Return to Transcripts main page


Attacks Intensify In Suburbs Surrounding Damascus; The Dark Knight Rises Premieres In New York City; Olympic Athletes Test Heathrow Airports Customs; Profile of Ester Levanon; Profile of Katrina Markoff

Aired July 17, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet. And we begin with a surprise announcement at Yahoo where one-time web icon's new CEO is a famous figure from rival Google, Marisa Mayer.

And violence is mounting inside Damascus. Kofi Annan searches for a diplomatic breakthrough in Moscow. We'll bring you his news conference with Vladimir Putin as soon as it happens.

And we look at signs that North Korea's new leader might be trying to change things in the reclusive state.

Yahoo has a new CEO and she comes from their biggest rival. Former Google executive Marisa Mayer will begin her new job at the helm of struggling Yahoo on Tuesday. Now the 37-year-old was one of the public faces of Google, so her sudden switch to Yahoo comes as a surprise to some, especially since she recently spoke to us about how happy she was at Google.


MARISA MAYER, YAHOO CEO: Well, I'm really happy, and challenged, and excited about Google. And I think that you know as long as there's a lot of information to work on, and it doesn't seem like we're going to have any shortage of that soon, a lot of new, interesting technology. And this is the place where I'm really happy.


LU STOUT: Now Mayer becomes Yahoo's fourth CEO in four years and the latest tasked with turning around a fallen web icon. Now once it was arguably the most important site on the internet, a searchable directory of every notable website, a precursor to modern search engines. And like Google, Yahoo became more than just a search engine adding news, mail, messaging services, sports and much more. But unlike Google, Yahoo has struggled to integrate some of its features. Now this Gizmoto story, Yahoo's failure to integrate Flickr properly, it really sums up the company's problem. It saw the potential for the social web, it bought the biggest photosharing service and a social network before social networks really took off, and yet it still completely missed out on both social networking and the mobile revolution.

Now here is the Flickr iPhone app in the App Store. It is not in the top 250 apps. It is all the way down at number 72 on the top photo apps page.

But it's not all bad for Yahoo. It is still the fourth most popular site on the entire internet. Yes it's behind Google, Facebook and Youtube, but it's ahead of Wikipedia, Amazon and Twitter. And the internet traffic analyst Alexa has said that almost 20 percent of all internet users visited Yahoo yesterday.

Now mail is a standout feature with comps for ranking Yahoo's mail service as the second most popular online. And Yahoo's news section does drive in plenty of traffic.

So who is the woman tasked with leading this company? Marisa Mayer worked at Google for 14 years. So is an engineer. Indeed, she was Google's first female engineer. She oversaw the launch of some of the Google's most popular products: Gmail, Google Maps and iGoogle were all handled by Mayer.

And Mayer eventually rose to a level of Vice President of Google. And her legacy at the company is easy to see. In fact, you can see it any time you go to Google: the clean minimalist design that's Google's homepage with a logo made up of bright, bold colors is said to be shaped by Mayer's design sensibility.

Now I spoke to Mayer in late 2010. And she told me how having a creative instinct helps to bring a product to market.


Mayer: It starts with an idea around what might be good, or what might work well. And then we really like to have that ferreted out with data, but overall it really is a combination of both; there's the creative instinct that starts the product, which starts the new feature and then there's the data and testing that really validates it as we bring it to market.


LU STOUT: And another thing, the new CEO of Yahoo is having a baby. Marisa Mayer shared the news here on Twitter. Her first child is due in October. And it's a boy.

She tells Fortune magazine that she informed Yahoo about her pregnancy in June. And as for maternity leave at Yahoo, Mayer says it will be a short one. Her leave will be just a few weeks long. And she will work throughout it.

Now let's go to our other big story today, the crisis in Syria and hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough. Now the UN Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan is meeting Russia's president in Moscow. The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been pushing Russia and China to take a tougher stand on Damascus. And she's been vocal about the way that should be done.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Our commitment is to try to get Russia to cooperate with us. So we want the rest of the world to put pressure on Russia in the security council so that they will support a Chapter 7 resolution where we can impose very hard sanctions on people and institutions that support the regime.

That would be the best signal we could send to Assad that his days are numbered. As long as he has Iran in his corner, which he does, and as long as he has Russia uncertain about whether or not to side against him in any more dramatic way than it already has, he feels like he can keep going. And that's the message we want to reverse.


