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Police Surround Apartment of Toulouse Killings Suspect; Interview with Kickstarter Co-Founder Yancey Strickler; Human Rights Watch: UAE Needs to do More to Stop Exploitation of Migrant Workers; Powerful Earthquake Rocks Southwest Mexico

Aired March 21, 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 France, where a dawn raid turns into a daylight standoff. Police surround the house of a man suspected in a series of deadly shootings in and around Toulouse.

A powerful earthquake shakes Mexico, causing lawmakers to flee congress.

And the magic of Messi as the Argentine superstar becomes Barcelona's all- time top scorer at the age of just 24.

Now, hundreds of police officers continue to surround an apartment in the French city of Toulouse, in a tense standoff with a man suspected in a wave of attacks that killed seven people, including three children at a Jewish school. France's interior minister says the suspect promised to surrender some time in the afternoon. It is now just after 1:00 p.m. in Toulouse.

In the early hours of the morning, special operations teams attempted a raid, but they retreated after shots were fired. Police say the man is a 24-year-old French national of Algerian descent with links to an Islamic extremist group.

A short time ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a public address, saying France must remain united in the face of terrorism.


NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): And I'm saying to the national community that the entire nation must be joined together. We must not give in to revenge, nor to people confusing religion and terrorism. We must, and do this. We owe this to the victims who were killed in cold blood.


LU STOUT: Now let's take a look now at the wave of attacks.

Now, they began on March the 11th, when a soldier of North African descent was killed in Toulouse after arranging to meet a man to sell him a motorcycle. And then four days later and 50 kilometers away, two more soldiers, again of North African origin, were gunned down by a man wearing a motorcycle helmet. Another was seriously injured.

And then, on Monday, four more people were gunned down, this time at a Jewish school in Toulouse. And again, the attacker wore a motorcycle helmet and arrived on a scooter. Among the victims, a teacher and three children under the age of 8. Police say the same guns were used in all three attacks.

Now, Jim Bittermann has been following developments for us from the French capital. He joins me now live from Paris.

And Jim, we've learned more about the suspect. He could be an Afghan prison escapee named Mohammed Merah

Have the French security services been following him even before these shootings took place?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And I think, Kristie, that's one of the questions that's going to be asked in the aftermath of however this unfolds this afternoon.

I think one of the questions that's going to come up is, how much did they know about this man, and how much should they have known, and how much should they have known about what he was going to do? Because, basically, he has had a number of run-ins with the law. Some of them were violent, according to the interior minister this morning.

He also had a couple of trips to -- one at least to Afghanistan and one at least to Pakistan. And he had some Islamic connections. So -- to Islamic fundamentalist groups.

And so I think that there was reason to suspect him. And certainly the police wasted no time in swooping in this morning, early hours of this morning, just barely 36 hours after the attacks took place at the Jewish school. So they have been watching over some time, and I think that will be one of the questions that will come up.

He was known to the police. He had had these run-ins with the law. They tracked him down, specifically with the IP address of his computer, because the first victim was a military officer who put out an ad on the Internet saying that he was wanting to sell his motorbike, and the suspect responded with his computer, with an e-mail, and it was at that rendezvous to take a look at the motorbike that he killed the military officer.

So, as a consequence, they have a pretty good link. There's also said to be -- and this hasn't been confirmed, but there's said to be a cell phone connection in the sense that the suspect may have been using his cell phone at the school, around the school on Monday morning, shortly before or shortly after the attacks took place there.

So there's a couple of pretty good technological links that are being made to this suspect -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And that's how they were able to pinpoint his location there in Toulouse. But as you mentioned just then, as the interior minister pointed out, they've been following him for years.

Now, President Sarkozy, we just heard from him moments ago. He called for unity in his address.

And Jim, just how damaging have the shootings been to France and France's sense of community, especially between Jews and Muslims?

BITTERMANN: Well, I think this always comes up here, because there's such a large Islamic community here, its largest in Europe. There's also a very large Jewish community. And as a consequence, any time there's anything that suggests a Middle East conflict, it's played out, to some extent, if not on the streets here, at least played out in the debating halls here, because, in fact, the people get very vociferous about those kinds of things.

