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Danger of Starvation For 10 Million In Sahel African Region; Profile of Google Executive Marissa Mayer, China Political Scandal; Syria Peace Deadline; Colombia Hostages Freed

Aired April 3, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET


ANNA COREN, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

Hello. I'm Anna Coren, in Hong Kong.

We begin in China, where stories of torture and abuse are emerging after the dramatic downfall of a man tipped to be one of the country's future leaders.

Using social media to battle famine, as UNICEF tries to get help for a region of Africa struggling with drought.

And why this Israeli football team from a tiny town could soon be facing European giants like Barcelona.

Well, China's political system continues to feel the aftershocks of a scandal in Chongqing. You may remember this man, Bo Xilai, was suddenly removed from his position as the city's Communist Party chief. Although Bo had been tipped to become one of the country's top leaders during this year's transition, he has not been seen since he was sacked. No one is saying why.

But Bo's critics are talking. And as Stan Grant reports, some of their stories are horrific.


STAN GRANT, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man you'll see here is dead. He was executed in China in 2010, convicted of murder and running a criminal gang. But on death row, Fan Qihang recorded this testimony. His lawyer made this video in 2009 as part of a campaign to save his client's life. In recent days, posting it online and giving a copy to CNN.

On the tape, Fan claimed he was beaten by police and forced into a confession.

FAN QIHANG, ON DEATH ROW IN CHINA (through translator): They tortured me every day. For half the year I was forced to sit on an iron chair every day. They call it the interrogation chair. They put fetters on me weighing 24 kilograms and confined me to the chair.

GRANT: These are images of Fan used to support his claims. They show bruise marks around his hands and arms. Another shows how Fan bit off part of his tongue. He says an attempt to bleed to death.

FAN (through translator): So the relentless torture really made me want to die. I tried to commit suicide. I couldn't take it anymore.

GRANT: Fan said he was strung up with both hands behind his back, tied to an iron bar. He said he would go days without sleep or food, the handcuffs cutting into this skin.

FAN (through translator): Last time they tried to open the handcuffs, there was blood and puss all over them. It took them more than an hour to separate from my flesh. I'm still shaking.

GRANT: So why this video coming out now? Well, Fan Qihang was arrested as part of an anti-crime crackdown by ousted Communist Party official Bo Xilai. Bo's sacking last month has sparked a mystery that has captivated China.

He's made his name as party chief of Chongqing, a massive metropolis of more than 30 million people in southwestern China. Bo targeted gangs and corruption, but his critics say he used the anti-crime campaign to rub out enemies and rivals.

"Their barbaric kind of law enforcement, or, rather, their trampling of the law," he says, "was against everything our modern civilization stands for and the development of the rule of law." Li Zhuang is another who claims he was targeted by Bo Xilai. He's a lawyer. He's not connected to the Fan case, but says, like Fan, he was also tortured.

Li spent 18 months in prison. He says police beat him into confessing to falsifying evidence. Now he is finally free to talk, even on normally heavily state-censored Chinese media.

He vividly describes being tied to a chair and his hands bound above his head for several days and nights. He says police tortured one of his own clients, an alleged gang leader, into testifying against him.

"He eventually soiled himself," he says. "His interrogators ordered him to remove the feces on the floor with his bare hands and use his own shorts to clean up, then they hung him up naked."

GRANT (on camera): Getting tough on crime was supposed to be the making of Bo Xilai. In fact, it's led to the exact opposite. In yet another twist, it's Bo's own former police chief, the man he entrusted to carry out the crime crackdown, who was led to Bo's undoing.

Now, the top cop split with his boss, seeking refuge in an American consulate, purportedly fearing for his life. When the police chief voluntarily left the consulate, he disappeared.

(voice-over): Bo Xilai has also vanished. No one's heard from him. Now his critics seemingly have free reign to attack Bo. The iron hand of the Chinese state apparently turning on one of its own.

The release of this video seemingly designed to further smear Bo Xilai, but it won't help Fan Qihang. The man Bo locked up is dead. Breaking down on the video, his last words were how the torture marks would haunt him forever.

Stan Grant, CNN, Beijing.


COREN: Well, let's now turn our attention to Syria.

And the Syrian government is promising to pull its soldiers and heavy weapons out of its cities by April 10th. But, in the meantime, the fighting continues and witnesses say it's some of the most intense yet.

Heavy shelling is reported in several northern Syrian provinces, where opposition fighters are battling government troops. Anti-government activists say helicopters even fired on civilians and at least four people have been killed.

And in this chilling amateur video from the suburb of Damascus, soldiers on a rooftop appear to be firing at civilians and then turning to the camera and smiling. Well, CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of this video.

