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Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited; Baumgartner's Flight Details; Malala Yousafzai Moved to Great Britain; Peace Deal in the Phillipines

Aired October 15, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong and welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet. And we begin with Malala, the girl shot for standing up to the Taliban, now on her way to the U.K. for urgent treatment.

The Philippine government signed a landmark deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, aimed at bringing peace to the country's south (ph).

And Felix Baumgartner leaped from almost 40 kilometers up and into history.


STOUT: Now she fought to improve the lives of girls in Pakistan and now she is fighting to save her own. Now 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai is about to arrive in the U.K., where she will receive treatment for being shot in the head by members of the Taliban.


STOUT (voice-over): The attack was a response to a blog Malala had written, defending the rights of girls to get an education. Doctors in Pakistan describe her condition as optimal and that provided a window of opportunity to transfer her to a facility in Britain. Police have detained and questioned dozens of people in an effort to find her attackers.


STOUT: And take a look at this image. This shows a sea of people who turned out in Pakistan's commercial capital of Karachi in support of Malala. It's worth bearing in mind that Pakistan is a country with major disparities between cultures. But this attack in the rural Swat valley has stunned residents of the big cities.

Reza Sayah has more.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fourteen-year-old girls don't usually show up on posters and giant murals in Pakistan. Those are usually kept for prime ministers and politicians.

But in Karachi, Malala Yousafzai's picture was everywhere and so were well-wishers and admirers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are coming here for Malala.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here for Malala.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here for Malala.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Malala Yousafzai.

SAYAH (voice-over): The rally organized by the powerful Karachi-based MQM political party drew thousands, who came to pay tribute to a teenager fast become a human rights icon, a young girl shot by the Taliban just because she dared to speak out against them.

SAMAN JAFERY, SOCIAL ACTIVIST: If Taliban are of a mindset (ph), Malala (inaudible) the mindset of education women, empowered women.

SAYAH: In many of the posters here, you see two names in addition to Malala's, Shazia and Kainat. These were the two other girls who were injured in the attack. But they obviously haven't gotten as much attention as Malala.


SAYAH (voice-over): Doctors say Malala's two friends are going to recover; they have yet to say the same about Malala.

AHMED IFTIKHAR, STUDENT: I wish I can talk to her. And I can just pray for her that -- and we hope and we pray that she get better soon.

SAYAH: Rallies are gathering like this (inaudible) taking place all week. I don't think there's any question this is one of the biggest ones. Obviously you're hearing a lot of support for Malala. But here's what else you're hearing: intense anger and outrage aimed at the tn.

SAAD JAFERY, BUSINESSMAN: I want to crush the people who killed -- who tried to kill the Malala.

SAYAH: You want to crush the Taliban?

JAFERY: (Inaudible), of course.

HAIDER ABBAS RIZVI, MQM PARTY LEADER: We don't want Taliban any more in Pakistan. And after the Malala incident, this is about telling the people of Pakistan, "Stand up."

ASHAR WAQI, STUDENT: The masses, now you can see here, in these people, they are condemning the acts of Taliban.

SAYAH (voice-over): The condemnation was also on a ribbon the length of 20 football fields. "No to the Taliban," they wrote, one by one. Many politicians and commentators here say never has there been so much widespread fury with the Taliban in Pakistan. It's anger many say could be a turning point in the country's fight against violent extremism.

SAMAN JAFERY: Malala has given us a chance. It's a tragic chance, but Malala has given Pakistan a chance to stand up for their rights and to choose which side they want to be on.

SAYAH (voice-over): Reza Sayah, CNN, Karachi.


STOUT: Well, let's get the latest from the U.K.

Atika Shubert is at CNN in London.

Atika, what is known about Malala's condition and how do doctors in the U.K. plan to treat her?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she is, at the moment, we understand, in a stable but still critical condition. And she is now well enough for her to fly. But she remains unconscious and she will be arriving here in Birmingham at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital later this afternoon.

And what she's -- the treatment that she's expected to get is basically rehabilitation for her severe injuries. As we -- as you probably know, a bullet was removed from her neck. That surgery went well. However, a number of the bones in her skull may still need to be replaced and repaired. And that's why she's here.

They're also going to have to look to see what kind of neurological damage has taken place. And clearly any sort of damage of that sort is going to take a long time for treatment. And Britain offered to have her treated at one of the hospitals here and that's why she's coming.

STOUT: Now the Taliban has warned that they will target Malala again. So after she is treated in Britain, what next? Will she go back to Pakistan?

SHUBERT: Well, this is going to be a good question and I think probably when we see these kinds of rallies in Karachi, and the sort of response that we've had in Pakistan, that will have a big impact on whether her family decide to keep her here for a while or bring her back.

