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EuroZone Crisis Strikes Eurovision Song Contest; House, Senate Leadership Meet At White House For Fiscal Cliff Talks

Aired December 28, 2012 - 16:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: This hour on Connect the World: crisis talks at the White House as political wrangling leaves America's economy teetering on the edge of potential disaster.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.

FOSTER: The clock is ticking, the stakes are high tonight. We'll explore what options are left for America's politicians back from the brink.

Also this hour...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was raped by two boys. It's been two days since I've filed a complaint.


FOSTER: She demanded justice. When she didn't get it, she took her own life leaving her family distraught and police in India facing some difficult questions.

Plus, why the extravagance of Eurovision is forcing some countries to put their dreams of stardom firmly on the back burner.

The trading week may have come to an end in the U.S., but what is shaping as a long and arduous weekend is just beginning for the country's leaders.

In the past hour, congressional leaders have entered a closed door meeting with President Barack Obama to try to secure a deal that will prevent the U.S. from heading over the so-called fiscal cliff. In just over three days time now that cliff is a self-imposed deadline they agreed in August last year to give lawmakers incentive to bring down America's spiraling deficit. Unless a deal can be reached, come Monday automatic spending cuts and tax rises will be introduced and many fear the effects could send the U.S. into another recession.

Analysis from the U.S. Tax Policy Center says that for the average household of America going over the fiscal cliff would equal $3,500 less in the pocket each year.

For more, let's bring in Ali Velshi. He's in New York.

Ali, obviously analysts and the congress trying to make sense of all of this, but as far as you've managed to ascertain, what's being factored in to the market so far?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw a much lower close on the Dow today. Some of that is a little bit of a concern over fiscal cliff. Most of it is the fact that there is only half a trading day before this all goes into effect on Monday morning. So a lot of people don't want to be caught selling into a down market.

But the problem is that they're at the White House right now. There's a meeting underway between the president Joe Biden, the Democratic leaders and the Republican leaders. And it does appear that they are not making progress. This is a problem, Max, because ultimately the U.S. is on a growth path of about two and three-quarter or three percent this year. 2013 was going to be stronger than 2012. And as you mention, if we go over this fiscal cliff, even in part, it could set back U.S. economic growth.

But it's unclear whether that threat is enough to have these folks in Washington come up with a compromise. They are stuck on two things. One of them is what the tax rates will be on the highest earners, and what level you kick in as a high earner, is it $250,000, $400,000, or $1 million per year? And the other issue, of course, Max is on the other side of the ledger spending. How much to spend and where to cut things.

As you know, this is all coming out of that budget deal a year-and-a- half ago when we were dealing with the debt limit. It was a poison pill. If they couldn't come up with an agreement these automatic spending cuts would come into place. Combine that with the expiration of the Bush era tax cuts and that's what you have as a deadline come Monday.

FOSTER: OK, Ali, well do stick with us. We're going to be back to you again in a moment, but first we're going to take a look at the key players in the fiscal cliff drama. These are the leaders meeting as we speak in the White House. They are the key leaders in Washington right now.

Now from the House of Representatives we have John Boehner. He's the speaker. He's a Republican, the party that controls the lower house. Now the Democrats in the House are led by Representative Nancy Pelosi. She's been arguing that the wealthiest Americans must pay their fair share. And is also push extended tax cuts for middle income earners.

Also in the talks leaders from the Senate. Democrat leader Harry Reid is there. Only yesterday he said he feared it was already too late to reach a deal and that America was heading over the fiscal cliff. And his counterpart is Republican Mitch McConnell.

So in sum, we have Boehner, Pelosi, Reid and McConnel, the big four meeting right now to try to prevent a looming crisis, a fiscal crisis some are saying.

Standing by for us at the White House outside is Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, you're obviously not getting any information out of this meeting, but any sense of what everyone was feeling as they went into it?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I can actually tell you a little bit. Max, what I understand is that inside the meeting according to a source who is familiar with what will happen inside, the president was going to make a proposal that was more detailed version of what he laid out here at the White House on Friday to extend tax cuts for middle class Americans, people making below $250,000, extend unemployment insurance, and then basically say to Republicans if you don't like this plan, tell us a better plan that can pass. And if you don't have a better plan that can pass, let my plan come to a vote.

This could be seen as a bit of a trap for Republicans because there -- it does seem that there are the votes for the president's plan and if Republicans allow the vote they could be criticized by their base. If they don't allow the vote they could be criticized by the American public for blocking it. Either way it could be seen as a win for the White House. This is a whole lot of posturing and very advanced jujitsu in politics we're seeing right now, Max.