Well, some members of the U.N. Security Council worry Syria's Bashar al- Assad regime will use the days before the April 10th deadline to crack down even more violently.

Mohammed Jamjoom is monitoring developments from our bureau in Abu Dhabi and joins us now.

And Mohammed, we could potentially see so much bloodshed in the next seven days, couldn't we?


Despite the pledges by Syria that they will begin withdrawing armed forces from population centers, what we're hearing today from opposition activists is that, in fact, fighting and clashes have intensified, specifically in the Damascus countryside. We've had reports of the military reaching Zabadani. Also, Daraa, clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters are reported, and the Syrian Army.

And especially in the northern province, in Idlib, on the border with Turkey, the cities of Binish (ph), Taskanaz (ph) and Tahoum (ph). These are all opposition strongholds.

We've heard, especially Binish (ph), that it's come under heavy, heavy shelling today, that there have been helicopters hovering above, sometimes shooting at people, civilians trying to flee. They're saying these are intimidation tactics, that they're trying to specifically go after Free Syrian Army elements and resistance fighters and clear them from those towns.

So the concern right now, even though there have been these pledges, even though there is some renewed hope because of the Kofi Annan six-point plan and the fact that the Syrians have agreed to it, how much time will this continue to go on? And the concern is before April 10th. They're saying that all these -- all these forces are supposed to be withdrawn by April 10th, but between now and April 10th, what more will happen?

A few other new developments to talk to you about.

We just spoke from the spokesperson for Kofi Annan that there's an advance U.N. team that is going to Syria, that they should be arriving within the next 48 hours, and that this advance team is going to discuss the eventual deployment of a U.N. monitoring force to make sure that the agreement is implemented -- Anna.

COREN: Mohammed, you speak about this renewed optimism and hope, but there's a great deal of skepticism at the U.N. and within the international community that Bashar al-Assad's regime will actually honor this agreement.

What will happen? What will be the response if Bashar al-Assad does not actually agree to this deadline?

JAMJOOM: That's what everybody is trying to find out right now, Anna. Despite the fact that you had the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, despite the fact that you have this six-point peace plan and initiative by Kofi Annan, there is so much skepticism.

There was a little bit of a ray of hope when the plan was agreed to, but there is so much skepticism as well. People do not believe that Bashar al- Assad will adhere to these commitments.

There have been many times in the past, whether it's the Arab League, the U.N., that he has indicated that they will agree, only to continue the crackdown that's been going on in Syria. This crackdown has been going on, this brutal crackdown, for more than a year, and the concern is, what can the international community do? Even if they send in a U.N. monitoring force, what will that mean?

There are so many questions right now. Every time a monitoring force or body has gone in to try to make sure that a plan is being implemented, it seems to have ended in failure. And the concern is right now, even if the U.N. sends in a team, will this plan actually be implemented? Will the al- Assad regime stick to its commitment? Will there be a cease-fire?

We've also heard today that the International Committee of the Red Cross, their president is in Syria, that he's trying to make sure that they have access to areas. But whether or not the president of the Red Cross will be able to go to these areas himself, we just don't know at this time -- Anna.

COREN: The world will certainly be watching.

Mohammed Jamjoom, joining us from Abu Dhabi.

Thank you for that update.

Well, held captive for more than a decade, 10 hostages were released from the Colombian jungle as peace talks progressed to end one of the world's longest insurgencies. Well, the left-wing guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia gave up their captives after talks to end a war with the Colombian government that began in the 1960s.

Rafael Romo has more.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: They were held in the jungle for more than a decade, living in harsh conditions that included being chained to trees and enduring torrential rains and a blistering sun. But 10 members of the Colombian Security Forces are now free men, spending time with their families in more than a decade.

The hostages were liberated at an undisclosed location in the Colombian jungle, where they were released to a humanitarian mission led by the International Red Cross, the Brazilian Air Force, and former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba. They were then flown to the city of Villavicencio in the Colombian province of Meta, where they were greeted by their families. Some of the hostages had been held captive for 14 years.

It was back in December, and then again in January, that the FARC had announced they would liberate the last group of soldiers and police officers without specifying a date or a location. Speaking after the liberation of the hostages, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said this is an important step taken by the guerrilla, but not enough to put an end to the conflict.

PRES. JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, COLOMBIA (through translator): When we finally reached a moment in which the government determined that there are enough conditions and guarantees for the peace process to begin, the country will know it. In the meantime, everything said on this issue is just speculation.

