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NEWS STREAM

Tornado Touches Down In Venice; Wave Of Attacks Target Shiite Pilgrims In Iraq; U.S. Concerned Over Russian Shipment Of Attack Helicopters to Syria

Aired July 13, 2012 - 8:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet. And we begin in Iraq where there are fears of escalating violence after deadly bombings target Shiite pilgrims.

Now riots overshadow Euro 2012. Football fans clash with police as Russia took on Poland in a highly charged match.

And the web may never look the same again. Move over .com and .org and say hello to .google and .lol.

Now a religious pilgrimage turns into terror in Iraq, a wave of ferocious car and roadside bombings has killed and wounded more than 200 people. Now Wednesdays attacks targeted Shiite Muslim pilgrims in northern and central Iraq. At least nine bombs detonated Baghdad and gunmen also opened fire in the Iraqi capital. Another nine bombs exploded in Baqubah north of Baghdad. And Iraqi police say some of the worst attacks were in this central Iraqi city of Hillah where at least 19 people reportedly were killed.

The killings come as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across Iraq converge on what of Shiite Islam's holiest sites in northwestern Baghdad. They're commemorating the death of a revered imam.

Now this latest spate of bombings follows a deadly mortar attack on pilgrims in Baghdad just this past weekend. And New York Times Baghdad bureau chief Tim Arango joins us now live from the Iraqi capital. And Tim, just how coordinated were these attacks? And who could be behind them?

TIM ARANGO, NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, thanks for having me.

Yeah, they started very early this morning and continued basically unabated until about midday. It began, as you said, in Baghdad against Shiite pilgrims who had begun to descend on the capital. The (inaudible) culminated on Saturday which runs the specter of more violence in the coming days. And no group has taken responsibility, but it's the same style, if you will, of attacks carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq.

LU STOUT: Now Shiite pilgrims, they were targeted in these attacks today. What has been the level of sectarian tension in Iraq, especially since December, that's when U.S. troops withdrew from the country?

ARANGO: Yeah, I mean, obviously security has improved much greatly since the sectarian violence of '06 and '07, but many of those -- there's never been true reconciliation so tensions always arise and the tensions seem to get worse when the political situation gets worse. And right after the American troops left, big political crisis erupted and that has continued until now and so that always raises the fears that that will spill over into the public.

But I think when you're on the street talking to victims and talking to people. They are just as -- you'll more frequently hear outrage towards the politicians than outrage towards -- than pure sectarian hatred.

LU STOUT: And before today were Iraqi security forces prepared? What was security like in Iraq ahead of this week long religious festival?

ARANGO: Well, security always tightens before these festivals, but we've had a period of relative calm. Right after the American troops left there was a spike in violence and then there's been a period where although attacks still occur there's this sense of normalcy returning, checkpoints had been dismantled, blast walls had come down, traffic was getting better. And then Iraq always seems to have these days that pulls you back to reality that, you know, Iraq may be safer but it's not safe.

LU STOUT: I mean just how able is Iraq to secure itself? And will Iraqi security forces be able to prevent any further violence this week?

ARANGO: Well, we hope so. And we'll see. But it remains to be seen. No one can predict that. I mean, the security forces have improved greatly since they were reconstituted by the American, but obviously there are still deficiencies. And obviously it's hard to prevent every single attack as long as there are extremists intent on wrecking havoc.

LU STOUT: Tim Arango of the New York Times joining us live from Baghdad. Thank you very much indeed for that, Tim.

And now to the situation in Syria where for the first time UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous says the country is in civil war. Now the violence has been escalating since the uprising began 15 months ago. And even with a peace plan that was accepted by both sides and UN monitors on the ground there is no resolution in sight to the conflict.

And now the U.S. is accusing Russia of stoking the fire by supplying the Syrian government with weapons, especially attack helicopters. Now U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out on Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Now Secretary Clinton says the Russian deny their weapon shipments are being used against the Syrian people. And CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr explains how dangerous these helicopters can be.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: These helicopters move in very quickly, they can fire missiles, rockets, they can linger over a target for some period of time. You see it in the video right there, staying over target firing again and again and again, and firing with precision yet indiscriminately, killing civilians, killing children, killing the opposition forces. This gives the Syrian regime forces a very critical advantage. Their land war is becoming very expensive both in terms of money and the forces involved. This let's them move in very quickly, attack, and leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Now opposition activists say at least 60 people were killed in violence across Syria on Tuesday. Now Rima Maktabi joins me now from CNN's bureau in Abu Dhabi. And Rima, renewed fighting today in Syria. What's the latest?

