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NEWS STREAM

Doomsday Averted: Earth Survives 2012 Prediction; U.S. President Calls For Moment Of Silence Today; Syrian Soldiers Believe They Fight Against Extremist Jihadists, Terrorists; Budget Cuts In Italy Threaten Preservation Of Roman Archeological Sites

Aired December 21, 2012 - 08:00:00   ET

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


MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: Hello, I'm Monita Rajpal in Hong Kong. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

A moment of silence as Americans remember those killed in a school massacre that stunned the nation and the world. Also ahead, NATO calls it the act of a desperate regime accusing Syrian forces of using Scud type missiles against rebels.

And despite all the hype, the world has not ended. So what's next for everyone who believed it would?

90 minutes from now, church bells will ring across the United States. Much of the nation will observe a moment of silence to honor victims of a massacre at this elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

A gunman killed 20 students and six adults there exactly one week ago before taking his own life. The city has been in mourning ever since. Funerals are still being held. And most of the victims were just six or seven years old and that has shocked the country and seems to be stirring more widespread calls for actions and perhaps after similar shooting tragedies.

Vice President Joe Biden met with cabinet members and law enforcement officials to discuss gun law reforms. President Obama says he wants action he can take to congress in January.

In a couple of hours, the National Rifle Association will comment on the school shooting. So far the gun rights group has only said it's heartbroken by the horrific and senseless murders.

Anti-NRA protests are expected. Nearly 200,000 people have petitioned the White House for laws limiting access to firearms. President Obama has just released a video in response. And Mr. Obama will join many other Americans in observing a moment of silence next hour.

Poppy Harlow joins us now from Newtown, Connecticut with more on that -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Monita, I think the best way to describe what's going to happen here today is that the world will literally be standing with this community, with Newtown, Connecticut, the moment of silence happening at 9:30 am eastern, just about the same time that one week ago today that gunman burst into Sandy Hook Elementary and shot down 20 students and six adults. They're being remembered today.

As you mentioned, President Obama will observe a moment of silence. The governor here in Connecticut saying we can't fully understand the pain of these families, but this is time for us to at least stand with them.

28 governors across this nation calling on residents of their states to also join in, in this moment of silence. And I think the sound will be beautiful. Church bells will ring here across Newtown and across America in honor of these victims.

Folks here woke up this morning to a letter from the first lady Michelle Obama writing in the local paper here how she grieved, how her heart breaks for all of these families as a mother herself and saying how touched she's been by the outpouring of support that she's seen for this community.

RAJPAL: Poppy, there's also been an outpouring of a need for action from the White House, from Washington, for something to change. President Obama has said now is time for Washington to make sure the issue of gun control doesn't get bogged down in studies and reports. How does he translate that into action?

HARLOW: Well, he -- the White House has just released this morning, Monita, about a two-and-a-minute video of the president addressing the American people talking about exactly that. The president prefaced these comments by saying he is a staunch reporter of the second amendment right to bear arms, that he does believe that most gun owners are responsible. But there's also a place where he clearly draws the line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the fact is most gun owners in America are responsible. They buy their guns legally and they use them safely. And it's encouraging that many gun owners have stepped up this week to say there are steps we can take to prevent more tragedies like the one in Newtown, steps that both protect our rights and protect our kids.

Here's what I think we should do. This week I called on congress to take up and pass common sense legislation that has the support of a majority of the American people, including banning the sale of military style assault weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And Monita, that debate over gun control in this country will go on and on, but today it's about the victims, it's about the families, it's about this town. And I just want to leave you with this, this morning in a diner I met a father. And he looked at me, and he knew we were part of the media, and I said how are you doing? And he said, well, I have two twin girls, eight years old, and they went to Sandy Hook Elementary. And he said, there has been no moment like this one where words are more fit to say there just really aren't any words.

And our hearts, everyone's hearts are with people like that, all these families today.

RAJPAL: Yeah, that's probably the perfect sentiment indeed. All right, Poppy, thank you very much. Poppy Harlow there in Newtown in Connecticut.

