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Dramatic Rescue in Syria; Cruise Liner Rescue; 59 Delegates at Stake in Today's Primary Contests; Dislike of Putin Reaches Far Away From City Centers; British Photographer Paul Conroy, 12 Others, Smuggled Out Of Homs
Aired February 28, 2012 - 08:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANISHA TANK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.
I'm Manisha Tank at CNN Hong Kong.
And we begin this show in Syria, where a British photojournalist is among 40 people rescued from the besieged city of Homs.
A stricken cruise liner is being towed through the Indian Ocean to safety.
And inside the exclusion zone. Almost a year after the disaster, we tour the area around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
So, activists in Syria say a dramatic escape operation in the city of Homs has helped 40 wounded Syrians and a British photographer to flee to Lebanon. Sources tell CNN that three activists were killed during that mission.
The British photographer, Paul Conroy, was hurt in an assault on a makeshift media center last week. It was the same place where "The Sunday Times" correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik died. Three other reporters, including French journalist Edith Bouvier are still thought to be in a Baba Amr field hospital.
Inside Syria, meanwhile, activists say at least 47 people have been killed across the country this Tuesday. This one as reports of 144 deaths on Monday, including 64 people found near a Homs checkpoint in what an opposition group calls a horrifying massacre.
So let's take a look at the geography of Homs, which has become the epicenter of the violence in Syria.
This is the neighborhood actually of Baba Amr, in the southwest of the city. It's experienced more than three weeks of heavy shelling now. Another district that's been targeted is Khalideeya, to the north of that area.
To the southeast, meanwhile, is the area of Karam Al-Louz. It's a mainly Alawite neighborhood, and that's the same sect that President Bashar al- Assad actually belongs to. That neighborhood and others near it are said to be much more calm.
Well, the Syrian government is criticizing the European Union's decision to impose new economic sanctions on Syria. The foreign minister, Walid Moallem, says the restrictions are affecting the Syrian people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALID MOALLEM, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I assure you, nobody in Syria since one year until today died because of anger or (INAUDIBLE). The government is providing all the services in spite of the fact of economic international (INAUDIBLE). They are affecting the lives of the Syrian people by these sanctions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TANK: Well, let's get the latest on the developing situation in Syria. Let's talk to Nic Robertson, who's in Beirut.
Nic, let's get to that dramatic rescue, I would suppose, in just a second. But first, your response to the foreign minister's comments there. If sanctions are working, then why haven't these assaults stopped?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the foreign minister assiduously avoided talking about the assaults, period. The government maintains a fiction that is merely defending itself from an international media onslaught, armed terrorists inside the country, and that it is defending its people from that. So perhaps that gives a clue there as to why the foreign minister chose the words that he chose, talking about helping save the people of Syria rather than talking about the assault by Assad, his government's forces around the country, in Homs in particular.
But what he is referring to there are sanctions that are damaging the economy in Syria, are hurting businessmen, are hurting some of their major sources of income. Oil exports, it's a major generator of income for the government. They rely on exporting oil to Europe. Those ties to the government oil companies have been cut by European countries that would normally import oil.
So there is beginning to have an effect on the country. But clearly, from what the foreign minister is saying, no mention at all of the ongoing strikes. And that's why these two things really just don't add up when you take them as presented in this way -- Manisha.
TANK: Absolutely. And so remarkable that at both ends of the spectrum, it's the Syrian people themselves who are suffering from their own government and from these sanctions.
Let's move on to this dramatic rescue, as it were. Paul Conroy, the British journalist, now in Lebanon, but still others unaccounted for.
ROBERTSON: The others, the three journalists -- Edith Bouvier has a very bad injury to her femur, to her thigh bone. And the other two journalists who are with her, William Daniels and Xavier Espinosa, are believed by activists to still be in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, believed to still be in the field hospital there in Homs.
There was an operation last night by the Syrian Red Crescent and the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, to try to get those journalists out of Baba Amr, but according to activists, an activist organization, a local coordination council, they say that the journalists won't leave until they have guarantees that their work, their video work, their photographs, their other work that essentially documents all this destruction and all the killing by Syrian forces, that that won't be taken from them when they leave.