RIMA MAKTABI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Violence across Syria. We're hearing many reports and seeing some video coming out of the country talking about many casualties, and definitely among them women and children. The most significant news is coming from al Haffa. Al Haffa is an important town. It's a Sunni town, which is like 16 kilometers away from Bashar al-Assad's hometown village called Kadaha (ph). And it seems that the rebels withdrew from al Haffa and the Free Syrian Army said they are avoided a civilian massacre there. And they don't want to give the regime a reason to go into civil war, so they withdrew. And it's a tactical move according to the Free Syrian Army, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now Rima, a UN official is now calling the conflict a civil war. Is this -- is this true? I mean, has the uprising truly turned into a civil war?

MAKTABI: Well, this news that we're referring to now and this map that we are showing now probably describes some of it. Al Haffa is a Sunni town, dominantly populated by Muslim Sunni and Kadaha (ph) is dominantly populated by Alawites. They are the minority. And they are ruling Syria. And they are like 12 percent of the population.

And the more we see such conflict, the more we see massacres like Houla, the more we know that the country is falling more and more into a civil war, or a sectarian strife, because Syria is a different country -- it's not Libya, it's not Egypt, it's a country of many minorities, ethnic and religious minorities, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Also we're hearing Hillary Clinton. She is accusing Russia of stoking the fire, of shipping these attack helicopters to Damascus. But there are also these claims that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supplying weapons to Syrian rebels. So Rima, who is army who?

MAKTABI: Looks like everybody is everybody, however not on an official level. We've heard a lot about shipments going into Syria coming from Russia in the previous months. And Russia says these are not used for the Syrian government against its -- war against civilian or quelling dissent. But also Saudi Arabia and Qatar are not financing the rebels officially, however we hear a lot of reports coming from inside Syria that the rebels are getting arms, they're smuggled into Syria one way or another.

However, for sure whatever is being smuggled to the opposition inside Syria it's not heavy military hardware like the ones that the Syrian government has.

LU STOUT: Rima Maktabi reporting for us, thank you very much indeed Rima.

Now a Tunisian news agency says a military court has sentenced former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to 20 years in prison for incitement to murder. Now the judgment has been handed down in his absence as he is currently living in Saudi Arabia. Ben Ali was ousted in power of January of 2011 after widespread protests.

You're watching News Stream. And coming up, ugly clashes between Russian and Polish football fans at Euro 2012.

And the CNN Freedom Project goes undercover with police cracking down on prostitution in California.

And forced from their homes, Muslims fleeing the violence in Myanmar are reportedly being turned away by neighboring Bangladesh.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

And tensions between Russian and Polish football fans boiled over at Euro 2012 in Warsaw on Tuesday. At least 11 people, including a policeman, were injured in clashes before and after the match that ended in a 1-1 draw. 123 people were arrested, thousands of Russian supporters had staged a march to mark their country's national day. And Russia's state run broadcaster RT reports police fired warning shots and used water cannon and tear gas to break up the clashes.

And there was more drama off the football pitch after a remark made by Italy's Antonio Cassano. Now on Tuesday, the forward appeared to tell a news conference that he hoped there were no homosexual players in the national squad. Now Cassano was responding to Italian press reports suggesting that two members of the current 23 man unit are gay.

Now he has since apologized, issuing a statement that says, this, quote, "I am sincerely sorry that my comments have caused controversy and protest among gay groups. Homophobia is not a point of view that I share. I didn't want to offend anyone. And I absolutely don't want to put a person's sexual freedom under discussion."

Now day six of Euro 2012 will be all about the famed group of death. And for the Netherlands it is now or never. Here's Amanda Davies in London with more -- Amanda.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kristie, yes incredible to think we're only six days in, there's been so many news stories that have come out of Poland and Ukraine already. But already teams are playing for their future in the tournament. Two big games today as you were saying. The early match sees Portugal take on Denmark. Portugal really needing a win if they want to get through from the toughest group at the tournament. But the big match comes later on Wednesday. That is this one here, the Netherlands up against their old rivals Germany. Plenty of history and plenty at stake as well.

The Germans are in good shape after their 1-0 win over Portugal, but the Dutch need a result after defeat in their first game to Denmark.

