Return to Transcripts main page
Latest from Syria; More Demonstrations in Greece; Foiled New York Terror Plot
Aired October 18, 2012 - 08:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 in Syria, where rebels are upping their fire power to try to combat the Syrian army's aerial forces.
More demonstrations in Greece. Key leaders continue to look for a solution to the financial crisis.
And English footballer John Terry has apologized for using racially abusive language and will not appeal his ban.
STOUT: The battle for Syria is not just being fought on the ground. It's increasingly being waged in the skies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT (voice-over): Dramatic amateur video shows a Syrian military helicopter plunging toward the ground. And before it hits, it explodes midair. Syrian rebels claim that they shot it down on Wednesday.
Opposition activists say Syrian government forces have launched a fierce counteroffensive with airstrikes and heavy artillery. The military is trying to regain control of the main highway linking Damascus to the north. But it's facing a rebel force and may be getting stronger and more coordinated.
And as the conflict escalates, the international envoy in Syria warns it could potentially set the entire region ablaze. Let's bring in Nick Paton Walsh in Beirut, Lebanon.
And, Nick, first more on Syria's rebel forces. Are they gaining strength?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, it's incredibly dangerous, difficult, even, to define trends or moments of impact in this long months-long stalemate over conflict, brutal as it's been.
But recent successes by rebels in the north in particular have many observers led to state that they think the story of the rebel movement has gone from being one of chaos, dissent and ineffectiveness to perhaps showing signs of cohesion, and that they're growing stronger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (voice-over): A scene becoming more common in Syria, rebels assaulting the once impenetrable walls of regime bases.
Flourishes of rebel success in the past week that have kept coming like this bid to cut off the main arterial road north, isolating the main cities of Idlib and Aleppo, leaving some observers asking whether the rebels are finding new ways to hit a weakened enemy harder and perhaps, just maybe, break a long stalemate.
JOSHUA LANDIS, SYRIA ANALYST: We've seen the Syrian opposition getting stronger and stronger. It is getting new techniques for taking down Syrian airpower. What we have seen is type B (ph) insurrection, as they call it, which is hit-and-run strikes, terrorism, assassinations.
The Syrian free army or the militias have not yet been able to take on the Syrian army head-to-head. But that day, I think, is coming closer all the time.
WALSH (voice-over): A time, perhaps, heralded by these --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).
WALSH: -- jets (ph) brought down apparently by rebel fire. Helicopters, too, this one over Idlib.
Activists say their estimates show that over half the aircraft downed in this war were in the last month. This isn't just about rebel morale; control of the skies is key to holding on to Syria itself.
It's unclear whether these are behind their new luck; probably a Russian-made SA-7 surface-to-air missile. Rebels have long begged outsiders for these, but may have instead had more luck looting them from captured bases.
One commander in the besieged southern city of Homs envies rebel success in the north.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).
WALSH (voice-over): "In the north, Assad has his arms cut off," he says. "Idlib is mountainous with trees; rebels can use anti-aircraft weapons with ease. They can hit tanks, as the ground there is helpful to them."
You can hear the bombardment behind him; the pressure's still on. But scenes of success, which used to be so rare and short-lived are now more common, answer (ph) questions as to how long the regime's military supremacy will last.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Incredibly hard to define tipping points in this conflict, partly because (inaudible) ground, partly because it really, if the rebels we're seeing conditions on the ground change in their favor, often their communication is so poor they may not be able to actually act upon that. But certainly in the past weeks, we have seen slight signs of their continued success, Kristie.
STOUT: And, Nick, on the diplomatic front, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is there in the region. What is the latest on his campaign for a cease-fire in Syria?
WALSH: Well, it appears on surface to be building in international momentum (ph). Iran, a key backer of the Assad regime come forward and say they would back this idea.
Then just over seven days from now, during Eid al-Adha holiday, religious holiday, that rebels and regime soldiers would lay down their arms. And that will, perhaps, form the platform for a forthcoming political process.
Lakhdar Brahimi is currently in Jordan and it's been announced that he will meet the Syrian foreign minister on Saturday morning. He may actually arrive in Damascus a little earlier. Some people are suggesting. But it's really key here to point out the world's sides (ph) are saying they're pro this process. It may just be because they don't want publicly to knock it down.
It's going to be an incredibly hard job to get the violence you've just seen in that report on the ground to stop at the same time in just over a week from now. These groups not necessarily communicating so well with each other; most sides at some point have wanted to see the other be the first to initiate any kind of peace.
