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UN Observers in Syria Overwhelmed with Violent Clashes; The Avengers Opens this Weekend to Much Anticipation; Chen Guangcheng Affair Overshadows U.S.-China Talks; Aung San Suu Kyi Makes Debut in Myanmar Parliament; President Obama Visits Afghanistan

Aired May 2, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET



I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

Now, China's dissident drama takes another dramatic turn as Chen Guangcheng leaves the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Plus, unarmed and outmanned, the stark reality facing U.N. monitors in Syria.

And these superheroes are a smash overseas. Can "The Avengers" dominate the U.S. box office?

Well, a Chinese dissident who's been holed up at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for several days has now left. Chen Guangcheng has been reunited with his family at a Beijing medical facility. Here, you see him being wheeled by a nurse.

Now, the Chinese government, they want an apology from Washington for harboring the human rights activist, but that apology has not been forthcoming from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in the Chinese capital on Wednesday for economic talks. She issued a statement saying she is pleased the U.S. was able to facilitate Chen's stay and departure from the embassy.

Clinton says China has made a number of promises regarding Chen's future, and CNN's Jill Dougherty traveled there with Secretary Clinton. She joins us now live.

And Jill, you have riveting detail from U.S. officials about Chen's escape and what is happening today. Tell us about it.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kristie. You know, they were telling us, two senior administration officials, briefing us a couple of hours ago and describing how Chen, when he was leaving his house, had to climb over walls, very high walls. He injured his foot. And so when he arrived at the embassy, he was injured, and that is what they say, one of the reasons why they let him in on humanitarian grounds.

He is now, after this resolution, out in a hospital, and as you saw in that picture, now being treated. There are American doctors, as well as Chinese doctors, coordinating on the best care for him.

Also, they have details such as when he got out of the embassy, when he decided that this deal with the Chinese authorities was going to go forward and he decided to leave the embassy. He got into a vehicle with some U.S. officials, and his first conversation, first telephone call, was with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And he thanked her very much for paying attention to his case, knew the attention it was getting in the United States, and then also said, "I would like to kiss you."

So there are a lot of very personal details of having this man, this person who is blind, who had a lot of difficulties in the embassy. But the deal is that he can stay -- he wants to stay in China -- get an education, and be with his family. And the Chinese authorities are saying that they will investigate what those local authorities were doing -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: So Chen Guangcheng likely to stay in China.

Jill, I wanted to get your thoughts on the quick resolution of the Chen Guangcheng incident. I mean, in just a matter of days, we have seen his escape, his refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and now this resolution. Do you think this is a sign of a mature relationship between the U.S. and China?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I think, Kristie, you would have to say maybe that is correct, but you'd also have to say that here was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner, both coming here to China for this economic and security dialogue, which is crucial. It's a very big, strategic relationship.

This spotlight was on this. There are some 20 senior officials traveling, or here with her. And so to have this hanging over that event would have been very, very bad.

They had to come to some type of resolution. And it was an extraordinary case. In fact, one official was telling us this, they don't expect, will happen again.

But to be able to come to this agreement, where Secretary Clinton is saying, you know, we will be watching, we will be making sure, hoping that this will be carried out the way it should be carried out, could be a sign of some type of more trust. But I can tell you, feelings on both sides, especially on the Chinese, they're very sensitive when it comes to human rights issues.

LU STOUT: Yes, feelings are very sensitive, still. China is asking for an apology. Let's bring up the statement.

Beijing said that, "China demands that the U.S. apologize over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible, and give assurances that such incidents will not recur."

Now, Jill, will there be an apology from the U.S.? And what role has the U.S. played in the Chen Guangcheng case?

DOUGHERTY: Well, the first -- the answer to the second part is that the United States -- in fact, one of the officials today -- confirmed that help was given to Chen to come into the U.S. Embassy several days ago, six days ago. Now, will there be an apology? That question was asked, too, and I was sitting there.

I don't think there will be an apology, although that was not said directly. It was a very complex diplomatic answer which basically didn't say a lot, so you would not expect that that apology is going to be coming anytime soon.

LU STOUT: Jill Dougherty, live from Beijing.

Thank you very much for that.

Now, Chen's escape and apparent protection were not reported by Chinese media before today, and the Beijing authorities have been equally unwilling to discuss the issue. When Stan Grant traveled to Chen's home village in the hope of finding out more, his reception was nothing short of hostile. He filed this report on Tuesday.


STAN GRANT, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. It seems that the car is following us. We've turned down this dirt road and we're going to try to lose him.