But the activists who helped get Paul Conroy out say it was a very, very dangerous operation. There are still elements, if you like, under way.
Three people killed trying to get Paul Conroy and all those 40 other people out. And also, they say as they were trying to get relief supplies back into Baba Amr, another 10 activists killed during that operation.
So it's incredibly dangerous. People are not only putting their lives on the line, people are losing their lives here just to get relief supplies in and just to get the injured out of Baba Amr -- Manisha.
TANK: OK, Nic. Thanks for bringing us up to date on what's been a very dramatic turn of events.
Nic Robertson there, live for us from Beirut.
Now we turn to -- now we can turn to our next story, which is this Italian cruise ship that's been stranded in the Indian Ocean. The Costa Allegra is being towed to port on the island of Mahe, in the Seychelles. This, one day after it lost power in an engine room fire. The ship's owners say there were no injuries and more than 1,000 people on board are safe.
Well, CNN's David McKenzie has been following this story and the latest developments for us. He joins us from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi -- David.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Manisha, yes, it's really a PR disaster for the Costa cruise lines. About 1,000 people on board the Costa Allegra, about 400 passengers, around 600 crew.
Now, they had an engine fire. In fact, an engine generator fire on Monday. They were left stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean somewhere between Madagascar, where they sailed from, in the north of Madagascar, and on the way to the Seychelles, far off the coast of East Africa.
One of the scary things about all of this is this is one of the major areas where pirates operate off the coast of East Africa, and between East Africa and the Seychelles. There are at least nine Italian marines on board, according to the shipping company. That's stipulated when sailing through this area by Italian law.
Now, they say that these passengers are fine, they've been sitting in the kind of common rooms of this boat, and that they have had issues with communications, power, obviously, and food and water. A helicopter was scrambled from Seychelles islands to the Costa Allegra to help feed the passengers, and now a French fishing vessel has started the long tow from where they were at sea towards Mahe Island, the main island of the Seychelles atoll. Two other tugboats will come and also help them out, and that could only get to shore on Thursday morning.
As I said, it's a PR disaster for this company, because you'll recall earlier in January, the Costa ship that stranded off the coast of Italy, more than 20 people killed in that terrible incident. Weeks were spent trying to get people out and salvage what was left of that ship. And there's an ongoing court case. Certainly, this incident will fuel the fire of any litigation that might be out there against the Costa company -- Manisha.
TANK: All right.
David McKenzie, live from Nairobi.
Thanks very much for that.
A reminder. You're watching NEWS STREAM. We're live from CNN Hong Kong.
Coming up, two U.S. states set the stage for a showdown. We'll bring you the latest on the U.S. Republican primaries.
Plus, a cold reception for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. We'll tell you why some voters give Russia's presidential candidate the thumbs down.
And one year after the disaster inside the exclusion zone, an exclusive report from Japan.
TANK: So, voters in two U.S. states will head to the polls later on Tuesday for the next stage of the Republican presidential race. And it looks to be a tight contest between front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
Well, here are the battlegrounds that are at stake this Tuesday: Michigan and Arizona. There you see them clearly on the map, for a total of 59 delegates. You have Arizona and Michigan, in particular, is a crucial state for Mitt Romney. He was born and raised there, and his father, George Romney, served as governor between 1963 and 1969.
So, today's votes are also really quite important for another reason. They could be a gauge of public sentiment ahead of next week's all-important Super Tuesday, when 10 states will hold primaries or caucuses.
CNN's political editor, Paul Steinhauser, joins me now from a polling station in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Paul, how close is the race in Michigan?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Manisha, how close is it? About this close.
The latest poll, 36 percent for Rick Santorum; 35 percent for Mitt Romney. Basically all tied up here in Michigan, and that's why you're seeing such attention on Michigan, much more so than in Arizona.
The other reason -- and you mentioned it -- this is where Mitt Romney grew up. In fact, Bloomfield Hills, this is where he went to elementary school and high school. So this is Mitt Romney country. And if he can't win Michigan, it really is a stinging setback for him in his bid for the GOP nomination.
