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Arafat's Body Exhumed; Egypt Prepares for More Protests; Former Mayor of Mexican Town Assassinated; Republicans May Be Prepared to Abandon Tax Pledge
Aired November 27, 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 INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, and welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet. Was Yasser Arafat poisoned? The body of the former Palestinian leader is exhumed. But will new tests provide any new insight into his death?
Also ahead, Egypt on edge. The country prepares for mass protests in defiance of the president.
And the tragic story of the mayor who stood up to Mexico's drug gangs.
Now, the body of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been exhumed from his mausoleum in Ramallah on the West Bank, and forensic experts are carrying out tests to determine whether his death in 2004 was caused by poisoning. Arafat died in a military hospital near Paris eight years ago. And Swiss scientists later found high levels of the radioactive element polonium on his clothes and belongings. Now, the Palestinian Authority is convinced that Israel is responsible for Arafat's death. Now, Israel is not commenting on these allegations. Now, after the exhumation, Palestinian leaders held a flower ceremony at the mausoleum to pay respects to Arafat.
And throughout the Arab world many held Arafat as a freedom fighter. As the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization for three and a half decades, he symbolized the Palestinians' battle for national identity. But late in his life, corruption allegations rose against some in his political circle. And many in Israel saw Arafat as a murderer and a terrorist, the man behind years of bombings and civilian deaths. And his attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Israel won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, but probably didn't win him many friends inside Israel.
Now, CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Ramallah and he joins me now. And Fred, describe the scene and what's been happening behind you?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, the only thing that we actually saw of the exhumation process was the ceremony that you were just describing, that flower ceremony that happened afterwards. Originally, it was going to be a military ceremony. However, that didn't happen. Instead the Palestinian leadership laying flowers there, to honor Yasser Arafat.
However, we did get details from the lead investigator as to what exactly happened. And apparently what happened is that earlier this morning, the body was brought to light, the grave was opened. Then experts from Russia, Switzerland as well as France came to the scene. However, the actual samples of Arafat's body were taken by Palestinian doctors and then handed over to these three investigation teams.
What's going to happen now is that these samples are going to be independently analyzed at labs in France, Switzerland and Russia as well. And from what we are hearing from the Palestinian investigator, they say they expect results in about three months time. However, that timeframe, of course, is one that is very, very loose. So, they say that everything there went according to plan, the body was not actually removed from the grave itself, and later the grave was sealed again, Kristie.
STOUT: So, there will be multiple tests carried out by multiple doctors looking for any sign of polonium. What is the reaction among Palestinians there? About what's been happening today?
PLEITGEN: It's interesting you ask that, you know, because there is a very mixed reaction. There are those, of course, who say that they are very much in favor of this investigation, also of the forensic work that's being done right now, because they simply want to know what exactly was behind the death of Yasser Arafat. There are, of course, many, many people, as you said, who believe that Israel is behind the death of Yasser Arafat. They believe Israel poisoned Yasser Arafat. The state of Israel, of course, itself is not commenting on that.
However, there are also, actually, a lot of people here who are against this exhumation process, who believe that it's both humiliating to the legacy of Yasser Arafat, as well as to the Palestinian people. And also, there are many people who, on religious grounds, do not feel that the body should be exhumed. That's also one of the reasons why the lead investigator kept saying, this went absolutely according to religious standards and according to medical standards. That this is something that was a very, very professionally carried out operation that went down. And now, of course, they are awaiting these results. The Palestinians, of course, the lead investigator once again, reiterating that he believes very strong that Yasser Arafat was poisoned. And the reason why they are conducting these investigations now is to have that final proof.
It's unclear, however, Kristie, whether or not after all this time, and also with the state of decay of Yasser Arafat's body, whether polonium could still be found. I want you to listen in to what one investigator said about what the state of Arafat's body after they opened the grave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAWFIQ TIRAWI, HEAD OF PALESTINIAN INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE: The state of the body is exactly what you expect to find in somebody who has been buried for eight years. So, I don't think there was anything out of -- of the norm in really seeing a body after eight years of burial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: And Kristie, just to give you an indication as to how important this ceremony, and how emotional it is to many Palestinians. Behind me at the Palestinian Authority, the flags are flying at half staff, and certainly all those involved in the investigation said that for them, this is a very important and also a very sad day, Kristie.
