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Violence in Syria; Iran Elections; Vladimir Putin Expected to Win Russian Election; Toyota Memo Reveals Software Failure; Trash Piles Up In Mexico City; Interview With a Syrian Activist
Aired March 2, 2012 - 08:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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. Under fire from government forces for weeks, aid finally arrives in the Syrian city of Homs.
And an incredible story of survival. A year after Japan's tsunami disaster, we hear how one man clung to wire and watch the wall of water tear apart his neighborhood.
Humanitarian aid has finally arrived in the Syrian city of Homs after three straight weeks of fierce government shelling there. The Syrian government agreed to give the International Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent access to the city just yesterday, but it's not clear when that aid will actually get to the neighborhood of Baba Amr. Rebel fighters say that they have made a tactical retreat from the area in an effort to protect civilians.
The Red Cross says seven truckloads of food and other essentials are now in Homs, despite snowfall in the area. And this footage appears to show residents in a Homs neighborhood collecting snow to preserve water, but we can't verify videos posted on YouTube.
The situation in Syria is being discussed at a European Union meeting in Brussels, and outside that meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron sent a warning to President Bashar al-Assad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Above all, what I think matters is building the evidence and the pictures so we hold this criminal regime to account, and to make sure that it is held to account for its crimes it is committing against its people, and that one day, no matter how long it takes, there will be a day of reckoning for this dreadful regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Now, the Syrian National Council has warned of a massacre of the people left in Baba Amr. An opposition group says 35 people have been killed across Syria on Friday, including 14 that were executed in Homs. Activists also say 17 civilians were found beheaded on the outskirts of Baba Amr on Thursday.
Now, the poster of this footage says it shows two dead bodies left lying in the road in the suburb of Homs. The activist and citizen journalist Danny told CNN that people are scared to retrieve bodies in case they get hit by sniper fire, and he's worried the army could exact a heavy price on civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANNY, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: They will have revenge on the families that live there. They will take out revenge on the families. They will torture women, they will torture the kids. They will steal every single thing they find in the houses.
They will break shops. They will burn houses down. And that's -- this is going on for weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: An opposition group says other areas of Homs are now being attacked by government forces.
Let's get the latest from Nic Robertson, who's in Beirut, Lebanon. He joins us now.
And Nic, the ICRC, Red Crescent are now in Homs. What is the latest on the aid effort?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, it's not clear why the Red Crescent and the Red Cross are being held up at the moment. They're being held up and apparently stopped from getting into the Baba Amr neighborhood.
That was the deal. That's where they were supposed to be going. That's where the 4,000 or so people left behind by the Free Syrian Army after their tactical withdrawal on Thursday.
There, the Red Cross have told us that they don't know what to expect. They're not sure about what their own security will be when they get there. They told us this yesterday.
They set off six hours ago now to get to Homs with their seven trucks full of medical supplies, humanitarian supplies, blankets. They're expecting to evacuate many wounded people from the area. But six hours is a long time now that they have not been able to get into Baba Amr.
A couple of hours to get to Homs, and it seems now several hours held up in Baba Amr. But when we talked to the International Committee for the Red Cross, they told us that they were expecting the needs to be great when they got into Baba Amr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HICHAM HASSAN, ICRC: And the situation was very tense. We know that the needs were very big on a humanitarian level, deteriorating by the hour, mainly on the level of access to house services.
But also, let's not forget that there are women and children. There was a need for baby milk. So there are many needs on many levels, and this is what we will try to answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Well, even after the Free Syrian Army pulled out, government forces moved in. Free Syrian Army commanders were saying they were already hearing that people -- men and boys as young as 12 years old were being arrested and taken away from their houses. And we've learned today from an activist group -- they say that 10 people have been killed in the Baba Amr neighborhood just today by Syrian government forces, and they urgently call on the International Committee for Red Cross to go in and investigate, and it's not clear why the Red Cross is being held up and prevented, it seems, from getting into Baba Amr right now.
STOUT: So we're still waiting to hear this international aid team to gain access and to enter Baba Amr.