But the immediate concern is her rehabilitation. And it is something that could take months if not longer. And it's really going to depend on just how much progress she makes.

STOUT: There was overwhelming support for Malala from around the world. What has been the reaction there in the U.K.?

SHUBERT: Yes, we've had some really outpouring of support from around the world, particularly here in Britain. Obviously with such close ties of Pakistan, former British prime minister Gordon Brown is actually launching a social media campaign, I believe, in the next few days, in order to sort of rally support, not just for Malala but for her cause, which is a girl's right to education.

This is what she spoke out so strongly about. And with this social media campaign, Gordon Brown is hoping to mobilize worldwide support.

But it's not just here. We've also seen support for her from unlikely quarters, celebrities like Madonna reference Malala's case in her recent concert. So she really has become a story, a person, an icon, not just of the -- you know, showing the sort of violence the Taliban is willing to carry out to silence its critics, but for the cause of education for girls.

STOUT: We wish this brave girl the very best as she undergoes treatment there in Britain.

Atika Shubert on the story for us, thank you.

Now Malala Yousafzai's struggle for equal rights has caught the attention of millions around the world. But there are others whose stories are not as well-known. And you can read about the Malalas who we'll never meet by going to (Inaudible) find out why the education of girls remains such a contentious issue in some parts of the world.

Now you are watching NEWS STREAM. And still ahead, a landmark agreement: how officials in the Philippines reached a deal with rebel leaders after decades of fighting.

Plus presidential preparations. Will it be second time lucky for Barack Obama in the next presidential debate?

And a leap of faith pays off. Felix Baumgartner breaks a world record and the sound barrier with his latest freefall.




STOUT: Welcome back. Now in the Philippines, the Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front has signed a landmark agreement with the government. It aims to secure peace in the troubled Mindanao region in the southern Philippines.

The rebel group has been fighting for an independent Islamic state there for the last 40 years. The peace agreement calls for the creation of the new autonomous region of Bangsamoro in Mindanao, and the Philippine president, Benigno Aquino, is optimistic that the deal will, quote, "seal genuine lasting peace."


BENIGNO AQUINO III, PRESIDENT, THE PHILIPPINES: We will give our people what is truly due them, a chance to direct their lives towards advancement in a democratic, peaceful and safe society.

This agreement not only marks a new chapter in our history, it now defines the very path we take as a people, one where opinions are heard and hope is shared, where understanding and consensus breed meaningful solutions for all stakeholders, one where every child is offered the opportunity to shape his own destiny.


STOUT: The terms of the peace deal are due to take effect in 2016. And journalist Maria Ressa joins us now live on the phone from the Philippine capital, Manila.

And Maria, is there a real sense of hope and optimism about this peace plan?

MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there is hope and optimism, but at the same time, both sides have actually emphasized that a lot more work needs to be done because what this agreement basically does is to find a balance between idealism and (inaudible). The MILF commits itself to a prophet that recognizes the Philippine contribution.

They've formally thrown out their demand for independence. That's a big step. In exchange, the Philippine government recognizes its centuries- old fight for freedom (inaudible) Muslim identify. You mentioned the word bangsamoro.

It's an emotionally loaded word for the MILF, that it will become a new region, but not until after going through a process of creating a law and then going through apprenticeship, Kristie.

STOUT: So a lot more needs to be done. But this is a landmark peace plan. Remind us of the toll of 40 years of conflict that led to what happened today. Remind us of what has been lost during all these decades of violence leading up to this announcement.

RESSA: Definitely, definitely. This is a landmark. This is (inaudible), because, you know, even in the hall it's (inaudible), it's standing room only, more than 600 (inaudible) many of them men and women, many of them in their 60s. They worked for peace for most of the past four decades, more than 150,000 people have been killed in that time period.

These men were emotional today, and you could see it. You -- I think both sides see a small window of opportunity, even the Malaysian prime minister, who mediated, help mediate and also was part of the monitoring team on the ground at the military part, said that peace is within reach. And it is a direct quote. (Inaudible) both hands and never let go, Kristie.

STOUT: Now peace is within reach. But a lot of work, as you reported, needs to be done. Power sharing needs to be sorted out; resource sharing as well as disarming the rebels.

Now, Maria, after 40 years of fighting for an independent state, are rebel fighters truly willing to give up their weapons?

RESSA: That is the -- and, again, this is where Philippine President Aquino said it, the devil is in the details. And all of that still need to get ironed out so you get a sense of the uphill battle that is still ahead.

But here's -- this is what I compare it to. You know, in 1996, I was there in Jakarta when the Philippines signed a peace agreement with a much larger, Moro National Libertarian Front. At that time, the MILF splintered off and today it's come to its own deal. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in many ways, is far more organized than the MNLF.

