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Will Talks in Tunisia Bring About a Breakthrough in Crisis in Syria?; Al-Shabaab's Global Threat; Afghan Anger Over Burning of Qurans; Hollywood Gears Up For Oscars

Aired February 24, 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 an online video shows a gun battle breaking out on the streets of Homs as the Free Syrian Army fights back and countries gather to find a way to end the conflict.

Terror group Al-Shabaab is said to be aiming for Americans not just as targets, but as recruits.

And it is a digital scrapbook crossed with a social network, why Pinterest is attracting interest from the Pentagon.

World powers are gathering in Tunisia looking for ways to end mounting bloodshed in Syria and get humanitarian aid to those in need. The Friends of Syria meeting follows one of the deadliest days since the Syrian uprising began nearly one year ago. Activists say 100 people were killed on Thursday, including 14 children, and at least two people have died so far this Friday.


STOUT: This city of Homs still appears to be under heavy bombardment. Here, a fire rages after an apparent rocket attack.

And further north, an explosion rocks the city of Al-Rastan. CNN cannot verify these YouTube videos since journalists are heavily restricted inside Syria.

In Idlib, an apparent gun battle breaks out between the Free Syrian Army and government forces. And Syria continues to blame terrorists for the violence.

In Tunisia's capital, foreign ministers from some 70 countries are gathering to assess ways to end the conflict. Now, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the priorities include increased sanctions, humanitarian aid and helping the opposition.

Now, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, says every possible peaceful means of pressure will be explored. And among those who decided not to attend, Lebanon and Iran, also China and Russia, who both vetoed a U.N. security resolution on Syria earlier this month.

As the talks in Tunisia get under way, diplomatic sources tell CNN that several Arab countries have started arming the Syrian rebels.

Let's talk to Michael Holmes, who is live in Beirut, Lebanon. He joins us now.

And Michael, will these talks in Tunisia bring about a breakthrough in the crisis?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what everybody's hoping for, Kristie, but of course there's been a lot of talks so far and there's been a lot of pressure so far, and nothing has happened.

We're expecting some sort of declaration to demand an immediate cease-fire, humanitarian assessment to be made, and the threat of further sanctions if that is ignored. But we've seen the regime of Bashar al-Assad so far ignore everything that's being put to him. The one hope is that perhaps the Russians might be able to independently, obviously, of what's going on in Tunisia, convince Bashar al-Assad to open up some sort of humanitarian corridor to help the people in some of these besieged areas.

As far as the opposition group the Syrian National Council, a lot of people wondering if the Tunisian meeting will give them some legitimacy. You know, it's going to be interesting to hear the language of that, whether they have named the legitimate representatives of Syrians or a legitimate representative. It's a very fractured group, and some people are reluctant to go wholeheartedly behind that one opposition organization -- Kristie.

STOUT: And meanwhile, the situation inside Syria, we've been watching activists broadcast this live footage from Homs, seeing large demonstrations taking place there. Should we be surprised that this is happening given the ongoing, nonstop shelling?

HOLMES: No, not at all. I mean, you mentioned the death toll earlier. We can update that now.

We're told by activists it's now at 22 this day. The shelling does continue all around, particularly in Baba Amr. It has been going on today, less than yesterday, we are told.

You know, interesting. There's a journalist in there, one of those journalists that we've been reporting on, uninjured. He is Xavier Espinosa, and he has actually been tweeting. I've been following what he's been saying.

He says the shelling is continuing. He says that there's actually fighting going on at the entrance to Baba Amr, that neighborhood of Homs. He says that that fighting has been going on. He even speaks of hearing drones overhead, and so it's been interesting to follow his version of what's been going on inside that area.

We've also heard of various clashes around the country of an increased military presence in various towns and cities as well. Also, protests around the country in support of the people of Homs -- Kristie.

STOUT: We've also seen YouTube videos of the wounded reporters trapped in Homs. What efforts are being made to get them out, and could it lead to greater help for the people of Homs?

HOLMES: Yes. What we're hearing -- of course, Britain and France, yesterday, demanding that the Syrian regime allow those reporters to be taken out. Of course, two were killed in that shelling on Wednesday, an American reporter, French photographer. Two others were wounded, a British cameraman, a photographer, and a French journalist. It is Bouvier (ph) who is the worst injured. Those -- and there is another journalist there, of course, who I mentioned, Xavier Espinosa.

The ICRC, the International Committee for the Red Cross, has for the last 48 hours been desperately trying to convince the regime to open up some sort of humanitarian corridor to get them out. One thing that we have heard today which was interesting, which is that the French ambassador to Syria, who was recalled in protest of what has been going on in Syria, has returned to Damascus. Whether he is there to try to broker some sort of humanitarian assistance for those journalists is yet to be seen, but it's significant that he's just gotten back to Damascus after having been recalled.