ROMO: Kidnapping government forces and civilians has been a key strategy of the rebel group in its war with the Colombian government since the 1960s. At one point, the Marxist guerrilla group kidnapped a presidential candidate in Colombia, but the FARC announced last month they were putting an end to the practice of kidnapping people for money.

Now the focus shifts to the estimated 400 civilians who are still captive.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


COREN: We want to show you some of the joyful moments when the hostages arrived.

Well, here you can see one man walking with his arm around a smiling medic. The other has a flag draped around him -- the Colombian flag, of course. Well, he later jumped up and down and blew a kiss to the crowd.

And these two are accompanied by a small animal. Well, it looks like a pig, but it may also be what's called a pickering (ph). Others reportedly brought back a monkey and two small birds.

Well, all are certainly happy to be home.

Coming up on NEWS STREAM, we're on the campaign trail in the United States, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is aiming for a triple victory in the latest round of primaries.

And Maryland is gripped by a mystery. Who's the real winner of the Mega Millions lottery? A lot of people are going to great lengths to find out.

And fighting stereotypes in Afghanistan. Meet the Afghan women's Olympic boxing team on the road to London.

That's ahead here on CNN.


COREN: Well, British media are now reporting that James Murdoch, under fire over his handling of the "News of the World" hacking scandal, is expected to step down from his role at BSkyB following a board meeting. Well, BSkyB has declined to comment, but the company's news network is reporting Murdoch's expected departure.

In the U.S., the battle for the Republican presidential nomination heats up again Tuesday. Front-runner Mitt Romney is looking to effectively shut the door on his White House rivals. But Rick Santorum says don't count him out just yet.

Voters head to the polls in the state of Maryland, in Washington, D.C., and in Wisconsin, where 42 delegates are up for grabs. But perhaps even more critically for Santorum, that state could be his final chance to convince voters the fight for the nomination isn't over yet.

Well, the magic number of delegates needed for the Republican presidential nomination is 1,144. Well, right now, Mitt Romney has 571 delegates. That's more than twice what Rick Santorum has, 264. Newt Gingrich has 137, and Ron Paul, he trails with just 71.

In the latest polls, Romney leads Santorum in all three of Tuesday's contests, but that lead is the narrowest in Wisconsin.

Let's go to CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser at our bureau in Washington.

Paul, surely it is getting close to time for the Republican nominees to bow out and let Mitt Romney get on with the job.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: No doubt, Anna. And you've really seen the race change over the last two weeks since Mitt Romney won a big victory in the Illinois primary.

This, as you mentioned, may be Rick Santorum's last chance -- may be his last chance to try to change the conversation that Mitt Romney would not be the inevitable nominee. If Santorum can win in Wisconsin, it could definitely change the conversation to a degree, but, again, if he doesn't he is running out of opportunities.

Remember, after today, after these contests, there are no more for three more weeks. That's an eternity in campaign politics. And when those contests do come up at the end of April, well, four out of five them seem to be states that are favorable to Mitt Romney. One of them, Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania, where things are getting tighter.

But Santorum, Anna, he sure doesn't sound like a man who's about to give up. In fact, he's looking ahead to May, where here says the contests will be friendlier to him.

Take a listen to what he told our own Piers Morgan.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The month of May is rich with delegates and are strong states for us, states like Texas and Arkansas and Kentucky and Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina. Those are the states that we know we can get this back, right back to where it is right now, which is a lot closer than what Mitt Romney and the pundits are spinning. This is a very close race, and by the end of May we expect this race to be very close to even.


STEINHAUSER: You showed our delegate estimate there, and you saw that Mitt Romney had an overwhelming 2-1 advantage over Santorum when it comes to delegates. But, again, Romney a long way from that 1,144 needed. Santorum says he's not going to drop out until Romney gets there. We'll see.

May, Anna, is a long, long way away.

COREN: Yes, it certainly is. But it is rather interesting, isn't it, that the Santorum camp, the rhetoric coming out of it, is that there are no plans to leave center stage anytime soon.

Tell us about this recent poll that's come out, because I'm sure that that is quite concerning for the GOP, the poll that puts Obama well and truly ahead of Mitt Romney.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, because a lot of people now here in the U.S. are looking ahead to the general election under the assumption that it's going to be, of course, President Obama as the Democratic nominee, and more and more likely Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee.

You mentioned the poll. Take a look. This is from "USA Today" and Gallup. It came out about 24 hours ago. And you can see in -- this is among, you know, a hypothetical match-up in November, and you can see the president with a nine-point lead over Romney in 12 states called battleground states, where it could be very close in November.

Go to the next screen. This is the most interesting part of it.

And you can see there is definitely a gender gap here. And it's hurting Romney, it's hurting the Republicans as well.