It is -- it has, through the years, actual shadow government in areas where the -- both the Philippine police and the Philippine military have not been able to restore order. So commitment to this process is a big step forward and to see (inaudible) both sides really believing in it, to getting buy-in from constituents on it, and then opening it up to a larger constitutional process, that's also unprecedented.

It's (inaudible) an agreement between the executive and the MILF. And it now is preparing the way for a new law that will define the treaty. And that's (inaudible). Again, much more needs to be done. But there is a lot of buy-in from both sides, something that we haven't seen yet, Kristie.

STOUT: All right, Maria Ressa, great to have you hear on NEWS STREAM. Thank you very much indeed for that. And take care.

Now let's move on from the situation in the Philippines to another diplomatic push as the U.N. and Arab League special envoy in Syria is now in Baghdad following stops in Turkey and Iran.

Lakhdar Brahimi has asked Iran to assist in achieving a cease-fire and is meeting with Iraqi officials on the civil war that's been engulfing Syria. Now he's looking for a way to ease the conflict that has seriously strained relations between Syria and Turkey and threatens to unstabilize (sic) the entire region.

Brahimi is calling for a cease-fire in Syria and a halt to the flow of weapons. Let's get more now from Mohammed Jamjoom in Beirut.

And Mohammed, Brahimi is asking Iran to help broker a cease-fire. Tell us more about this proposal.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, Lakhdar Brahimi has essentially asked for help from the Iranian authorities to help broker this cease-fire. He's calling for a cease-fire between all the warring parties in Syria to take effect during Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha is one of the holiest times in the Islamic year.

It takes place right after Hajj, Hajj quickly coming up upon us in the next 10 days or so. Really hoping to reenergize the idea of some kind of a cease-fire in Syria, amongst the different parties that are fighting there. But the problem is we've seen Brahimi in the past several days really traverse the region, visiting with officials in Saudi Arabia, then in Turkey.

You have Iran and Iraq also on the agenda. But it really hasn't make an impact on the ground in Syria, over the course of the past few days, hundreds more people reported dead, killed in Syria as a result of the clashes there that keep going on in this brutal civil war that's just raging, more and more out of control.

And so even though there is diplomatic support for this call for a cease-fire, you know, we saw the predecessor of Lakhdar Brahimi, Kofi Annan, when he was making tours of the region, when he was the U.N. Arab League joint envoy to Syria, also calling upon regional leaders to help set in place a cease-fire, a six-point plan.

It never really took root, whether or not this will take root, yet to be seen. But it doesn't seem to be having any kind of an impact on the ground in Syria where it counts the most at this stage, Kristie.

STOUT: (Inaudible) as you mentioned, the fighting inside Syria just continues to drag on with what has been described as intense clashes in Aleppo. Can you tell us more about the situation in that city?

JAMJOOM: You know, Kristie, oftentimes we talk so much about the human toll and the amount (sic) of deaths per day in different parts of Syria because of the civil war there. We got another face of what was going on there in the past couple of days, especially in Aleppo. The clashes, yet again, intense between the rebel Free Syrian Army forces and the Syrian regime forces.

Now yesterday there were reports throughout the day that one of the most culturally rich and historic sites in all of Aleppo had been damaged quite extensively, according to opposition activists, because of the fighting. They were talking about the Omayyad Mosque in Aleppo. This is a mosque that dates back to the 12th century.

It's one of the most renowned and considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the Islamic world, one of the oldest in Syria. We saw amateur video posted online yesterday purporting to show a fire that had broken out inside at least one portion of the mosque. We also saw amateur video. Of course, we can't independently verify this video.

But we saw amateur video purporting to show a rebel Free Syrian Army member walking throughout the inside of that mosque, showing the damage that had occurred because of what he described as shelling that had happened throughout the day because of clashes between the warring factions there in Aleppo.

This just goes to show how these very rich culturally significant sites in Aleppo have been and remain in danger over the course of the fighting there these past few months. Contradictory reports, even to this hour, as to who exactly maintains control of that site.

We've heard from different activists and different groups throughout the parts of yesterday and today, some hours they say that the Syrian regime is back in control of that site; other hours, they say, no, it's the rebel Free Syrian Army members that are in control of that site.

Nonetheless, it does appear that there have been some significant damage to a site as culturally rich and significant as the Omayyad Mosque in Aleppo in the past 48 hours, Kristie.

STOUT: Yes, some very traumatic (ph) footage there from YouTube, the aftermath of the fighting over the weekend. You're also covering the regional fallout of the violence inside Syria. We know that Turkey has grounded another plane bound for Syria. What happened here?

JAMJOOM: Well, this looks like more of an enforcement of an air blockade that's being enforced by Turkey against Syria right now. Now, unlike the incident that happened just a few days ago, where there were F- 16s that escorted a Syrian plane, made sure that it landed in Turkey so that it could be searched; it was en route from Moscow to Damascus.