FOSTER: Here's the crutch question for people not following the ins and outs of this. But Jessica, do you think we will get a decision tonight?

YELLIN: No. I think we'll see leaders come out and most likely tell us that they have to think about terms. We -- if they say absolutely no to a deal we know this is done. I mean, there's no room for error now. This is the end game right here.

But if they say they can think about it, then we'll have to see how it plays out tomorrow in the senate. If anyone filibusters, if anyone agrees to bring it to the floor, and then there are all sorts of possibilities for hurdles in the House.

So it's more likely we'll see a slow death than a fast one, but most people are banking on death right now, sorry.

FOSTER: OK. It's pretty grim, isn't it, but we've got a couple days of this, haven't we? So Jessica, thank you very much indeed. We'll be back with you, of course.

What options are on the table at this hour, then? Let's have a look at some of the detail. The simplest thing to do is simply do nothing and go over the cliff. Taxes would go up, spending cuts would kick in. Not many people are in favor of this option as many fear it would lead to another recession. And it still leaves the debt ceiling issue unresolved. The U.S. is also expected to reach $16.4 trillion borrowing limit on Monday.

Another option is to go over the cliff then make a deal. That's when the new congress convenes on Wednesday. It's a few days away. Lawmakers would then negotiate tax cuts rather than vote on tax increases. But again there's so much politics involved there.

Congress could also postpone, that is another option. The whole thing would be postponed and extending the fiscal cliff consequences until later in 2013 or even 2014. The problem with this option is it does nothing to deal with the U.S. deficit.

There's also another option on the table and that's simply to come up with a smaller deal, one that could include higher taxes for richer Americans and some spending cuts. But some are still hopeful for a grand bargain, that's the ultimate, really, a sweeping plan that would include a mix of spending cuts and tax increases slowly phased in over the next 10 years. But as we've got a sense from Jessica that doesn't really seem likely at the moment.

The question is what option does congress now have time to agree on, really? We've only got a few days. They're hamstrung as it is by their own political bickering.

Let's bring in Ali Velshi, because he studies this inside out. I don't know if you're a betting man, Ali, but lay a bet for us.

VELSHI: I've got a better chance of growing an afro than we have of getting a grand bargain. That is absolutely -- now there's just no time for it. There are just too many details.

Ultimately, I think the small plan, which is your third option is the most likely. And that is there is an agreement on who we raise taxes on and what percentage we raise that to. So the issue is right now the top tax rate is 35 percent, 39.6 is what Obama wants. There might be some room in between there. Obama wants the taxes on everybody earning more than $250,000. He did indicate that he'd move to $400,000 last week. The Republicans came back with $1 million, but that didn't actually fly. But a lot of people think $500,000 might be a place they settle.

But this new development, the one that Jessica just told you about, might be a more compelling answer. In other words, the president is playing off of his election success and saying the people are with me. Poll after poll after poll after poll shows that American support increasing taxes on the rich. So his idea that he says to these House leaders who are in the White House right now, here's my plan, if you've got nothing better let's vote on this.

The Senate, which has a Democratic majority may put this to a vote tomorrow. So by tomorrow you've got enough pressure on the House of Representatives, which convenes on Sunday night, to have to vote on that. And the Democrats could win.

So I would say under normal circumstances if you asked me to put a bet, it would be on number three, which is a small compromise. But this advanced jujitsu that the president is engaged in right now might prove to be very, very compelling.

The bottom line, Max, is that this isn't a fair fight at the moment. The Democrats do have the upper hand.

FOSTER: OK. Ali, a busy weekend for you. Thank you very much indeed for your analysis.

Still to come tonight, Nelson Mandela's family appeals for some sensitivity as the former South African president comes home from hospital. A look at how he's doing coming up.

And a turn for the worst for the victim of a harrowing gang rape attack in India. We'll have the latest on the young woman's condition.

And find out why the Eurovision song contest is under threat. All that and much more when Connect the World continues.


FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Max Foster. Welcome back to you.

Now Nelson Mandela's family is trying to set the record straight. They say the 94 year old global icon is doing very well. But they want the rumors that he's on his death bed to stop.

The former South African president is now at his home after a prolonged hospital stay. His granddaughter spoke to Anadia Bilchik for CNN USA's early start weekend show. They say there is no cause for concern.


ZAMASWAZI DLAMINI, NELSON MANDELA'S GRANDDAUGHTER: Once in awhile he needs, you know, medical care and medical attention. And you know we're very grateful, because he's surrounded by the best medical team. You know, he's very well taken care of. And he's very comfortable and he's very happy.