(voice-over): We're trying to get to Chen Guangcheng's village in Shandong Province. This area is in lockdown. It has been for 18 months, while the blind activist was under house arrest, guards visible still today. Now Chen's escape to Beijing, reportedly hiding in the U.S. Embassy.

This is where Chen's supporters say his family is being held. We want to speak to them, but we don't even get close. A car is quickly on our tail.

We've picked up a local driver. He took a lot of convincing. He knows about Chen and knows the risks.

"Yes, I've heard of him," he says. "Local people should know of him. He campaigned against family planning policy. I know he was under house arrest."

(on camera): The car is still following us, and we've been driving now for about 20 minutes. This just goes to show how difficult it must have been for Chen Guangcheng, the man they were actually holding under house arrest, to have managed to escape.

(voice-over): Our driver is becoming more nervous. He won't slow down. We go down dirt roads, past local markets. It gets dangerous, sometimes ending up on the wrong side of the road.


GRANT (on camera): Well, the cat and mouse game is continuing. We're back in our car. I think as you've just seen, as we pulled out, that same vehicle pulled out and they're following us again.

The same car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's following into a routine now.

GRANT (voice-over): Finally, our driver has had enough and pulls over. We're left by the side of the road.

(on camera): Is the driver going to leave us here?

(voice-over): As police approach, he speeds off.

We get the sense people here are scared. Even if they're aware of Chen Guangcheng, they won't admit it.

"I'm just a truck driver," this man insists. "I spend a lot of time away. I don't know what's going on."

No sooner are we inside another car, the chase is back on.

(on camera): This gives you an indication of just how seriously security take this issue and the lengths that they will go to to stop us trying to stop the story of what's been happening to Chen Guangcheng and his family.

(voice-over): When we stop they stop. Where we go they go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're coming.

GRANT: We stop at a local watermelon stand and hope to throw them off the scent (ph). No chance. Watching on, the same black car. At no point have the people inside identified themselves. Watermelon in hand, we decide to ask some questions.

(on camera): Is this about Chen Guangcheng?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, "I don't know who Chen Guangcheng is. I'm just driving around for fun."

GRANT: But you've been following us the entire way.

(voice-over): We don't get back to our car before they pounce.



GRANT: Eventually we get free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in the car. Go.

GRANT: But as Chen Guangcheng knows too well, in China security doesn't give up so easily.


GRANT: Stan Grant, CNN, Shandong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, Charlie (ph)! Go! Go! Go! Go!


LU STOUT: Turning now to Myanmar, which is marking a historic day.

Now, after decades of fighting against military dictatorship, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi makes her debut in parliament.

Paula Hancocks reports.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From one of the world's most famous political prisoners, to a member of parliament, this was the moment Aung San Suu Kyi took political office for the first time, a symbolic day for Myanmar that many of her supporters would never come. After fighting for almost a quarter of a century against the former military leadership, she now takes her place among some of those who helped keep her under house arrest for 15 years. But she insists that will not affect her.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR OPPOSITION LEADER: I have tremendous goodwill towards the military, so it doesn't in any way bother me to sit with them. I'm pleased to be sitting together with them.

HANCOCKS: A quarter of parliamentary seats are held by serving generals, dictated by a constitution Suu Kyi and her party say is undemocratic. One of the many things she has sworn to change now in power, although her party only accounts for just over five percent of the assembly.

Suu Kyi and 33 members of the National League for Democracy were welcomed by some lawmakers. This member of the ruling party said, "It's good that Suu Kyi has come to parliament. As we said many times, if we want to achieve things for the people and for the country, we should let sleeping dogs lie. Please, come into the parliament and let's do this together."

Suu Kyi and her party won a landslide in last month's by-election by taking her seat. She adds legitimacy to the reform process for the international community watching the changes in this country very closely.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the latest in a long list of high- profile visitors, praising President Thein Sein for his reform efforts and Aung San Suu Kyi for overcoming an issue with the wording of the swearing in oath that delayed her debut in parliament.

BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: A real leader demonstrates flexibility toward a greater course (ph) of people or country, and this is what she has done yesterday. And I really admire and respect her decision. I'm sure that she'll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian.

HANCOCKS: A role Suu Kyi accepted Wednesday for the sake, she said, of the people of Myanmar.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Bangkok.


LU STOUT: Now, coming up on NEWS STREAM, the U.S. president, Barack Obama, wraps up a whirlwind visit to Afghanistan and makes a promise to troops and to war-weary Afghans and Americans.