After the Free Syrian Army's retreat from Baba Amr, has Damascus been emboldened? Is the Syrian army expanding its operation not just in Homs, but throughout the country?
ROBERTSON: Well, the Syrian army has been in operation in many, many parts of the country for many months now. But what this will have done, it will have given the government a boost and a psychological lift. And for the soldiers involved in the operations on the ground, they know that they will be able to succeed through dints of extreme force and violence to be able to overcome the Free Syrian Army in certain neighborhoods.
What Bashar al-Assad's forces, large as they are, more than 200,000 soldiers, lack is the ability to go in and sort of -- and have intensive military actions on all pockets of the opposition and resistance around the country as they've exerted on Baba Amr. But what they will be able to do now is move some of those military assets and intensify the encirclements and bombardments in other areas.
And we've learned today, tanks on the way to Aleppo, in the north. Villages in the Idlib area, in the very north of the country, close to the border with Turkey, one village there, activists report, was shelled so heavily, that the Free Syrian Army and the village people in that neighborhood and to leave and get out.
So it's very clear that Baba Amr is really the beginning. And the government and Bashar al-Assad have shown this is the way that they're going to tackle the problem, giving no quarter until they have won military victory. And even as we are seeing in Homs, and the lack of access to Baba Amr so far today, giving very little quarter even in victory, it seems -- Kristie.
STOUT: Nic Robertson, joining us living from Beirut.
Now, two French journalists are flying back to Paris from Lebanon after they escaped from Homs. Edith Bouvier and William Daniels had been trapped in the Baba Amr neighborhood during the bombardment by government forces.
The Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa also fled Syria this week. He's been speaking to Anderson Cooper about the systematic concentrated shelling in Homs, and he describes the attack that killed "Sunday Times" journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAVIER ESPINOSA, SPANISH JOURNALIST: At the moment we tried to get out, there was another guy inside who told us, "No, come back," because he already had heard the sound of an incoming shell. So I was able to come back in the room, and I took shelter after a wall. But Marie and Remi were already outside, and they received the full explosion of the rocket that fell down on the gate of the building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Now, state media says the authorities have now recovered the two bodies and says they'll be handed over to the Polish Embassy to be flown home.
Now, voters in Iran are casting ballots in parliamentary elections today, and these men are just four of the 48 million people eligible to vote. The election is widely regarded as a contest between conservative factions, one backing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the other showing more support for Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is the country's first nationwide since the presidential election in 2009 that sparked demonstrations and accusations of fraud.
There are about 3,400 candidates vying for just 290 seats in the Iranian parliament.
Let's bring in CNN's Reza Sayah, who is following the vote from neighboring Pakistan.
And Reza, Iranians, they are heading to the polls today. What is the turnout like so far?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, the polls opened roughly around 8:00 a.m. this morning throughout Iran. Iranians are still voting. In fact, a few hours ago, the Interior Ministry announced that they are extending voting hours because of what they called a record turnout.
Earlier today, the supreme leader himself, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, showed up to vote. I believe we have pictures of him voting.
It's really impossible to independently verify how many people have turned up to vote today in Iran, but here's what we can tell you -- and there's the supreme leader himself. Here's what we can tell you. Iran state media has already described this turnout as large and are hailing this vote as proof that there's widespread support in Iran for the election process and the leadership.
We can also tell you that leading up to this election day, there was an aggressive campaign by the Iranian regime, led by the supreme leader, to get people to show up and vote. In fact, the supreme leader himself, several times this week, showed up on TV and told Iranian voters that it is their duty as Muslims, as Iranians, to show up and vote, and that's really another sign that voter turnout was a big concern for the Iranian government, maybe more so than who was going to get elected.
A low turnout would suggest that there's not widespread support for the election process in the government, and a high voter turnout would suggest that there is support. Of course, critics of the Iranian government will tell you that it doesn't matter how many people show up today. The government is still going to say voter turnout was high.
Security was also a concern, Kristie, for the Iranian government. They did not want anything close to another protest like the one they saw in 2009. But based on what we've seen on state TV today, the voting seems to be going peacefully. State TV showing long lines at a number of polling places -- Kristie.