STOUT: And a very emotional day, a very delicate investigation. Frederik Pleitgen joining us live from Ramallah. Thank you.
Now turning now to unrest in Egypt, and there was violence on the streets of Cairo as thousands prepare to protest the decree granting new powers to President Mohamed Morsi. Let's bring you some live pictures of Tahrir Square. And Egyptians, they've been gathering there and gathering right now to demonstrate against Morsi's edict, which bans the courts from overturning any of his decisions until a new constitution is drafted. The move has effectively placed Mr. Morsi above the judiciary. And that has sparked protests, a stock market sell-off, and raised fears of a new dictatorship. And let's go straight to Cairo now, where CNN's Ian Lee is monitoring the situation. And Ian, from the live pictures I just saw, Tahrir square is turning into a tent city. What have you seen?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Kristie, it is early for the protests, believe it or not, and Tahrir Square is already packed with thousands of people. We are expecting marches from all around Cairo to descend on Tahrir later into this evening, expecting that crowd to get much larger. There is also clashes that are taking place just off Tahrir Square. We have hundreds of youth fighting with the police, the police are responding with tear gas. Something we've seen over that past few days. Now, the Muslim Brotherhood was planning to have a protest in support of President Morsi's decree today, but they canceled it out of fear that there could be some confrontation between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters. The Muslim -- this comes also as someone from the Muslim Brotherhood, a youth, 15-year old boy died in a city outside of Cairo. So, the Brotherhood was careful to avoid any similar clashes that happened just a few days ago. But right now it looks like Tahrir is filling up.
STOUT: Yeah, we are looking at that scene on our screen of Tahrir Square. What do the anti-Morsi protesters there in the square want? Ian, do they want the decrees thrown out entirely, or do they want something else?
LEE: A lot of what we are seeing in Tahrir and talking to the people in Tahrir, they are saying that they want this constitutional decree abolished. They want it gone. They said that it gives him too much power. They want some sort of checks and balance system. And what the decree basically did, it made the judiciary not have any oversight over President Morsi, and the protesters say there should be some sort of oversight. It also gave him power over the constitutional assembly, the body that is writing Egypt's constitution. The court was going to decide if that assembly should be abolished, but President Morsi took away that power and gave them two months extra to write the constitution.
STOUT: And we know that these protests are not taking place just in Cairo, they have been taking place in Alexandria, Port Said and elsewhere. Just how significant is that?
LEE: It's very significant. We are seeing these protests just like we did during the revolution spark up all across the country. And that boy I was telling you about, who died, who's a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, it was in a town Damanpor (ph), which is outside of Cairo. So it shows that this issue is really reaching out outside of Cairo. At the capital, we have 20 million people. There is 85 million people in Egypt. But I also want to say that President Morsi does have quite a bit of support, especially from the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the most well-organized political movement in Egypt. So he does have a lot of his supporters who are vocal that they say his decision is the only way to move Egypt forward and to protect the revolution. Kristie.
STOUT: Ian Lee reporting for us live from Cairo. The iconic Tahrir Square just filling up and packed with protesters.
You are watching NEWS STREAM, and up next, the conflict in Congo. M23 rebels. They say that they have demands and will pull out of Goma if they are met. And violence at the border. Air strikes on Monday force even more Syrian refugees to flee into Turkey. We've got that story next on NEWS STREAM.
STOUT: Now, there are new developments in the ongoing conflict in Congo. M23 rebels say a host of conditions must be met before they would withdraw from the eastern city of Goma. They want President Joseph Kabila to hold talks, release political prisoners among other things. And let's get more now on this developing story. David McKenzie joins us from our bureau in Nairobi. And David, the rebels, they have named their conditions, will they be met?
OK, unfortunately, we are having difficulties getting in touch with David McKenzie. We'll bring him up as soon as we can. But let's go over here and more context to the story. Now, the rebels there, these M23 fighters, they captured Goma last week, and thousands of civilians have been forced to flee the city, raising fears of a refugee crisis there. ITV's Africa correspondent Rohit Kachroo reports, and a warning: this story contains disturbing images.
ROHIT KACHROO, ITV CORRESPONDENT: The government's forces have gone, the rebels are in control. And in the hills high above Goma today, it seems their grip was tightening.
"We are not here to take lives, but we want the government to come to the negotiating table. But they are not accepting," he says.
