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Syria's Armed Opposition; The New Myanmar; Nuclear Tensions With Iran

Aired February 20, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

And we begin in Syria, where we meet the country's armed opposition. It's a fighting force made of farmers, carpenters and students.

And we get rare access inside Myanmar's parliament, as the country's military rulers try to show the world they are interested in reform.

And he beat the Lakers, but what happened when NBA sensation came up against the defending champs? We'll bring you all the highlights.

Now, the brutal bombardment of the Syrian city of Homs is now into its third week, and activists say 10 people were killed there on Sunday, along with 13 others across the country.

Here, another explosion rocks the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, although we can't verify the authenticity of this video from YouTube. And after one of those apparent attacks, this residential house catches fire and neighbors desperately try to rescue the family inside.

And also in Homs, this man is treated for wounds he says he got through torture.

Activists say nearly 300 doctors have been arrested since the protests began in March.

And here, a funeral is held for a provincial prosecutor who is killed in Idlib. The Syrian government blames armed terrorists. The rebels deny the killing, saying he was an opposition sympathizer.

An opposition group now says almost 9,000 people have been killed during the 11 months of protests against the government. And activists in northern Syria have told Ivan Watson that theirs is an "Orphan Revolution," as they don't have the international support given to other Arab Spring revolts.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Syria's armed opposition, a handful of men on a hillside leading (ph) prayer by a masked cleric. "God grant us victory over the sinners," he chants. "Make us victorious over the family of Assad." Bravery against a 40-year dictatorship from fighters who are little more than boys.

(on camera): This is a rebellion of farmers, carpenters and university students. The men here describe themselves as members of the Free Syrian Army, but it would be much more accurate to call them an impromptu village guard. Many of them are defending these olive groves that surround their community with little more than hunting shotguns.

(voice-over): The men guarding the entrance to this opposition-held town don't have enough guns or ammunition. The commander is a former Syrian army general who defected six months ago. Like many of his fighters, he covers his face for safety. He calls Syria's 11-month-old uprising the "Orphan Revolution," because unlike the revolts in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, he says, the Syrian rebels haven't received any foreign support.

With no outside help, the men of this community turn to a higher power: Friday prayers in a packed mosque in the rebel-held town of Binnish. Condolences for a man killed by a sniper's bullet in the nearby city of Idlib turn into a full-throated war of "Allahu Akbar!" -- "God is great!"

The town marches into the town square and performs a weekly ritual of defiance against Bashar al-Assad. There's no Syrian government presence in this town, but Assad's tanks are never far away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they're one kilometer far away from here.

WATSON (on camera): The Syrian army?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the Syrian army.

WATSON: Will you fight if the Syrian army comes here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we will, because we were for 10 months this force (ph). But now there is no other solution.

WATSON: You have to fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we have to fight with a knife. Even with a knife.

WATSON (voice-over): Not everyone shares this spirit of defiance. Abd al- Manam (ph) spends his days taking care of the flock of pigeons he breeds on his roof. "These are hard times for the whole country," he says. "It's too dangerous to travel outside of town, because you don't know who you could meet on the open road. And if you leave, you may never come back."

Trapped at home while his birds fly free, Manam (ph) waits for what many here fear is inevitable, a Syrian civil war.

Ivan Watson, CNN, in northern Syria.


STOUT: In Damascus, two people were killed after security forces opened fire on a funeral-turned-protest on Saturday. Now, this footage, it appears to show bullets and tear gas being fired into a crowd that was mourning. Three people were reportedly killed by the Syrian military.

Again, CNN can't verify that.

And here, the images appear to show one of the injured men covered in blood and being carried to a car. An opposition group says the demonstration was a few kilometers away from the presidential palace.

Let's get the latest on the situation in Syria, where Western journalists have been barred from reporting freely in the country, but we can talk to Nick Paton Walsh, who joins us live from Beirut.

And Nick, the bombardment, it drags on in Homs, and more signs of resistance inside Damascus. What's the latest?


The key thing about Saturday's unrest was the location of where it happened, so close to the presidential palace, on streets where there are even government ministries. Here, you're about to see a video purportedly from today in the Capasusa (ph) district of Damascus, where, apparently, we see these young men masked, obviously fearing being identified during this fairly rebellious act, erecting the opposition flag over this bridge running over a main highway.

The video, in fact, ends by the sound of gunfire. So, clearly, a very dangerous task for them to perform -- Kristie.

STOUT: And now we're seeing these reports from Iran's press TV that two Iranian ships have docked at a Syrian port. This took place on Saturday.