Now, Santorum, he's making a pitch to Democrat. You say, wait a minute, this is a Republican primary. Democrat in Michigan? It's an open primary. Republicans, of course, Independent voters, and even Democrats can vote in this primary.
Take a listen to this automated call from the Santorum campaign that's going out to Democrats.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we're not going to let Romney get away with it.
On Tuesday, join Democrats who are going to send a loud message to Massachusetts' Mitt Romney by voting for Rick Santorum for president.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: Well, Santorum stands by that robo call. Romney, of course, is calling it a dirty trick.
But listen, Manisha. In a very close contest, some crossover Democrats could make the difference on who wins and who loses here in Michigan.
TANK: Wow. I mean, that's a reminder, isn't it, that call, of how close these things get to people's hearts? That's a really big deal for Michigan.
But, of course, that's not the only state voting. Tell us about Arizona. How is Rick Santorum's religion playing into the race?
STEINHAUSER: Yes, Arizona, you're absolutely right, the other big state voting today. And here's the difference.
Here in Michigan, it's proportional when it comes to the 30 delegates at stake. But in Arizona, 29 delegates at stake, winner take all. You lose by a couple thousand votes, you do not get a delegate.
Both Santorum and Romney and the other two candidates, Paul and Gingrich, were in Arizona last week for our CNN debate. But most of the attention has now moved here to Michigan.
And you mentioned Santorum's religion. We're hearing a lot of that lately, and also talk from him about social issues.
You know, it's interesting. This campaign is all about the economy, of course, but Rick Santorum proudly wears his faith on his sleeve, and we're hearing a lot about his stance on social issues as well -- Manisha.
TANK: Yes, he's really trying to take things in his direction, isn't he?
We'll leave it there, though, Paul. Thank you so much for bringing us up to date on what's been a very interesting Republican race so far.
STEINHAUSER: Oh yes.
TANK: Now, those top two candidates have made a few gaffes ahead of today's contest. Here's Mitt Romney speaking at the Daytona 500's main grandstand.
And you'll remember the prestigious NASCAR race was delayed because of rain. Many people in the crowd wore plastic ponchos. You can see them all there. So they probably didn't appreciate it when he said, "I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks."
While Romney has been criticized for being out of touch with the common voter, his rival has been accused -- there you go -- a reminder, that's Rick Santorum. He's been accused of being out of touch with the laws of economics.
So let's listen to what Rick Santorum said in Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to look at the situation with gas prices today. We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices. The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because we were looking at $4 a gallon gasoline.
And look at what happened -- economic decline. Here we are again trying to struggle out of a recession.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TANK: Well, after the event, Santorum clarified that gas prices were a factor in the economic crisis and not necessarily the cause.
Well, three of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates have won primaries or caucuses in different states. And while Mitt Romney is ahead in the delegate count, he's still a long way from securing the nomination.
As Candy Crowley reports now, voters may still be looking for a standout to take on Barack Obama later this year.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wanted: knight in shining armor, a Republican presidential candidate with a quick- witted pugnacious style of Newt Gingrich, the blue-collar conservative values of Rick Santorum, the cool business acumen of Mitt Romney, and the passionate supporters commanded by Ron Paul. Republican mythology this messy election season is that the perfect candidate will ride into the Republican primary in March or April, maybe even wait until August to step into the breech of a brokered convention. He will fill the unmet needs of the 44 percent of Republican voters not satisfied with their choices.
News flash: not gonna happen. For starters, perfect candidates seem less so in the Klieg lights of the political arena. Consider the case of candidate Hillary Clinton at the beginning of her '08 presidential campaign with a 52 percent approval rating. Three-and-a-half years later, she's the globe-trotting secretary of state with a 69 percent approval rating.
The moral of that story, voters like politicians best when they're not running for anything.
Problem two, no knights in shining armor have applied for the job.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Good morning. How are you?
CROWLEY: New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, kind of an "it" boy in the Republican Party, once said the only way to get people to believe he's not running would be to kill himself. Now he answers a slight permutation of the same old question, might he change his mind?
CHRISTIE: No. I said absolutely not. No.
I would not reconsider by decision. I don't expect there's going to be a contested convention.
CROWLEY: Either shining stars in the Republican galaxy have also dimmed the lights for 2012. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, no, in November of 2010.
JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I really have to stay focused on this goal of achieving some financial independence, financial security for my family.
CROWLEY (on camera): And that doesn't -- right.
BUSH: And that's as simple as that. No one believes it, because in Washington world, I guess there's such a deep discount for the truth in politics. Politicians never say what they actually believe or something, so I'm asked this question a lot. You would think about 10 times you'd be done with it, but I keep answering it honestly.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Former governor Jeb Bush, just last week, still no.
BUSH: Not going to happen. The party nominee will be amongst the people that are candidates now.
CROWLEY: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, still no, no, a thousand times no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any circumstance under which you would do so?
GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R), INDIANA: It would just take -- there really isn't. It would just take a change of heart on the part of my family. And again, it's just not an ambition or an obsessions I've ever had.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anyone who could stand in, who could run -- who could come in and save the party at this point?
DANIELS: Well, I don't necessarily -- I don't think the party needs saving.
CROWLEY: But if not them, then who?
There's Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American with Tea Party support, but crossover appeal to mainstream Republicans. Still, too green and too young. But pencil him in for 2016 or 2020. In the meantime, put him on your veep list this year.
The one Republican rock star left is former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who electrified the party four years ago. But her unfavorability ratings hit an all-time of 62 percent last year in a "New York Times" poll. Color her a former Republican rock star.
Anything can happen in a political campaign, but odds are overwhelming that the Republican presidential nominee is somewhere on the campaign trail.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I can't be perfect. I just am who I am.
CROWLEY: In the end, the search for a knight in shining armor is an interesting parlor game. It's not just rounded in the political reality of life in the Klieg lights.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
TANK: Yes, it's a difficult job to step up for, I'm sure.
Up ahead on NEWS STREAM, a crippled cruise ship is being towed through pirate-infested waters. It's also in an area for tropical cyclones, so we'll check on the forecast.
TANK: Still to come here on NEWS STREAM, we report on the frosty political mood outside Moscow just days before Russia goes to the polls.
And we go inside the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan nearly a year after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
That's after the headlines, right here on CNN.
TANK: I'm Manisha Tank in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines. An Italian cruise ship left adrift in the Indian Ocean after an engine room fire is now being towed to (inaudible). Owners of the Costa Allegra say there were no injuries and the more than 1,000 people on board are safe.
There are two primary elections today for Republican candidates seeking the White House. Polls suggest Mitt Romney is poised to win in Arizona, but all eyes are on his home state of Michigan where opinion polls suggest that it's neck and neck with rival Rick Santorum.
30 people were arrested overnight as police evicted the Occupy London protesters. The action came after the group lost its appeal of eviction orders last week. They've been camping outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London went up in October when the Occupy movement against economic inequality began.
British photographer Paul Conroy has made it safely to Lebanon. He was smuggled out of the Syrian city of Homs along with dozens of other wounded people. He was injured along with French journalist Edith Bouvier in Homs. She is believed to be in the safe field hospital in Baba Amr where she was last week. Activists in Syria say 47 people have been killed so far today.
Well, as we've been hearing a network of Syrian activists helped that British photographer Paul Conroy get out of Homs. The group is called Avaaz. It's executive director Ricken Patel joins us from CNN New York right now. Let's talk to him a bit more about this dramatic rescue.
I actually want to start talking about Edith Bouvier. What do we know about her whereabouts?
RICKEN PATEL, AVAAZ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: We know that she's still in Homs, still in Baba Amr and that she is unable to leave due to her injuries.
TANK: OK. The -- this was a very dramatic rescue mission. You've lost people along the way. What made you get together, decide that you were going to do this, and then execute it the way that you did?
PATEL: Well, Avaaz is actually a global organization with 13 million members all over the world. And when the crackdown occurred on the Syrian uprisings, thousands of people all over the world donated money to get communications equipment, satellite modems and cell phones and secure communications equipment into Syria. And we've built a network of citizen journalists that were reporting on the awful crackdown going on there. And it was really that network that we worked with, amongst other networks of Syrian activists, to try and mount a rescue operation for these journalists.