LU STOUT: OK, let's get the latest on the diplomatic front. Richard Roth has more from New York. He joins us now live. And Richard, UN special envoy Kofi Annan, he's in Russia. He's meeting with Vladimir Putin, will Russia shift its stance on Syria?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't appear so. Certainly fierce rhetoric on both side. Russian foreign minister Lavrov yesterday accusing western countries of trying to blackmail Moscow in these diplomatic talks.

Basically we have this week in New York a renewal option for this 300 unarmed observer mission in Syria, which has been stalled and unable to operate because of the violence, a mission that's really failed in effect. Now Russia says, the Lavrov department as was said yesterday to reporters, these observers should really be trying to coordinate a synchronized ceasefire. Moscow really wants them in play. The west is saying why should we renew these observers? They're required by the end of this week, the security council, to decide its fate again. Why should we renew them, because they're not doing anything. And as Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador, said yesterday we're leaving them hanging. It's not only ineffective, but it's immoral; they're still at risk even in their hotel rooms. So we have disagreements even on that point.

And now the rest is hinting, saying to Moscow, that's why Lavrov is accusing them of blackmail, that they won't renew this mission. And Russia says that's counterproductive. They are needed there. If Mr. Putin meets with Mr. Annan, well Kofi Annan has been in Moscow before and we always end up sort of hearing the same thing: China, Russia holding fast. They think the west is trying for regime change by hinting at economic sanctions, by wanting economic sanctions in this so-called Chapter 7 resolution you heard Hillary Clinton refer to.

LU STOUT: Now pressure is mounting on Russia. It's also mounting on China as well. In fact, Ban Ki-moon, he's traveling to China ahead of the UN Security Council vote. How does he plan to engage Beijing?

ROTH: Well, he's already had a phone call with the Chinese foreign minister before he left appealing for implementation of the Kofi Anna six point peace plan, but that's some thing the UN and UN officials have been urging, appealing, pleading with the security council powerhouse: come together, decide on the fate of Syria in a coordinated manner for the good of the Syrian people who are going through so much carnage. Again, I don't see much of a change there.

Should Moscow budge, then Beijing never really likes to be isolated in the security council, then perhaps the west can chip them away and get them. But as long as it's three against two, it's not -- doesn't seem like the dynamic will change.

It's definitely showdown time this week at the UN security council.

LU STOUT: And the U.S. view and its willingness to get more involved. I mean, the uprising in Syria is now in its 16th month. The death toll is staggering. The U.S. seems to be reluctant to lead. Why the hesitation?

ROTH: Well, I think they wouldn't say they're not leading. But they always, especially after Libya, they don't want to always appear that it's Washington throwing different people out of power or demanding change in the Middle East. The Obama policy has been to let the people decide.

Now the people are deciding one way or the other in Syria right now, they're -- Washington is letting Europe carry some of this action. It's a United Kingdom resolution that was introduced threatening economic sanctions if Syria doesn't comply within 10 days should this resolution pass.

Critics of the Obama administration will say they're always leading from behind. Backers of Obama will say, look at the change that has swept through the Middle East after not so long after a big speech by Mr. Obama in Cairo.

LU STOUT: All right, Richard Roth joining us live from New York. Thank you very much indeed for that.

You're watching News Stream and still to come North Korea's new leader is showing he's doing things a little differently, but what does it all mean for the reclusive state?

Also, athletes and officials are making their way to London for the Olympics. We'll have a look at what the city has done for their arrival.

And we follow the journey of an Egyptian sprinter who had to put his own dreams aside for a little while for the dreams of his country.


LU STOUT: Now welcome back to News Stream.

And you're looking at a visual rundown of all the stories in the show. Now we've covered changes at the top where Yahoo is welcoming Marisa Mayer, formerly of Google, as its new CEO. And much later on News Stream we'll talk about an Egyptian sprinter who got caught up in the Arab Spring. But now, let's focus on the mystifying signals coming out of North Korea.

Now it has been seven months since Kim Jong un became North Korea's supreme leader, but it's been the last 10 days that we've seen some startling changes. Now they include the appearance of a mystery female companion with Kim, the sudden exit of the once powerful army chief, even Mickey Mouse showing up on stage. As Paul Hancocks reports from Seoul, no one is sure what this all means.