A city ravaged by relentless fighting. We'll take you inside Homs.

And lost dreams of the Philippines. Children labor for long hours in the cane fields to keep their families fed.


LU STOUT: Live from Hong Kong, you are back watching NEWS STREAM.

Now, the leaders of the U.S. and Afghanistan are pledging to work together for a peaceful future long after most American troops are out of Afghanistan. U.S. President Barack Obama has wrapped up a surprise visit to Kabul, where he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement. It provides a roadmap for both countries after U.S.-led NATO forces withdraw in 2014.

Now, Mr. Obama has committed to pulling 23,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan later this year. And in Kabul, the U.S. president said the U.S. will finish the job it started in Afghanistan and will end the war there responsibly.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time of war began in Afghanistan and this is where it will end. With faith in each other and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace.


LU STOUT: Now, Mr. Obama's trip to Afghanistan coincided with the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.

Nick Paton Walsh is in Kabul. He joins us now live.

And Nick, under this new agreement, what will the U.S.-Afghan relationship look like after 2014?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this agreement really was symbolic, I think, because Washington and Kabul have been looking for this kind of handshake, this kind of show of cooperation after a very turbulent few months. But it was very short on substance.

It talks about the kind of relationship they want. It gives commitments that America wants to provide, development aid, wants to see a democratic country, wants to provide security, but there are bits missing.

There's no commitment financially, because, of course, the U.S. Congress has a say over that. And there are no specifics about the U.S. military presence post-2014. That's left to a separate agreement.

This was something I think really people desperately needed, to see signs in the Obama administration ahead of the NATO Chicago Conference later this month. People are looking to America to clarify and I think smooth over its rocky relationship with the Kabul presidential palace here, because they're looking for other NATO allies to clarify their commitments, financial and military, in Chicago later -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now, just hours after Mr. Obama left Afghanistan, at least two explosions rocked Kabul. The Taliban claimed responsibility. There is a lot of work ahead here. I mean, Mr. Obama, he talked about peace with the Taliban, but is it really achievable?

WALSH: Interestingly, I mean, Obama was really speaking to the American public, arriving here under the secrecy of darkness, departing after a few hours. Many Afghans would have been asleep for the entirety of his visit and probably be woken not by the news of the president of the United States being here, but certainly in Kabul by the sound of these explosions, as a suicide bomber drove a car of explosives into a secure compound which normally houses foreigners known as the Green Village (ph), a crossfire then ensuing, apparently attackers in burqas trying to breach the compound walls, leaving seven Afghans dead and 10 schoolchildren injured.

So a deeply troubling, I think, symbol inside a capital which, hours earlier, had been under secure lockdown for a presidential visit, then being breached by the insurgents, who are considered (ph) this in their announcement, their response to the presidential visit hours later, also saying that, tomorrow, their spring offensive begins in earnest. I should also point out though there have been American casualties in the Wardak Province of the country. A Western official saying two Americans were killed and two injured when an explosion hit the vehicle there (ph) on patrolling -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Nick Paton Walsh, joining us live from Kabul.

Thank you.

Now, one year after his death, Osama bin Laden, he still casts a shadow. Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour has a documentary on his transformation into a terrorist mastermind.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One year ago, Osama bin Laden was captured and killed, and at, we've posted the entire documentary "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden," in which I retrace his life through the people who knew Bin Laden best. We find out how a son of Saudi privilege turned into the man's most wanted man.

That's at Watch it there.


LU STOUT: Now, just click on the Amanpour archive. You can find it there.

In Egypt's capital, fresh clashes have erupted just three weeks ahead of the presidential election. At least 11 people were killed on Wednesday, when men in plain clothes attacked Islamist protesters near the Defense Ministry. At least 100 people were injured. Now, the demonstrators, they were protesting the decision to bar an Islamist candidate from the presidential vote on May the 23rd.

Just ahead here on NEWS STREAM, forced to leave the classroom for the cane fields. Life is not so sweet for these young workers in the Philippines, as CNN goes inside the country's child labor problem.


LU STOUT: Live from Hong Kong, you're watching NEWS STREAM.

And now the not-so-sweet truth about where much of our sugar comes from. In the Philippines, some children are forced to swap the classroom for the cane fields. It is physical, backbreaking work that is robbing them of their childhood, and Kyung Lah saw it first hand.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lost in the green sugarcane field, the red hat of a little boy bobs as he works, pulling weeds, tilling the soil, barefoot, seven hours a day in the scorching heat of the Philippines. Dante Campalon (ph) is 14. He's been working in the fields since he was just 7.