What's happening here?

WALSH: Well, it's not entirely clear. This is the Port of Tartus, where there's a Russian naval base. These Iranian ships, according to Iranian media, have arrived as part of maritime training that was scheduled a year ago, an agreement between Iran and Syria.

I think it's fair to say this is, as Iranian officials say in their own media, them flexing their muscles in the area. They also say it's the second time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 they passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

Of course, it's sparked speculation that they're there to deliver something or collect something. That's not clear. What is clear is the Israeli officials have said very clearly in the media that they'll be watching the situation very closely, indeed. But above all, I think these ships are some kind of Iranian message showing solidarity and friendship at a difficult time -- Kristie.

STOUT: And you're also monitoring comments from America's top general, Martin Dempsey. He's spoken to CNN, weighing in on the crisis in Syria, including whether or not the rebel fighters should be armed.

What did he say?

WALSH: Well, I think the real issue U.S. officials have been exploring over the past weeks, totally denied by the opposition, is their contention that somehow if this conflict drags on, there could be room for hard-liners or radicals from the region to slip into the opposition movement. Now, this might help explain General Martin Dempsey's comments about how they're reluctant to provide arms, but the key reason he gives here is the lack of any clear leadership.

Let's hear what he had to say.


GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think it's premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria, because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point.


WALSH: OK. That's really the question. If these arms are delivered, as some U.S. senators are suggesting, what happens to them? If this unrest doesn't continue, where do they end up in the region? And certainly, I think there are these concerns continually reverberating about radicals joining the opposition, which I should point out, the opposition completely denied.

But I think that may be the final reason for their reluctance on U.S. officials' part there -- Kristie.

STOUT: All right.

Nick Paton Walsh, on the story.

As ever, thank you.

Now, an article about the Syrian conflict published in China has been causing controversy. "The People's Daily," it features a comment piece by Qu Xing, the president of the China Institute of International Studies.

He says, "If Western countries continue" what he called "the current full support of Syria's opposition, it will be inevitable that a large-scale civil war will break, thus resulting in armed foreign intervention."

Earlier this month, China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria and instead called for inclusive dialogue.

Now, you're watching CNN NEWS STREAM. We'll be back right after the break.


STOUT: Now, Myanmar is set to hold a parliamentary election in April. It will be the country's second vote in two decades, but critics say that the country, also called Burma, is still run by the military, despite the appearance of democracy.

Now, take Naypyidaw. The junta made this city the country's new capital six years ago, and the name, it means seat of kings. The old capital, Yangon, is down here. You may know it as Rangoon.

The military says that the move was to make the capital easily accessed by the entire nation, but the population of Naypyidaw is about a quarter that of Yangon.

Now, one reason is this road which links the old and new capitals. It costs about $8 to drive on it. That's simply too expensive for most people.

The luxurious capital city, it was built by laborers who earned about $1 a day. And these lakeside apartments house the nation's elite, who are essentially sheltered from ordinary citizens.

Now, the government has not revealed the total cost of the construction here. But a civilian government, it was sworn in last March. And for the first time ever, CNN has gained access to this new parliament building. And Paula Hancocks takes us inside.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): White elephants are seen as a traditional symbol in Asia of good fortune and power. These three taking a bath are among six that have been discovered in Myanmar recently, on show for the public to see in the new capital (INAUDIBLE). The government is keen for them to be seen as a good omen for political change.

And a lot has changed recently. This is the country's new parliament, opulent and palatial. The first things guest see of this new democracy is money.

But it's what happens inside that matters. And inside, no apology is made for the continuing military influence on the new civilian government sworn in last March. The government is also releasing political prisoners and forging cease-fires with ethnic groups.

According to the 2008 constitution, a quarter of all politicians have to be chosen from the military, a law many in the opposition would like to see changed. But there are still signs of democracy.

KHIN MAUNG GYI, MYANMAR POLITICIAN: For our country, like (ph) our country, we are being missing from democracy for nearly 50 years, half a century. Now it is we are opening, so it is most welcoming and it is very good for the country. And everyone is happy. See?

HANCOCKS: This is a budget debate. Explaining to the public where money is being spent would be a new experience for some, clearly not a riveting experience for others.

(on camera): Democracy is still very young here in Myanmar. The very first session in this parliament was only held about a year ago, and some politicians are openly telling us that they're still learning.

(voice-over): But the question "Why now?" continues to be asked. What motivated the former military government to move to democracy after 50 years of isolation? A question I asked the minister of Information, U Kjaw Hsan.

