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David Cameron Testifies Before Leveson Inquiry; Egyptian Court Rules Political Isolation Law Unconstitutional; Homs Under Siege; Tiger, Bubba, Mickelson Oh My: Trio Tees Off On First Day Of U.S. Open

Aired June 14, 2012 - 08:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet. We begin in London where the latest politician to answer questions about his relationship with Rupert Murdoch's media empire is also the most high profile -- British Prime Minister David Cameron.

As Aung San Suu Kyi speaks outside Myanmar, we speak to a UN envoy about violence inside the country.

And Lance Armstrong says he has never failed a doping test, but now he is facing new allegations.

Now British Prime Minister David Cameron is a star witness at London's Royal Courts of Justice. He has been testifying at the Leveson inquiry into media ethics. Mr. Cameron said the relationship between politicians and the press has become a bad one and lacks trust on both sides. And he testified that he has never made a deal in return for favorable media coverage.

Now the Leveson inquiry has featured a who's who of some of the most powerful figures in Britain as it probes the relationship between politicians and the press. In addition to David Cameron's appearance today, three former British prime ministers have also taken the stand recently. The first was Tony Blair who testified last month. He said he came under political pressure during his time in office from Rupert Murdoch. But he denied that his government ever acted on behalf of Murdoch's business interests.

Now Mr. Blair's successor Gordon Brown testified on Monday. He said he was, quote, shocked and surprised that Murdoch claimed that Mr. Brown declared war on Murdoch's company and the influential press tycoon did not endorse his Labor Party in the 2009 elections.

And then former Prime Minister John Major, he testified on Tuesday. And he told the inquiry that Rupert Murdoch warned him back in 1997 to change his policies on Europe he would lose the backing of Murdoch's papers. Now Major's Conservative Party subsequently lost the 1997 election to Labor.

Now Rupert Murdoch himself appeared before the Leveson inquiry in April and he insisted, quote, "I have never asked a prime minister for anything."

Now let's hear some of the testimony.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is very important alongside, you know, the appalling things that happened to entirely innocent people (inaudible), the huge problem we have in terms of police relations with media is absolutely right. We get to the bottom of the political-media relationship and how to put it on a firmer footing.

But what I'm saying is not only was there no covert deal, there was no overt deal, and there wasn't nods and winks. Policies that I produced that I'm very proud of came from our beliefs, values, my history, my beliefs, and they weren't dictated by anybody else.


LU STOUT: Now Prime Minister Cameron launched the Leveson inquiry last year in response to the phone hacking scandal which engulfed Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World tabloid.

Now Dan Rivers is monitoring Mr. Cameron's testimony. He joins us now live from the Royal Courts of Justice in London. And Dan, we heard what David Cameron had to say about his relationship with the press in general, but give us more details about his ties with the Murdochs and in particular Rebekah Brooks.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It was on the specific question of how close he was to Rebekah Brooks that things really did feel very awkward for David Cameron. He was asked how often he was seeing her, you know, what is it every weekend, was it most weekends. He was really squirming at that point.

But I think the headline grabbing moment was just a few minutes later when Robert Jay, the lawyer for the inquiry, revealed a text message from Rebekah Brooks to the prime minister on the 7th of October, 2009 which she sent just a week after the Sun newspaper had switched allegiance from the Labor Party to the Conservatives. I think we have a clip here of Robert Jay reading out that text message and the prime minister's response to it.


ROBERT JAY, LEVESON INQUIRY ATTORNEY: Just the phrase but because professionally we're definitely in this together. What was your understanding of that?

CAMERON: I think that is about the Sun had made this decision to back the conservatives, to part company with Labor. And so the Sun wanted to make sure it was helping the Conservative Party put its best foot forward with the policies we're announcing, the speech I was going to make and all the rest of it. And I think that's what that means.


RIVERS: But just to give that text message some context, it was on the eve of David Cameron making a very important speech to his party here in the UK. And Rebekah Brooks texting him I'm so routing for you tomorrow not just as a proud friend, but because professionally we're definitely in this together. The speech of your life, yes you can.

It gives an idea, Kristie, of just how close they appeared together, that Rebekah Brooks was able to send text messages directly to him giving the impression that there was this kind of symbiotic relationship, that because now the Sun had decided to back David Cameron that they felt they were in it together and that has given rise of course to people claiming that in return he gave them an easy ride on laws over media regulation and so on.