PAUL HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kim Jong il was not exactly known for his smile. The late North Korean leader's public persona was both strict and distant. His son and successor Kim Jong un is the opposite. He helps children, laughs with the generals, and actually seems to be enjoying himself at public occasions.

JOHN DELURY, YONSEI UNIVERSITY: Kim Jong un came into power differentiating himself from his father, it's very clear.

HANCOCKS: Last week, Kim Jong un was seen applauding an American export: The Walt Disney characters on stage and female musicians in little black dresses, far more western than traditional Korean.

A mystery lady in modern clothes that accompanied the leader on official engagements, whether it's his wife, his sister, or neither it is a departure from the North Korean norm.

And one of the most powerful men in the country, army chief Ri Yong Ho, has been dismissed, a sign of a power struggle or actual illness as North Korea claims.

A lot has happened in 10 days, but does it actually mean anything?

JASPER KIM, EWHA WOMANS UNIVERSITY; So if Kim Jong un has his vision of a modern-day North Korea like I think he does, then he has to be very careful in terms of when and how to execute his plan. If he goes too early and too severely in terms of turning North Korea into a modern-day state, then the military will have something to say.

HANCOCKS: Actual policy changes by Kim Jong un have not been seen, but there may be hints of them.

DELURY: He talked a lot about problems. He's talked about the food problem. He's talked about the consumer goods problem. He's talked about the problem that military aren't paid well enough. The average military personnel is not paid well enough. These are easily taboos in the North Korean context, but here is the new supreme leader, Kim Jong un, saying it, putting it right out there in front that we have these problems that we have to solve. So that suggests a very different style of governance.

HANCOCKS: There's certainly a hope that Kim Jong un will be open to reforms both political and economic, but it's very difficult for experts and for governments to reliably predict his intentions when they still haven't managed to confirm either his age or his marital status.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


LU STOUT: Now ahead on News Stream, counting down to the Summer Olympics. Athletes from all across the globe have been arriving in London, but was it a breeze getting through one of the world's busiest airports? That's ahead.


LU STOUT: Live from Hong Kong, you are back watching News Stream.

Now the Olympic games are set to open in just 10 days. Athletes and officials are starting to arrive from all over the world. And London is all geared up from extra staff at the airport to dedicated road lanes. Jim Boulden takes a look.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here they come, officials and athletes from around the world from 50 countries arrived in Heathrow airport Monday: Russians, Cubans, Italians, the Ducth. These ladies from the beach volleyball team have never been to London before, but they say Heathrow was a breeze.

MADELEIN MEPPELINK, DUTCH ATHLETE: Oh, really quickly. It's really special. They are so helpful. And there are so many people to help you. So we never had so quick our luggage and perfect.

BOULDEN: That meant the team could concentrate on why they are here.

MARLEEN VAN IERSEL, DUTCH ATHLETE: Yes, very special. It's something we've always dreamed about. And in a couple of days it's going to happen.

BOULDEN: One big worry leading up to the games has been the use of one of the world's most congested airports. The man in charge of terminal four saying so far all has gone to plan on day one. There are special lines for the Olympic family.

TOM WILLIS, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, HEATHROW TERMINAL FOUR: The commitment to man every desk throughout the Olympics period, that commitment started yesterday. So at 0600 yesterday morning, every desk was open. And as a result the immigration queues have moved...

BOULDEN: So no complaints from any of the officials or athletes about getting throught Heathrow, at least not from the ones we spoke to. But this is just the beginning of the journey. They have to go on the Olympic lanes through west London, central London, and through to east London to get to the Olympic Village.

There was talk on Twitter of at least one bus getting very lost going from Heathrow on the designated Olympic traffic lanes to the Olympic Village. Games organizers would only say some buses took longer than others.

This French canoeist isn't worried. This is his fourth games.

TONY ESTANGUET, FRENCH ATHLETE: I know a lot of -- all the time there is maybe some problems before, but finally all the Olympics is perfect so I'm sure it's going to be OK.

BOULDEN: Most of those arriving Monday were team officials, not athletes, many with a lot of luggage. Logistics firm UPS is taking athletes' luggage from the airports to their base camps.

MARTIN PAVIS, UPS DRIVER: We've got a kayak. Also we have -- for those obviously super long, but we've got the vehicles to cope with that.

BOULDEN: UPS says using the special traffic lanes should get them and these athletes from Heathrow to the village in around 76 minutes. On day one at least, despite the rain, it was a big welcome for the summer games of 2012.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.