A much closer contest among men between Romney and Obama, not among women, where Obama has a large lead. A CNN/ORC poll showed the same thing last week. That's troublesome.

You're seeing a lot more of Ann Romney on the campaign trail over the last month or two with her husband, Mitt Romney, and maybe that's a way for the Romneys to try to bring those numbers down and make it a little more close among women voters. You also see Mitt Romney talking more and more now about himself personally. Take a listen to what he said on the campaign trail 24 hours ago.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've had an unusual experience. This gentleman wanted to talk about the doctrines of my religion. I'll talk about the practices of my faith.

I had the occasion in my church to be asked to be the pastor, if you will, of a congregation. And I've served in that kind of role for about 10 years. And that gave me the occasion to work with people on a very personal basis that were dealing with unemployment, with marital difficulties, with health difficulties of their own, or with their kids.


STEINHAUSER: You see Mitt Romney there kind of opening up, Anna. Maybe he's trying to reach out to voters. Polls indicate he has a little bit of a difficulty doing that, not as likeable as Barack Obama.

We're kind of moving and transitioning from the primaries to the general election -- Anna.

COREN: These are certainly interesting times.

Paul Steinhauser, in Washington.

Good to see you. Thank you for that.

Well, call it the Mega Millions mystery. Will the winner please come forward?

Lottery officials say there are three winning tickets out there that could split America's record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot of $656 million, but who are these new millionaires?

Well, CNN's Brian Todd is trying to find out.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's out there, the tiny ticket stub everyone is looking for. We have been on the hunt in Maryland for the Mega Millions winner who will snag more than $100 million after taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But nobody has come through the doors yet.

TODD: Could it be this woman? Merlandy Wilson (ph) told "The New York Post" she is the Maryland winner. We learned she also told people at a deli across the street from her house. But co-workers at the McDonald's where Wilson works told The Post she was among a group of them who went in on the tickets together. Wilson says the ticket she bought was separate from that.

(on camera): A key piece of evidence in solving this mystery is going to be found right at this spot, at the Baltimore 7-Eleven, where the winning Mega Millions ticket was sold right from this machine. Here's what they're going to be looking for.

Each Mega Millions ticket has a date and timestamp on it. They'll match it up, according to lottery officials, with surveillance video, hopefully that they got of this purchase taken on these two cameras here. You can see some of the return video over there.

Lottery officials tell us they do take surveillance of these purchases. Hopefully, they're going to match this up with the winning ticket and verify everything.

(voice-over): I asked lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett about the dispute.

(on camera): What do you make of her claim at this point?

CAROLE EVERETT, MARYLAND LOTTERY: There is nothing to make of it. Again, it doesn't sound like a typical jackpot winner to us. I don't put much stock in that story.

TODD: Why not? Why doesn't this sound right?

EVERETT: She claims she won. She can't produce the ticket.

We really don't even spend that much time on it other than to field questions from the media. In our opinion, until they walk in that door and hold that ticket, produce valid identification, and our security people can process and validate it, it doesn't matter.

TODD (voice-over): Co-workers did tell The Post Wilson later couldn't find her ticket. We looked all over Baltimore for Merlandy Wilson (ph) -- at her home, on her street, where neighbors say she took off.

(on camera): She's a good neighbor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she's a good neighbor. She's an honest person.

TODD (voice-over): And at that McDonald's, no one would talk to us on camera. The owner e-mailed us saying nothing has been confirmed about anyone there being involved.

We asked Mark Schamel, a gaming attorney, how to avoid these disputes.

MARK SCHAMEL, GAMING & WHITE COLLAR CRIME ATTORNEY: The idea to avoid it would be bring the tickets back, put them some place where the entire group has oversight of them, and then the person is free to do whatever they want on their own behalf.

TODD: Lottery officials also tell us people who buy tickets as a group should get it all in writing, have one document with the names of everyone going in on it, explicit language that they're sharing the winnings so there's no dispute after the drawing. A representative for this McDonald's says they don't know if anyone there had a document.

Brian Todd, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.


COREN: Well, up next on NEWS STREAM, rolling with the punches. Afghanistan's first female boxers prepare for the London games, but in conditions that are less than ideal. It's certainly going to be a fight.


COREN: Well, in Afghanistan, a boxing studio is giving women a chance to enter the ring. After the fall of the Taliban, women are now picking up gloves and hoping to be contenders in this summer's Olympic games in London.

As Nick Paton Walsh reports, they're ready for a fight.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a stadium where the Taliban used to execute women, some among the dusty floors and broken mirrors have fought their way to a better life.

This is Sadaf Rahimi. You can see here how her future as Afghanistan's first female boxer to fight at the Olympics might have been obvious when, age 11, she threw her first punch.