Now that's something that later on David Cameron, you know, aggressively denied that there was any kind of quid pro quo or grand bargain or covert or overt deal with the Murdoch newspapers, but that text message alone, I think, it is pretty damaging. And it will definitely grab the headlines here in the newspapers this evening and tomorrow as an example of the over close relationship, perhaps too much influence that was being brought to bear by Murdoch's chief executives in those years before the 2010 election.

LU STOUT: Yeah. That and the mention of these country dinners that they shared underscoring the nature of their relationship.

And Dan, also David Cameron, he was pressed about why he hired Andy Coulson as his communications director. How did he handle that line of questioning?

RIVERS: Again, another difficult area for him. But his line was basically was that he hired him because he would do a good job. He was asked repeatedly, well, you know did you ask him about his knowledge of phone hacking and you know what was the answer? And basically he would say, well, you know, Andy Coulson insisted that he had no knowledge of phone hacking. And it was because he had no knowledge of phone hacking as the editor of the paper, i.e. he didn't have a grip on the paper that was why he resigned.

Now we know, of course, the story may have been different, that phone hacking was much more widespread than just one rogue reporter as they thought -- as David Cameron thought at the time. It was systemic inside the News of the World. And questions now about how much Andy Coulson knew and ordered and presided over that phone hacking, that's all subject to a police inquiry. So we won't get too much into that.

But again it's an awkward, difficult issue for David Cameron. He hired this tabloid journalist just a few months after he'd been forced to quit from the News of the World in a phone hacking scandal. Now of course that very same spin doctor Andy Coulson has been arrested and charged for lying in court. And Rebekah Brooks, the friend that he used to share country suppers with and exchange text messages with has also appeared in court, charged with basically trying to cover up the extent of phone hacking, trying to hide boxes of evidence from the police.

The two things obviously fit very awkwardly. And he was doing his best to try and explain the reason why he got so close to both of those characters.

LU STOUT: All right. Dan Rivers, thank you for that wrap up. Dan Rivers joining us live from the Royal Courts of Justice.

Let's get more analysis of David Cameron's testimony today. And Peter Jukes is the author of "Bad Press: The Fall of the House of Murdoch." He joins me now live from CNN London.

And Peter, what do you think was the most politically damaging detail that we've heard so far from the hearing? Is it Cameron's close ties with Rebekah Brooks or his decision to hire Andy Coulson and the thinking behind that?

PETER JUKES, AUTHOR: Well, both. But I mean the glaring headline is going to be that text from Rebekah Brooks that, you know, we're all in it together. That's not going to go away. It's a -- this is what is the problem, I think, for politicians is not the evidence they give. I mean, I think he's done a very good performance. He had me schooled. Cameron's presentation has been fine. It's the evidence you can't control. These emails, I think there's another one come from News International. Oh, this is a text, rather.

So as to how the Leveson Inquiry, it's the revelation, the slow culmination of detail of the level of these interactions. And that's very awkward. 1,400 meetings with the members of the press in the four years of opposition halving while he was prime minister. That does look like something very close to the press, fascinated by PR, and then specifically close to Rebekah Brooks and hiring one of her proteges Andy Coulson.

LU STOUT: So he's performing well so far, but the evidence stacking up against him.

David Cameron, he took an interesting position early on, saying he doesn't really pay attention to newspapers, or rather television is a more powerful medium. And I'm just thinking why would he say that given the controversy over the BSkyB takeover? What was his thinking behind that?

JUKES: I think they were trying to divert away from the obvious line of newspapers, which is Coulson and Brooks these close associates. I think you're right. I mean, I think Jay made this very good point that actually if there was any implicit or explicit deal with these corporations it would have been about the BBC, about Ofcom. And I think that hasn't really paid well -- I mean, Cameron's background was in TV. He was head of public affairs for Gordon. And it's a more heavily regulated part of the media in the UK and therefore more point governed legislation.

I think it was an attempt to get away from the bad odor around the press. I don't think it's particularly succeeded.

LU STOUT: Now David Cameron, he said that the inquiry which he said up is a, quote, cathartic moment and a chance to reset relations. But is it really? I mean, what will it change in terms of policy at the end of the day?

