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Fighting Near Damascus Military Hospital Forces Cancellation Of Funerals; New Government Reports States TEPCO Unprepared For Any Disaster; Olympic Torch Visits Wimbledon; Colorado Shooting Reignites Perpetual U.S. Gun Control Debate; Flooding In Beijing Kills 37

Aired July 23, 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 China where deadly floods have hit the capital Beijing.

And we go inside a hospital under siege in Damascus as fighting rages across the Syrian capital.

And the Olympic flame winds its way around London. We are just days away from the opening ceremony in London.

Now Beijing is trying to recover from what state media says was the heaviest rain in six decades. 37 people are dead and the cost from flood damage is set to top $1.5 billion. And questions are now being raised about how the Chinese capital handled the flooding.

Now heavy rain had been forecast days in advance. And critics say the government did not employ an emergency broadcast system, set up help lines, or government shelters. Now 2 million people were affected.

Now the floods are part of a wider pattern of severe weather. Beijing's government website says the city is most at risk between late July and early September. And suggest that more storms could be ahead. And rain and strong wind have affected Hong Kong. That is due to the approach of Typhoon Vicente.

But elsewhere, there has been a heat wave. Now that has hit Chongqing and Guangzhou with temperatures likely reaching 39 degrees Celsius.

Now let's get the very latest on the situation in China from Eunice Yoon. She joins us now live from Beijing. And Eunice, just how much anger is there at the disaster and the city's lack of preparedness with these floods?

EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, there is plenty of anger here. Most of the commentary online has been very critical of the government. People have been venting their frustration and complaining that city officials really should have been prepared in this scenario. They said that the weather had been forecast for days, so people should have been prepared.

Now some social media users have also been speculating that the death toll could have been actually much higher than the stated government number. And that really highlights their distrust of the official line.

Now there's one other thing that has been a really hot topic here in China in the wake of this, that then people are talking about the safety of China's infrastructure. It's been exactly one year since the high speed train crash had left dozens of people dead and really raised questions about the quality and the pace of the boom of China's building and modernization drive.

Now people here are saying now really asking the question in this capital how is it that a capital that is supposed to be one of the most modern cities in the world can come apart, really, and shut down in the wake of a simple storm -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, a lot of anger and a lack of faith in government infrastructure projects throughout China. But why did so many people die from these floods in Beijing? Is it the cause of the drainage system, was it forewarning services? What exactly made it so deadly?

YOON: Well, there are a lot of speculation out there about what the causes had been. But so far officials said that they have really admitted that there are some problems that they haven't directly addressed any of the major public concerns. In fact, what we've been reading in the Communist Party papers have been very rosy descriptions about the official response. Most of them have been saying that the way that the government handled the situation was really -- can really be described as a success.

In fact, what the papers are now encouraging people to do is focus on the social stability aspects now in the wake of the disaster as opposed to the disaster itself, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And also the cleanup is under way. I understand that the army has been called in to help drain the water. How is that effort going?

YOON: Well, so far parts of the city are still under water. Traffic is backed up in one area where there was a major expressway closed off, but because of the flooding there are rows of trucks and cars that are still submerged. A paramilitary police have been helping to clear up and remove debris throughout the city. And the fact that some divers actually were called in to try to search for victims. The water got as deep as six meters in some areas.

For the most part, though, the city is starting to return to normal. The airports are back. The subways are back. And for the most part, Kristie, the roads are clear.

LU STOUT: All right. Eunice Yoon with the very latest. Live from Beijing for us. Thank you Eunice.

As Eunice mentioned, there has been an angry response to the floods in China directed at a lack of modern drainage technology. Now Beijing TV news anchor has reacted online expressing her outrage with bitter satire.

Now Hu Zrwei writes this, quote, "the death toll rises from 10 to 37 and you know it's another so-called victory." She goes on to say, "now you know, a swer separates China from the world." Now these posts have been shared over 13,000 times on Sino Weibo.

And China's Global Times is highly critical as well, saying disaster prevention work is a life or death matter.

Now Mari Ramos has been tracking the extreme weather in China. And she has more from the CNN world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, you know listening to all of the criticism coming to the Beijing authorities, but I do have to say one thing: that this rain was extremely heavy. We're talking about 160 millimeters of rain, that's almost an entire months worth of rain that fell in a period of less than 24 hours. When that happens, you are going to have those scenes of disaster and tremendous flooding like the ones that you saw there.

