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Bulgaria Bus Suicide Bomber Held Fake Michigan Drivers License; Becoming Batman; China, Russia Veto Draft Resolution On Syria; Arbitration Court Overrules Lifetime Football Ban For Mohammed Bin Hammam

Aired July 19, 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 in Syria where battles rage between rebel fighters and government forces. Will the international community intervene?

Plus, a bomb blast in Bulgaria sends shock waves through Israel after Israeli tourists are killed in an apparent suicide attack. We'll take you live to Jerusalem.

And the U.S. heartland feels the heat. Crops are wilting, the ground baking, while farmers hope for rain.

And excited fans can't wait to see Dark Knight Rises. And find out how you could become Batman in real life.

Now violence is said to be escalating in the Syrian capital one day after a bomb attack struck at the heart of the al-Assad regime. And activists tell CNN that there are intense clashes in the Kaffar Souse (ph) neighborhood in Damascus as well as battles raging in other areas. In the suburb of Khaboun (ph) there are growing concerns about the humanitarian situation. It is reportedly surrounded by tanks, experiencing heavy fire. Communications out of the area are extremely limited.

And all of this follows Wednesday's attack which killed three top officials in the Syrian government.

And we have correspondents following the crisis in the country and diplomatic discussions worldwide. Arwa Damon is in Beirut and neighboring Lebanon. And let's talk to Arwa first. And Arwa, you have these fresh clashes today in Damascus, can you give us the latest?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was that fighting that you mentioned there in the central neighborhood of Kaffar Souse (ph). This is a neighborhood that has really been one of the main areas where the opposition has been demonstrating. And also one of the main areas in the heart of the capital that the Free Syrian Army has been operating from. But the clashes that take place there, that's only around a 10 minute drive from downtown Damascus. And they're easily heard from the center of the capital, not to mention from the presidential palace.

Another neighborhood that is being pounded, that of Khaboun (ph), you mentioned it as well. Yesterday there were images of people fleeing this area, carrying plastic bags, trying to get out just as quickly as they can. We've just received a report a half an hour ago from one of the activists networks saying that the area was being indiscriminately pounded once again and that columns of smoke could be seen rising from five parts of that particular area.

An activist that CNN spoke to earlier in the day was saying that hundreds of civilians were trying to flee the Damascus suburbs. Many of them, though, struggling to get out because of the shelling, the fighting, the various checkpoints. Those that have been able to get out are wandering around quite unsure of where to go and how to stay safe, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Damascus is under fire. So where is President Bashar al- Assad?

DAMON: Well, that's the big question. He has not come out and spoken to the nation. He has not addressed the public following yesterday's attacks that most certainly penetrated the very core of the regime itself. There has been some speculation rumored that he is perhaps in the coastal city of Latakia. We most certainly do not have that independently confirmed.

It is important to note, though, that Latakia is an area where he does enjoy a fairly strong amount of support. The Alawite community there quite strong as well. And it would potentially possibly provide him with an outlet via the port. It is right along the port as well.

This is an area, though, where he is also in the past met senior officials. He does have a presidential palace there as well. So it is an area that he does go to quite often over the summer, but a lot of speculation on the whereabouts of the president at this point in time. A lot of people wondering why he hasn't come out and spoken to the nation to reassure them that he is still in control, because by all counts, the images, the reports coming out of the capital and out of the country are not one of a government that is in control of its own nation.

LU STOUT: And Arwa, who is responsible for yesterday's dramatic attack? And has that attack galvanized the rebel movement?

DAMON: Well, we've seen a lot of celebration following the attack. But we also saw an intensification of the battles and of the shelling taking place not just in Damascus and other parts of the country as well. Now the Syrian government, as we have been reporting, was saying that it was a terrorist, a suicide bomber who somehow managed to breach security, possibly one of the bodyguards of the senior high ranking officials that were involved in that meeting, the Free Syrian Army. We're still getting contradictory information.

The deputy commander of the FSA said that they were in fact responsible for this, that it was a byproduct of collaboration across a number of brigades that they managed to smuggle explosives in, presumably it would have to with the help of some sort of insider to this building, this heavily fortified building and then detonated them by remote.

Some other rebel commanders we're speaking too, though, throwing everything into a bit of skepticism. So one can just imagine, given how murky the situation is in Syria, is just how the rumor mill works, that there are quite a few conspiracy theories out there, with some people going so far as to say that this was somehow a deliberate ploy by the Assad government of misinformation to give it an excuse to crackdown on the capital and in other parts of the country.