This seems to be different. We're hearing from Turkish foreign ministry officials that, in fact, this is an Armenian cargo plane, that it looks like it was agreed to before, that this would land in Turkey so that it could be searched.

The Armenian foreign ministry telling CNN that this had humanitarian aid materials on board this plane, that it had asked for overflight permission from Turkey to enter Turkey's airspace so that it could fly over and go into Aleppo and deliver this aid. What we know at this hour is that the plane is being searched.

But again, this does look as though Turkey is really taking very seriously this enforcement of this air blockade against Syria, Kristie.

STOUT: Mohammed Jamjoom reporting, thank you.

You're watching NEWS STREAM. And coming up next, the man known as "Fearless Felix" lives up to his nickname. (Inaudible) record-setting supersonic skydive.



Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.

Now it was a death-defying jump watched by millions around the world. Skydiver Felix Baumgartner stood 39 kilometers above the Earth, leapt and landed in the record books. And here is how it happened.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time, we have begun balloon inflation. Capsule systems are green. Instrumentation is green. Payload's green and medical systems are green.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the release. And there's the applause, a successful rise.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER, STRATOSPHERE JUMPER: Just sitting there, you thought about that moment so many times, you know, how it would feel and how it would look like. And this is way bigger than I anticipated.


BAUMGARTNER: (Inaudible). (Inaudible). (Inaudible).

I had it under control when I went off. It had a bit of a slow (inaudible). And then it started spinning so violent. It spun me around in all different (inaudible), you know. When you travel at that speed, with that suit -- and it's pressurized -- you don't feel the air at all. So it's hard to predict what you have to do. I really had a hard time to get it under control.


(Inaudible) new world record holder.



STOUT: And that may have been Baumgartner's last big leap. He plans to become a helicopter rescue pilot. Now Baumgartner's supersonic skydive has set three new records, one for the highest manned balloon flight; another for the highest skydive and, of course, the fastest skydive.

But his freefall of four minutes and 20 seconds, it failed to break the longer freefall record held by his mentor, Joe Kittinger. Now Kittinger jumped from 31 kilometers back in 1960 and helped prepare Baumgartner for his giant leap and was the main point of radio contact during the mission.

CNN's Brian Todd spoke to both of them earlier this year.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell the average Joe out there what it's like to go 600-plus miles an hour with nothing but a suit on?

COL. JOE KITTINGER, USAF (RET.): There's no way you can tell how fast you're going because there's no visual cues.

TODD: Right.

KITTINGER: The only way you know how you're going fast is you've got enough timbre (ph) that's unwinding real fast and you know you're going down in a hurry, but the force on the body remains the same.


STOUT: Organizers say that initial readings show Baumgartner fell faster than 1,300 kph at one point, or Mach 1.24. He's the first person to break the sound barrier with his body in a freefall.

Former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao says this project could advance space travel technology.


LEROY CHIAO, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Really, what this has done for the space industry is it's pushed the boundaries of spacesuit and pressure suit technologies. So you're seeing things that went into building this pressure suit, I think, that will be applied to future pressure suits for spacecraft, as well as electronics.

The telemetry, the sensors that could record the suit parameters and the parameters of the individual inside, and record those and also send them down.

So all in all, this was a great project, plus it's just very cool.



STOUT: I'd agree to that.

Now for his part, Felix Baumgartner says his suit is like a cast, and he could not tell how fast he was going. Now Baumgartner also says he did not feel a sonic boom on his way down.

Baumgartner's big accomplishment came on a significant date. Sunday was the 65th anniversary of the first flight to break the sound barrier. Test pilot Chuck Yeager did it in this experimental plane. And now at the age of 89, he did it again.

On the flight, it took Yeager over the Mojave Desert, the same place he flew back in 1947. He says he is grateful that the U.S. Air Force gave him a brand new F-15 fighter jet this time. Yeager's original aircraft dubbed the "Glamorous Glennis" was very different.


GENERAL CHUCK YEAGER, USAF (RET.): The X-1 was a rocket. It burned liquid oxygen and alcohol. And it also had to be dropped from a B-29 at 25,000 feet. And it was a research airplane. It -- you couldn't use it for combat or something like that.


STOUT: And thanks to Yeager's historic flight, today's fighter jets can easily break the speed of sound.

Still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, the second showdown: Romney and Obama prepare for round two of the presidential debates. So what can we expect?

And all eyes on China. Take a look at some of the challenges ahead for Beijing. Stay with us for a preview of a new CNN series.




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


STOUT (voice-over): Now the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban is about to arrive in the U.K. to be treated for her wounds. Malala Yousafzai was attacked on her school bus last week in response to her blog encouraging girls to get an education.