"It's very hard to work here," he says. "I'd rather go to school."

Next to him, 13-year-old Alvig James (ph), who dropped out of school when he was in the first grade so he could work.

(on camera): Why are so many children working in the fields?

(voice-over): "To earn money," he says, "so we can buy food for our families." But it's illegal for children their age to work such long hours.

At 15 or 16, they graduate to cutting the sugarcane like Elmar Peron (ph).

(on camera): Have you gone to school at all?

(voice-over): No school means no skills for other types of work, a future fit only for the fields. The young in Butong (ph) are part of an entire economic system that steals their childhood.

Anaheles Penda (ph) is the landowner who hires the children.

(on camera): You're seeing the children work in the field. Why let children work in the field?

(voice-over): "The parents beg us to include their children to work," she says, work like this often done by children in fields throughout the region.

(on camera): The children who labor in these fields produce the sugar sold on the global market. From there, it ends up on your kitchen table, your morning coffee. It's even in this bottle of Coke.

(voice-over): The International Labor Organization estimates there are about 2.4 million child workers in the Philippines, many of them in rural areas where families live in such poverty, that parents require their kids to work. Many child laborers work in dangerous conditions like this charcoal field, choking air, their faces covered in soot, bagging charcoal for pennies.

The Philippines government has launched a major campaign hoping to end this. By 2015, the government wants to reduce the worst forms of child labor by 75 percent, a tough goal says the Sugar Industry Foundation, which openly admits the industry has problems.

EDITH VILLANUEVA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SUGAR INDUSTRY FOUNDATION: When we do not deny that child labor exists in our industry -- it's a practice among families who are paid piecemeal for their work. They like to deploy the children because then there's more income for the families. There's a long-term solution, and it's really education.

LAH: That's why the Sugar Industry Foundation and the Coke Foundation are building this high school. The Coca-Cola Company said in a statement that it " -- does not support, encourage or endorse any form of child labor in our operations throughout our global bottling system or in our supplier network." The company went on to say, "Specifically in the Philippines, we are supporting multi-stakeholder initiatives to remove children from sugarcane fields and enroll them in education programs."

Education is a potent weapon. This region is experimenting with an alternative learning system where children go to school only two days a week because they have to work in the fields.

Dante (ph) gives nearly all of his day's pay, $3.50, to his mother. "When I grow up, I would love to go away from here," he says. But with the realities here, it may only be a dream.

Kyung Lah, CNN, northern Mindanao, the Philippines.


LU STOUT: And that story from Kyung Lah is part of our special coverage on the Philippines. All this week we're looking at the country's challenges and opportunities.

Now, coming up here on NEWS STREAM, U.S. President Barack Obama, he travels to Afghanistan, marking the first anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. Now, back home, some Republicans are calling it a publicity stunt.

A closer look inside Syria, a special report from the besieged city of Homs as the U.N. steps up its presence across the country.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

You're watching NEWS STREAM, and these are your world headlines.

Now, China has demanded an apology from Washington for harboring dissident Chen Guangcheng at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Chen left the embassy earlier on Wednesday for medical treatment, and the U.S. says he has received assurances from Beijing about his future in the country.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Beijing for high-level talks. She says she was pleased to have facilitated Chen's stay and departure from the U.S. embassy.

Now, Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sworn into parliament. Her debut had been delayed because of her party's objections to the wording of the oath, but she and other newly-elected members of her party decided to take the oath even without changes.

Now U.S. President Barack Obama says U.S. troops will not remain in Afghanistan a day longer than necessary. He is returning to Washington after wrapping up an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a partnership agreement outlining the United States' continued commitment to Afghanistan after U.S.-led NATO troops withdraw in 2014.

Now President Obama's visit to Afghanistan, it came on a significant anniversary. Exactly one year ago, U.S. special forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. And now in this highly charged election year, Mr. Obama's Republican rivals are accusing him of politicizing bin Laden's death.

Let's dig deeper into this with CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser. He joins us now live from Washington. And Paul, was there a political motive to Obama's trip to Afghanistan?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: The White House says definitely not, that this was an official trip, obviously, to sign that agreement with Afghanistan's government on the path forward between -- with both countries, so no.

This really doesn't appear to be anything to do with political gaming, but of course, Kristie, we are in an election year. And yes, there's been a big argument over whether the president has been politicizing overall. His call one year ago to kill Osama bin Laden, have that U.S. military raid in Pakistan carried out.