I think that this would have happened, or could have happened almost in any city in the world, unfortunately, when you get this much heavy rainfall. Most of the rain in Beijing has happened during the month of July and during the month of August where they get about 60 percent of their entire year's rainfall that happens in that time. Now can you image in just one day getting an entire month's of rain?

Well, whenever this happens, you're going to have that tremendously heavy flooding. And I'm afraid unless there are extreme preparations for extreme weather, most cities in the world will have a hard time dealing with something like this.

So there's the flooding that happened over the weekend. You see that cold front that was coming through, hot and humid conditions farther to the south colliding with a generally drier air coming in here from the north. The front stretched all the way down even into southern parts of China where they had even more rainfall in some of those larger cities -- some of those other cities I should say. 180 millimeters of rain there.

I think the impact was so widespread in Beijing, because so many people live there. And of course millions of people were affected by the water getting so high. And unfortunately that's a problem that's happening not just in Beijing, but across many cities in China. They are dealing with extreme flooding, in some cases since the beginning of May.

What we're seeing here is the rain easing for areas to the north, fortunately, but our focus is going to turn south now. Heavy rain and strong winds across southeastern China because of an approaching typhoon.

Do we have a live scan for Hong Kong? I want to go ahead and show you. The lights are on there, but you can see still a very difficult to see the buildings. Normally, Kristie, you know we should be able to see the buildings clearly here across the water. And because the rain has been so heavy, that is not the case.

We're talking about Typhoon Vicente. Typhoon eight signal is up for Hong Kong. That means everybody batten down the hatches, stay away from the water. Already winds as high as 86 kilometers per hour have been reported in Hong Kong. And we're expecting the situation to gradually get worse as we head through the overnight hours and into tomorrow.

Typhoon Vicente now has winds of 120 kilometers per hour. The center of the storm is about maybe 100, 150 kilometers south of Hong Kong. So it's already getting pretty close. But you can see these big rain bands of the storm affecting the area. Hong Kong gets a lot more rain than Beijing. And with this storm, you could also get some significant rainfall as it continues to approach southeastern China, maybe up to 15 centimeters of rain now out of the question. The threat for not only for flooding, but also mudslides remains. And expect significant travel delays across this entire region.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Yeah, very significant storm system here. Mari Ramos, thank you very much indeed.

Now coming up next here on News Stream, the crisis in Syria. The Arab League will reportedly offer Syrian president Bashar al-Assad if he gives up power.

Also, mourning the victims: Colorado remembers those who died in last week's movie theater massacre as a suspect is set to appear in court.

And a new report on Japan's nuclear disaster. We'll tell you where it finds fault.


LU STOUT: Now a Muslim holiday is being marred by violence in Iraq. Attacks in and around Baghdad have killed at least 44 people, that's according to the interior ministry. Other sources put that figure as much higher.

Now Iraqi officials say the deadliest incident took place here. Now gunmen targeted a military base with mortars, killing at least 15 soldiers. And a series of explosions rocked Kirkuk. Authorities counted three car bombs and five roadside bombs.

Now other areas also saw bombings. And most struck predominately Shiite neighborhoods.

Now it is the second straight day of such attacks. Bombs killed at least 25 people on Sunday, the second day of Ramadan.

Now Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is being offered a safe exit from his country on the condition that he gives up power right away, that's according to a senior Arab League official. It is the latest attempt by the league to end more than 16 months of mounting violence.

Fiery clashes between regime and opposition forces have now spread to Aleppo, that's Syria's biggest city, and are continuing in the capital Damascus. Activists say at least 19 people have been killed already this Monday. Now that on top of the 111 people killed on Sunday.

Now ITN's Alex Thomas visited a military hospital in Damascus and found it is in the line of fire as fighting spreads in the Syrian capital. Now here is his report.


ALEX THOMAS, ITN CORRESPONDENT: Syria won't let you film the soldiers when they're alive, so the tanks and checkpoints which are the story of the capital today must be filmed in secret here and there. Passing the shell holes and rubble of recent battles, we reach what you are allowed to film, dead Syrian soldiers and their funerals.

Pick a day, any day, and there will be on average around 40 coffins paraded from the grim back doors of the Tashin (ph) military hospital in the northern suburbs of Damascus. Today, there were 53.