How do we think they're going to line-up for the encounter? Well, this is how. The Dutch had plenty of attempts at goal, but just couldn't convert them to goals against Denmark. So that could mean the return of this man, the big number 9, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to the line-up. He didn't start the opening game despite being the top scorer in the Bundisliga this season. And his inclusion could mean that Robin Van Persie shifts to replace Ibrahim Afellay on the wing, or he might even be dropping to the bench.

No such problems for the Germans, though. Let's have a look at how we think they're going to lineup. They're fully fit and are ready to go. So we're assuming they're going to start with the same lineup that beat Portugal.

So this man here, number 23, Mario Gomez. He's expected to lead the line once again, the goalscorer in the last game. The Dutch, though, say they're not going to be intimidated by the Germans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WESLEY SNEIJDER, NETHERLANDS MIDFIELDER (through translator): For me it's the same as playing against other big teams. The Germans are one of the favorites in the tournament, but so are we. And that's why I can't wait to play. But it doesn't matter whether it's Germany or another strong team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIES: So going to keep you right up to date with everything that's going on at Euro 2012 by visiting the World Sport website and maybe getting involved in Soccer Live, our blog.

Now the fourth quarter ghosts of playoffs past might be returning to haunt LeBron James. The Miami Heat star collected 30 points of game one of the NBA finals, but virtually disappeared in the final session as his opposing super star Kevin Durant netted 17 of his 36 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder seize control of the game.

So it is advantage Oklahoma after game one. They beat the Heat 105-94 despite James setting the tone early on. He switched a pass from Kevin Durant and jammed it home, two of those 30 as the Heat went up 13 early on.

But The Thunder made a run in the second half. Russell Westbrook drives down the lane past two defenders and gets the layup to go.

Oklahoma take the lead. Then it's Durant with the steal and sprinting to the other end for the big dunk. Again Durant connecting 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook also had a big night with 27, including this jumper to extend the advantage to 10.

Oklahoma City got fancy down the stretch as well. Three nice touch passes by the Thunder lead to a slam by Nick Collison. (inaudible) to Oklahoma.

Game two is on Thursday.

It's a big week of sport in the U.S. And the defending U.S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy threw the ceremonial first pitch at the San Francisco Giants baseball game on Tuesday night and says he wants to make sure he doesn't throw away his title at the Olympic club this week. The golf calendar's second major gets underway on Thursday. And the northern Irishman prepare for the defense of his title by throwing the opening pitch at the Giants game against the Houston Astros. Pretty nice it was as well.

Up until last week, the 23-year-old had missed the last three consecutive cuts. And despite Olympic being a far harder test than Congressional was a year ago, McIlroy says he plans to take it on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RORY MCILROY, GOLFER: It really does give me a lot of self belief knowing that I've won one of these before. And you know that I can go and I can do it again. You know, so that's -- you know, hopefully it didn't change me much as a person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIES: Finally, picture this, it's a scene Rory McIlroy might be quite familiar with coming from Northern Ireland. You're in the countryside, the fields and rivers, families having picnics, farmers working the land. Imagine that same scene inside the Olympic stadium. Well, that's exactly what Hollywood director Danny Boyle has in mind for the opening ceremony of the games in London on July 27th. The set features real grass, and oak tree, even some clouds suspended from the roof. Live sheep, live horses, cows, and goats are going to be there to make it even more realistic. They say it's going to take about 10,000 volunteers to pull everything off. The stage, by the way, is the equivalent to 12 Olympic sized swimming pools.

London does have some way to go to compete with the opening ceremony from Beijing, Kristie. It has to be said this is getting something of a mixed reaction in the office here. I don't know what your view on it is.

LU STOUT: Really? But it's Danny Boyle. Remember it was Johnny Mo (ph) who recruited to do the one for the Beijing Olympics games? I'm sorry, Trainspotting, Sunshine, awesome movies. Danny Boyle, he's going to be amazing. I'm looking forward to the big show.

Amanda Davies there. Thank you.

Sorry, you wanted a way in.

DAVIES: No, no, no. It's not quite -- you know the thing with Beijing they had so many people involved, but it was dramatic from the word go. And I suppose it's how that's going to come across is it going to be exciting enough?

LU STOUT: Well, you mentioned 10,000 volunteers in the British show? I think it's going to be a good one. Anyway, fingers crossed. Amanda, thank you.