But far beneath the soldiers, there is a different battle being fought -- it is simply for survival. Since last week, tens of thousands have fled fighting and looting by soldiers as they retreated.
(on camera): People here are, of course, used to despair. Conflict is a nightmare that's recurring. And once again, entire communities are on the move.
(voice-over): So, now in the shadow of the volcano, the ashes of war spread across the refugee camp.
Regina (ph) left late at night, clutching her children.
She says their lives have been destroyed by the fighting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a ballistic ward, if I can say.
KACHROO: At Goma's main hospital, doctors and police shows me the youngest victims. Gloria, age five, hit by a bullet. Emanuel, now paralyzed at 15 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's entered here and came through here. And destroyed the spinal cord here, around ...
KACHROO (on camera): And paralyzed him for life?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's paralyzed for life.
KACHROO: With this bullet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this one.
KACHROO (voice over): Then, there's Bahati (ph), who lost his arm in crossfire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let them choose a stadium. Like football. If Manchester United and Chelsea want to play, they chose a side (ph), (inaudible).
KACHROO (on camera): So it's the same. It's sport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. It's a sport. But they are playing in the ground of civilian.
KACHROO (voice over): And we find some of those injured players being treated at a hospital nearby. Government soldiers and rebel fighters, side by side.
He is M23 and he's M23, says this army leftenant. But they are both my brothers.
Outside, an army doctor enraged. He says the government's losing ground because they are not being paid and fed. They are losing the war, he says.
But in Goma, as the humanitarian crisis grows, they are all losers.
STOUT: A brutal cost to this conflict. That was ITV's Rohit Kachroo reporting there. Now, let's get more now on the chaos and the conflict in Congo. David McKenzie joins us now from Nairobi. And David, walk us through what the rebels are asking for, and whether their demands will be met.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are asking for a long draft (ph) of the things, in fact, Kristie. The rebel commander came and gave a press conference earlier in Goma. Listed many, many--
STOUT: OK, our apologies there for this technical disruption. It was David McKenzie joining us on the line there. A satellite connection from Nairobi.
Now, there appears to be, meanwhile, increased activity in North Korea. And you could take a look at this on the touch screen. We have a satellite image. This is provided by Digital Globe. This was taken on Friday. And it shows the Sohei (ph) satellite launch facility. And if you look closely, you could see tents, trucks and people. And according to Digital Globe, the activity, it could mean that North Korea is planning a long-range missile test within the next few weeks. And we saw similar activity ahead of Pyongyang's failed attempt to launch a long-range missile back in April.
Now, you are watching NEWS STREAM. And still ahead on the program, the first attempt on her life -- it killed her husband, and the second left her badly wounded. The third finally took her life. All because this mayor defied Mexico's notorious drug cartels.
STOUT: We've seen better days here in Hong Kong. Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.
Now, this right there, this is the visual rundown of all the stories that we're covering. If you take a look, at the top row of the grid, we have looked into the death of Yasser Arafat as his body has been exhumed. We've also taken you to Egypt, as tensions over the country's leadership grow, and we've given you the latest from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
And turning now to the U.S. debt crisis. As the deadline for the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and deep spending cuts looms closer, parties are still at odds over what to do. Now, some Republicans say that they will do whatever it takes to solve the crisis, even breaking a pledge they took years ago. Kate Bolduan has the story.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Republicans' comments quickly caught fire.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago is for that Congress. The world has changed and the economic situation is different.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I'm not obligated on the pledge. I made Tennesseans aware, I was just elected, that the only thing I'm monitoring is the oath that I take when I serve when I'm sworn in this January.
BOLDUAN: GOP lawmakers bluntly stating to avert the fiscal cliff, they're ready to break from Grover Norquist and the pledge he's got most Republicans to sign to never raise taxes.
Norquist wasted no time hitting back on CNN's "STARTING POINT."
GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: It doesn't pass the laugh test. So that's an odd position. If you want to go to your voters and say, I promised you this and I'm breaking my promise, you can have that conversation with them. But you don't have an argument with me. You have made a commitment to your voters.
BOLDUAN: The question now, will more Republicans rebel against the pledge? Republican and Democratic aides tell CNN despite the compromising talk, it won't have much impact at all on the fiscal cliff negotiations. There's little evidence of progress from staff level talks over the Thanksgiving break, and no hints from Senate leaders just back in town.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate has spoken, and President Obama has spoken. He's promised he will not sign any bill that mortgages our future to pay for handouts to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I only hope House Republicans have been listening.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We have been responsible even as we have remained firm on this point -- no tax increases now for promised spending cuts that won't materialize later. The American people have seen that game before, and they won't be fooled again.