JUKES: This is very difficult. I mean, the battle has yet to come or the press regulation or self regulation will be. And that will be a big battle, because (inaudible)) if you follow the reaction to Leveson, some called it a witch hunt, others say long overdue. You know, the government and politicians were appeasing media proprietors all the time. There's no consensus over this. It will be a battle royal. And a battle royal over the press who also report this battle royal. So I think that's problematic.

What they -- there's already a slight schism between Cameron and Ed Milliband, the opposition leader. And they have -- they came together to form the Leveson inquiry over ownership. Cameron has said it's not really an issue. Ed Milliband says that nobody should own more than about 25 percent of the newspaper market, which, you know, Rupert Murdoch owns 35 percent.

So already we have some divisions there.

LU STOUT: I also wanted to get your thoughts on the legacy of the Leveson inquiry. And just how optimistic are you that press abuses like phone hacking or cozy relationships between those in power could be prevented in the future?

JUKES: I -- well, in a way, daylight has been the best cleanser. It's been an amazing process to see just the level of connection these 1,400 meetings over four years, forgetting the texts and emails. I think, at least when it comes to News International, clearly nobody is going to have that level of contact again.

I don't think there will be another, for a long time in a newspaper group, which will be quite so powerful on Fleet Street. In that respect, yes, it will do good.

LU STOUT: All right. Peter Jukes, thank you very much indeed for joining us and for your insights.

You're watching News Stream. And still ahead, for the first time in more than two decades Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi is in Europe. Here what she has just told a UN agency.

And no less than seven Tour de France titles are on the line as former U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong denies new doping allegations.

And it is a place where the president and Speaker of the House are both women, but the UN says it is the most dangerous place to be born a girl.


LU STOUT: OK, live pictures just then out of Homs, Syria. We can see the plume of smoke. It just got darker just then. The sound of gunfire, loud blasts -- again live pictures again from Homs.



LU STOUT: All right. Gripping and quite frankly chilling scene out of Homs, Syria. You're looking at a live feed on your screen as you see these black plumes of smoke rising from a city under bombardment. You've been listening to constant gunfire, loud blasts happening live on your screen.

State media reporting that a bomb has exploded elsewhere in Damascus. That happening in (inaudible). Stay with us, we'll continue to monitor the situation there in Homs for you as we keep our eye on this live feed for you.

But let me update you on a situation elsewhere. Again, violence in Damascus, the Syrian capital, activists, opposition activists are saying that heavy gunfire can also be heard there.

Now these reports, they all come as Amnesty International accuses Syrian forces of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes. And the rights group is calling for Syria to be tried in the International Criminal Court. Again, we'll continue to keep our eye on the situation there as its happening right now.

Now meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has been calling on Russia to stop supplying weapons to the Syrian government, but the Pentagon has not been so vocal on the subject. Chris Lawrence takes a look at the divide.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORREPSONDENT: On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton doubled down, once again accusing Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, we know -- because they confirm that they continue to deliver. And we believe that the situation is spiraling towards civil war.

LAWRENCE: But while the State Department is bluntly laying blame...

VICTORIA NULAND, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: On an hourly basis, we are seeing Russian and Soviet made weaponry used against civilians in towns all across Syria.

LAWRENCE: They're ducking the issue over at Department of Defense.

CAPT. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: But I'm not going to get into condemning the arms sales between two countries here.

LAWRENCE: The reason for the split is as complicated as these squiggly lines.

The northern distribution network winds through a dozen countries and represents how most food, medicine, and non-lethal equipment gets to American troops in landlocked Afghanistan. Smack dab in the middle, Russia, and former Soviet states.

KIRBY: And Russia has been extraordinarily helpful. And we're grateful for the assistance that they've offered with respect to logistics routes in and out of Northern Afghanistan.

LAWRENCE: The Pentagon wasn't always so dependent on Russia, 90 percent of the traffic used to go through Pakistan. But when that relationship soured, the Pakistanis closed their borders.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: And the result of that is that it's very expensive, because we're using the northern transit route in order to be able to draw down our forces.

LAWRENCE: And the Pentagon buys from the same Russian vendor that's supplying Syria. NATO buys Russian transport helicopters for Afghan forces.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): Hopefully the U.S. government will speak with one voice on this issue.