So you did not see a lot of criticism on Tuesday after the word came that the president was landing in Afghanistan. You did not see a lot of criticism from Republicans. In fact, Senator John McCain of Arizona who was the Republican's last presidential nominee who was very critical of this president and his campaign in the last couple days on how they were politicizing the Obama raid. They were not, not at all -- McCain not at all now criticizing the president over this trip to Afghanistan -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now this is an election year after all. So what are the unwritten rules of engagement for U.S. president? What should a president seeking reelection do to avoid charges of politicizing key events?

STEINHAUSER: You know there really are no officials rules. And when you are president, the power of the incumbency comes with that. And you're able to ride Air Force One. And you're able to go to hotspots around the world. And so, you know, listen the president was in his rights, obviously, to go on this trip to Afghanistan and to sign this agreement.

We saw the same thing eight years ago when then President George W. Bush was running for reelection and we were involved in the war in Afghanistan at the time and the war in Iraq, the U.S. was involved with both of those conflicts. And part of his campaign, of course, was to paint his opponent at the time, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as weak on foreign policy. And we're seeing the same kind of battle eight years later. It is part of the game that's played in an election year.

LU STOUT: And as President Obama seeks to wind down the campaign in Afghanistan, Mitt Romney says he supports staying in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban. Which policy has more support among American voters?

STEINHAUSER: It seems the president's. I tell you after many, many years, almost a decade of war now, the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, there is very little support for the conflict. Our most recent CNN/ORC International poll of Americans, you can see right here, look at this, should the U.S. withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan? A majority want those troops gone before 2014, about 1 in 5 say do it in 2014. And look at that, only 22 percent say keep U.S. troops in that country after 2014.

And if you look at other numbers from our poll, you also see the vast majority of Americans, nearly three-quarters, do not support the war.

Here is what Romney, who of course is the presumptive Republican nominee, said after the president landed in Afghanistan. He put out a statement saying, "I am pleased the President Obama has returned to Afghanistan. Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our president about what is at stake in the war. Success in Afghanistan is vital to our nation's security." That is Mitt Romney Tuesday evening.

Now earlier that day, he was at an event in New York City with Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City Mayor. And here is what he said about the president.


MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's totally appropriate for the president to express to the American people the view that he has, that he had an important role in taking out Osama bin Laden. I think politicizing it was -- and try to draw a distinction between himself and myself was an inappropriate use of the very important event that brought America together which was the elimination of Osama bin Laden.


STEINHAUSER: So what he's saying there is listen it's fine for the president to go to Afghanistan. What he was criticizing, though, was attempts by the Obama reelection team and the president himself to say, would Mitt Romney made that exact same call to kill bin Laden if he were president one year ago?

Kristie, about six months to go until election day. We're going to hear a lot more about this.

LU STOUT: That's right. And anything and everything is fair game. Paul Steinhauser, as always, thank you.

Now the death of bin Laden, it was a hugely significant event, but it might also mark a turning point for media as one of the first news stories to break on Twitter. At 9:47 pm in Washington on May 1, the White House announced that President Obama would address the nation, but didn't say why. And then 45 minutes later came this tweet from Donald Rumsfeld's former chief of staff Keith Urban. He said, quote, "so I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn."

Now it took another 20 minutes for American TV networks to report that news. And at 11:35, a full hour after Urban's tweet, President Obama finally announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

Now that's how the news spread, but there were even earlier indications of the raid on Twitter from this man, a resident of Abbottabad who unwittingly live tweeted the raid as it happened saying a helicopter was hovering over the city and that his window shook from a huge bang. Now nobody noticed his tweets at first because he only had a few hundred followers. Today, he has over 72,000.

Now turning now to Syria. Activists say at least 27 people, including Syrian security forces, have been killed in fresh violence today. The renewed unrest comes as the UN is again urging the regime and opposition forces take further steps to stop the fighting.

Now there are 24 UN monitors around the country so far and just a few of them are in the city of Homs.

ITN's Bill Neely reports from the besieged opposition stronghold.


BILL NEELY, ITV CORRESPONDENT: Whatever way you look and however long you listen, the crisis in this city is clear: gunfire, deserted streets, conflict. This is Homs where troops have tried for months now to kill the rebellion. It is still alive.

Well, the fighting here is literally around the corner and down all of these streets. There have been continuous bursts of gunfire since we've been here and indeed all day. There is no ceasefire here in Homs. A war is being waged.

It was impossible to tell which side, regime, or rebels was firing, but there were clear exchanges, gun battles. It's a ceasefire no one is observing here.

