conditions. The founder of China Labor Watch says consumers also bear responsibility. He spoke through a translator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apple's labor conditions is actually one of the best in the electronic industry. So if we want the consumer to influence the policies, they actually have to compare -- compare Apple with other companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: So what exactly can consumers do? Well, nearly 190,000 people have signed a petition asking Apple to release a worker protection strategy. Well, they say they do not want to buy products at a cost of horrible human suffering.

Well, coming up on NEWS STREAM we look at how Hong Kong is blasting its way to a better transport network. That's next here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Well, Hong Kong's iconic skyline is more than a pretty sight, it's a sign of how densely populated this city is. There's so little land that developers are forced to build higher and lower. Well, Richard Quest takes us on a rare look at the work going on beneath Hong Kong's streets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: More people are living in urban areas than ever before. And that migration is expected to continue in the decades ahead.

Hong Kong has certainly seen its own population boom. In the past 45 years the number of people living here has more than doubled. 7 million people call Hong Kong home. It's one of the most densely populated places on the planet.

So in a place like this, one of the greatest challenges is simply getting all these people from a to b.

This is the city's main artery, the remarkably efficient subway the MTR line, carrying 4 million passengers a day with an on-time record better than 99 percent, according to the MTR. It's the on-time record that sets this system apart. And these days, this key piece of infrastructure is expanding in all directions.

This is the crowded western district, a stone's throw from the heart of the city. And it's here where workers are extending the main line on Hong Kong Island. Look around, it's not the easiest place to move massive machinery, or set off underground explosions.

Tunneling is always a difficult and expensive business, even more so here in Hong Kong with all these tower blocks and buildings around you. They have to blast their way through the bedrock down here.

And you're about to get a rare look beneath these city streets.

Suited and ready. How far down are we going?

JULIAN SAUDNERS, PROJECT MANAGER, WEST ISLAND LINE: 40 meters to the bottom.

QUEST: 40 meters?

SAUNDERS: Yep.

QUEST: Every aspect of this construction has to go underground.

So you can't really put the stakes in above the blast wall?

SAUNDERS: No. If we don't have the space within Western District. There are too many buildings, too many structures, roads, to be able to put the emphasis directly above the station, so we have long passenger allies to get from the station to the entrances.

QUEST: Fascinating. Fascinating.

And to create this cavern and this tunnel, did you blast this?

SAUNDERS: This was all done by drill and blowouts, yes.

QUEST: OK. So how -- for each blast, how much progress do you make?

SAUNDERS: Between two and four meters for each blast. Yeah. And we will generally do two blasts a day.

QUEST: It's a bit unnerving, the idea of setting off explosions beneath towering apartment blocks. It's all happening at least 40 meters below ground. And the residents are given notice of each days events.

One blast in the morning, one in the evening.

Underground sprinklers help to minimize the dust. And the vehicles, they're hosed down before returning to Hong Kong city streets.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: That was Richard Quest deep underground here in Hong Kong. The overall cost of the expansion of the city's rail network is set to cost about $21 billion U.S.

Well, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says Syria will soon announce a date for a referendum, that is news coming in to us here at CNN. Lavrov is meeting with Syrian President Bashar al Assad on a trip to Damascus. This comes as Russia came under fire from the United States and around the world for its veto on a draft resolution on Syria at the UN security council. We'll certainly bring you more details on this breaking news as soon as we get it.

Well, still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, it's known as the Oscars of the sporting world. So who was named the best of the best? Find out next.

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COREN: Turning our attention to sport. And one man who was missing and another returning during Monday night's English -- big English Premier League football match. Let's join Alex Thomas in London for more on that and other sporting headlines. Hello, Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anna. Yeah, Liverpool's game at home to Tottenham was Luis Suarez's first match since December 26. The Uruguayan international came on as a second half substitute after completing an eight match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

The contest at Amfield finished nil-nil, Tottenham winger Gareth Bale missing his side's best chance to score. And Liverpool looks far more likely to get a goal after Suarez came on the pitch, although some would say he was lucky to stay on it. He was only booked instead of sent off after kicking Scott Parker in the stomach.

Spurs coach Harry Redknapp wasn't at he match because of his ongoing trial for tax evasion. In fact, there was a problem with a plane sent to quickly fly him up from London to Liverpool. The jury in that trial, though, has been sent out to consider its verdict, so we may get a result in that trial either later today or tomorrow morning UK time.

Meanwhile, it's thought the England manager Fabio Capella will meet with his boss at the football association this week to explain why he publicly disagreed with the FA's decision to relieve John Terry of the England captaincy.

Now what do Novak Djokovic, Rory McIlroy, Barcelona, and Vivan Cheruiyot have in common? They were all winners at the Laureus Sports Awards, often referred to as the Oscars for athletes. We sent along our own top physical specimen Pedro Pinto.

