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CNN NEWSROOM

Russia Rules Against American Adoptions; Nelson Mandela Recuperating; Major Storm Hammers Northeast; High Fashion In The Congo

Aired December 27, 2012 - 12:30   ET

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


ADAM PERTMAN, DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE: If what they say is going to happen really happens, those families are not going to be able to adopt the kids even if all the legal processes already have been in place.

But much more important, let's focus on the children. What it means is those children will remain institutionalized.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some see the Russian bill as retaliation for a new America law that places financial restrictions on Russians accused of human rights violations. It also denies them visas for travel to the United States.

According to statistics by the United States State Department, the number of adopted by American couples has decreased significantly in the last few years. In 2004, the number was more than 5,800 compared to only 962 last year.

Over the last 20 years, Americans have adopted more than 60,000 Russian children, more than any other country.

PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We remain committed to supporting inter-country adoptions between our two country. The welfare of children is simply too important to be linked to political aspects of our relationship.

ROMO: The bottom line, says this expert, it is ultimately the children who will suffer because there aren't enough families in Russia willing to adopt.

PERTMAN: There are by some estimates 700,000, 750,000 children in orphanages and institutions in Russia. They don't have that many families stepping up.

ROMO: The need is especially great for children with special needs like Natali (ph).

JENNY MOYER, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: We rely on our faith and our hope in Jesus Christ and that's what's going to get us through this, but, you know, it would just be devastating for those kids.

ROMO: The Moyers already have two biological children, both boys and one adopted American girl.

They say their children are just waiting for their brother to come home.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL": Our next guest knows how adoptions can change lives because she was adopted from a Russian orphanage at the age of six.

Tatyana McFadden joins us from Washington and, Tatyana, we've heard your story. Really very moving, very touching because you, essentially, were sent to an orphanage because you were born with Spina bifida, paralyzed from the waist down and your life changed when you met an American couple.

Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like?

TATYANA MCFADDEN, ADOPTED FROM RUSSIA AT AGE SIX: My life has changed. You know, May in 1994, my life changed completely when my mom walked into that orphanage.

I looked at her and I said. that is my mom. I -- if I wasn't adopted, I have no idea where I would be. I wouldn't be alive at age 23.

Being born with Spina bifida in Russia, it's -- I wouldn't have survived past 10 and here I am now an Olympic gold medalist and going to college, very independent young woman and it's -- you know, my family was willing to adopt, you know, a little girl with a disability and it's -- I mean I have no words to describe, you know, my feeling and being in a loving family.

MALVEAUX: Tatyana, I understand you have your medals there at the desk if you want to show us while you talk a little about your story.

Why is it, do you suppose, that Russia does not do a better job in terms of dealing with folks who have challenges, whether it's physical challenges or mental challenges in these orphanages?

MCFADDEN: You know, I think it's difficult. American families are willing to adopt children with physical or, you know, mental disabilities.

And everyone needs a home in reality. Everyone need as home and families just need the love and care from a family. And it's -- if this law is passed, I can't even describe how many lives would be ruined.

I am so blessed for mine, and I'm here to speak for those who can't, for the voices who can't speak.

And it's -- I have no words to describe this. I mean, my life has changed drastically because of just one adoption.

MALVEAUX: Tatyana, what do you think about the idea of encouraging more Russians, more Russian couples and parents and adults, to adopt from those orphanages? Because there are a lot of Americans who -- you know, there are orphans here and people who need homes here in the United States and they go to Russia.

What do you think about promoting that idea, making it more a part of the Russian culture to adopt those children?

MCFADDEN: You know, I think that no matter if it's an adoption from a American family or from a Russian family, you know, I think the children, they need a home and, when you look at family, you know, I -- people say, are you adopted? Because I look just like my mother, my adopted mother and it's really funny and I came all the way from Russia.

In reality, those children need a home and, right now, the children are used as -- you know, this isn't fair for children. I know a family who's been trying to go over seven times to adopt their little boy and the little boy is just there, institutionalized without love and care.

MALVEAUX: And, Tatyana, tell us a little bit about your own journey. I know that you're a Para-Olympian and you've had amazing success in your own right here.

MCFADDEN: Yes. I am a three-time gold medalist and bronze medal. I -- in London, I ran the 100-meters, the 400-meters, 800-meters, 1,500- meters and the marathon and it was an unbelievable experience, 80,000 people in the stands, morning and night. It was an experience I will never forget.

MALVEAUX: You are unbelievable. It's just incredible. You run circles around us.

Thank you is much. We really appreciate it. We appreciate your telling us your story and we'll be following up on this to see if there's any change that is coming out of Russia because of this.

I know that you are in charge of bringing forward a petition in trying to create some change there so that this does not happen.

Thank you very much, Tatyana. We appreciate it.