So, at the moment, the short answer is, no, there is no new information on whether there's going to be any access to those journalists or, let's face it, the others who are injured in Homs as well. We've been talking to activists who say that there are plenty of other injured people there as well who are bleeding to death, who have significant injuries that can't be treated inside Baba Amr and elsewhere.

So there is no fresh news, but there seems to be an awful lot of pressure being applied to the Syrian regime to allow some sort of assistance to get in there, to get those people out, because the injuries, particularly to Bouvier (ph), quite serious.

STOUT: Michael Holmes, on the story for us.

Thank you very much, indeed, Michael.

Now, two visible symbols of the opposing sides in Syria are the flags flown during the demonstrations. Now, pro-government supporters, they carry this, official red, white and black version with two green stars. But anti-government protesters have opted to use a different flag, this one. It's a green, white and black flag with three red stars, which was the national flag of Syria before the era of the ruling Ba'ath Party.

Now, here is a clear look at the difference between the two flags. It is subtle, but it does send a clear message of opposition to President al- Assad.

To Somalia now, where reports say at least three Al-Shabaab militants were killed in a strike on their vehicle south of Mogadishu on Friday. And the news comes one day after London hosted a global conference on the violence in Somalia. Leaders gathered there to say Al-Shabaab militants have now become a global threat.

Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson shows us why.


OMAR HAMMAMI, AL-SHABAAB: So we're planning to put them in an ambush and try to blow up as many of their vehicles as we can.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of all of Al-Shabaab's weapons, this man may be one of the most dangerous.

HAMMAMI: So the only reason we're staying here, away from our families, away from the cities, away from ice, candy bars, all these other things, is because we're waiting to meet with the enemy.

ROBERTSON: Omar Hammami Al-Amriki, a Muslim convert from Alabama, now a Shabaab commander. He is one of Al-Shabaab's leading recruiters targeting Somali-Americans in the U.S., and it's working.

(on camera): According to U.S. congressional investigators, more than 40 Americans have joined Al-Shabaab. Of those, 15 have been killed, several of them in suicide bombings. But more than 20 American Al-Shabaab members remain at large, their whereabouts overseas unknown.

(voice-over): In the past few weeks, Al-Shabaab has formally joined forces with al Qaeda. U.S. Congressman Peter King is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: We have to assume, we have to operate on the presumption that al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab will not just unite, but they will join forces to attack the United States.

ROBERTSON: That would be a game-changer. Shabaab offers al Qaeda far more Americans than they have ever had from any other affiliate in the past, because Shabaab has been able to recruit from inside American-Somali communities.

KING: You have the combination of a low-income community, a very insular- type community being actively recruited from overseas and having facilitators here in this country, and the leadership, in too many cases in this country, not cooperating with law enforcement.

ROBERTSON: In Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's leader, has a well-established MO for American recruits: train them and send them home to attack.

Britain's intelligence services former counterterrorism chief Richard Barrett now tracks al Qaeda for the U.N. He believes Zawahiri wants the same from Al-Shabaab.

RICHARD BARRETT, U.N. AL QAEDA MONITORING CHIEF: And it's certainly a model that he would like to replicate elsewhere. As I said, I think it's become very difficult in the Pakistan-Afghanistan area, and if it could happen elsewhere, that would be great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dear brothers and sisters, today jihad is (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTSON: Recent statements from Al-Shabaab fighters indicate that is exactly their ambition. But despite the rhetoric, Barrett suspects they are some ways off from delivering. To date, one bombing in Uganda and two failed attacks in Europe.

BARRETT: None of those things really suggest to me that the foreigners in Somalia are set up to make some sort of major operation overseas, partly, as I say, because I think they're well-surveilled, but partly also because they just haven't had the training, they haven't got the capacity to do that yet.

ROBERTSON: Somali communities in the U.S. in places like Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, have been working with police and the FBI to prevent and identify radicalization, but there is always a risk.

KING: You could have Al-Shabaab supporters in this country recruited and mobilized to carry out attacks in the country.

ROBERTSON: New recruits who never leave home before they attack.

Nic Robertson, CNN, New York.


STOUT: Coming up next on NEWS STREAM, prayer and protest in Afghanistan, where anger over the burning of Qurans at a U.S.-run air base continues to grow.

Australia's former prime minister goes after his old job.

And one basketball legend reflects on the rise of another superstar. Yao talks Lin, straight ahead.