LAWRENCE: But retired Colonel Cedric Leighton admits the Pentagon cannot supply the war without this transportation network.

LEIGHTON: And because of that, they believe that they have to tread very lightly with the Russians and keep their hands free enough so they can keep the logistical supply line open to Afghanistan. And that kind of ties their hands.

LAWRENCE: And if all this wasn't complicated enough, the Russians recently indicated that they'd be willing to allow the U.S. to use one of their airbases to help fly troops and non-lethal equipment into Afghanistan, making it that much more difficult for the Pentagon to criticize Russia.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.


LU STOUT: Now let's go back to those live pictures out of Homs today. We've been hearing loud blasts, gunfire, let's listen in and watch.


LU STOUT: Live scenes out of Homs, Syria. The city clearly remains a city under siege, flashpoints from the uprising there in Syria. You're listening to large -- just loud blasts, gunfire, ongoing bombardment there. Live feed on your screen, but the conflict underway inside the country. We'll continue to monitor this feed for you. You're watching News Stream. We're back right after this.


LU STOUT: And this just in to CNN. A highly anticipated ruling from Egypt's supreme constitutional court on Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik. Ben Wedeman joins us now from outside the courthouse in Cairo. And Ben, give us the update on the ruling.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The ruling, according to the Egyptian constitutional court is that the so-called political isolation law which barred any former official from the Mubarak regime from holding public office has been declared unconstitutional, which means that Ahmed Shafik, one of the two presidential candidates for the second round of the Egyptian elections will be able to continue on to this election, which takes place a day after tomorrow. So that has the laws denounced as unconstitutional. So the elections will go ahead as planned.

Now reaction to this news here outside the constitutional court has been fairly angry. Lots of people shouting their disapproval of this ruling. There are hundreds of military police who have now blocked the main road in front of the court which is a major artery within Cairo itself.

Now the second half of the ruling from the constitutional court it has decided that one-third of parliament will now be dissolved because under the fairly complicated parliamentary rules -- the Egyptian parliament is made up of two-thirds party seats and one-third individuals. But because there were many of the individuals who were actually had party affiliations, the constitutional court has canceled those third of the seats. So a third of the Egyptian parliament will be dissolved. And this, of course, after they've only been in session now for four-and-a-half months -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now people are angry. Scenes of protest outside the constitutional court. How is this going to affect this second round of voting, because as we know, the first round of voting had, what, 46 percent turnout. Because of how polarized the two candidates are and because of this ruling just out, this breaking news item, is the populous more energized to turnout for the next vote?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly many Egyptians really were very unhappy with the choice in this second round of the presidential elections. They have the choice between Ahmed Shafik who was Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister and seen as very much a personality from the old regime. On the other hand, the other choice is Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

So really we've come in a sense full circle. The same old major sort of poles in Egyptian politics, sort of the military backed state against the Islamist opposition. The middle -- the political middle, the liberals, the secular people are those who didn't -- who don't want to see a return to the oppression of the past, nor want to see the imposition of Islamist politics are very unhappy with this ruling.

But in a sense it's -- nothing changes. We are on course for the elections where people will have this choice between the lesser of two evils as far as many Egyptians are concerned.

LU STOUT: All right. Some news just in, Ahmed Shafik can indeed run for elections. Ben Wedeman reporting for us live from Cairo. Thank you, Ben.

You're watching News Stream. We'll be back right after the break.


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

Now let's begin with these live pictures out of Homs, Syria where we've been seeing plumes of smoke, and hearing very loud blasts and gunfire. We'll continue to watch the situation there in the besieged city. We'll give you more updates as they come into us right here in CNN.

Now all this comes at Syria's government is dismissing claims that the conflict is now in civil war. It characterizes the situation as a struggle to uproot what it calls the plague of terrorism. In Damascus today, two people were injured in a car bombing near a shrine.

And this just in to CNN, Egypt's supreme constitutional court has ruled that Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik can run in elections. Now he is a former member of Hosni Mubarak's regime. And Egypt's presidential run-off election takes place this weekend.

Now there's more bad news for a Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy just a day after Moody's slashed the country's credit rating to just above junk status, borrowing costs are soaring. Yields for 10-year bonds rose just above 7 percent earlier today, a level considered unsustainable.