MCFADDEN: Thank you. Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Doctors discharged Nelson Mandela from the hospital, but his health problems not yet over. We're going to have a life report from Johannesburg.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Former president George H.W. Bush is still in a Houston hospital in intensive care. A spokesman tells CNN that doctors are trying to bring down a stubborn fever. His condition was downgraded to "guarded" on Sunday.

The 41st president is 88-years-old. He was admitted to the hospital November 23rd for bronchitis.

Now, his family says they are confident that he's going to be released soon from intensive care.

And Nelson Mandela is out of the hospital. The 94-year-old former South African president was admitted to a hospital in Pretoria. That was 18 days ago.

Well, he was treated for a lung infection and underwent gallstone surgery.

Robyn Curnow is reporting outside of his home in Johannesburg.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In this house on a suburban street watched by local media, Nelson Mandela is no doubt resting. After 19 days, his doctors sent him home here to his Johannesburg residence.

While this is good news, a statement from the government says that Mandela is still receiving high care which means that behind these walls his doctors and nurses are still closely monitoring and observing him.

While in hospital, Mandela was treated for a lung infection and had surgery to remove gallstones.

And these are the most recent pictures of him taken in July by CNN at his 94th birthday party in his home surrounded by his large family.

But he looked bewildered and didn't smile, so different to the vigorous man who fought so hard, endured so much.

In recent years, though, the former South African president has seemed frail and unsteady on his legs. Public appearances became increasingly rare, just too much effort for a man in his 90s.

At those he did make, Mandela sometimes dozed off during speeches and seemed confused.

He's mostly spent his time at this home in Kunu (ph) in the Eastern Cape, soothed by the slow pace of the rural rhythms in the hills near his boyhood village and it's unclear if and when he'll return back to his primary residence here

For now, though, South Africans are just relieved that he's out of hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mandela, he's our father. We're very happy he's alive. He's now feel back to home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I can now see that he's getting strong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm worried about this. At least if he can manage to reach at least (INAUDIBLE), that would be great for us.

CURNOW: A man who gave so much and who is still so deeply revered by anxious South Africans who just wish him well. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in Robyn. Robyn, I was in South Africa a couple of months ago. Asked a lot of people what they thought of Nelson Mandela and they all see him still the leader and the father of their country.

How do they feel now? There must be quite a bit of emotion knowing that he is out of the hospital at least, that he's probably -- do we think that he's getting any better?

CURNOW: Hi, there, Suzanne. And we've chatted over the last few weeks while he's been in hospital. And South Africans, you know, as you say, call him a father.

Nelson Mandela's life is essentially a map of South Africa's struggle for freedom, so he's not just symbol here, as you know. There's also this deep emotional attachment. People have this sort of intimate relationship with him.

So, of course, no doubt huge relief when people heard that he was out of hospital, that he had been sent home.

In terms of how he's settled in, in his Johannesburg home, we're unclear. There haven't been any updates from the presidency.

However, a little bit of caution might be needed here because the presidential spokesperson has said that he's not completely recovered and the reason he's been sent to his Johannesburg residence in the city rather than his rural residence in the countryside is they have quick and easy access to local hospitals.

So, there's still that hit that, if that situation, if his health changes, he might be readmitted.

So, on one hand, much cause for celebration here in South Africa. On the other hand, South Africans realize that he's still frail. He's still sickly.

MALVEAUX: All right, Robyn, thank you. It's good to see you. We certainly wish him well.

Well, whether you're traveling by plane, train, or automobile, if you're in the Northeast, you are going to be delayed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A major winter storm hammering the Northeast today. Northern New York, as well, getting some of the heaviest snow. Much of it, even a foot. Ines Ferre is in Syracuse, New York.

Ines, tell us about the conditions. A lot of snow behind you, I see.

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that right, Suzanne. Well, we're still seeing some flurries here, but nothing compared to what we saw earlier this morning. And I just want to show you some of the snow that's accumulated. This is snow that's been taken off the roadways here on the side and you can see also some mountains of snow right behind me. I'm in downtown Syracuse, right next to an ice rink. And what the city is doing is taking all of this snow, putting it into trucks and clearing it out of here. They've had plows that have been working 12-hour shifts throughout the evening and throughout the day today to make sure that they clear these streets. All of this snow out of here.

Now, this is, of course, a headache for airline travels. However, this is happening during a week when people are on holiday. A lot of people aren't going into the office, so offices are naturally closed and also schools are closed as well, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: You know, folks in Syracuse, they're used to a lot of snow here. Is this fazing them at all or are they basically life as normal or have things kind of shifted a little bit for the holidaying?

