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Twenty Months of War in Syria Takes Toll; The Pope Builds Bridges on Twitter; Interview with 2012 CNN Hero of the Year; Eating Bugs for Your Health

Aired December 3, 2012 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Let's return to Syria now.

Twenty months of civil war taking a terrible toll on families, especially those living along the frontlines, people who don't have enough money to get away.

In a piece you'll only see on CNN, our Arwa Damon caught up with families who have just returned to the hard-hit city of Aleppo.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are home again, but they are cold and broke and still in danger. About one- third of the families who fled the Saoud (ph) neighborhood of Aleppo have come back only to find out that these streets are now on the front line.

If the regime can retake Saoud (ph), it can cut off the main artery for opposition forces in Aleppo and reopen a route to the airport.

On a nearby hilltop, the neighborhood of Suleiman al-Halabi. The rebels used to control that, as well, but lost it a month ago.

The battle lines here are constantly fluid and snipers are a constant threat.

A frontline is visible just through here and we can barely make out three bodies. The rebel fighters are telling us that there are two male and one female. There were five. They managed to extract two, but they can't reach the others.

For the children here, gunfire has become background noise. Twelve- year-old Haleh (ph) hardly notices. She says she's not afraid anymore.

To start with, little Haleh (ph) is also chatty, but then gets scared. Her father says she thought the rebel fighters with us were Assad's forces. Despite his efforts to reassure her, she is still anxious and with reason.

Salah Hadidi (ph) was shot in the arm at a checkpoint. The bullet was going to hit my daughter, he tells us, but I had just put my arm around her.

She, just 4-years old, blinks hard. Yes, she ended up drenched in her father's blood.

As gunfire rings out again, her father takes away the bullet casings she's collected.

Nearby, a woman who doesn't want to be filmed takes me aside. Sometimes I want to die rather than live like this, she whispers.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Aleppo.



HOLMES: OK, if you follow the Pope's spiritually, then you may want to now do it virtually. The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI is about to launch his own Twitter account.

CNN Belief Blog co-editor, Eric Marrapodi, joins us from Washington with the details.

Eric, next Wednesday the big day. What can we expect for the Twitter launch? How is it going to work? He is famous for multiple languages, of course.

ERIC MARRAPODI, CNN BELIEF BLOG CO-EDITOR: Sure, sure. The Pope, of course, is multi-lingual and, likewise, we've seen a multi-lingual appearance of Twitter feeds from the Pope.

If you look at @Pontifex, you can see his first seven followers are the other languages that will also appear under his name. Whenever the Vatican does something really big and important, they always do it in multiple languages, which is why they're doing this in English and German and even Arabic.

And what will happen on Wednesday is he will be answering some questions on Twitter. One of the reasons that they said he wanted to get involved with the social networking site was he wanted to connect with people in social media and, so, what better way than to take a few questions, #askPontifex.

HOLMES: I can just imagine the hash tags going forward.

Why? First of all, why Pontifex? Why? Why not just @Pope?

MARRAPODI: Yeah, @Pope, that's what I thought it was going to be. There were some other folks who thought it might be @BenedictSPP, his signature in Latin. But pontifex means "bridge-builder" in Latin and it's also another word for the Pope, so I think it's the Vatican reaching out and saying, look, this is our bridge to folks in the digital world and that's why we're going to use it. At last check, I just checked before I came on. He's already has 158,000 followers, not bad for a morning's work on Twitter. HOLMES: Yes and he hasn't tweeted that much. You know, I'm trying to imagine that you've got an 85-year-old pontiff. I mean, I don't see him sitting here doing this with the Blackberry. Is he going to be doing -- he's not going to be doing it himself, surely?

MARRAPODI: Well, here's what a Vatican source told me that he would be composing all the tweets and he'll send the first one, but as things move forward, he will still compose the tweets, but then hand it off to aides to actually then go and publish them.

I don't think when he meets with heads of state he will pull out his smartphone and snap a picture to then tweet for the world to see, but who knows? That may happen. We'll have to wait and see.

HOLMES: The possibilities are endless. Yeah, meeting world leader, #greattimes.

All right, good to see you.

MARRAPODI: There you go.

HOLMES: All right, Eric, great to see you. Thanks so much.

MARRAPODI: Thanks, Michael.

HOLMES: Eric Marrapodi there.

All right. Let's get a quick stock market update. Why wouldn't we?