But as soon as we arrived, the first exchange of gunfire. The ceremonial band couldn't get here, so the funerals were suddenly canceled. And the gunfire intensified. The hospital now under attack, they said, from rebel fighters. And incoming rounds were clearly audible.

It has come to something when they have to leave around 50 coffins in the back entrance of the military hospital here in Damascus. Why? Because they can't perform the normal rituals and funerals outside today because of incoming fire from militia in this area. Or that's what the soldiers said, and we certainly heard and identified clearly incoming rounds. Far from any funerals happening, the coffins simply loaded onto a flatbed truck to be taken away, the flag of the Assad regime carefully covered over.

By now, sandbagged machine gun nests on the roof of the hospital, would you believe, were firing into the nearby houses. A staff and civilians took shelter. We wondered whether the regime is actually using this hospital as a vantage point and firing post.

What began as (inaudible) small arms fire has now developed into a full scale attack. The people in the hospital say that militia in positions just to this side of the hospital are now attacking it. It seems in a time of civil war, even a hospital is considered a legitimate target.

A relative arrives to take away 22-year-old Mahmoud Abdul Latim (ph), killed doing his military service and takes him from a hospital under fire, belonging to a regime which itself in this war has fired many times on hospitals and indeed used hospitals as bases of torture. But you have to cover the Assad flag even on a coffin: wrong place, wrong time it's a death sentence.

Over central Damascus, a gunship fires in circles at a different location some hours later. At ground level, they queue for hours for petrol. Fighting has closed the road from the refinery, but nobody will talk about it on camera. Fear and suspicion everywhere.

And we found that fear again out on the main road north to Homs. Meet the rebound refugees who fled south from here months ago from Homs to peaceful Damascus. And now they flee the war of Damascus to the relative calm of Homs again. Once more that fear and suspicion, nobody speaks on camera, for in Syria, especially in a time of civil war, you never know who is listening and watching.


LU STOUT: And for the latest on these clashes in Syria, I'm joined by CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom at our bureau in Abu Dhabi. And Mohammed, first of all why the sudden flare up of violence in Aleppo. What does it mean for the uprising?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Kristie, yesterday the Free Syrian Army, the rebel army in Syria. Now its intention to march on Aleppo. They announced their intentions to liberate Aleppo from the grip of the Syrian regime.

We've heard from opposition activists that there have been pitched battles going on there in different neighborhoods. This is the most populated city in the country. It is the commercial hub of the country. And we saw on amateur video today purporting to show urban guerrilla warfare going on. You see a tank there that is on fire. It has been bombarded by rebel Free Syrian Army members. Then you see regime -- military members fleeing the scene.

It's very significant that this is going on in Aleppo now. Aleppo is a traditionally a stronghold for the Bashar al-Assad regime. It is the economic lifeline for Syria and for Bashar al-Assad. And so people have said for quite some time that if the fighting went to Aleppo, that if Aleppo was lost by Bashar al-Assad and his regime, that that would really mean that he was losing his grip on power in Syria.

So it's yet to be known what's going to happen in Aleppo. What we know is that the Syrian regime has been stating that they are ridding that city of terrorists. They are arresting and killing terrorists there. But the Free Syrian Army are saying they are coming there. They are going to liberate that city and they are going to take it away from the grip of power that Bashar al-Assad has on it -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: So we have guerrilla warfare in Syria's biggest city. What is the latest in the fight for Damascus and other flashpoint cities in Syria?

JAMJOOM: Well, this battle for Damascus has been going on for the last week now, Kristie. We keep hearing that the fighting intensifies. Today we've heard from opposition activists that military reinforcements have been sent into that city, that checkpoints have been put up surrounding neighborhoods where Free Syrian Army members have gotten a foothold, that there have been clashes with the Syrian regime there.

We've also seen video today emerging from Telvise (ph). This is amateur video purporting to show shelling on Telvise (ph) that happened earlier today.

Also here is some video that we've seen on social media just in the last couple of hours. It shows two children that have been wounded, this is Rastan, purports to be in Rastan in Homs Province. They apparently wounded due to clashes going on there, one of them sustained injuries to his knee. And they are rushed to get medical care.