Sarkozy, this morning, made a big show, a meeting with Islamic and Jewish leaders, bringing them together, pointing out that by no means are the divisions that may take place in some people's minds like that of the killer are no means -- those divisions should be taking place in French society. It's something that they keep a close watch on here, and they're very cautious about those kind of inflammatory things that would lead to this kind of thing that has taken place.

Now, one of the political candidates here, one of the presidential candidates, did something that a lot of the others have opposed. And his name is Francois Bayrou. He's running third in the -- fourth in the polls, rather. And he said that he thought that the political discourse which has centered a lot on immigration issues during this presidential campaign, that the political discourse was the kind of thing that inflamed passions and could -- he suggested, anyway -- could have led to the encouragement of this gentleman to carry out the acts that he carried out.

The other candidates have said that's not just on, that, in fact, that was not the case. But nonetheless, it was raised in the public arena. And as a consequence, it's one of the things that will probably be debated as we come up to the presidential election -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: That's right. French presidential elections now just weeks away.

Jim Bittermann, joining us live from Paris.

Thank you.

Our Diana Magnay, she has been on the scene all morning. She joins us now live from Toulouse.

Diana, there is still no end to this standoff, now going into its ninth hour. What is the latest?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, you're right. Well, it all seems to have gone a little quiet.

We've heard that negotiations have stopped between police and the 24-year- old suspect holed up inside his apartment, in a block of apartments, let me add, which means that there are various other people sitting there. They have been told by the police to keep their shutters down. Gas in their apartments has been switched off. And they're waiting to see how they can get out of this situation also. So very tense for the people surrounding, who are also involved in this siege.

But, yes, Mohammed Merah, I think his name is, a 24-year-old self- proclaimed jihadist, holed up in that apartment block. He had said that he was going to hand himself over to police, but that was about an hour ago. Now it doesn't seem to have transpired.

We know that he is armed. We believe that he has a Kalashnikov and an Uzi with him. We know that police are monitoring every move that he makes with infrared censoring technology. But it is, of course, a delicate situation.

As you say, now going on in its ninth hour, and a huge police operation, something like 300 police in the area, 50 police surrounding that house right now -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: An incredible wrinkle to this story. The director of a prison in Kandahar, in Afghanistan, says that the suspect, Mohammed Merah, escaped from the prison there. It's a name that's been brought up by sources who have spoken to the media there in Toulouse.

What more have you heard about his links to Afghanistan and his extremist background, if any?

MAGNAY: Well, this is the amazing thing, that he does seem to have had so many connections and has been known to French intelligence for several years, we heard earlier. As you say, he was apparently arrested and convicted in Afghanistan, in Kandahar province, for supposedly making a bomb, escaped from there. Not only that. This is presumably why he was known to authorities here, but just last month he was in a Toulouse courtroom for a driving offense, where he had driven a car without a license and caused injuries.

So he was well known to authorities, which does beg the question, why, in a killing spree that lasted as long as this did, with three separate attacks over 10 days, it took this long to narrow the search down to this man? He has said that he is associated with al Qaeda. He is a French national of Algerian descent.

He said that the reason he killed those children in the Jewish school and the father of two of those children was because he was trying to avenge the death of Palestinian children. And it's possible that he went after these soldiers who were of North African origin, all killed last week, in a sort of revenge attack that Muslims should be serving in the French army in countries like Afghanistan. But, still, not a huge amount that we know about this man. More and more details coming out, obviously, but details that do beg the question why it took them so long to track him down -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Our Diana Magnay on the scene for us, live from Toulouse.

Thank you. We'll check in with you a little bit later, 30 minutes from here, on CNN.

Now, turning now to the conflict in Syria, the United Nations Security Council is poised to pass a statement supporting a special envoy's mission to the country. It doesn't sound like much, but it is notable because Russia says it will support it.

But the killing goes on inside Syria. Activists say government forces are shelling the Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs. People fled there after the siege of Baba Amr. And activists report at least one man has been killed by sniper fire.