Now you are watching News Stream. And it is better known as the glamor setting for TV shows, even as the home of Disneyland, but there is an underside to Orange County's wealth. Still up next after the break our freedom undercover special report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Now it is one of California's wealthiest areas where many residents enjoy a glamorous lifestyle that's been depicted in numerous TV shows, but even in Orange County human trafficking is not unknown. And there's even a task force set up to stop it. As part of CNN's Freedom Project undercover, Martin Savage has more on a hidden crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Girl right in front of you across the street.

MARTIN SAVAGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The vice unit with the Anaheim Police Department has just picked up a suspected prostitute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a recorder?

SAVAGE: And while she may thinks she's under arrest, the undercover officers are trying to convince her that she's not in trouble, it's her pimp their after, someone who is forcing her to live a life of prostitution which would be human trafficking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's adamant she doesn't have a pimp, which would be rare, very rare if she didn't to be working out here, calls for any guys on her phone.

SAVAGE: How old she says she is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says she's (inaudible).

SAVAGE: Sergeant Craig Friesen is head of this undercover crew. And he's taken the woman's phone and is posing as her in texts to a man he suspects to be the woman's pimp.

You're trying to lure him out?

CRAIG FRIESEN, ANAHEIM POLICE DEPARTMENT: Trying to lure him to where we want him to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me. Question. Did you guys steal (ph) my phone?

SAVAGE: He's the one you want to get.

FRIESEN: Yeah. She was (inaudible) she's not the target of our investigation, because he's the one making the money. And he's the one making her work out here. She's already said that she's been out here for a number of years and worked for pimps and doesn't want to do this is kind of caught up.

He answered back. He's being very -- he's smart. He's being very short. So I'm trying to lure him in with questions, you know, saying he wants to stay longer. How much charge. He said OK, charge -- go to your hotel, charge $300. So he's already acknowledged that he knows.

SAVAGE: Friesen has the suspected pimp on the hook. And he's trying to lure the man to a hotel where the vice unit is waiting.

FRIESEN: We pick a hotel in Anaheim that we've worked out before. So we're familiar with it. And we know that there's only one way in, one way out and we're going to send a message to the pimp, tell him that OK, hey, I'm at this hotel can you come get him. He has left. I'm going to take a shower in hopes that he'll come here and pick her up.

I can text, but I can't call him and then it's just a matter of time before he catches on that the texts he's sending are -- or he believes to be her are leading, because I'm sending them to help prove our case, but he's starting to pick up on why is she telling me so much? You know, too much info. So we just got to hope he's greedy enough to show up now.

Let's give him like five minutes here, Zoe (ph).

SAVAGE: The team waits for more than an hour, but when it becomes clear the suspected pimp isn't going to show they gather to rethink strategy.

While Friesen was texting the man, some members of the team track down what they thought was his care, but he has slipped away before they could get confirmation.

FRIESEN: It didn't go down textbook like we wanted it to, but as you can see out there, there's a lot of things that are outside of our control. We can try and set it up as best we can, but if these pimps are in the game and they're savvy enough they kind of know what's going on. Eventually we know who he is, we know what kind of car he's driving. We know a cellphone that he's using. We'll eventually find them. It's just frustrating to know that we've got a girl here who's a victim and we know who is making her go out and do that stuff and she won't help us find him.

SAVAGE: A few months later investigators arrested suspected pimp in a surveillance operation. But as it can happen, the district attorney's office did not find enough evidence to press human trafficking charges. It's a frustrating end. But not enough to keep this team from seeking out its next human trafficking arrest.

For the CNN Freedom Project, I'm Martin Savage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now you're with News Stream on CNN. And still ahead, presidential popularity: how things aren't looking up for Obama everywhere and why campaign ads on both sides aren't inspiring much confidence either.

Plus, casting the net wider, it is the biggest shakeup of domain names ever. But is the web ready for a reboot?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

At least 58 people have been killed by a series of bombs and shootings in central and northern Iraq. The attacks took place during a religious pilgrimage and most of the victims were Shiite Muslims. 156 people are injured. It's not immediately clear who is behind the violence, but it follows deadly attacks on Sunday which also appear to target Shiites.

Now the U.S. is accusing Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria contributing to the ongoing violence there. Now Russia denies anything in the shipment is being used in the conflict. That as NATO secretary general insists that foreign military intervention is not the answer to the crisis.

Now more than 184 people have now been detained following violence at the Euro 2012 football tournament. 11 people were injured in fights between Russian and Polish fans. Now violence broke out both before and after a game between the rival sides on Tuesday. Poland is co-hosting the tournament alongside Ukraine.