The Dow Jones has been -- it started 50 points up. It was down around 10 points last team I looked. Well, down six points on the day. Pretty flat. Why? Well, investors are watching those fiscal cliff talks happening in Washington. You know, there was confidence then there wasn't. We'll see what happens.

By Friday, all eyes, though, are going to be on that November jobs report. A couple of stocks you might want to keep your eye on today -- Dell, which got an upgrade from Goldman Sachs, and Yahoo!, which lost a $2.7 billion settlement in a Mexican federal court late on Friday.

See what happens with those things impacting those prices.


HOLMES: Well, Kim Kardashian was in Bahrain this weekend to promote a milkshake franchise. Bet you didn't know that. Did you want to know that?

The drinks weren't the only thing that got all shook up, though, besides the screaming fans. Bahraini are fans of Kim Kardashian? Go figure. They showed up, anyway, at this high-end shopping mall, but police reportedly had to use tear gas to disburse about 100 Shiite Muslims who showed up to protest. I'm not surprised. We haven't been able to confirm that independently, but you see the pictures there. Well, there has been a climate change conference happening in Qatar and take a look at how climate change is trending. You see it there. Almost 200 nations meeting in Doha until Friday and what they're trying to do is extend struggling U.N.-led efforts to slow global warming and avoid more droughts, extreme weather, floods, heat waves, and, of course, rising sea levels, important stuff.

Well, "CNN HEROES" recognizes everyday people changing the world, and last night we named the 2012 Hero of the Year. You'll meet her right here live, just ahead.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The 2012 CNN Hero of the Year from Katmandu is Pushpa Basnet.


HOLMES: CNN announcing its 2012 Hero of the Year last night. An emotional and star-studded event. The winner, a 29-year-old woman from Nepal, who saw a need and filled it, changing her life and those of hundreds of children.


PUSHPA BASNET, 2012 CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: In Nepal, when parents have been arrested by the police and the children don't have local guardians, some children go to prison with the parents. The first time when I visited the jail, I was studying for my bachelors in social work. I saw a small girl who just grabbed my shawl and she just gave me a smile. It was very hard for me to forget that.

My name is Pushpa Basnet and my mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls.

In 2005, I started a daycare where the children can come out from the jail at morning and they can go back to the jail in the afternoon. We have children who are from two to four. They have coloring, reading, starting five days a week.

We started residential home in 2007. Currently we have 40 children living out here, mostly about six years old. I don't get a day off, but I never get tired. The children all call me "mamu." It's a big family with lots and lots of love.

When I started this organization, I was 21 years old. People thought I was crazy, but this is what I wanted in my life. I'm giving them what a normal child should have. I want to fulfill all their dreams.


HOLMES: And as CNN's Hero of the Year, Pushpa Basnet received $250,000 to continue her work on behalf of children in Nepal. Pushpa joins me now live from Los Angeles. And good to see you again. I was interviewing you on CNN International earlier, but here we are on CNN U.S. Congratulations again. For those who don't know, of course, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the government just really can't afford to take care of all of the indigent children. I -- you know, I want you to tell me a little bit about why you got involved again. You know, what was it that sparked your interest?

BASNET: I was like, why did I get involved? Because I would also -- because my parents come from a business background. So definitely I thought that I would get into business. But I was starting my bachelors in social work, so we -- I go chance to visit the jail. And when I visited the jail first time, I felt how fortunate I am that, you know, my parents are working so hard just for me to get a good education.

But there are some other children also just because of their parents, the children are also suffering. So I thought that I should do something. And I should give this back to the children because they are the future. And that's how I started. And now I'm here.

HOLMES: Yes, you know, I know that there were some -- until you did start this, there were some kids who literally hadn't been outside of a prison in their lives, despite having done absolutely nothing wrong. How has what you've been doing -- how have you seen children who were in that situation change as people?

BASNET: Recently we had this -- we had rescued this girl from (INAUDIBLE). It's a very far place from Katmandu. It takes three days to travel to that place. And she was born in the prison. And I still remember the picture and the feeling what she had in her first time when we opened the gate from the -- like the prison had opened the gate. She ran so fast like, you know, because seeing an animal, tree, and the big ground, she was just running. We could not hold her.

And later on, like, her mom was inside, and we said, don't you want to say good-bye, and she was like, I'm not going to stay. I want to go out from here. Now she's four years old, and we do ask her, do you want to go and see your mom? And she said, no, this is my home. I'm not going to go. And she would say that I think you should get my mom here. And that's what have brought the change on those children. And they expect their mom to come to my place and stay too also.