An opposition group also says a Syrian soldier has been killed during clashes in Hama. Now, this video is said to show government tanks surrounding that western town.

Human Rights Watch says the United Arab Emirates needs to do more to stop the exploitation of migrant workers. This is part of a new report into conditions faced by workers in Abu Dhabi's multibillion-dollar Saadiyat Island project. Now, the group says considerable improvements have been made over the past few years, but it found many workers are still being forced to pay recruitment fees that leave them trapped in debt.

HRW issued its first report on the subject in 2009. Mohammed Jamjoom has been following this story and joins me now live from Abu Dhabi.

And Mohammed, do these recruitment fees amount to forced labor in the UAE?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, according to Human Rights Watch, the single biggest contributing factor to forced labor are recruitment fees. And we're talking about in this report they spoke to 47 workers here in Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island. Most of those workers told them that they were forced to pay anywhere between $900 to about $3,400 just to be able to get to the UAE and start working. That's a lot of money for people who are dependent on very small wages to try to support their families back home most of the time.

Beyond that, most of the workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch told Human Rights Watch that when they got here, their passports were confiscated. And the contractors here substituted the contracts that they had signed when they were back home with ones that had fewer advantages. So it's a big problem.

Now, the report today did say that conditions had improved, but that there still need to be more improvements. Among the things that it said, it cited the commitments by leading educational and cultural bodies and UAE development companies to ensure regular payment of wages, rest breaks and days off, and employer-paid medical insurance.

So the report is better than it was in 2009, when there were allegations of widespread exploitation of workers. But still, they're saying a lot of gaps to be filled -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now, the laborers that are highlighted in this Human Rights Watch report, they're working on Saadiyat Island there in Abu Dhabi. There are a number of very high-profile Western institutions that plan to set up there.

So, Mohammed, what are the implications of this report for them?

JAMJOOM: Well, that's a key question, Kristie. You're talking about Saadiyat Island. This is where the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is going to be housed, where is the Louvre Abu Dhabi is going to be housed, and the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi is going to be, among other cultural institutions.

And the reputations of these institutions have taken somewhat of a hit in the past year because of the allegations of worker abuse and exploitation on this island. You had artists associated with the Guggenheim in the past year that wanted to boycott the island, wanted to boycott the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi.

Now, there was a statement from NYU today, NYU Abu Dhabi. Josh Taylor with NYU Abu Dhabi said to us, "We also welcome any new, actionable information that will enable us to accomplish our goals on this front. However, whereas our third-party compliance auditors conduct worker interviews each and every month, it appears that HRW's latest report relies on interviews that took place between 14 and 17 months ago. In a number of cases, the report also fails to indicate which project an individual was working on, which makes researching and/or addressing specific claims virtually impossible."

Now, these institutions that are here have said that they're trying to comply, that they have been trying to make sure that workers are treated fairly, but clearly there is a lot of concern on the parts of these bodies that are associated with this island that their reputations could take more of a hit, could be damaged if there are more allegations of any kind of worker exploitation going on, on this island -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And how is the UAE likely to respond to this report?

JAMJOOM: Well, the master developer on this island, TDIC, also issued a statement today. They welcomed what HRW had to say, especially involving the commitment by authorities here to make sure that suggestions were taken and that conditions were improved.

Their statement went on to say, "TDIC believes that some of the findings detailed are outdated and inaccurate, as the report cites interviews conducted between October, 2010 and January, 2011. Moreover, the company believes the methodology HRW has used in the report is flawed; we call into question the small sample of workers interviewed, as well as the limited number of contractors these workers represent. TDIC therefore firmly believes that this report is not an accurate reflection of the current situation on Saadiyat" -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Mohammed Jamjoom, across the story for us.

Thank you very much, indeed.

And coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, nerves remain on edge in Mexico one day after a powerful earthquake. We've got the latest on the damage.

Plus, Barcelona crowns its new all-time leading goal scorer. Does Lionel Messi have even more magic in store?