Authorities are still trying to figure out why and how this tragedy occurred. They say 20 year old Adam Lanza took three guns to Sandy Hook elementary and shot his way into the locked building. He killed himself after opening fire on those students and teachers.

He lived at this home with his mother. The medical examiner says Lanza shot her in the head while she slept.

Officials say before leaving the house, Adam Lanza apparently smashed his computer. Investigators still have not been able to retrieve any information from it.

But Lanza seems to have no social media footprint. People who knew Lanza describe him as quiet and socially awkward. CNN has not been able to independently confirm if he was diagnosed with a form of autism, but experts say the disorder could not be blamed for the rampage.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Asperger's is a type of autism. Now doctors call autism a neural developmental disorder, not a mental illness, that's important. It's something you're born with and it does tend to run in families.

A little bit of history, the condition was first described by a doctor named Hans Asperger in 1944. He made this key observation, listen closely, people with Asperger's -- and he was focused primarily on children -- are socially isolated. They have problems with communication. There is something off in their interactions with other people. They can miss social cues.

Take this example, if someone walks over and says hello most of us naturally say hello right back. A child with Asperger's, that doesn't come as instinctively. They lack what you might call social intuition.

Another symptom, people with Asperger's tend to become extremely focused. They're obsesed with details. Think about a kid who studies maps and can name every interstate highway in the United States. In some people, this can go too far, but it can also be a good thing. One example, Temple Grandon (ph), she has Asperger's, and she's written six books. She's a top expert in designing facilities for livestock. She says don't we want our experts, our engineers, to sweat those details?

Now there are some crucial distinctions. One, children with Asperger's do not have language problems. Their speech often develops normally. Also, by definition, people with Asperger's have average to high intelligence. And it seems to be common in the tech world, at least more common.

Not to mention, actress Daryl Hannah, and author Tim Page. He won a Pulitzer Prize.

There's a common misconception that people with Asperger's lack empathy. Now if you look closer, you'll see that this isn't necessarily true. In fact, people with Asperger's tend to be bad at recognizing emotions in other people, but research and experience show this, they do relate to those emotions. In fact, it can be extremely intense, almost like they feel too much for other people, even animals.

Temple Grandon (ph), she became famous for developing humane livestock pens. She could put herself in the animal's place. She said she could feel their pain.

We also know that Asperger's is not associated with violence like the Connecticut school shootings. People with Asperger's can be easily frustrated and children are prone to tantrums, but there is zero evidence that they're more likely to plan violence or want to hurt others, in fact they're much more likely to be targeted, to be bullied themselves.

There's no medication to treat Asperger's, but therapy can help children and even adults to become less awkward. Missing social skills can be taught to a point.

Now come May, Asperger's won't technically even exist anymore. In the new diagnostic manual, it's just part of autism disorder.

We don't really understand what's different in the wiring in the brain of someone with these conditions, but I hope someday we can unlock those secrets, and I hope that can help a lot of people out there.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJPAL: Still ahead here on News Stream, as NATO accuses the Syrian regime of using Scud missiles, we are given a rare inside look at Syria's army.

Also, outrage across India where a brutal attack has some women in the capital taking self defense classes.

And you're looking at live pictures of a Mayan ruin in Guatemala, proving that, no folks, the world did not end.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RAJPAL: Welcome back.

Tensions are again running high in Egypt one day ahead of the second stage of voting in a new constitution. Opponents of the charter say it gives Islam too prominent a role in what they believe should be a more secular state. But in the first round of voting last weekend, supporters say the draft garnered 57 percent support backed by the ruling Freedom and Justice Party under President Mohammed Morsi.

Now the second vote is widely expected to go the same way. Already, scuffles have broken out today in Alexandria between pro and anti- government protesters. Opponents of the draft are desperate to ensure that a post revolutionary Egypt gives stronger rights to women and minorities. If the constitution is passed, elections are expected early next year.

NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the Syrian regime is using Scud type missiles against rebel forces. He calls it the action of a desperate regime approaching collapse. This, as a newly released report by the United Nations finds the war is becoming increasingly sectarian.

Meanwhile, the violence continues unabeted. About 100,000 Palestinians are believed to have fled Syria after their refugee camp in Damascus was rocked by heavy fighting earlier this week.

NATO says the recent escalation in fighting makes it more vital than ever to ensure that Turkey is protected.

Ivan Watson joins us now live from CNN's Istanbul bureau.

Let's start talking about that Scud missile report that's being used supposedly being used by the regime against rebels.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a Turkish diplomat confirms to CNN that at least four Scuds were fired from the direction of the Syrian capital Damascus towards Aleppo early Thursday morning and that they landed somewhere between Aleppo and the Turkish border after their launch.

Now that was also backed up by this statement from the NATO Secretary- General also confirming and condemning reports of this Scud missile launch. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: I can confirm that we have detected the launch of Scud-type missiles. We strongly regret that act. I consider it acts of a desperate regime approaching collapse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Now, Monita, this is the second time in two weeks that Turkish government officials as well as NATO and U.S. military officials have said that they've detected what appear to be long-range surface to surface missiles being fired by the Syrian government. And it backs up the argument for why Turkey has requested PATRIOT missile batteries from NATO along its border basically to protect Turkish population centers from the threat of ballistic missiles being fired by the Syrian regime.

We know that there have been deadly clashes along the more than 900 kilometer long border between Turkey and Syria over the course of recent months. And Turkey says it needs this protection.

The bigger question is the use of -- the accused use of such big and poorly targeted weapons against Syrian population centers by the Syrian government itself. It fits a pattern that we've seen in recent months of other Syrian rockets being fired, artillery, and of Syrian aircraft of bombing and also using barrel bombs against Syrian population centers -- Monita.

RAJPAL: Ivan, thank you. Ivan Watson there in Istanbul.

Since the conflict began, we have seen countless videos shot by Syrian rebels battling troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad, but now a rare look at the Syrian army's perspective. Alex Thomson of the UK's Channel 4 News was allowed to follow those forces near Damascus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX THOMSON, CHANNEL 4 CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't look much, does it? But being able to film openly with the Syrian-Arab army defending Damascus as it says it is has taken Channel 4 News six months to achieve.

We were taken to the edge of Daria, a rebel stronghold, and given the military booklet on filming rules. In essence, not that different from the British army one you get in Afghanistan. They didn't want us to identify soldiers by name, face, or rank, though one officer was very keen to speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): These people we are fighting are Salafis, jihadists who want sectarian warfare and to kill indiscriminately. Europe is civilized. We know and respect that. But this is part of a global movement. And some day it will be in Europe to.

THOMSON: The Syrians say it's just like the British in Afghanistan, we're fighting a war against a global jihad. Many officers seem genuinely surprised Europe isn't joining them in their struggle rather than opposing.

The Syrian government claims this is a battle about terrorism (inaudible) and says that is a battle which affects not just Syria, but all of Europe and beyond.

That's their position, but this is a regime and an army with an international reputation for killing, maiming and torturing its own population, hence the uprising.

How do they answer that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): History is the judge. Remember, the government, the people, and army help the Palestinian refugees, the Iraqis, and even the Lebanese too. History will judge us. What we are fighting now are people who kill women and children, who throw people off rooftops.

THOMSON: On the outskirts of Dariah, tanks and heavy weaponry arrives for yet another battle. We were told a sniper is firing from this minaret. In truth, I noted no incoming rounds. But these men were taking now chances.

So after more than 20 months of civil war, just what does motivate an infantry soldier in President Assad's Army. It's not often you get the chance to ask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The Syrian-Arab army will win. And our strength will never be overcome, because we are fighting for the right side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are fighting against terrorism and the Zionist conspiracy that wants to take over our country. We are fighting for security and stability in our land over terrorism.