STOUT: Now, the opposition Green Movement, Reza, how did they figure in today's vote?
SAYAH: In a nutshell, Kristie, the so-called "Green Movement" is absent. Of course, this was a movement that sparked the uprising in 2009 after the disputed presidential elections, the biggest uprising, anti-government uprising, ever against the regime in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic.
Of course, for the past year, the leaders of that movement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have been under house arrest. None of their supporters have taken part in these particular elections. And at this point, Kristie, there is no indication that they're prepared for any kind of comeback. They're either underground, or many of them, according to what we've heard, have left the country.
STOUT: All right.
Reza Sayah, watching today's parliamentary vote in Iran for us.
Thank you very much, indeed, Reza.
Now, CNN correspondent Ivan Watson, he is part of our team inside Iran for the elections, and he's been tweeting about his experiences, including the treatment of foreign journalists covering the ballots. Here's some insight.
He wrote, "Election day. All foreign journalists being bused by authorities to polling stations. No alternative. This is the first election I've covered anywhere in the world where authorities ordered reporters on to buses cover the vote."
If you'd like to hear more thoughts from Ivan, you can look for him on Twitter at @IvanCNN.
Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, Russians get ready to vote for a new president. We'll go to Moscow to see what a leading opposition figure is saying about the vote, recent protests, and what happens after election day.
Japan's tsunami as it happened, how citizen video changed the way disasters are reported.
And Toyota has long denied that any sudden unintended acceleration in its vehicles is caused by faulty electronic systems, but could a newly discovered internal memo cast doubt on the company line? A special CNN investigation after the break.
STOUT: Now, on Sunday, Russians head to the polls to choose their next president. And if no one candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will take place between the two highest contenders.
This man is widely expected to win, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. The current prime minister and former president has dominated Russian politics for more than a decade, but the opposition is doing all it can to stop what some see as inevitable.
Our Phil Black spoke to one of Russia's most popular anti-corruption figures.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These tens of thousands of protesters are responsible for reshaping politics in Russia. Many are on the street because of the hard work and charisma of one man.
ALEXEY NAVALNY, LAWYER (through translator): The main thing we have shown today is that (INAUDIBLE) is not a fashion. It's not a certain outbreak, but it's a real protest which will last until we get what we want.
BLACK: Alexey Navalny is a corruption-fighting lawyer. His blog and Twitter feed have long been essential reading for anyone who wants political change here. And in recent months, he's emerged as the most popular voice of the protest movement.
Rewind to December last year. Russians voted for a new parliament, but that election allegedly involved widespread cheating in favor of Vladimir Putin's own party, claims the Kremlin denied. On Twitter, Navalny called for Russians to take to the streets. Thousands responded.
This is amateur video from that night. It shows Navalny among the dozens arrested. He spent 15 days in jail, missing Moscow's first huge anti-Putin rally, an event considered unthinkable just days before. Navalny listened to the event on radio, and he walked from jail knowing the country had changed.
NAVALNY (through translator): We have to put pressure on government until they give us back the things they have stolen from us.
BLACK: At the next protest, he spoke passionately before an estimated 100,000 people.
NAVALNY (through translator): I have never seen such a huge number of people in my life. I understood one thing. Everything I've been doing has been for these people.
BLACK: For Navalny's supporters, much of his appeal comes from his scathing language. He famously branded the ruling United Russia party as the party of crooks and thieves. And unlike many in the opposition, he's not afraid of the "R" word, revolution.
NAVALNY (through translator): For the last 12 years, they have been stealing my country. That's why I think the opposition movement is not just (INAUDIBLE) political force, but a nation's fight with a group of thieves who stole power and used this stolen power to steal our money. That's why I'm really emotional.
BLACK: For all the hope opposition supporters have felt in recent months, they now know Vladimir Putin is very likely to be declared the winner of the election, again claiming the top office. Navalny and other opposition leaders are predicting a dramatic escalation in their campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this will continue after his supposed inauguration in May. And I think that in May, we will have a camp (ph) in Moscow, and the protests will become permanent. And I think my objective is to bar him from taking the oath.