So again, today we're hearing at least 19 people killed across the country so far. Take that with what we've heard yesterday. Yesterday, opposition activists saying that at least 111 people were killed across Syria. The situation just seems to be really spiraling out of control -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, and it's really gut wrenching to see that video of the youngest victims of the chaos there in Syria.

Also this day, I want to ask you about the chemical weapons inside the country. We have the foreign ministry spokesman in Syria making this comment on the country's chemical weapons, stressing that Syria will not use them unless Syria comes under foreign attack. So can you tell us more about his comments? And also about the size of this chemical stockpile?

JAMJOOM: There have been so much concern being expressed by members of the international community, particularly the U.S. in the past couple of weeks, in regards to the stockpiles of chemical weapons that the Syrian regime has. Some U.S. officials have told CNN that they believe some of those stockpiles are being moved, that they didn't know if they were being moved in order to being used against opponents of the Assad regime or if they were being moved to protect them because of the violence that was going on in Syria. But it's been a worrying development for the international community.

Well today, Jihad Makdissi was the spokesperson for the Syrian foreign ministry held a press conference in Damascus in which he replied directly to those concerns. Here's more of what he had to say.


MAKDISSI, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: All these talks of these weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possess are monitored, monitored and guarded by the Syrian army. These weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the evidence of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.


JAMJOOM: You know, Kristie, there was a meeting last night by the Arab League in Doha, Qatar. Members there said that they were hoping that Bashar al-Assad would step aside. And in this press conference that was given by Jihad Makdissi earlier today he actually responded to those concerns. He said that if these Arab countries are anxious to stop Syrian bloodshed, they would have stopped arming the terrorists and campaigns against Syria, that all this concern about Syria from Arab countries is actually just hypocrisy -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Damascus still very much defiant. Mohammed Jamjoom reporting. Thank you.

Now you're watching News Stream. We have a world sport update, that is straight ahead as the Big Easy comes from behind to win golf's British Open. Stick around for that.


LU STOUT: Coming to you live from a very stormy Hong Kong, you are back watching News Stream. Now the Big Easy did it the hard way. Ernie Els won the Open Championship on Sunday. And he did it against all odds.

Pedro Pinto is in London. He's got all the details -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORS CORRESPONDENT: I do indeed, Kristie. And the story at Royal Lytham and St. Annes was as much about who won it, Ernie Els, as about who lost it. Becuase Adam Scott quite simply crumbled on the final four holes on Sunday.

The Australian lead the tournament by four shots after the third round and still had that four stroke cushion with four holes to play. But Els, who had started the day six shots back, carded a 68 in tough conditions and went into the club house at 7 under par feeling like he had had a chance to win.

And that feeling proved to be correct as Scott boogied his last four holes. He couldn't even force a playoff by missing that putt. Els wins his fourth career major title, first since 2004. He talked about his achievement with CNN after lifting the Claret Jug.


ERNIE ELS, 2012 BRITISH OPEN CHAMPION: I started early. I always hit by all means so much, but when you get older, I'm 42 now, and not too many people win majors at my age. And it means so much more, it feels so special, you know. You're almost blase in a way when you are young. It seems like, OK, I knew I was going to win and here we go.

When you get older, you gone through the (inaudible) a little like I have, this is so special.


PINTO: Congratulations to Ernie.

History was made at the Tour de France on Sunday as Bradley Wiggins became the first Briitsh cyclist to win the race. The 32-year-old Tear Sky rider entered the final stage knowing he had done enough to clinch the victory, especially after winning Saturday's time trial.

On Sunday, it was another Britain coming out on top, sprinter Mark Cavendish clinching his fourth straight final stage victory at the tour. But of course the man of the moment was Wiggins. The three-time Olympic track gold medalist wins cycling's biggest prize. He finished 2:21 ahead of teammate Chris Froome.

Wiggins' victory shouldn't come as a surprise really. British cyclists have dominated the international competitions in recent years. At the last Olympics, for example, the British team won seven of the 10 track cycling events. In all, they won eight gold medals in cycling at the Beijing games, that's more than any other team had medals overall.

Well, we're just four days away from openings ceremony to the next Olympic games here in London. The favorites to win the gold medal in men's basketball are Team USA. But they didn't really live up to their nickname, the Dream Team on Sunday. Playing in the uniforms that the original Dream Team wore back in 1992, they did have some flashes of brilliance in an exhibition game against Argentina.