Now British Prime Minister David Cameron has been testifying at the Leveson inquiry into media ethics. And Mr. Cameron has been grilled about his relationships with Rupert Murdoch's former top executive in the UK and confidante Rebekah Brooks. He's asked about a text message between him and Brooks back in October 2009 that said, quote, we're in this together.


JAY: Just the phrase about the cause of professionally we're definitely in this together. What was your understanding of that?

CAMERON: I think that is about the Sun had made this decision to back the conservatives, to part company with Labor. And so the Sun wanted to make sure it was helping the Conservative Party put the best foot forward with the policies we're announcing, the speech I was going to make and all the rest of it. And I think that's what that means.


LU STOUT: Now the Prime Minister, he said at the Leveson inquiry in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that brought down Rupert Murdoch's News of the World newspaper.


CAMERON: Why are we all here? We're here because of the truly dreadful things that happened, not the politicians, but to ordinary members of the public whose lives have been turned upside down when they've already suffered through losing their children and then had their life turned upside down in a totally unacceptable way. And, you know, this is sort of I think a cathartic moment where press, politicians, police, all the relationships haven't been right. We have a chance to reset them. And that is what we must do.


LU STOUT: Now the Leveson inquiry is in a brief recess right now. And Prime Minister Cameron is set to resume testifying in about an hour- and-a-half. And as soon as that happens, we'll bring you live coverage of his testimony right here on CNN.

Now the face of democracy in Myanmar has appeared in Europe for the first time in 24 years. Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the annual conference of the UN's international labor organization in Geneva. And her speech came just one day after the organization voted to life longstanding restrictions on her home country's participation.

Now this city is Suu Kyi's first stop on a trip that will see her accept a Nobel Peace Prize she won back in 1999.

And earlier, she noted the strides Myanmar has taken towards the full democracy she has advocated for decades.


AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR PARLIAMENT MEMBER: The initiative steward democratization taken by President Thein Sein's government has been welcomed by the people of our country as well as by the international community. In addition to measures aimed at political reform, there has been considerable effort to affect positive changes in the economic sector.

One of the few remaining countries in the world with vast potential waiting to be realized, Burma has attracted the acute attention of business interests as well as of governments and agencies desirous of encouraging and supporting the reform process.


LU STOUT: After leaving Geneva, Suu Kyi will travel to the Norwegian capital Oslo where she is expected to deliver the Nobel lecture she was unable to give 21 years ago. And she will then be the guest of honor at a concert in Dublin featuring the U2 front man Bono. Now she'll receive Amnesty International's highest accolade the Ambassador of Conscience Award.

Now June 21st, Suu Kyi will be in London where she will address lawmakers from both houses of the UK parliament. Now that honor is normally reserved for heads of state.

And the pro-democracy leader will round off her tour with a visit to Paris where she'll be hosted by French President Francois Hollande.

Now despite recent reforms, Myanmar is still a country on the edge. And deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the west of the country has served as a reminder of the work still to be done. Now United Nations envoy Vijay Nambiar got an aerial view of the situation in the Rakhine region on Wednesday. And a little earlier I asked him about the scale of the unrest.


VIJAY NAMBIAR, UNITED NATIONS ENVOY TO MYANMAR: What we have seen -- I was actually not able to go to see very much in (inaudible) except from the air. We were at the airport and then we took a chopper to go to Mandow (ph), which is in northern Rakhine, but on our way we were able to see a smolder -- smoke arising from many houses which had been burned, many of the houses which were not destroyed actually unoccupied, because the people had moved out and gone into certain community centers where the disgraced persons were -- a relief center.

So the (inaudible) president to be (inaudible) in all there were 21 deaths as a result of these clashes and almost a like number of injured.

LU STOUT: What's your gauge on the number of homes that have been destroyed in the violence?

NAMBIAR: The official count is around 1,000 -- 1,000 homes destroyed.

LU STOUT: I understand that fears of renewed violence had halted a shipment of cargo and food to Rakhine. Is there a serious food shortage issue here?

NAMBIAR: There is -- there are food problems. And we are in fact -- the border minister has actually himself from the army been distributing food in some of the relief centers. The WFP has yesterday given about 100 -- 200 bags of rice and more will be coming.