"We are the people's government, selected by the people. They want changes in the progress of democracy, socioeconomic and political fields. So, today, we're in the process of carrying out the people's desires."

The minister assures me an upcoming by-election on April 1st will be free and fair, an election that pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi is contesting and widely expected to win, meaning she would soon be part of this parliament, sitting and debating alongside many of those who kept her under house arrest for much of the past 21 years.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Naypyidaw, Myanmar.


STOUT: Incredible and rare access there inside the parliament building of Myanmar.

Now, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's party says the lady has faced restrictions in her campaigning. The National League for Democracy is putting up nearly two dozen candidates, but says obstacles could threaten the fairness of the election.

We have reached out to Myanmar's government for a response.

A team of inspectors from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, they are back in Iran's capital, Tehran, for talks with officials over Iran's nuclear program. Israel says Iran is trying to get its hands on nuclear weapons and has made it clear it is considering an attack, but Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Now, the Pentagon's top military adviser tells CNN the U.S. is not convinced Iran has decided to pursue nuclear weapons, adding that military strikes would be premature and counterproductive. And adding to the tension, Iran says it is cutting off oil sales to Britain and France.

Our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is following developments from London. He joins us now live.

And Matthew, the IAEA team is once again on the ground in Iran. What's on the agenda and how much will they be able to see?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they're in Iran to do is to try and answer some of the questions that have been raised by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency about the nature of Iran's nuclear program. There have been things identified by the IAEA that could have a military dimension.

The inspectors want to visit various sites where, for instance, the Iranians are suspected of detonating an explosive device that could be a detonator in a nuclear weapon. They also want access to Iranian scientists who are close and are working on the Iranian nuclear program to question them.

So far, they haven't been given that kind of access, and the expectation is that they won't be either during this visit. But it's part of a process to try and draw Iran back in to negotiations and compliance.

STOUT: And what's next on that front? I mean, in the last week, Iran expressed willingness for talks with the West, and yet it ordered that halt of oil sales to Britain and France and it's been really ramping up the rhetoric about its nuclear program. So just how sincere is Tehran about returning to nuclear talks?

CHANCE: Well, it's unclear. I mean, I think they're sincere about returning to nuclear talks, but it's not clear how sincere they are about giving the West what it wants, which is a suspension of uranium enrichment activities.

They have agreed to more talks in Istanbul, but at the same time, you rightly say they've cut off oil exports to British and French companies. They did that though, of course, as a response to the European Union's to end all oil contracts with Iran.

That, together with the revelation that Iran is intending to boost its uranium enrichment activities at one of its key nuclear facilities all adding to this sense that, despite the concerns in the West that it may be a military program, and despite the crippling sanctions that have been imposed against the Islamic republic, it intends very much to press on with its nuclear ambitions -- Kristie.

STOUT: The sanctions -- you describe them as crippling. What impact has it had on its nuclear program? And is that the reason why Iran expressed this interest to return to the negotiating table?

CHANCE: It's not clear the sanctions have had any direct impact on the nuclear program, but they've definitely had an economic impact. You've had reports from Iran that ordinary Iranians are feeling the pinch of these economic sanctions. There are parliamentary elections coming up next month. It could have political consequences for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the country's president, whose supporters, obviously, and allies will be standing in those parliamentary elections.

In terms of the oil sales, then Iran has found other buyers for its huge deposits of oil. It's been doing deals with China and India in particular, already big buyers of Iranian oil. And so it's managed to ride out these sanctions so far, but clearly they're pinching, clearly there may be some kind of political impact in the future.

STOUT: And yet, Iran continues on with its nuclear program.

Matthew Chance, joining us live from London.

Thank you.

You're watching NEWS STREAM. And just ahead, the tragedy of human trafficking in Mozambique, where girls as young as 12 are forced into a life of sexual slavery.

Stay with us.


STOUT: This week on the "CNN Freedom Project," we're focusing on average people who are making a difference in the fight against human trafficking. And nowhere is that fight more apparent than in Mozambique, where trafficking in women and girls is rampant.

Nkepile Mabuse takes us to the streets of Maputo.


NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some have labeled it the "Land of Prawns and Prostitutes." Prawns dominate trade by day, and at night it's Mozambique's girls that are for sale.

KATIE MAGILL, ANTI-TRAFFICKING ACTIVIST: Sometimes the girls wear, like, school uniforms, because it makes them look more educated.

MABUSE: Girls as young as 12 years old, says anti-trafficking activist Katie Magill. Some sold by their own families. By the time she intervenes, they've long lost faith in humanity.