Kevin Durant was on fire in the first half, scoring baskets of all shapes and sizes. The Americans had a double digit lead early in the game. Argentina managed to close the gap to five points before a three point play from Russell Westbrook right before the break gave the States a little bit of a larger cushion.

In the second half, Team USA tried to control this contest once and for all. Chris Paul to LeBron James for two of his 15 points. But the South Americans just wouldn't go away. Manu Ginobli with a great play gets the bucket and the foul. And all of sudden it's a four point game.

The Dream Team needed a big shot from downtown from Kevin Durant to seal the deal. He had a game high 27 points. The Americans win by six. Up next, Spain on Tuesday night. That should be a great ball game.

More coverage from the Olympics later this hour with Amanda Davies. That's all from me for now. Back to you, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right, Pedro, thank you.

And just ahead, we'll be looking at Friday's mass shooting in Colorado, it has ignited the U.S. gun control debate once again, but will it result in action or just more words?

And getting to the core of the nuclear crisis, Japanese government report finds fault with the company responsible for the Fukushima Daiichi plant.


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

At least 37 people are dead after severe flooding hit China's capital. State media described it as the heaviest rain in six decades. Torrential downpour lasted 10 hours on Saturday, leaving many Beijing streets under four meters of water.

Now according to one senior Arab League official, the group is offering Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a safe exit if he steps down swiftly and leaves the country. It comes amid escalating violence in the capital Damascus and the country's largest city Aleppo. The Arab League secretary general says action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.

Iraqi officials say at least 44 people have been killed in a series of attacks across the country on Monday. The city of Kirkuk was hit by several bombs, and a motorcycle bomb went off in a marketplace in Sunni dominated Diala (ph). And gunmen attacked a base north of Baghdad, killing at least 15 Iraqi soldiers.

Now a new report on Japan's nuclear disaster at Fukushima heaps fresh criticism on the power station operator TEPCO for being unprepared. The government report is the fourth and final one to last year's nuclear meltdown. It says, "preparations for disaster were insufficient and the response to the crisis inadequate."

Now the city of Aurora, Colorado is trying to come to terms with Friday's mass shooting at a movie theater which left 12 people dead. And the man who stands accused of the crime that traumatized the community and much of the nation will appear in court for the first time later today.

James Holmes is alleged to have opened fire at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. Aurora's police chief says there was evidence he acted with calculation and deliberation. If that is true, then Holmes could face the death penalty.

Now U.S. President Barack Obama was among the thousands paying tribute to the victims in Aurora on Sunday. As Kyung Lah reports, there is much physical and emotional healing left to do in this shattered city.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The city of Aurora took its first tentative steps in what will be a long road to recovery. The city gathering in a prayer vigil, thousands of people gathering in this square, packing it, standing side by side; people all ages, all socioeconomic backgrounds. The prayer vigil began with some victims, people who were inside the theater and family members walking in carrying flowers, carrying balloons and carrying pictures of people who died that day, 12 people who died inside that theater.

The governor, the mayor and religious leaders all spoke at the podium, all sharing the same message that they would acknowledge this crime that they would not allow it to define this city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our city will be stronger and greater because of our adversity. And our citizens and our city will survive, prevail and prosper.

LAH: And throughout this vigil prayers, tears and many hugs shared among all the people in this crowd of thousands. In the words of one of the speakers, quote, let the healing begin.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Aurora, Colorado.


LU STOUT: And many are asking how such a massacre was allowed to happen in a country that has already lost so many to gun crime? Now firearm laws remain a major bone of contention in the U.S. with much debate over the constitutional right to bear arms. Now such laws vary from state to state. Colorado allows its residents the right to carry a concealed weapon with limited conditions.

Now the person buying a gun must be at least 21 years old. He or she must agree to a range of background checks largely related to criminal history and residency status. Now must prove his or her ability to use a gun by taking a course and get a permit from the local sheriff. Now guns purchased in Colorado do need to be registered.

Now while carrying a gun in Colorado is a relatively simple affair, the company that owns the Century 16 theater in Aurora does not allow them inside. And that has prompted a debate of its own. Candy Crowley reports.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is an awful familiarity to the Colorado killings: shock, anger, sadness and the gun control debate.