LU STOUT: Now as London prepares for the games, there have been problems on the security front after a contractor admitted it did not have enough staff. Now the head of the security firm G4S had to answer to the House of Commons home affairs committee today. Nick Buckles says that he was first made aware of the possible shortfall on July 3. Buckles says he regrets signing the contract.

Now G4S was granted a $444 million contract to provide nearly 14,000 security guards. And the British government announced on Monday it would call on military personnel to help staff the games.

Now it's been very rainy there in the UK. Will the weather improve ahead of the games? Mari Ramos joins us now from the World Weather Center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Kristie, that a question we've been getting almost every single day here, not just from fans, but also from even here in the newsroom we're all talking about how rainy it's been. Our London bureau, the people keep asking us, what is going on with our summer?

Well, you know what, this is a picture from the torch relay, the Olympic relay. And is that thing even on? You can barely even see the flame, but it's there -- a tiny little flame, you see that right there -- because it's been so rainy. This is in Portsmouth. And you can see there how all of the spectators are, you know, covered up. So the rain has not only been in London, it's been all across the region.

Just kind of give you an example, when we were in June we had a record rainfall across the UK. In the England area, we had about 200 -- more than 200 percent of the average. As we head up to the north in Scotland, over 150 percent of the average. So we went from drought conditions to, you know what, we've had way too much rain. That's precisely what's happened, especially during the month of June.

But here we go, we begin the month of July and it's still been persistently cloudy and persistently rainy.

So let's go ahead and just look around a little bit and see what we normally would be able to look at during July and August. As we head now to the end of July and the beginning of August at the time when the games are supposed to happen.

The hottest its ever been is 34 degrees. The average, though, is about 21. So that's pretty comfortable, right? The coldest it's ever been for daytime high is 6 degrees, so it can get very chilly. So I'm hoping those athletes are bringing their jackets just in case.

Normally you get about six-and-a-half hours of full sunshine per day. So it does tend to be rather cloudy. About half the days are normally cloudy. And about on 12 days out of this period of time you really get some rainfall.

So as you can see, it's -- the weather can vary greatly across this part of the world during these Olympic summer months.

The weather pattern we've been stuck in has been with an area of low pressure to the north. The jet stream dipping farther to the south. And you can see this that that has been the weather pattern that we've been in.

We're starting to see that jet stream starting to slip back over and the cooler, wetter weather will eventually be more toward Eastern Europe. And we'll start to see a bit more of a warm-up here across the west. That warm-up will come also with some generally warmer temperatures. It's already warmer in Madrid, 33. Temperatures are going to be heating up across this region. And notice all the way up to Brussels we're at 18.

As far as London is concerned, 21, that's actually not too bad, right around where you should be this time of year.

What about your weather? Let's go ahead and check it our right now.

OK, let's head to Asia now because there's still a lot of problems going on here with also much too much rainfall. We're still seeing some very heavy rainfall across portions of southeastern China stretching back over toward Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, northern parts of Thailand, and even as we head into southern parts of Cambodia here and then back over toward Vietnam getting some very heavy rainfall there with the mayu bayou (ph) front and the monsoon still very active. But of course this is the feature to watch right now. It's still over the open water, moving across the islands here of southern Japan. This is our Tropical Storm Khanun. And Khanun has winds now gusting to almost hurricane force as you can see, up to 120 kilometers per hour. That's mainly near the center.

The track we're expecting the storm to take is to go in the general direction of the Korean peninsula. Now they need the rain here, just not all at once. Right now it appears that we could get some locally heavy rain that could cause some flooding.

It looks like western Japan, those areas, Kristie, that were affected by so much flooding earlier this week, remember they're still up here in Kyushu, looks like for the most part they'll be spared from this heavy rain if the storm stays on this general track.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Yeah. Here's hoping for that. Mari Ramos there, thank you.

Now coming up next, reports of a massacre in Syria. Opposition troops say it happened in the city of Douma. We have an exclusive report.

And meet an Egyptian sprinter who was out in Tahrir Square demanding freedom with his countrymen during the Arab Spring, now he's representing them at the Olympics.


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

Now former Google executive Marisa Mayer starts a new job today as head of internet giant Yahoo. She replaces interim boss Ross Levenson. She is stepping in as the company's fourth CEO in less than four years.