TANK: Obviously you can't tell us, you know, all of the details of how you did this, because a lot of this has to be done undercover, over the course of the night, but I would imagine it was a very involved process. How did you get Paul Conroy and others out?
PATEL: Yeah, I can't go into much detail. And I think their stories are incredible stories. And they will be told when all of the journalists are out and safe. What I can tell you is that, that it was a -- there were over 50 activists involved in this. And 23 of them have been killed. And so there was staggering bravery.
And on the journey out from Homs, from Baba Amr, the Syrians were able to track some of those movements, in part we think using a drone that's been sitting over Homs all this time. And they shelled and attacked the group. And it split the group. And one part of the group was forced to turn back, one headed forward. Six activists were killed in the group that turned back and three were killed in the group that headed forward. Paul was in the group that headed forward and he got out.
TANK: Now we spoke to our correspondent Nic Robertson who has been based in Beirut at this time. He's been following the story from there. And Nic pointed out the fact that in Edith Bouvier's case that apparently she had wanted to make sure before she went anywhere that the Syrian government allow her to take her work with her so any photographs, stories, reports, that sort of thing.
Has Paul Conroy been able to bring any of that stuff out of Syria?
PATEL: Yeah, my understanding is Paul has been able to bring equipment with him and evidence with him. And I think the larger picture here is that these four journalists have been amazingly brave. And we need to care for them as individuals, but they also have a larger importance. They are witnesses to a crime, witnesses to a gigantic crime of the shelling of Baba Amr and the crackdown on Syrian citizens, but also very specific crime of targeting of these journalists. The media center that was hit, was hit repeatedly by shells and by rockets to kill those journalists. And when the journalists were moved to a different location, that location was repeatedly shelled for hours and days by Syrian forces.
And it may be that there was international complicity in this crime. If that drone was used to coordinate, to surveil and coordinate the shelling, it could only have come from Iran or from Russia. And those countries bear complicity in this crime.
TANK: Have Avaaz managed to dig out any kind of evidence that might point to that being the case?
PATEL: Well, what we know is that the media center was shelled repeatedly. And that's extremely suspicious. And that we know this drone is sitting over Homs continuously. So there's a lot of evidence there. We know that it's not a British or American drone. And we know that there's only a couple of countries it could be coming from.
TANK: OK. Just finally one of the -- this is part of the conversation I had with Nic Robertson, it is remarkable that on the one side the foreign minister is saying, you know, these sanctions they are biting for the Syrian people, they are affecting the economy, but the Syrian people are being hurt on both sides. There's the sanctions, but at the same time their own government proceeding with this crackdown. And there would have been people who were caught in the crossfire as you tried to get those journalists out. Just tell us about the people who were there in Homs. Tell us about the people in Syria right now, what's happening to them.
PATEL: Yeah, I mean, there is a staggering horror show going on in Syria. Syria has always been a police state, a vicious police state for a decade now. It's been in Marshall law for 40 years. And that's the situation that Syrians have been living in. And since they've risen up, tremendous bravery. Snipers have been picking people out of crowds for months now. We've seen over 7,000 dead. Many thousands tortured and taken into jail. They're standing up for their freedom.
And while there is a horror show going on in Syria right now there's also staggering bravery. Citizens are still, even in the face of this kind of leveling of neighborhoods, and shelling, and wanton shooting of citizens, they're coming out into the streets and peacefully protesting, still, all across Syria.
The media lens is focused on where the violence is, but there are still peaceful protests going on. It's tremendous testament to the bravery of the Syrian people.
TANK: OK. Ricken Patel, thank you very much for putting it all in context for us and helping us understand the situation from Avaaz. It's been a pleasure having you on the show.
PATEL: Thank you.
TANK: Now Tokyo has a population of around 12 million. And we're now learning that Japanese authorities considered evacuating the entire city last year. The New York Times has obtained details of a report into the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant which went through the meltdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The Times says the report shows leaders didn't know the extend of the damage at the plant and are concerned about a potential chain reaction of meldowns that could spread farther south to the Tokai facility and possibly cause radiation to envelope Tokyo.
Well, according to the New York Times, the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, said if that happens the only logical conclusion would be to evacuate the city.