LU STOUT: Arwa Damon making sense of a very dynamic situation. Thank you very much indeed, Arwa.

Now the United Nations security council is expected to vote on a new resolution on Syria later today. Richard Roth is at the UN. He joins us now live. And Richard, how does the escalating crisis in Syria set the stage for today's vote?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly as the violence increases there, one wonders whether the security council plays a role. There's been such deadlock for 16 months or so. And events have unfolded in Damascus and throughout the parts of the country, massacres, shootings, shellings, troops still in places despite the council's urgings. So even if there is a vote to keep a renewal of a UN observer force, 300 people there in Damascus, they weren't able to do anything for the last few months. Even General Mood, the leader of the UN team there saying it's been irrelevant lately. You don't even really think there's that much importance despite the history and gravity of this place that I'm talking to you from, the UN arena.

So there would be a vote if it really, without any vetoes, you would have a potential for economic sanctions. But as we've seen sanctions take a long time to unfold. You've got to set it up. You name a few people. And as we've seen, Kristie, in many other issue, crises such as Iraq and elsewhere, sanctions don't always bite.

LU STOUT: And a lot is hinging on Russia. And we know that the U.S. President Barack Obama, he called Vladimir Putin to discuss the crisis. Now the White House said that Putin agreed to support a political transition, so does that mean that Russia could change its stance on sanctions at the UN security council?

ROTH: Well, they already signed on in that meeting in Geneva to the latest Annan agreement which called for a political transition. They always -- Moscow and all the other countries on the security council that have disagreed or agreed with each other -- in words they agree, but it's then when it comes time to the real details they don't follow through. They don't want -- they want to look like they're working for some type of agreement, but then they don't want to back it up because their core principals in Moscow and elsewhere, they worry about foreign intervention perhaps on their shores if they were to do anything in Chechnya or elsewhere.

Kofi Annan met with President Putin and he promised support, but there hasn't been a change as we've seen since that meeting.

LU STOUT: Richard Roth live at the UN for us. Thank you very much indeed, Richard.

Now this is the image of the Syrian government wants people to see: supporters of the government protesting against Wednesday's deadly bombing in Damascus. And take a look at how Syrian state TV is portraying the attack.

Now viewers were shown pro-military videos like this one. And they heard from people who spoke up in defense of the government.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): What happened today, the bombing, we will show them that they don't scare us and they will not make us stay in our homes. We will be the last ones standing. They are out there hiding. But we, the army, are here.

Syria is not for them, it's for us. It's for Hafez Assad, Bashar al- Assad.

Every day we'll be here. And every day we will stay. We will stand together hand in hand.


LU STOUT: Syrian state TV there.

And there was also this, a split screen showing normal traffic flow in a roundabout, commentary, and discussion. State TV did broadcast intense street battles in a few parts of Damascus though. The government has long blamed the unrest on armed terrorist groups.

Now in stark contrast to the government video in Syria, we have all become familiar with amateur video of the unrest posted online. But the people who upload those images can be deterred by not wanting to show faces or reveal details about where they live.

Now YouTube has now launched a tool to allow users to automatically blur faces in their videos. It is not necessarily in connection to the Syrian crisis, but YouTube recognizes the role the new tools can play in providing what it calls human rights footage. Now as you can see, a protest in Egypt is the example on YouTube's official blog.

And here is how to use it. On the video manager page for your account, you click on enhancements, then you want to select additional features. You go right there and then you click apply where it says blur all faces and save.

Now a bomb attack in Bulgaria on board a bus carrying Israeli tourists, officials try to get to the bottom of this deadly attack and accusations are already flying.

A heat wave hits the Midwestern United States as farmers worried about this year's crops. We'll take a look at the toll it is taking.

And China's one child policy, some family are doing to get around the system.

All that and more still to come on News Stream.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Bulgaria's interior minister says Wednesday's explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists was a suicide attack. Bulgaria national television is airing this security footage of the suspected suicide bomber. As you can see here, he had long hair and was wearing a baseball cap. Bulgarian officials are trying to identify the bomber who the FBI says was carrying a fake U.S. driver's license.

Now when the blast occurred, the bus was in the parking lot outside the Bergas Airport. Seven people were killed, including the Bulgarian driver and the bomber.