MAGILL: I do speak Shangaan language, and that also helps. It's like, oh, some white lady took time to learn our mother tongue and she also wants to know what our slang is, and differences like that --

MABUSE (on camera): She can be trusted.


MABUSE (voice-over): According to a U.S. State Department report early last year, police identified a network trafficking up to 40 women and girls each month through Mozambique to South Africa. The same report says they were being sold for $1,000. Buying girls internally can cost as little as $2.

The trade is murky. The perpetrators are often known to their victims.

MAGILL: Here's the kitchen.

MABUSE: Katie introduces us to a man who has given himself the nickname "Bon Jovi." He tells us he's in charge of this abandoned mansion and allows the girls on the street to sleep here.

I asked him if he gets a cut of their earnings.

MAGILL: "I'm not benefiting." He said, "They're used to that kind of life. They were already in that kind of life when they met me."

MABUSE: In this place they're forced to call home the stench of human feces is overwhelming. In one of the girl's rooms, signs that while her situation appears hopeless, she dreams of an education and possibly a better future.

Back in Maputo's dark alleys, Katie questions the role of the police.

MAGILL: That's a policeman right there.

MABUSE (on camera): Where?

MAGILL: Right there, walking. That was a policeman. So he knows what's happening. He sees this happening. This building here --

MABUSE: He's not arresting anybody.

MAGILL: No, he's not.

MABUSE (voice-over): The police stand accused of doing very little to identify or rescue victims of human trafficking. CNN tried to get the police's side of the story. However, multiple attempts over several months were unsuccessful.

Part of the problem in Mozambique is that the country lacks the resources and the plan to fight trafficking. But, still, there have been several successful prosecutions since an anti-trafficking law was enacted in 2008.

The law on preventing and combating the traffic in people prohibits recruiting or facilitating the exportation of a person for prostitution, forced labor, slavery, involuntary debt servitude, or the removal of body parts. And it calls for penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

For now, the war against traffickers cannot do without people like Katie. Her organization, Project Purpose, rehabilitates young victims, many of them mothers, and provides shelter for their children. But it's the ones she wasn't able to save that continue to haunt her.

MAGILL: I cry now just thinking about the people who should have been in these buildings. You know, the kids who should have had a chance to live like that. And that's something that compels me.

MABUSE: Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, Maputo, Mozambique.


STOUT: Amazing work by Katie there.

And this is just the first part of a series that we'll be bringing you over the next two days, right here on NEWS STREAM. In fact, tomorrow, we'll tell you the story of one woman who was trafficked as a teenage girl.


MABUSE (voice-over): "I was in a dark, dark place. It's not like you think you have a choice." A time when Toshinia (ph) felt so numb, she didn't see a way out.

"Every minute was the worst, only when you're in that situation, you can't always see that." Trafficked for sex when she was just 15, a world she couldn't leave, it quickly became the only life she knew.


STOUT: We'll tell you the rest of her story for you, right here on NEWS STREAM tomorrow.

And do remember to tune in for our special presentation later this week. It's a celebration of the work of ordinary viewers who have seen our "CNN Freedom Project" reports and taken action.

Now, still to come here on NEWS STREAM, it is crunch time in Greece. Finance ministers meet to decide on a second bailout following protests in Athens.

And drivers in Russia use a unique way to show their feelings for Vladimir Putin ahead of the upcoming election.

Those stories and more, right here on CNN.


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

The bombardment of the Syrian city of Homs is now into its third week. Activists say at least 23 people were killed on Sunday. Opposition group says almost 9,000 people have now been killed during the 11-month uprising against the Syrian government. Authorities blame armed terrorists for the violence.

Well, as seen (ph) from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog has arrived in Tehran for the second time in less than a month to hold talks with Iranian officials. Tehran has been accused of developing nuclear weapons, something it denies. And adding to the tension, Iran says it is cutting off oil sales to Britain and France in response to European sanctions.

At least 44 prison inmates are dead following a riot in a jail in northern Mexico. A security official says a fight broke out between rival gangs and, at one point, inmates took a guard hostage.

By the end of the day we could finally have a resolution on Greece. And just hours from now, Eurozone finance ministers are to meet in Brussels. They are expected to approve a $170 billion bailout package to save Greece from bankruptcy. It could mean an end to months of insurgency (ph) but it seems Greeks are yet to be convinced.

Thousands of people protested yet again in Athens on Sunday. They rallied outside parliament as politicians debated further budget cuts. Now they are needed to meet the conditions attached to the bailout funds.