And more momentum for Mitt Romney. He wins big in Illinois. We'll tell you if this could be a game-changer for the Republican presidential campaign.


LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.

Now, crews in Mexico are surveying homes, schools and hospitals to gauge the damage from Tuesday's powerful earthquake. The 7.4 magnitude quake was centered 25 kilometers east of Ometepec in southwest Mexico's Guerrero State.

Now, it was so strong, that residents in Mexico City, some 320 kilometers away, could feel the shaking. Office towers swayed, and one woman told reporters it was like being caught on a trampoline.

Authorities say hundreds of homes in southern Mexico are flattened and at least 11 people are injured. One victim was hurt when part of a bridge collapsed onto a bus in Mexico City.

Now, the quake also shook the parliament in the capital. U.S. officials say President Barack Obama's 13-year-old daughter Malia is in Mexico on a school trip, but was never in any danger.



LU STOUT: Let's bring up live pictures from Toulouse, France, scene of a tense standoff between French security officers and a suspect holed up in his house, believed to be behind a string of shootings that have taken place in recent weeks in and around Toulouse, shootings that have taken the lives of some seven people.

The suspect had pledged to give himself up to police by midday. He has yet to do so. And we'll continue to watch the ongoing standoff in Toulouse.

You're back watching NEWS STREAM, here on CNN.

Now, simply the best. Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, he reached another career milestone on Tuesday.

Pedro Pinto joins us with more -- Pedro.


"Magical," "mesmerizing," "masterful." You know, we're running out of adjectives to describe this guy, Lionel Messi.

On Tuesday, he became Barcelona's all-time leading goal scorer. The Argentine star needed only one goal against Grenada to equal the record that had stood since the 1950s, but he did a lot better than that. He scored a hat trick as he helped Barcelona beat the Andalusians beat 5-3 in a league match. Messi now has a record 234 goals in his career for the Spanish giants.

Now, it's hard to put into words just how good Messi is, so let's use some numbers. Here are his goal totals per season ever since he played his first competitive match for Barcelona back in the 2004-2005 season. And as you can see, he's already scored 54 goals. This is only 45 games as well, and we're only in March in this season.

So you can see here he's already beat his all-time record per season. We're only in March.

Well, maybe this other graphic can put Messi's achievement into perspective. The hat trick he scored against Grenada took his total to 34 goals in the league this season. Compare that to Grenada. Their entire team scored only 27 times so far in the league. In all, Messi has scored more league goals than 11 of La Liga's 20 clubs.

On to good news regarding the medical condition of English Premier League player Fabrice Muamba. The 23-year-old spoke with family, friends and colleagues on Tuesday evening as he continued to recover from suffering cardiac arrest on Saturday.

Muamba's condition was said to be serious, but no longer critical, although he does remain in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital. It's amazing news, really, considering his heart was stopped for over an hour after he collapsed during Bolton's FA Cup match with Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

In the United States, the sports headlines have been dominated by Peyton Manning. He signed a five-year $96 million deal with the Denver Broncos on Tuesday. The 35-year-old quarterback who had spent the first 14 seasons of his career with the Indianapolis Colts was unveiled as a Broncos player at a press conference. He missed the entirety of last season because of a neck injury, and therefore his contract requires him to pass yearly medicals in order to earn his salary.

Manning is looking forward to the challenge with his new team.


PEYTON MANNING, DENVER BRONCOS QUARTERBACK: This is all new to me. I mean, you're talking about a guy that was with one team for 14 years, the only team that I worked out for, really, for the draft, the only team that I took a visit to. And so the Indianapolis Colts is the only team I've ever known.

So -- and I've told John and Coach Fox that I'm going to need their help to help me kind of get through this transition. I know they're going to help me in that process. So I think the sooner that I get started going to work, going to lift weights, getting into my new locker, putting on some Denver Broncos gear, getting going, that's all going to make this process easier for me.


PINTO: Well, I think it will be pretty easy for him to make that transition, Kristie. All he has to do is look at his bank account, a little over $19 million a year. I think that will help him adjust.