SADAF RAHIMI, AFGHAN BOXER (through translator): The first person I hit was my 18-year-old cousin. We got in a little scuffle, and then he said I should be a boxer.

WALSH (on camera): It's tough just to be a woman in Afghanistan, tougher still to fight in a traditionally male sport. But now Sadaf faces the hardest challenge, and that's to get ready to fight to win against the world's best.

(voice-over): A wildcard from the Olympic Committee has fast-forwarded her to the London Finals in August, but now she must overcome the real hurdle of training without a boxing ring, proper gear, or enough free time.

RAHIMI (through translator): We can only train one hour a day. That's it. It's not enough to prepare for London. Other teams train three times a day, and the equipment we have is pretty inadequate. I even had to buy my own socks.

WALSH: She wants experts' help in Dubai or India with the same advantages her competitors will have, but this is Afghanistan, where money is too often in all the wrong places. So they're left hoping for a sponsor to even things out.

MOHAMMED SABER SHARIFI, TRAINER (through translator): We would like a sponsor who has a good name in sports. Just give us a chance. And she is the perfect example.

WALSH: For these grills, it's not just the punches that can harm. In a society many fear will grow even more conservative as NATO leaves, Sadaf's father has got anonymous phone threats that meant she stayed away from the gym for a month.

Great disadvantage, but also determination from someone who says she's never hit anyone in anger -- well, not yet anyway.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.


COREN: And we wish her all the very best.

Well, ahead on NEWS STREAM, it's worked before. Now UNICEF turns to social media to spread word of Africa's desperate food crisis. The latest on the drought that's threatening millions and the push to get it some online attention.


COREN: Welcome back. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. And you're watching NEWS STREAM. These are your world headlines.

Well, British news channel BSkyB reports its chairman, James Murdoch, is expected to step down after a board meeting. Murdoch had been under fire for his handling of the phone hacking scandal that resulted in the closure of the News of the World newspaper. Well, BSkyB management has declined to comment.

Syrian opposition activists say government forces are shelling residential areas in Idlib Province. They also report dozens of additional troops have arrived in Daraa Province and the town of Zabadani. The increase comes right after the government agreed to withdraw forces from Syrian cities by April 10.

In Oakland, California a 43-year-old man is being held by police. They say he shot and killed seven students at a Christian college. The police chief says the man walked into a class room, lined up students against a wall, and shot them one by one.

The Colombian rebel group FARC has freed 10 hostages held for more than a decade. The prisoners were greeted by medics and loved ones as they touched down in central Colombia. Well, FARC says they are the last of its government hostages, but there are reports that hundreds of civilians are still being held.

Well, now to Africa where a deadly food crisis is taking hold in a region already battling extreme poverty. It's called the Sahel. And UNICEF is using social media to try to raise awareness about the looming famine with the hashtag #Sahelnow sound the alarm.

Well, the children's charity is asking users to log on and spread the message that this crisis is threatening the lives of a million children.

The Sahel is an arid belt of land that stretches across Africa below the Sahara desert. Well, it has become so dry the land can't support crops, livestock, or the millions who live there. CNN's John Vause has more.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wind swept and arid, vast portions of west and central Africa have become far too dry to sustain crops, livestock and the millions of people who live here. This is the Sahel. Desert to the north, tropical savannahs to the south, it's a climate transition zone prone to cycles of drought. Eight countries are seeing the worst of it this time form Senegal on the Atlantic coast west to the central African nation of Chad.

The Isaka family lives in Niger. Helima looks on as husband Sohero (ph) harvests millet, one of the world's oldest cultivated crops, but it's not nearly enough to feed their family.

HALIMA ISAKA, ZINDER DISTRICT, NIGER (through translator): This year's harvest was so bad that it will not even last us three months. When my husband goes to harvest our millet crop I look to gather up as many of the fallen grains as possible. Today I was able to get almost two full bowls of millet which was enough for one family meal.

VAUSE: Nutrition centers like this one in Mauritania are packed. The United Nations whose camera crews have been documenting the unfolding crisis believe that more than 10 million people are in danger of starving to death. Aid workers on the ground say it's fast getting worse.

DAVID GRESSLY, UNICEF REGIONAL DIRECTOR: It's related to the lack of rains in the 2011 and the drought, lack of food, the fact that people are trying to cope with that by selling the personal belongings, cattle, livestock. They're pulling children out of schools to adapt to this.

VAUSE: Children in the Sahel are particularly vulnerable, more than 1 million at risk.