I think, really, many people are looking to this to perhaps put diplomacy back in the headlines when, really, it's the violence on the ground that will dictate where this goes, Kristie.
STOUT: And, Nick, a troubling story here; human rights activists are reporting at least 28,000 people have disappeared since the beginning of the uprising.
Can you tell us what's going on here?
WALSH: It's enormously complex situation. Human rights activists saying they've collected a list of 18,000 names they're pretty sure of, of individuals who they say have -- meet the status of someone who has disappeared.
Now the situation on the ground is incredibly complicated. There are so many people who have left as refugees; so many have been killed, 30,000 according to many counts. And of course people reunited eventually with their families.
So concrete figures are very hard and the 18,000 has also been complemented by other activists who say as many as 80,000 may also have disappeared, too. So hard to get concrete figures.
But listen to this particular story from one man, Annas (ph), who lost his brother, one of the disappeared.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNAS (PH) (from captions): I don't forget her -- we cry. We are living a tragedy. How can I explain? My daughter, my brother.
We are homeless. We didn't do anything. I lost a part of me, a part of my body, I lost someone I used to see every (obscured by graphic). I used to live with him and I lost him. It would be so hard hearing that (obscured by graphic), but still better than living in this (obscured by graphic).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: A campaign group that was behind that footage, they say there are thousands of people missing; nobody doubts, of course, there are many disappeared in this particular conflict. It's going to be so hard, though, to find out precisely where they've gone, what's happened to them.
And really, the scale of this tragedy, which, of course, as you've seen from that testimony there, is having massive emotional toll across Syria, Kristie.
STOUT: (Inaudible) forced disappearances are very troubling development.
Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us live, thank you.
Now the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee tells CNN that Syrian rebels are making private deals to obtain weapons from jihadist groups. Now this may stem from a sense of frustration that heavy arms are not being provided by the west. For example, the U.S. has so far only made available non-lethal equipment, like computers and satellite communications gear.
Rebels have, instead, turned to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing key firepower. And though the U.S. acknowledges this, it's hard to assess the complete picture. For example, a U.S. official tells CNN that one rebel group, the Farouk Brigade (ph), is receiving a lot of its weapons from militant Lebanese groups.
The State Department insists that tracking the flow of weapons is a high priority.
Libya endured its own civil war and now there are unsettling new allegations of abuse committed by the rebels who overthrew Moammar Gadhafi. Dan Rivers has more now -- and a warning: the images you're about to see are graphic and may be disturbing to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chaos of Sirte a year ago, rebel forces surround Col. Gadhafi's dwindling (ph) band of soldiers for the final act of a bloody uprising. The former Libyan dictator was captured, beaten and then killed. Rebels later claimed he was shot in the crossfire, but many suspect he was executed by the mob of rebel fighters.
Near to where Gadhafi was killed, we filmed several massacre sites, bodies with hands bound and shot in the head.
Now, though, Human Rights Watch says it has definitive proof that these 66 men were executed by rebel forces at the Mehari (ph) Hotel in the city. Peter Bouckaert spent a year investigating the massacres and has uncovered this cell phone footage, which shows a group of captured Gadhafi loyalists at the Mehari (ph) Hotel in Sirte.
PETER BOUCKAERT, HRW EMERGENCIES DIRECTOR: We matched many of those faces of the people in that video against the bodies, the photos of the bodies that had been recovered from the Mehari (ph) Hotel. So now we had a very clear chain of events.
RIVERS (voice-over): It strongly suggests that, for example, this man, with long hair, seen in rebel custody in the cell phone video was then murdered by his captors.
The New York-based campaign group says they've asked the Libyan government to investigate, but so far it has not sent any investigators to Sirte. The government didn't respond to CNN's request for comment.
BOUCKAERT: These were men who were taken into custody. They were brutally beaten and spat upon and abused. And then they were moved to a separate location, bound and executed. That's a crime that takes organization and it's a crime that takes decision.
RIVERS (voice-over): A decision that so far has gone unpunished, despite evidence that it may constitute a war crime -- Dan Rivers, CNN, London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: You're watching NEWS STREAM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT (voice-over): And still ahead, just what was this man planning? Police make an arrest over an alleged plot to attack the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Also what does it take to get dropped by Nike? As the brand parts ways with Lance Armstrong, we look at other controversial athletes it has sponsored.
And we are live in Greece. Scenes like this mark a crucial deadline for the country's economy.