FOSTER: Well, Mandela went home earlier this week. Doctors treated him for a lung infection and performed surgery to remove gall stones.

Here's a look now at some other stories making news this hour. Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monte says he will lead the coalition of centrist parties into next year's general election. Mr. Monte said he was willing to be named leader of a coalition that supports his reform minded European agenda. Parliamentary elections are due at the end of February. Monte says the coalition could win a, quote, significant result.

The head of Syria's opposition is rejecting an invitation by Moscow to find a solution to the country's 21 month old civil war. It follows news that Russia is calling for the revival of an unpopular peace plan. Meanwhile, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is scheduled to arrive in Russia to meet with the country's foreign minister as the violence rages on. Friday was another deadly day throughout Syria. Activists say more than 100 people were killed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children. U.S. government has condemned the move as politically motivated. It's seen by many as retaliation to an American law targeting Russians accused of rights abuses. The immediate impact, 52 children set for U.S. adoption will now remain in Russia. Matthew Chance has more.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there had been hopes the Russian president would hold back and water down this extremely controversial legislation, but that obviously didn't happen. Vladimir Putin signing into law that ban on adoptions of Russian orphans by families in the United States. It leaves many severely disappointed, not least the prospective parents, but also the dozens of Russian children who are currently right in the middle of that very complex adoption process.

Well, speaking after he signed the ban, President Putin said that new Russian families for those kids must now be found.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): As far as I know from opinion polls, the vast majority of Russian citizens are very negative about foreigners adopting our children. We need to do it ourselves. We need ourselves to stimulate, bringing to the family those children who are orphans or who are left without parental care.

CHANCE: But few are under any illusions that this is entirely about child welfare. The adoption ban was intended as retaliation for the U.S. Magnitsky Act, a law recently signed by President Obama aimed at sanctioning Russian officials connected allegedly in some way in custody in 2009 of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax lawyer who uncovered a massive tax fraud amongst Russian officials.

Analysts say they've been -- the Kremlin had been trying to formulate and appropriate response to that. And this adoption ban is essentially what they came up with.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


FOSTER: The AP news agency reports the Central African Republic's government and rebels have agreed to start peace talks. Regional leaders are gathered in Gabon to lay the groundwork for the talks -- for the talks end -- push for an ends to recent violence. Meanwhile, the U.S. is clearing out of the country because of safety concerns. Washington has evacuated its ambassador and embassy staff to Kenya.

For a sixth straight day angry protesters took to the streets of Iraq demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sunni minorities are furious over what they are calling second class treatment by the Shiite lead government. The largest demonstration took place near Anbar -- or in Anbar Province with protesters shutting down a highway that links Iraq to Syria and Jordan.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has agreed to pay $47 million a year to his ex-wife. The divorce settlement comes after three years of negotiations with second wife Veronica Lario. Lario announced she was divorcing Berlusconi in 2009 after he was seen at a model's 18th birthday party.

I'm going to take you to a short break now, but when we come back, the EuroZone crisis hits a sour note threatening the continents annual song contest. We'll have the details after the break.


FOSTER: Love it or hate it, the Eurovision song contest is a permanent fixture on the musical calendar where countries across the continent show off their very best national talent. That is until now, the EuroZone crisis is taking its toll with several countries saying they can't afford to enter next year's event. And significantly, they can't afford to win either.

Lisa Suarez explains.


LISA SUAREZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Cheesy music, kitsch customs, and national stereotypes for 58 years the Eurovision song contest has united Europeans in a celebration of music and at times laughter.

But as countries struggle to meet budget targets, frills and frippery are starting to take a back seat. Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, and Bosnia Herzegovina say they're pulling out of the competition in Sweden, because they can't afford to win. The Czech Republic and Greece are also reported to want out.

PADDY O'CONNELL, FORMER EUROVISION COMMENTATOR: It costs to perform and it costs to stage it. And what do you get back? Bluntly, you get a bunch of hoopla and a few pom poms. It can be very uplifting when the times are good. Greece won it in 2005, but is it appropriate for the Greeks to pump billions, or millions in to send an act this year? I think austerity is one reason. But I think also the tone is another. Is it right to be celebrating in spandex when your people are out on the streets?

SUAREZ: Looking at some of the country's economic score cards, it's hardly surprising. Greece is aware that taking part could be an issue, especially as its economy is expected to drop beyond nil point to minus 4.5 percent next year. Portugal meanwhile is expected to shrink 1.8 percent. And Poland and Slovakia have decided to spend their money on other projects, that's despite projecting positive growth for 2013.