Well, it's been almost a year since the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but only now has CNN been allowed inside the complex. Kyung Lah reports from the meltdown zone.
KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A year after these reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant exploded in a triple meltdown reporters were reminded this is still one of the most hazardous places on the planet. We wore head to toe protective gear, full facial respirators and hazmat suits. Then we drove up to the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
This is our first look on the ground at the reactors. This is the heart of the nuclear problem in Japan. What we're seeing over my shoulder are the reactors. There are four of them. But the two that you see over my right shoulder, those are two of the reactors that exploded in the early days of this disaster. But when you take a look at the reactors, you can see that they have a long way to go. This is a year after this disaster and you can see that the force of the explosion crippled those buildings. You can understand how so much radiation spewed from this point when you're standing here.
An army of 3,000 workers are now here daily in shifts to control the melted nuclear fuel and contain the further spread of the radiation. Inside the on-site crisis management building at the plant, a control center monitors the progress and safety 24 hours a day.
"The highest risk we still see is if something goes wrong with the reactors," say plant manager Takashi Takahashi.
The plant is in cold shutdown, but the nuclear fuel needs constant cooling and the situation is far from over.
TEPCO says the plant won't be decommissioned for at least 30 to 40 years. The challenges evident as we drive around the Fukushima plant. Debris, still mangled from the tsunami, sits untouched because of radiation concerns. These blue tanks, and these larger gray ones, hold water contaminated with radiation. TEPCO is continuously challenged with finding more space for the water.
Work conditions and safety, while they've improved since the early days of the disaster, remain a constant concern.
Saori Kenasaki used to give tours to the public at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
"Before the accident I explained to many people that the nuclear power plant is safe," she says. "Now that this has happened, I feel very sorry I ever said that."
Kenasaki also lived here in Tomioka. She's now an evacuee uncertain of when or if she can ever return home. A year later, she and 78,000 others are the legacy of this accident, paying the price when nuclear energy goes wrong.
Kyung Lah, CNN, at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
TANK: All next week, ahead of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami anniversary we'll bring you a special look at Japan's rebuilding. That's right here on CNN.
Now this weekend people across Russia will vote for their country's next president. And even though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win, he's facing some of the stiffest opposition he's ever seen in Russia as CNN's Phil Black found out.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Venyos (ph), about two hours drive south of Moscow, but it feels like another world. The population is small, the air is fresh, there is no obvious sign of Russia's impending election. And this town has never staged a rally, protesting Vladimir Putin's intention to return as president.
Vladimir Putin's team say they're confident of winning this election because they believe those who are angry with him are only in the big cities -- Moscow, St. Petersburg. They say they are the economically comfortable people who now want greater political freedoms like those they see in the west.
Outside of that group the believe support for Putin is strong. We've traveled outside of the Moscow region to test that theory.
We arrive at Venyos (ph) market and the theory is challenged immediately.
"Everything is bad. Putin did it all," this woman says.
These are poor people, selling what they can to get by. This woman knits socks at night and sells them here during the day. On a good day, she'll make about $10.
"When you hear Putin on TV our life sounds so good. But in reality things are terrible," she says.
This quiet, largely empty marketplace is a long way from the avenues and squares of Moscow that are now regularly filled with tens of thousands of protesters. But this woman says she understands their anger.
"Why do people go to rallies," she asks. "Because they want a better life. And at the moment life is hard. I support them."
At the market, we meet Galina (ph). She wants us to see her home. She shows us a blocked and open sewer near the building. Inside, the smell is terrible. The floor is collapsing. She says local authorities will do nothing to fix it. This is one pensioners life in Putin's Russia.
Her neighbor Roman (ph) says he dreams of leaving the country.
"Putin lead Russia to the point where nothing is working now," he says.
Putin has served eight years as president followed by four as prime minister. There are people in Venyos (ph) who welcome his return to the presidency.
"I think he is the most deserving candidate."
This woman says her family loves Putin, but she understands why many people in this town and elsewhere are furious with him.
The angry people of Venyos (ph) have little in common with Moscow's affluent protesters, but they share an intense dislike of Vladimir Putin's leadership. And it will endure beyond his likely win in this election.