After decades of trying to set up an independent state, the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines has signed a landmark peace agreement with the government. President Benigno Aquino says it will create the new autonomous region of Bangsamoro in the troubled Mindanao region of the southern Philippines.

The capitalist of the Costa Concordia cruise ship is in a court in Italy ahead of a possible trial for manslaughter. Thirty-two people were killed when the luxury liner hit rocks off the Italian coast in January. Prosecutors say that Francesco Schettino was sailing too fast and too close to the shore. He is suing his former employer for wrongful dismissal.

And the leaders of Britain and Scotland have signed a deal paving the way for a ballot on Scottish independence. U.K. prime minister David Cameron is Scotland's first minister (inaudible) have agreed to hold a referendum in 2014. Now a vote for independence would mean the breakup of Great Britain after more than 300 years.


STOUT: U.S. President Barack Obama and the man who wants his job, Mitt Romney, are preparing for their rematch and will hold their second of three presidential debates on Tuesday. And audience members will ask both candidates questions on foreign and domestic issues.

Jonathan Mann takes a closer look at whether this town hall-style format will work in Mr. Obama's favor or Romney's.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The presidential candidates take the stage again on Tuesday for their second debate. If you watched the first and are expecting more of the same, don't. This debate will be town hall-style, which means it will have carefully selected undecided voters in the audience asking the questions.

It's a format with some key differences that offer a whole new set of advantages and disadvantages for each candidate. One thing to look for, for example, is more personality and empathy from the debaters. The town hall format allows viewers to see the candidates talking directly to voters and interacting with ordinary people.

Mitt Romney has been holding many more town hall-style campaign events leading up to the next debate, but a number of polls show voters feel Barack Obama is more in touch with the concerns of average middle class voters, just like those who'll be at the town hall debate.

So on this point, maybe call it advantage Obama.

Another thing you may notice: fewer attacks. Town hall questioners tend to focus on the issues and some in the past have even scolded candidates when they've gone negative.

That could be a disadvantage for Romney, who came out swinging, you may recall, and that's the first debate, but also for Obama. And supporters had hoped he might be more aggressive this time. A disadvantage for both debaters, so call this one a draw.

The next thing to watch for: the undecided voter. You hear a lot about them but rarely get to hear from them. By definition they're undecided because they're not entirely pleased with the current administration. That's a disadvantage for the incumbent, so maybe an advantage for Romney.

Finally, look for those unexpected, unpredictable moments that reveal more about a candidate than any moderator's question can.

George H. W. Bush, checking his watch and appearing bored in 1992; Al Gore invading George W. Bush's personal space and appearing overly aggressive in the year 2000; and pointed questions that can keep candidates on their toes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision and what you did to create -- to correct it. Thank you.

MANN: And then there's the possibility that someone will ask the candidates their pizza preference. I'm not kidding -- not really. The Pizza Hut restaurant chain is offering free pizza for life to any questioner who asks whether the candidates prefer sausage or pepperoni topping.

Markets experts and political operatives are all frowning on the publicity stunt, saying it threatens to cheapen the process. And besides, really, anyone willing to use their once-in -a-lifetime presidential debate appearance to ask about pizza in front of millions of people might want a little more than free food in return.


STOUT: Jonathan Mann there.

Now President Obama is looking to rebound from what many said was a lackluster performance at the first presidential debate.

And CNN's political director, Mark Preston, joins us now from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York -- that's the site of Tuesday's debate.

Mark, good to see you.

President Obama, after that widely panned first round, how ready is he for round two?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he's in Williamsburg, Virginia, as we speak right now, Kristie, trying to prepare for this debate. His advisers, even him -- even the president himself has acknowledged he did not perform very well two weeks ago.

After that performance, we saw him drop in the polls, not only nationally but in the key nine battleground states that he and Mitt Romney are running in right now. President Obama needs a strong performance on Tuesday night here in New York. Mitt Romney is hoping to capitalize on how well he did in (inaudible) debate, Kristie, two weeks ago.

STOUT: We heard from Jonathan Mann just moments ago earlier about the town hall format and how it encourages more connection with the audience, less attacks. So which candidate do you think will perform better in the town hall on Tuesday, Obama or Romney?

PRESTON: Well, it seems that President Obama seems more at ease when he's speaking before large crowds. We saw that back in 2008 when he was running for president. We've also seen him do that on the campaign trail this year.

It's going to be interesting about this town hall debate, Kristie, is that the candidates are going to be sitting at high chairs. They're going to be able to get up from the chairs and to walk around the stage, perhaps walk right up to the questioners themselves while he's answering the question, perhaps walk out towards the audience.

So it will certainly give a different feel than what we've seen from the two previous debates, the vice presidential debate last week as well as the presidential debate two weeks ago. We also know this, that Mitt Romney will get the first question in this 90-minute debate.