THOMSON: As the fighting built up in Dariah, incredibly a family here who have simply refused to move. The man owns a nursery and he showed us the neighboring houses, all had been trashed. We spoke to him out of hearing of the soldiers deliberately and he said the rebels wrecked these places to force people out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is my house, my village. If I go, where would I go? I'm worried about my house.

THOMSON: One determined family and determined daughter, 12 year old Hala (ph). Wasn't she scared of the bombing?

"No," she said, "I'm used to it."

You don't know whether that's heartening or depressing.

And so they stay, tending the geraniums amid the debris of war.

Alex Thomson, Channel 4 News, Damascus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJPAL: And join us for a CNN special that goes to Syria's most deadly streets. Arwa Damon brings you the personal stories of people who are struggling just to survive. That's Witness to War: Aleppo that airs 30 minutes after midnight here in Hong Kong, that's 8:30 pm for you in Abu Dhabi.

Still ahead here on News Stream, standing up for women's rights. The gang rape of a young woman sparks outrage and calls for action across India.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RAJPAL: You're watching News Stream. And this is a visual rundown of the stories that we're covering on the show. We have taken a look at Newtown, Connecticut where a moment of silence will be held there for the victims of the tragedy. We've also talked about Syria. Later we'll tell you why some of Italy's most historic sites are at risk. But now we want to turn to India where a brutal gang rape in New Delhi has triggered protests nationwide. The 23-year-old victim was attacked on a bus last Sunday and she remains hospitalized in critical condition. Her male companion was badly beaten. A total of five arrests have now been made.

The horrific attack has ignited a debate about women's rights across the country. But for some, words are not enough. Mallika Kapur reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Many young women, one loud voice.

BHAVYA SHARMA, COLLEGE STUDENT: I'm very sure about it, Delhi is not safe for women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I look around is lecherous eyes just following me everywhere.

SHWETA PRAKASH, COLLEGE STUDENT: They'll literally rape you with their eyes, you know, Delhi men do that.

KAPUR: Students at a leading girls college in Delhi are shaken and outraged at Sunday's gang rape in the city which has left a 23 year old battling for her life.

JAYA PRAKASH, COLLEGE STUDENT: If it's that girl who was the victim that day, some day it could be me.

KAPUR: The latest sexual assault in Delhi took place in a bus, a regular mode of transport for many Delhi commuters, including these young women.

This is your typical public bus in Delhi. It's crowded, there isn't a seat to sit. There's barely any room to stand. And the ladies compartment, well, it's got some men.

Bhavya says she's been groped on a bus.

SHARMA: I came back and I cried the entire knight.

KAPUR: Like many women in Delhi, Bhavya and her friends are being more careful. They've enrolled in a self defense class.

They say learning Tae Kwan Do increases their strength and their confidence. They take other precautions too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; I always make sure that I have friends with me when I'm going out. I carry a pepper spray with me when we chose to walk. We make sure that we hold hands so nobody can drag us into a car.

KAPUR: Delhi alone reported 572 rape cases last year and more than 600 this year.

The vice principal of this residential college says she's worried about the safety of her students, but she doesn't want her students to live in fear.

SUSHMA MOITRA, VICE PRINCIPAL: You really can't say and tell them, OK, let's go to college in burkha and come back, or go covered and come back, or don't go anywhere or don't study or stay indoors. You have to do it.

KAPUR: And you should be able to do it without fear.

The free and safe society, that's what these protesters want and what Delhi's women say they're entitled to.

Mallika Kapur, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJPAL: The end is here, or not. After the break, we find typically debunk another December 21st doomsday theory.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RAJPAL: Welcome back. I'm Monita Rajpal in Hong Kong and you're watching News Stream. These are your world headlines.

Much of the United States will observe a moment of silence today to honor the children and adults gunned down a week ago in Newtown, Connecticut. The tragedy has prompted growing calls for the reform of gun laws. The U.S. gun lobby the National Rifle Association will hold a news conference today. CNN of course will bring you both events as they happen.