STOUT: In Afghanistan, rage over the burning of Islamic religious materials continues to inflame the streets. Now, after Friday prayers, demonstrations broke out in several places for a fourth straight day. Four people were killed in protests in the city of Herat. President Obama has apologized to the Afghan government for the burning of Qurans by NATO forces, but that is generating political heat in the U.S. Now, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich asked why Mr. Obama had not demanded an apology from Afghanistan for Thursday's killing of two American troops by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform.

For the latest on the protests, I'm joined now live by CNN's Nick Paton Walsh from the Afghan capital of Kabul.

And Nick, the violence, it goes on in Afghanistan. What can be done to stop it at this point?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an increasingly serious picture this afternoon. There had been hopes that appeals by the Afghan president, by Afghan authorities to religious leaders to calm things might have had some success, but we're now into our fourth straight day of violent protests.

Let's start in the west of the country, in Herat. Three separate violent protests there, the most significant resulting in the deaths of two people around the U.S. Consulate in Herat. Many injured as well, police cars set on fire.

We understand that demonstration may now be ebbing, but concerns really that these pockets of violence have crept up across that particular province. Also, it appears one civilian killed as protesters approached a base in Baghlan, in the north of the country, apparently damaging some of its outer protective walls. That's not something ISAF has confirmed yet. But also, in Kabul, itself, demonstrations here, shots fired in the air to slow them moving towards the presidential palace, and two people injured.

So reports coming in slowly of really a day where, frankly, the violence has continued as it had in the past three days, raising concerns as to when exactly does this stop -- Kristie.

STOUT: The violence has spread. How does the Taliban figure in all this? Has the Quran-burning incident turned into an opportunity for the Taliban to win hearts and minds?

WALSH: To a certain extent, you could argue that. It's very early to tell. Much of these protests are perhaps the result of economic reasons, or general long-term resentment against the NATO presence, or what many see as the ineffectiveness of the Afghan government and security forces here.

So, yes, the Taliban has tried to tap into this. In previous protests, there have been suggestions that, actually, insurgents hijacked them and caused some of the violence to materialize. There's no evidence of that as yet today, but it's still a very early stage.

And I think the major concern is that there had been hopes hours ago that this was going to pass relatively peacefully, but slowly these reports are trickling in from across the country. I should point out another one, in fact, in Takhar, in the north of Afghanistan. Fifty German soldiers were removed from an outpost up there at a part (ph) that had been planned earlier, but they were removed today because protests were apparently in the vicinity.

So, deep concern, I think, across NATO, as you say, also, after those two Americans were killed on Thursday -- Kristie.

STOUT: And as you're reporting on this fourth day of continued anger and unrest across the country, what is the mood among ordinary Afghan civilians? Do most accept the apologies from the United States, or do they support these violent protests?

WALSH: I think there is genuine fury amongst many Afghans. I think the U.S. has done what it thinks is the best it can. It's been transparent about how this occurred, launched an investigation, apologized now from the highest possible level a hand-delivered letter by the U.S. ambassador to the Afghan president. But that doesn't really seem to have washed with many Afghans on the streets now.

There are other reasons, of course, why they're there -- dissatisfaction of the NATO presence, a decade in which the promises made have not been kept by both the U.S. and Afghan authorities here, which of course are fueling this. But I think we really have to look at now what the days ahead bring, whether this continues, whether the bitter cold that people are enduring in Afghanistan puts them off, coming out on the streets further, or whether somehow this continues a worrying momentum -- Kristie.

STOUT: Nick Paton Walsh, reporting live from Kabul.

Thank you.

Now, there is much more ahead here on NEWS STREAM. In fact, after the break, we will have a sports update next as Jeremy Lin faces his toughest test yet, LeBron James and the Miami Heat. We'll have all the highlights in just a couple of minutes.


STOUT: Welcome back.

And time now for a sports update.

And Jeremy Lin has been the NBA's hottest commodity for the past few weeks, but he was cooled off by the Heat on Thursday night.

And to explain the apparent contradiction, let's go to Alex Thomas. He joins us live from London -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, Kristie, he's become a hero to basketball fans around the world, graced the covers of magazines and newspapers, been talked about on chat shows, and inspired a veritable conveyor belt of puns based on his name. But Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks were brought back down to earth by the Miami Heat on Thursday night in Florida.

Lin, going through his normal pre-game ritual, but without the same outcome this time against the Heat's star-studded lineup in Miami. King James sort of out-teaching New York's young prince of basketball a lesson or two.

There's an early alley (ph) jam. The Heat speaks (INAUDIBLE) in this one. Chris Bosh with a game high of 25 points. And Dwyane Wade adding 22 himself.