WERNER SCHULTINK, UNICEF CHIEF OF NUTRITION: We have the technology and the knowledge to treat these children who suffer form severe acute malnutrition very effectively. If we identify them, if we get to them quickly enough, we can really cure them and prevent them from dying.

VAUSE: UNICEF has asked for about $120 million from governments to help. Right now the agency has about 25 percent, or $30 million on hand.

John Vause, CNN, Atlanta.


COREN: Well, the United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people are in danger of starving to death. Well, CNN's David McKenzie is in one of the affected countries, Chad, and joins us now.

David, 10 million people facing starvation, how did it get so bad so quickly?


COREN: I do apologize to our viewers. We seem to be having some technical problems with David McKenzie in Chad. But he was speaking about the food crisis facing 10 million people in the Sahel. I believe that we have reestablished contact with David.

David, tell us how dire the situation is.

MCKENZIE: (inaudible)

COREN: I do apologize to our viewers. We seem to not be able to make contact with David. But for more on how you can help the people of the Sahel, just go to There you will find information on the UNICEF campaign and details on the countries and people affected by this emerging crisis.

Well, let's get more on the conditions in the Sahel with our meteorologist with Jen Delgado. Jen, tell us, 10 million people facing starvation. This is just terrible isn't it?

JEN DELGADO, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely tragic. And of course the weather plays so much a part across this region. And we've been talking about the Sahel. And if you notice, we're talking about an area that extends from Senegal all the way over towards Djibouti.

And as I show you on our graphic here, we talk about this area, it's the transition zone between the Sahara Desert as well as the tropical climate. Of course, tropical nations areas to the south, but as I said this stretches from the Atlantic Ocean all the way over towards the Red Sea up to 1,000 kilometers wide and up to 3 million square kilometers. So certainly this is a very important region.

And we talk a lot about this, because a lot of this relies on the ITCZ, that's the intertropical convergence zone. And as we go through different months it varies from north to south.

Now as we go through the winter months we see it's sagging down towards the south, but as we go through the warmer months, April as well as into May we start to see it lifting up towards the north and that spreads some of that moisture, precipitation for areas that need it. But unfortunately it's been rather dry over the last several years and that's why now we're dealing with the bad situation across this region.

Let's get you an idea of the precipitation between 1900 and 2011. If you notice from 1970 to present, up to 2010 you can see we've only have four years where we've had above average precipitation. So this has really gotten worse as we've gone through the years.

Now we talk about this and how this combines. We have this deadly combination. And when you're dealing with normal rainfall and below normal rainfall you deal with a drought. Now this leads to insufficient harvests as well as high food prices and of course this leads to humanitarian crisis and that's where we are now desperately trying to get some help for this region.

Now as we talk more about the Sahel, we also want to mention more about the great green wall. This stretches 15 kilometers wide, again from Senegal all the way over toward Djibouti through 11 countries. And of course its' a combination of the African Union. And this includes 11 countries.

We're going to talk more about this, but right now let's take a look and find out what the weather is like in your area.

And welcome back.

Now we want to focus a little bit more about weather events happening at the present. And let's talk about this area of low pressure spinning just to the northwest of Japan. You can see that signature there comma, well the problem is that is leading to very strong winds as well as snow and rain. Look at the winds out there right now, 33 in Fukuoka, 43 in Tokyo. This is certainly going to lead to some travel delays as we go throughout your Tuesday as well as through early Wednesday. And we're talking about some good snow out there. And with the wind this is going to lead to some damage.

Let's go to some video and show you exactly what's been happening there. You're looking at a woman walking through a street, but the winds get quite gusty and some of these umbrellas are blowing around. We do know there's video and images of tractor trailers being blown over.

And we also have some Getty images. And look at this right here. This gives you an idea of the strong winds that are whipping through. We're talking about some gusts up to about 80 kph.

In addition to that, let's take you back over and give you an idea of how much snow we're talking. For Hokkaido, up towards the north, you're going to be looking at some great amounts of snowfall -- 15 centimeters, areas along Western Japan will also be dealing with this. And we do have warnings in place, Anna, as we go throughout the next 24 hours. So some possibilities of more strong winds.

But there is sort of a bright side to this story, cherry blossoms, they're blooming. Look at this great photo here. You can see the bird enjoying a little feast. Said, hey, you don't bother me. You don't make me sneeze. I'm just going to go ahead and eat you.

And in case you want to look at some of the cherry blossoms, this is an idea of where they're going to be as we go through the next couple of weeks and months ahead. Right now, you can see spreading through parts of Tokyo. And that's, in fact, where we just saw that image.


COREN: It certainly is a big tourist attraction. All right, Jen, many thanks for that.