LU STOUT: Yes, an easy move there.


LU STOUT: Pedro Pinto, thank you very much, indeed.

Now, still to come here on NEWS STREAM --


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What a night. Thank you, Illinois. What a night. Wow!



LU STOUT: -- in the race for the U.S. Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney scores a big win. But he did deliver a knockout blow?

And we look at how people who have never met each other and live thousands of miles apart are coming together to help fund creative projects.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And let's go back to our top story.

Now a tense standoff, it continues in southern France. Hundreds of police officers are surrounding an apartment where a man suspected of killing seven people in and around the city of Toulouse is holed up.

Diana Magnay has been on the scene all morning. She joins us now live from Toulouse.

Diana, again, it's now nine hours into the standoff, what's the latest you're seeing?

MAGNAYl, a lot of activity as you can see on the streets behind me as the police move their people around. But we haven't really heard an update from them as to whether the suspect has started communicating with them again. We know that negotiations of such had broken down, although the word negotiations is perhaps too strong.

The mayor came and talked to the press earlier, said that the man was extremely stubborn, extremely determined. And he's been talking a lot, telling them that he was an al Qaeda -- a member of al Qaeda. Why he'd carried out the attacks that he did, he said he carried out the attacks on the Jewish school to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children.

But it was not a negotiation as such until apparently he told police the he would hand himself over at midday. Well, that seems not to have happened. Midday is long gone and the suspect still remains inside as do various people still ordered by police in the apartments around his. They are also stuck inside, hunkered down, waiting to see what happens with a heavily armed man, police say, in their midst -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Could you tell us more about exactly what he is armed with and what danger does he pose?

MAGNAY: Well, we know that he threw one Colt pistol out of the window a few hours ago. This -- we don't know whether that was the same gun that was used to kill in all of these various attacks. We do know that that was a Colt pistol also. Police say that they do believe he is still heavily armed with a Kalashnikov, with an Uzi, possibly with grenades.

He also told police that he had a car full of weapons parked close to his house, which they duly frowned.

There was an exchange of gunfire earlier on in this -- in the early hours of this raid in which two policemen were injured, one of them in the knee.

But there is no doubt that this man is extremely dangerous. You just have to look back at the horrific acts of murder that he committed, the three soldiers that he killed in two separate attacks and then the children that he killed at that Jewish school all gunned down with -- shot pointblank in their heads. A horrific string of murders.

And of course a huge operation to bring this man under control. He may well still be extremely dangerous, but with about 300 police officers, 50 surrounding the house, it is hopeful that police at this stage do have this man contained, Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, the suspect, he is described as dangerous, as determined. He alleges these connections with al Qaeda. I don't know if the police surrounding the scene can offer you any information about the investigation, but do we know whether or not he acted alone or if there is a larger group involved here?

MAGNAY: Well, we do know that members of his family, his brothers, have also been arrested. And it's interesting, because we're finding more and more out about this investigation. He himself is a man called Mohammad Merah. He was in a Toulouse courtroom just a month ago on a driving offense, now having driven without a driver's license and caused an accident with injuries.

And our affiliate has been in touch with his lawyer who said also that he was in Afghanistan a couple of months ago. He spent time in Afghanistan -- years ago I mean. He spent time in Afghanistan. He spent time in Pakistan.

Apparently also convicted in Afghanistan of having -- tried to make a bomb, but escaped that conviction. And that is something that we're also trying to check.

But we do know that the French intelligence agencies have had their eye on him for a good couple of years which does beg the question why he was able to sort of carry out this killing spree for so long undetected.

Now in terms of how they came to him, apparently it was his brother's IP address which connected the family to the first soldier who was killed. Apparently there was an email exchange so that they could meet up to exchange a motorbike. And it was at that exchange that the soldier was shot.

So that led investigators to the family, to his brother. Also, then, apparently his cellphone was detected in the vicinity of the Jewish school.

So these various factors allowing police to zero in on him and allowing for this dawn raid to happen.