Phil Black, CNN, Venyos (ph) Russia.
TANK: First it was delayed by rain, then a big crash delays the latest Daytona 500. Pedro Pinto will be here to tell us who came out on top. That's next.
TANK: Well, it's time for us to get a sports update now. And what night at Daytona, the Super Bowl of stock car racing in America. It was originally slated for Sunday afternoon, but got underway Monday evening and only finished at about 1:00 am local time on Tuesday morning. It was long and drawn out. There was drama.
Pedro Pinto is at CNN London with the details.
So what happened?
PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Everything happened, Manisha. This year's edition of what is known as the great American race must have been cursed in some way. Heavy downpours had prevented the Daytona 500 from getting underway on Sunday. And then on Monday the race was stopped by a fire on the track.
Now Danica Patrick got her first Daytona 500 start on Monday night. Her chances of fighting for the win, however, were hampered by a big crash on lap two. Elliot Saddler gets into Jimmy Johnson, sending him to the wall. And you can see what happened. Several other cars were involved, including Patrick's as well. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but of course a lot of drivers saw their race come to an end.
Here's another look at the crash from inside Jimmy Johnson's car.
Later in the race, on lap 160, more chaos. Juan Pablo Montoya, trying to catch the field here, but his car spins and slams into a jet dryer on the track causing a massive fire. The flames spread on the track and the race had to be stopped for two hours. Fortunately, Montoya emerged from his car unscathed. And while the truck driver was taken to hospital as a precaution, he was reported to be unhurt.
Pretty scary, though.
NASCAR workers undertaking a huge clean-up operation which included the use of detergent and some street bond to patch any possible defects the fire cost on the track.
Now when the race finally resumed it was Matt Kenseth who came out on top. He beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the checkered flag. Kenseth winning perhaps the craziest Daytona 500 of all time. After the race, Montoya talked about his accident with that truck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, DRIVER: I did the pit stop and when I (inaudible) by breaking in second gear and so I think either transmission broke or something broke. So I went to third gear and when I accelerated, vibration came back and I came back into the pits. They looked at everything. Everything looked fine, everything looked OK. And I went again. And I was in fourth gear -- I wasn't even going that fast. And you know it's moving, it's moving and it's traveling a lot. It just feels really strange. And as I was talking in the radio, the car just turned right.
I didn't think about a truck. I thought, I'm going to hit the jet and it's not going to be fun. I mean, before the car -- you know before I got there I was thinking this thing is probably going to be bad. And it was.
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PINTO: Pretty crazy Daytona 500, no doubt about it.
Tennis fans the world over are familiar with the Williams sister. Venus and Serena have won a combined 20 grand slam singles titles and are global stars inside and outside their sport. But here is something I bet most tennis fans wouldn't know, world number one Novak Djokovic has a younger tennis playing brother named Marko and both Djokovices were in the field at the Dubai championships this week. That is until Novak saw Marko lose his first round match to Andrei Golubev.
Now could the Djokovic brothers become as big as the Williams sisters? It's unlikely. 20-year-old Marko is officially ranked 868 places below his big brother. By the way, Novak had no such problems on the day, beating Germany's 21-year-old's Cedrik-Marcel Steve in straight sets. Marko out, Novak still in the tournament.
Let's turn to football as Arsenal released their financial figures for the last half of 2011 and revealed they had made a huge pre-tax profit of $78.5 million. Most of it pertains to the sales of Samir Nasri to Manchester City and Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. Arsenal have struggled on the pitch this season with the team highly unlikely to end their trophy drought. So with the club boasting a big bank balance, Arsenal fans are surely asking will money be spent to bring in some quality players? This is how management is answering that question.
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IVAN GAZIDIS, ARSENAL CHIEF EXECUTIVE: We have to be efficient in the way that we spend our money, because we don't have the kind of money to spend that some of our competitors are currently spending in the marketplace. That means we've got to be very thoughtful about it. We have to spend sensibly. But we certainly will spend the money that we have. We've got a manager that has got a terrific track record over time.
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PINTO: And on the pitch at least Arsenal boosted their chances of finishing fourth and qualifying for the lucrative Champion's League by beating Tottenham 5-2 on the weekend.