BOLDUAN: Over at the White House, the talk of breaking the no tax increase pledge got a positive response.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Some of the comments you mentioned are welcome, and they represent what we hope is a difference in tone and approach to these problems.
BOLDUAN: Bottom line, talks continue. The White House says the president spoke with both Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid over the weekend. And as one Republican aide put it, the fact that they're still talking is progress, though a Democratic aide says they don't have staff huddling in a conference room going over spreadsheets, they're all doing more dancing at this stage.
Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.
STOUT: Every now and then, someone invents something that takes us all by surprise. Well, how about riding a bicycle built out of cardboard? As part of CNN's "Going Green" series, we're looking at ways people are trying to save the planet. And as Frederik Pleitgen discovers, this one reinvents the wheel.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Amazing inventions sometimes come from places you wouldn't expect, like the small Israeli village Ahituf (ph), where Izhar Gafni lets me try out his newest inventions -- a bicycle made almost totally of recycled cardboard.
(on camera): The bike is actually pretty impressive. You can still feel it's a prototype. There are certain parts that wobble a little bit. Now, they say it's as sturdy as any other bike, so I'm going to find out, and have some fun with it. I'll see if you guys can follow me.
(voice-over): In its prototype version, the cardboard bike has only one gear, so it's hard to keep up the pace on longer stretches, but yes, it is really made of recycled cardboard. Izhar Gafni uses a honeycomb technology he's patented to make the cardboard hard and tough as carbon fiber, he says.
IZHAR GAFNI, INVENTOR: The seat is cardboard, the frame is cardboard all the way, spoke, steering, wheels. Both of them, all cardboard. We already tested it to 220 kilos riding on it, which is if you want it in pounds, almost 500 pounds.
PLEITGEN: So two people then, or two and a half people.
PLEITGEN: And that doesn't just impress the neighborhood pooches.
Come on guys, faster.
The guys behind the bike say they've already found potential investors. They believe production costs could be as low as $9 per bike. And the potential cost for customers -- zero.
NIMROD ELMISH, INVESTMENT MANAGER: We're aiming for cities, councils, big companies that would order 10,000 bikes with their logo shaped on the shield of the bike, and they would practically be able to give it away as a driving (ph) commercial (ph).
PLEITGEN: And that could move production from this little shed, where Izhar Gafni still has all his prototypes, to large factories around the world, the inventors hope.
For those who doubt that cardboard bikes work, Izhar loves to show the material's durability.
GAFNI: As you can see, I can go like this, and -- or the one (ph) over 1,000 times, and every time nothing happens.
PLEITGEN: Quite a good workout. Look at me, I'm all sweaty. I feel like I've just done the Tour de Israel. But most importantly, the bike held up. It didn't break, so it seems like it's suitable for everyday use, isn't it?
And its makers hope this might soon be a global ecofriendly and cheap means of transport made of the cardboard we would normally throw away.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Ahituf, Israel.
STOUT: All right, you are watching NEWS STREAM. And when we come back, we'll tell you how one woman's battle against Mexico's drug gangs ended in tragedy. And after weeks of wet weather, could Britain be finally headed for a dry spell? We've got a full weather forecast coming up.
STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM, and these are your world headlines.
Yasser Arafat's body has been exhumed, so experts can test his remains for possible traces of poisoning from the radioactive element polonium. Samples are being examined eight years after the Palestinian leader's death. Palestinians and others believe that he was murdered.
Opposition groups in Egypt are expecting a huge show of public anger against the president today. Protests have been growing since President Mohammed Morsi gave himself sweeping powers last week. And there have been some clashes in Cairo where teenagers threw rocks and police responded with tear gas.
M23 rebel forces have set out conditions for their withdrawal from the Congolese city of Goma. They include direct talks with President Joseph Kabila and the release of political prisoners. M23 fighters beat back government forces to win control of Goma last Tuesday.
The new governor of the Bank of England is a Canadian. Mark Carney will replace outgoing Governor Mervyn King from July the 1st. It is the first time in the Bank of England's three centuries that a foreigner has been appointed. Nina Dos Santos and Ali Velshi will have more on that on "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" in about half an hour.