But we do hear reports -- have heard media reports that they were already looking closely at him after the attacks on the soldiers in Montlebon last Thursday. So that he was able to get away with the killings on Monday, those horrific killings in the Jewish school is terrifying. And I imagine that the Jewish -- that the French people will be asking questions as to how that was able to happen, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Diana Magnay live in Toulouse for us across all details in this ever fluid situation. We will continue to keep an eye on the standoff there.

Now we go to the race to be the Republican presidential candidate where Mitt Romney has just won what he calls an extraordinary victory in Illinois. He won by double digits. Now certainly a decisive win, but will it be a turning point.

For more on that in a moment, but first let's take a look at the current delegate count. Now remember a candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney is almost halfway there with 562 delegates. And his closest rival, Rick Santorum, has 249. Newt Gingrich has 137. And Ron Paul 69.

Now with more on the race for the Republican nomination I'm joined by CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser live from Washignton, D.C. And Paul, a decisive win for Mitt Romney in Illinois, but will it give him the big momentum he needs to go all the way?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It'll definitely help. As you mentioned he's about halfway now to that 1,144 delegates he needs to clench the nomination. It also prevents Rick Santorum, his main rival, the former senator from Pennsylvania, prevents him from really trying to change the conversation, change the course of this race.

Rick Santorum running out of states now where if he wins it really changes and mixes things up. Illinois was one of those chances. He has another one in about two weeks in Wisconsin.

How did Mitt Romney do it? He big in the suburbs of Chicago. A lot of voters there. He won over half the vote in those important suburbs of Chicago. He did well with people who said beating President Barack Obama is the most important thing to my vote. Mitt Romney did very, very well among those voters. So you could say that electability also important -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, Romney in the places that matter there in Illinois.

Now Rick Santorum, it was interesting he chose the Civil War town of Gettysburg to watch the primary returns from Illinois. Is his battle for the nomination still not lost?

STEINHAUSER: It's still not lost. He can still prevent Romney from clinching the nomination during this primary season which ends in late June. But it's getting harder and harder with every big victory for Mitt Romney. For Santorum, he still won his base voters, those people who say they're very conservative supporters of the Tea Party movement here in the United States. He did well with evangelical Christians as well. But there just weren't that many of them in Illinois.

Now the next contest is Louisiana. That's on Saturday. A more conservative state. Santorum should do well there.

But the calendar overall in April favors Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum, more moderate states. So I guess you could say Santorum running out a little bit of time, but he sure sounded defiant in his speech last night, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, in his call for freedom, right?

Now Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, we've got to talk about them. Will they quit? Will they stay in the race?

STEINHAUSER: Yeah, Ron Paul who came in third with 9 percent, he's definitely going to stay in the race. His supporters are very energetic, enthusiastic. And I don't see him dropping out any time soon.

As for Gingrich, if he does not do well in Louisiana on Saturday, a southern state, Gingrich from the U.S. south. If he doesn't do well there I think you're going to hear that chorus of voices for him to get out grow louder and louder. But that was also the case a week ago when he didn't win in Alabama in Mississippi, two other southern states.

And in his statement after the Illinois victory for Romney, he sounded defiant and again said he was going to take his case all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa.

So this race, this story continues on. More chapters ahead, Kristie.

LU STOUT: We'll check in with you later, then. Paul Steinhauser joining us live from D.C.

Coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, got a bright idea? Well, get strangers to help you turn it into reality. That is what one website does every day. We'll explain the concept of Kickstarter.


LU STOUT: Now we are continuing to keep an eye on the tense standoff underway in Toulouse, France where hundreds of police have surrounded the apartment of a suspect believed to be behind a series of shootings, ride by shootings in and around Toulouse that have taken the lives of some seven people. The suspect believed to be a 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent named Mohammad Merah believed to have links with an Islamic extremist group and believed to have escaped from a prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan. More and more details continue to come in as we watch this tense standoff underway in Toulouse.

Welcome back. Live from Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM.

Now the internet's ability to connect people has led to the rise of crowd sourcing, using large groups of people in far flung locations to work on projects together. Now one site is bringing the power of crowd sourcing to fund projects. It's called Kickstarter.