Now Israel sent a medical team to escort back home the 33 people injured in the blast. And Israel has been quick to point the finger at Iran. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran has been behind recent attempted attacks on Israelis in Thailand, India, and Georgia. In a statement, he said, quote, all the signs are leading to Iran. This is a global Iranian terror onslaught. And Israel will react firmly to it. Now Reuters is reporting that Iran's government is denying involvement in the attack.

And with more on the story, Elise Labott joins us now live from Jerusalem. Elise, tell us more about why Israel is pointing to Iran as the prime suspect here.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, Kristie, not only did you see the previous attacks, officials are -- you know, in February, three Iranians were arrested with explosives in what Thai authorities say were intended for Israeli diplomats. So they're saying there's this ongoing pattern of Iranians trying to go after Israeli targets. This time, unfortunately, they were successful.

But if you listen to Ehud Barak who was pretty clear that they believed who ever did it was acting on behalf of Iran. Let's take a listen.


EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The injured on their way home in air force plans. With them, unfortunately, are also the coffins. We are summing up a tough attack. The war against terror continues in full force. We will find those who executed this attack and those who sent them, the Hezbollah and behind it Iran, will not be cleared of this.


LABOTT: Because obviously, Kristie, Iran has proxies are pointing to not just Hezbollah, but Hamas and other Islamic groups.

Right now, Israeli officials, along with the Bulgarians, are going to the UN security council looking for condemnation. It'll be interesting to see whether they mention Iran in their -- in their letters to the security council. It's one thing to kind of say in statements that they think it's Iran, but when you go to the security council it's a little bit different.

But certainly Israeli officials are reeling from what happened. And they believe that Iran is still trying to plan attacks against Israeli targets. And not only do they have to seek more intelligence about what's going on, but make Israelis more immune to these type of attacks.

LU STOUT: Now let's talk about where these attacks took place. Why Bulgaria? Why did that bus bombing take place there? What are security analysts telling you?

LABOTT: Well, they're saying that, you know, Bulgaria has been a little bit of a problem for Israel in the past. There was this suspicious package found earlier this year around Israeli targets that might have been -- that they believe meant that this could be some kind of attack. And also, other places in Eastern Europe, and in Georgia, and in Cyprus a little bit closer to home.

They say that Iranians are trying to get after Israelis wherever they are. And they just, again, really need to you know buckle down and make sure that their targets are imprenetrable.

LU STOUT: Elise Labott reporting, thank you.

Now it started with Barclays, but the LIBOR scandal is far from over. Now regulators now investigating four more of Europe's biggest banks, each of them suspected of manipulating the region's benchmark interest rate. Now Credit Agricole, Deutshce Bank, HSBC, and Soc Gen are the latest lenders under scrutiny.

But the scandal isn't limited to Europe alone. As if you needed more evidence that the banking crisis is truly international, Reuters is reporting that South Korea is now investigating possible interest rate rigging within several of its financial institutions.

You're watching News Stream. And still to come, extremely dry conditions across the U.S. are hurting one of the country's key crops. And farmers aren't the only ones affected. We'll explain.


LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you are back watching News Stream.

Now a heat wave hanging over the United States is putting extreme pressure on farmers in the Midwest. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated parts of the estate as disaster areas as the country grapples with its worst drought in more than 50 years.

Now corn crops have been hit the hardest. The USDA says nearly 40 percent of corn planted across the country is in poor or very poor condition. Now that means that consumers will face rising prices for the grain, will likely face spikes in the price of beer as well, since corn is part of the main feed for cattle.

Now let's get the forecast for the U.S. and just when will there be any relief for these drought stricken areas. Mari Ramos joins us now from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, yeah dramatic situation indeed. You know, in the last 12 hours or so across portions of these parched areas of the Midwest, particularly in Indiana. They had some very heavy rain and even flash flood warnings, because the rain has been so heavy. But this rain is too little too late.

As you mentioned, much of that crop is already ruined completely, at least 30 percent of it. This is the worst drought in at least 50 years across the U.S. And even though we're getting some rain right now, like I said, it's not enough.

The concern is going to be that across this wide area that is suffering from drought. And about 60 percent of -- about 60 percent of the areas that are planted with corn or soy are already in some sort of a drought conditions. And you can see how those plants are in many cases irreparable. And this is going to have, and already is having an effect not just in prices, but it's going to have an affect in the pocketbooks of the people and consumers -- you and I and everyone else who uses corn in any way. And it's used in many different things, like you said, animal feed, ethanol, and of course at the grocery store. It's used for processed food as well.