So very well he might try to frame the debate right from the get-go. We also do know as well that most of the questions will be coming from the audience, Kristie.

STOUT: In the immediate aftermath of the first presidential debate about two weeks ago, we saw Obama slip in the polls. But as we head into the debate this week, Mark, where does the race stand now? Who has the upper hand?

PRESTON: Well, right now, President Obama still has the lead, although it has been chipped into. In many ways we've seen Mitt Romney make serious gains.

Now when we talk here in the U.S. about the race for president and we talked about national polls, that's interesting. But really what it matters is in the nine battleground states, states such as Nevada and Colorado, Ohio, Florida, up in New Hampshire, Iowa, Virginia. These are all the states right now where the candidates are focusing on.

And that's where we're going to see their surrogates today. We'll see Paul Ryan, who is Mitt Romney's running mate. He will in Ohio today, as will Michelle Obama. So we'll see the candidates focusing in on these states.

So when we do talk about race, we shouldn't really talk about it in the totality of what's happening here in the United States, but specifically what's happened in these battleground states and what we've seen is that these polls have gotten very, very tight, Kristie.

STOUT: And when they do speak in this debate, the candidates will be speaking to an audience of undecided voters. And we talk about undecided voters a lot. We'll finally get a chance to see them and to hear from them. Among them, which issue is their number one concern?

PRESTON: Well, it comes down to the economy and it has been that way since 2008, since the last presidential election. The economy is number one. It far outdistances any other issue. Now I do have to add to that, though, when you add in the housing market, when you add in the stock market, when you add in unemployment numbers, that all kind of goes into the whole concept of the economy.

Right now, the unemployment rate nationally is 7.8 percent here in the United States. So the economy is not only a huge issue here in the United States, we do know it is a global issue as well, and we do know that for the economy to do better around the world, it has to start here in the U.S., Kristie.

STOUT: All right. Mark Preston, live in New York for us, thank you.

And we will have extended coverage as CNN's Candy Crowley moderates the second U.S. presidential debate. And you can watch it live, starting at 8 o'clock Wednesday morning here in Hong Kong, right here on CNN.

Now the world's biggest political party is also preparing for its own November of change. Next month, the Chinese Communist Party will begin its once-in-a-decade transition of power. But the leadership is facing a number of challenges during this critical time, including the Bo Xilai scandal.

So what does the fall of this once-favored son mean for the party?


JOHN POMFRET, AUTHOR: I think that it indicates that we're entering a new period of uncharted waters, where China's going to face an enormous amount (sic) of challenges, challenges from very charismatic and populaced figures like Bo Xilai, challenges from the bottom up for people demanding more predictability in their lives, a legal system that will protect their property.

And I think the Bo case is another example of this eruption and the end of this period of remarkable political stability. And I think politics will now be very important. And the new leadership deals with politics is going to be an enormous --

STOUT: But how does the Bo Xilai scandal expose the lack of unity in the party? I mean, one could just see it as the transgressions of one politician, of crimes committed by his wife. Why would it threaten the legitimacy of the party?

VICTOR GAO, FORMER TRANSLATOR FOR DENG XIAOPING: Well, I would say there are several implications from the Bo Xilai scandal. One is that corruption is rampant in China and the government in China, the Chinese nation, as a nation, need to deal with that because if corruption remains unabated, it may become a major threat.

STOUT: Huang, I know you've been committing on the Bo Xilai scandal to your millions of Weibo followers and your blog readers.

HUNG HUANG, PUBLISHER AND TV HOST: I think the Bo Xilai story was scary, because to some extent the Chinese, some of us, have kind of lived with the idea that the cultural revolution is a thing of the past, that no one in China will be crazy enough to go the populist route, to recreate a political movement that turned the country upside down, so much suffering.

So, you know, people will think that you learn from history. That was -- that that was bad; we don't -- but the Bo Xilai thing seemed to have hit a very sensitive note in the Chinese memory and psyche, to say that actually people actually are thinking about taking that route. And that is really scary.


STOUT: Three perspectives there on Chinese political scandal and stability. And that's just a few moments from a wide-ranging convention "On China," as John Pomfret, Hung Huang and Victor Gao push back the veil on China's Communist party. Our new monthly show, it starts on Wednesday; it airs at 5:30 pm here in Hong Kong.

Now time for a check of the global forecast. Strong storms and possible tornadoes along the central Mediterranean today. Details now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the World Weather Center.


MARI RAMOS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Kristie, this is quite a storm system that continues to just bring some very heavy rain. And like you said, even the potential for some severe weather. We had severe weather already in the last 24 hours around, you know, 24 hours ago in Marseilles. There was even a tornado reported that injured 20 people there.