BLACK: Vladimir Putin's victory is all (INAUDIBLE) waiting. How the opposition reacts to that result and how Putin responds to them will determine the immediate future of this country.
Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.
STOUT: Now, ahead on NEWS STREAM, it's been almost one year since Japan's devastating tsunami. We'll revisit some of the most powerful images taken from the disaster and catch up with the man who shot this unbelievable video.
STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.
In the hours and days after Japan's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami last year, the power of social media was felt around the world. Now, we saw videos of the disaster taken by ordinary people, uploaded to Web sites like YouTube, and each is a powerful story.
One year on, Kyung Lah has one man's story.
KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The very instant the tsunami struck Ishinomaki, a young man trapped in the frigid rushing waters clinging to a telephone wire. You're watching this entire neighborhood as it's ripped apart from a victim trapped in the middle of it, capturing it all on his camera. More than two million people viewed this clip since it hit YouTube right after the disaster.
The teenager shooting the video, 16-year-old Mao Takahashi. From his balcony, Takahashi kept recording.
(on camera): It was right here. When you were taping that, did you know that you were recording history?
(voice-over): "I never thought about it," he says. "I was simply panicking."
Takahashi's video is just one of thousands on the Web showing the tsunami as it happened, making it one of the most recorded disasters in history.
(on camera): Japan is one of the most wired countries in the world. Mobile phone data shows that every single person has at least one mobile phone and, in some cases, two. So, when the tsunami came roaring ashore, thousands upon thousands captured it on personal devices.
Is that the real power of the personal recording device in a hand, being able to transmit that video around the world instantaneously?
STEVE NAGATA, TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANT: To be able to do this in near real time, and to do it to audiences across the globe is unprecedented in how much it's given the individuals. Because, you know, you had all of this very real footage, it made the incident much more real in people's minds. They no longer have to imagine what a tsunami is. They saw it live.
LAH (voice-over): Making Japan's disaster a shared worldwide experience. Nagata believes the amount of citizen video helped engage governments, aid groups and individuals to help, and showed humanity at its best in the face of disaster.
In Takahashi's case, what you can't see is the most important part of his story. His video ends suddenly. He stops recording. The man clinging to the telephone wire? Takahashi waded out to him in the tsunami water and saved his life.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Ishinomaki, Japan.
STOUT: Mao Takahashi doesn't know what happened to the young man he rescued. His own family is still living in temporary housing and isn't sure what the future will bring. Takahashi says he still likes to look at the video he took on that day because, as he puts it, "It has a happy ending for me."
Well, with the first anniversary of the disaster fast approaching, CNN is taking a special look at Japan's recovery. This week, "TALK ASIA" speaks to billionaire businessman and head of clothing chain Uniqlo, Tadashi Yanai, about the day the quake and tsunami happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TADASHI YANAI, BILLIONAIRE JAPANESE BUSINESSMAN (through translator): I was in this office working. I looked outside towards Chiba prefecture and saw the petrol chemical complex on fire, and I thought, "This is serious."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Watch the full interview with Tadashi Yanai on "TALK ASIA." It's Saturday, 9:00 p.m., in Hong Kong.
STOUT: Still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, a special CNN investigation into claims and denials about faulty electronics in Toyota vehicles. Stay with us.
LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines.
Now the International Red Cross says its aid convoy has finally reached the besieged Syrian city of Homs, but it's not clear when it will reach the hard hit Baba Amr neighborhood. Activists say 35 people have been killed in continuing violence across Syria today.
Iran is holding parliamentary elections today. It is the country's first nationwide vote since the disputed 2009 presidential poll triggered massive protests. Now the results are expected to reflect the divide among the country's conservatives which an opponents and supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In Brussels, 25 of the EU's member nations have agreed to a treaty on financial stability aimed at putting a cap on budget deficits. Only the UK and the Czech Republic have opted out of the pact.
For more than 130 years, Christchurch Cathedral has been a New Zealand landmark, but now it's being torn down. After last year's earthquake and a series of aftershocks, authorities say the structure is simply beyond repair. A new cathedral is being planned.