STOUT: U.S. federal authorities and the New York police department say they have stopped a terrorist plot. Targeted, the New York Federal Reserve Bank. And prosecutors say a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man named Quazi Mohammad Nafis tried to blow it up. According to court documents, Nafis wrote that he planned to, quote, "destroy America by striking its economy."
The Fed Bank, it's just blocks from Wall Street and it sits on the world's biggest stash of gold bullion. Nafis allegedly parked his van across the street and tried to set up what he thought was a 450-kg bomb with his cell phone. But nothing happened. The explosives were fake.
They were supplied by the FBI. And authorities say that they were onto him the whole time and the public was never in danger.
CNN's security analyst Peter Bergen joins us now live from our Washington bureau.
And, Peter, what tipped officials off to Nafis and his terror plot?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the first -- the way he got -- he came to attention of authorities is that in July he was talking about doing jihad in the United States to somebody who turned out to be an FBI undercover informant.
And that, you know, and then after that, a undercover officer was inserted into the plot, basically to sort of entangle him in a -- in a plan to do what you just described.
So it was kind of, you know, I think it -- what it goes to show, Kristie, is that the FBI, you know, has the New York community, Muslim- American community pretty well wired in the sense that they were able just to encounter this guy, because of what he was claiming that he was in the United States to do, which was allegedly to do jihad.
STOUT: Now, did Nafis work alone? Or was he part of a larger terror network?
BERGEN: He seems to be completely be working alone. He did say to some of the undercover folks that he encountered that he was in touch with Al Qaeda in Bangladesh. Well, that doesn't make any sense, because, you know, Al Qaeda doesn't really have a presence in Bangladesh. Certainly there are jihadi organizations.
But one interesting thing to me, Kristie, is that we've seen very few Bengalis in this kind of plot in the United States. Obviously Bangladesh is one of the world's largest Muslim countries. And as far as I can recall, I -- this is -- this is the first Bangladeshi who's been alleged to have been involved in terrorism inside the United States. So he's a kind of an unusual guy.
Where did he get radicalized? It appears that he was radicalized before he arrived in the United States, if the complaint against him is accurate. He said that he came to the United States specifically to do jihad.
STOUT: What's next for Nafis? What charges is he facing? Where is he now?
BERGEN: Well, I mean, he's -- you know, he's in the custody in New York City, and he's facing charges of attempting to blow up a -- you know, a major federal building.
If, you know, if the complaint is mostly accurate, I think it's -- a jury's going to find it relatively easy to convict him, because, you know, I mean, there's so many acts are described so many times of him acquiring components for a bomb, mixing what he thought were explosives, repeatedly trying to detonate the bomb, you know, this is pretty compelling evidence if it's -- if it's at all accurate, Kristie.
STOUT: Peter Bergen, your insight always appreciated. Thank you very much indeed.
Now let's turn to a story. It's concerning online censorship. Now Twitter says it will withhold content from this neo-Nazi account. And we've decided to blur the user name and tweets on the page. The decision, it was made at the request of German authorities. The right-wing group calls itself Better Hanover and is illegal in Germany. And it is a landmark decision for Twitter.
Let's get more now from our Frederik Pleitgen. He joins us live from Berlin.
And, Frederik, tell us more about why this is a landmark decision for Twitter.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, quite frankly, Kristie, it's because it's the first time that Twitter has ever done this in the world. And one of the things that Twitter said on its own Twitter account is that they say they have the tools to locally shut down Twitter accounts. And this is the first time that they've actually done so.
And it's interesting; if you go on that specific account, you can actually still see the content on there from before the ban was put in place. It was put in place by German authorities on September the 25th, so that is when you see the last entry on that website. And then there are no more.
So this is something that Twitter is doing. You can still actually see the content from before the -- when the ban was handed down. But everything after that, it appears as though the account has completely been blocked.
Now this is something that Twitter says it is doing to, on the one hand, keep free speech flowing but, on the other hand, also comply with local laws. And I can tell you one thing, the German laws on freedom of speech are very difficult ones, especially if you talk about anything in conjunction with hate speech, with neo-Nazi speech. That is something that is highly illegal here in Germany.
And it is something that German authorities do go after regularly, Kristie.
STOUT: Now what Twitter did is called local censorship. It did not take down the offending feed. It only blocked it locally there in Germany. Do you think that's enough in the eyes of anti-defamation groups?