United Nations observers are try to here to try to salvage it, driving in with reinforcements. There are now four of them. They're in a city awash with weapons. They are unarmed. The fighting was meant to stop three weeks ago. They have no power to stop it. At the front line, they move forward to meet the rebels.

The governor of Homs won't meet the rebels. He met us. And he won't call it a ceasefire. Homs, he says, is dangerous.

GHALASSAM ABDUL-AL, GOVERNOR OF HOMS: I am sure that the militants are provoking daily the ceasefire, if we can call it ceasefire.

NEELY: But there's one area in Homs that is now firmly in the hands of President Assad's troops. In a city of ghosts, this is the heart of the horror. It's a district called Baba Amr. And it was pummeled and pounded for months with everything Assad's men could fire at it. This is Baba Amr's main street, the center of the ghost town.

There is a ceasefire here, that's because there's no one left to cause the regime any trouble. We'll never know the exact death toll, but certainly hundreds were killed and this suburb cleansed of any opposition to President Assad.

The regime's men patrol the streets. They, too, lost hundreds here. But they are still dying daily in Homs on both sides. Baba Amr, one man told me, is destroyed. No one, though, wanted to speak on camera.

Even here, they can hear the gunfire from the two districts where there's fighting. Homs remains a deadly city. The four observers from the United Nations have their work cut out.

Bill Neely, ITV News, Homs.


LU STOUT: OK. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And let's step over here for an update on BlackBerry. Now BlackBerrry addicts out there, you may be taking notice that Research In Motion has finally unveiled its next generation operating system. It's called the BlackBerry 10. And the new software, it's based on its PlayBook tablet and they boasted about the new interface, the camera and especially the keyboard, notably the device. Using this demonstration it does not have a physical keyboard like most BlackBerries. As you can see, it uses a touchscreen just like the iPhone.

Now Research in Motion is hoping that the new software will help the BlackBerry hold its own against the iPhone and Android handsets. And their plunging marketshare shows why they need this to be a success.

Now in the first quarter of last year, over 13 percent of all smartphones sold were BlackBerries and one year on it's dropped to under 7 percent.

Now the wait is nearly over for legions of Marvel movie fans in the United States. The super hero dream team The Avengers, it hits U.S. theaters this weekend, but is the hype overkill? We'll go live to New York next.


LU STOUT: That's Hong Kong outside. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And temperatures are certainly on the rise here. And the heat in Southeast Asia goes on. Mari Ramos joins us now for more from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey Kristie, yeah that's a nice picture from Hong Kong, though a little bit on the misty side. Pretty humid and definitely on the warm side. You can feel the seasons changing already.

Let's go ahead and take a look a little bit across other areas of Southeast Asia. A lot of you complaining about the heat. You know what, these are temperatures from Tuesday. And across India into the 40s easily. And Bangkok got up to 40 degrees on Tuesday.

This is pretty intense. Not as hot today. I think the highest I saw in Bangkok was about 36.5 today. Hanoi also getting close to about 38 today for your daytime high. Yesterday was 40, that's very significant but I wanted to go ahead and show you the numbers from yesterday. Easily three to six degrees above the average. Not out of the question.

This is before the monsoon sets in. And typical the hottest time of the year. Well, we are definitely seeing temperatures above the average. So that's significant.

It's 36 in New Delhi, 38 in Karachi. You got up to 40 there as well. 40 in Ahmadabad. And as we continue moving across Southeast Asia, Chiang Mai at 33. That's where lots of people go to try to find some cooler weather in Thailand sometimes this time of year, up into the mountains. But look at Bangkok at 32. It's a big change from yesterday. And the 33 in Hanoi right now actually feels a lot better even though it's pretty warm.

30 in Hong Kong at this late hour, Kristie. Wow, I bet those air cons are running full steam right now. And that's a big concern when we get into this time of the year, just the amount of energy that it takes to keep those air conditionings running. And people that don't have air conditioning really tend to suffer quite a bit.

Notice back over here as we head into the Philippines also dealing with some hot temperatures this late at night, hot and sticky, because it is very humid as well.

Beijing, 26. That's also above the average for this time of year. So what your day-time high should be, just a little bit lower than that, so we're definitely dealing with a little bit of heat there. 21 in Seoul. And as we head back over into Tokyo we're looking at 17.