NATO's secretary-general accuses Syrian government forces of launching Scud type missiles. He called it the act of a desperate regime. Meanwhile, the United Nations warns Syria's civil war is turning into a sectarian battle with the sharpest divide between Alawites and Sunni Muslims.

At least 32 people have been killed in southeastern Kenya after a rival community there fought with arrows and machetes. The violence took place in the Tana River district according to the Kenyan Red Cross which said it was a confrontation between the Pokomo and Orma tribes. Dozens were injured in the fighting.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has made an unannounced visit to troops in Afghanistan. It comes just one day after Mr. Cameron said the reduction in British forces in the country would accelerate. At British headquarters in Helmand Province, Camp Bastion, Mr. Cameron joined at a carol service and played table football with soldiers. Britain has the second largest force in Afghanistan after the United States.

December 21st marks the end of a major cycle on the Mayan calendar, but to some it also marks the end of days, the Apocalypse. Don't ask us why. And according to the many of the doomsday -- all the doomsayers, it should have happened over two hours ago. So it happens the world is not going to end today. And over the last few days, we have been looking into the science that debunks a variety of theories on the Earth's purported demise.

Planetary collisions, polar shifts, and the list goes on.

Well, today, we'll tell you another reason why the so-called doomsday is just another day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MORRISON, NASA ATROBIOLOGIST: We know these things because of the NASA Space Guard survey, there is a real long-term concern about possible impacts and that's why for the last almost 20 years we have been scanning the skies specifically looking for asteroids -- near Earth asteroids -- and have a catalog of about 10,000 of them now with determined orbits. And I always mention to people that one result of that is there has not been a single object found that's on a collision course with Earth.

DON YEOMANS, NASA ASTEROID SCIENTIST: The Earth is actually being hit by meteors in a daily basis. I mean, basketball sized objects come in a couple of times a day. They don't do any damage, because they burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Volkswagon sized objects come in every couple of weeks, but in order for an object to come through the Earth's atmosphere and cause ground damage it has to be about 40 meters in diameter or larger. And those types of objects don't occur about every 500 years. And we know of no objects that are really of concern to Earth either this December or for the next several years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJPAL: So killer asteroid or not, we know today is not the end of the world, but thousands of people have flocked to the Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza in Mexico. Nick Parker is one of them. He joins us now live.

Nick, I'm still here and so are you.

NICK PARKER, JOURNALIST: It would certain appear that we are, yes indeed. You know, and so are thousands of other people that have flocked, as you say, to Chichen Itza this morning. We were here at first light and it was quite a special moment. There were hundreds of people queuing up inside the hall that sells tickets. And I think we have some video. And you see people just pouring in at about sort of 5:00 in the morning. The site opened especially early for this special day. And you had tourists and some might say New Age people pouring in to take a look at the famous, iconic temple of Chichen Itza at first light. A lot of people gathered and sat down just to take a look at it. So it was really quite a special moment this morning.

They're expecting about 25,000 people to come today which is more than five times as much as they normally get. They've had to bus in extra security and there's road blocks coming into the area to kind of streamline the number of people and visitors that they're getting here.

A lot of people are coming by somewhat perhaps tantalized by this idea of the end of the world. So we wanted to take a look at perhaps where it all began that particular myth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PARKER: At dusk, a Mayan mass begins in the Mexican city of Merida (ph). The ancient ceremony honors the dead. Vladio Cancher (ph) is a priest. His people's calendar ends in a matter of days.

"It's considered the closure of the great cycle of Mayan time," he says, "but of course the next cycle begins the following day. For the Mayans, it's not the end of the world."

Doomsday scenes from movies like 2012 have helped create a different myth. So where does it come from?

The Mayan civilization began in several countries from around 2,000 BC. The story behind the infamous date begins in ancient sites like Chichen Itza where Mayans created calendars.

ALFREDO BARRERA, MEXICAN GOVERNMENT ARCHAEOLOGIST: The Mayas were astronomers. When they go into the tower of the upper part, they can make observations. They relate the astronomical records with the (inaudible) with the economy.

