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CNN NEWSROOM

Cairo Braces For More Violence; Tech Mogul Flees to Guatemala; Death of Rupert Murdoch's Mother; Living in a Grave; Social Media the New Front Lines in Syria

Aired December 5, 2012 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

A frantic search for survivors underway in the southern Philippines. A massive typhoon there washed away houses, leveled buildings, triggering landslides as well. At least 274 people are now dead. That number could go even higher because of hundreds of people who are still missing. The misery not yet over. The storm is expected to continue to dump heavy rain in Philippines until tomorrow.

And to Iran, where officials claim they have gotten some damning information from that U.S. drone that they say they captured. The information, the Iranians say, now proves that the U.S. was spying on Iran's military sites and its oil terminals. The U.S. has been trying to block Iran's oil exports as part of an effort to get Iran to give up its nuclear program. But as for the drone, a Defense official says no U.S. Navy drone is missing.

We're about to take you live to Cairo. That is where riot police are bracing now for another night of violent street fighting, tear gas all over the city today. This week, crowds of Egyptians have now stormed the presidential palace, breaking through fences, fighting with security forces, trying to keep them back. Now, the protesters, they are furious about several things. First of all, all concerning President Mohamed Morsi and this growing perception that he is making himself too powerful. CNN's Reza Sayah, he is in Cairo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Opposition factions back protesting against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for nearly two weeks here in Cairo. Most of the protests have been limited to Tahrir Square. But on this night, opposition factions going to the source of their anger, President Morsi and his presidential palace.

Why come here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's -- we've got fed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't respect us. He don't want to listen to our demands.

SAYAH: What's your message to him by coming out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That what he's doing is completely unfair. This is not what we asked for. It's complete dictatorship.

SAYAH (voice-over): At one point, there were tense moments when protests clashed with police and broke through a police barrier. But things calmed down pretty quickly. The president in no danger. He left at some point. The protests continue impassioned but peaceful.

(on camera): And there you hear the chants of "dictator, dictator." Like much of Egypt, most of these people are Muslims, but you'll also find the moderates, the liberals, the secularists, the women's rights groups. They don't like the way this constitution was drafted. They feel they were sidelined in the process and they're very concerned that down the road an Islamism dominated government could use this constitution and deny them their rights.

The president says the constitution is out there for everyone to see. If you don't like it, go vote no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what they all say. But we all know how that's going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going to leave. He's not our president anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he will be continue like this, we're not going to home. We are going to wait in the streets until he go out.

SAYAH: Opposition factions sounding as defiant as ever, rejecting the president's position, who's tried to calm them down by trying to assure them that there is no plot by the Muslim Brotherhood to monopolize power. And according to the president, the best way to solve this is for Egyptians to go out on December 15th and vote. Obviously, many of these opposition factions don't trust them. At around 10:00 p.m. everyone started to go home. And now the question, will they be back tomorrow and the next day, and what options do they have beyond protesting?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: We've got Reza on the phone in Cairo.

Reza, first of all, what are you seeing now? What is taking place? The sun is down and, obviously, people are taking to the streets again.

SAYAH (via telephone): Yes, Suzanne, there were all sorts of signs today that we could potentially see some violence and some ugly scenes. And, indeed, over the past hour, we have seen some violence back at the presidential palace. That's where you have supporters of President Morsi, opponents of President Morsi. The crowds have been growing over the past few hours. And they started clashing about 30 minutes ago. Both sides throwing rocks, debris, even Molotov cocktails, charging at one another.

Remember, most of these demonstrations by the opposition factions have been at Tahrir Square over the past week and a half. Last night they went to the presidential palace to send their message directly to the president. Today the Muslim Brotherhood, supporters of the president, responded by calling for a demonstration at the palace. That's where the two sides have been clashing for the past hour. Some tense moments right now. We're going to keep a close eye on the palace to see what the coming hours brings.

Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Reza, we are looking at live pictures now in Tahrir Square. Give us a sense of how big these crowds are. Is the Muslim Brotherhood, the supporters of the president, is that a very large group? And how does that weigh in terms of the numbers of the opposition here? Is this a fair fight?

SAYAH: These are both very large gatherings. Remember, it's important to point out that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful, the most organized political movement in Egypt. And then you have the opposition factions, which is a variety of groups that were divided shortly after the revolution. Now they've banded together against the president. Both of them have very, very large numbers. The crowds at Tahrir are a couple of thousand. Ever since last night, most of the protests have focused on the presidential palace. There's some estimates that 100,000 people were at the palace and, again, the crowds are growing tonight.

MALVEAUX: Is there a sense that the president is in any danger? Do they have enough security to actually protect him? I know that there were crowds that got as close to the palace wall to paint graffiti on it. What is the sense of the government there and their leadership? Is he in danger?

SAYAH: There has been no indication that the president has been in any danger over the past 24 hour, and no indication that these demonstrators have tried to breach the presidential palace. Most of these demonstrations have taken place outside. The spokesperson for the president came out in a news conference today and said the police are going to stay back and simply defend themselves. They're going to give the demonstrators the right to protest. If they're attacked, that's the only time they'll respond. Even so, if these two sides, the supporters of the president and the opponents, they're the ones that are going at it. And right now security forces having a tough time stopping it.

MALVEAUX: Reza, last question here. Is there anybody who is appealing for calm that these two groups are listening to?

SAYAH: Well, absolutely. The president, the spokesperson is, but this is an intense situation. Both sides are determined and defiant. And ever since the 2011 revolution, Egyptians learned how to protest. They've become very good at demonstrating. They've become very good at being defiant and determined. And that's what you're seeing both sides do right now, they're fighting for what they believe for, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Reza Sayah, we're going to keep a close eye on what is taking place in Cairo, obviously, if the violence intensifies, and just what is going to take place on the ground there. Thank you, Reza. I appreciate it.

I want to talk about another story. It's really kind of a bizarre twist to this all. This involves this American millionaire who's been on the run until now. John McAfee. He created the McAfee computer security software. Well, he is wanted for questioning in the killing of his American neighbor, right? Well now he has surfaced in Guatemala. He has been hiding in Belize since his neighbor turned up dead about three weeks ago. McAfee is scheduled to appear at a news conference in Guatemala any minute now.

Earlier he spoke exclusively about his neighbor's death with CNN Espanol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCAFEE, SEEKING ASYLUM IN GUATEMALA: No one has blamed me for the murder. I have not been charged. I am not a suspect. They merely want to question me about the murder. I am not concerned. I have not been charged with a crime. Then there is no basis for extradition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So McAfee's lawyer says his client is going to file a formal request for asylum in Guatemala today. Martin Savidge, he joins us.

And, I mean, you were one of the few people who was actually able, in Belize, to talk to this guy in person. Why has he moved, first of all? Explain to our viewers, what is he doing?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a perception in his mind that the government of Belize is somehow after him. He bases this on the fact that he did not pay money to high-powered political sorts. He has given $5 million to the government, to the people, over his time there by his own account. But he said that there was a politician who specifically came to him and wanted a contribution to a campaign fund. John didn't give it. In fact, he told him in his very, well, not so delicate way, to go to hell. And so as a result of that, he says that this politician has taken the vendetta against him and is using the government to prosecute him. I said, well how does that explain the death of your neighbor?

MALVEAUX: Yes, what is he saying?

SAVIDGE: He says the death of the neighbor was a tragic crime, a real crime in Belize, not orchestrated by the government, but the government is trying to pin it on him. That's what he says.

MALVEAUX: What is he doing in Guatemala?

SAVIDGE: Well, he ran there. And I -- when I talked to him, I had a very good sense he was going to run. That was quite clear. He was planning to escape.

MALVEAUX: Why do you say that? What did he say?