Well, let's now go back to the situation in the Sahel. Our David McKenzie joins us on the phone from Chad.

David, as we said, 10 million people facing salvation. How did the situation get so dire?

MCKENZIE: Anna, the impending crisis -- but this isn't something that's just happened overnight. You've had droughts here in Chad in 2010, 2012. The droughts are coming more often. People can't, you know, get over those droughts and boost up their livestock. Many of the areas of the Sahel are, in fact, nomadic areas. They are also areas that have a long and chronic problem with conflict and rebel movements pushing in and creating a situation that's hard for people to sustain their livelihood.

If you look at the countries where this crisis, or perfect storm as UNICEF is calling it, it's across belts of the semi-dry to dry area between the Sahara and the (inaudible) areas of central Africa. And in those areas there's been a series of political upheavals in recent years including the Libya revolution and conflict, which has pushed a lot of Chadians out of that country and out of work.

So remittances are down, the drought it up, and really as UNICEF is saying it's a perfect storm that they're hoping to stop before it gets too late.

COREN: David, you just said there's obviously trying to raise attention to this crisis, but how is the international community responding?

MCKENZIE: Yeah, I didn't quite get that, Anna. But, you know, certainly is a lot of sense that these areas have been forgotten. But not so much remembering, there are criticisms of the actual governments have forgotten the people in the Sahel region. Chad itself is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries on the planet, what the (inaudible) described as a failed state.

Now, not just Chad, but some of the other countries in the Sahel region have effective governments in these nomadic areas and they've been accused of not helping the people find long-term solutions. While the UN and others are trying to kind of put a band-aid on the initial hunger, everyone is talking about what can we do long-term to try and mitigate huge crises and climate change in these areas as well as trying to boost government possibly to try and help these people that have long been ignored.

COREN: All right. David McKenzie in Chad, we appreciate that update. And just remind our viewers if you would like to help, you can go to our website

Ahead on NEWS STREAM, she says she's not a woman at Google. Instead she says she's a geek at Google. Marissa Mayer talks about her rise to vice president at the influential search giant. Our Leading Women series, that's coming up next.


COREN: Welcome back to NEWS STREAM.

Our Leading Women series now turns a spotlight on Google executive Marissa Mayer. Well, she has been with the Internet search engine since the very beginning. And now, more than a decade later, she's one of the most influential women in IT. Now Felicia Taylor sits down with the self- proclaimed geek.


FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to global reach and name recognition, few companies can rival Google. One of the key architects of the search giant's rise is its VP of map and localization services and the company's first female engineer.

MARISSA MAYER, GOOGLE VICE PRESIDENT: People ask me all the time what does it like to be a woman at Google? I'm not a woman at Google, I'm a geek at Google. I think being a geek is just great.

TAYLOR: In the last 13 years she has seen Google go from obscurity to being a verb, as in Google it, which has become part of everyday speak around the world.

MAYER: There's just been an incredible amount of growth. And it's like, you know, physics in the 1600s or biology in the 1800s, I mean, there's big breakthroughs all the time.

TAYLOR: And she has a long list of breakthroughs, holding several patents in artificial intelligence and interface design.

MAYER: I'm a geek myself. I love to code. I like to use spreadsheets when I cook.

TAYLOR: This powerful voice and gamechanger in search technology is Marissa Mayer.

We?re in Mountainview, California at Google headquarters, by most accounts, an idyllic place full of perks where employees can bring their pets to work and eat for free in the 15 different dining halls. Earlier this year Fortune Magazine named Google as the best place to work in America.

Here we visit Google VP Marissa Mayer as she holds her quarterly planning meeting with the Google Doodle Team. Google Doodle is the popular, highly stylized company logo, celebrating holidays and major moments of history.

Mayer is a hands-on executive who has her imprint all over Google, which she joined when she was just 24-years-old.

What has been like to watch this company grow into this behemoth that it really is now?

MAYER: Well, it's been a really fun ride over the years, but I mean I think that one of the things that's really notable about Google is how much it has stayed the same. So, you know, we have 1,000 times more employees now than we did then. The lunch lines are longer than the company was big when I started. But at the same time I really think that Google has done an amazing job preserving its culture and really preserving what motivates the employees.

TAYLOR: And what motivates Google is perfecting the search. Billions of people search on people every day. The company says since 2003, Google has answered some 450 billion unique questions.

When Google started, Mayer was among those writing computer code to make those searches possible.

MAYER: I mean, in the early days we worked 100 hour weeks, 130 hour weeks, everyone was here early on worked that hard. But I think we all felt that the technology was really important -- what was happening in the web, what was happening in the world was really important. And that we have a limited window of opportunity to work that hard and really make something for the world.