PARKER: Temples are designed to channel sunlight. And the number of panels corresponds to years.

When academics translated inscriptions in the 19th Century, they discovered that Mayans counted 394 year cycles, known as backtuns (ph). And many say the significant 13th backtun (ph) expires this winter solstice, December 21st. Other says, it actually ends on the 23rd.

This carving, made in 700 AD, ignited furious debate. Monument six, as its known, was discovered at the site of Tortuguero (ph), and predicts a major event at the end of this 13th backtun (ph).

BARRERA: We don't have prophesy or descriptions related with the finish of the wall or prophesies. It only a mention of a date. But it doesn't mention more about -- because the sketching is not complete.

PARKER: He blames online speculation and ignorant writing for the doomsday belief. But the date is certainly open to interpretation. Santiago Pando (ph) lives outside Mexico City and is a filmmaker.

"There is a big sun which is going to align with the other suns in other galaxies," he says. "This means there will be an enormous quantity of light and this will give us a wider view of reality."

Many in Mayan countries will mark the day as a celebration as others around the world fear something more sinister.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PARKER: And I think that's really the point to emphasize here, the thousands of people that are expected here today are not going to be sort of doom watchers, but I think people that are coming here to celebrate and perhaps mark this highly significant merriment in the Mayan calendar.

RAJPAL: I kind of like the idea of ending one chapter and starting something new. Nick, that was a really great piece. Thank you so much for joining us here on News Stream.

Nick Parker there live for us from Chichen Itza.

Well, it is officially winter for those of us here in the northern hemisphere. Mari Ramos is at the world weather center with that and many, especially in the U.S., are feeling it Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They certainly are feeling it.

You know, I want to mention a couple of things. It is of course the solstice has a lot to do with this whole Mayan calendar thing. You know, the Mayans would watch the skies and they knew that this was the time between December 21 and December 23 when the sun would reach a certain point in the sky and that it would mark a new -- also they mentioned the shortest daylight hours of the year. And that's what we have right now in the northern hemisphere for today.

I want to just talk to you a little bit about Cancun, the closest observation center that we could find to where Nick was reporting. 21 degrees. The wind at 9 kilometers per hour. Later today, we're expecting that wind to pick up maybe as high as 30 or 40 kilometers per hour, that's pretty significant. And they're not only having celebrations of this end of an era or beginning of an era as you said Monita, there in Mexico, this is a picture from earlier this morning in Pical(ph), in the Pical (pH) ruins in Guatemala in Central America and another beautiful crystal clear night here as well. If anything, a little bit on the chilly side.

This surprised me a little bit, this is in Spain also celebrating the end of an era or the beginning of the new calendar there for the Mayan culture.

And the solstice of course having a lot to do with this, and this is one of the most famous places in the world, Stonehenge, where there were hundreds and hundreds of people on this crystal clear, but chilly morning today there in the UK.

But anyway, let's talk a little bit about the solstice today just happened around 11:12 GMT. So it's been a few hours already. The Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, the Southern Hemisphere tilted toward the sun, and because of that, that's when we have the sun's rays go right over the Tropic of Capricorn, that's what marks the solstice, that's what we were marking today, shortest day of the year in the north, longest day of the year for you guys in the Southern Hemisphere. Get the start of your summer.

Very quickly, though, that same weather system that you mentioned across the U.S. is also affecting northern parts of Mexico and even now to the south. That's this cloud that you see right here. And that's what's going to bring -- that's bringing the strong winds across this area including the Yucatan Peninsula.

Across the U.S. it's been quite a mess. Let's go ahead and roll the pictures, because there's a lot going on here.

This is pretty tragic stuff. This is in Iowa, in the U.S. state of Iowa. At least three people were killed in this car accident here. There were 30 cars that piled up in near zero visibility. Extremely dangerous conditions when you get this kind of weather, blowing snow, pour visibility. And today, the weather there has improved, but authorities are still asking people that if you don't need to go out, you know, what, don't go out because the roadways are still extremely dangerous.