SAVIDGE: Because the way he was talking to us. The fact that he said that he was going to be -- the phone he was using was not going to work anymore. He would be out of communication for some time. I mean it had all the implications there that he was going to run. And so, as a result of that, it was, OK, where would he go? Mexico, very close, just to the north. But then I learned that his girlfriend, with whom he was running, she's from Guatemala. And to me that was the ah-ha, that's where he's going because she would have connections, she would have family, he would have a lifeline there. And that's indeed where he ended up.

MALVEAUX: So you're not surprised that he's in Guatemala, his girlfriend's in Guatemala. What do you suppose he is going to be announcing? I mean this is a guy who's on the run, and yet he's holding news conferences, really?

SAVIDGE: Right. And, well, -- and the whole on the run, I mean, the authorities in Belize would like to talk to him. They basically have said, John, we'd love for you to come in and tell us what happened. Anything you might have known about your neighbor. That's it. There's no indication. There's no warrant for him. They haven't charged him with anything. And I never got the impression there was a door to door search that was going on to try to find him. So this idea that John is running seems to be only in McAfee's mind. And that is this asylum. Why would he need asylum in Guatemala?

MALVEAUX: Right.

SAVIDGE: He has an American passport. He can legally travel there. He doesn't need asylum. So much of the drama here seems to be orchestrated by McAfee himself.

MALVEAUX: Self-created drama. Now, he's got a blog. He claims he's got several disguises. What do you know about that?

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, he was in disguise, he said, when we met him. We walk into this building. He's coming down a set of stairs. I knew it was him right away. He's got that goatee and he's got the mustache. That's very identifiable.

MALVEAUX: He doesn't look disguised to me.

SAVIDGE: But he had put powder in his hair, and he was walking with a cane and kind of a limp and holding an arm like he's crippled in some way. And I wanted to say, hello, John, how are you doing, but we also knew we wanted to interview him and I was afraid this would somehow upset him and it wouldn't happen. But we all knew exactly who he was.

MALVEAUX: Who he was, yes.

SAVIDGE: And the only one I think that was fooled by the disguise was John McAfee.

MALVEAUX: OK. Finally, in spending time with him, what do you make of his demeanor, his state of mind? I mean, he's on the move, not on the run, but on the move now. He loves to make these statements. He's talked to you. What's next for this guy? What is he thinking? SAVIDGE: He loves to make these statements. He knows -- you know, there are times I listen to him and I think that he's either delusional or that he does suffer from some sort of psychosis. There are other times he is very clear, very sharp. And I think he is enjoying certain aspects of this. The publicity. The way people are coming to him. But you also know, he is a genius. And that genius quality still stands. But I would say he is a master of self-promotion and a lot of this is self-promotion.

But in one of the most candid moments I said, you know, you are an intelligent man, but are you a smart man? And he said, no, I don't believe I am. And, in fact, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in. And I really do believe that. That he knows that a lot of his problems are problems he created.

MALVEAUX: And there's still some people who believe, suspect, he's not been charged, but suspect that he killed his neighbor.

SAVIDGE: There are, but authorities say the only link they have is that these two men had a feud and they were neighbors and that's it. They have no further proof or evidence beyond that that McAfee was involved. And a lot of people think he had nothing to do with it.

MALVEAUX: All right, Martin, you've got to do a follow-up interview in Guatemala and follow that guy.

SAVIDGE: So much -- so much to do.

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much. Fascinating story.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Really interesting.

Here are some of the other stories we're working on from around the world.

She was a lot more than just the mother of one of the most powerful men in modern media. She also made a name for herself as one of Australia's most respected philanthropists. We are saying good-bye to Elizabeth Murdoch.

Also, the Chinese built a city for Angolan workers. Nobody shows up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: News today out of Australia that the mother of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has died. Dame Elizabeth Murdoch had four children and her son, Rupert, of course, went on to control the global media company, News Corp. We are told she died at her home in Melbourne. She was 103-years-old.