The score is still close at this stage in the second, but already signs that Miami's defense was suffocating Lin, dispossessed by Mario Chalmers there. And James takes it all the way down the court for two of his 20 points.

The Heat were ahead by 10 in the third when Lin was blocked by John Anthony (ph). And the resulting break, Shane Battier took advantage with the three. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni looking puzzled as Lin hitches one of 11 shots from the field.

No stopping Miami, though, as they race to their eighth win in a row, the NBA's best streak. James adding nine rebounds and eight assists. The Knicks lose 102-88, putting the recent "Linsanity" into perspective.


JEREMY LIN, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'm not going to hang my head or anything like that. I know I went out there and I played hard. And, you know, you can't win them all and you can't have a great game every game. But at the same time, I need to understand, OK, what did I do wrong, how can I improve?

And I think that's going to be exciting, because this team is young in terms of, you know, players coming in and players coming back. And so, obviously, as a point guard and the leader on the floor, you know, having the ball in my hands, I have to make sure that I'm learning and I'm approving so I can lead this team when I have the ball in my hands, so I can take care of the ball and things like that.


THOMAS: Now maybe the Jeremy Lin brand will be as big as the Tiger Woods brand one day. And golf's former number one has looked sharp for this season, but this week's Accenture World Match Play (INAUDIBLE) also proved he still has some way to go to rediscover the mastery that brought him 14 major titles.

In his second round match against Nick Watney, Tiger went one down here after a tough thunker (ph) shot. You saw the ball skew (ph) to the right of the green, ending up near a rock in the Arizona desert. Look at Woods' reaction -- none too happy about that.

Although there were flashes of the player of the old. For example, here at the 18th, when his approach finished seven feet away. The formal world number one searching for the birdie that he knew he needed to take this match to extra holes.

In the past, Woods was renowned for sinking putts of this length time and again, but his effort here didn't even graze the hole. Tiger is out and Watney goes through to the last 16.

Much more on "WORLD SPORT" later on, Kristie. For now, back to you in Hong Kong.

STOUT: Alex, thank you and take care.

Now, it's not only sports fans who are thrilled by Lin's dramatic rise to stardom. Players past and present have also been paying close attention, including China's last NBA great, Yao Ming.

Stan Grant sat down with Yao to get his take on Lin's success.



(voice-over): Yes, he is a very big man with very big shoes to fill. Who will be the next Yao Ming? That question may well have been answered.

YAO MING, FMR. NBA PLAYER: Very surprised. Before the "surprise" we have to say "very" surprised.

GRANT: Yao, you're not alone. Jeremy Lin has taken everyone by surprise. From the New York Knicks bench to starting star in just a matter of weeks, the "Linsanity" has sparked "Lindemonium." Those clunky headlines are wearing out their welcome, and he's only just getting started.

MING: No, he is the player I'd like to play with if I'm still a player. You know, he's a team player. Everybody likes the way he (INAUDIBLE). But I have -- honestly, that he do much more what I respect.

GRANT: Yao and Lin talk on the phone and swap messages. Like himself, Lin, he says, is a trailblazer.

MING: He gives a lot of hope to the kids who have the same background as him -- Asian-American, second generation, maybe third. You know, can follow his footprints and to play -- more confidence to play basketball.

GRANT: Yao has been there and seen it all. His 7'6", 2.29 meter frame busted down barriers, becoming basketball's first Chinese mega-star. So if Jeremy Lin wants advice, he's come to the right place.

MING: Not much of a secret there. I know people are talking a lot about it, that I give him some tips or something. Actually, it's not really that way. I just -- congratulations to him. We're happy about him.

And I just want him to know that we are supporting him. I'm a big fan of him.

GRANT: This is where Yao gets his basketball fix now. Forced to retire because of injuries, he's the owner of the Shanghai Sharks. They've made this year's China League playoffs, but even here the talk is of a player far from this court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you like basketball?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know Jeremy Lin?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) is great. I mean, you know, he plays so good. And also the young guy in the U.S. And lots of Chinese like him -- love him.

GRANT (on camera): Here's a question. Who owns Jeremy Lin? Now, these people here will tell you he's Chinese. His parents come from Taiwan. He was born in America, American citizen. And it's becoming a very hot issue.

Is he Chinese or American?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's American. But his blood is Chinese.

GRANT (voice-over): Even in sport, politics is never far away. To Chinese, Taiwan independence is a red-button issue.

Yao has a simple answer.

MING: He's a great basketball player.

GRANT (on camera): That's it?

(voice-over): And right now that's more than enough.