Now there is a new study by a private research group that says last year alone more than 300 Toyota owners reported incidents of cars and trucks suddenly taking off on their own power. Now it's called sudden unintended acceleration. And last year both Toyota and the U.S. government said whatever the problems were, electronics were not at fault.
Now the blame went to either bad floor mats or sticky gas pedals or even to driver error. Now CNN's Drew Griffin got a look at an internal Toyota engineering memo the company concedes it did not provide the government investigators. And spoke with the Toyota customer who says she is convinced her brand new Lexus surged ahead on its own.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tanya Spotts thought all of those problems with suddenly accelerating Toyotas were old news, which is exactly why she bought the car of her dreams, this 2011 Lexus ES 350 last June.
Did you think it was solved?
TANYA SPOTTS, TOYOTA CUSTOMER: Oh, I thought it was most definitely it was solved. The federal government tested. You know, Toyota, they said it was floor mats or a sticky throttle or something like that. And I believed the government.
GRIFFIN: 7,000 miles later on the day after Christmas she says she was pulling into a parking spot at a local mall, gently riding the brake, she says, when, well, take a listen.
SPOTTS: The car just lurched forward and hit the cement wall in front of us.
GRIFFIN: She jammed on the brake so hard, she says, she strained ligaments in her foot causing massive swelling. And when she called her dealership the salesman insisted she call a Toyota company lawyer.
And you won't drive this again?
SPOTTS: I will not drive this car again.
GRIFFIN: At the height of the panic of the reports of unintended acceleration, there was lots of speculation about the cause: electronic interference, faulty computer programming, and bad parts. But in the end, Toyota and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration determined likely causes were three things: floor mats, stuck gas pedals, and operator error, drivers accidentally pressing the gas instead of the brake.
SPOTTS: My foot did not slip off of a brake and hit the accelerator. I know that. Now pulling into a parking space.
GRIFFIN: Despite a government investigation and Toyota's assurances, hundreds of other drivers have told NHTSA they share Tanya Spott's skepticism.
But if not driver error, what could be the cause?
Toyota has never conceded an electronics or software problem could in any way be responsible for sudden acceleration in its vehicles. But now CNN has obtained an internal Toyota engineering document written in Japanese with English translation which shows that in one instance during pre-production testing an electronic software problem was discovered.
To confirm the document's accuracy CNN commissioned two retranslations. They confirm engineers found a problem described as a malfunction that caused the vehicle to accelerate on its own in one translation, or sudden unintended acceleration in the other.
The malfunction found in the adaptive cruise control on a preproduction model designated 250 L, later sold as the Lexus 460 in Europe and Japan. Neither that car model, nor the adaptive cruise control system were ever sold in the United States.
Adaptive cruise control uses sensors to detect obstacles in the road ahead and adjusts speed, even stopping the car to prevent a collision.
Clarence Ditlow is the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader.
CLARENCE DITLOW, CENTER FOR AUTO SAFETY: What the memo tells me is that there was an electronic problem that caused unintended acceleration in an earlier model Lexus, the 250, and they wanted to avoid the same problem occurring in the 180. And they identified a failure mode.
GRIFFIN: If true, it would be the first time there was any evidence electronics could have caused a case of sudden acceleration in a Toyota vehicle. Toyota insists to CNN that is not what the memo said. And in fact has spent weeks trying to persuade CNN not to air this report.
Last week, Toyota consented to an on camera interview with electrically engineer Kristen Tabar.
KRISTEN TABAR, TOYOTA TECHNICAL CENTER: So this has nothing to do with unintended acceleration at all.
GRIFFIN: The company insists that the issue was discovered after Toyota intentionally and artificially produced an inappropriate sensor signal as a test of the electronics fail safe system. Toyota says the adaptive cruise control was too sensitive and released the brake for less than a fraction of a second. And Toyota stressed the vehicle did not physically move forward.
The company says the test resulted in an adjustment and refinement of the cruise control before it went into production. And the issue has never occurred in any Toyota vehicle sold.
TABAR: The exact translation of the memo is not sudden unintended acceleration. Again, this is a test referring to the adaptive cruise control. So the literal translation is it can begin or start by itself.