Now qualifying for the world's top club competition is the ultimate goal for Paris St. Germain. Playing in it year and year out as part of a new vision by new owners who want to make the club one of the best in Europe.
This week on CNN we take you on a behind the scenes trip around the Parc des Princes in Paris. We were given exclusive access to PSG. I spent some time with the chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the manager Carlo Ancelotti and star player Javier Pastore as well. I found out what the short-term and long-term goals are for this club.
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PINTO: What is your vision for PSG? Can it become one of the biggest clubs in the world?
NASSER AL-KHELAIFI, PSG PRESIDENT: Yeah, it can be. And this is our strategy to bring Paris St. Germain long-term one of the biggest in the world. We're not saying we're going to be the best club in the world, because it's sort of tough. We got (inaudible) behind other clubs in Premier League or Spanish or Italian Leagues. So we're going to try to make it.
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PINTO: That's a quick look at sports. NEWS STREAM continues with Manisha Tank in Hong Kong after a short break. Stay with us.
TANK: So things like drones and radar technology are normally associated with conflict zones such as Afghanistan, but they could become a new weapon in the fight against rhino poaching as Robyn Curnow explains in a report that you may find hard to watch.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Spyware, normally used on a battlefield, set up for demonstration on a South African wine farm. But it's for good reason these weapons of war scan this gentle landscape.
Now the company is at markets this equipment here in South Africa says it's used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and on the border between Mexico and the United States. Infrared, radar, comms packages that are used to protect U.S. soldiers, or to stop illegal immigration. Military hardware that many people here hope will be deployed in the fight against rhino poaching.
Hours away from the wine farm, and even further away from war zones, rhinos graze in a South African bush belt, targets of poachers who sell rhino horn to Asian markets where it's wrongly believed to be a medicine.
The World Wildlife Fund says nearly 450 were butchered for their horn in South Africa last year. And with an estimated global population of around 20,000 survival of the species is threatened if that rate of slaughter continues.
LESLEY STEENKAMP, DICEROS: The system has got the capability of seamlessly integrating in...
CURNOW: Lesley Steenkamp's company is looking to import this technology from the U.S., hoping to sell it to private and public game parks with a high tech solution to the rhino poaching crisis.
I mean, it's crazy that we're sitting here talking about this.
STEENKAMP: It is. It is. It's this high tech equipment. It's military specification equipment, all of the equipment we use is military equipment. But I think the fight has gone further. We need to fight fire with fire.
CURNOW: It's a battle that's seen the South African military patrolling borders to stop poachers sneaking in.
Game farms have shown us their private armies, small teams who monitor the bush at night.
So what you're looking for is -- you're trying to track humans rather than animals.
And (inaudible) of darted rhinos from helicopters and drilled holes into their horns to insert GPS and radio transmitters. This project failed because batteries just didn't last rattling around inside a rhino's horn.
More dramatic solutions have been tested. This rhino died during a procedure to insert poison into its horn. Environmentalists hoped contaminated rhino powder would make someone ill when they consumed it in Asia, a deterrent that back-fired on people with the best intentions.
But even as he tests infrared binoculars, all part of this military solution, environmentalist Dr. Simon Morgan says South Africans are just running out of options. There arsenal doesn't match the might and money of organized Asian crime syndicates.
SIMON MORGAN, DICEROS: And we're not being innovative continuously and/or looking at various solutions of this, we're not going to be able to catch up with them. So this type of technology that we're talking about is crucial in this fight against the poachers.
CURNOW: Technology that already protects some of the world's more valuable commodities, says the man behind the U.S. company that develops it.
DAVID CROCKETT, TELEPHONICS: Any of the cameras and sensors in this mobile surveillance capability are also the same sensors and radars that you might use to protect a nuclear facility, that you might protect a vital resource such as a petroleum facility or a petroleum pipeline.
CURNOW: Is the rhino a vital resource worth protecting? Going high tech is an expensive solution. Costs go into millions of dollars as the fight continues on all fronts.
Robyn Curnow, CNN, Cape Town, South Africa.
TANK: And that is NEWS STREAM for you, but the news continues here at CNN. Our team from "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" are up next.