Stan Grant, CNN, Shanghai.


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

And coming up, protecting Israel's civilians. The country readies itself as fear mounts of a deadly attack by Iran.

And one-time allies lock horns down under. Australia's last prime minister prepares to slug it out with the current prime minister for the country's top job.


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

Now activists say 22 people have been killed in Syria so far this Friday. It comes as foreign ministers from 70 countries meet in Tunisia. They're seeking ways to deliver humanitarian aid and help the Syrian opposition. Russia and China are not attending the talk.

Anti-U.S. Demonstrations erupt across Afghanistan for a fourth straight day over the burning of Korans by NATO troops. Now four people were killed and nine wounded in today's demonstrations. President Obama has apologized to the Afghan government for the burnings which the U.S. calls a mistake.

The standoff over Iran's nuclear program is showing more signs of straining the global economy. Now the price of Brent crude oil has climbed more than 5 percent in the past week as U.S. petrol prices keep rising. Now Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to international sanctions. UN nuclear officials visited Iran this week, but failed to resolve the crisis.

Now Iran insists its nuclear program is only for civilian energy purposes, but western countries and their allies say Iran is moving toward development of nuclear weapons. Now Israel has threatened military action against the Iranian regime. And as Fionnuala Sweeney reports Israeli officials are now preparing for the worst.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A sunny winter's afternoon in Tel Aviv. For some, the possibility of an armed conflict with Iran seems a long way off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there is a real danger actually. I don't believe the politicians to tell the truth. I don't believe in this danger.

SWEENEY: But others do. There's growing concern that Israel may be vulnerable to a devastating counterstrike if the country attacks Iran's nuclear program. And here at this hospital near the beach the potential danger is being taken very seriously indeed.

The hospital's underground car park is designed to convert into an emergency facility in the event of an attack. The cars would be moved to make way for 700 patients from the hospital above ground tot his secure site which spans four levels complete with an operating room.

PRO. GABI BARASH, DIRECTOR, ICHILOV HOSPITAL: My biggest concern is the management of the facility, of this facility, because it is not usual way to (inaudible) departments. It's a huge mess of people in a confined space -- panic, stressed out. You know, we don't know what's happening outside. They have families there.

SWEENEY: Each bed position would be equipped with oxygen and electrical power points, sealed off from the outside world and protected from biological and chemical attack. This hospital can function for up to seven days.

DAN MERIDOR, ISRAELI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: So if there is a war -- I hope there won't be a war -- they are not going to hit just Israeli soldiers, they'll mainly aim at the civilian population.

SWEENEY: Rockets fired from militants in Gaza into Southern Israel have been intercepted by the Iron Dome Defense System. But the system doesn't have a 100 percent success rate. And it hasn't yet been deployed in other parts of the country.

At the end of last year, Israel's state comptroller criticized local government's preparedness for emergencies, citing deficiencies in public shelters and insufficient evacuation procedures.

More recently, the Israel defense forces said some 60 percent of Israelis had received gas masks. The 40 percent without was blamed on a lack of budgetary organization.

While the debate rages as to whether Israel will strike Iran, the wait to see if recent tougher international sanctions might work may be buying more time, more time to prepare for any strike, more time to prepare for any repercussions, more time to see whether a strike will be needed at all.

Fionnuala Sweeney, CNN, Jerusalem.


LU STOUT: Australian politics is scaling dramatic heights with a showdown for the job of prime minister looming. Now former foreign minister Kevin Rudd has announced he will challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the party leadership. He resigned as foreign minister while on a trip to Washington earlier this week. Now Labor Party MPs will be polled on their preferred leader at a caucus in Canberra on Monday.

Now Rudd and the prime minister came out swinging on Friday both claiming they can beat opposition leader Tony Abbott at the next general election. Network 10's Hugh Riminton has the latest on the showdown.


HUGH RIMINTON, 10 NEWS CORRESPONDENT: He is back and he is running.

KEVIN RUDD, FRM. AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Julia has lost the trust of the Australian people. And starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust.

RIMINTON: Kevin Rudd says he wants to finish the job he was elected to do in 2007. Without him, he says, Labor is doomed.

RUDD: If we're honest to ourselves, all indications are that we're heading for the rocks at the next election.

RIMINTON: He flew in this morning still teasing about whether he would challenge at all. After barricading himself at home with his wife and key advisers he emerged to declare he alone could defeat Tony Abbott, the most negative political force, he says, we have ever seen.

RUDD: Beating Mr. Abbott is vital. And beating Mr. Abbott is achievable. He is entirely beatable.