The Greek finance minister has issued a statement ahead of the meeting. He says Greece has fulfilled all the conditions of the new bailout package. Now CNN's Jim Boulden is following the story first from London, and he joins us now.

Jim, will there be a deal for a new bailout loan for Greece?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, as you said the finance minister of Greece says that the country has done enough to get this second bailout signed off on. Now we have to wait to see if all the finance ministers of the Eurozone agree, and that's exactly why they're meeting in Brussels today. They do have a number of things to still -- to haggle over.

There is some fine details that still need to be worked on, including how big the IMF contribution will be, how big the ECB, the European Central Bank contribution will be, will national central banks have to get involved as well.

So there are some details still to be ironed out. But the point is, this is supposed to be an agreement to get at least the first tranche of money to Greece from the second bailout in time for it to pay off a bond coming due on March 20th. But they do have to see whether or not Greece has made enough pledges.

So I don't want to say it's definite, because when we got to this point a couple weeks ago, the finance minister said, no, you still haven't done enough. But all indications are that Greece has taken some major steps with another -- when they did have the parliament two weeks ago agree to further austerity measures that are deeply, deeply unpopular.

So by the end of the day today, or overnight, we should be hearing whether the European Union Central Bank -- sorry, the Eurozone finance ministers think that Greece has done enough. It's still, though, only -- it's a major step, Kristie, that's only one further step.

STOUT: Yes, well, they have these political pledges from Greece, but there still is this popular upwar (ph) again, over the weekend we saw thousands protecting against more austerity cuts. What kind of message does that send to Europe? And does Europe really think that Greece will be able to live up to its promises?

BOULDEN: Well, the interesting is, is that it expects Greece to live up to these promises, though Greece hasn't even lived up to the promises of the first bailout. So the pain that's being felt in Greece is undeniable.

However, much of it hasn't actually even taken hold yet because there are still issues about being able to gather in the revenue from some of the tax rises that were agreed for the first bailout. And obviously more measures are being implemented, ironically of course, because the economy's gotten much worse. And so they had to take further steps of austerity.

And, of course, there are many people who argue that that will make it even hard for Greece to implement the agreement and to try to get this by - - this idea that by 2020, Greece's debt will only be at 120 percent of GDP, and that's really difficult to see how that will happen when you have more austerity actually biting into the economy. But that's down the road.

What needs to happen now is for the finance ministers to say, OK, Greece. We've seen what you've gone through. We've seen what you've agreed to do. We know that payment (ph) is coming, but we think you've done enough now to get the next loan, and that's what we're looking for today.

STOUT: As you just pointed out, the first bailout, that wasn't enough for Greece, so will a second one be enough to help the country out of its debt crisis?

BOULDEN: Well, that -- there's the big issue. Part of the second bailout will be that some of the bondholders will, of course, take what's called a haircut. They will take a loss on the debt that Greece owes. So Greece will not only get a loan to help pay off some of the debt, it also will have the debt burden shrink. But that's also just a measure for now.

It's a Band-Aid, because a lot of people say that it's unsustainable anyway, even if Greece does implement and is able to match everything that the IMF and the ECB and the Eurozone want it to do. It's still very hard to see how it can get its debt burden down to a sustainable level.

But of course, this -- some people say this is a Band-Aid, and at least it takes Greece through March, but we may go through all of this again in the summer.

STOUT: Very clear analysis from Jim Boulden, turning to us (ph) live from London. Thank you, Jim.

And CNN will be following this story very closely. Tune in to "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" for comprehensive coverage of "Decision Day in Brussels." The latest reaction from Europe and abroad. That's from 9:00 am Eastern time, 10:00 pm in Hong Kong.

It is less than two weeks until Russia's presidential election, and Vladimir Putin's likely return to power. And Russians are making their feelings about their prospective leader very clear. Phil Black hit the streets of Moscow, where voters are driving their own election campaign.


PHIL BLACK, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): This is one way to spend a Saturday night in Moscow. Decorate your car, and join hundreds of other people, driving around the city, celebrating Vladimir Putin's imminent return to Russia's presidency. These Putin fans, like everyone else in the country, know he's going to win the coming election.

But after months of unprecedented protests challenging his political domination, there is still an unknown in this campaign. How convincing will Putin's victory be? So Putin's fans and opponents are still trying to rally support. And both groups are using political convoys. They can fly their flags while being protected from Moscow's bitter cold.

According to the song, these women want to find their own man like Putin. The next day, we meet more Putin fans, but they're in disguise. They're tying white ribbons to their cars to join a planned opposition rally. They refuse to talk to us, and tell us not to shoot video of them. We soon see why.