TAYLOR: A vision set by Google founders Sergei Brin and Lry Page when they formed the company in 1998.

MAYER: This idea of blank white homepage with just a box where, you know, it was very intently focused on search was just something that was really unusual. And, you know, I have talked to Sergei -- was it like, was it minimalism, you know -- were you just trying to like make a statement against the clutter? And he was like, you know, we didn't have a Webmaster. I don't do HTML. I need have a search engine (ph).

TAYLOR: Along with the company's success comes some criticism, including sharp objection to Google's privacy policies. And the company is said to track its users and store their search information as part of an ad delivery system, a huge revenue generator for the company.

MAYER: We actually believe that the ads provide value to end-users. And we pride ourselves on the ads being as good as the search results. Obviously everyone needs privacy for different reasons and in different environments. I think the most important thing is that when you're putting out a product or a service you're really clear with people what the trade- offs are.

TAYLOR: Mayer is swift to defend Google where she has come of age as an adult, becoming a VP in 2005. And at just 37, she's one of the top female executives in IT.

Does the question of how you got here annoy you as a woman? Or do you find that there's some validity to it?

MAYER: I don't -- it doesn't annoy me, because I guess to me the question is how did you get here is one, you know, for humanity, not necessarily the gender bias.

TAYLOR: In the coming weeks we'll bring you more about Marissa Mayer, including how she decided to join Google. And she thinks it's important to take chances in life.


COREN: That was Felicia Taylor reporting there.

Well, it's an Israeli town better known as a target for an attack, but now the town of Kiryat Shmona is celebrating a history sporting triumph. Our Alex Thomas has more after the break.


COREN: Welcome back.

Well, a small town in Israel will have a team competing in the UEFA Champion's League qualifying round next season. Alex Thomas joins us from London to tell us how this unlikely scenario came about. Hello, Alex.


Yeah, when you think of the most prestigious club competition on the planet, you think of teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona, Milan, Bayern Munich, even Manchester United. Now Kiryat Shmona has the chance to play alongside that prestigious group in the Champion's League after winning Israel's Premier League. A nil-nil draw against Hapoel Tel Aviv last night gave them an unbeatable lead at the top of the table. And CNN's Matthew Chance was there to savor the atmosphere.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERANTIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, I think it's probably fair to say there has been more rockets falling in Kiryat Shmona over the course of the past 10 years then there has been goals scored in this football stadium, but all that is about to change, because this town have just 23,000 people is poised with its football team to win the Israeli championship. So that's incredibly important, because the people of Kiryat Shmona feel very much theirs is a town that's under siege.

I was here back in 2006 during the war with Hezbollah. I can tell you, there were hundreds of rockets bombarding this area. But now, you speak to these people and there's a whole different atmosphere.

You think your team is going to win the Champion's League?

CROWD: Yeah!

CHANCE: You think? It's not going to be Tel Aviv Hapoel?

CROWD: No. No. No.

CHANCE: Talking with me now is the deputy mayor of Kiryat Shmona, (inaudible). Thanks very much for being with us.

You must be very, very proud tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very excited today. Tonight is a big night. We need only a little victory and then we will do the best history in?

CHANCE: How important is it for Kiryat Shmona to have a team which not just beats the whole of Israel, but could potentially compete with the top European sides as well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very special. We are a small team in big Israel here that suffered a lot in the bomb attack. And this sport is an event in sport is getting (inaudible). And we are proud of the people. We're proud of the players. We're proud on the (inaudible), but doing it here a great thing.

CHANCE: Well, they've done it. A nil-nil draw, which isn't the most exciting result, but it's enough for Kiryat Shmona to win the Israeli Championship and to qualify for the Champion's League in Europe. It means that this small town that up until now has been known mainly for being in the crosshairs of the Arab-Israeli conflict will now be known for its football tem.

Matthew Chance, CNN, in Kiryat Shmona.


THOMAS: I just love the shot of the little kid checking his watch as the minutes tick down in the match.

Well, Kiryat Shmona have a long way to go to reach the quarterfinals of the Champion's League, that's where we are in this season's competition. Bayern Munich with a 2-nil lead over Marseilles, but the pick of Tuesday's second leg games feature the defending champions Barcelona take on A.C. Milan at the Camp Nou. That's tie delicately poised at nil-nil. We'll let you know what happens in World Sport, the show after next.

But in three hours time we've got even more sport, including live Master's golf coverage from Augusta.

And now back to you, Anna.

COREN: Looking forward to that. Alex, see you tomorrow. Thank you.

Well, that is it for NEWS STREAM, but the news certainly continues here at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is coming up next.