HOLMES: Yes, well, of course. What you're doing is amazing. You know, you effected such change with children, and no doubt parents who are in the jails glad to see their kids getting out and doing something different like what you're providing. But I'm curious whether you have been able to affect change in the system that allows this to happen in the first place. And I know there are political difficulties in Nepal.

BASNET: Yes. Now -- now at the system like now it's the system of -- I think the system what -- in our country is just in the paper. Now we would like to show the reality. Like, you know, what we can do and that things have changed, like initial time, like the government would not trust what we are doing. Now we can see the government, people are approaching us to solve the problem. Like, you know, if there are children in the prison, if they don't have place to anyone to look after, they would call up us in middle of the night or any time and say, Pushpa, we have new children. Can you have them into your place? So things have changed. But definitely, within a year, we would like to work on the policy to show them how we can work together and have these children a better future.

HOLMES: You know, one of the -- one of the benefits of winning this is -- well, there's a few benefits. You know, profile, of course, publicity, but also money. $250,000 in this prize. How would you use all of that, not just the money, but the profile and, you know, a little bit of -- a little bit of weight being carried with this award. How will you use it?

BASNET: I think now after being a CNN hero, Hero of the Year, it's that you have lots of responsibility to do also and definitely this keeps me more diverting a lot to do my work more, and whatever money we have received, still because now we are staying in a rented place, we don't have a big place for all the children. We would like to make our own house for the children with all the things what they want in their life. And that's what we are planning to do. And -- but definitely I would like to take a small stake in this process of the work.

HOLMES: Well, good for you. I'm so pleased that you won. Pushpa Basnet, thanks so much for joining us there and best of luck with your wonderful endeavors.

BASNET: Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you.

HOLMES: Good to see you again.

All right. And you can check out, by the way. There's a way to donate there as well.

OK. Well, it is a hot new dish, but it is not for the squeamish. Just have a look at that. We'll show you how eating bugs could help heal the planet.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

It is lunchtime around now here on the East Coast and there's a hot new health food gaining ground in the U.S. But for some, these delicacies might be a little hard to stomach. Advocates say bugs, yes, bugs, are not only good for you, but eating them helps the planet. So there's your reason to do it. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Silkworm larva, stir fried with soy, sugar, and just a dash of white pepper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The silkworms have texture like popcorn, and they have a creamy center. GUPTA: Bon appetit. Typhoon Restaurant in Santa Monica is one of a handful of restaurants right here in America that serves patrons bugs, on purpose. Chili pepper seasoned crickets. Even scorpions on shrimp toast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scorpions still have the stinger in them, but, yes, they are dried, so the poison is neutralized.

GUPTA: Scorpions are just one of 1,700 bugs that are safe for people to consume. It's still a novelty here in the States, but insects are part of a daily diet in most of the world. Earlier this year, the United Nations held a global conference on the benefits of eating insects. Even suggesting it might be a good solution to world hunger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know why the United States doesn't eat insects when they're actually very healthy for you.

GUPTA: And he's right. Insects are high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol. Take a cricket, for example. A six ounce serving of these crunchy bugs have 60 percent less saturated fat as the same amount of ground beef.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now the ants.

GUPTA: These string potatoes aren't complete without adding some dried ants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They taste a little sour, tangy, and they have a hint of black pepper to them.

GUPTA: They also have 14 grams of protein per serving. With the growing population and rising costs of food, the rest of the world just might be on to something.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Santa Monica, California.


HOLMES: Delicious.

Well, as we said earlier, there is a royal baby on the way. The palace confirming that Prince William and Kate Middleton are having their first child. Of course, lots of people talking about it on Twitter. I don't know if the Pope is yet.

Here's what Piers Morgan had to say: "Hardly surprising Kate's feeling so sick. According to 'The National Enquirer,' she's been pregnant since 2003."

Maria Shriver offering her congrats as well, and her support. She said this, "Wonderful news for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Kate has hyperemesis. Had that with my last child. Not fun at all. Hang in there, Kate."

Hyperemesis, that's morning sickness to you and me.

Actor Zach Braff from "Scrubs" said, "Where does one buy a tiny crown and scepter these days?"

Amazon? Perhaps. As they say, just wait for those commemorative plates and mugs.

That'll do it for us. An hour of NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL with the lovely, intelligent Ashleigh Banfield is ahead, with more NEWSROOM.