GRIFFIN: Tabar, who was not part of the testing team and does not speak Japanese, says the adaptive cruise control performed perfectly. Three translations of the document refer to the vehicle moving on its own, though Tabar insists?
TABAR: The vehicle didn't move at all, that's why we're so confident that this has nothing to do with sudden unintended acceleration.
GRIFFIN: Toyota did not provide CNN its own English language translation of the document.
Independent automobile safety engineer Neil Haniman (ph) examined all three document translations and concluded that in 2006 Toyota did, indeed, have an electronics problem that at least in one test case caused sudden unintended acceleration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tangible, repeatable, fixable issue that they've identified in this vehicle. It's related to software issues which is something that Toyota has said is infallible in their systems.
GRIFFIN: More than 300 Toyota owners reported sudden acceleration problems to the government just this past year, including Tanya Spotts.
SPOTTS: It was almost as if an alien took over my car and just pushed it forward.
GRIFFIN: Last month Toyota engineers examined Tanya Spotts Lexus, downloaded the onboard data stored in the car's computer and told her the results. According to Toyota it's indisputable. Diagnostic readings show at exactly .4 seconds before impact the accelerator rate and the engine RPMs jumped, a clear case, the company says, of pedal misapplication. According to Toyota, she somehow hit the gas before slamming the brake.
Tanya Spotts? reponse. No way.
SPOTTS: I believe that this is an electrical problem. There's a glitch somewhere. It's a matter of how do you prove that? And I'm at a loss. I can't prove that.
LU STOUT: Now Drew Griffin spoke with our Anderson Cooper about his report and the U.S. government investigation into reports of sudden acceleration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Drew, the government itself did an extensive 10 month investigation, even brought in NASA engineering experts, determined there were no electronic issues that they could find related to sudden unintended acceleration basically clearing Toyota. Why didn't the government have this document? Or did they?
GRIFFIN: They didn't. You know, Toyota sent thousands of documents to transportation officials but not this one. The company told us it was because, and I'm quoting here, the test and the document had nothing to do with unintended acceleration or a defect or safety flaw of any kind. But I must tell you, Anderson, one of the consultants hired by congress to look into this at the time, engineering professor Michael Peck of the University of Maryland, told me this document should have absolutely been part of any investigation into sudden unintended acceleration and he was surprised NHTSA didn't have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: We have much more on this story on our website. We posted all the relevant documents and their translations to CNN.com.
You're watching NEWS STREAM. We'll be back right after the break.
LU STOUT: Now heaps of garbage are piling up in the streets of Mexico City after the closure of a major landfill site. Now the city's mayor wanted to send the trash to the suburbs, but as Rafael Romo reports the residents don't want it in their backyard.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was believed to be the largest landfill in the world, extending as far as the eye can see. Located on the outskirts of Mexico City and known as Bordo Poliente (ph) this used to be the final destination of garbage from one of the largest metropolitan areas around the planet. Mexico City generates 12,600 metric tons of trash per day, equivalent to 1.25 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower.
Mexico City mayor Marcello Ebrard shut down the landfill last December, a move applauded by environmental groups. His plan: to dump the garbage in the suburbs.
"Our objective," the mayor said then, "is to significantly reduce the presence of methane gas in the atmosphere."
He also spoke about using gas to generate electricity.
There was just one problem: his plan met more resistance than he thought. People in the suburbs don't want Mexico City's garbage. Places that would take the waste were so far away, truck driver Julio Rodriguez says it's backing up at the transfer stations.
JULIO CESAR RODRIGUZ, GARBAGE TRUCK DRIVER (through translator): What can do other than try to provide the service, but we can't do it this way. We need a solution fast, immediately, because we're wasting a lot of time.
ROMO: Authorities tell us they're trying to prevent people from dumping trash in the middle of the city. Their solution is the installation of recycling stations like this one. So far, they have built three, but their goal is to install 200 throughout Mexico City.
The rest of the stations aren't being built fast enough. To the embarrassment of officials piles of trash have appeared in many areas around Mexico City including downtown.