FERRE: Yes. Well, central and northern New York, right, they're used to a lot of snow. They have ski resorts here. I actually had one local who tweeted me who said, "they call it a storm. We call it Thursday." The challenge is when you have so much snow that falls -- right, yes -- the challenge is you have so much snow that it falls in such a short period of time, so plows have to work extra. They have to work overtime. And it's been almost two years since Syracuse has seen a foot of snow all in one shot, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Ines. It can be a little bit of -- it's, you know, safety, but there's also a lot of fun in snow too. I love it. Ines, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

They have a passion for fashion and they love to show it off. We're going to introduce you to the group known as "Les Sapeurs" in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: So this started as an act of rebellion to challenge a government dress code. Well, now a movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo is flaunting high-price fashion as a weapon. When gangs face off, they use dance moves and designer labels. Errol Barnett show us what it's all about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High fashion in the streets of Kinshasa (ph), DRC. It may seem out of place in a city suffering from widespread poverty, but to these men, surviving in style here is the point. Known as "Les Sapeurs," these dapper dressers are devoted to expensive, trendy clothes. You see, after independence from Belgium in 1960, a new Congolese upper class emerged, traveling to Paris, snapping up the latest fashions and returning homes. These new clothes represented a new societal ambition of freedom and prosperity. And when popular musician, Papa Wemba (ph), embraced the concept to challenge Zier's (ph) dress code restrictions, the trend became a movement. BARNETT (on camera): Let me introduce you to the leader, the boss, of this crew of "Les Sapeurs." This is Papa Griffe. Great to have you and your crew spend some time with you. My first question is, because I feel a bit underdressed, what are you wearing?

PAPA GRIFFE, PRESIDENT, MONDE-ARTISTIQUE (through translator): I'm in white and that equates very much money. You must have much money to wear this.

BARNETT: I recently spoke to Papa Wemba (ph) and he said that this movement, which he helped create, is not just about having money and nice clothes, but it's about an attitude as well. So what is the "Les Sapeurs" attitude?

GRIFFE: Well, anybody can be dressed up, but to be superb, you must have a lot of money, because that equates (ph) so much money.

BARNETT (voice-over): Roughly translated, "sapeurs" means the society of atmosphere setters and elegant people. It's an ambitious concept that appeals to many Congolese people.

BARNETT (on camera): Why do you think people like you?

GRIFFE: For me it is a job, so I take it -- I respect my job as you respect your journalism, as you respect you (INAUDIBLE) is being a cameraman. So it's just a job and I respect it. (INAUDIBLE) and I like it.

BARNETT: As a final question, I'm just wondering, how far or how close am I to looking like one of you, a "les sapeurs"?

Impossible.

GRIFFE: Impossible.

BARNETT: (INAUDIBLE). I'm not even close.

GRIFFE: No.

BARNETT: OK.

GRIFFE: No.

BARNETT: All right, let me quickly explain what's happening here. Some "les sapeurs" from a rival gang have just shown up. And so that means they're about to fight. Now, I keep using those quotation marks because they're not going to use any weapons. Instead, they'll use their labels and their moves to show who's really on top.

BARNETT (voice-over): This man arrived alone, but still faced off with Papa Griffe's entire crew, gesturing and sauntering around. So to protect their collective reputations, they had to respond. However, under the watchful eye of Papa Wemba, all sapeurs left their dispute and their moves on the dance floor.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: Great. Nicaragua's tallest volcano is spewing gas, ash and smoke. Despite 15 small eruptions since Tuesday, hundreds of farmers will not leave their homes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: I have a sad update on the 60-foot whale that washed up on a beach in Queens, New York. Officials say it has died. Biologists say they'll examine the fin whale's body to find out why. Then they'll have to decide what to do with the remains. They could bury it on the beach or tow it out to sea.

Officials in Nicaragua are not taking any chances. They're ordering people who live near an erupting volcano to evacuate their homes. But British news reports says 1,500 farmers are refusing to leave. They say troops are being deployed to the area to try to change the farmers' minds.

And take a look at this. A volcanic eruption on the border of Argentina and Chile. On Sunday, officials issued a red alert, the most severe warning, fearing this volcano would have a major eruption.

And finally, check out the reaction of this Alabama football fan to his Christmas gift? He thinks that the gift is a hat, right? But the real present is what's inside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to the game? We're going to the game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: That's right, they are going to the national championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame. The tickets now cheap. The game is sold out. And if you find something on the resale market, you'll know. You'll pay at least a thousand bucks for a nosebleed seat. Good for him. Congratulations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're keeping you updated on the news here, as well as around the world. I want to get right to it. We begin with new developments in the financial crisis that is going to affect all of us. We are talking about the tax increases, the spending cuts that make up the fiscal cliff.

President Obama, he cut his Christmas vacation short to deal with this crisis. He arrived back from Hawaii just a short time ago.