Behind dark windscreens, they drive at a crawl three lanes across. Behind them are Moscow's busy Garden Ring (ph), the traffic and rage filled.

Later, we see some of the same cars, and they look they've been in an accident. The cars are touching, but miraculous not as damaged. Opposition supporters who see these dirty tricks describe the men in words I can't repeat.

But this woman says she's not angry, because she believes they must be mentally ill if they want their country to continue suffering. The real opposition activists are easy to pick. They're not driving to hold up the traffic. Most have put some thought into their decorations. And whether they're in a car or cheering from the side of the road, they're almost always smiling.

BLACK: For 21/2 months there have been regular, well organized opposition protests on the streets of this city, but this is the first time we've seen one of them deliberately and effectively sabotaged. The presidential election is now two weeks away. It's just possible some of Vladimir Putin's supporters are beginning to feel the pressure -- Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.


STOUT: Well, coming up on NEWS STREAM, an eye for talent. We'll talk to the man who says he knew Jeremy Lin would be a star. That story right here on CNN.


STOUT: What's your Klout? Lady Gaga has a Klout score of 93; Oprah Winfrey, 81; Ariana Huffington, 72. And me, a measly 60. Now spelled with a K, Klout is a web tool that measures your social media influence. You just sign in with your Facebook or Twitter account, and it will calculate your Klout score, which is a combination of your number of connections and how actively you engage with them.

And what do you get out of it? Well, bragging rights for one, but there's also perqs, like gift cards for influential users. But is Klout a true reflection of influence?

For example, the head of the Iowa caucus in January, Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were tied according to their Klout scores, 78. But ultimately Rick Santorum won. So why the discrepancy? Klout founder and CEO Joe Fernandez weighs in.


JOE FERNANDEZ, KLOUT CEO AND CO-FOUNDER: Klout is your ability to drive action online. And that doesn't always reflect the real world. I think we've predicted that the New England Patriots would win the Super Bowl, because many of their players had higher Klout scores. But on the playing field, it's a different situation.


STOUT: So it looks like no matter influential you may be online, your actions in the real world still matter more.

Now snow is apparently not letting up in parts of South Asia. Let's get the forecast now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the World Weather Center. Mari?

MARI RAMOS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Kristie, we've been following these extremely cold temperatures across South Asia for quite a while already, particularly northern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and northern India, whose advisories posted again for many of those areas because of the cold temperatures.

I saw this picture and it -- very telling, and you see her hands are bare, her feet are, you know, she's wearing loafers, no socks. With the temperatures that dipped below freezing every single day, and the snow that doesn't seem to let up, it just has become extremely difficult for people in this part of the world.

You can see Cabo from here, but the temperature's right about 2 degrees. You can see the cold air extending down into the middle portions of Afghanistan, northern Pakistan. Islamabad, you're not doing too bad. And then as we head up into Jammu, Kashmir and even Himachal Pradesh, there are some snow warnings for you guys here across northern parts of India. So that, unfortunately, is going to continue.

And look at some of these totals that we're expecting as far as snow over the next 24 hours, or the next two days, I should say. Yildiz (ph) here, across northern Pakistan, you could get over 20 centimeters of additional snowfall.

In Srinagar, in India, the forecast now indicates another 40 centimeters of additional snow. This brings, of course, a lot of problems with transportation and also a lot of problems with the threat for avalanches. We're going to talk about that in just a moment.

This is from the Middle East. They've also had some snow across those areas over the weekend, but that, fortunately, has improved, so we're not going to see a problem there for now.

Also across East Asia, Northeast Asia in particular, we've been talking a bit about the snow for you guys here in Japan, in particular, across the Korean Peninsula as well. It looks like you'll get a little bit more, especially as we head over into Hokkaido, and the threat for avalanches remains across this region.

So it's almost like a -- like a theme that we have here with these winter weathers (sic) and the heavy snowfall. I want to show you some pictures that we had from the United States, and this is from a deadly avalanche that took place just in the last 24 hours.

Last night, Sunday night, in the U.S. state of Washington, 14 skiers - - experienced skiers, they're calling them -- got trapped -- off piece (ph), they were, in the backwoods area of this Stevens Pass in Washington State.

And there you see the avalanche. It took them by surprise. Three of them reportedly were killed, and the rest of them were rescued, a really tragic situation there, but just another example of how difficult and how dangerous all of this can actually be.