FERNANDO ABOITIZ, PUBLIC WORKD AND SERVICES SECRETARY (through translator): There are many people who are throwing trash on the street in a clandestine way. We're going to focus on the program to install containers in about 700 problem areas we have identified around the city.
ROMO: Mayor Marcelo Ebrard says his government is working as fast as possible to find a permanent solution to the problem.
MARCELO EBRARD, MAYOR OF MEXICO CITY (through translator): We have to solve the problem in the next few days. We have been working on this for a year. And to be honest, the closing of the landfill could have caused the system to collapse, but that didn't happen. But yes we have to address the problem in the next few days.
ROMO: Meanwhile, trash continues piling up in some places around Mexico City. And with 20 million people living in the metropolitan area, it's a problem that needs an answer fast.
Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.
LU STOUT: As Rafael said, Mexico City throws out more than the weight of the Eiffel Tower every day, but we wanted to try and find out other ways to put 12,600 metric tons of trash in perspective. For instance, every day Mexico City throws out more than the weight of 22 fully loaded Airbus A-380s. And all that trash piles up. After a week, the city will have thrown out the equivalent of an American Nimitz class Air Craft Carrier.
Now a sports update is straight ahead. And Tiger Woods? struggles continue. We'll have all the highlights and lowlights next.
LU STOUT: Welcome back.
Time for a sports update. And one golfer's quest to become world number one resumed in the U.S. on Thursday. Pedro Pinto is in London. He has got all the details -- Pedro.
PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie.
Rory McIlroy narrowly missed out on rising to the top of the rankings last Sunday at the World Matchplay Championship, but he has another chance to do it at the Honda Classic this weekend. The 22-year-old started the tournament well. I can tell you that. At Palm Beach Gardens in Florida on Thursday.
Watch him here on the ninth hole, McIlroy going for the green on the long approach. The move pays off. That would lead to one of five birdies on the day as he shot a 66.
David Love III is the man they're all chasing. Did Love manage to equal the course record by firing a 64 on Thursday? It allowed the American to take a two shot lead into Friday's second round. Love, in fact, knocked down a hole in one on the fifth hole, definitely his highlight of the day.
McIlroy, the reigning U.S. Open champion is part of a big crowd as you can see chasing the leader with the score of 66.
One golfer that you didn't see on the first page of the leaderboard was former world number one Tiger Woods. The American struggled during Thursday's opening round. Once again Tiger found it quite difficult to drain his putts as witnessed by that bad break at 12 that lead to a boogie. The very next hole, Woods lines up a birdie try that looks good initially, but wouldn't you know it the ball lips out again and Tiger would have to settle for par.
It was that kind of day for Woods looking for par on 15, leaves it a little left resulting in another boogie.
Woods opened with a one over par 71 and is already seven shots back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: I had a lot of near putts today. I mean I rolled over a lot of edges. And they just didn't quite go in. But I wasn't disappointed in my lines, a couple of bad greens out there, the green kind of snagged it harder or less than I expected, but overall I hit the ball very good on my putts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINTO: Two of the world's top tennis players are clashing in the semifinals of the Dubai Championships right now. And I can tell you that Murray took the first set 6-2 against Noak Djokovic. They're going head- to-head as we speak. The other semifinal pits Roger Federer against Juan Martin Del Potro and will take place later on Friday.
In the NBA, the two hottest teams in the league extended their winning streaks on Thursday. The top team in the East won their ninth straight game while the top team in the West won their seventh straight game.
Let's start with Oklahoma City who beat Dwight Howard and the Magic in Orlando. The Thunder's two-man game was working a charm. Russell Westbrook to Kevin Durant in transition. And KD knows how to finish that with a huge slam.
The Magic were still out in front in the third quarter, though. Dwight Howard doing what he does best, crashes the boards and scores two of his 33 points on the night. Orlando were up by 13 at that point.
But you know what? Oklahoma City stormed back. They went on a 9-0 run at the end of the game. Durant with a big 3-pointer. He had 38 points, 8 rebounds. The Thunder lead by three later with Daequan Cook on the free throw line, he misses, giving the Magic one last chance to tie, but they can't get off a shot in time. Oklahoma win 105-102. Their seventh straight win.