Come back over to the weather map over here. So this is the heat advisory. Record high temperatures possible again today. Extensive heat warnings in place, because it's only raining in a very small area.

I want to show you something pretty interesting here, as well Kristie. This is -- I don't know if you remember what was happening last year at this time, we were talking about record flooding along the Mississippi River. Huge swaths of land that were inundated. So farmers had a hard time last year with everything that was going on. And they have suffered some losses, not as widespread as what we're talking now, but this is the Mississippi River. And you can see other areas and tributaries that were flooded. And you had these images of the farmland and the corn, you know taller than I am, already covered in water.

Well, those same areas this time around are the ones that are in extreme drought. So this is quote a contrast from what they had last year. They were hoping for a good season.

This is a picture of what the mighty Mississippi looks like in some places with brown spots, just dry land, that's right over, that's right in the river. So that just gives you an example of how low the water levels are, and in some cases that historic lows along the Mississippi River.

And then the outlook? It's not looking too good. Temperatures expected to remain above the average, at least as we head through the end of July. And then as far as rainfall, that's expected to remain below average.

But even if it does rain, farmers are saying you know what, it's not going to make a difference, much of that crop is already lost. Back to you.

LU STOUT: Extremely dry conditions across many parts of the U.S. Mari Ramos, thank you.

Now the U.S. state of Indiana is among those affected by the drought. Rob Marciano joins us now from a dairy farm in Whiteland, Indiana. It's just south of the state capital. And Rob, how is the drought affecting the farm where you are?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're at a dairy farm. Yesterday we were in corn farm country. This dairy farm produces much of its feed. That production is down both in the beans, the hay, and especially the corn which has been prevalent across the corn belt, but this dairy farm has 500, over 500 dairy cows. Here's a handful of them in this pen that just got out of being milked. And in just a few minutes they'll be fed.

So their feed is what comes from not only this field, but other fields around the area, that have seen -- has not seen enough rain. And because of that, the feed production and the feed quality is down.

But also out there you can see there's fans, there's even some misters here. Cows don't like hot temperatures. As a matter of fact, the ideal temperature about 50 degrees Fahrenheit at least. And right now we're talking about temperatures that have been 90 to 100, or 37, 38, in some cases 40 degrees Celsius. That drops their production as well.

So the heat and the drought have really compounded milk production quite a bit.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, their undersecretary has been out and about the past couple of days. Yesterday, I caught up with him in one of the corn farms. And this is what he had to say about the situation.


TOM VILACK, U.S. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: This year's corn is literally starving to water. And right now if you receive plenty of rain, there might be a little bit on this ear actually make a crop, but it would be very little.

I think the farming community realizes the losses that they're about to suffer. And it's unfortunate. We've got really good markets right now. We had good markets even before the drought and the markets did increase. But there was a lot of hope and high expectations going into this growing season.


MARCIANO: So with the dairy farms, the other deal is the feed that they're growing now, that'll be used next year, so there's this delayed effect. So not only that, there's a ripple down effect as well. You know, the feed that's used here is also used in other places. And one farm works off the other. And it's so widespread, I think Mari probably pointed this out, Kristie, this drought is so widespread across the U.S. you can't just go to the next state over and get your feed. And that's been the biggest problem.

Normally in a drought situation where it's more defined, you can just go to the next state over, go a couple hundred miles down the road and get your feed. That's going to be a problem here in the next 12 months -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, this crisis is just so widespread. And Rob, as you cover this story of the U.S. drought, it's not just an agriculture story, a business story, it's a human story as well. What are the farmers telling you? They have so much at stake. How are they coping with the drought?

MARCIANO: You know, they're tough people, Kristie. And you know if they're struggling they try not to let on too much, I can tell you that. And a lot of the older ones, this is a six generation farm, OK. They've been here over 100 years. And they've seen droughts come and go. The past couple of years have been pretty good to them. So this -- these are lean time.

But what they're most -- what the worry I see in their eyes is they really don't know what to come in the next 12 to 18 months, because they don't know how much of this crop they're going to be able to save. So that's what they're worried about. It could be unprecedented as far as how damaging this is going to be, the agriculture industry. They just don't know yet.

But I tell you, as far as their psyche they're certainly not letting on if they're worried as a testament to the people here in the corn belt for sure -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, it sure is, the worst drought to face the United States in well over 50 years. Rob Marciano reporting. Thank you so much for that.