Now former News International top executive Rebekah Brooks made an appearance in a London court today. She and five others are charged with obstructing a police investigation into phone hacking and bribery at the tabloid news of the world. Now Brooks is ordered to be back in court next week.

Now Rebekah Brooks' court appearance was a brief one, lasting only eight minutes. Dan Rivers joins us now live from London with details. And Dan, tell us what happened today in court.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we all queued up for probably about an hour to get into court, but in the end the appearance only lasted, as you say, eight minutes or so. Really this was just a procedural appearance to confirm the charges that are being put to her, namely perverting the course of justice. She's got three counts of that, her husband one, along with other employees that she worked with.

Basically what that means is trying to cover up the extent of the phone hacking scandal, it is alleged, by not showing the police certain documents. In fact, actually removing boxes of documents from News International's archives in order to throw the police off the scent. So that is the essence of the case. No chance to enter a plea or anything today. This is simply the first step.

What's happen now is it's being referred to a sort of more senior court. As you said on the 22nd of June when perhaps we'll get more flesh on the bones of this case about exactly what the police think happened. And then her and her husband will have a chance to plead one presumes not guilty. They've made that pretty clear so far. And, you know, this whole process will take several months.

But it's significant, Kristie, because this is the first set of people to appear in court since this whole phone hacking scandal exploded in -- on the British political scene here, what last year, so a significant first step that will undoubtedly be more -- more people charged, more people going through court as this massive police inquiry moves forward.

LU STOUT: And tell us more about the impact of this case. Does it continue to shake, to reverberate across Britain?

RIVERS: Oh, absolutely. It is the one subject that is dominating UK politics here. Again today there were clashes in prime minister's question time between prime minister David Cameron and his opposite number Ed Milliband over the extent to which they got too close to Rupert Murdoch's media organization.

Now Rupert Murdoch is a sort of almost a persona non grata here in the UK. A few years ago he was the media figure that all parties tried to court in order, they felt, to get better news coverage. Let's just hear one clip of David Cameron attacking the opposition Labor Party for cozying up too much to Rupert Murdoch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: We had 13 years of pajama parties, brisenings (ph), changing the law, sucking up to the Murdochs, what -- honestly, what a lot of brass neck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: I mean, critics of David Cameron would say this is pretty hypocritical, because they point out, well, David Cameron it is alleged to have been out horse riding with Rebekah Brooks, lived in a neighboring village to her, went to school with her husband Charlie Brooks, and eaten - - and also did his fair share of cozying up to Rupert Murdoch as did all of the big political figures in Britain.

But that gives you a sense, Kristie, that this issue anyway continues to dominate politics here. There's a big vote this evening in the House of Commons about the culture of Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his handling of the BSkyB big by News Corp, significant because the Liberal Democrat part of the ruling coalition is basically abstaining from that vote. So a bit of a split in the ruling coalition here.

This issue, is just continuing to cause all kinds of problems for the government and particularly the prime minister.

LU STOUT: Yeah, the political story, it's a legal story, and media story. Dan Rivers reporting. Thank you.

Now the government of Myanmar is dealing with an escalating security situation caused by ethnic rivalry. Now a UN envoy has arrived in the western state of Rakhine where more than 20 people have been killed in recent days. Now Paula Hancocks reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bangladeshi residents point to a boat they say carried Muslims escaping neighboring Myanmar, an increasing number have been fleeing recent violence in the western Rakhine state. But Bangladeshi security forces are sending them back.

"The situation is unexplainable," one border says. "Yesterday they told us please kill us and throw our bodies into the river, but don't send us back."

Betan Ali (ph) has been given shelter by some Bangladeshi villagers and spoke with ongoing sectarian violence between the Rohingya Muslim minority and Buddhists and western Myanmar.

"They killed three, four people in front of me," he says. "I got scared and thought they might kill me. So I decided to come to Bangladesh as it's a Muslim country in the hope they will give us shelter."

Hundreds of homes have been torched in Rakhine state over recent days with deaths and injuries on both sides of the conflict.

Clashes erupted after police detained three Muslim men for the alleged rape and killing of a Buddhist woman late last month, an apparent revenge attack then led to the deaths of 10 Muslim men on a bus and a cycle of violence is continuing.

President Thein Sein declaring the state of emergency Sunday has warned of consequences if violence spreads.