And that'll do it for the sports update. Kristie, back to you in Hong Kong.
LU STOUT: All right, Pedro, thank you. And back to our top story, a Red Cross convoy has made it to the Syrian City of Homs, which has been under heavy bombardment for more than three weeks. The convoy is bringing aid for the people of Baba Amr.
Now let's speak to Syrian activist Abo Emad who is in Homs. He joins us now on the line. And can you please describe the conditions, especially for civilians in Homs and in Baba Amr.
ABO EMAD, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: Just now, something terrible happened here in the city of Homs -- they have the demonstration (INAUDIBLE) by artillery, a massacre happened over there. We have now more than 16 people died over there.
LU STOUT: 60 deaths today? In which section of Homs?
EMAD: In (INAUDIBLE). They've now killed 16 people over there by hitting the demonstration with artillery. And about that, the Red Cross today, they prevented -- the regime I mean, they prevented the Red Cross and the Red Crescent from entering Baba Amr until they clean what they -- what they have been doing since 28 days. They prevented them from entering today.
LU STOUT: You know, there are also reports of reprisal killings and executions taking place in Baba Amr. What have you heard on that?
EMAD: Yes, that's right. Until now we have more than 150 people just executed in the streets. And they're all civilians in Baba Amr area. We don't know their names yet, but the executions are just going on here in Baba Amr. And no one can save the civilians right there. And most of them are actually their trapped in their houses and they can't leave.
LU STOUT: Can you describe the military build-up around the city? The Syrian army present in Homs?
LU STOUT: Can you describe the Syrian army military buildup in Homs?
EMAD: They are (INAUDIBLE) like most of the neighborhoods (INAUDIBLE) especially the old city today. They're (INAUDIBLE) right now it's kind of free. So they're trying to keep Homs City under siege until now.
We don't have water. Every neighborhood in Homs since four days. We don't have water at all. So those people were collecting the snow that is falling and trying to melt it to rain. It's bad like this in Homs.
LU STOUT: You're describing the humanitarian situation there. And people there are so desperate they're using snow to drink water.
Of course you've been reporting on this ICRC and this Red Crescent convoy heading in with much needed aid and supplies. Can you tell us more about the Syrian Army. And are you seeing tanks on the streets? Are you seeing Syrian Army soldiers going from house to house?
EMAD: They are actually soldiers and members of mercenaries (INAUDIBLE) that (INAUDIBLE) just grounding the city and trying to keep it under siege. In some places they are using mortars. And in other places, they are using -- shelling directly at the people and the demonstrations. They are not allowing any food or any other supplies like medical supplies to enter to Homs City. And it's -- we desperately need some food right here.
The whole city is closed since 45 days. It's 45 days without something enter through that city.
LU STOUT: You're describing the indiscriminate shelling taking place in Homs. Can you tell us more about the Free Syrian Army and its recent decision to conduct that tactical retreat from Baba Amr?
EMAD: You know, basically they are retreating from Baba area because the regime started use the SCUD 4 missiles on the neighborhood. So they are retreated to prevent the regime from using that missiles on the civilian neighborhoods. So for another reasons.
You know, we've been under siege since 28 days and no one supported the Free Syrian Army over there and all of (INAUDIBLE). So they have to actually to retreat. And despite that, we were running out of ammunition and weapons. The regime army couldn't enter until we left that area.
LU STOUT: Can the Free Syrian Army ever fight on par with the Syrian army? Or is -- do you have to say the rebel fighting force simply out-gunned, out equipped compared to the Syrian Army?
EMAD: What's happening right now is that the Free Syrian Army members right now is organizing -- just organizing their cause because of course they're going back to Baba Amr and to other places. That's right, we lost Baba Amr, but we now have more than half of Homs City.
LU STOUT: Abo Emad, Syrian activist, joining us live on the line from Homs, thank you for giving us details from what you've been seeing in the city today. He was reporting 60 deaths at least today as indiscriminate shelling goes on in Homs.
And that is NEWS STREAM, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.