Now you are watching News Stream. And coming up we've got the latest on the fight for Syria where the military if vowing retaliation after Wednesday's deadly bombing in Damascus.

And skirting China's tough one child only policy. Find out just how far some families are willing to go.


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

Now opposition activists say intense fighting is continuing in parts of the Syrian capital one day after a bombing killed three top government officials. And the violence comes just hours after the UN security council is expected to vote on a resolution that could impose tougher sanctions on the Syrian regime.

Bulgaria national TV is airing security footage of a suspected bomber being linked with an attack Wednesday on a bus carrying Israeli tourists. It happened outside the Bergas Airport in Bulgaria. Seven people were killed including the bomber. Israel is blaming Iran for the attack.

At least 37 people were killed when a ferry sank near the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Of the 290 people believed to be on board, 145 were rescued. The sea operations resumed on Thursday. And officials have blamed poor weather conditions.

Now Wednesday's blast in Damascus aimed right at President Bashar al- Assad's closely knit inner circle. It killed the country's defense minister, General Daoud Rajha. Also assassinated, the president's security adviser and assistant vice president Hasan Turkmani. And in what some call the biggest blow, the president's brother-in-law was also killed. Assef Shawkat served as deputy defense minister. Now he was said to have had a tempestuous, but loyal relationship with his in-laws.

In 2006, the U.S. imposed sanctions against him on suspicion that he helped orchestrate the 2005 killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. More recently, he was in Homs when the Syrian army launched a ferocious assault on rebel held parts of the city.

Now Jordan's King Abdullah says the killing of three of President al- Assad's top officials is a significant setback for the regime, but he doesn't think that it is a death knell, at least not yet.

Now the kind was one of the first Arab leaders to urge Mr. al-Assad to step down. He spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.


KING ABDULLAH, KING OF JORDAN: Well, obviously, it was a surprise. I mean, obviously this is a tremendous blow to the regime. But, again, Damascus has shown its resilience. So I think maybe we need to keep this in perspective, although this is a blow. I'm sure that the regime will continue to show fortitude, at least in the near future.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So you don't necessarily think this is a sign that that regime of President Bashar Assad is crumbling?

KING ABDULLAH: Definitely this shows some cracks in the system. But, again, I don't think we should jump to any conclusions or writing the regime off in the near future.


LU STOUT: All right, King Abdullah there. Now over here, we have a video rundown of all the stories in the show. We have told you about the battle for Syria and the crippling drought in the United States. In a little bit we'll talk about the eagerly awaited blockbuster Dark Knight Rises and how, yes, you too can become Batman. But first, we want to turn to China and its one child policy.

Now in a country where millions live in poverty, few can afford the fee required to have a second child. You may remember this young woman, her name is Fong Jiun Mae (ph). Her story, it shocked the world. He was bundled into a van with a pillowcase over her head, taken to a hospital and forced to abort her seven month old fetus.

Now China's state run Xinua news agency reports that the family is receiving $11,000 in compensation.

Other families are finding ways to get around China's one child policy. As Stan Gran reports, they live in perpetual fear of getting caught.


STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What, two children? Yes, this, it seems, is the new Chinese poster family. But while ordinary Chinese can admire this very modern image, they get the real message.

"What has fairness got to do with it," this father says. "You have more money, then you can have more children. And if you're poor, you can only have one child."

Or you can break the law just like this man.

We can't even reveal his identity for fear of punishment in a country with a one child policy he has two children.

In this village it is common. Children are everywhere. Some families has as many as four. They found ways to beat the system.

"After we had a second child," he says, "we registered them both as twins."

This father tells us families have children in different cities or town, register them later, or even pay up $1,000 for an illegal broker to fabricate documents. But they live with the fear of being caught and paying big fines.

How effective has the one child policy been? Well, over the past 30 years it's estimated to have averted hundreds of millions of births. Now there are always some families, though, who are going to be able to find a loophole or simply cough up the cash to have that precious second child.

ZHANG DONGJUAN, DAUGHTER: I'm, as you say, I'm the largest girl in the world.

GRANT: Why? Becuase Zhang Dongjuan has a big sister. More than 20 years ago, her parents paid a big price to have two kids, not just a big fine.

DONGJUANG: My father...

GRANT: He lost his job.

DONGJUANG: And he -- and my mother also lost her job.