It reportedly costs around $160,000 to take part. And if you win, some country's spend big to host a lavish event. For some national broadcasters, this is reason enough to pull out.

O'CONNELL: The cost of staging has been mounting in recent years. Russia put on the Beijing of song. It was like the Chinese Olympics. Azerbaijan last year pumped half their national output in gas to the stage in competing to show off to Europe look what we're like from the east, a former Soviet Republic.

SUAREZ: There's a lesson to be learned from previous Eurovision winners. In budgets and customs, less is often more.

Lisa Suarez, CNN, London.


FOSTER: Just an update for you on the White House meeting over the fiscal cliff. It is a crucial meeting, but it didn't seem to last as long as many had expected. We've heard that John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi have actually left the White House after that meeting. They may be going on for more talks. Who knows. We don't actually have any information at this point, because those microphones are there, but they didn't stop to talk to those stakes out microphones. Hoping to get you an update from their teams from our Washington office as it comes in to you.

Now still to come on Connect the World, 12 days after a brutal gang rape in India the victim battles for life. We'll have an update on her condition.

And the skeleton of a pigeon holds a World War II mystery that has proved impossible to crack. We'll look at efforts to solve the puzzle.


FOSTER: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Max Foster and these are the latest world headlines from CNN.

U.S. congressional leaders and President Barack Obama have been meeting at the White House as the fiscal cliff deadline looms. We've just heard that House Republican leader John Boehner and the House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi have left. Neither stopped to speak to the media. They've got just over three days now to come up with a deal that will prevent automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that many fear will send the U.S. into another recession.

Nelson Mandela's granddaughter says the former South African president is very alert and doing well. And she tells CNN that rumors Mandela has returned home to die are not only false, but hurtful. The 94 year old had surgery for gall stones and endured a long hospital stay.

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monte says he's willing to accept the leadership of a coalition of centrist parties which are made up of people who support his reform minded European agenda. Parliamentary elections are due at the end of February. Monte says the coalition could win a, quote, significant result.

The 23-year-old victim of a brutal gang rape in India has taken a turn for the worse. Doctors in Singapore say her vital signs are deteriorating. The woman was brutally assaulted earlier this month in New Delhi, and the case has prompted widespread protest in India over violence against women.

Let's get you up-to-date on her condition. The victim was flown to Singapore on Thursday, where doctors confirmed that as well as suffering a prior cardiac arrest, she had infection of her lungs and abdomen and significant brain injury. Doctors are now saying her health is deteriorating even further, with signs of severe organ failure. Her family are at her side.

CNN's Harmeet Singh joins me now on the line from New Delhi. There have been, Harmeet, widespread protests in India since her assault. What's the government's response?

HARMEET SINGH, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Max, now what we see is that what has come under attack has been the government's immediate response of this certain rape case. In fact, the initial protest against the brutal and sexual assault started as candlelight vigils.

Within days, they exploded into some sort of widespread anger against the government last Saturday and Sunday. We saw thousands of protesters holding angry demonstrations in the presidential mansion and Parliament. The symbols of Indian power was damaged. Teargas was also used to break up that protest, which was a rare sight in that area.

After the demonstrations, the Indian prime minister made a countrywide address to appeal for calm as he pledged speedy justice, but campaigners say the prime minister's message on TV came too late and was too little.

What they demand, in fact, is that rape be declared a capital crime, that government on the spot to set up a committee study how criminal laws can be amended to toughen punishment for rape. Protests have eased for now, but there is considerable dissatisfaction with the government. Max?

FOSTER: Harmeet in New Delhi, thank you very much, indeed, for the update.

Well, another brutal rape case in India is also drawing outrage. A 17-year-old girl has committed suicide after alleging she was assaulted six weeks ago. As Ram Ramgopal reports, her family says police refused to help.



RAM RAMGOPAL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Family and friends of this 17-year-old victim were grief-stricken at her funeral on Thursday. The girl's mother, overcome with emotion, clutching a picture of her daughter tightly to her chest.

The teenager died Wednesday after taking poison. Her death comes a month and a half after she says she was brutally raped. In a November interview with our sister network, CNN-IBN, the victim described her alleged attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was raped by two boys. It's been two days since I filed a complaint. They threatened me by saying that my family and I will be killed. I demand justice.

RAMGOPAL: According to police reports, the incident in the northern Indian state of Punjab happened on November 13th during the festival of Diwali, when three suspects abducted the girl, raped her several times, and then dumped her on the road.