A delegation of Turkish and NATO officials will survey the Turkish- Syrian border on Tuesday. Turkey asked NATO last week for Patriot anti- aircraft missiles to better defend itself against any potential threat coming from inside Syria. And in Syria on Monday, there were air strikes near a refugee camp along the border with Turkey. Arwa Damon visited the border and filed this report.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is just about as close as the Turkish military will allow us to get, but right behind us is the border with Syria, and those white tents you see -- that is the refugee camp that is very close to the village of Athma (ph). We were able to get a closer look a short while ago. Hundreds of people seem to be gathered on the Turkish side, and that is because earlier on Monday, there were two Syrian air strike on the village of Athma itself. It is around 2 kilometers away.
It's the first time that eyewitnesses are telling us that it has been targeted since the Syrian uprising began. The two air strikes so far reportedly landed in the field didn't cause any significant casualties, but it was enough to send people flooding across to the border fence.
Earlier, we spoke to two Turkish villagers who were telling us that right after the strikes took place, they ran to the fence in another location, lifted it up, and were helping people come across.
We're speaking to a school teacher who is inside the camp, who's been living there for four months. He said that hundreds of people fled towards the border after the strike took place.
The Turkish military had asked us to move from our other location, but the teacher was just telling us that he's been living in the camp for four months. He said there are around 12,000 people who are there. He was in the process of giving one of his classes when the first strike took place, and he said that it was complete and total chaos. The children were screaming, yelling. The entire camp began trying to run for the borders for safety. Many of them have returned to the camp right now because they have no other option, and then there are still small groups of people waiting close to the border where we just were.
From this vantage point, you can see the refugee camp, and around 2 kilometers away, barely visible, the rooftops of some of the buildings of the village of Athma itself. It is a major logistical hub for opposition activists and for rebel fighters. A significant transit point. And it was also an area that many refugees fled to, doubling, if not tripling the village's population, because they thought that it would be safe, because of its proximity to the Turkish border.
Arwa Damon, CNN, on the Turkey-Syria border.
STOUT: On Monday, we told you about reports that 10 children died in Syria when cluster bombs struck their playground. Let's take a closer look at how cluster bombs work, and what makes them so deadly. Cluster bombs can be dropped by planes or fired in other ways, but what makes them different is that they don't hit the target as one big explosive. Before they land, the bombs actually open up and drop lots of little bombs, and that allows them to cover a wider area. Because the bombs are smaller, they carry less explosives, so they are often used against softer targets, and unfortunately, that includes people. Human Rights Watch also says bombs that don't explode on impact could still cause problems later. CNN cannot confirm that a cluster bomb was used on the children.
Activists posted this video from the scene to Youtube, showing what they claim are the small explosives carried inside a cluster bomb. Last month, the Syrian government denied that it has used cluster bombs; in fact, it denied that it even possesses any. And there is an international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs. More than 70 countries have signed it, but neither Syria nor the United States have signed it.
Now to a story that exemplifies that horror and the human cost of Mexico's drug wars. Maria Santos Gorrostieta was a mother of three, from the community of San Juan Tararameo. But unlike most local mothers, she has served as mayor in a region plagued by violence and murder. She had already survived two attempts on her life when she was kidnapped in broad daylight in front of one of her children. She was found eight days later, beaten, stabbed, and dead.
Maria had changed her life to make a difference in Mexico and ended up losing her life for doing so. Our senior Latin affairs editor Rafael Romo joins us live with more. Rafael, a brutal end for a woman who has cheated death twice.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: That's right. A very brutal attack, Kristie. She was kidnapped on a busy street during the morning rush hour, as terrified onlookers watched the scene unfold. Maria Santos Gorrostieta was driving her young daughter to school as they were stopped. The 36-year-old former mayor was taken away by force as her daughter cried hysterically. Mexican officials say when the mayor's body was found four days later, her hands were tied behind her back. The body also showed signs of a severe blow to the back of her head. Maria Santos Gorrostieta, who was also a medical doctor, was the mayor of the small community of Tiquicheo in the western Mexican state of Michoacan from 2008 to 2011.
This was the third time she was the victim of an attack. During the first attack in 2009, he husband was shot and killed, but she survived serious gunshot wounds. After her second attack in January of 2010, she was defiant. This is what she said, "I will rise up again as many times as God allows me to, so that I can keep on seeking, fighting for and working out plans, projects and actions for the benefit of the people, especially those most in need."