GRANT: "Yes," her father says, "once I had two kids I lost my job. But I'm not scared of that. I don't care. The most important thing is to raise my kids. This is my happiness.

This has been a happy ending. They have a nice home. Dongjuan is studying while her sister works as a banker. But there is another, more brutal side to this policy.

This photo of a mother forced into an abortion was released on the internet. It went right across the world showing her fully formed fetus beside her. How very different from China's image of the new dream family.

Stan Grant, CNN, Beijing.


LU STOUT: Now China's official Global Times is well known for its stridently pro-China views. But it took a more measured approach to the one child policy in a recent opinion piece saying this, quote, "admittedly, the one child policy is at odds with people's freedom of choice." The editorial goes on to say that a family should be able to have as many children as it wants, but that has to be considered against China's massive population."

And an end to the call to reign in overpopulation while banning forced abortion saying, quote, "forced abortions must be forbidden, but a unlimited child birth should not be encouraged. Both are crucial to this country."

Now Reuters news agency reports that a Tunisian military court has sentenced ousted leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to life in prison for the deaths of protesters in last year's Arab Spring revolution. But it is not clear if Ben Ali will ever serve his sentence: he fled last year to Saudi Arabia.

You're watching News Stream. And coming up, more FIFA drama. One man's lifetime ban from football is overturned by a court. We've got details with Alex Thomas next.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now polls in Venezuela show President Hugo Chavez maintaining a double digit lead over his rival. Now he remains popular thanks to huge state spending on social programs. His critics say he's essentially buying votes. Rafael Romo has more.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She used to be homeless, but now not only does Carmen Valdez have a place to live, she has a story to tell.

"Some people believed it could happen, others don't," she says, "but I believed it all along because it came from my commander."

That's how Valdez refers to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, the creator of the housing program that provided a new home for her and her children, a program she now promotes on Venezuelan television.

Chavez made housing for the poor one of his priorities last year when he launched the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission.

At a very public event broadcast live on Venezuelan national television, Chavez told an audience of loyal supporters that his government's goal is to build $2 million homes for low income families in seven years. But his critics, including opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski say Chavez is using public money for political purposes and to advance his socialist agenda.

HENRIQUE CAPRILES RADONSKI, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): This is an inefficient government, a government charged with rhetoric. Hours and hours speeches of promises, manipulating people by selling hope.

ROMO: Venezuela is holding presidential elections in less than three months and Chavez hopes to get the reelected for a third time. Venezuelan pollster Jose Antonio Gil says Chavez's populist programs, financed with oil money, do attract voters, especially because the government is highlighting its actions daily on national TV with spots like the one featuring Carmen Valdez.

JOSE ANTONIO GIL, DIRECTOR, DANTANALISIS: People feel that they're better off, and because they're better off and that tends to have a high correlation with the intention of approval of his performance and intention of votes.

ROMO: According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Venezuela's poverty rate stands at around 28 percent, down from more than 50 percent when Chavez took office in 1999. Critics say that while the poor have seen benefits, Chavez is damaging the economy for short-term political game overspending on social programs. The Venezuelan government says it has built more than 200,000 homes in the last two years. And Chavez said that the sale of a Venezuelan refinery in Germany to Russia helped offset the costs.

As he prepares for another election, he insists his own goal is to help the poor.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


LU STOUT: Now we were expecting the world's top golfers to struggle on day one of Britain's Open Championship, but instead we've seen some very low scoring. Alex Thomas is in London. He's got the latest -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, hi, Kristie. Instead of a humiliation, some of the best players on the planet have been almost ripping to shreds the Royal Lytham Interman's golf course, which is the host venue for this year's 141st British Open Golf Championship.

Let's take a look at the early leaders, because in the star-studded leader board you will see Adam Scott, the Australian, top of the leader board at 6 under par. He has never won a major title, often tipped as being good enough to get one. And 1999 winner Paul Lawrie is also among those on that leader board as is Graeme McDowell, Tiger Woods, and this year's Masters champion Bubba Watson. We'll keep you up to date throughout the day here on CNN.

Gary Player is just one of the legendary names that have won at Royal Lytham. And he believes Tiger is a genuine title contender this week, although he's got plenty of competition.


GARY PLAYER, 3-TIME OPEN CHAMPION: Obviously, the thing that wins a golf tournament which he realized every year watching Tiger Woods, the putter is the master, the power of the putter. And this is what young people who deeply want to improve their golf. Don't stay in the practice tee a long time, work on your short game.