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PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The 2012 addition of the Laureus sports awards gave us everything we have come to expect: plenty of glitz and glamor on the red carpet, and some of the biggest names in the world of sport and entertainment.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, FORMER TENNIS STAR: The awards get attention to the academy, but it's really about making it possible for children to participate in sports.

RUUD GULLIT, FORMER CHELSEA MANAGER: I think it's a great tribute to sports and all the sports people itself. And also a moment for sporters to give something back also to society. And I think the Laureus did -- does a great job.

TONY HAWK, SKATEBOARDER: Beyond all of this glitz and celebration it's really about -- it's really about doing good work.

CLIVE OWEN, LAUREUS HOST: I've never hosted anything like this. And the only reason I'm doing it is because I'm -- I've got huge amount of respect for the work that Laureus does and I'm a big sports fan. So when they said -- I said, yeah, I'm coming. Do whatever you want to do.

PINTO: The night in London wasn't just about the work of the foundation, though, as the packed crowd of sports stars eagerly waited to hear the winners of what have become known as the sporting Oscars.

Novak Djokovic got the prize for sportsman of the year from the Laureus panel, ahead of Formula 1's Sebastian Vettel, a just reward after three grand slam titles in what was a sensational 2011.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, TENNIS PLAYER: What stands out most to me tonight and these two days that I spent here in London is meeting all these legends of the sport and having the opportunity to be close to them and make pictures with them, to exchange the experiences and the life stories, it's just an amazing achievement and an amazing experience that I will never forget.

PINTO: Vivian Cheruiyot was named sportswoman of the year after claiming two gold medals at last year's World Athletics Championships.

Pep Guardiola's all conquering Barcelona added yet another trophy to their growing collection: the team of the year award. Club President Sandro Rosell on hand to pick up the trophy.

Darren Clark's heartwarming Open Championship victories saw the Northern Irishman take the Laureus comeback trophy, while Oscar Pistorius was named Athlete of the Year with a disability.

Pedro Pinto, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

THOMAS: And in World Sport in three hours' time we have an interview with that sportsman of the year, winner Novak Djokovic, plus a panel of Laureus ambassadors, including Boris Becker and Steve Wall discuss the threat of match fixing.

For now, though, back to you in Hong Kong, Anna.

COREN: Alex, good to see you, thank you.

Well, it was a heart stopping moment for one mother who was waiting for a train in Australia. A stroller with her baby inside rolled onto the tracks. And as new security footage reveals, this bizarre accident has happened before. Well, 9 Network's Jaqueline Felgate has the story.

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JAQUELINE FELGATE, 9 NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It only took a second -- a mother turns around and her baby in its pram (ph) begins to slowly roll down the platform towards the train track. The frantic mother jumped down onto the track before the train arrives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: IT happened so quickly in this incident. It just shows that you can't look away from a pram (ph).

FELGATE: A man, appearing to be dialing a number on his mobile phone, doesn't try to stop the child. In fact, he walks around it as the buggy goes over the edge. The near miss occurred in Fairfield late last year. The video obtained by 9 News after a four month freedom of information battle.

The five-month-old child was the third involved in similar pram (ph) incidents at train stations over the last few years. In all of those cases, the babies miraculously escaped unharmed.

DANIEL BOWEN, PTUA: Obviously safety is paramount. And we've seen these instances of prams (ph) rolling off platforms. Parents obviously need to take care, but the infrastructure there should be as safe as possible.

FELGATE: Metro concedes one of the reasons why these pram (ph) accidents occur is because at older stations like here at Fairfield, the platforms are slopped down towards the train. And the operator is currently in the process of rectifying the problem.

Metro says the vast majority of stations still slope the wrong way, but new stations are constructed with platforms facing away from the track.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a legacy of the old stations where the water flowed onto the tracks.

FELGATE: Jaqueline Felgate, 9 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, Russian scientists have reportedly unlocked Antarctica's largest sub-glacial lake. Well, for more than two decades they have been drilling here at Vostok Station. Well, that is no easy task. Temperatures there can drop below minus 80 Celsius. Well, Lake Vostok sits beneath a 4 kilometer thick ice crust.

And state run Russian media reporter (INAUDIBLE) drill down through all this ice to the lake's surface. The lake has been locked up for about 20 million years. And scientists believe it could hold life, possibly primitive bacteria or something that evolved in isolation. But there are fears that research could contaminate the water with drilling fluids or the kerosene needed to keep the bore hole from freezing over.

Well, the implications of the study would search far beyond our planet. Lake Vostok's conditions are thought to be similar to Jupiter's moon Europa.

Well, that is NEWS STREAM. Thank you for your company. But the news certainly continues here at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is coming up.

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