In fact, the UN has sent back many of its -- they're looking at sending back our people even to -- for the WFP to be able to deliver food under conditions in the normal process under conditions of security which will be provided by the army for them.

LU STOUT: And is the aid effort underway -- is it enough for the need on the ground?

NAMBIAR: Yes. I think by and large that -- I don't think there will be difficulties. It's really a question of -- the army was in a position to reach the assistance to communities which are requiring them.

LU STOUT: More on the army and Myanmar's military junta. We know that Myanmar's president has declared a state of emergency in Rakhine state. What kind of impact has that had on the turmoil there?

NAMBIAR: I think it has had -- the fact of that the army has gone has in certain of the areas like Mandow (ph) which we visited, it has actually tamped down the violence and the situation is now quite clearly under control. I would not be able to say that as yet, but they had -- I just heard that the army has been prompt, it has been firm, and according to some people it has also been sensitive in terms of trying to see that in pushing for order it doesn't go to the other extreme.

LU STOUT: So are you confident in the Myanmar's abilities to improve relations between ethnic groups in the country?

NAMBIAR: I think this is a -- this will be a long haul, because it is one thing there at the top level they have the right statements have been made, but that's -- that attitude has to filter right down to all levels of the security forces. And that may require a little -- that may require conscious effort. And I think it may require some time. But I'm confident that it will happen.

LU STOUT: Is the unrest over?

NAMBIAR: I would like to think that the worst is behind us, but I can't say that the unrest is over. But more than that, I think the trauma, the fear, the insecurity is going to continue. It has actually continue for some time, I think. There's a lot of -- there's a big job ahead of us.

LU STOUT: And what impact will the unrest and the trauma have on Myanmar's attempts to achieve progress in Democracy and reconciliation?

NAMBIAR: Well, I think -- I think this is a (inaudible). But my own sense is that the consciousness there -- this is a (inaudible) and that they are determined to seize it. They will try as carefully to negotiate this process.


LU STOUT: UN envoy to Myanmar Vijay Nambiar there offering a mixed picture of prospects for the volatile Rakhine region.

Now still ahead you're watching News Stream. We'll head out to the U.S. Open in San Francisco where the heavyweights of golf are getting ready to tee off. That coming up next on News Stream.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Let's turn to sport now and some big news involving Lance Armstrong. So here is Don Riddell at CNN Center -- Don.

RIDDELL: Thanks very much, Kristie. Yeah, the seven-time Tour de France winner has been banned from competing in world triathlon events after charges were brought against him by the U.S. Anti Doping Agency in relation to his stellar career as a professional cyclist. The Lord Tiathlon Corporation have issued a statement saying that any athlete facing an open doping investigation is ineligible to compete. So Armstrong will not be able to race in this month's Iron Man event in Nice in France as planned.

The USADA has issued formal doping charges against Armstrong alleging a conspiracy to dope during his career between 1998 and 2011. The American who has never failed a drug test and who vehemently denies the claims, but the USADA have made their allegations based on rider testimony and what they claim is evidence consistent with blood manipulation, including EPO use, and/or blood transfusions.

Their statement says we can confirm that written notice of allegations of anti-doping rule violations were sent to him, meaning Armstrong, and to five additional individuals all formally associated with the US -- United State Postal Service professional cycling team. These individuals include three team doctors and two team officials.

Armstrong has a week to officially respond to these charges in writing, but he's already released a statement in response saying, quote, "I have never doped. And unlike many of my accusers I've competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance past more than 500 drug tests and never failed one." He went on to say, "any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me."

Now Italy and Spain will look to take control of Group C at Euro 2012 today. Let's remind you of how the group stands. Croatia are top after beating Ireland with Italy and Spain on a point apiece. But you could argue that they've already played their toughest opponent already, each other. That's not to say the Italians will have it easy against Croatia. The two teams have a bit of recent history. Croatia famously beat the Italians in one of their first matches as an independent nation. And Croatia also came out on top in their last competitive meeting at the 2002 World Cup.