PLEITGEN: No, it certainly isn't. And if you look at other cases, there are groups that are demanding for Twitter to do more.
There's currently a case pending in France, where later today we're going to see a press conference from the French student, from the French Jewish student union, where they're complaining about a hashtag called #agoodjew, which has, in the past, led to anti-Semitic rants on the Internet. And that's certainly something that they are trying to get Twitter to block as well.
And they're quite frankly saying that Twitter is not doing enough to limit hate speech on its account. And so it is something that Twitter's gotten in trouble with these groups in the past. But one of the things that we have to keep in mind is, for instance, if you look at things like the revolutions in Egypt or in Libya, a lot of those were fueled by Twitter.
And there, of course, Twitter was a major agent for change, but on the other hand, of course, Twitter wants to comply, or is trying to comply with the local laws in these countries while keeping free speech as high as possible, Kristie.
It's not a easy road for Twitter to go down; there are groups that are saying Twitter is not doing enough. They say for them, the basis is keeping free speech as free as possible, Kristie.
STOUT: Yes, it's a fascinating case study on censorship and free speech.
Frederik Pleitgen joining us live from --
PLEITGEN: Very difficult, yes.
STOUT: -- from Berlin, thank you.
Now, you're watching NEWS STREAM and up next, very tough times for Lance Armstrong, as a major doping scandal now takes a financial toll. After the break, we will have more on this long fall from grace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: After the English Football Association's guilty verdict two weeks ago, English footballer John Terry says he will lay his racial abuse case to rest on Thursday. For details, we go to Alex Thomas at CNN London.
ALEX THOMAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Kristie, it's a year ago to the month that Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers met each other in England's Premier League competition in the match that led to an extraordinary sequence of events involving John Terry. It led to a criminal court case and the end of Terry's international football career.
And, finally, today, he's apologized for the incident where he used insulting language towards Anton Ferdinand, the QPR defender, that included a reference to race and/or the color of his skin, and that was the verdict of an independent disciplinary panel set up by England's Football Association that banned Terry for four matches last month and also fined him more than $350,000, that coming months after Terry was cleared in a criminal court case of similar charges.
And today Terry announced that he would not be appealing against that ban and fine. Part of a statement read, "Although I'm disappointed with the FA judgment, I accept that the language I used, regardless of the context, is not acceptable on the football field or, indeed, in any walk of life."
And in the last hour, Chelsea Football Club, Terry's club, of which he's captain of the team, have also responded. In their statements, they applauded Terry for not appealing against his ban and fine, saying they agreed with that.
And they went on to say, "Chelsea also appreciates and supports John's full apology for the language he used, and the board has taken further disciplinary action in accordance with our longstanding policy. That disciplinary action will remain confidential."
So Chelsea are not saying how they have punished John Terry internally. But it's clear they haven't banned him for any further games, although they may have been fined somewhat more. Bear in mind that anti- racism campaign that's in football, Kristie, say that four matches is nowhere near long enough.
STOUT: Alex Thomas with the story there.
Thank you, Alex.
Now staying in sport, Lance Armstrong, he has lost another major endorsement deal amid the doping scandal that could strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and an Olympic medal. Now Anheuser-Busch says that Armstrong's contract will not be renewed after it expires at the end of the year.
On Wednesday, the former pro cyclist was dropped by Nike just after he gave up his position at the cancer charity he founded 15 years. While resigning as chairman of Livestrong was his own idea, Nike axed his multimillion-dollar endorsement deal after initially standing by him. It says that there was, quote, "seemingly insurmountable evidence that Armstrong participated in doping."
Nike is no longer -- or no stranger to dealing with controversial athletes. So we wondered what does it take to be dropped by Nike? Now Lance Armstrong is certainly not the first Nike athlete to be accused of taking banned substances.
In 2009, baseball star Alex Rodriguez admitted to using performance enhancing drugs earlier in his career. Nike initially stuck by him, but according to reports, when his contract expired, it wasn't renewed and he is no longer sponsored by Nike.
So what about personal scandals? Tiger Woods, he was famously dropped by many brands after admitting that he cheated on his wife, but not by Nike. They stayed with the troubled golfer and they continue to sponsor him.
And finally, what about committing a crime? NFL quarterback Michael Vick, he pleaded guilty to financing a dog fighting operation. He was sent to prison and he was dropped by Nike, but now Vick is out of prison; he's back in the NFL and he is sponsored by Nike again.