Then this right here is a picture, pretty impressive picture, from Athens, dark skies. Look at that. It almost looks like some kind of Greek tragedy developing or something. It almost looks surreal, like a movie set. But, no, this is a real picture, taken in Athens and you can see there the Acropolis in the background.

Part of this large weather system that continues to just pummel this area here along the central Mediterranean. I want to go ahead and just get right to it. This line of strong storms that continues to develop here, stretching anywhere from northern Italy all the way down, even almost close to North Africa, will continue to trail along here and some strong storms could develop.

The strongest could actually be here as we head out into southern Italy and Sicily. But notice as we head back over toward Tunisia, even possible some storm, strong storms there. And all the way here across southeastern Europe, the possibility of that nasty weather.

I think in France and Spain you're pretty much in the clear here as most of the action will continue to trail a bit farther to the east than you. And you can see it right over here; already the strong storms that are starting to develop just offshore here, this is headed your way in Sicily and then back over toward Italy.

And then remember that we could see significant travel delays, the possibility of flooding and, like I just showed you, the possibility of even strong winds and tornadoes. If you see tornadoes, you need to take shelter immediately.

You can see right over here, that area of low pressure that continues to trail along, well ,that has given way to something else kind of interesting. Aqua alta, or the high water -- this is a picture of St. Mark's Square. Look at that, Kristie. This is in Venice. The water got to about 105 centimeters this time.

It is the first time that we get the high water or the aqua alta so far this season in October. It tends to be the beginning of the aqua alta season. It happens when you get strong winds pushing into the bay there in Venice. And this time, like I said, we were about 105 -- at 110 you get about 12 percent of the city that actually floods. This time, 105, so a lot better.

But you can see the list goes on and on. And once you get to about 140 centimeters, which fortunately does not happen very often, that's when you get about 90 percent of the city that could actually flood.

And in just a moment, I'm going to go ahead and tweet something pretty interesting about the aqua alta in Venice. There's an app for that, Kristie. You can actually download it on your phone and see when the high water is expected to reach or expected to affect the city of Venice, which is one of my favorite cities.

Very quickly over here, we're seeing temperatures moderating somewhat; of course, as the rain comes through, the temperature will be somewhat cooler.

We will take a quick break right here on NEWS STREAM. (Inaudible) will be right back in just a moment (inaudible).




STOUT: Welcome back. You're watching NEWS STREAM.

And earlier, we showed you the records Fearless Felix Baumgartner broke in his skydive. And later we'll show you another amazing video. But this time of a jump gone wrong.

But now, it's time for sports. And Formula 1's Korean Grand Prix. Now with just four races remaining the race for the driver's championship is heating up, with the defending champion making his move at just the right time.

Amanda Davies is here with the full recap.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kristie. We'll move to events on the track in a moment, but it's actually been a very busy news day with Formula 1, because the Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has been forced to come out and strongly deny that the two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will be moving to Ferrari in 2014.

There have been stories that the German would be joining up with Fernando Alonso of the prancing horse in (inaudible) Felipe Massa but (inaudible) come out saying that without a doubt Vettel will be at Red Bull in two seasons' time. And Vettel, of course, has been celebrating, moving back to the top of the Formula 1 standings after victory at the Korean Grand Prix on Sunday.

He started from second behind his teammate, Mark Webber to claim his third win in three races and move ahead of Alonso at the top of the standings. You'd think both (ph) McLaren drivers are now out of the hunt for the race, so (inaudible).

And Lewis Hamilton finished back in 10th. So it was Vettel that took the second flag ahead of Webber with Alonso in third. The German now six points ahead of his Spanish rival with four races of the season to go.

So from Korea, it's on to India and this is how the standings are looking, Alonso insisting he does still hold out hope of winning his third world championship title. But it looks (inaudible) remaining races will suit the Red Bulls better because of the warmer conditions for the running.

Now some tennis news and Novak Djokovic (inaudible) some revenge of Andy Murray for a defeat in the U.S. Open final on Sunday with a thrilling victory in the final of the Shanghai Masters in China. He came back from five match points down to beat the British number one in three sets. It really was sensational.

Have a look at this. Murray was the two-time defending champion in Shanghai and, of course, has beaten Djokovic in both of their previous two meetings. And from the outset, (inaudible) was always going to be a battle of tensions were really running high. An unforced error from Djokovic lengthened the first set for the third taken frustrations out in some style on his racket.

Murray went on to take first set 7-5; the second just as tight, with both players trading blows all the way, really was some box office (inaudible) to remember. This time, this point, it was Djokovic who came out on top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) Djokovic, what are you (inaudible)?

DAVIES: Murray had a chance to take the match but couldn't convert. It went through the tie break and Djokovic took that after an epic 20 minutes. So into the third set, Djokovic with the momentum (inaudible) broken a seventh game to go (inaudible) and went on to take the match and his fifth (ph) title of the year.