So I wanted to give you the story of the temperatures, because that's going to be one of the things to monitor over the next few days, because it's been so hot. And when it gets this hot and there's a lot of humidity, you get these strong thunderstorms that pop up. Some of them can be quite violent. And we're starting to see some strong storms developing right here across southeastern parts of China, back over into parts of Southeast Asia. We've had some very heavy rain. And this is starting to pull away now as we head into Honshu.

Rainy tonight in Tokyo, should be improving as we head into the morning hours. And then in the tail end of this front we'll see those scattered showers and thuder storms. And like I said, some of those will be pretty strong.

And this picture right here, that is not the Mediterranean. Summer like temperatures in Poland and in Germany. And in the Czech Republic and all the way down as we head through Ukraine and Romania. You guys all dealing with well above the average, a bonafide heat wave going on right now, the first one so far this season. We're looking at Budapest right now at 26, 29 in Belgrade. You're getting into the 30s as we head into Bucharest. Kiev right now at 23, that's a little bit unusual because you have this more closer to 27, 28 throughout the last few days.

So this big areas of high pressure will begin to break down. What that means is the door opens up for storm systems to start coming in through here. And we're going to see a little bit of an improvement as we head into the later part of the week. And by the end of the week we'll start to see the rain move in. Right now, some pretty strong storms moving across France and in through the low countries here. Watch out for that, that's going to bring you some travel delays.

Let's go ahead and check out your forecast.

So right here, this area that we've highlighted across northern Europe from today through tomorrow the possibility of some strong winds, maybe eve a little bit of flooding. And watch out for those strong thuder storms, they zip by very, very quickly. Back to you, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right. Mari Ramos, thank you and take care.

Now the Marvel mash-up The Avengers is expected to dominate the U.S. box office when it opens there on Friday. And it is already going gang busters internationally. The super hero dream team, it debuted at number one in 39 markets last week. And it's already grossed more than 178 million U.S. dollars at the international box office.

And The Avengers brings together a host of beloved comic book heroes played by an all-star cast. Village Voice entertainment columnist Michael Musto has seen the movie. He joins us now live from New York. So Michael, how was it?


It's really entertaining. I mean, it's not Citizen Cain, but it's fun. And it's a great thrill to see all your favorite super heroes get together and not only save New York, but save then entire planet and defeat a really terrible bad guy.

I have to say it doesn't assault you from the beginning with noise and special effects, which is good. There are special effects along the way, but there's a lot of dialogue, a log of character development, and some very funny lines especially by Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. And then I have to say the last 30 minutes or so are non-stop CGI effects. So if you're going there for action you're going to get it by the time you leave.

LU STOUT: All right. Now the movie, we all know it cost some $250 million to make. I mean, can you see it on this screen? Does it look like a quarter billion dollar movie?

MUSTO: Yeah, it is pretty spectacular. And by the way this was converted to 3D after it was made. And also they used a digital camera. The cinematographer said it's the first time he used that particular camera and they swooped around on dollies and cranes to get visceral shots. They also used background shots -- background plates made from aerial shots of Central Park and other landmarks so it wouldn't look too CGI'd. But basically you see the money up there. This is not some chintzy looking movie.

LU STOUT: It's interesting that The Avengers, it wasn't shot in 3D, it was converted into 3D, though. Do you think that added to the overall experience or not?

MUSTO: It does. I mean, it's not as exciting as a movie that's intended to be 3D, but it's just like The Titanic was converted, so was this. When I think the studio realized there's a lot more money to be made when people pay that extra $3 or more to see 3D. And it does -- you know, I personally don't mine wearing the glasses for some good effects, since I wear glasses anyway. And the effects are very good.

LU STOUT: Now, the writer/director Joss Whedon. I mean, we know him from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. How is he? How did he leave his mark on this movie?

MUSTO: Well, he sets up each character. He doesn't just throw them at you in a battle. Until you get the battle you see different aspects of the character. Captain America played by Chris Evans is very earnest, Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, as I said, is extremely sardonic, Mark Ruffalo plays The Hulk, previously it was Eric Bana, then it was Ed Norton. Mark Ruffalo is a really good actor and he plays it very brooding. And then when he transforms into The Hulk it's really something to see. It's quite scary.

So you have -- and Scarlett Johanesson is aboard as The Black Widow. And she actually speaks Russian. I was very impressed. And Gwyneth Paltrow is there. So you have all types of characters all coming together. I mean, there's something for everybody, except people who wanted to see The Godfather Trilogy.

LU STOUT: That's right, the heroine is a fireman are in there. Yeah, that's right, you're not going to be seeing The Avengers.