You're watching NEWS STREAM. And coming up next, Greek workers say that they have been pushed to the limit by spending cuts and higher taxes. And now they're taking to the streets in Athens as European leaders meet in Brussels.
And how is Facebook doing five months after its much anticipated IPO? Social network giant saw its shares sink but is it turning its market portions (ph) around?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM and these are your world headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT (voice-over): Dramatic amateur video shows a Syrian military helicopter falling from the sky and exploding in midair. Rebels claim they shot it down. Meanwhile, the international envoy in Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi warns Syria's intensifying civil war could set the Middle East region ablaze. He's expected to arrive in Damascus this weekend after stops in Beirut and Jordan.
U.S. authorities say that they have arrested a 21-year-old man in connection with a plot to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.
The suspect is a Bangladeshi national who came to the U.S. on a student visa. He majored in cyber-security at a college in Missouri and was caught in a sting operation. Officials say that he tried to detonate what turned out to be fake explosives he got from an undercover agent.
China's economic expansion slowed in the three months to the end of September, the seventh straight quarter of slowing growth. (Inaudible) GDP was up 7.4 percent from a year earlier, just below the government's target rate. But there are signs that China is managing the slowdown. Industrial output and retail sales are both stronger than expected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: European Union leaders begin a two-day summit in Brussels today on the financial uncertainty that's gripping the E.U. But even as they talk, thousands of anti-austerity protesters are taking to the streets in Greece.
Let's get more now from Diana Magnay in Athens.
Diana, a general strike is underway across the country. What have you been seeing out there in Athens?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually a few hours only after the strikers collected in Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building, it's pretty much deserted.
You just see a bit of detritus of the fighting that took place with police over about an hour, a little more than an hour of sort of violence, the typical stone throwing that we've seen before; typical response, police firing back with tear gas. But it seems to have dispelled the crowd, really a lot -- a few hours ago this square was extremely full.
We talked to some of the protesters earlier, who say we cannot cope with any more cutting, with any more austerity. This, of course, at a time when the troika and the Greek government are trying to agree on a new $17 billion austerity package. Let's just take a listen to what some of those protesters told us a bit earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): (Inaudible) nothing will change. But if we keep having mass demonstrations, things will turn around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm here to ensure that the measures won't go through because I feel Greek people should have a say in what is taking place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm here because of all the measures and all the government has done to us. The government has exhausted us.
MAGNAY (voice-over): The Greek people feel help, Kristie. They feel that this endless austerity program that, in their eyes, they've been subjected to by officials from Brussels, has left this country with unemployment rates skyrocketing at 25 percent unemployment, 55 percent amongst the youth.
The economy keeps on contracting. It's the fifth year of recession. And you find yourself being asked all the time by Greeks on the street, you know, there must be another answer. There must be a different solution.
And actually, Kristie, if we look at the recent IMF's World Economic Outlook, effectively the IMF admitted that they have miscalculated how deeply cost cutting could impact, negatively impact growth.
And this is what you're seeing in this country, these huge unemployment figures, the fact that people really cannot afford to live anymore and do not see any way out because there is no possibility of growth under these conditions, they say, Kristie.
STOUT (voice-over): You know, tension is clearly high there in Athens. And time is running out for Greece. The country is near bankrupt, Diana. It's due to run out of money next month. Given all the anger against austerity, what options are there? What's next for Greece?
MAGNAY (voice-over): Well, essentially, the Greek government doesn't have any options but to try as hard as they possibly can to get this next (inaudible) fund from the E.U.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAGNAY: And that is why the troika and the government have been in this torturous series of negotiations. Bear in mind that Greeks haven't had any fresh money from the bailout since April. The governments say that by the end of November, they will no longer have any cash. They will have no money to pay salaries or anything like that. So of course, time is extremely urgent right now.
The sticking point between the troika and the government or, in fact, the junior partners in the coalition, is labor relations. The democratic left say we are not going to cut out automatic price rises for employees; we don't want to see more public sector workers sacked.
Bear in mind, though, Kristie, no public sector workers -- or very few -- have so far actually been dismissed. It's all still in the works. And I've been covering this story for a good 21/2 years. Right from the beginning, we've been saying that the troika, the E.U. are demanding cuts to the public sector. They're still very long in coming.
But the junior coalition partners, the democratic left has said, you know, this is a hard red line which we will not cross, we will not cross on labor relations.
So although the IMF say we hope to make progress next week, Antonis Samaras must be hoping that there will be progress made next week because the issue of getting that next tranche is now incredibly pressing.