The girl's family say they tried to report the case for two weeks but say police pressured them to withdraw the complaint.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My daughter was extremely sad and took her own life.

RAMGOPAL: The girl left a suicide note accusing two men and a woman in the attack, blaming them for her death. The girl also says in her note that when police finally did look into the case, they humiliated her by asking obscene questions about the attack.

After her death, police quickly arrested the three named in the note, claiming they had been investigating all along.

GUCHARAN SINGH, PATIALA POLICE (through translator): We have been probing the case, and we have now arrested the men after we got their names. We will take necessary action on the suicide.

RAMGOPAL: But the district's police chief says local police officers were negligent in their handling of the case.

PARAMJIT SINGH GILL, CHIEF OF PATIALA POLICE (through translator): For almost 14 days, no action was taken, no case was registered, nor any arrest made. Attempts were also made to keep the case quiet, but nothing happened.

RAMGOPAL: Two police officers have now been fired, another suspended over the incident. But that's little consolation to the young victim's family

Ram Ramgopal, CNN, Atlanta.


FOSTER: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London here on CNN. Yet another shocking story of rape there. And earlier, I spoke to Kilran Bedi, a retired police officer in India. I began by asking her if police negligence was at the heart of what seems to be an increasing problem of rape in the country.


KILRAN BEDI, FORMER POLICE OFFICER (via telephone): We've not had police reform since independence, and while we have had a range of economic reforms, but along with the economic reforms, we've not had any -- revolution of police reforms.

We are still governed by the former British Police Act of 1861. This is despite many police commissioned reports asking for or a Supreme Court judgment asking and mandating police reforms.

The government has not been serious to let go its political control over the appointments, promotions, and oversight of policing, with the result that the policing in the last couple of decades have been more VIP- security-oriented and with terrorism, more focused on terrorism prevention and also on law and order. I think crime prevention totally went for a fix.

FOSTER: So, when you were working in the police and a call came in about rape, what would be the typical response?

BEDI: Well, it depends on the kind of situation you are in. If you under pressure, you will. It depends on the city, it depends on the person. It depends on lots of factors. I think the first tendency would be, it's a pressure, it's a nuisance, it's another homework, and if it can be avoided, try and play hide and seek with it.

But if it's something like the city of Delhi, and you're right under the national gaze and the woman is adamant and she can exercise political or any other pressure, they would probably register.

FOSTER: So, in order to address this problem with rape in India, which there clearly is, what would you say would be the best immediate response? A response to try to address this problem, which has shocked the world, it has to be said.

BEDI: The reporting to -- first of all, police must go all out to encourage people to report. Secondly, assure them of registration. Third, going for expeditious, quality, forensic science-based evidence. Then go to -- early prosecution and faster trial and with tougher punishment.

FOSTER: Do you think this case and the response to it is actually a turning point for India, and actually there might be a positive to come out of this, that it's a wakeup call?

BEDI: I think it's a volcanic call. It's -- it's a shaken-up call, it's a tsunami call. The way the new, young generation of India has taken to the streets because it's been a continuity of years and years of toleration to harassment.

There's not a woman in India who probably can stand up and complain and absolutely certify that at any state she wasn't harassed or followed or stalked or given stupid catcalls, et cetera et cetera. I think it's finally -- it's been an outburst of years and years of silent suffering, and these will -- the women finally got a collective voice.


FOSTER: Right. We're going to take you to Washington, now, because we're following events as they unfold at the White House. US congressional leaders and President Barack Obama have wrapped up their meeting at the White House as the fiscal cliff deadline looms.

We've just heard a short time ago -- we heard that House Republican leader John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi have actually left the building. Neither stopped to speak to the media, those microphones you see on the bottom right of the screen.

No sign of the two Senate leaders, Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell. Sources tell CNN's Jessica Yellin that President Obama is laying out a plan for a tax increase on households earning more than $250,000 a year. The plan would also extend unemployment benefits. Not entirely new.

But this is key: without a counter offer that can pass the House and the Senate, Mr. Obama will reportedly ask for a straight up or down vote on the plan. The meeting lasted one hour five minutes, we've heard from a White House official. We'll get you details when we do get comments.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London here on CNN. If you're looking for inspiration for the year ahead, tonight's Leading Women are sure to give you a few ideas. That's coming up right after this short break.


FOSTER: During the Second World War, over a quarter of a million carrier pigeons were used to carry vital secrets across enemy lines. Now, decades later, a carrier pigeon has been discovered with a coded message tied to its leg. The only problem is, no one can work out what it says. But experts are hopeful that that may change soon. Nic Robertson has more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The secret wartime coded message that seems tantalizingly close to being cracked.