She is survived by her three children and her second husband. Kristie.
STOUT: She was such a talented and brave woman. And her violent death is a sign that the drug war there is far from over. Rafael, just how often are officials targeted by the drug cartels?
ROMO: Well, there have been at least a couple dozen mayors throughout Mexico who have been killed in the last six years, but you are looking at a mixed picture here. Violence in the border states, which used to be the most violent part of Mexico, has gone down, while places like Michoacan in western Mexico, because it the scene of a turf war between two very powerful drug cartels, violence there still exists as we can see in this case.
Now, Mexican officials are not confirming that she was targeted by a drug cartel, but again, the violence around that state is just very great, Kristie.
STOUT: Yes, and there were two attempts on her life. Did she have any protection? How much security do officials in Mexico have? Are they being adequately protected?
ROMO: It's on a case by case basis, Kristie. In her case, she was protected from the very first time that she was attacked, but then after finishing her term as mayor last year, her team of security was let go. Later on, a security team that was assigned to her by the state government was also reassigned because she said she didn't owe anybody anything, and she no longer needed security. But then again, as we saw back a couple of weeks ago, she was attacked again.
STOUT: She was defiant in the face of danger. A terrible loss for the country. Rafael Romo joining us live. Thank you.
ROMO: Thank you.
STOUT: Now, there is a reason why Mexico's recent troubles are referred to as a drug war. In looking at the faces of just a few victims, but in the eight years since President Felipe Calderon took office vowing to fight organized crime, at least 47,500 people have lost their lives to drug-related violence.
Now, let's stay in the region. Flooding is affecting parts of Central America. We have our Tom Sater at the World Weather Center with more -- Tom.
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Kristie, parts of Mexico, I think, could still some flooding rainfalls, but it is in Central America where the problems have been the last couple of days. We'll take you there. Here is a look from space. We'll get into and we'll grab satellite-derived rainfall totals. And notice the areas in the bright red. This is where we've had a problem in Panama. Panama City, of course, the country's capital, but just to the west into the suburbs, over 300 millimeters have fallen in some areas.
Now, this is a high terrain area, of course very hilly, so landslides were a big problem. Even if you look at the terrain, we've had three separate localities that have been declared disaster areas by the government of Panama.
Want to show you the pictures. These -- those concern here 800 homes affected where they say the water rushed in so fast, so high, reaching the levels of the roof. 2,700 people had to spend the last couple of nights now in a hotel or some shelters. Three fatalities. And it wasn't just the western part of the capital city. The problems of Colon, literally cut off from the rest of the country due to the landslides.
Again, this is a situation, it seems, we've been seeing in separate parts of the world here. And as we head back, we have the same system now that is slowly trekking now toward the west. When you see a dashed line on a weather map, this is called a trough, it's like taking an area of low pressure and just elongating it and stretching it. So the good news is at least the rain is easing in Panama and the province of Colon, as it moves now toward Nicaragua. They have their own topography problems and the high terrain there as well, as parts of Belize, up towards the Yucatan and Cancun. So this is the problem we're watching in this part of the world.
Want to take you back and recap you as well, as we are looking at the satellite of what's been happening in Europe now. The cold air rushing in, back behind a series of storms we've had. This is the coldest air of the season, and it's a signature on satellite, this patchy cloud cover, it's called cold (ph) cumulus (ph). So Portugal, Spain, you're going to get into this. And with another area of low pressure in the Mediterranean setting the stage for snow there.
Here is what we're watching. This is a series of storms. Back from Tuesday into Wednesday into Thursday. We had a massive storm with a broad precipitation Saturday into Sunday. The ground totally saturated. Toss in this one. This of course in the last 24 to 48 hours, and that is why the warnings and the flood alerts continue to be over 200.
As far as severe flood warnings, the highest level, we had a 4 at one point back on Saturday, dropped to zero as far as severe flooding, now back up to 2. It's river flooding. It's the river Trent. It's the Severn (ph) river into the Thames. We'll be watching crests rise coming in the next couple of days, and that means maybe even some of the larger metropolitan areas. Temperatures dropped significantly low, even near freezing in Madrid. So as we watch this front move, we'll watch the stage get setup for some heavy snowfall in parts of the isles. Now, sure, it's great for the skiers, but this is the first widespread event that we're going to start to see as the rain slowly subsidies up in areas of the UK. But again, 900 homes now have been flooded in parts of the UK, and we'll watch the heavy snows in the days to come. Stay with us, Kristie will have much more when we return.