It will be a very difficult period of political wrangling over the next few days. And you can expect that when they actually get that draft bill for the $17 billion austerity package through the parliament, you'll see huge crowds out here once again when they actually know the details of what that new series of cuts will mean for them, Kristie.
STOUT: Yes, the pressure is on. We'll have to see how this all plays out.
Diana Magnay joining us live from Athens.
Now exactly five months ago, Facebook made its stock market debut. It was the biggest tech IPO in history. But since then, shares have lost half their value. The social network is set to report its third quarter earnings on Tuesday. Investors will be listening for ways Facebook plans to make money from its $1 billion users.
Let's bring in our regular contributor Nicholas Thompson. He's the editor of newyorker.com.
Nick, good to see you.
Facebook, it's --
NICHOLAS THOMPSON, NEWYORKER.COM: (Inaudible), Kristie.
STOUT: -- it's already been five months since the Facebook flop, the IPO. And there's a lot of scrutiny on their bottom line. Just how are they trying to make money these days?
THOMPSON: Well, they're trying to make money in about 17 different ways. I mean, the fundamental problem that happened is Facebook had their IPO and suddenly it turned out that the main way they are making money -- advertising -- wasn't growing as fast as people wanted.
And also, as we transition to mobile phones, advertising doesn't really work that well on mobile phones, on Facebook. Nobody would click on ads, were the expectations.
So Facebook said, OK. We've got to figure out new ways to make money besides advertising. So they've launched, it seems like, a new product every third day since May, since their stock price started collapsing.
Some of them are promising, for example, there's Facebook gifts, where if it's somebody's birthday, you know, if it's my birthday, Kristie, you can go onto Facebook and you can, you know, based on what Facebook knows about me, send me something I like. That's plausible.
There's promoted stories where if I want more people to read my posts, I can pay Facebook some money and it'll promote it. There are sponsored stories, where if a brand wants to stick their little updates into your news feed, they can pay a little bit and put into it.
Yesterday they said that they're going to allow developers to start advertising launches in news feeds.
So basically they've started adding all of these things, all of these things. And most of them are kind of corrupting the news feed, which is the centerpiece of Facebook, which used to be entirely organic updates by your friends and people you had chosen to connect with. And now it's becoming less and less of that. And that's a tradeoff Facebook is willing to make in order to make a little more money.
STOUT: Is it working, though? Are they making more money? Or could they risk turning users off and this just backfiring completely?
THOMPSON: It's too early to know. They're making a little bit of money. They say they're making a million dollars a day from sponsored stories. Gifts is very promising. There have been some market research reports that suggest that a lot of people will use it; it only launched a couple weeks ago. So we don't really know on that.
All of these things have some potential. But they also do have grave risks. The more than you have advertisements or the more that you have things that people paid for showing up in the centerpiece of Facebook, the more you might think of it as spammy and the less you're going to use it.
Also, people might begin to not trust it as much. So this announcement they made yesterday, the developers can advertise their apps in their news feed, OK. Sounds kind of innocuous; maybe it clutters it up a little bit.
But what if developers start to feel like their apps will get good placement in the store or might run into problems if they don't pay? And they start to see it as something as a shakedown? That's a really hard thing for Facebook to manage.
So Facebook has some problems with each of these things it introduces. Facebook's philosophy has always, since its launch, been to introduce stuff quickly. And then if it does poorly, to pull it out. We'll see if that strategy works, now that they have a billion users in our public company.
STOUT: That's right. But it's risking a potential user backlash, a potential developer backlash, as you point out.
Now at the time of the IPO five months ago, there were a lot of questions about mobile and Facebook going mobile. Is Facebook making money from its mobile user base?
THOMPSON: They're giving it all sorts of optimistic projections and statistics. But the answer is really no. And a lot of the people who partner with Facebook and who make lots of money for Facebook and through Facebook, particularly Zynga, are sort of the leading indicators of this.
Zynga was, I believe, you know, 12 percent of Facebook's revenue in 2011. As everybody makes the transition to mobile, Zynga's games, like FarmVille -- people don't play them on mobile -- and we've seen Zynga's stock absolutely collapse because these things just don't work on mobile.
So the fact that Zynga doesn't work on mobile suggests that Facebook is going to have some problems on mobile, certainly with at least that revenue stream.