THEIN SEIN, PRESIDENT OF MYANMAR (through translator): The stability and peace, the profits of democracy and the development of this country, which are only in transition right now, could be severely affected and much would be lost.

HANCOCKS: The Rohingya Muslim minority claims to have been long persecuted by the former military hunta which considered them to be illegal immigrants. Human rights groups are questioning whether deploying the military to quell this conflict is wise.

PHIL ROBERTSON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: They have continued a policy of the military government of systematic discrimination against the Rohingya who are not considered citizens, who have their citizenship stripped from them in 1982 by a citizenship law.

HANCOCKS: The Myanmar government says it has opened six refugee camps for those displaced by the violence showing footage of its aid effort on state TV. But the United Nations says it is having to withdraw staff in the area because of the unstable situation.

The government's handling of this crisis will be watched very closely. After being praised for brokering ceasefires with other ethnic groups, this is seen as a crucial test for the new civilian regime.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now in the three-and-a-half years since U.S. President Barack Obama came to power, the world has seen major political and economic change, events like the global economic crisis, the Arab spring, and the rise of China have all impacted perceptions of American power and influence abroad. And now new research shows global approval of President Barack Obama and his policies have fallen significantly since he came to office.

Now according to the Pew Research Center's global attitudes project confidence in Mr. Obama was at 86 percent in Europe in 2009. That has dropped to 80 percent today. But still the survey found that there was considerable support across Europe for his reelection.

Now in the Middle East, predominantly Muslim countries including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey have seen confidence in Mr. Obama slip from 33 percent to 24 percent.

And in China, support has also dropped. In 2009, confidence in Mr. Obama stood at 62 percent. It's now down to 38 percent.

Now still, it is domestic approval that Mr. Obama really needs in this presidential election year. And campaign ads play a big part in the race for the White House. But fact checkers are finding misleading statements, distortions and half truths in ads for both sides.

As Jim Acosta reports, you might call it an out of context campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to the out of context campaign. Take this ad from the president.

ANNOUNCER: When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts was number one, number one in state debt. $18 billion in debt. More debt per person than any other state in the country.

ACOSTA: The spot leaves out some important facts. Yes, Massachusetts was $18 billion in debt, but it was already at $16 billion when Romney came into office. The ad doesn't mention that. The spot comes just one day after the White House complained the president was being taken out of context on the economy.

OBAMA: The private sector is doing fine.

ACOSTA: But declined to take a no out of context pledge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you assure us that the White House and people who speak for President Obama will not take some unflattering sentence from Governor Romney and use that out of context?

JAY CARNAY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: That's a rather remarkable question. If you're asking me if we're for good reporting filled with context the answer is yes.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, ANNENBERG PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: This is a campaign that specialized in taking words out of context. It was the flur du jour of the primary season. And now it's coming back with a vengeance in the general election.

ACOSTA: Kathleen Hall Jamieson with the Annenberg Public Policy Center says the out of context campaign is so out of control her office launched factcheck.org which monitors ads that distort the truth from the selective editing of Romney's laughter during a debate to the age of the actors in spots dealing with Medicare reform.

JAMIESON: The danger is that people hear the sound byte repeated in ads, see it repeated in news and lose track of the original context, it becomes the reality. And in the process there a serious deception.

ACOSTA: Romney has also complained that he, too, is being taken out of context saying this comment also from last Friday.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers, did he not get the message of Wisconsin?

ACOSTA: Was not meant to advocate the firing of public workers. He's getting little sympathy from the Obama campaign, which often points out the first Romney ad of the cycle used this quote from the president without mentioning Mr. Obama was quoting John McCain.

OBAMA: If we keep talking about the economy we're going to lose.

ACOSTA: Campaigning in Florida, Romney resurrected a claim that has been repeatedly challenged by fact checkers.

ROMNEY: This president was the one that cut $500 billion out of Medicare. My plan is to protect and save Medicare, to make sure it's there not just for current senior but for future seniors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need a pacemaker.

ACOSTA: As fackcheck.org points out in looking at this ad from one interest group that $500 billion comes out of future Medicare spending.

The Obama campaign defends its ad on the debt in Massachusetts during Romney's time as governor, noting it increased by 16 percent, but that's much smaller than the 50 percent increase in the national debt under President Obama's watch, just some context to put this out of context campaign in focus.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now (inaudible) controversy, this time in Sweden. Now each week the countries official Twitter account is curated by a new citizen. And this week the 24th official Swedish tweeter is Sonja, a self-described 27-year-old mother. But thanks to posts like this one she's been stirring up a lot of controversy on the social network with her comments about Jews.