STOUT: This month, we've been telling you about two very different leading women. One is the managing director of a major pharmaceutical company and the other is known as the Oprah of Argentina. So what's next for them? Becky Anderson and Felicia Taylor found out.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At a health clinic in Haska (ph), a small village outside of Bangalore in India, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw gives her marching orders.
KIRAN MAZUMDAR-SHAW, CHAIRWOMAN, BIOCON: Can we do the complete mapping of every single person in this area?
ANDERSON: She's not so much acting the boss, as she's shaping the course of health care at one of her facilities. Shaw is the chairwoman and managing director of Biocon, one of the country's leading pharmaceutical companies, with a portfolio that includes manufacturing and research.
MAZUMDAR-SHAW: Well, India unfortunately is a country with a lot of inequities, you know, whether it's the rich-poor divide, whether it's the divide between the business classes and the poor. I think we just have so many divides that we need various kind of large-scale initiatives to bridge these divides.
ANDERSON: And that sums up a major part of her mission. While Shaw is ever the businesswoman, with vast wealth to prove it, she says she also wants to do her part to help the less fortunate in her country.
MAZUMDAR-SHAW: We have started a micro health insurance program on the Biocon foundation. It provides patients cashless entry and treatment at hospitals.
ANDERSON: Biocon is the maker of Biomab for cancer and Basalog for diabetes, among other drugs. Shaw started the company in a garage in 1978. Her childhood dream was to become a doctor.
MAZUMDAR-SHAW: As a woman in India, you have to basically define yourself. You have to decide what you want to do in life. You can choose to be a conformist woman, or you can choose to be someone who is going to break out of the mold.
ANDERSON: After breaking the mold and accomplishing so much in her life and career, Shaw says her journey has just began.
SHAW: There is a huge journey ahead for me. I really feel that we only achieved one part of our journey. I don't think one can ever say that you've achieved everything you wanted, because life does not allow you to do that. But at least if I do half of what I set out to do, I will feel very satisfied.
FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Felicia Taylor. Susana Gimenez is at the top of the entertainment world in Argentina, and yet she too still has some unfulfilled dreams.
SUSANA GIMENEZ, TALK SHOW HOST: At times it's tough. And so like -- but I would like to be a Hollywood star. When I was a little girl, I played to be the most beautiful girl, and Marilyn Monroe, and Rita Hayworth was my mother's (ph) idol, and I was putting my, how to say, the pillowcase, no, not without the pillow, I just put the sham (ph), I don't know how to say it, like that, and I make my (inaudible), and I sing like her.
TAYLOR: Many of her dreams did come true, though. She was a successful model and actress in film and theater, before starting her interview and musical show 25 years ago.
She's now taking a year off from her hugely popular show. And we met her at her home in Miami.
(on camera): You have interviewed many celebrities.
TAYLOR: Which is your favorite?
GIMENEZ: Sophia Loren and Liza. I was in love with her, with all her pictures, and that incredible woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIMENEZ: Are you happy now in this --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIMENEZ: And Liza is so talented, so warm, so -- so I wanted to protect her, always. I love her, I love her with all my heart.
TAYLOR: When you are interviewing somebody, is there a question that you hate to ask?
GIMENEZ: Yes. I hate to put, the, you know, very private things, I don't -- I don't want to bother my guest. I don't want to make them, you know, if he wants to tell me, I tried to get him to that -- the thing I want to know, but I try to be soft (ph).
TAYLOR: If you were to give a woman advice, say a woman that wants to be in front of the camera, what would you tell her? What -- it's not easy.
GIMENEZ: You mean on television? No. You have to work very hard. You have to be nice. You have to be educated. You have to try -- try, try things. To be--
TAYLOR: Take chances.
GIMENEZ: Take chances. Yes. And believe in what you're doing and love it and (inaudible) it, and with a smile, you can have many things in life, why not smile.
STOUT: Only she can wear gold lame and get away with it. Love her. You're watching NEWS STREAM, and up next, giving a dressing down for, well, dressing down. Why Justin Bieber opted for this unusual fashion choice when he met Canada's prime minister.