Now in the U.S., British based HSBC will be in the hotseat on Capitol Hill. Now next hour, executives go before a U.S. Senate panel to apologize and answer questions about why HSBC failed to implement controls to counter money laundering. Now Monday a Senate report says billions of dollars allegedly linked to drug cartels and terrorist groups were transferred through the bank.

And for the third straight day, intense violence is said to be rocking the heart of the Syrian regime. Now the unrest in Damascus comes as international envoy Kofi Annan is in Russia to try to reach a diplomatic breakthrough. Moscow has been at odds with the west over a tougher UN draft resolution on Syria. We'll have the live report on Syria in just a few minutes.

Now this week, CNN and Sports Illustrated are collaborating you stories of Olympic athletes affected by last year's Arab Spring. And for one Egyptian sprinter, the road to London was paved with more than a few bumps and detours, his training was sidetracked by a revolution.

Mohammed Jamjoom has his story.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amr Seoud is a 26- year-old Egyptian sprinter.

AMR SEOUD, EGYPTIAN OLYMPIAN: I'm believing like what doesn't kill you just makes you stronger.

JAMJOOM: Once on the streets in protest during the revolution, now proud to hold his country's flag for a major international photo shoot. CNN and sports illustrated have teamed up to follow athletes of the Arab Spring. Combining our journalistic strengths, regional news knowledge and sport expertise to document survivors of the revolutions that have emerged as Olympic hopefuls.

Seoud is an accomplished athlete, but for the most part an unknown champion his country. Track and field is not very popular or widely supported in Egypt. But while sponsorship, funding and resources may be in short supply, for Amr Seoud spirit, passion, and drive are not.

He won the gold at the 2009 Mediterranean games in Pescara, Italy and competed amongst the world's best at the 2008 Olympics.

SEOUD: I'm doing my best. And you know god willing to do something big in the next Olympics.

JAMJOOM: Even though he qualified early for this year's Olympic games in London, he's been catching up on his training. Last year he stopped to protest in Tahrir Square.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ben, if you can hear me, tell me what you are seeing. I understand the situation is heating up.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Tahrir Square, which is the biggest central square. It's packed with demonstrators.

SEOUD: I was there from the first day. I completely forgot about athletics at this time, because all the country went crazy. And, you know, there's no way to think about training or athletics when the people who are just watching TVs and stuff hears that there's some people dying in the streets in Tahrir Square and started to come over. So -- and the next day, next day maybe we're like five or six million. So people became like five or six million in less than 24 hours. That's amazing.


LU STOUT: I love this series. You can see the entire CNN special "Athletes of the Arab Spring." It airs at 17:30 Wednesday in Hong Kong.

Now let's go back to the crisis in Syria now. And activists say mortar shells were fired on one neighborhood of Damascus while strong explosions were heard elsewhere. A rebel spokesman says the capital, it's heading toward a major conflict. And CNN has been told by government forces last month committed what activists described as a massacre. Now that is here in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

Arwa Damon has this exclusive report. And a warning, some of the images are disturbing.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The power is out in the streets of Douma. The three activists and their escorts don't dare shine a light. There is a sniper lurking. Gunfire in the distances forces them to pick up the pace.

The activists are part of the opposition's media operation. They smuggled themselves into the Damascus suburb last month and risked their lives to document this, a massacre said to have taken place just hours earlier. Among the corpses strewn about, a little girl.

A man points to one of the bodies and says he was executed, a civilian. Points to a second corpse and adds, this is his cousin, shot because he tried to save him. Residents are readying the bodies for burial, blood soaking through the funeral sheets, the names of the deceased hastily scrawled. It's a grim routine Syrians in areas that have dared stand up to the regime have grown accustomed to. The bodies unceremoniously dragged away and placed alongside others.

Residents say Syrian security forces searching for weapons in some buildings wiped out members of several families.

This man described what happened in one instance.

"They had two rooms they put the men and the women in," he says. "From 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, the living were trapped with the dead. It was an execution. They asked where are the guns? There are no guns was the response. And the executed one after the other."

At least 45 were killed in this one attack, residents say, information CNN cannot independently verify.

In the morning, the media team picked their way through rubble strewn streets, but they would not be able to leave Douma. The Assad regime siege intensified. The government bombardment relentless. Many more were killed.

The team that filmed this at the end of June was trapped inside Douma for more than a week. And it's taken this long to get the footage smuggled to Lebanon.

All that effort, all that risk, to give the world a glimpse of Syria's narrative of horror and despair.


