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Deadly Explosions Across Iraq; Effort to Save Syria's Injured Children; Manhunt in France; Zimbabwe Activists Convicted of "Incitement;" Massive Sand Storms Affect Middle East; Silver Sea Cruise Liner Collides With Vietnamese Container Ship

Aired March 20, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET


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

I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

And we begin in Iraq, where a series of explosions across the country killed more than 40 people on the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

The search is on for the person behind a series of shootings in the French city of Toulouse.

And disaster averted. Passengers who were on board a cruise liner that collided with a container ship tell us about their ordeal.

Iraq has been rocked by a series of explosions. More than 40 people have been killed and some 150 have been wounded. An Interior Ministry official calls it a coordinated attack.

And as you can see, the explosions, they were spread across the country. One of the deadliest attacks took place in Karbala, where two car bombs killed 11 people. Now, central Baghdad was also targeted, despite increased security ahead of next week's Arab League summit.

No one has claimed responsibility for the violence. And this comes on the ninth year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Mohammed Jamjoom is monitoring developments from Abu Dhabi and he joins us now.

Mohammed, just how coordinated were these attacks, and who could be behind them?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, we're talking about, as of now, at least, 15 car bombs. We're talking about other attacks on government officials.

This is across the country, the worst day of violence since February 23rd, when almost 50 people were killed and over 200 injured in similar style attacks. One senior Interior Ministry official tells us that these attacks were coordinated. And because of the style of attacks that they were, he believes that al Qaeda is behind it, that this Al Qaeda in Iraq, asserting itself, sending a message that they are still around, that they are still able to pull off these kinds of attacks -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: If this is indeed al Qaeda asserting itself once again, is the country able to secure itself ahead of next week's Arab League summit in the capital?

JAMJOOM: This is the big question right now. Iraq has worked very hard in the past year, even before that, in trying to secure this Arab League summit. This was meant to show that Iraq security is much improved, that the government there has gotten a handle on the security situation, that they would be able to host a summit of this importance to get those delegates, those delegations there for this kind of a meeting. So they're very proud of that achievement.

As of last week, there were officials that were saying that preparations were complete in order to secure the city, but now officials are telling us that this may cast a cloud on those proceedings, that it could undermine the argument that Iraq is ready to host the Arab League summit. Let's take one example.

In Baghdad alone, a car bomb outside the Foreign Ministry. This is a heavily-fortified compound. This is a compound that has been targeted numerous times in the past. And the question now becomes, if even that part of Baghdad can't be sufficiently protected, and a car bomb can go off there, where else could this happen, and is Iraq ready to host this kind of a high-level meeting of the Arab League summit?


LU STOUT: Now, these attacks, they also come nine years to the day that a U.S.-led army invaded Iraq. Mohammed, what are your thoughts on the timing of today's violence?

JAMJOOM: Well, I go back to something we heard from an official a little while ago when they said that, you know, they believe that this is al Qaeda, the style of this attack would be Al Qaeda in Iraq sending a message that they are there, that they are able to carry out these types of attacks. Even though the Iraqi security apparatus, even though the Iraqi government says that they have a handle on the situation there, that the security situation is improving, the fact that it's happened on this day, the ninth anniversary of the invasion, yes, that sends a message.

Clearly, the timing very significant on that anniversary, but also the fact that it's just a week before the Arab League summit meets there. That's also very important.

Now, there was a banner that flashed on Iraqi state television just a short while ago indicating that there would be a public holiday next week that's taking place when the Arab League meeting is happening. We don't know if that was planned before these attacks or after the attacks, or if it's done to try to enhance the security situation. But the fact that it's happening on such a significant date, nine years to the day after the U.S.-led invasion, and the fact that it's happening a week before the Arab League summit, very significant timing-wise -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yes, the timing very significant, very uncanny.

Mohammed Jamjoom, on the story.

Thank you.

Now, activists in Syria say government forces are carrying out fresh attacks this day. They say some 18 people have been killed across the country, most of them in Homs, including one of the first activists to organize protests in the city.