COLIN HILL, PIGEON CURATOR: This one message has more people interested in the pigeons during the war than anything we've ever had before.

ROBERTSON: Found by pensioner David Martin, bricked up behind his fireplace, attached to the leg of a dead pigeon.

DAVID MARTIN, MESSAGE FINDER: What we've got here is the breastbone, which is the first place that came down the chimney. We then have the pigeon's head. And the last leg that came down was this one with a red capsule on it.

ROBERTSON: A World War II homing pigeon carrying a secret message that didn't make it home.

IAIN STANDEN, CEO, BLETCHLEY PARK: We made our own codes, and clearly they're still very good today.

ROBERTSON: A mystery wrapped in an enigma shrouded by time.

JEREMY DAVIS, PIGEON FANCIER: Scientists really haven't quite worked it out, but they say some go by the sun or magnetic fields, even smell their way back to the loft.

Come on, then!


ROBERTSON: Jeremy Davis knows pigeons, races them.

DAVIS: Basically, they're athletes of the sky. With the wind behind them, they can get up to 90 miles an hour in some cases. But they usually average about 50 miles an hour.

ROBERTSON: Not just fast, but far, in a day flying 600, 700, even 800 miles. But how the bird with the message went missing? Anyone's guess.

DAVIS: Basically he could have gone and rested on the chimney and then got blown down the chimney. It just sort of got a bit tired and slipped. Yes. It's either that or someone shot it off.

ROBERTSON: At the heart of Britain's wartime code breaking was Bletchley Park. Today, it's a museum.

STANDEN: Those sort of codes on a pigeon like that were probably from one of two sources: either from an agent working behind enemy lines inside occupied Europe --

ROBERTSON: Or from frontline forces. Even bomber crews carried pigeons. Museum curator Colin Hill tells this story about one avian hero, Royal Blue.

HILL: He was on an Halifax Bomber, went down in Holland, and he flew from Holland in about four hours back to England and they sent a plane out and picked the full crew up.

STEWART WARDROP, GENERATL MANAGER, ROYAL PIGEON RACING ASSOCIATION: There were a quarter of a million pigeons enlisted in the Second World War. All of them have played a part in the war, and they saved many lives in some heroic acts. So, it's a story that should be told and it needs to be shouted.

ROBERTSON: They didn't just carry messages, but film, too. Utterly indispensable, a vital part of the allied war machine.

HILL: All the D-Day landings for the first four days were brought back with the pigeons, because Churchill had said no radio to be used.

ROBERTSON: Almost all messages were coded. This message, 27 blocks of 5 letters, may now be offering up some of its secrets. Canadian researchers say it was sent by a soldier dropped behind enemy lines, a Sergeant Scott, using a World War I code book reporting on German tank movements.

WARDROP: The latest information that, yes, has to be checked, however, is we understand the fusilier that actually sent the message died in 1944.

ROBERTSON: And that has led to the realization the mystery message could have played a role in the war's most decisive battle: the D-Day landings. The more they learn, the more exciting the puzzle becomes.

HILL: If it came from the D-Day landings, which it looks like it did, yes. Lives were lost there. So, yes, it could have been a very important message.

ROBERTSON: But here, thanks to wartime code makers, firm answers run out. Britain's code-cracking experts today caution the Canadians may yet lack the right codes.

STANDEN: It's very likely that that sort of message would be sent using a onetime pad or a code book, so unless you can find the code book or the onetime pad, it's almost virtually impossible to break.

WARDROP: It was a message 70 years ago. It can't change anything. So, that kind of aura of mystery, I think, it's just a nice way to end the story.

ROBERTSON: Still a mystery, but for how much longer?

Nic Robertson, CNN, Bletchley Park, England.


FOSTER: And a heated debate has broken out amongst the world's code breakers since the discovery of that pigeon. A Canadian historian says he has deciphered the message using a code system from the First World War.

But British code expert Michael Smith says the idea that a World War I code would have been used in 1944 is, quote, "just silly, frankly." So, the mystery likely remains. Perhaps a CNN viewer can solve it for us.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, and when we come back, Rafael Nadal's long-awaited comeback hits another delay. What's wrong this time?


FOSTER: The new year is a time when many of us sit down and map out a plan for the coming year, and if you're looking for inspiration, look no further than tonight's Leading Women. Already at the top of their game, these women keep looking forward and going the extra mile to reach even higher heights.


FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before her recent promotion to vice president of GM's Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, Grace Lieblein was president and managing director of GM Brazil, a position that was far from routine.

GRACE LIEBLEIN, VP, GM GLOBAL PURCHASING AND SUPPLY CHAIN: You can be in a plant one day and a dealership on another day and meeting with the government in Brasilia the next day. It's never boring, that's for sure.

TAYLOR: Add to that holding meetings, overseeing new launches, and being the overall face of GM in the country. And --



TAYLOR: The auto executive decided to learn Portuguese.


TAYLOR: Today, she's practicing a speech that she has to make.

LIEBLEIN: I'm in Brazil, and Portuguese is the language here. If you're going to be in that country, you need to learn the language.


TAYLOR: This clear focus is in part what's enabled Lieblein to succeed. The daughter of a Cuban father and Nicaraguan mother also credits the mentors that she's had along the way.

TAYLOR (on camera): Have you been mentored by more men or women along the way?

LIEBLEIN: More men, only because there have not been that many women who were senior to me. One example, though, is when I got promoted to executive right after our daughter was born. There was another woman, one other woman, who was an executive in engineering at the time.

She talked to me about what she does for daycare, and it was wonderful. I said, I need to do this for other women, because it really was impactful for me.

TAYLOR (voice-over): Today, the woman who started her career in an auto plant has made it to the top of her industry, preparing to begin a new challenge at GM World Headquarters in Detroit.

TAYLOR (on camera): Does it ever bother you that somebody would say, wow, she has it all? As a woman?

LIEBLEIN: Not really. I -- the thing that would -- I'll say offend me is that if that somebody thought that I didn't earn it. I feel that I've earned where I'm at.

I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful husband, and I'm really -- I love my life. I'm really happy with my life, both professionally and personally.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I'm Kristie Lu Stout. After more than two decades on the world stage, famed Korean opera singer Sumi Jo has figured out exactly what her audience wants.


STOUT: From the elaborate gowns she wears to the songs she sings.

SUMI JO, OPERA SINGER: I think in Japan, lots of people still want to hear classical music. But in Korea, they want to also see the staging and the costumes and the way the artist presents. But when I'm in London or New York, I concentrate only on my voice.

STOUT: Does all of this make her a quintessential opera diva?

JO: No, no. Diva is diva. You have to be a diva on the stage, and that's refused, because it's so crucial. Everyday life, obviously, I don't go to the supermarket like this.

STOUT: The diva has come to her native Seoul, Korea, for a concert performance, and she does not disappoint.


STOUT: Over the years, Jo has gained recognition for her suburb high notes and her performances in Italian operas, "Rigoletto" and "Lucia di Lammermoor." Jo's career highlights also include appearances on stage with a host of musical luminaries: Andrea Bocelli and legendary tenor Placido Domingo, to name a few.

JO: I love sharing my stage with different people.

STOUT: She also has high hopes for her country.

JO: I think I would be more happy when I see that Korea will be united, because we are still divided.


JO: A thousand notes. They have to be one. One Korea. And one beautiful day, I want to sing for united Korea. That's going to be the most beautiful moment of my life.




FOSTER: And for more on our Leading Women series, you can go online, where you'll also find ten New Year career resolutions from some of our viewers and readers. That's all at

Bad news for Rafael Nadal and his fans. The Spaniard has been forced to pull out of next month's Australian Open. Mark McKay joins us from the CNN Center. So, Mark, his knees again?

MARK MCKAY, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's not the knees, fortunately for him, this time, Max. Instead, a lingering stomach virus, which has kept him off the practice court and really his doctors say haven't given him enough time to actually get Grand Slam ready. He hoped to make a fresh start in 2013, but this stomach virus he has picked up certainly will hamper that.

Everything looked so good not too long ago when Nadal was smiling for the cameras, picking up his seventh French Open trophy, and then it went all downhill. You'll remember, he's been out of action since losing at Wimbledon.

Could this virus be maybe a convenient excuse to give the knees a bit more time to heal up and get ready for the upcoming Grand Slam season and the upcoming tennis year? Apparently not. This issue, though, as I said, kept him off the practice courts, and the doctors and the medical team, Max, say he hasn't had enough practice time to get Grand Slam ready.

So, he had hoped to play in a Doha warmup event, but now the Australian Open, big, big news coming out of the tennis world this Friday. Rafa out of Melbourne.

FOSTER: He is only 26, but I guess he just pushes himself so hard, is that right?

MCKAY: I think that's basically it. When the knees go, it's because of the fact the way he abuses his body. You see how he plays, especially on his favorite court of clay, he is an all-out player, so he's really got to watch this.

