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Israel to Move Forward with E-1 Development; Human Rights Abuses in Yemen; Making Music in an Abandoned Town; Stolen Da Vinci Painting Finally Home; Death Toll Rises in Philippines

Aired December 4, 2012 - 12:30   ET


AARON DAVID MILLER, VICE PRESIDENT FOR NEW INITIATIVES, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: So I think Benjamin Netanyahu, worried about his right wing base in the wake of a cease-fire for which he's being criticized from his right and in anticipation of upcoming elections, does what he basically has done. He's committed to a unified Jerusalem, so this is not an unusual, frankly, or an extraordinary step, even though it will bring him -- has already brought him into conflict with the Palestinians, with Europeans and maybe with the Obama administration.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe not extreme when it comes -- when you put it in that context and that framework. It's extreme when you comes to any concept of a two-state solution. It really does do damage to that.

Israel saying it has to protect its strategic interests. Well, what are they when it comes to E-1, this area that's basically going to cut the West Bank in half, from north to south, effectively?

MILLER: I don't think it's a matter of strategy, certainly not when it comes to security. It's a matter of ideology and politics. E-1 has been under consideration since Yitzhak Rabin, who basically expanded Ma'ale Adumim, but agreed informally with the Americans that there would be no building in E-1 and that whatever building was done there would be in agreement with what at the time a credible, viable Palestinian partner.

So, E-1 has sat. Very little has gone on there. They've done some infrastructure planning and some road construction. Again, Michael, I don't think Benjamin Netanyahu is going to go through with E-1. It remains, at the moment, a thought experiment. But what he is going to do is increase the number of residential units in East Jerusalem which to the southeast is going to make it even more difficult to create any measure of continuity if, in fact, negotiations ever got to the point where a contiguous and independent Palestinian state was on the table.

HOLMES: And that sort creep of taking bits of East Jerusalem has been going on for a long time now. As you say, this is another leap in that and the Palestinians obviously very concerned about that.

You know, big picture, Israel holds all of the obvious cards in terms of power and control, but there have been more recently regular suggestions, that the Palestinians should stop thinking about a two- state solution, that one of their tactics could be to push for a one- state answer. Say we're all one big nation now and that is the leverage that they need because that's something Israel would not want when it comes to demographics.

MILLER: Right. That's an outcome and it's not an answer. It's basically, it seems to me, a fallback position of the desperate and, frankly, I don't think ...

HOLMES: What else is working?

MILLER: Well, nothing. But neither you or I are going to be around, I suspect, to see emergence of the one-state solution.

I mean, look, the Middle East is filled with polities that cannot accommodate national groups, Iraq, Lebanon. Cyprus is probably the best example of ethnic and political and national groups that have managed to hammer out some measure of coexistence.

No, I think the reality is separation through negotiation remains the only, perhaps the least bad, outcome for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The problem is there are simply no negotiations and no will on the part of any party, in my judgment, to make this a reality.

HOLMES: I was going to say that no will pretty much anywhere. But when it comes to the U.S., we used to be a player in all of this. And when it comes to the U.N. brokering anything meaningful in that part of the world, that's got to be, what, zero? You know, when can comes to Israeli and the Palestinian sides, both are pretty much ignoring us.

MILLER: I think that's right. Our street creed has diminished in the wake of the two longest wars in American history, neither of which we have won. The Iranians continue to frustrate us.

Look, everybody says no, these days, to Barack Obama without cost or consequence. He's become the kind of new Rodney Dangerfield of the Middle East. He just doesn't get any respect. And in large part, it's a cruel and unforgiving world, in part. He's also shackled with a huge domestic priority right now and, at this point, he's simply not going to risk any kind of confrontation with the Israelis, at least until the domestic house and the fiscal cliff is negotiated -- let's hope so -- with some sort of solution.

No, this issue is an issue for later in 2013 or maybe even in the second year of an Obama administration because the prospects of making it work now, Michael, are slim to none.

HOLMES: Yeah, and so it goes on when it comes to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

Thanks so much. Always good to get your thoughts, Aaron. Aaron David Miller there from the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Good to chat.

All right, well, the U.S. has fought a hard battle against terrorism over the years and its primary opponent has been, more recently, al Qaeda. Now, we are learning more about the activities of one of its affiliates, a very dangerous one in Yemen. We're going to have a live report. Do stay with us.


HOLMES: The United States fighting a tough battle to get rid of al Qaeda in Yemen. It's been going on for years. Now, Yemen is on the very southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. You see it there. It's just south of Saudi Arabia. They share a border. Now, it has spawned terrorists over the years, in part, because it is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, and has not been, shall we say, well- governed.

Well, now, a new report from Amnesty International shows an al Qaeda affiliate committed serious human rights abuses after seizing part of the country.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom shows us what happened. And, just a warning to you, some of the images in this report, we have blurred for you, but they are still very graphic. Even so, the descriptions of what happened will be upsetting to some viewers.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Crucifixion in Yemen, shocking punishment inflicted by al Qaeda fighters against a man they claimed was a spy for the U.S. His rotting body left hanging out in the open for days, a warning to anyone who might consider doing the same.