Sensational themes, Kristie. It's difficult me -- for me to follow that with anything else, so I'm just going to hand over to you.

STOUT: Yes, (inaudible) after that forced error, Djokovic was able to earn it all back.

Amanda Davies there, thank you.

Now the British prime minister, David Cameron, has signed off on a plan that would pave the way for a referendum on Scottish independence. Now a vote in favor could see Great Britain broken up after more than three centuries.

Matthew Chance has been following this story. He joins us now live.

Matthew, how many people, first of all, how many people in Scotland actually want independence?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment, it seems they're nowhere near a majority. The latest opinion polls suggest that about 28 percent of people in Scotland would vote no to independence if the vote were to be put them tomorrow.

But of course, that's not going to be the case. So what's been agreed today in Edinburgh, with the signing of this historic agreement for an independence vote, is an agreement that the vote will take place in two years from now, in the autumn of 2014.

It's important symbolically, that date is, for Scottish nationalists, because it represents the 700th anniversary since the Battle of Bannockburn, which is a famous or infamous victory by the Scots over the English. And so it's, as I say, important symbolically for them.

But perhaps more crucially, it gives the Scottish nationalist party those campaigning for an independent Scottish state, for -- gives them two years to try and convert public opinion. And so that's what they're going to be depending on.

The big -- the big victory, though, from the point of view of the unionists, the campaigners, the political parties that want to keep Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, is they've managed to negotiate down this referendum to a single question, a simple yes or no: does -- should Scotland stay within the United Kingdom or not?

And that's an argument at the moment, at least, the unionists, who want to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom, think that they can win.

STOUT: And we shall see. Matthew Chance on the story for us, thank you.

Now it has been some 50 years since the Cuban missile crisis. And up next, we visit the Cuban countryside, where the Soviets secretly stored their nuclear missiles half a century ago. For one farmer's family, that place was called home.




STOUT: Welcome back. Now the Cuban missile crisis had the world holding its breath for 13 days in October 1962, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union just barely avoided war over secret nuclear missile sites. And now half a century later, Patrick Altman takes us back to the place at the center of the conflict.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You don't get much more off the beaten track than Omar Lopez's farm in the Cuban countryside. And a half a century ago, the farm's remoteness brought a Cuban military commandante to Lopez's doorstep.

OMAR LOPEZ, CUBAN FARMER (through translator): He told my father that they needed the farm for strategic reasons, for what he said was a military problem.

OPPMANN (voice-over): For packing up immediately, the Lopez family received a new, bigger farm. Their old land became one of the secret sites that housed Soviet nuclear missiles.

Omar takes us out to see what's left of the Soviet camp by mule.

LOPEZ (through translator): There were a lot of them. I can't remember if it was five or six barracks of soldiers.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Now nature has retaken the once sprawling missile base.

LOPEZ: So here, in the middle of the jungle, are some of the last visible remnants of the huge Soviet base that was once here. And we don't know what this building was, but it looks like it was one of the huge hangars that they actually stored the missiles in.

And here, some of the farmers in the area, have repurposed these enormous concrete supports and have actually used them to create a pen to keep their pigs in.

OPPMANN (voice-over): From here, we continue on foot and find a missile launch pad with a faded plaque, marking how close the world came to nuclear war.

OPPMANN: It was over this area 50 years ago that U.S. spy planes caught the first glimpse of Soviet nuclear missiles. The photos they took within just a few days would catapult much of the world into a panic.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Omar said a news blackout meant he had no idea the missiles, like the ones on their old farm, nearly caused the U.S. to invade Cuba.

LOPEZ (through translator): We were lucky there wasn't war. After the atomic bombs and the sickness that would have come, there would not have been a single Cuban left and there would not have been many of you left, either.

OPPMANN (voice-over): To avoid war, the Soviets removed their missiles and troops. So Omar's father went to the same Cuban commandante with a request.

LOPEZ (voice-over): The commandante said, "If I gave you a bigger farm, why do you want to go to a smaller one?"

My Dad responded, "You gave me a bigger farm, but that's not my farm. My farm is the little one and that's where I want go back to."

OPPMANN (voice-over): The Lopezes returned to raise pigs and chickens on their old land, which is once again a peaceful place -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, near San Cristobal, Cuba.


STOUT: And before we go, we want to share a video that you just have to see to believe.


STOUT (voice-over): Here you can see base jumper Richard Henriksen spinning on a high bar and then things go wrong. The equipment breaks; he is sent spiraling down that 1,200-meter cliff. Now another view makes look as if he's doomed. But somehow Henriksen, he activates his parachute just in the nick of time and he lives to tell the tale. Now this jump was being filmed for Norwegian television.

Must-see TV. And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.