This footage, it shows a car burning after apparently being hit in the shelling of Homs, although we can't verify that. And here, in Rastan, just outside Homs, prayers being held in darkness for a family of three. Activists say a mother, father and their 4-year-old daughter were killed in indiscriminate shelling of their house, and that is just one example of how the young are falling victim to the violence in Syria. And even when they survive a shelling attack, the makeshift field hospitals are struggling to treat them.

Arwa Damon has more now on the efforts to save Syria's injured children. And a warning for you -- her report contains disturbing images.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doctors try in vain to revive this little boy, identified as Amran Adris (ph). He has a head injury.

"Is this child part of the armed gang of Bashar al-Assad?" the doctor asks angrily. "Is this the response to Kofi Annan and calls for peace?"

It's an utterly hopeless effort. The life drains from Amran's (ph) body.

Other children shriek in pain. A little girl with a leg wound cries out for her father. Lying next to her, another child.

She has a wound to her arm that is too gruesome to show. Most of it has been blown off. She says, "I just want to go home, have dinner and watch TV." She says she was playing with three other children when an artillery round struck.

These are scenes from the town of Pusaik (ph), close to the Syrian-Lebanese border, over the weekend. Earlier this month, video obtained by CNN showed rebel fighters in and around the town with meager and faulty weapons, and a population on edge knowing a full-on assault was imminent, but with nowhere to go. Government forces now seem to have temporarily been hold back, allowing for activists to film images of the aftermath, which they then post to YouTube, not just in Pusaik (ph), but in some parts of the city of Homs itself.

This boy is from the neighborhood of Rifan (ph). He says his name is Abdullah (ph). He was in a mosque when the soldiers came in. Not even the children were spared.

"They lined us up against a wall and then they started shooting. There were 15 of us. Some were my relatives, some were my friends," he says. Some were even younger than he.

For days, Rifan (ph) was under heavy shelling. Army raids drove rebel fighters out. Rescue teams were unable to enter. When they finally did, they say the streets were littered with corpses.

Abu Homsi was there. "There were bodies that were burnt completely, as if someone had poured gasoline on them and set them on fire," he recalls. "I saw five slaughtered children. They slashed their eyes and faces with knives."

Among the piles of dead, evidence of dozens of wounded children. Abu Fedaa was also part of the rescue mission. "They committed a big massacre. We found 32 children, many with their four fingers cut off, gunshot wounds," he says. "I mean, they were young, all under 15 years of age," he continues.

This boy was one of them with a gunshot wound to the chest. Both his tiny hands bandaged.

More victims of violence no one can comprehend and no one seems able to stop.


LU STOUT: Small children not spared in this conflict. That was Arwa Damon reporting there.

Now, a very critical report has just been released. Human Rights Watch says it is evidence of abuses committed by both government forces and opposition rebels.

Let's get the very latest from Arwa Damon, who joins us now live in Beirut.

And Arwa, walk us through this report.

DAMON: Yes, this is a report that really is focusing on human rights violations by elements of the armed opposition, according to the release that we received from Human Rights Watch. The abuses that they've documented include kidnapping, detention, torture of security force members, government supporters, and people that are identified as being members of the Shabirha (ph), pro-government thugs, basically. And they also say that they've received reports of summary executions by members of armed opposition groups.

Now, Human Rights Watch is saying that the Syrian government's brutal tactics, which are undeniable at this stage, cannot justify abuses by elements of the opposition, armed elements of it, and that the leadership of the opposition really needs to make it clear to their followers that they must not carry out these types of abuses.

We spoke to one member of the opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council, Sheik Anat Arot (ph), who said that these acts are totally unacceptable, but he and one other member of the Free Syrian Army that we spoke to did acknowledge that these types of violations do occur because, they said, that they have constantly, day in and day out, been seeing this killing machine, as they described it, of the Assad regime slaughtering their people every hour of every day. And so there are some people who would not be able to control their desire for revenge, their bloodlust after seeing so much of their own blood being shed.

But this, most certainly, is one of the challenges that the opposition is going to face moving forward, proving that it is better than the regime and trying to keep a control on this cycle of revenge killings.

LU STOUT: Could there be another reason, Arwa, why the opposition, if confirmed, has committed these human rights atrocities? Could the opposition be moving to a more violent phase?