LU STOUT: Horrifying video out of Syria there.

Let's get more more now from Arwa Damon. She joins me now from Beirut in neighboring Lebanon. And Arwa, we just saw those disturbing images out of Douma. And clashes continue today in Damascus. What's the latest?

DAMON: Well, clashes have been continuing in Damascus for the last few days now, described by activists and residents of Syria's capital as being the most intense they had seen there to date. And we've really been seeing this concerted effort by rebel fighters to take the battle to the heart of the capital, to President Bashar al-Assad's very doorstep, but of course that has come at a devastating toll. We saw that story there out of Douma taking place at the end of last month. And since then, there have been a series of assaults on that particular Damascus suburb, including one that appears to be underway as we are speaking to you.

We've just received an update from the local coordination committee that explosions were taking place in Douma and that there was a terribly widespread ground assault involving Syrian security forces. And that is not to mention the fighting, the intense, fierce fighting that is taking place in other parts of the capital as well.

So it's a fairly intense week. And we're also hearing from opposition activists that now they believe that they are taking the battle to Damascus, fully aware that in the capital where the final fight is going to be taking place, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And Arwa, do you think that this fighting in the heart of the Syrian capital, do you think it poses a direct threat to the regime?

DAMON: Well, it most certainly poses a much greater threat than any of the battles we have seen elsewhere, bearing in mind that the regime most certainly does not want to lose its grip on Damascus. We've been seeing fairly widespread battles, some of them happening just a few moments from the president's seat of power itself. We've been hearing from opposition activists that they plan on intensifying their efforts to target government forces and allies of the Syrian president, those pro-government thugs in Damascus in and of itself. We're also hearing various reports about fighters moving from other parts of the country to Damascus too. Because it's all part of this ongoing effort to try to win over Damascus.

The logic behind that being that if the opposition can win Damascus, it is essentially going to be able to win Syria.

That being said, Kristie, it is very important to note that this still remains a one-sided battlefield, what the opposition has at its disposal most certainly no match for the artillery, for the weaponry that the regime most certainly is continuing to employ on a fairly regular basis. And while we're seeing these battles intensify, this by no means is any indication that the regime is going to fall any time soon.

LU STOUT: And is the regime fighting with al Qaeda? We've been hearing from Nawaf al-Fares who has spoken to CNN. He's speaking to other media outlets. The defector is now saying that major bombings there were carried out by the regime along with al Qaeda. How involved is the terror network?

DAMON: Well, that's what a lot of intelligence agencies are trying to figure out right now, because what is happening when it comes to al Qaeda, it's fairly murky. If you'll remember when the war in Iraq was raging, the U.S. and the Iraqi government at the time were accusing Syria of allowing al Qaeda fighters to flow across its border at the peak of the insurgency there. There were hundreds that were going across Syria into Iraq on a fairly regular basis there.

There have been various reports there were a reverse flow taking place. And there have been allegations that you mention there by Syria's former ambassador to Iraq who recently defected saying that the Syrian regime has been working alongside al Qaeda, or at the very least turning a blind eye towards activities even within Syria to try to further emphasize its own argument that it is in fact battling these foreign backed terrorists.

But this most certainly is a very concerning development, because at the foremost of all of this is the reality that organizations like al Qaeda thrive in the type of environment that exists in Syria right now. These type of organizations are built on exploiting the type of security and other vacuums that exist within a nation like Syria.

So a lot of intelligence agencies watching this very closely, including as you would imagine the United States, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Arwa Damon reporting for us. Thank you very much indeed, Arwa.

And we will continue to follow the situation in Syria as it unfolds and we'll bring you Kofi Annan's comments after his meeting with Vladimir Putin as soon as it happens.

But we're going to move on here on News Stream. And up next we visit the home of the CEO of the Tel Aviv stock exchange. And we'll go taste testing with a chocolate maker. It's all part of CNN's Leading Women series. Stick around.


LU STOUT: Now welcome back.

Now we have introduced you to this month's Leading Women: Ester Levanon, CEO of the Tel Aviv stock exchange; and Katrina Markoff, CEO of Vosges Haut-Chocolate. And this week we follow them behind the scenes of their busy work lives. Felicia Taylor and Becky Anderson have their stories.


FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the holidays. And Ester Levanon are surrounded by her favorite people: her husband, two sons, daugther-lin-law and two grandchildren. This, she says, is how she wants to be remembered, as a good grandmother. She has a beautiful family and she belongs to an elite group of women. As CEO of the Tel Aviv stock exchange, Levanon is one of a handful of females who lead stock exchanges. And the cliched phrase, one would say, she has it all.

But she bristles at that idea.

ESTER LEVANON, CEO TEL AVIV STOCK EXCHANGE: Actually I think it's pure nonsense. I don't know what's the meaning of "have it all." Everyone today work they would like to have. I don't claim that if someone became a manager and she doesn't have a family says that she doesn't have it all, maybe that's the way she likes to live?

TAYLOR: For Levanon, being a mother to two sons never meant sacrifice in either her personal or professional life. She started her highly charged and male dominated job at the Israeli security service with a four month old baby at home. She once had to explain her choice to work to her two sons.

LEVANON: Every child gets a mother. You don't chose your mother. She can be tall or small or fat or lean or smart or stupid, that's the mother that you got, that's me. I can't stay at home.

And I have to tell you this one time I stayed home for one week, they went crazy. They wanted me out of the house.

TAYLOR: Levanon has held a high powered job virtually her entire working life. First, at the Israeli security service and now at the Tel Aviv stock exchange. And she says, though she doesn't like to admit it, she loves the pressure.

LEVANON: I strive in this place. I think I am at my best when I am stressed and I have to make a decision immediately, not having the time to analyze or to think about it.

TAYLOR: Levanon won't face the stress much longer, though. Her term ends at TZA in three years.

LEVANON: The only thing I'm sure about I'm not going to have this kind of job anymore, but I'm not a tiger anymore, so it's about time to do things differently.


For Katrina Markoff, stress comes to her in a slightly different, though no less pressurized form.

KATRINA MARKOFF, VOSGES Haut-Chocolate: So here you have them assembling some of the four piece combo boxes.

ANDERSON: As founder and CEO of Vosges Haut-Chocolate, she decides what new, unusual flavor combinations her company will try, and sampling chocolate, though it might sound like a luxury, is serious business as we see in this meeting with her production managers.

MAKOFF: Cerry-pecan (ph), I just -- I wasn't getting like the most even distribution of nut and cherry.

I don't want it to smack you in the face with the spice or the ingredient or the herb or the root that's in there, I want it to be delicate and gentle and then you sort of a discovery face of, oh there it is. Oh, oh, yes. Oh -- you've eaten it -- it's still there. Oh, I see.

Hi. Hey, hi.

ANDERSON: And, because Markoff wants to tell stories through her chocolate, her catalog needs to be just as dynamic as her flavors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this one was mostly Easter sort of spring feeling up front.

ANDERSON: In this meeting with her marketing team, we get a peak into Markoff's creative process.

MARKOFF: Well, I just wanted to bring this up because I've had this on my board for a long time, this collection of blue. I think this would be really fun, like to take collection blue chocolate. You know, I know maybe this is too late for it, but I just think there's something really cool and could be very modern about balloons.

ANDERSON: Markoff's day jumps between quality checks in her factory, tastings for new products, developing her marketing plans for various big chocolate holidays.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when you're talking about (inaudible), PPC, and all this other stuff, how about...

MARKOFF: ...have to do that...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, we are. We're doing them all over.


ANDERSON: ...can be she keeps her mornings consistent: oatmeal with two-and-a-half year old Rowan (ph).

MARKOFF: Open your mouth.

ANDERSON: Her mornings with Rowan (ph) and her other release, horseback riding, are a constant in her life. The rest, is an ever changing whirlwind of chocolate.


LU STOUT: And for more of our reporting on CNN's Leading Women, check out our website

Now a star-studded night for the opening of one of the summer's biggest blockbusters: the Dark Knight Rises is set to hit cinemas this week. And we check out the premier last night in New York City.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now what could be one of the biggest blockbusters of the season and beyond opens in theaters around the world this week. The Dark Knight Rises completes Christopher Nolan's acclaimed Batman trilogy. And where else to hold the premier than New York City, Gotham's inspiration. And Richard Roth was there.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's another American summer of box office action films, and the movie that many experts predict will be the number one draw starts here: the premiere of the Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises caps the trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan. The stars who are on the screen here and the people who got it to the movies all appeared at this premiere.

Why should someone see this film?

CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: I'm the last person to answer that. I did this, because I enjoyed making it. It's the first time I've seeing it tonight. I've waited to watch it on IMAX. I've been working. I haven't had time to see it on IMAX. So I'll tell you after.

ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS: You don't owe these people any more.

It was a challenge. It was a very big challenge. I had to transform just about everything about myself. I hadn't done athletics in a really long time. But I was given a lot of support and time to learn all that. So it worked out all right.

GARY OLDMAN, ACTOR: I'm happy to be in something like this. I think this series has really set the bar. It set a new -- and it is -- if you're going to be in a superhero movie, then this is -- this is the company, this is the company to be in.


TOM HARDY, ACTOR: I'm Gotham's (inaudible).

ROTH: Are audiences going to hate you at the end of this film or doing it?

HARDY: Hopefully, one way or the other they will.

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: I was stunned, really, by the movie. It's very, very exciting as this franchise (inaudible). So amazingly touching I think. So I'm not going to say any more than that.

ROTH: New York City, aka Gotham City, has hosted this IMAX premiere of the Dark Knight Rises. Now it's up to the audience to determine its success, though many feel that's a done deal. Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


LU STOUT: Now no British cyclist has ever won the Tour de France, but Bradley Wiggins may be about to change all that. Alex Thomas is in London. He's got more -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kristie. The cyclists at the Tour de France are putting their feet up for the final time before the push to Paris. It's the last rest day of the race. And Britain's Bradley Wiggins remains the overall leader with just five stages to go.

On Monday, local favorite Pierrick Fedrigo gave the host nation its fourth win of Le Tour, taking the 158-and-a-half kilometer 15th stage. Fedrigo was part of a breakaway group that Wiggins and Team Sky allowed to go because none of those riders are serious contenders for the yellow jersey. He and the peloton, the main group, finished almost 12 minutes adrift.

There's still a couple of mountainous stages before the race closes in on Paris with the 20th and final stage taking place on Sunday.

NBA point guard Raymond Felton has returned to the New York Knicks in a trade that could signal Jeremy Lin's departure from the Big Apple. Despite last season's so-called Linsanity when the Asian-American player became an almost overnight sensation as he helped revive the next season. The team maybe forced to let him go. He's been offered a $25 million deal by the Houston Rockets and although the Knicks have the option to match it, but still they can't afford to.

Although Lin became an NBA star last season, he hasn't been selected for America's Olympic basketball squad. And the U.S. team are heading to London after a win in their latest warm-up game. U.S. president Barack Obama was watching the latest Dream Team take on Brazil. And the South American side took an early lead. Alex Garcia knocking down this three as Brazil surged 10 points ahead.

However, the U.S. recovered their poise. New NBA champion LeBron James making the steal here and taking it all the way for the easy slam.

On to the final quarter and the States are up by 10 at this stage. Here's the Heat star again. LeBron finishing up a quick pass move with a lay-in. And U.S.of A stroll to an 80 points to 69 victory in the end.

Well, we mentioned the president was courtside and he was sporting controversy as well by saying he preferred the original Dream Team that went to the Barcelona games in 1992 compared to the 2012 version, although that's not why he and the First Lady were booed on the night. The crowd signaling its disapproval when the Obamas failed to obey the law of the kiss cam. But when the couple appeared on the big screen for the second time late in the game, they did oblige with a bit of a smooch and a cuddle much to the delight of their daughter.

There we go, Kristie. Romance is alive and well in the White House.

That's all the sport for now. We've got the latest on Britain's Open Golf Championship which tees up on Thursday, that's in World Sport in just over three hours time. Join us then.

LU STOUT: All right. Thanks for the kiss cam. Lots to look forward to. Alex Thomas there.

Now, some athletes competing in the London games, they had a bit of a marathon getting to the Olympic Village. As you heard earlier in the show, several Twitter messages complained about a long trip from Heathrow to Olympic Park. Now that distance is about 40 kilometers, or 25 miles. But Australian sailor Elise Rechichi. She posted this message. It reads, "Buckingham Palace on the way to the Olympics Village? Not the most direct route."

And American hurdler Karron Clement, he wrote this, quote, "Um, so we've been lost in the road for four hours, not a good first impression London."

Now the chairman of London 2012 disputed that account saying it was a two-and-a-half hour journey. He admits the driver missed a turn, but says most athletes arrived on time.

And the London mayor Boris Johnson joked that it gave athletes a chance to see the city.

And that is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.