Come back over to the weather map over here. These are the winter storm warnings that we still have across the U.S. They are still very windy weather across the south. Big travel delays expected all up and down the eastern third of the U.S. The reason for that is because this weather system is still marching toward the east. And with that we're going to see big travel delays on this one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, right before, of course, Christmas.

Very quickly, I want to jump all the way to the other side of the world, Asia. Let's go ahead and look at some of the pictures that we have for you. This is from China. You know what, here, the winter season is also taking quite a toll across the region. We can see right over here quite a bit of snowfall. We are expecting more snow across central and northern parts of China. To the east, I think you'll start to see a little bit drier weather. With that, we're going to take a look at your city by city forecast.

Monita, so much to talk about. There's one more thing I want to tell you about Asia. For you guys in the Philippines, I've been getting a lot of questions on this tropical cyclone in the making that is forming to the east of you. It's much too early to tell whether or not it's going to affect you directly. Right now it's still to the east of Guam. You can see it right here. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is saying low possibility of development. We will of course watch it.

But you know what, too early to make any kind of a specific forecast for you this far ahead.

With my last 30 seconds, we head to Europe. Look at the pictures from Romania. Still so much snowfall happening across the region here. We're still expecting even more snow as we head through the next 24 to 48 hours. This is just one example. Again, those cars getting stuck on the road, seems to be happening everywhere in the world when you start getting these big snowstorms. So please be extra careful when you drive. Check the weather. But I like to tell people, Monita is, be weather aware -- snow, rain, whatever it is. You know, even the sun sometimes can cause problems. So stay safe.

Back to you.

RAJPAL: Good advice indeed, Mari, be weather aware. Thank you very much for that. Mari Ramos at the world weather center.

Just ahead, we've got the latest news from the NBA, including which team stole the Thunder's thunder. Alex Thomas will be here to explain all in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RAJPAL: Now after 12 wins on the bounce, Oklahoma City's record streak in the NBA has ended. We join Alex Thomas in London with more on that and the other sports headlines today -- Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Monita.

They were the team that pushed the Miami Heat all the way before missing out on last season's NBA title. And despite losing James Hardin to the Rocket, the Oklahoma City Thunder were on a record run of 12 wins in a row this season. But on Thursday night, Kevin Love and the Timberwolves brought that streak for Durant and the Thunder to an end.

Minnesota's star player on fire with a double-double. Four threes in his haul of 28 points and 11 rebounds.

And Nicola Petrovich had a big night too. His 24 points including this layup and foul from the three point play as the T-Wolves took a halftime lead.

However, the Thunder still hold the NBA's best win-loss ratio. And even though Kevin Durant couldn't match his 41 point tally from Wednesday, 33 points isn't a bad night's work. That basket was a little lucky, though.

The damage done in the first. The Thunder winning all the other quarters, but they couldn't catch the Timberwolves. JJ Barea racking up 18 points as Minnesota held on for a 99-93 win.

For the second year running, the Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure has been named as the African footballer of the year. He received the accolade at an award ceremony in Ghana beating Dider Drogba and Alex Song to the title.

Toure played a key role in helping Manchester City win their first ever English Premier title. He's also guided this country to the Africa Cup of Nations. That takes place in South Africa next month. And of course, Toure will be there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YAYA TOURE, 2012 AFRICA FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR: The first year (inaudible) was quite proud, you know, because (inaudible) you know, but I think for me it's very (inaudible). Now I think I have to work more than (inaudible). And I think (inaudible) always had (inaudible). I think with my teammates and with my captain which (inaudible) think we make something great this year.