REP. ED PERLMUTTER, (D) COLORADO: I think this is really a congressional issue that has to be dealt with. You know should we reinstate the assault weapons ban. I think we should.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER, COLORADO GOVERNOR: This person -- if we had -- if there were no assault weapons available, there were no this or no that, this guy is going to find something right. He's going to know how to create a bomb.

CROWLEY: Few expect much more than words.

CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: We talk about this constantly, and absolutely nothing happens because many of our legislators, unfortunately at the federal level, lack the courage to do anything.

CROWLEY: As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama had a record of supporting gun control. He favors an assault weapons ban. He won election despite the opposition of the National Rifle Association, that pro-gun lobby that has sway and money to spend on the campaigns of like-minded candidates.

President Obama has talked very little about gun control. In 2010 the Brady campaign, the most prominent group advocating further gun restrictions, gave the president an F for leadership on the issue.

Mitt Romney signed an assault weapons ban as governor. He opposes it now. And as of last April, almost anything else in the way of gun control.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners.

CROWLEY: Now about the courage thing, congress passed a 10 year ban on more than a dozen kinds of assault weapons in 1994. Months later, Democrats lost the House majority. In 1999...

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate being deeply divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative and the amendment is agreed to.

CROWLEY: Then vice president Al Gore broke a tie in the Senate to pass a bill restricting gun show sales. Gore lost his presidential bid for many reasons, but by 2000 Democrats had concluded that gun control was bad politics.

In the past decade, three things have happened: Democrats have recruited pro-gun candidates in rural areas, the south, and the interior west. The assault weapons ban expired and gun control has faded from the agenda.

Senator Dianne Feinstein sponsored the original assault weapons ban in 1994.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: There has been no action, because there's been no outrage out there. People haven't rallied forward.

CROWLEY: She's right. Even in the face of mass shootings Virginia Tech 2007, Ft. Hood 2009, Tuscon 2011, public support for gun control has dropped. Sunday, as the president flew to visit the grieving families of Colorado his spokesman told reporters the president believes steps can be taken under existing law to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


LU STOUT: Now Candy touched on the frightening familiarity of events on Aurora on Friday. Mass shootings are so frequent in the U.S. that many go largely unreported outside the country's borders.

And earlier, CNN's John Vause touched on that issue with Dan Baum. He's a journalist, blogger, and believer in the right to bear arms.


DAN BAUM, BLOGGER, OUR GUN THING: Well, the biggest mass murder we had in the United States is Timothy McVeigh. And there was no gun involved in that one. I don't think it is very productive to focus on inanimate pieces of metal. We're an odd country. I'm not making excuses for all these mass shootings. We have a problem in this country with violence. I'm not saying we don't. But I think the focusing inevitably on the gun, the gun, the gun is misguided and frankly I think it's harmful, because it divides Americans.

Look, there's 300 million privately owned guns in the United States. There's really not much you can do. And that drives some people crazy to hear that, because we have this impulse. You have a problem, let's apply a solution.

The thing is in the United States we are awash in guns. And we have been for years and years. It's the way our country is. So instead of focusing, obsessing on the gun -- let's ban this gun, let's ban that gun which creates enormous divisions in the United States, waste a huge amount of political time and effort, instead of doing that we should be talking about what is it about us that makes us do this and makes us violent?


LU STOUT: Interesting views. Pro-gun ownership blogger Dan Baum speaking to us earlier there.

Now the U.S. is not just the most powerful country in the world economically, it's also the most heavily armed per capita. Whatever your thoughts on the U.S. gun debate, just visit to read Jonathan Mann's analysis on the issue. You could add your own feedback below.

Now you are watching News Stream. And still ahead, a government report takes TEPCO to task for not doing enough to prepare for possible disaster. And that is not all.


LU STOUT: Now as tensions remain high between Israel and Iran over Iran's nuclear program, CNN's Elise Labott sat down with the Israeli president and asked about concerns that Israel might retaliate. Mr. Peres told her that Israel will do what it can to prevent any violence against its people.


SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: They will hide in the shadow. It's an open war, Iran against Israel. Israel is not threatening Iran, Iran is threatening Israel. It's not a war, it's an unsighted attack.


PERES: We don't...

LABOTT: If you retaliate, Mr. President, are you prepared for the wave of terror that could hit Israeli citizens all over the world? You can't protect every Israeli tourist in every city around the world.

PERES: We don't retaliate. It prevent. We don't do policy of retaliation, we have a policy of prevention.