But this year there are a host of fellow that I think have got a great chance, because here you have to keep the ball in play. You have to strike the ball well. You have to have great patience. And if you get in a rut, do not get greedy.


THOMAS: A look to the future, combat corruption and usher in a new era of transparency had been hit by a major twist in its controversial past. Mohammed Bin Hammam, the man who was due to stand against Sepp Blatter in last year's FIFA presidential elections, have had his lifetime ban from football overturned. The suspension was annulled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that ruled there wasn't enough evidence for FIFA's ethics committee to punish him. FIFA say it's concerned by the judgment. And despite their ruling still had some strong criticism of the former head of Aegus Football Confederation (ph).


MATTHIEU REEB, CAS SECRETARY GENERAL: The panel is not persuaded that Mr. Bin Hammam is innocent and that he has not committed any violations of the FIFA code of ethics, but in the absence of any direct evidence against him, the panel decided that on the basis of the evidence before it, it could not sanction Mr. Bin Hammam.

It is a situation of case not proven. And the panel has insisted that with such decision it is not making any affirmative finding of innocence in relation to Mr. Bin Hammam.


THOMAS: Well, the chief sports correspondent for the Press Association Martyn Ziegler has been following this story closely. And we got some reaction from him a little bit earlier.


MARTYN ZIEGLER, PRESS ASSOCIATION: They do say it is more likely than not that Bin Hammam was the source of the money that was paid to the Caribbean officials in May last year. What they're saying is that there is no direct evidence to link him with hat. And Bin Hammam has always claimed he's been targeted by FIFA for having the temerity to challenge Sepp Blatter.

THOMAS : How will FIFA react to this decision?

ZIEGLER: I mean, they've expressed their concern. And they said passing (inaudible) there may be another investigation all over again.


THOMAS: Martyn Ziegler from the Press Association speaking to me a little bit earlier.

Now Linsanity will arrive in Texas later when Jeremy Lin is officially unveiled as a Houston Rockets player. The point guard is on the move after the New York Knicks announced they wouldn't match the offer for the 23 year old. The Knicks have until midnight on Tuesday to match Houston's three year $25.1 million proposal, but decided the valuation was too steep.

It won't be the first time Lin has donned a Rockets jersey. He played a couple of preseason games for them last year before becoming an international phenomenon by helping the Knicks turn their season around when he came in as an injury replacement. And the Knicks ended up reaching the playoffs.

Much more on that and the FIFA story as well as an update on the Open golf world on World Sport a little later on today. Kristie, back to you for now.

LU STOUT: A packed day. Alex Thomas there. Thank you.

Now in a little more than a week, the world's top athletes will demonstrate world class athleticism at the London Olympics. But the British medical journal Lancet is reporting on a more disturbing world- class physical phenomenon -- physical inactivity. Now scientists say it is causing one in 10 deaths across the globe.

Harvard researchers say inactivity killed more than 5 million people worldwide in 2008 through heart disease, diabetes, and various forms of cancer. And now public health experts want to treat inactivity as a pandemic, putting it on par with smoking and obesity.

You're watching News Stream. And coming up next, it is all about the Dark Knight here on News Stream. It is the third and final film from Christopher Nolan's trilogy. It premiers around the world. And all you need to know about Gotham's caped crusader after the break.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now The Dark Knight Rises, it finally premieres this week, but the highly anticipated superhero flick has already started to smash box office records even before it's release. We should mention the film is produced by Warner Brothers pictures under Time Warner, also the parent company of CNN.

Now here is Neil Curry with more on the fan frenzy.


NEIL CURRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The final installment in Christopher Nolan's superhero trilogy has been met by overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and expectations among moviegoers are high. After a successful premiere in the U.S. it's the turn of European film fans to meet their heroes as the Batman road show goes international.

The case and crew took part in not one, but two premieres in London alongside the traditional West End opening, they attended a second red carpet at London's BFI IMAX cinema, the biggest screen in the UK. The cinema is booked well into August, has taken $1.5 million in advance sales, and has seen tickets changing hands online for three figure sums.

Such enthusiasm took a darker turn when a rare negative review of the film on the popular online review website Rotten Tomatoes was met by a torrent of abuse, including death threats. The site editor-in-chief disabled comments for the first time in its history and posted a statement saying he was considering ending anonymity for reviews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just such a good franchise. And literally the first two films have been so good that they want the third one to exceed their expectations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Batman is one of those things that's so passionate for so many people. It's from kind of the 1930s when it was created. So many people have a connection to him.