Now the backlash, it was immediate. One person weighed in with this, quote, "in one day Sweden went from global Twitter superstar to PR embarrassment." Now the offending tweets have not been deleted. The @Sweden feed remains active. And Sonja is still tweeting. In fact in the last two minutes she's been making comments about The Little Mermaid 3.

And still to come here on News Stream, mastering domains: almost 2,000 new domain names for the internet have been proposed. We'll have a live report.

And a tornado touches down in Venice. We'll have the latest and your global weather update.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: A little break in the rain here in Hong Kong. You are back watching News Stream.

And you might be familiar with this address, or at least we hope you are, but web addresses like this one might soon look old fashioned. Our own website follows pretty standard pattern for web addresses. You've got www -- the old abbreviation for worldwide web -- our name CNN and then .com, the dominant top level domain on the internet. Now .com isn't the only one, of course. There's also .net, .org and .gov and 17 others. But the organization that regulates the internet has just approved more, up to 2,000 more.

Let's dig deeper into this. Tech reporter Laurie Segall from CNN Money joins us now live from New York. And Laurie, why is ICAN doing this?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY: Well, you know in short, Kristie, I just got off the phone on the press call and it's innovation. ICAN's president said it's our fundamental obligation to foster innovation.

Now you've got 21 registered generic top level domains. So what you just mentioned -- .com, .gov -- but then it gets really tough if you want to get a domain name with .com. Take a look at these stats, there are 103 million registered sites on .com, 14 million registered sites on .net, and 9 million registered sites on .org. That means it's really, really tough for you to get any of those sites. So by opening this up and adding about 2,000 different ones it'll give different companies the opportunity to expand. And they're hoping it'll help different companies innovate and brand themselves better on the web -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: So, Laurie, what kind of companies are applying for these new web domains?

SEGALL: You know what right now it's a bit of a wild west. I mean, we're just -- we just found out as I'm speaking what companies are. But here's an eye popping number, it's $185,000 just to even apply for a web domain in this expansion, that's just the application fee. And then there's the actual cost of operating the domain name which could run into the millions. So you definitely have to have money in the bank to even apply for this.

That being said, lots of companies are definitely apply. It's an opportunity to expand business -- think .nike, or .google.

Now Google already announced its proposals for new web domains. Some of those you would expect like .google, but it's also after some creative ones like .lol and .youtube. Now that's just the beginning. We saw proposals for domains like .bible. The American Bible Society is seeking that one. And the more controversial .sex.

Other fun ones that just hit the wire -- .sucks, .boob (ph) that ones there. There were lots of folks who applied for .baby. And no surprise, Apple put in the application for .apple.

LU STOUT: Yeah, not surprising at all.

And so when are we going to start seeing these new domain names on the web?

SEGALL: Not for a bit. You won't start seeing these domains probably until early 2013. Once the list has been released, companies are going to have to battle it out to see if they want the same domain. So of the 19 applications, more than 230 domain names had multiple applicants. Now .baby was really popular. There were other ones that were really popular.

If two companies want the same domain name they're going to have to come to an agreement and that definitely -- that would probably include cash on the table. And so if they can't play nice the domain name is going to go up for auction and the highest bidder will win. So a lot of money being put into this. We're going to be following this story throughout the day on CNN Money -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, a lot of horse trading ahead for a web address. Laurie Segall of CNN Money, thank you.

And now that companies can request specific domains it could mean the end of an obscure revenue stream for some small countries. You might have seen these addresses with some websites, but what you might not know is that they're not just words they're actually shortened country codes. So .tv it doesn't stand for television it stands for Tuvalu. And .Me, Montenegro. And .to that's Tonga. And these domains do represent a nice bit of cash for those countries. It's been reported that Tuvalu earns about $4 million a year in royalties from that domain.

Now Tuvalu and .tv to your world weather forecast, Mari Ramos joins us now from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, thank you. We're going to go ahead and start taking a look at these amazing pictures that are coming out of Venice. Before we roll the pictures, though, let me go ahead and show you the areas that we're talking about. Yes, I know you guys are probably very familiar with Venice. Let's go ahead and zoom in here to the northern portion of the Adriatic. There's Venice right there in the lagoon. It's basically this main island right over here. The twister was observed coming in from the north. And it was actually this -- some damage that was reported in Sant Elena in this area here. But most of the damage happened in the least populated areas in La Certosa here in the entrance of the lagoon. And also in Sant Erasmo.