Michael Holmes is with us, an Aussie himself.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed.

MALVEAUX: She was -- she's a hero in Australia. Why? Tell us a little bit about her.

HOLMES: People look very fondly on Dame Elizabeth. You know, she was a remarkable woman in her own right and, in fact, the tale of how she came to be where she was in a position to help so many people is a good one, too.

She came from a reasonably well-off family, went to a boarding school. Anyway, when she's 18, she appears in a magazine as a debutante, right?

MALVEAUX: Right. Sure.

HOLMES: And the publisher of that magazine was a man called Keith Murdoch, later to be Sir Keith Murdoch, and he was 42. She was 18. He was smitten with her. So, he gets an introduction at a society event, all very proper, falls in love. He is smitten. They end up getting married.

Lots of people didn't want them to get married because of the huge age difference and she said 20 years with him would be more than -- would be better than 40 years with someone else. And, indeed, 24 years later he did die, but by that point she had already established herself as a remarkable community leader. She was a philanthropist. She was matriarch, of course, of the media-family-to-be with Rupert, her son.

She's going to be mourned by a lot of people that she helped.

MALVEAUX: And there were more than 100 -- we were reading 100 charities that she was involved in.

HOLMES: Yeah, absolutely.

MALVEAUX: Even dealing with kids and health and education and all the things. What really inspired her? What drove her?

HOLMES: It is remarkable, like you say, 100 organizations, but they say countless thousands of individuals that she helped along the way, either through those groups or individually, dispensing advice, money, you know, helping people out.

The work she did with the hospitals was huge. The children's hospital in Melbourne, a research center, as well.

One of her quotes which I think gives the answer to your question was she said when she was 99, she said, "Looking out for people is the most important thing in life and is the most rewarding. Happiness, I think, lies in thought for other people and trying to help them."

I mean, whatever you think of Rupert Murdoch or whatever else, this was a lovely lady.

MALVEAUX: What does she think of her son's endeavors in the media and all the controversy around the empire?

HOLMES: She was very proud, proud of all her kids. Yes, I actually knew Rupert Murdoch's daughter, Elizabeth, who was named after Dame Elizabeth, too, and she used to speak fondly of her grandmother. This was 20 years ago back in Australia.

But, yeah, she will be looked at as a woman who had a good inning as we say in Australia, a cricketing term. She lived a good, long life, and what a rich and rewarding one.

MALVEAUX: Well, good for her ...

HOLMES: Yeah.

MALVEAUX: ... and her family, as well.

HOLMES: Exactly.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you. Thank you, Michael.

They say living underground in Aleppo, Syria, is like living in a grave. We're going to hear from a family that's caught in the middle of the violence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Imagine this. A family of five living in a grave. That is how one of the members of the family, Kurdeyah (ph) family, actually describes this underground bunker where they are hiding.

The war is raging above them in the Syrian city of Aleppo and they've been underground now for months.

Arwa Damon is taking us down into the dark basement hideout to actually meet this family.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDNET: Down a steep, stone stairway into the darkness, this is where the Kurdeyah (ph) family has been hiding for four months.

The strikes were all around us. We just ran out with nothing, 20- year-old Fakma (ph) (ph) recalls. We just ran and ran down here and the shrapnel was falling all over.

Since then they've dared occasionally to go back home to collect belongings.

There would be bombing like that and we'd come running back here, Fakma (ph) says.

Their home is just five doors away, but it's right on one of Aleppo's front lines. It's been hit by artillery fire since they fled.

We go home every two weeks to shower, fearful and terrorized, Fakma's (ph) mother tells us. We have a weak home. It could crumble any moment.

Their makeshift bunker was a workshop, the carpenters intricately carved furniture still lines the walls.

The last time the family ventured out was three weeks ago. Fakma (ph) and her younger sister want to leave. Anywhere but here. Anywhere they can feel the sun and smell fresh air, but their father refuses.