We're going to flesh out more of this with a tennis expert from "Sports Illustrated" who follows this game next hour on "World Sport." We'll get his thoughts. But yes, you're right, Max, I think the way he plays, he abuses his body, and the knees, if they go, it is trouble no matter how old you are.

FOSTER: OK, Mark, thank you very much, indeed.

Some very depressing news out of India we've just received. The 23- year-old victim of a brutal gang rape in India -- we were talking about it at some length earlier in the program -- has actually died, we've just heard. We've had confirmation of that. The woman was brutally assaulted earlier this month in New Delhi.

Harmeet Singh joins us from there right now. So, this was a pretty rapid deterioration in her condition, Harmeet?

SINGH (via telephone): Yes, we just got this information from Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore that she passed away at 4:45 AM December 29 Singapore time, and that -- after her condition really worsened. Max?

FOSTER: And in terms of what we knew about her condition, it was obviously a brutal attack, but what sort of injuries was she being treated for?

SINGH: What we heard from the Elizabeth -- Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore was that she had significant brain injury, and when she arrived there, she already had cardiac arrest, and injuries to her abdomen. So, there were significant injuries, and she was put on a ventilator, and unfortunately, she passed away.

FOSTER: In terms of the attack, she was a -- this was a gang rape, and some of the members of the gang, as we understand it, have pleaded guilty to this. So, she was brutally assaulted earlier this month in New Delhi.

The case really did prompt these widespread protests in India over violence against women. It seemed to open a can of worms, really, for the rest of the world. A realization that rape, at least reported rape, was a growing problem in India.

This became a very big story in India, of course, Harmeet. Just give us a sense of how people have been affected by the injuries, first of all, and will now inevitably be affected by the death.

SINGH: Well, now the news has just broken out about her death, but certainly people were praying for her health, for her quick recovery, and unfortunately, she passed away.

But of course, as you mentioned, there was -- outrage in India over this case, and people came out on the streets last week and they were blasted by water cannons, teargas, and batons in New Delhi's key government district, which was a rare demonstration, which we didn't see ever happening there in that particular area. So, that was the kind of reaction that took place here to the brutal assault.

After that, the protest did ease, but there still remains what we see as considerable dissatisfaction with the government. There was a march, for example, yesterday, and people are really demanding that the rape's effects. They should be tried in fast track and that sexual assault be declared a capital crime, Max.

FOSTER: Harmeet, stay with us. I've got this statement here, we've just received it here form the hospital in Singapore. Dr. Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, saying "We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4:45 AM on the 29th December 2012." That's Singapore time.

"Her family and officials from the High Commission of India were by her side. The Mount Elizabeth Hospital team of doctors, nurses, and staff join her family in mourning her loss. The patient had remained in an extremely critical condition since admission to Mount Elizabeth Hospital on the morning of the 27th of December," so she was there for two days.

"Despite all efforts by a team of eight specialists at the hospital to keep her stable, her condition continued to deteriorate over those two days. She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain. This was during a gang rape in New Delhi.

"She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds, but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome. We are humbled," say the hospital that was treating her, "by the privilege of being tasked to care for her in her final struggle.

"We acknowledge the faith the Indian government and the patient's family have placed with us to ensure the best care possible was indeed provided to her at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. We share their huge sadness at her passing and will work with the High Commission of India to provide the family support at this time of grief."

Harmeet, there is, of course, immense grief in the family, there will be. But this is a shared grief, a cultural grief, almost, in India for a horrible crime, but also an issue that's come to the fore in India, an issue of disrespect to women, it seems.

SINGH (via telephone): Yes. In fact, sexual assaults are on the rise in India, and in this particular case, I should tell you that police immediately arrested the bus driver the very next day, who remains the main suspect in this case.

And his questioning led police to arrest five other suspects, who were then captured from different locations in India.

Nonetheless, the -- the demand from the public in general are about a convening a special session of parliament to amend the criminal laws so that rape be declared a crime, punishable with death.

So far, the Indian government says look, we cannot just amend the criminal laws overnight. What they have done, in fact, is that they have set up a commission -- a committee of jurists to look into the -- all of the different aspects of how to amend the criminal laws and to toughen the punishment for rape, which at the moment is -- can go up to life imprisonment in jail. So, this is where we stand as of now.

FOSTER: Harmeet Singh in New Delhi, thank you very much, indeed, for that update on the news that the 23-year-old victim of a brutal gang rape in New Delhi has died.

I'm Max Foster, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching. We're going to join "Amanpour" in progress.