DAMON: Well, there is a fringe element to the opposition that many of the mainstream activists, if we want to label them that way, do acknowledge exist and are also staunchly against the types of violence that they would be committing. There are members of the mainstream opposition we have been speaking to who acknowledge this is taking place. They most certainly do not support it, and they, themselves, are greatly concerned that it could become more widespread because people are becoming increasingly more desperate.

The cycle of death has continued for so long, that many people do feel as if they need to take the situation into their own hands, as if they do need to somehow find any sort of means of justice, even though this would be a human rights violation at this stage. It's an incredibly complex situation and one that is in fact threatening to become even more violent the longer this drags on. And there are members of the opposition who are warning of the potential radicalization of the revolution and who are warning that the longer this carries on, the less of an ability they are going to have to keep control over those individuals who cannot control their anger and their bloodlust.

LU STOUT: A very worrying development, a damning report from Human Rights Watch.

Arwa Damon reporting.

Now, still to come here on NEWS STREAM, murder, mourning and a manhunt. As France remembers the dead, we'll bring you the latest on a hunt for a motorcycle killer.

Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba is still in hospital after suffering cardiac arrest on the pitch, but there are signs of improvement.

And in the U.S. the Republican primaries head to Illinois, and so do we.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now a manhunt is under way in France after a gunman shot and killed three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse. The attack was the third against minorities by a motorcycle gunman in just eight days, and police say the same weapon was used in two attacks on soldiers of African descent last week. The four victims of the school shooting, all Jews, will be flown to Israel to be buried.

Diana Magnay has been following the story for us in Toulouse.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A moment of silence held in schools across France to commemorate the victims of Monday's attack here at this school in Toulouse. Some chilling details coming out as the investigation continues. The interior minister saying in an interview to Europe 1, the French radio channel, that the gunman had been wearing some kind of recording device, a camera strapped to his chest to record, presumably, the killing as he did it.

We know that he was able to get close enough to his victims to shoot them at pointblank range. One of the three children he killed as young as 3.

We also know that the weapon used -- he used two guns -- that one of them, a caliber .45 automatic pistol, was the same as was used in the killings of three soldiers in two separate incidents here in the Toulouse region over the last 10 days. A similar pattern arriving on a black scooter, a gunman dressed in black killing these targets at pointblank range. One of them he turned over as he was lying on the ground, one of these soldiers, and shot him in the chest.

Now, all three of those soldiers were of ethnic origin, North African origin. These children and the rabbi who was killed here obviously Jewish. And the conclusion that you can reach is that this is obviously a racist series of murders, but the exact intent of the murderer, who is obviously still loose, is the subject of intense investigation right now as hundreds of investigative police and anti-terror units have been brought down into the region to try and track him down.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Toulouse.


LU STOUT: Time now for a sports update.

And the Premier League footballer who suffered cardiac arrest on Saturday continues to show signs of improvement.

Pedro Pinto joins us now live from London with more -- Pedro.


Fabrice Muamba has moved his limbs and has even communicated with friends and family. That's the latest on his condition, and that is very impressive, especially if you consider his heart was stopped for nearly two hours after he collapsed on the field during Saturday's FA Cup match between Bolton and Tottenham.

Muamba remains in the intensive care unit of the London Chest Hospital, where he has been since Saturday night. And he's definitely not out of the woods yet, but the latest news is very encouraging indeed.

Part of the hospital's latest statement read the following: "Muamba has been able to recognize family members and respond to questions appropriately."

There is still no confirmation on what his long-term prognosis is. Still, very good news over the last few hours.

And that is a quick look at sports for this hour. Back to you, Kristie, in Hong Kong.

LU STOUT: Pedro, thank you.

Ahead here on NEWS STREAM, the polls are open, with the Republican race heading to the U.S. state of Illinois. Stick around for that.


LU STOUT: And that is the Silversea leaving port here in Hong Kong. Earlier, it collided with a container ship off the coast of Vietnam. And we'll show you the damage, as well as the passenger reaction in just a few minutes, ahead, right here on NEWS STREAM.