Now, I mean, this is a mega mash-up movie of the great Marvel superheroes. But can I watch it and enjoy it if I haven't caught up with all the other Marvel flicks?

MUSTO: Yes, because you know what I haven't seen them all. I've seen most of them, because that's my job, but you could go in and from the beginning you're swept along by the story without even knowing all the back stories. So it actually works in that way.

LU STOUT: All right. Good to hear. Michael Musto, the Village Voice, thank you very much indeed.

Now while the Avengers is certain to top the U.S. box office this weekend, the year's biggest blockbuster probably won't be a movie, but a game.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will always be men like us for those who are willing do what others cannot.


LU STOUT: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is the latest in a long running series of war shooting games. It's publisher says the original Black Ops earned $360 million on the first day alone. The movie record, it belongs to the final Harry Potter film, which took $91 million on its first day. So mark your calendars, Black Ops 2 is due out on November 13.

Now if the Chicago Bulls want to win the NBA title, they'll have to do it without their best player. Derrick Rose on the sideline, could the Bulls beat the Sixers? Pedro Pinto, he's got all the highlights next.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now yet another young athlete has suffered an untimely death: this time, a world class swimmer. Now Pedro Pinto is in London, he has details on this tragedy -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. The international swimming community is still trying to come to terms with the sudden death of world champion Alexander Dale Oen. The Norwegian star was expected to be one of the star attractions at London's aquatic center at the Olympics this summer was found dead at a training camp after suffering cardiac arrest.

The 26-year-old collapsed in a shower late on Monday after training in Arizona in the United States. Emergency services arrived at the scene within minutes, but were unable to revive him. Dale Oen won gold in the 100 meters breast stroke at the world championships in Shanghai last year. Messages expressing grief and shock at his unexpected demise have been pouring in. Two-time double Olympic gold medalist Kasuke Kitajima said he has been left with a big whole in his heart. His teammates and coaches are distraught.

Footballer Fabrice Muamba has made a miraculous recovery from his cardiac arrest. His heart stopped for almost 90 minutes after he, too, collapsed. This during an FA Cup match in February. The 24-year-old has left hospital recently. And he'll make his first public appearance later on Wednesday when he attends Bolton's Premier League game with Tottenham. Bolton manager Owen Coyle said he and the rest of the squad were delighted that Muamba will be at the Reebok Stadium later today,.

In France, Montpellier could have taken a huge step towards their first ever league title, but the table toppers were held to a draw at home by Evian on Tuesday. It could have been worse for Montpellier who were down 2-1 in the second half before star striker Olivier Giroud scored an equalizer. The home side then desperately went forward in search of a winning goal. And they were awarded a late penalty. The decision by the referee sparked a massive brawl, which lead to four players being sent off. Complete chaos going on, on the pitch. And that seemed to have affected Souleymane Camara, the penalty taker who couldn't convert his spot kick.

2-2 it finished. Montpellier still have a six point lead at the top of the table.

We cross the Atlantic to talk NBA hoops. The Chicago Bulls felt the absence of Derrick Rose in Game two of their playoff series with Philadelphia. He's out for the season with an injury. The Bulls lost at home to the Sixers by 17 points. The visitors took the lead for good in the second half. Thaddeus Young with the alley-oop slam, giving Philly a 9 point lead.

It would only get worse for the Bulls who have the best record in the regular season. Andre Iguodala extended the Sixers' lead late in the third period. Drew Holiday lead the visitors in scoring with 26 points. Louis Williams added 20 off the bench. A huge win for Doug Collins' team who tied up the series at one win apiece.

Also on Tuesday, the Lakers beat the Nuggets and the Celtics beat the Hawks. More on those games on World Sport heading your way later on World Sport.

That's all for now. Kristie, back to you in Hong Kong.

LU STOUT: All right, Pedro, thank you very much for the round-up there.

Now it is the end of the show, so there's arguably no better time to consider the end of the world. As it happens, quite a lot of people already are. A new survey finds roughly 1 in 10 of us suffers anxiety about apocalypse now or this year at any rate.

Now the Mayans appear to have been expecting it at recent events such as the so-called Aflockalypse. You'll remember all those birds falling out of the sky only reinforces the sense that something is awry. Now more than 1 in 7 of us thinks that the world will end in our lifetime. The most optimistic country is France with only 6 percent of people expecting imminent Armageddon, and the most pessimistic? Well, Turkey and the United States -- 22 percent of people there anticipate the end of days any day now. That's roughly 68.5 million Americans. Now for a comparison, just about 43 million saw the movie Armageddon in theaters.

And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.