LABOTT: But this prevention could kill, in effect, many other Israelis.

PERES: Well, when do we prevent? When there is a danger to the life of Israelis, what is the difference. We don't have an initiative of terror. We don't do it. But self-defense is the right and a must of every people, everybody.


LU STOUT: And that was the Israeli president Shimon Peres speaking with CNN's Elise Labott.

Now poor planning and insufficient safety steps contributed to Japan's nuclear crisis, that is the finding of a new government report on the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Paula Hancocks has the latest from CNN Tokyo and she joins us now.

And Paula, we've got fresh criticism for TEPCO and its handling of the crisis. What more did the report say?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, we're expecting TEPCO and also the government, the previous prime minister's administration to come under fire. And they did in this government report. Now effectively what this report said was the reason that this disaster was not predicted was because TEPCO and the government believed in, quote, "the myth of nuclear security."

The report effectively says that the two never entertained the thought that an accident so severe as this could possibly happen at a nuclear reactor in Japan. So they just were not prepared. There was insufficient preparation, there was insufficient training for those who had to deal with the situation once the disaster had struck as well.

And also there was pretty damning assessment of TEPCO today. Now remember the power operator has said that it is trying to improve the situation, but this report said that the plant operator is not aggressive enough in trying to find out the cause of this accident and also not aggressive enough in trying to make sure that it never happens again. So that is a very interesting point.

One of the recommendations the report also makes is that all plant operators do a comprehensive risk analysis to make sure that this can't happen again, not just to look at something like earthquake or tsunamis, but possible flooding, fires, volcanic activity, mentioning that Japan is no stranger to natural disasters -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now interesting wording just then in this report, the so- called myth of nuclear security. And Paula, this report, it comes amid growing anti-nuclear protests in Japan. So what impact will this report have on that movement.

HANCOCKS: Well, certainly the anti-nuclear movement will pounce on that particular statement and pounce on this report as they have on previous reports that have been critical of TEPCO.

Now at this point this movement is growing significantly. These are the type of protests we haven't seen in Japan for probably half a century. The last time we saw significant anger and this amount of people on the streets were in the 60s against the Japan-U.S. Security treaty. So tens of thousands every single week. Their protesting outside the prime minister's office calling for a nuclear free Japan.

Now at this protest on Friday that I went to, I asked many of them what would you have instead? What is the alternative? Many said that they'd rather blackouts to having nuclear power continuing in Japan. Others said that they needed more hydroelectric, more coal fueled power stations, obviously looking further into the future that's something that's more long-term. But many people wanting to make sure that Japan was nuclear free.

LU STOUT: And Paula, you've been reporting on TEPCO and its response to this crisis for well over a year now. And now more than a year since this disaster what are your thoughts about the company? Just how forthcoming is TEPCO about the causes of the accident and how to prevent it from happening again?

HANCOCKS: Well if you look at the report today, then the government commissioned report certainly doesn't think that TEPCO has done enough or is currently doing enough, and not doing enough to necessarily prevent another accident of this kind.

Now TEPCO itself has claimed that it's done an awful lot. And it has put more security and safety systems in place at other plant operators. And certainly we have seen in the TEPCO report even though it tried to exonerate itself of much of the blame that the other three reports piled on it, it did say that it acknowledged the fact that it had been slow to respond and it hadn't responded in a very transparent and open way and there was a confused message that was given publicly.

So TEPCO has acknowledged some mistakes, but clearly there were many mistakes made. But from the report today, it shows that the government at least believed that TEPCO hasn't improved enough, and hasn't improved enough to prevent this happening again -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Paula Hancocks reporting live from Tokyo for us. Thank you.

Now coming up next right here on News Stream, we are counting down to the London summer Olympics, less than a week to go before the opening ceremony. And we are live at the site of the games after the break.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now we are just days away from the start of the Olympic Games in London. And here at CNN we have started out own countdown to the opening ceremony. If you take a look at the bottom right of your screen, you could see how much longer we all have to wait.

Now all eyes will be on London, which has been preparing for this event for the past seven years. Amanda Davies joins us from our Olympic bureau. And Amanda, now we're in the home stretch, so just how ready is London?


Yeah, you said the final countdown really is upon us. Just four days to go until the opening ceremony. And I have to say first of all welcome to CNN's Olympic bureau. This is where we're going to be live bringing you all the news over the next three weeks or so.