Now, the race for the Republican nomination is now on the U.S. president's home turf, and the polls are now open in Illinois. Analysts say despite being the front-runner, Mitt Romney needs a big win. He lost to rival Rick Santorum in the southern states last week, but Romney seems to have an edge in more moderate Illinois.

Now, let's bring in CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser. He joins us now live from a polling station in Wheaton, Illinois. It's a small city just outside Chicago.

And Paul, good to see you.

I hear that Mitt Romney, he has the lead there in Illinois. So will he win the state?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, public opinion polls indicate yes, the answer is yes. Two were conducted over the weekend here in Illinois, and let's take a look at one of them. This one from American Research Group.

And you can see right there, Mitt Romney with a 14-point advantage, according to this poll, over Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, among people who said they're likely to vote right here in the primary in Illinois. Another poll that came out around the same time also indicated a 15-point lead for Romney.

So, yes, the polls indicate Romney should have a good night, but listen, let's not take anything for granted. Of course these polls are not always accurate.

But you mentioned -- yes, Illinois, more of a moderate state, I guess you could say, when it comes to the Republican electorate, than what we saw in Alabama and Mississippi a week ago, when Santorum won those contests. So this is a state that Romney does need to win. And if Santorum does pull the upset here, it would be a very, very big story.

Both of the candidates campaigning here in Illinois yesterday, and both of them arguing over who was better when it comes to the economy, the top issue. Take a listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm someone experienced in the economy. I'm not an economic lightweight. President Obama is.

We're not going to be successful in replacing an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight. We're going to have to replace him with someone who knows how to run this economy.



RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I heard Governor Romney here call me an "economic lightweight" because I wasn't a Wall Street financier like he was. Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as the president of the United States? Do you think that's the kind of experience we need, someone who's going to take and look after, as he did, his friends on Wall Street and bail them out at the expense of Main Street America?


STEINHAUSER: Kristie, just a taste there, I guess you could say, of the acrimony now, the building nastiness between these two candidates.

After Illinois, the next stop, Louisiana on Saturday -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yes, fighting words there from Rick Santorum, but Santorum, overall, is lagging in the battle for delegates. So, at this point, is it still possible for Santorum to win the nomination during the primary season?

STEINHAUSER: No, the math is pretty much against him there. You're right, Romney has about a 2-1 advantage over Santorum when it comes to delegates, but he still not even to the halfway mark of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the Republican presidential nomination here in the United States.

He hopes to do that in the primary process before it ends in late June. Santorum and, I guess you could say, for Gingrich, their best bet is to prevent Romney from clenching, hoping this battle for the nomination goes all the way to the convention, the Republican convention in Tampa in late August. And then I guess anything could happen -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And the big "if," if Romney loses Illinois, the headlines will be, "Why Can't Romney Close the Deal?" So what's holding Romney back, and could there be a brokered convention?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, that would be the headline. And he escaped that headline in Michigan when he had to win the state a couple weeks ago, and he escaped that headline in Ohio. He'll probably escape it here.

But the problem, I guess, is that while most Republicans consider Romney the more electable candidate against President Barack Obama come November, he's not beloved by a lot of conservatives, by a lot of people -- the base, you could say, of the Republican Party. He's had a hard time sealing the deal with the base, and that creates a problem. Rick Santorum seems the more popular candidate among conservatives, among Tea Party supporters, among people who consider themselves Evangelicals.

Yes, if Romney doesn't clench the nomination in the primary process, it would go to the convention, most likely, and then there could be backroom deals, there could be numerous rounds of voting for the delegates. It would be a crazy, wide-open story that we haven't seen in decades -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yes, that would be a fascinating story to watch.

Paul Steinhauser on the campaign trail, live from Wheaton, Illinois.

Thank you.

Now, you're with NEWS STREAM. And coming up next, these Zimbabweans are facing a possible jail sentence for watching the Arab Spring protests on television and talking about it.

And another cruise ship runs into trouble. We'll speak with the passengers who were on board.

All that and more, right here on CNN, after the headlines.