RIMINTON: The prime minister was among community workers who recently gained a major pay increase under the fair work process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't that fabulous?

RIMINTON: Kevin Rudd has called for people power, for voters to urge their Labor MP's to back him. She dismissed that with barely concealed contempt.

JILL GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: This is not an episode of celebrity Big Brother this is about who should be prime minister.

RIMINTON: Late this afternoon she made her pitch as the leader who was delivering hard reforms.

GILLARD: Talk is easy, getting things done is harder. And I am the person who gets things done.

RIMINTON: Julia Gillard repeated that phrase "getting things done" numerous times. She had another crack at Kevin Rudd over undermining her government. And she won't be written off as a loser.

GILLARD: I am confident I can lead Labor to a victory at the next election.

RIMINTON: Julia Gillard believes she will win easily come Monday. Right now her own count the prime minister is holding around 70 caucus votes, with 29 solid for Kevin Rudd and four undecided. But that is fluid. So what, if he loses?

RUDD: I would go to the back bench and I would not challenge Julia a second time.

RIMINTON: But that is what they all say.

Hugh Riminton, 10 News.


LU STOUT: Now a leadership challenge is a climactic finale to a volatile political relationship. Kevin Rudd was elected prime minister in 2007. And for awhile he was one of Australia's most popular serving prime ministers but support for him weighed after critics charged he had backtracked on several environmental promises. In June 2010 while she was his deputy Julia Gillard launched and won a leadership challenge against Rudd.

Now Ms. Gillard called a general election later that year, but a drop in support resulted in a hung parliament. She cobbled together a coalition with a couple of independents to form a minority government. She later appointed Rudd as her minister of foreign affairs.

And then this week's development, Rudd's shock resignation as foreign minister. And now his all-out bid to leave the country for a second time.

Up next here on NEWS STREAM, what possible interest could U.S. politicians and army personnel have in this kind of a web site? The answer is ahead. Stay with us.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media web sites out there. It gives you the ability to curate photos on various online pin boards and to follow the pin boards created by others. Consider it a digital scrapbook with themes of your choice like favorite food, geek gifts, or awesome album covers.

Now along with general consumers graphic designers, event planners, even fashionistas are among those joining the sight. But as the sight's popularity has grown so has interest from politicians and even the U.S. Department of Defense. Lisa Sylvester has more.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Think of Pinterest as an online bulletin board, a place where you can pin cool pictures and images. It can be organized by categories. It's particularly popular among women.

IRIS KIM, COLLEGE STUDENT: Girls like to read fashion magazines and kind of fold in the pages of things that they like. And this just like provides it like a website and it's a lot easier to navigate.

SYLVESTER: There are more than 11 million active users a month according to the website. Like Twitter or Facebook Pinterest users can build a following. But it differs from those social media sites in that content isn't fleeting, it stays put.

One segment of the government leveraging Pinterest, the Pentagon. The army Pinterest board, for example, shows family life in the military, boot camp pictures, and historical images.

SHAYNA BROUKER, U.S. ARMY CIVILIAN PUBLIC AFFAIRS SPECIALIST: We want to connect America with its army and to tell the army's story in whatever way that we can. We think that Pinterest is a great way to do that.

SYLVESTER: Pinterest is also appearing on the political horizon. Ann Romney, wife of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, launched her Pinterest board this week. Her likes range from a recipe for pistachio cake to a love note Mitt Romney left for her when he just missed her at a campaign stop.

MARK DRAPEAU, EDITOR IN CHIEF, PUBLICYTE.COM: It's very clear she's trying to be personal and convey emotion and be very real and to some degree real-time with that. And that's, youk now, endearing right? And I think with the kind of user base that Pinterest has right now at this moment this kind of material is particularly appealing.

SYLVESTER: But Pinterest goes both ways. The liberal group Think Progress has several boards called the luxury hotels and private jets of the Romney campaign.

CHARLIE WARZEL, WRITER: ...thing you like, dislike.

SYLVESTER: Tech writer Charlie Warzel criticizes Pinterest arguing it's a dwindling down of the long form content from a full length article to a shorter blog post to 140 character tweet to finally just a picture.

WARZEL: Pinterest to me almost feels like the end of the line here where it's, you know, there's almost no original content. You just click a button and you share someone else's photo.

SYLVESTER: The site's popularity has exploded, the number of users has increased 145 percent since the start of this year.

In terms of internet traffic, Pinterest ranks 17th in the United States. That is more popular than the web sites of the New York Times, PayPal, Netflix, and among others.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


LU STOUT: Now let's check into the world weather center for your global forecast. Meteorologist Tom Sater is standing by -- Tom.