DIDIER DROGBA, IVORY COAST STRIKER: Yaya is a very good (inaudible) over the last two years. And even if I won the championship and the FA Cup (inaudible) season. So for me it's normal that Yaya wins. And I'm very proud (inaudible) for Ivory Coast, we are the two players who support the Ivory Coast a way to (inaudible) and Ivory Coast to be have and to believe in their dreams. And how do I say, it's very good for us and for the country and for me I'm very proud to compete against him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS: And of course the topic on everyone's lips at the moment is the Mayan prophesy about the end of the world. And here at World Sport we'd like to know which sporting events, or sports star would you love to see before doomsday? Tweet us, @AlexThomasCNN or @WorldSportCNN. And we'll read out the best on the next show in just over three hours time.

I know what one thing you'd like Monita before the end of the world...

RAJPAL: And what's that?

THOMAS: Chocolates?

(LAUGHTER)

RAJPAL: How predictable. So much more.

(LAUGHTER)

RAJPAL: Thanks a lot for that, Alex. Appreciate it. And I didn't get my batch of chocolates from you, by the way, just so you know. I'm still waiting.

Alex Thomas in London, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

Coming up next here on News Stream, recovered Roman treasures going back into the ground. Why Italian archeologist could be forced to bury some of the nation's prized artifacts. The answer is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RAJPAL: Welcome back.

Well, Rome's famous Coliseum is one of many historic sites in the city. They've survived for hundreds if not thousands of years, but there's a new threat. Ben Wedeman explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In Rome, dig and you're likely to find something very old. For the past six years, archeologists have been working on this site north of the city. It was here that Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a Roman general, was buried. He was the inspiration in part for the character played by Russel Crowe in the movie Gladiator.

Crowe's character fought to keep the barbarians at bay on the empire's frontiers and in the arena. But more than 1,500 years ago Rome fell to the barbarians.

And today in this age of EuroZone austerity, the stunning remains of that great empire and the artifacts at this site known as the gladiator's tomb, are under threat from what some might say are barbarians of another kind, cost cutting accountants and budget slashing bureaucrats.

In the last two years, the budget to maintain Italy's archeological sites has been cut by at least 20 percent. As a result some sites have been closed and projects canceled. Now, don't worry, the coliseum will remain open, but some ancient treasures may literally be buried.

Daniells Rossi worked for several years at the Gladiator's tomb and says if funds aren't soon found to maintain the site, it will be recovered with dirt.

"The most logical thing to do is to bury it again," she says. "It will be up to our grandchildren to decide whether that will be temporary or permanent."

Russel Crowe has joined the fight to keep the site open, telling an Italian newspaper Italy must be a leader in preserving ancient heritage.

An online petition called Save the Gladiator's Tomb, has been started by American archeologist Darius Arya to raise funds and put pressure on the authorities to keep the site open.

DARIUS ARYA, ARCHEOLOGIST: This is part of the bigger picture, which is Italy is a great country. Italy is a leader in cultural heritage preservation. They do great work in Italy. And their experts go around the world. Here is a chance to say with this site we're going to take a stand and we're going to defend this cultural heritage.

WEDEMAN: If not, the barbarians will see to it that it's covered up once again.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJPAL: It's time for us now to go over and out there. While it may be the season to be jolly, for millions of us year after year our jollyness is put to the test by these guys, brussel sprouts. They are often a traditional part of any Christmas meal, but for some of us when they appear on the table our hearts just sink and many of our hands sink below the table as we discretely feed these crimes against Christmas to the family dog.

But if you're looking for an excuse not to eat them, well, we bring you not one, but two this year. On the one hand, there's a shortage in places like the UK where rain and cold conditions have wrecked havoc on the sprout harvest. So why not leave them to those who truly cherish them?

But even if you're among that number, don't cherish them too much, because get this, sprouts were apparently not so good for one man. British media reports say a Scottish man was taken to hospital last year after effectively overdosing on the vegetables.

To be fair, he did have a preexisting medical condition and sprouts are high in vitamin K which can cause blood clotting. So for those for whom that might be an issue, perhaps it is best to stay on the safe side and have an extra carrot this Christmas, or desert in my case.

That is News Stream. I'm Monita Rajpal. The News Continues here at CNN. World Business Today is next.

END