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

Now moment of silence has been held to remember the victims of Monday's shooting at a Jewish school in southwest France. Three children and a teacher were killed in the attack in Toulouse. Their bodies will be flown to Israel for burial. An official says authorities are now investigating the possibility that neo-Nazis were behind the shooting.

Opposition activists say Syrian government forces have launched fresh assault in Homs province. They say across Syria at least 18 people have been killed this day. Meanwhile, the United Nations is expected to vote on backing special envoy Kofi Annan's mission to Syria.

Now a series of deadly car bombs have exploded across Iraq, killing more than 40 people and wounding nearly 200. The attacks come nine years to the day since the U.S. led invasion. Now the blast hit police and government buildings in seven Iraqi cities including Baghdad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, and Fallujah.

Now six activists in Zimbabwe are waiting to hear their sentence after being convicted of inciting public violence. Now the group was arrested after watching a video of the Arab spring uprisings and then holding discussions about it. And the activists could face up to 10 years in prison.

Let's get the latest from Robyn Curnow who joins us live from Johannesburg -- Robyn.


Well, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, we were all watching weren't we last year? And so, too, were a group of people in Zimbabwe. Take a look at this.


CURNOW: As the Arab uprisings swept through North Africa last year, in southern Africa many wondered if that revolutionary fervor would be replicated in places like Zimbabwe. Would people take to these streets, too?

In Harare last week, these two Zimbabweans told me that an academic discussion about that very question turned into a year long nightmare that led to a criminal trial.

Monday, they were convicted of conspiracy to cause public violence even though there wasn't ever any.

TAFADZWA CHOTO: Simply we watched a video that contained clips from CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, of what had happened in Egypt and Tunisia. And afterwards we started discussing the topic about lessons learned from Egypt and Tunisia, what it means for Zimbabweans, Africans and the rest of the world.

MUNYARADZI GWISAI: Unfortunately in this country that's a crime. And we were roughed up and arrested for that.

CURNOW: They're parents of a seven-year-old daughter who is on the right. She was supposed to celebrate her birthday the day after the meeting. They didn't come home until they got bail a month later.

While in this prison, filmed by a family member, they say they were tortured which the state denied during their trial.

CHOTO: I was beaten at the back and under the toes. So using a broomstick and when it broke they just took another plunger -- a wood plank that was in the room.

CURNOW: Tafadzwa Choto had three brain surgeries before her arrest and worries about leaving her child to go back to jail.

CHOTO: Conditions in the jail are terrible, the living conditions. So one cannot really prepare yourself, but you have to accept the situation to be able to go back, otherwise one can break down.

CURNOW: There's a sense that the security forces perhaps overreacted. Do you think they were nervous about what was happening in North Africa at the time?

CHOTO: Well, it is the same reaction that we got from this current regime that they were nervous that they eventually went to spread to southern Africa.

CURNOW: Many Zimbabweans say this is a politically motivated verdict that factions aligned to Robert Mugabe in a shaky power sharing government want to send a message to anyone thinking of challenging the state.

GWISAI: Contrived justice. These are the tools of subtle tyranny.


CURNOW: Now we know that in a Harare court room as we speak people are waiting, or about to hear an argument against mitigation by the state's prosecutor. We're expected initially that there'd be some sense of what the sentencing would be. They face up to 10 years, as you said. But it's likely that that's only going to happen perhaps tomorrow or the next day.

LU STOUT: So we're still awaiting the sentencing. The activists could receive up to 10 years in prison.

Robyn, I wanted to ask you, how many people in Zimbabwe feel that their country needs an Arab Spring style movement?

CURNOW: Well, I think it depends who you speak to. And I was there last week as you know. And Zimbabwe, despite being in a power sharing agreement, a government between the former opposition and Robert Mugabe's party, the very sort of unhealthy partnership. And Robert Mugabe and his party, by all accounts, still holds control of the security apparatus, much of the judiciary, essentially is still in -- you know, the top seat there.

And many people are resentful of that, resentful of the climate of fear that is still very much present in that country, despite I must say an opening up of the political space in recent years there still is a climate of fear. So is there a likelihood of some sort of Arab uprising, well the conditions are similar in many ways. This sort of security state, high unemployment, youth with not a lot of future.