The reigning champions Spain take on Ireland in Thursday's late match and many are wondering just what formation Spain will adopt. Against Italy the Spaniards began with this rather unorthodox line-up playing six midfielders and no recognized striker. It both worked and it didn't work. Spain only drew the game, but the only goal came from midfield, from Cesc Fabregas. He played furthest forward of Spain's midfielders.

So will they stick with this formation? Or will they line up in a more traditional formation with a proper striker up front. If so, Fabregas will probably make way for this man, Fernando Torres. When he came on against Italy he had several good chances, but missed all of them. You'll see if that's enough to give him a place in the starting line-up.

Wednesday was a day of one-in-one-out in the English Premier League as Roberto Di Matteo was confirmed as the permanent manager of Chelsea, but Harry Redknapp parted company with Tottenham Hotspur. After almost four years in charge of White Hart Lane the 65-year-old was sacked with a year left on his contract. Redknapp had been widely linked with the vacant job at England vacated by Fabio Capello. And he failed to lead Spurs to Champion's League football next year after squandering a 10 point lead over Arsenal late in the season.

Kristie, that's the sport for now. Back to you.

LU STOUT: All right, Don. Really good to see you. And thank you for that sporting roundup.

We've got more sport ahead right here on News Stream. In fact, the U.S. Open, it tees off in just a few hours. And we'll give you the preview.


LU STOUT: Now when the U.S. Open tees off in a couple of hours all eyes will be on one particular trio at the golf tournament. Patrick Snell makes his picks.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORREPSONDENT: There's no doubt about these stellar pairing here. On day one Thursday at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and the reigning Master's champion Bubba Watson. Talk about star studded box office viewing.

BUBBA WATSON, MASTER'S CHAMPION: These are the people I grew up with, grew up watching in high school, now getting to play with them. You know, I didn't get to see around the older guys, but these are two legends of the game, two greats of the game. Obviously one is probably number one of all time and then ones could be top five for sure.

PHIL MICKELSON, GOLFER: First of all I get excited to play with Tiger. I love it. I think we all do. He gets the best out of me. I think that when it's time to tee off on Thursday I'll be ready to play.

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: I don't think we're going to talk about a lot, because this is a major championship, you know, we've got work to do.

RORY MCILROY, GOLFER: It's going to be like Sunday at the Masters. If I was a golf fan I'd want to watch that group, because I'm sure you'll see some fireworks. So it should be a good group to watch.

SNELL: Joining me now Living Golf Shane O'Donoghue. Shane, when you look at that illustrious trio, who is going to shine and who might struggle?

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, LIVING GOLF: OK. I think Tiger Woods is the standout really in that grouping. He's won this championship on three occasions. He's playing well, came back with a magnificent win at Memorial you know just over a week ago. And he's put in the preparation here. And he's been out early every day working it out and showing great respect to the course.

This is all about confidence. So many of them are very negative about the course, because it's so tough. And this is a typical U.S. Open. This is really going to show the men from the boys. And the likes of Phil Mickelson in his press conference, although he's been five times a runner up, Patrick, you know he's been talking a little negatively about certain holes, not being terribly enamored by the course. He's said that he's looking forward to playing with Tiger. I'm not so certain about that.

And then you've got the likes of Bubba Watson who has really been, you know, off work since he won the Masters. He's been dealing with a whole new life change. And you know they've adopted a little boy. He's taken time off from the game. He's only had a couple of tournaments, hasn't really sparkled either. And I don't think this course is really going to suit him. So it's all Tiger for me in that particular marquee grouping.

SNELL: Talk more about the Tiger and Phil chemistry or lack of it, because Tiger went out -- you know you're going to be talking to Phil. No we'll not really talk, we're at work. What do you make of that?

O'DONOGHUE: Well, I think he's got a point. It's all business. And this course, especially the first six holes he's really got to knuckle down. And the U.S. Open can really expose a player. This is stroke play, obviously, every shot matters. And I really don't think that he'll be involved in too many chats with Phil Mickelson or indeed anyone during the particular challenge that presents itself over the first two rounds especially, because they're all trying to just hang in there, get into position on Sunday.

Now I don't think that the animosity that we figure is there between Mickelson and Woods is as bad as some people make out. These guys play ping pong together and Ryder Cups. And you know they have -- they have a little bit of fun together. They're obviously not the best of friends, but there is a respect between them. And I think that Tiger is the man who is going to come out on top when it comes to Olympic Golf Club.