But things, yeah, really are very ready. The Olympic transport lanes are up and running across the city. Every lamp post and banner has a sign on it. And the athletes have started now moving from their training camps across the UK into the Olympic Village here in London. We know the South Africa (inaudible) team for example have arrived today.

There were those concerns about the security personnel and whether there's enough security personnel, but they have now drafted in their 3,500 members of the army to help that.

We know of course the Olympic torch landed in quite spectacular fashion on Friday. It's been crisscrossing across the capital the last couple of days. And that now visits Centre Court at the Wimbledon today before it then completes its journey by arriving at the Olympic stadium behind me on Friday.

We have been hearing a few rehearsals for the opening ceremony, I can tell you, Kristie, but they've put big signs up saying please don't ruin the surprise. And so I do feel I can't really tell you anything at all.

LU STOUT: We have the Olympic stadium right behind you. So Amanda, have you had a chance to check out that or any of the other Olympic venues in London?

DAVIES: Yeah, I've been really fortunate, Kristie, actually to be able to wander around the track. And I had my photo taken on the 100 meters finish line inside the stadium. And it really is as spectacular on the inside as it looks on the outside. But that, of course, one of the 34 venues that will host events across the next three weeks.

So we can see a whole host of them from our vantage point here on the balcony. If I can just point you over to this side here, in the distance with the Olympic rings on the front, you can see what's being described as the Pringle, that is the velodrome where Britain's eyes have been on Chris Hoy and whether he can add to his four Olympic gold medals.

Just next to that is what's being described as the mattress, that's the basketball arena where Team USA of course will be hoping to successfully defend their gold medal. That's just a short hop to tower block complex, that is the athlete's village where 1,700 athletes and officials will be staying for the next three weeks looking after athletes every need. Yohan Blake apparently is asking for 16 bananas a day, the Jamaican sprinter to get him through the games.

And then the wings building behind me is the aquatic center, that's where the diving and the swimming will take place. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will be battling out there.

And then of course the spectacular Olympic stadium behind us where the ceremony will take place.

But actually events get underway on Wednesday. The women's football kicks thing off. The preliminary rounds for that before the opening ceremony. It will be 19 days of competition in all.

And there's one man who is going to see more events than most, that's the IOC president Jacques Rogge. And I was lucky enough to catch up with him just a week or so ago. Have a listen.


JACQUES ROGGE, IOC PRESIDENT: I will watch 26 sports. And there's a number of events that I would like to watch in particular, because they are the most iconic events. And I want to see the fight between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake in the sprint. I want to see swimming competition between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.


DAVIES: Well, this Jacques Rogge's final Olympic games as president. And it will mark the end of an incredible Olympics journey for him. It started when he first competed in the sailing back in 1968. It really was an honor to be able to speak to him. And you'll be able to see move of that interview with Jacques Rogge in World Sport later on today at 5:00 London time, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, looking forward to that interview. And before you go, one more question about the overall feel of the games. I mean, we know the games in Beijing and Barcelona and Sydney, they all were very, very distinctive. Do you think the London games have something unique and distinctive to say about the UK? Your thoughts.

DAVIES: Oh, it's difficult, you know, before it started. But there is a great deal of excitement about it. And you know this is the greatest show on Earth. And people talk about that for a reason, because of this great multitude of people from around the world, from all the different sports, coming to compete. Of course, this is London's third games. And they want to make it different. They really want to make a legacy from London, from these games, getting people enthused in sports.

And that was what Jacques Rogge said to me, he felt the biggest challenge for the Olympics going forward. In this day and age of computer games and people watching on TV, he really wants to get people out there and get involved and say, you know what, this is worth doing in your life. Get out there and do it.

LU STOUT: Yeah. And I can't wait to see the opening ceremony due to start on Friday with the director Danny Boyle preceding -- or directing that event. It should be amazing to see. Amanda Davies joining us live from our Olympic bureau there in London. Thank you.

Now we are indeed gearing up to cover the games here on CNN. And we'll have some new toys to cover it with. Now this is a Twitter heat map. I shows you where in the world people are using the hashtag #Olympics in the last 10 minutes. And the more people say it, the more it builds up as bits of color on the map. And it's all part of our coverage of the Olympics over the next month right here at CNN.

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