TOM SATER, CNN WEATEHR CORRESPONDENT: You're living large there in Hong Kong right now -- partly cloudy skies, 19 degrees Celsius, the only blemish a little bit of a wind coming in from the east 32 kilometers per hour. But notice the flow of moisture across Asia here from west to east, higher in the atmosphere, really picking up some moisture. Most of the thunderstorm convective activities well offshore.

But I want to point out the clearing that we have. High pressure has been the dominant weather feature for some time and when you have high pressure it's the weight of the atmosphere down in the earth so cloud cover really doesn't develop. And if you don't have that you're not going to have precipitation.

We are in an area, and are looking at an area here of extreme drought, severe for the most part, in areas of orange. But it's this color, this light orange, this cyan color, a large amount of real estate that's under moderate drought. If things do not change in the coming weeks, this entire area could be under a severe drought. So we need some rainfall.

They've had some well to the east. Northeast Japan has been picking up rain the last 24 hours, anywhere from 50 to 125 millimeters. And there's more rain on the way and more snowfall, but not just snowfall for the west coast.

This is the storm system that brought the rainfall, kind of quiet period right now. You see the cold well up to the north. Here comes the next system. This is diving south, so as everything circulates counterclockwise not only are we going to get some coastal rainfall, but snow will be found inland as it wraps around in that colder air.

Typically we talk about the sea breeze effect that, that lake effect snow that comes into the higher terrain in the west coast, but as you see here it's not just going to be the coast, we're going to find a larger pattern, really, a larger area of coverage. More citizens will be seeing some of the white stuff.

But temperatures pretty nice. As mentioned, 19 in Hong Kong. These are highs for Saturday. You'll see it again. Tokyo, you're currently at 8 degrees. You'll see 8 again for the high temperature. But for most locations not bad. Of course, the heat well down south. Bangkok 33.

Let's talk about Australia. Notice the convective activity. Thunderstorms across the northern coast on the top end. But it's been a little too much in areas well to the east. I want to show you a radar out of Brisbane right now. In fact, through the day today already 65 millimeters. There have been isolated spots on the coast that have even picked up more than that, near 100. In fact, as we take a look at some of locations what we found in that rainfall, 130 millimeters already. We're getting another 65 in Brisbane.

It looks like more rainfall for the coast. Notice the onshore flow, everything circulates around this area of high pressure. So warnings in effect from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Beach. But it also picks up the heat from the interior parts of Australia and drops it to the south.

Sydney, you haven't really picked up much in the way of temperatures above 30, only once so far. Look at -- as we take a look here at New Zealand, their temperatures on the flip side of that area of high pressure, 11 in Christchurch. Bu Sydney, you've only hit 30 degrees once. Typically you have about nine.

More coming your way after our city by city forecast. Stay with us.

Well, I hate to leave you with bad news, but it seems like when we cover these severe weather extremes this is what we have. You'll remember about a month ago we talked about an avalanche that was of course in northern areas of India and killed 11, in fact soldiers, a patrol, a joint patrol of Indian army and border security. Well, they've had two more. In fact two avalanches swept over military camps in Indian controlled Kashmir killing at least 11 soldiers leaving eight others missing.

The first avalanche in two army camps was near a health resort in Sonamarg and the other in Dawar, a town close to the line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The first one in the Sonamarg camp buried several troops. They were able to rescue all but three, unfortunately. The bodies of two soldiers and an officer had been recovered.

The second avalanche that hit the Dawar camp buried 29 soldiers alive. They were able to recover eight bodies, however they searched for eight more. And the good news is even though we've had some snowfall nothing like we've had in fact just a couple of days ago was looking at an additional 30 centimeters. So at least snowfall amounts are starting to lighten up.

Kristie, back to you.

LU STOUT: Yeah, good to hear. These avalanches so powerful, so sudden, very scary stuff.

Tom Sater there, thank you.

Now it is Hollywood's animal showdown. The Oscars is happening soon, in fact, on Sunday. And some of the biggest stars are in a fighting mood as they battle for the hotly contested golden statuette.

Kareen Wynter sizes up the competition.


KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George Clooney and Brad Pitt are going toe-to-toe. Viola Davis and Meryl Streep are duking it out. And Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer and neck and neck.

Showbiz Tonight can tell you these Academy Award nominees and longtime pals make up the hottest Oscar showdowns this year.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: I hope you were the groom.

WYNTER: Clooney and Pitt share one of Hollywood's most talked about bromances first teaming up in Ocean's 11.

Pitt shook up a lead actor nomination for Moneyball. Clooney earned a nod in the same category for The Descendants. And it sounds like the rivalry is heating up.