And then the advertising -- advertising on mobile is tough. I mean, I can absolutely see why they're putting adds in the news feed. People read their news feeds on mobile. They don't click on ads on mobile. So maybe that's the only way you can reach them. So maybe Facebook has to do it for that reason.
STOUT: Yes, but we're hearing a lot of people, including myself, just complaining about the interface and displays starting to look pretty cluttered and pretty tired.
Nick Thompson, we're going to have to leave it at that. But thank you so much for joining us once again. See you next week.
Nick Thompson, newyorker.com, joining us.
Now "Newsweek" has just made a newsmaking announcement. It will stop printing the magazine and become a purely digital edition next year. "Newsweek" has been a print publication for 80 years. But the December 31st issue will be the final time the magazine is available in paper form. "Newsweek's" editor in chief says they anticipate staff cuts but did not give any details.
Time for a check of the global weather forecast. And we have a tropical storm approaching Japan. Details now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the World Weather Center.
MARI RAMOS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Kristie, you know, well ahead of this tropical storm we're already getting some very heavy rain across parts of Japan. Let's go ahead and start with that. You know, when we look at this storm, it has been kind of hanging around here for quite a while. But now it's finally starting to pick up a little bit more forward speed.
And ahead of it with the frontal system that's coming through, fairly typical for what happens in Japan when you have approaching tropical (inaudible). You get a lot of heavy rain well ahead of it. Right now, winds near that center of circulation, which is still very far away from Japan, are close to 70 kilometers per hour.
We're not going to have a direct impact from this storm across Japan. But like I said, a lot of that moisture gets elongated and gets pulled northward along that frontal system. That's the same one that's helping keep the storm away from you. So you get this very heavy rain well ahead of the weather system.
So these tropical rainfall totals are pretty significant, almost 90 millimeters in Shionomisaki. Naze had over 166 millimeters of rain over the last 24 hours -- 48 hours, I should say. We're going to start to see an improvement here across the island. But across Honshu in particular, very heavy rainfall overnight tonight, and even as we head into tomorrow.
Don't think the winds will be that much of a factor, but I'm concerned about the amount of rain, maybe the potential for some flooding and landslides across some of these sensitive areas, especially because it's been raining so much already over the last couple of days. So the storm itself kind of moving away from Japan.
But that moisture associated with it will be affecting you. And I want to show you right over here our rainfall totals, even though the heaviest rain will stay -- remain offshore, any amount of this rainfall right into areas of Honshu, I think, will be a little bit more significant.
Behind this weather system, behind this front that I've been telling you about that's helping keep the bulk of the moisture ahead of -- away from Japan, we're getting relatively cooler air, so very dry conditions across the Korean Peninsula, just a little bit of cloud cover coming in across northeastern China. But nothing too significant weather wise.
And notice even as we head to areas farther south, definitely a change in air masses here, 26 right now in Hong Kong, 20 in Chongqing and Beijing, you're right at 11 right now as we head into the late evening hours.
I want to take you to the other side of the Pacific, Kristie. And here a situation a bit more tragic. Days of heavy rain have really taken a toll across parts of Peru. We're going to go ahead and head north to a small town here called El Parvenu (ph), which is in the foothill of the Andes Mountains. Now you get all that runoff from the mountains that comes into these areas and really brings the threat for flooding and mudslides, even though this area is relatively flat, all of that moisture comes in. And I want to show you the area that we're talking about here. Let's go ahead and roll the pictures.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAMOS (voice-over): Now they're expecting to continue rescue efforts this morning to search for the 10 people that are missing after a landslide left 11 people dead. You can see those masses of boulders and rocks and debris that just came sliding down the mountain as a -- during flash flooding. And you see many people that were injured, that have been -- that are getting medical attention.
This is a very sparsely populated area of northeastern Peru. Very quickly, if you come back over to the weather map, you can see here, very heavy rainfall across this area over the last couple of days. And unfortunately, that's expected to continue.
We're going to take a quick break right here on NEWS STREAM. And Kristie will be back (inaudible).
STOUT: Welcome back. Now imagine being a singer and having the chance to perform here at the historic opera house, La Scala, in Milan. And appearing onstage at La Scala is the goal of many aspiring artists, including this week's "Human to Hero," Anita Hartig. But she tells us it takes more than dreaming to land your dream job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANITA HARTIG, OPERA SINGER: Tonight I'm making my debut at La Scala in the role of Mimi from "La Boheme" from Puccini. Opera was born here.
HARTIG: I know the role; I'm just storing up the energy and focus, focus, focus.