CURRY: We on the red carpet in Leicester Square both the director and the cast are well aware of the high level of anticipation among fans for this film.

Do you identify with the excitement surrounding this film?

MARION COTILLARD, ACTRESS: Well, I've always been a big Batman fan. So I can understand the expectations. When I saw Batman Begins, I though, oh, OK, Batman is back.

ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS: People love these movies so much. And they're so passionate about it. They connect with this. Chris creates some alternative realities, for sure, but it's the reality that we all connect with.

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, ACTOR: My job is to be obsessive about the subject. And all I've been thinking about for the last two years we've making this. So I can kind of relate actually. But it's really thrilling to see the level of interest.

HATHAWAY: You know, they warned me about getting into cars with strangers.

BALE: This isn't a car.

CURRY: With spectacular action scenes, dark plots, and many (inaudible) director Christopher Nolan and his team hang up the cape on a trilogy which has entertained moviegoers for the best part of a decade. But with Superman next up for D.C. comics and a raft of Marvel sequels in the pipeline, filmmakers are banking on fans to continue their passion for comic book superheroes.

Neil Curry, CNN, London.


LU STOUT: Now Christopher Nolan's series of Batman films are known for their more realistic take on the character, attempting to explain just how and why a man can fight crime dressed as a giant bat. But we wanted to take a closer look at just how realistic it is. We broke down the character and asked experts to weigh in on whether a regular human can turn themselves into the Dark Knight.

So let's begin with Batman's body. He has no super powers. He's just an ordinary man. But he is an ordinary man trained to his physical peak and an Olympic class athlete. Now needless to say, that's not easy.


E. PAUL ZEHR, AUTHOR: It would take 100 percent effort to get to be even close to Batman's level of performance. And it would take a long time. In particular if we think about using Batman's martial arts skills as a good example, it would take someone 15 to 18 years to develop the level of training that Batman actually has.


Paul Zehr says that it's not really possible to have every attribute Batman possesses, but in theory it is possible for someone who has unlimited time, money, and the right genetics. So maybe you're not blessed with the right genes, but can you have Batman's gadgets?

Now he's got the bike, the grappling gun, and an armored suit, but everyone always focuses on one thing: is the car real?


ADAM WEINER, AUTHOR: They built four prototypes. It cost them about a quarter million dollars each from what I understand. And they actually did the stunts using the cars. So they had to make them such that they could go up to speeds about 100 miles an hour and could turn corners really tight and accelerate very rapidly. And I believe that they did the jumping scenes with an actual vehicles.


LU STOUT: Now (inaudible) Batman's technology tends to be on the edge of what's possible, close to reality but not readily available. But a bigger problem might be using those gadgets. Now you may have the body, you may have the toys, but that doesn't mean that you can fly.

Now university students in the UK, they have studied the physics of Batman's flight. And they produced this paper, it's called the trajectory of a falling Batman. And the conclusion, Batman's cape would not result in him gliding or flying, but instead plummeting to Earth at over 80 kilometers an hour.


DAVID MARSHALL, AUTHOR: The cape just isn't big enough, that's the problem. If you look at hang gliders, that's the sort of technology you used to guide with a single man, then they're quite large, really, and Batman's cape is around about half the area of a glider.


LU STOUT: So it's simple, make the cape bigger, right? Well, no.


MARSHALL: The main problem he's have is once the cape flops back down again, he has to run around fighting the bad guys with it. It might get a bit tangled up.


LU STOUT: So you need to be genetically gifted, extremely rich, and able to batter bad guys while wrapped in a massive cape. Becoming Batman may be technically possible, but also extremely unlikely. But that doesn't mean you can't use Bruce Wayne's example to turn into a better version of yourself.


ZEHR: If we can consider that we are capable of doing some of the pieces of what Batman represents it raises the bar for what we can do in our normal lives. And I think that it can be very inspirational the idea of pushing yourself to achieve things that, yeah, you're not going to get to the level of Batman, because all the things that are in Batman, there's too much stuff in them.

But there are pieces of it. You know, everybody's got a bit of Batman inside of them that they can latch on to and use and use to improve themselves.


LU STOUT: So while the normal person not be able to become Batman, I guess there's always Robin.

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