If you come back over to the weather map, I want to show you what's happening in Europe. And here again we're dealing with a threat for some very heavy snowfall across the north, and also in hard-hit areas across Central Europe, where Italy, Austria and then back over into the southeastern corner of Europe, the threat for avalanches once again, all of these areas that you see here in the blue, from, have some sort of advisory or posting due to avalanches. Let's go ahead and check out your city by city forecast.


RAMOS: And look at these pictures, with all the extreme cold temperatures that we've across Europe, these are pictures of the Danube, frozen of course. We've told you about that before. You can see these chunks of ice that have begun to move. They said just in the last couple of days, as the temperatures went on the rise, the ice chunks began to flow.

So these i-floes are -- ice floes are actually extremely dangerous, Kristie, because they can pile up very quickly, like what you see there. This photo op for this man in that picture, but extremely dangerous for shipping, and they can also cause flooding. They make the river back up.

The water can't keep flowing, and then you could see significant flooding behind that. We haven't seen that yet, but it's definitely a concern for these areas, these frozen areas of Eastern Europe. Back to you.

STOUT: Very dangerous, as you said, not a place for a photo op. Mari Ramos, thank you.

Now sport is up next, right here on NEWS STREAM, including competitive cheerleading, the coveted trophy for tumbling. And it takes some bumps and bruises to win.


STOUT: Welcome back. And time now for a sports update. And you may have thought Linsanity might wane after the New York Knicks lost on Friday, but it rebounded in a big way on Sunday. Alex Thomas is in London with more -- Alex?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORT REPORTER: Yes, Kristie, basketball's hottest young star, Jeremy Lin, helped the New York Knicks bounce back from last Friday's defeat to the Hornets with a win over the reigning NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks. This was Lin's toughest test since rocketing to global sporting fame in just two weeks.

The Knicks down by five in the third quarter when the 23-year-old American Asian point guard steals the ball, finishes with a jam to get Madison Square Garden roaring, and the Linderella story continues in the fourth, when he fakes a drive, pulls up and drains the three, part of his 28 points for the night.

New York leads by five, and then with just over 30 seconds on the clock, Lin collects a rebound from the Mavs' Jason Terry, and passes to J.R. Smith, who lays it in, as New York pulls away, Dallas' six-game winning streak is over, Lin and the Knicks make it eight wins out of nine.

Well, the Jeremy Lin story has been described as a fairy tale, and there's no doubt the Harvard graduate has enjoyed seeing his NBA career finally take off. However, his increased exposure has led to complications, and he issued this plea after Sunday night's game.


JEREMY LIN, NEW YORK KNICKS: I love my family, I love my relatives. One special request I have is for the media back in Taiwan to kind of give them their space, because they can't even, you know, go to work without being bombarded and people following them.

And so I just want people to respect the privacy of my relatives in Taiwan, and I think that's -- you know, hopefully, this will get back to everybody, because they need to live their lives as well.


THOMAS: Well, if you've enjoyed this story as much as us over the last fortnight, I thought, who could have predicted it? Well, actually, one man sort of did, CNN's Jim Spellman explains.


JIM SPELLMAN, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): From out of nowhere, Jeremy Lin and the ensuing Linsanity has taken the country by storm. But one man saw it coming, self-proclaimed stathead Ed Weiland.

ED WEILAND, AMATEUR SPORTS ANALYST: This is my -- sort of my master database.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Armed with a laptop and a mountain of college basketball statistics, Weiland pores over arcane details, looking for future NBA standouts. In 2010, Jeremy Lin, a little-known player at Harvard, caught his eye.

SPELLMAN: When you were analyzing Jeremy Lin as a college player, did you ever watch him play?

WEILAND: No. No, I didn't.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Based solely on statistics, like his ability to rebound, steal and block, Weiland wrote a blog post proclaiming Lin to be one of the best point guards in college basketball. At the time, no one listened, and Lin wasn't even drafted. But now he's the hottest player in the NBA, and among his fellow statheads, Weiland is looking pretty smart.

SPELLMAN: Do you look for underdogs?

WEILAND: Oh, yes, I mean -- I mean, I -- when I led the 2010 preview off with Jeremy Lin, the idea was that, you know, I thought this would -- if and when he broke out, you know, that there might be some notoriety there. I obviously never expected anything like this.

Yesterday's journal --

SPELLMAN (voice-over): But the notoriety has come, for Lin and for Weiland. Weiland's not the obvious sports analyst. He makes his living as a FedEx delivery driver in a small town in Oregon, far from the glamor of Madison Square Garden.

He watches the Linsanity unfold on an old TV in his simple apartment.

SPELLMAN: At the moment, you're both kind of underdogs in your -- in your -- in your chosen thing.