What some in Africa, particularly doesn't have is that internet penetration and that mobile connectivity. Only 12 percent of people have access to the internet in a place like Zimbabwe. Half of the population has a mobile phone. And that of course is the tipping point in North Africa.

Now whether or not people want to overthrow the government, Zimbabweans are quite patient. And (inaudible) criticize them for that. So just discussing it look at the consequences. You can see why that many people think, you know, that's not the way Robert Mugabe is going to end his 32 year rule.

LU STOUT: So multiple factors going against an Arab Spring repeat in Zimbabwe. Robyn Curnow reporting. Thank you.

Now passengers have been describing the horrifying moments before their cruise ship crashed into a container vessel off the coast of Vietnam. Now the owners of the luxury Silver Shadow, they call it a minor incident. But as Ramy Inocencio reports, some passengers feared the ship was going to capsize.


RAMY INOCENCIO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the Silver Shadow, a luxury cruise liner now in port here in Hong Kong. Right behind me, you can see some of the damage inflicted to its hull after it collided with a Vietnamese cargo ship off that country's coast.

The physical damage seems minimal, but the psychological impact had passengers we spoke with wondering what if?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This could have been a major disaster had we hit a big cargo ship. This one, the one that we hit was about one-fourth the size of Silver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was extremely frightening and worrying. And obviously in the light of the Costa Concordia that went down in Italy.

INOCENCIO: But despite the trauma, some passengers said they'd still recommend this company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cruise line is very, very nice and very professional.

INOCENCIO: Still, this passenger says it was a terrifying ordeal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...the fog we, to our horror, we saw this Vietnamese container ship appear sideways on. And it was as if our ship was perfectly lined up to hit it in the side. So it was a horrifying moment. And in less than about five seconds after the ship appeared, we did in fact collide right in the side of it very dramatically.

INOCENCIO: And here, on the port side, or the left side of the ship you can see even more damage. It's at the front of the ship, just right up there, where you can see the point of first impact. Right after that, the Silver Shadow veered to the right, but not before taking out the bridge of the Vietnamese cargo ship.

Vietnam's maritime administration told CNN the ship is now docked in Ha Long Bay. And an investigation is underway. No one on board was injured. And that there were no injuries reported on the luxury vessel. The Silver Sea, which operates the Silver Shadow, released a statement saying last Friday's incident was minor. The ship continued on its planned course a few hours after the accident.

And I spoke with the port operator, they say that the Silver Shadow is still taking on passengers. And they're going to set sail later this evening.

Ramy Incencio, CNN, Hong Kong.


LU STOUT: Now poor visibility perhaps a factor in a collision at sea. And it seems that fog in that part of Vietnam is not that uncommon. Let's get more now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center - - Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, this is an interesting story from the beginning to us. When we started hearing about how fog could have been a problem. Now there isn't a lot of weather information that comes out of this area of Vietnam. And I want to go ahead and zoom in a little bit here and show you what we're talking about.

So this is in northern Vietnam. This time of year, particularly in January, February, and even as we head into March, these areas do tend to get a lot of fog. The temperatures cool down a little bit, especially in the evening hours, and the fog tends to form. Usually can burn up pretty quickly.

Ha Long Bay is very popular with tourists. I've never been there, but you can see right over here there's a lot of small islands here. There's beautiful rock formations which makes it a very popular tourist destination.

Let's go ahead and turn on the pictures. I want to show you a couple of these pictures that people have posted here on Google, because it's pretty interesting. This is a picture, for example, of how these rock formation look in the misty conditions. And that's one of the reasons people actually like to visit here, because it looks foggy like this.

They do have to be very careful. I was reading things like, for example, and Trip Advisor and they were saying how you have to be very careful with the fog. And there was actually a post on Trip Advisor saying how they were fogged in. Their particular cruise ship did not leave port on Saturday the 17th of March because the fog was so think, which is precisely when the Silver Sea Cruises was actually traveling through this area.

So just kind of wanted to give you a little feedback on this and kind of give you a little background information, so to speak, about how this area actually looks and why there's so much fog in this region.