Notice Erasmo is actually mostly agricultural. And that is where most of the damage occurred to pine groves to some farming communities there. So this is where most of that happened. One injury was reported.

I know you want to see the pictures. Let's go ahead and roll the video. Look at that. Definitely that funnel cloud that started with that strong thunderstorm that developed very, very quickly. People were tracking it for quite awhile. And then you see it on the ground just across the lagoon there. Very scary time. There were reports of boats that were tossed around. There was a report of at least one injury in that area and pretty scary times for some people of course as that tornado, as that twister moves over the water and then also over land for just a little while.

We had also some other types of severe weather across Europe. Let's go ahead and stick with the video there from Slovenia. You can see there another -- the signature of some severe weather moving through that area, just hail pelting this car so intensely that if you look over to the sides you see the white there, that's ice actually on the ground, ice pellets right on the ground.

And of course there was some very strong winds here as well. The hail was about three centimeters, some pretty strong storms that were plowing through that northern part of the Adriatic.

Come back over to the weather map. This is what we're looking at. Much calmer conditions here. Most of the action will be moving farther to the north today, but there is the risk for some strong storms moving across this area today. So football fans you might be in for some stormy weather later today.

Let's go ahead and switch gears and head to the other side of the world. Let's go ahead and start with Taiwan and the water here has just been tremendous, Kristie. Look at this. The water -- you know, almost as far as the eye can see. This is in Nantou County. Some of these areas have had -- ooh, there goes the land -- not only flooding, but also some significant landslides over the last couple of days. The next piece of video I want to show you as well, let's go ahead and roll that please, because it's pretty impressive when you see the water gushing this hard across parts of Taiwan. Very dangerous conditions, a lot of damage, particularly from flooding in some areas almost completely flooded.

Very quickly, the central portion of Taiwan is the one that has had the most significant rainfall. Wait until you see these numbers, because the mountains enhance the rainfall. 1,100 millimeters of rain, that's almost two feet of rain in the last three days. Pretty impressive.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Yeah, very impressive, very dangerous. Mari Ramos there, thank you.

Now most teenagers, they have enough to worry about with school and social pressures. So imagine being 14 and taking on the likes of Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. Coming up, meet the youngest golfer to ever compete in the U.S. Open.

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LU STOUT: Now when the U.S. Open tees off tomorrow these two men will be in the spotlight -- defending champion Rory McIlroy and 14-time major winner Tiger Woods. But another golfer is threatening to overshadow them, this guy. Now what makes him special? Well, he's just 14 years old. Patrick Snell has more.

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PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Master's champion Bubba Watson, all household names of course, but the talk of the town going into this year's U.S. Open a 14-year-old Chinese schoolboy by the name of Andy Zhang whose dream came true. He's qualified for the tournament after England's Paul Casey withdrew due to injury. The excitement, the euphoria, plain to see on the teens face. And when he found the news he said his cellphone just exploded.

ANDY ZHANG, GOLFER: Everybody started texting me. And yeah, I'm just really excited.

SNELL: At 14 is it the right age for you? Do you feel you're too young?

ZHANG: I love it. Usually when I go to tournaments I have friends who is like my same age. We can talk to people here. It's like Bubba Watson, Aaron Bailey. It's like, wow. They're really good guys. We're taking the practice round, they gave me a lot of great, great tips. And they kind of showed me how to play shots. And have been really helpful to me.

BUBBA WATSON, 2012 MASTER CHAMPION: It was talking to him. It was fun getting to know him. You know he was nervous, didn't talk much, maybe I just talked too much.

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: That's the great thing about this game is it's not handed to you. You got to go out and put up the numbers and he did. He shot the scores he needed to shoot to qualify and move on. And he's here playing on the biggest stage.

RORY MCILROY, DEFENDING U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: When I was 14 I was getting prepared to play on my club championship, not the U.S. Open. So I'm not sure I can give him any words of wisdom.

ZHANG: I take this as a learning experience. If I can make the cut, that'll be awesome. But I can't put any expectations to it, because I'm 14.

SNELL: Well, young Andy will be looking to win the U.S. Open at his first attempt. And for the record, he'll be playing with players who are 37 and 42 years of age. Well, Tiger Woods is looking to win his first major since June of 2008.

Patrick Snell, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Andy, good luck.

And that is News Stream. World Business Today is next.

END