Poor but proud, he says he doesn't want to be at the mercy of others. Here he can send his son to scrape money and buy a little food. It's humbling how amidst all they have lost and suffered, they insist on offering us tea.

The girls dream of wounded neighbors. Their mother has nightmares her children are dead and says she feels her heart is going to burst with each explosion.

I just tell her it's far away and not to be scared, Fakma (ph) says, but sometimes the bombings are so close the family says they choke on the dust.

What can we say? We're living in a prison, prisoners in a prison, Fakma (ph) says. It's more like a grave, Fahra (ph) adds.

To give you an idea of just how dark it really is and terrifying with all of the sounds of the gunfire outside, we're going to switch our camera light off. This tiny flame is all the family has as they listen to the sounds of war above.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Aleppo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Social media have been critical to getting the word out in Syria. Video like the one posted on-line -- this one right here -- shows peaceful demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad that began last year and spiraled into now what is happening.

Activists regularly posting these videos and articles about the civil war that is taking place there. Often these are really just only the images we are able to get from the front lines. We see it there.

Lara Setrakian is trying to build on the information we get out of Syria. She is co-founder and managing editor of SyriaDeeply.org. Lara, you're a former correspondent with ABC and Bloomberg, as well. You have seen some of the -- what is taking place there. What do you make of the civil war?

LARA SETRAKIAN, CO-FOUNDER, SYRIADEEPLY.ORG: Suzanne, my heart breaks when I watch families like the ones in Arwa's piece. And what we needed to do, what we felt we had to do was to step out of the story for a moment and just look at technology, look at what's coming out from user-generated images, from voices of Syrians trying to tell their stories and just collect it in one place, so we decided to build SyriaDeeply.

It's part news-aggregator, part interactive-backgrounder, part original reporting. And what we felt we need do was to give people more background, more indication and engagement on these issues because, months and months into this crisis, so many people just don't understand and don't really have a way to make sense of it.

It's so complex and there are so many sophisticated pieces, we just wanted to do the best we could with technology to make it all make sense.

MALVEAUX: And how tough is it to actually get an accurate picture of what is taking place on the ground? We have heard that we know with the Internet being down, some of the phone lines as well, that it is very difficult to actually have people communicate with each other and really get the real story out.

SETRAKIAN: Absolutely. We had a kind of lucky break last week. Our reporters in Aleppo were on the Internet using a satellite connection when the whole country was cut of from the worldwide web, so we had information, at least some, coming out.

But what we find is that it's a very innovative social media game right now in Syria. The front lines are really on Skype, the conversations, those private chat rooms where we're invited in, where we can listen to these conversations in real-time chronicling battles in different cities and watching people communicate with each other.

So Skype is really become the way that we get a lot of that information out then we see what's posted on Facebook and other networks.

MALVEAUX: And, Lara, what we're hearing from world leaders, they're very concerned about Syria's chemical weapons. That Bashar al-Assad might use them against his own people or fall in the hands of those that might terrorize other communities and countries. The people that you talk to, what are they most concerned about?

SETRAKIAN: They're really afraid of what happens in this critical period where the Assad regime starts to crumble and the opposition isn't necessarily ready to take over and secure those sites.

So, this is really the clutch time where only do we need to worry about what the Assad regime might do, but how that transition is going to be handled and managed.

Sources are telling us that there is an active contingency plan under way that the international community is trying to train the opposition in how to secure those sites, everything from 24-hour Skype connections with rebel brigades to try to secure those chemical weapons facilities to train them in how to communicate with the current regime, officials in the regime right now being reached by the opposition who really want to say, you know, help us out here, let's try to insure some continuity for the day after.

MALVEAUX: Laura Setrakian, thank you so much. Excellent reporting. Really appreciate it.

More than 200,000 people, they are in shelters right now in the Philippines because of Typhoon Bopha. We'll have the very latest as the death toll now rises.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)