In another video, a prisoner, bound and blindfolded, is led to a public square, convicted of spying on the terrorist group for Saudi Arabia. He is readied for execution.

GREGORY JOHNSEN, AUTHOR, "THE LAST REFUGE": As the United States and as Saudi Arabia have been very, very concerned about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula being able to sort of plot, plan, and launch attacks from their hideouts in Yemen, the Saudis and the Americans have worked together to create these undercover agents.

JAMJOOM: For more than a year until June, al Qaeda and its affiliate, Ansar al Sharia, were in control of large parts of Abyan Province in Southern Yemen, inflicting brutal punishments on those who hadn't fled.

Amnesty International says resident there experienced a human rights catastrophe.

CILINA NASSER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: They committed horrific abuses. They set up courts, their own courts, and claimed to apply Islamic law.

JAMJOOM: In one extremely gruesome clip, the severed head of a woman is paraded through the streets. Her crime? Sorcery.

Another graphic video shows a young man accused of theft. He says he was beaten and then ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): After five days, they gave me an injection and I slept. When I woke up, my hand was not there.

JAMJOOM: Here, he lies unconscious, just before a man begins to amputate his hand.

Amnesty International says civilians were the victims of both sides.

NASSER: The people of Abyan basically were subjected to repression by Ansar al Sharia and, after that, they were subjected to additional violations by the Yemeni government forces and Ansar al Sharia and they were caught in the middle of this conflict.

JAMJOOM: According to Amnesty International, intense aerial bombardment as well as use of inappropriate battlefield weapons in residential areas, further endangered a population already in peril.

Eventually, Ansar al Sharia was driven out of Abyan, but few Yemenis believe it has gone away for good.


HOLMES: And Mohammed join me now from Beirut. Mohammed, I want to cover a couple of things with you. As you said, Ansar al Sharia has been driven out of this part of Yemen. You know, why is there still concern about the group which committed horrific acts against the Yemeni people?

JAMJOOM: Well, Michael, Ansar al Sharia is an affiliate linked with al Qaeda in Yemen. Al Qaeda in Yemen is arguably the most active and most dangerous wing of al Qaeda, of any group affiliated with al Qaeda in the world.

This is the group that plotted to blow up a plane over Detroit Christmas Day, 2009. This is also the group that plotted to assassinate. It was a failed assassinate attempt against the interior minister of Saudi Arabia, a few years ago. It is very strong.

The U.S. and Yemen have been trying to vanquish this group for years, militarily, through the use of drone strikes. The fact that this group was for 14 months able to control such large portions of territory in the south part of Yemen where a war on terror is very much active and still going on was very worrying to allies of Yemen in the war on terror and a very worrying sign of what might be to come because many people I speak to in Yemen think this is not the last we heard of either Ansar al Sharia or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


HOLMES: It's staggering, really, to think that they were able to carry on like that when those attacks were going on by the U.S. and the Yemeni government. But the Yemeni government, of course, has had a lot of problems governing when it comes to parts of its own territory. What has been its response to this? JAMJOOM: Well, Michael I spoke to Mohammed Albasha. He's the spokesperson for the Yemeni embassy in Washington, D.C., and he told me that the Yemeni government will carefully examine the findings of Amnesty International's most final report.

Sana'a continues to welcome the international community's support of the government's effort to promote and protect human rights. This past September, President Hadi established a committee to investigate human rights violations. And only a few hours ago, Yemen officially adopted the Paris Principles which provide guidelines on the protection of children during armed conflict.

And, Michael, I should remind viewers Amnesty International's full report can be viewed on its Web site.


HOLMES: Yeah, Mohammed, appreciate your reporting there. I know you know you've been to Yemen many times and know the country well. Thanks so much, Mohammed Jamjoom there.

We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back. Want to tell you now about a place you probably never heard of, but is the inspiration behind a band's new album.

Pyramiden was a mining town until it was abandons almost overnight in 1998. It is on the archipelago of Svalbard in Norway. Now, in its heyday, it had a population of about a thousand people. No one, though, has lived there in 15 years now. It doesn't even show up on most atlases.

Check out that picture. The ghost town, though, now back in the spotlight after the Danish band Efterklang spent more than a week there working on their new album. They recorded all of the natural sounds on the island and incorporated them into an album aptly titled "Pyramida". Have a listen.


HOLMES: It really catches you, doesn't it? The members of Efterklang join me now from Hamburg in Germany. We've got Casper Clausen, Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg. I hope I got all that right, guys.

I want to ask you, though, most people don't think of abandoned mining settlements when they want to be inspired, especially about music. Why was it -- what was it about this place that drew you in?