Now let me show you how it works using an older project to build watching using an iPad Nano. Now this project, it needed some $15,000 to start. And to entice people to give money, there are tiers with rewards -- $25 gets you a basic watch, $50 gets you a premium version and so on. And once enough money is raised, the project can begin.

In the end, the project raised almost $1 million. And the end result was this, what I've been holding in my hand. This watch, it was built using the money raised online.

And you can raise a lot of money from the site. The game developer Double Fine (ph) raised more than $3 million from Kickstarter for a new game.

And the site isn't just about physical products. Film and music are two of the biggest categories on Kickstarter. And they say that a tenth of the films at Sundance used funding from the site.

Now let's get more on Kickstarter from one of the site's founders, Yancey Strickler joins me me now live from New York.

Yancey, good to see you. Welcome to NEWS STREAM. And what Double Fine (ph) accomplished on Kickstarter as well as other companies. It's amazing. But can you tell us more about how you started the site?

YANCEY STRICKLER, CO-FOUNDER, KICKSTARTER: Thanks so much for having me, Kristie.

We first started working on Kickstarter almost 10 years ago when my partner and our CEO Perry Chen initially had this idea. And about five or six years ago we started working on it in earnest. The site launched in April 2009. And the whole idea was to create a place where ideas could be funded just because people wanted hem to exists, where ideas weren't judged on their ability as a good investment, because Kickstarter doesn't allow investment. But just simply whether an audience wanted them to happen.

And as the TikTok there that you have in your hand shows, people are really excited to get involved in projects and bring things to life.

LU STOUT: I mean, you can find a variety of projects on your website from small art projects to larger game ventures. But in your opinion, what kind of projects work best on Kickstarter?

STRICKLER: You know, every project is really a single person's dream, a thing they're trying to make real. And they tell their story using a video, normally someone just talking directly to cameras saying what it is their doing and why. Then they offer things in exchange that people might want, so these kinds of rewards that you offer. And really telling a story, being sincere, saying why does he want to do the thing that your doing is what really matters, that's what makes the biggest impact.

LU STOUT: Now in your FAQ on your website you answer a question about accountability. Basically how do I know if a project creator is who they claim they are. And your response on the website is, quote, "at the end of the day, use your internet street smarts." Is that enough?

STRICKLER: Well, you know, when you're supporting a project you want to look closely at it. And if certainly if you know someone or if you're a fan of their previous work then you have a good idea of what they're capable of and what they'll do.

You know, the projects on Kickstarter run the gamut of many things. Everything has to meet some guidelines for us, but those are about content more than anything. And so, you know, some projects aren't going to come off as well as people want them to. The creative process is rarely a linear one. And it's hard to tell whether that inspiration will strike.

But we've had no issues to date with someone running off with the money, or anything like that. People are really excited to get support. And they do their best to pull their projects off and have happy backers.

LU STOUT: OK. Now what do you think is the standout project that landed funding on Kickstarter. Do you have a favorite?

STRICKLER: You know, I have a lot of favorites. I have backed almost 600 projects myself, so I'm one of the bigger patrons on the site. But, you know, some things that I love. One is a project that's currently funding that will build a public park underground here in New York City on the Lower East Side where it's offices based. And they've -- they invented this crazy five rock cable that will bring sunlight underground. So that's a project that will take awhile. It's currently funding. It's called the LowLine. But that's a good example of the kind of creativity and ingenuity that you see people bringing on to the site.

LU STOUT: Do you happen to know how much their asking for?

STRICKLER: They were trying to raise $100,000. And they're up to $140,000 so far. I think they have another couple of weeks to go. So they're off to a great start.

LU STOUT: Now, Kickstarter is the leading crowd funding website out there. But has it been easy to get so big? What has been your main challenge along the way?

STRICKLER: You know, I think the biggest challenge for something like Kickerstarter is just inertia of the way things have been done previously. Launching a Kickstarter project is a very public thing. You're talking to your community out loud. You're doing all of it in public. And there's things about that that are really exciting. Your getting a chance to market and promote your idea from its inception.