HARTIG: It took much more than a dream to bring me here on this stage tonight.
HARTIG: I was 17 years old and a friend of mine told me that I should sing opera, because I had an interesting voice. And she gave me a present, two CDs with Maria Callas. And I listened to them over and over again.
And I started to sing after her, the high notes. And I heard the orchestra and the music and the emotion -- and the power.
Ioan Holender, the ex-director from Vienna State Opera, heard about me through a music critic. I was still a student. He wanted to hear my voice when he was visiting Rumania again. And from that moment on everything changed.
HARTIG: There are so many great Rumanian singers. But in my little town, I was, I think the first one. I developed my technique in about 10 years. I had practice three, four, five, six hours; it depends on the schedule.
I'm doing stretching exercises. And then build it up to some phrases, difficult phrases. It's like an athlete that is making his stretching.
You can imagine how it is to not use any kind of microphone and to have the force and the power to make the voice sound through an orchestra of 80 people, and try to focus in one point, but not point like pushing, like "aah," but...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ah (ph) and that it should be more like the O, sort of.
HARTIG: So not too open on "ah."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And "ah."
The technique, it is important, of course. It makes a difference, definitely. But there are lots of singers with good technique that don't take enough time, maybe, to develop also the other part, of the sensitivity.
HARTIG: There has to be a really special bond between conductor and orchestra and singer. If I am sensitive enough, I will take the sound he's creating with the orchestra and somehow trying to pull it into my voice, into my instrument. There always has to be this kind of energy exchange
The challenge is to always work with new conductors, with new musicians on a new effort while in a new role in new theaters.
I can't compare myself to all the great sopranos that sung this role and not understand what's felt. My responsibility is to be myself 100 percent, meaning the words and feeling the music, and let the music go through me with orchestra together into the public (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: An incredible talent.
Up next, an entrepreneur in Japan has come up with a quirky business idea. It's called the Cuddle Cafe. How much would you pay to nap next to a complete stranger?
STOUT: Welcome back. Now after a hard day's work, some people yearn for a little affection. And a cafe in Tokyo has found an unusual way to capitalize on that. Alex Zolbert reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX ZOLBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A frenetic capital city, one of the largest and most densely populated anywhere in the world, also famous for its tireless workers or salarymen. And here in Tokyo's Akihabara District, a place that's known for quirky ideas, one former salaryman himself has come up with a very unique business: a co-sleeping specialty shop.
"Yes, people come here to cuddle," Mishashi Koda (ph) tells me.
"Before you let your mind run wild," he says, "yes, it is just cuddling, nothing more."
Customers pay about $40 to sleep next to a girl for 20 minutes. Some customers are young men, looking for simple companionship.
Twenty-one-year-old Louhay Hiroki (ph) visits the shop almost every day.
He tells me, "I like coming here. It's unique and relaxing. I try to stay awake, because I enjoy talking with the girls."
ZOLBERT: Do you have a girlfriend?
ZOLBERT (voice-over): "No, I don't," he says. "I never had a lot of chances to meet girls. So this is refreshing for me."
Nineteen-year-old Hina (ph) is a student. She works here part-time.
She says, "Most guys come here to relax and rest after working hard all day."
ZOLBERT: They've clearly hit a nerve. It's about 9 o'clock on Thursday night right now, and just about every room is taken. And you can see the place is not big; it's about 400 square feet in total.
ZOLBERT (voice-over): There are added services as well, but, again, don't get any ideas. One thousand yen, about $13, if you want to rest your head on the girl's knees for three minutes. Another $13 for a 5-second hug.
Mishashi (ph) says he is surprised at all the attention his business is getting. And, yes, he is thinking of a possible expansion.
"We might move to a bigger and cleaner space. But maybe the simplicity is part of our charm," he adds.
A simple idea in a stressed-out and sometimes lonely city -- Alex Zolbert, CNN, Tokyo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Now cuddle cafes are not the only option for a quirky coffee break in Japan. You can get your caffeine fix at maid cafes. That's where waitresses dress up in uniforms like these, everything from French maid to, yes, even old maid.
You could also take a tea leaf out of Katy Perry's book. Last year, the singer tweeted a photo of herself with friends at a cat cafe. That is where you can enjoy a hot drink with a feline entourage.
And don't worry if you're not a cat person. Next time you're in Japan, you could also stop by a rabbit cafe. No word, though, on whether carrot juice is on the menu.
And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.