CASPER CLAUSEN, EFTERKLANG: Well, there was a couple of things, obviously. But we -- the first -- foremost we were drawn by the pictures of the place. This apocalyptic kind of image of humans that had a dream, was building something and then left in this amazing, really rough nature. And those pictures were just immediately imprinted in our minds when we saw them for the first time. And a year after, when we started looking into the new album and coming up with ideas for it, they were still there. So we thought, why don't we try and make an album around this place?

HOLMES: Yes, it's a combination of industrial and natural beauty, in a way. On the album, there's a lot of, as we said before, the natural noises on the island. And that -- some of them actually sound like instruments. And I just -- I just want to play that for the audience.


HOLMES: And it sounds like one of those little thumb pianos that, you know, kids play, but it's actually an oil drum being hit with drumsticks. What other things did you find on the island to make music from?

RASMUS STOLBERG, EFTERKLANG: Well, there's a -- well, a lot of -- because we had nine days up there. One -- the first song you played features Casper running on this wooden boardwalk across this ghost town and a lot of -- I think it's forks played on empty bottles. One of the workers up there built this sort of -- in his spare time built a house of empty bottles. That's in that song. And, yes, the one you just played was -- that instrument was one of our favorite findings.

I think also it says when you read about this place that the world's northernmost grand piano still stands in the concert hall. And that was, of course, something we got really excited about, playing that piano. And it was great to do that. But I think may favorite one may be the oil things. We had these empty -- yes, fuel tanks. Empty fuel tanks, eight meter high. Each had a different pitch. So we were able to actually turn it into an instrument sort of like microphonish with a huge, huge reverb.

CLAUSEN: Gigantic.


HOLMES: Yes, it was amazing to listen to, too. I think -- I'm told you made a thousand field recordings for the album. What do you want people to get from listening to it? What do you want them to take away from it?

MADS BRAUER, EFTERKLANG: Well, I mean, it's interesting when you use field recordings that you record from one place because then you tie it very much to that place. But, of course, in our minds, we are totally there when we listen to it, so it's hard to tell what people will get from it. But I hope, personally I hope that people can sense the atmosphere and cannot -- can get a little picture of how this place look and sound.

HOLMES: Yes, and it really is mesmerizing in many way. I appreciate you guys joining us. Casper Clausen, Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg from Efterklang. Thanks so much. And good luck with it. I hope it sells. CLAUSEN: Yes.

HOLMES: OK, cheers.

All right. Well, President Obama is speaking out about the fiscal cliff in his first television interview since the election. He spoke with Bloomberg's White House correspondent yesterday and the White House. It just aired on Bloomberg television minutes ago.

Here's some of what the President had to say about the Republican proposal to close tax loopholes without raising taxes on the country's top 2 percent.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not me being stubborn. It's not me being partisan. It's just a matter of math. You know, there's been a lot of talk that somehow we can raise $800 billion or $1 trillion dollars' worth of revenue just by closing loopholes and deductions.

But a lot of your viewers understand that the only way to do that would be if you completely eliminated, for example, charitable deductions. Well, if you eliminate charitable deductions, that means every hospital and university and non for profit agency across the country would suddenly find themselves on the verge of collapse. So that's not a realistic option.


HOLMES: As I said, that aired just a few minutes ago. We're going to have a lot more on that in the next hour of NEWSROOM. So do stick around for that.

Meanwhile, it is a fight over heritage and history. Violence flaring in northern Ireland over a decision on when to fly a flag.


HOLMES: Some other world news to bring you now.

Protesters scuffling with police in Belfast after the city council voted to fly the British flag, the Union Flag, over City Hall just 17 days a year instead of every day. The violence sent two officers to the hospital. Street people were arrested. People in northern Ireland, of course, still remain deeply divided between the unionists, who want to remain part of the United Kingdom, and those who want to become part of the Republic of Ireland. The nationalists as they are known.

The death toll rising in the Philippines after Typhoon Botha, the storm hitting the southern island of Mindanao. At least 27 people are dead. Tens of thousands in evacuations centers. More than 50,000. There are fears that it could be as devastating as the storm that killed more than 1,200 people last year.

Well, in Italy, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci stolen decades ago has finally been returned. The "Tavola Doria" was taken from Naples back in 1940. Well, it made its way to the black market. It went through Switzerland, Germany, and the United States before ending up at a museum in Japan. The museum agreed to return it to Italy after hammering out a joint custody agreement.

Well, when we come back, the pictures that caught our attention. Don't miss that.


HOLMES: Several stories and photographs caught our attention today. Want to show those to you now.

Protesters in London dressing up as caricatures of David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch, demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament and calling for a 20 percent limit on the amount of media companies one person can own.

Next, these would-be immigrants were rescued by Spanish emergency services in the Straits of Gibraltar. Thousands of African immigrants try to reach Europe each year by crossing what are dangerously narrow straits.

All right. That'll do it for us here on NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Michael Holmes. Ashleigh Banfield is in for the next hour. Over to her.