WEILAND: Yes, we are, aren't we? Connected.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Will they meet?

WEILAND: You know, I guess so, if it fits his and my schedule. Yes, I'd love to. That'd be fun.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Jim Spellman, CNN, Bend, Oregon.

THOMAS: And plenty of you out there will know what I mean when I say ed won (ph) is a bit of a mini-miss-the-money ball (ph), isn't he, what again is a potential disaster now for Barcelona on Sunday, change for the better, thanks to their star man, Lionel Messi, wasn't content with a hat trick, so he ended up scoring four goals in the Spanish Champions latest La Liga match.

This was after Barca had found themselves one mil (ph) down to Valencia. Mathew (ph) responding by scoring two goals in five minutes and netting another couple later in the game as the Catalan Giants (ph) won 5- 1, although they still trail. Well, legally (ph), there three on Madrid by 10 points. More Linsanity in "WORLD SPORT" later on, Kristie. Back to you for now.


STOUT: All right, Alex, thank you.

And now many people cheer for their sports team. But in the U.S., cheering is a sport in itself. Nine hundreds teams of cheerleaders are the national championships in Atlanta, and our Patrick Snell (ph) braved the pompoms to check it out.


PATRICK SNELL, ANCHOR, WORLD SPORT (voice-over): These aren't just kids yelling on the sidelines.

And this isn't some pep rally, either.

This is sport.


SNELL (voice-over): Meet the Ace Warriors from Birmingham, Alabama. These athletes are the current favorites to win the grand title at the Cheersport Nationals. They won the world competition last year, and qualified for the world for the last four years in a row, and they mean to repeat it this time around.

TANNER BACHOFER, ACE WARRIORS CHEERLEADER: I'm pretty excited. My first year back in Cheersport, and however long. And I'm hoping to come out with a jacket in the world's bid.

SNELL (voice-over): From Hawaii to Alaska, over 900 teams from around the United States come to Atlanta for one weekend to compete for a place in the world's finals, which is held in Florida. While the preparation is intense, the competition is absolutely frenetic.

MEREDITH THOMLEY, ACE WARRIORS CHEERLEADER: Whatever happens this week, whether we win, I really hope that our team can just come together and do the best that we possibly can, because that is the most accomplishing feeling in the world.

SNELL (voice-over): They've been through a lot, injuries --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bunch of broken fingers.

ALLISON BERLER, ACE WARRIORS CHEERLEADER: Torn some ligaments in the bottom of my foot --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Broken ankle --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of back injuries --

BERLER: Last year around this time I had shattered my heel, but I ended up deciding to make the decision and to off my path (ph) with my mom's consent, and I didn't tumble, the coach wouldn't let me, but I did go on and perform, and we did get our world bid. So it was worth it.

SNELL (voice-over): Long days --

TORRES: I basically have given up my social life, because I'm gone every weekend, practicing or competing, so it comes down to school and cheer and school and cheer and cheer.


SNELL (voice-over): -- and, of course, some sacrifices, because it's not just the athletes who prepare. The Warriors' parents and coaches put in their own long hours.

JENNY EDWARDS, ACE WARRIORS MOM: I'm the bus driver, all the time.


TRACIE BLAIR, ACE WARRIORS COACH: I lose four pounds every Cheersport, it's -- because that's how much we run, walk -- I come home, and I am so happy.

EDWARDS: Picking her up from school, taking her straight to the gym, not only does she practice, you know, when the team practices, which is twice a week, sometimes three times a week, and a lot of times on the weekends we'll have practices.

SNELL: Right now, this is everyone's (inaudible) but on the final day of competition, a season of sweat, tears and quite literally blood will come to an end.

What happens after that? (Inaudible) gym, where they get to do it all over again -- Patrick Snell, CNN, Atlanta.


STOUT: With just one look, you can probably guess exactly what TV show this scene is from, and "The Simpson" reached an incredible milestone on Sunday. That's when the 500th episode aired, making it the longest- running cartoon, sitcom and scripted primetime series in history.

Now this is "The Simpsons" 23rd year on the FOX Network. And to put that into perspective, consider the other FOX shows that have come and gone in that time.

Do you remember "The X-Files"? And "The X-Files" started in 1997. And by that point, "The Simpsons" was already eight years old. Or maybe you were more into "24," or "Malcolm in the Middle," or "Ally McBeal."

Now the website screenjunkie says some 244 primetime FOX shows have aired and ended since "The Simpsons" first hit your TV. And there should be two more seasons to come. So "The Simpsons" have time to outlive even more shows.

And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.