SNELL: All right. We shall see. Shane O'Donoghue, thank you very much.

For Shane O'Donoghue, I'm Patrick Snell, CNN, San Francisco.


LU STOUT: It's looking pretty chilly there in Fog City. So let's get the U.S. Open forecast with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, you know what, not far from your original home town there. You know what, we have cloudy skies in -- foggy skies I should say right now as we head into that area. But you know that's typical of course as we head into the California coast. Foggy in the daytime. But then it clears up and that's actually -- that's what we're expecting later today.

So for the first round, morning fog and the problem is that we're going to see the winds picking up as we head into the midday and afternoon hours even though we're expecting the skies to clear. So that's going to be interesting to see what kind of effect those winds that could be as high as 45 kilometers per hour have on their game.

So let's see what happens. We'll be watching of course.

Now I want to switch gears and stay in the U.S. and talk about hail, very large hail that had been falling across portions of Texas between Dallas and the Ft. Worth area. You know what, let's go ahead and roll the pictures. You'll see what I'm talking about. Oh, that's what it's sounding like, too.

Hail was pretty large, like I said, caused a lot of damage across portions of Dallas and also into the Ft. Worth area. You can see it there on the ground. It's damaging not only to cars and buildings, but also for people, anyone who gets caught in that region. And of course buildings also sustained some damage.

Look at that car, the windshield just completely shattered there. People said it sounded like their house was exploding over and over again just from the sound that the hail was making as it hit the buildings.

Oh, there's another one. That's going to leave a mark.

Come back over to the weather map over here. The hail that you saw there was probably about the size of a cricket ball. So pretty large indeed and affecting many of these regions, so about 7.5 centimeters in diameter.

I want to switch gears and talk a little bit about another problem that has been happening across the U.S. and that's that wild fire in Colorado. They haven't really gotten anything significant as far as rain, but I want to share this iReport video with you guys which is pretty amazing. Look at that Kristie. This was taken in about a period of about an hour and 15 minutes or so. Our iReporter, Graham Long, took these pictures. And he said that you can really see how the wind started to shift. And that's why you see the smoke and then you see the fire. And he says that his town ended up being covered in smoke and ash as he was waiting for evacuation orders. That fire is only about 10 percent contained. And they're expecting cloudy skies today, possibility of some more lightning that could be moving through that region so we'll be watching what happens in that fire in Colorado also.

And back over to the weather map. We head now to Asia and a lot going on here as well as far as weather. First of all, notice all of the heavy rain here across Southeast Asia. This has not changed too much. This continues to be a problem. We've also had some very heavy rain across interior parts of China. Hunan again in the news.

I want to show you pictures from that region. And the water levels here continue to still be very high. If we can roll the pictures from China you'll notice the torrential rain continue to cause a lot of problems. In some cases over 100 millimeters of rain.

One of the big concerns that they have here is not only all of the flooded roads, but the dams are very full and they're having to release extra water which causes even more flooding downstream. So authorities are very worried about that. And of course the evacuations of thousands of people across lower lying areas. And as you can see, the ones that don't evacuate have to live sometimes in conditions like that.

Come back over to the weather map, one more thing Kristie I want to tell you. I know you saw this area of low pressure here near the Philippines. That is our Topical Storm Guchol. It looks like this will be staying away from the Philippines for now. So that's good news, but it should be close enough that it'll bring you some rain as we head into the weekend.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: OK. So some rain expected there. Mari Ramos, thank you.

Now first there was trouble with Russian fans, and then controversial comments by and Italian player, and now another player may be in hot water at Euro 2012. Now this is Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner celebrating his goal against Portugal. And this is Mr. Bendtner's underwear with the name of a gambling website displayed quite prominently across the top. Now the tournament rules say that anything worn by players must be free of any sponsorships. So he could face punishment. Though we can't remember anything like this ever happening before, we're not entirely sure what the punishment could be.

And that is News Stream, but we are keeping our eye on the situation as reported earlier this hour in Homs, Syria. In the past hour we've seen smoke, we've heard loud blasts as well as the sound of gunfire. Live pictures on your screen there of the situation there in Homs. We continue to watch these pictures coming out of the besieged city in the hours ahead. You're watching CNN.