STOUT: Welcome back. Now, news car maker Honda is on a mission to attract female customers, and at the risk of being called sexist, it's redesigned one of its models to cater to women's needs and tastes. Alex Zolbert went for a test drive in Tokyo.
ALEX ZOLBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the latest marketing ploy in car-crazed Japan. A car made specifically for women. The color -- an almost too predictable pink. This is a new version of the Honda Fit, a model named not Her's, but She's.
The car's designer, Eri Tomonari, took us for a spin.
"Female drivers told us they were concerned about the summer sun," she says. "As well as getting dry skin from the air conditioning." According to the car maker, the windshield cuts 99 percent of the UV rays, and the plasma cluster AC won't leave you with cracked hands.
There are also subtle tweaks, like pink features on the dashboard, pink stitching in the seats.
If you don't like pink, there's also black, brown, or white, that in the words of one Honda executive, speaking to a Japanese newspaper, can match a woman's eye shadow.
Yes, some women might find this all a bit offensive, condescending, or a step backwards, perhaps. But Eri tells us, yes, everybody's taste is different, but many women in Japan love something cute, or kawai (ph).
She's not wrong.
(on camera): Would you buy a pink car?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kawai (ph). Cute.
ZOLBERT: I see you're wearing pink shoes. What do you think of a pink car?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kawai (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kawai desme (ph). Kawai, cute.
ZOLBERT: Pink car here?
(voice-over): In fact, we found only one woman, from Mexico, who voiced any concerns.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't bother me, but maybe it's a little bit sexist.
ZOLBERT: And yes, this has been tried before. The Dodge Femme from the 1950s lasted only a few short years. Ford's Winstar Solutions (ph) minivan, complete with microwave and washing machine, never made it past the concept stage.
But as for the sales with this latest effort, Honda says so far, She's exceeding their expectations.
Alex Zolbert, CNN, Tokyo.
STOUT: Nice. Now, when you are as popular as Justin Bieber, perhaps you can get away with an outfit like this. Still, the singer's clothing, it's raised more than a few eyebrows when he met Canada's prime minister recently. Jeanne Moos has the fashion statement and the fallout.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They may be called overalls, but they sure can leave you underdressed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see, I see, he's drooping.
MOOS: When Canada's prime minister awarded fellow Canadian Justin Bieber the Diamond Jubilee Medal the other day, Bieber got an online dressing down. "So, is he a train conductor now?" "Dresses like an American hillbilly."
(on camera): Is there anything about this that strikes you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other than he's dressed inappropriately?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, he looks terrible.
MOOS (voice-over): It was the combination of off-the-shoulder overalls, the backwards cap and the neon yellow shoes that when London's "Daily Mail" echoed a blog that called Bieber "white trash prince," Bieber fired back, saying that the medal ceremony took place at an arena where he was set to perform and had just had a meet and greet.
"If you expect me to have a change of clothes, let alone a suit at that specific time, that's crazy. It wasn't like I was going into his environment. We were at a hockey arena. Wow, am I ever white trash."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually think it's cute. He looks like a teenager.
MOOS (on camera): So you're Canadian and you don't care?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. That's part of his persona.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ever see Steve Jobs in a tie? Nobody wears ties anymore.
MOOS: Just prime ministers.
(voice-over): And Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed amused, tweeting out, "In fairness to Justin Bieber, I told him I would be wearing my overalls too."
On Sunday, Bieber performed "Boyfriend" at Canadian football's Grey Cup half-time show, and was repeatedly booed. We haven't had a fashion mismatch like this since Lady Gaga met the queen wearing a red latex dress and panda eye makeup.
Actually, Justin, it could have been worse. You could have met the prime minister wearing sunglasses, or those leather dropped crotch pants. At least the snake you took to the Video Music Awards didn't slither out from under those overalls.
Jeanne Moos, CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does look like they're going to different parties.
MOOS: New York.
STOUT: Oh, Bieber.
Now, every day we skim through stories from a variety of news organizations, but one headline from "The People's Daily" in China caught our attention. It says, "North Korea's top leader named the Onion's sexiest man alive for 2012." The story quotes the U.S. publication's reasons for picking Kim Jung Un, saying "he is blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side."
Now, just in case you didn't know, the Onion is a satirical news organization. "The People's Daily" is not. It's seen as the mouthpiece of China's Communist Party.
And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.