So let's go ahead and switch gears now, more on to other things. Let's go ahead and take a look at the Middle East. We're going to talk about the sand storms that had been affecting this area. It's pretty interesting because it's been happening since the weekend. And I want to show you a series of different images that have come up.

This one is from Saturday, and you can see it extending from Iraq all the way down to the UAE. The blowing sand and dust that has been affecting this area. Well, that was on Saturday. By Sunday, a lot of the dust has actually moved farther to the south and out to sea. But a second round came through. And that is giving people problems even today from Afghanistn to Pakistan is all the way back to the Persian Gulf.

We have Leone Lakhani who filed this report.


LEONE LAKHANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We really have been plagued by sand storms and strong winds here in the UAE and the surrounding areas for days now. And the visibility is really, really quite poor.

I just want to give you an idea of the type of thing we're seeing over here. In that direction you normally see that iconic (inaudible) mosque which is a huge landmark here in Abu Dhabi. Today, just a sea of dust. You can't even make out the outline of that mosque.

On the left side, you normally see the Sheikhzia Bridge (ph), yet another landmark here in Abu Dhabi. And once again, you can't even make out where the bridge is.

You see the highway, just barely the start of a highway over there.

Now because of the poor visibility, police are warning drivers use extra caution. Doctors are warning people with respiratory diseases to try and stay indoors. There are reports of hundreds of people across the region who are being treated for breathing difficulties as a result of these severe sand storms that we're facing here in this region.

Now in Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, schools have been shut as a result of the sand storms.

Air traffic has been disrupted. The airports in the region are running, but there are many reports of delays and flight cancellations across the Gulf region. And unfortunately it doesn't seem like it's going to end any time soon. We're hearing forecasts of more sand storms, more strong winds and dust storms to come.

Just to give you an idea. I've just been standing out here for a few minutes, and I feel like I'm already collecting dust.

Leone Lakhani, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


RAMOS: Well, there you have it. The blowing sand and dust also affecting Karachi. This is a picture, Kristie, from Karachi just taken in the last few hours. Visibility problems there as well. And travel delays throughout the region.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: You don't want to be stuck in that. Mari Ramos, thank you.

Now Apple says it has sold 3 million new iPads in just four days. The latest version of the popular tablet, it features a better screen and faster processor. And it's been met with mixed reviews. But, judging by the sales figures, consumers appear to like it.

Let's put the new iPad sales in perspective for you. Remember, it sold 3 million units in just four days. It took the original iPad 80 days to reach that mark. And, if you look at Apple's competitors, Google says only 12 million Android tablets have ever been sold. All told, the new iPad could match with in days. It's set to go on sale in 20 more countries on Friday.

Now still to come here on News Stream, we check in with our leading ladies, women leading the charge for equality in the board room.


LU STOUT: Now time now for a series on women at the forefront of innovation. Weili Dai on the left here, and Carolina Herrera on the right. Although they work in very different fields, tech and fashion, as leading women they do have something in common.


WEILI DAI, MARVELL CO-FOUNDER: Hello, hello. Hello, pleasure meeting you.

All girls I want to tell you, you are the future of our country, of our world.

LU STOUT: Words of wisdom from a woman in a position to know. An audience of school girls transfixed.

We're with Weili Dai as she speaks to future leaders.

DAI: If person like me came here and in this beautiful country and be able to co-found a world leading semiconductor, or high tech company. So guess what, all of you guys absolutely anything is possible.

LU STOUT: For Dai, this moment is at the heart of who she is: a tech geek, born in China, who settled in this California neighborhood in 1979, received a top-notch education, and today gladly offers her recipe for success.

DAI: The technology to me is a foundation, you know. Using my own experience, today I see woman, or girls, are really capable of leading our industry.


DAI: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.

LU STOUT: And she ought to know. Dai co-founded Marvell Technology in 1995 with her husband of 26 years. The company now boasts 7,500 employees designing a product that benefits millions.

Dai has no problem with sharing the credit for her company's success.

DAI: I am a true believer of team work. I'm a true believer of how do we leverage the natural talent of women and men and to accomplish more.

LU STOUT: A one time semi-pro basketball player, Dai credits the game for her early discipline in life. She often makes basketball analogies when talking about business.