What's up with this friendly competition going on between you and your best bud Brad Pitt up for Moneyball?

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: There's nothing friendly about it. I'm going to say that right now.

PITT: We're going to wrestle it out at the end. We're just going to fight it out. And the last man standing takes it all.

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: My money is on Brad. I mean in a fist fight.

WYNTER: And they're not the only big stars squaring off on the road to gold.

VIOLA DAVIS, OSCAR NOMINEE: I can whoop Meryl Streep's behind in a good old fashioned street fight. Now as far as the Oscars, I don't know about that.

WYNTER: The Help's Viola Davis may not know, but Showbiz Tonight can tell you she's currently the favorite in the lead actress category despite being nominated against two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep.

DAVIS: I'm just honored to be in her company.

WYNTER: Viola's co-star in The Help, Octavia Spencer, tells us she's honored to battle it out for the supporting actress Oscar. That big showdown pits her against her pal, Bridesmaids standout Melissa McCarthey.

OCTAVIA SPENCER, ACTRESS: Now if it were people that I didn't know, maybe there would be that competitive thing, but I know what she's been through and she knows what I've been through. We're thrilled to be there side by side.

WYNTER: Side by side or head to head these showdowns will be decided on the Oscar stage. But no matter who ends up with the gold, the contenders seem to be enjoying it.

CLOONEY: It's really nice. It's fun.


LU STOUT: Kareen Wynter reporting ahead of the Oscars this Sunday.

Now a royal dinner in Denmark has served up a lot more than food. Now take a look at this photo and the wandering eyes of Finland's first gentleman. Now what is he looking at? Our Jeanne Moos gives us the full picture ahead.


LU STOUT: Now as many a lady will tell you, men's eyes can be known to wander. Now exactly what they're looking at, well we can only speculate.

As Jeanne Moos reports, one questionable glance has drummed up an eye full of attention.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did the husband of Finaland's president get caught sneaking a peek at a gala? Sure it happens to teenage boys with raging hormones. One minute you're zoning out while zooming in in math class, the next minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I is an imaginary number.

MOOS: You're nabbed.

But this is the husband of Finland's president seemingly oogling Princess Mary of Denmark. The giveaway may be the guilty look up to the ceiling as she covers her bosom though maybe he was just inspecting her jewels.

At least the princess didn't tell him to focus as singer Nicole Sherzinger did to Conan.

NICOLE SHERZINGER, SINGER: They asked me to be a guest judge -- focus, Conan -- to be.

CONAN O'BRIEN, CONAN O'BRIEN HOST: Finally let's be real here for a second.

SHERZINGER: Speaking of...

O'BRIEN: You didn't think I was going to look down there?

MOOS: Poor guys betrayed by even a subtle lowering of their eyelids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My eyes are up here, Donny. Bring it up. Bring it up.

DONNY DEUTSCH: I think if a woman is going to show cleavage like that, a man is allowed to look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But this is a girl's best accessory.

MOOS: Up, up, up. Pictures can make guys look like boobs even when they're innocent.

Remember President Obama's tail to the chief moment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's causing quite a buzz.

MOOS: There was the president at a summit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giving a young woman a serious once over.

MOOS: But once Good Morning America showed video of the same instant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seems to be a little different story. Obama may be watching his footing.

MOOS: You can't blame guys for lowering their gaze when this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model challenges them in a web ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you could beat me at a staring contest? Remember eyes up here. Ready. Stare.

MOOS: For 45 seconds try to get your eyeballs to resist the magnetic pool of cleavage.


MOOS: Perhaps the best advice about cleavage came form Seinfeld after George got busted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get a good look Costanza?

JERRY SEINFELD, COMEDIAN: Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun, you don't stare out it. It's too risky. You get a sense of it then you look away.

MOOS: Though unlike cleavage, the problem with looking at sun with the naked eye, the eye is naked.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


LU STOUT: OK. Now one of basketball's all-time greats is taking on a Chinese company for what he says is the unauthorized use of his name and brand. Now Michael Jordan has been known in China by the name Qiaodan since he became a global superstar. But Joran claims a sportswear and shoe manufacturer is using the name Qiaodan and misleading Chinese consumers about its ties to him.

And you're looking at some of the products at Qiaodan Sports Company Limited is towing on their website. So the six time NBA champion is fighting back on the web. Now the lays out Jordan's claims against Qiaodan, and yes, the page is available in Chinese. There's even a video message from Michael Jordan with Chinese subtitles.

Now Jordan says the lawsuit is simply about protecting his name. With any money he might be awarded would be invested in basketball in China.

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