But at the same time, not everyone is comfortable with that. And I think people aren't sure -- might not be sure how it makes them look. And with time it becomes something that we're used to.

So I think that, you know, the challenges we face have just been ones of any new website, of any new service, of any new behavior. And people just becoming accustomed to it.

So, you know, April will be our three year birthday. To date, it's been about $170 million that's flowed through Kickstarter from over 1.5 million people. So we feel great about what's happened so far. We feel thrilled for all the projects that have been able to use the platform to date. And we're excited about where it will go.

LU STOUT: Well, happy birthday in advance. Yancey Strickler, co- founder of Kickstarter. Thank you so much for joining us here on NEWS STREAM. Take care.

STRICKLER: Thank you, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now there's no denying that the new iPad is a hot item, but some customers say the device actually heats up when they use it. So Consumer Reports took that tablet's temperature. It found the device reached nearly 47 degrees Celsius when playing a video game while plugged in. That's up to 7 degrees warmer than the iPad 2 under the same conditions.

Now Apple has put out this statement. It says the new iPad delivers a stunning retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE+, 10 hours of battery life all while operating well within our thermal specifications. If customers have any concerns they should contact Apple Care.

Now coming up next here on NEWS STREAM, a film flop of legendary proportions. We'll show you the Disney movie that bombed at the box office costing the company an estimated $200 million just ahead here on CNN.


LU STOUT: Let's bring up once again that live view from Toulouse, France where we continue to keep an eye on that ongoing standoff since that predawn raid nine hours into the standoff hundreds of French police have surrounded the home of the suspect believed to be behind a series of shootings in and around Toulouse shootings that have killed some seven people.

Now the suspect, he had told police that he was to give himself up midday. That came and went. Still waiting to see whether or not, and if/when he will surrender. We will continue to watch the situation for you.

You're back watching NEWS STREAM live on CNN.

Now you might think that $184 in ticket sales worldwide spells box office success, but not for Hollywood's latest under performer, John Carter. Entertainment powerhouse Disney says it expects to lose a whopping $200 million on this fantasy flick. And that would put John Carter on course to become one of the biggest money losing films of all time.

Now Disney spent $250 million making the movie and another $100 million marketing it.

Well, John Carter's failure got us wondering about other big budget film flops. And our Richard Quest looks back at some of Hollywood's biggest box office busts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it is our destiny.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was nicknamed Mad Max at Sea and looked like one giant wardrobe malfunction. It was the epic price tag, not Kevin Costner, that was the real star of 1995's Water World.

Shooting the bulk of the movie at sea was ambitious. It sent the budget soaring to $175 million. Only eventually did the studio make the money back.

KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: Because I sailed farther than most have dreamed. I've never seen it.

QUEST: Star power wasn't enough to make Hudson Hawk a hit in '91. Starring Bruce Willis, this was a movie that really did...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to die?

QUEST: Die hard. It was almost universally panned and lost Tri Star Pictures $45 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Satellite recorded those images.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this species?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, according to the (inaudible) historians, the species is called Dog (ph).

QUEST: Shot in the year 2000, set in the year 3000, the sci-fi flick Battlefield Earth is already long forgotten. This turkey was based on a novel by the Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. It costs $44 million to produce. It made back just half of that.

Even the film's scriptwriter hated it. He said seeing it just once at the premier was seeing it one time too many.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You come here then running over with wine and self-pity to conquer Caesar.

QUEST: And finally, the ultimate Hollywood horror story -- Cleopatra. Still the most expensive film ever made, adjusted for inflation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be free of you, of wanting you, being afraid.

QUEST: In 1963, it meant to cost $2 million. Delays set the budget soaring to $44 million. Today that's worth $327 million.

Suddenly, John Carter looks cheap.


LU STOUT: Richard Quest reporting there.

Now John Carter was directed by this man, Andrew Stanton. And you probably don't recognize the name, but you probably have seen his previous films. Now Stanton was the director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E. And as you can see, both made hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. And both are currently far ahead of John Carter's total.

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