DAI: For any company to be successful, it's not about one or two people, it's about a team that with complimentary skills even at the top management level we all kind of chip in as playing many different positions, but together we are playing championship for the basketball.



Like Weili Dai, Venezuelan born fashion empress Carolina Herrera views team work as fundamental in business.

HERRERA: If I don't have my team behind me, I wouldn't be teaching here. Fashion is a collaboration with many people. I have a fantastic president for the company who takes care of the numbers of the company. If you ask me to take care of that side, I would be sitting there crying, because I don't know what to do.

Oh, perfect.

TAYLOR: We were in New York recently during Fashion Week as she got ready to present the 40 pieces in her fall 2012 collection.

So this is how the creative process happens?

HERRERA: This is the beginning.

TAYLOR: It's colors...

HERRERA: We started with the colors.

So the whole beginning of the collection is quite something maybe we don't like. And I use different materials for that.

And then the evening is very glamorous.

TAYLOR: And nothing speaks to glamor more than the dress designed for the shows grand finale, a dramatic silk ball gown with a velvet wrapped belt, treated like a star every step of the way.

Back stage at the show, we find movie star Renee Zellweger.

Tell me what you love most about Carolina's designs.

Aw, come on. They're gorgeous.

RENEE ZELLWEGER, ACTRESS: Classic elegance. But they're always fun. She finds a way to make it fun.

TAYLOR: Always savvy, Herrera understands that while the runway abounds in pageantry and glitz, at the end of the day what matters is the sell.

HERRERA: You might be the best designer and you have -- and you are so creative. And you have the most beautiful ideas, but if they all stay in your room and they don't go out to be worn by someone, then you are not in business.


LU STOUT: The series continues next week when we'll focus on the families of our leading women and their lives before they arrived in the U.S.

Now for more information, check out the website at

Now still to come on News Stream, how this young girl overcame her fear of the ski slope and became an internet star in the process. Her story coming up next.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now last minute nerves can hit even the bravest of sport stars. So it's not surprising that a 10-year-old girl had a few jitters before attempting a 40 meter ski jump. But the self-confessed Tom Boy overcame her fear. And as Jeanne Moos reports became the star of a viral video.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is how ski jumping looks when the big girls do it. But to a little girl, it looks like this.




MOOS: Her name is Via (ph). And she's a fourth grader in Park City, Utah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here goes something, I guess.

MOOS: But it's not going yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can do this. I'm going -- I'm going to jump.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Woah, my ski is slipping off.

MOOS: Via's (ph) mom, Jennifer Terry (ph), posted the helmet cam video on YouTube.

Now she's not up there alone. You can hear an instructor chiming in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just remember, never snow plow, OK.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep it straight, you'll be fine.


MOOS: She's standing atop the 40 meter jump, having already mastered the 20.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just longer. Just a bigger 20, that's all.



MOOS: But even a self-described Tom Boy is entitled to a last minute whimper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're fine. You'll do fine.


MOOS: This viral video reminded America's most accomplished female ski jumper.


MOOS: Of herself.

You mean, you grew up on that very jump?

LINDSEY VAN, PROFESSIONAL SKI JUMPER: Yep. I grew up on that jump. And I did that same thing, but 20 years ago.

Yeah, it seemed huge to me, then.

MOOS: Now Lindsey Van skis off jumps more than four times that size. When she was a kid.

VAN: Your goal is to make the Olympic team for girls.

MOOS: Only women weren't allowed to ski jump in the Olympics. For years opponents argued there weren't enough female ski jumpers and that it wasn't good for their reproductive health. The myth became a joke. Would the uterus fall out?

Your uterus is OK, right?

VAN: My uterus is perfect, yes.

MOOS: Just last year, women finally got the green light to ski jump at the 2014 Olympics. Now Via (ph) is showing girls how to face the fear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the suspense at the top of the first time freaks you out. That's the only thing. It's so fun.

MOOS: Though even on the beginner's 40 meter jump that last step.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here goes something.

MOOS: Is a doozey.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 60 seems like nothing now.

MOOS: New York.


LU STOUT: Jennifer, high five.

And that is News Stream. But the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.