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Lionel Messi Favorite To Win Fourth Straight Ballon d'Or; Winter Creeping Up On Syrian Refugees; Seahawks, Ravens Advance In NFL Playoffs; Compete Home Automation Becoming Reality With Smartphones, Internet; Wildfires Rage In Southern Tasmania; Coldsnap Strands Travelers In Northern China

Aired January 7, 2013 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet. and we begin in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad speaks to the nation has been met with international condemnation.

Also ahead, a fast track trial five men appear in court in New Delhi accused in the gang rape that ignited fury across India.

And later, how smartphones are about to get a whole lot smarter.

And as the killing continues in Syria, a settlement of the country's political future seems as distant as ever. Opposition forces and many western powers are already denouncing Bashar al-Assad's proposal for a way out of the crisis.

Now speaking on Sunday, the Syrian president laid out a plan for what he called a national dialogue. For most part the plan is a non-starter. The U.S. State Department called it detached from reality. The British Foreign Secretary William Hague says Mr. al-Assad is beyond hypocritical. The Syrian president maintains he is only trying to rid his country of terrorists.

And this Monday, Pope Benedict urged the international community what he called the endless slaughter of Syrians before the country becomes a field of ruin. But negotiations so far appear to have born very little fruit.

Nick Paton-Walsh joins us now live from Beirut with more. And Nick, it seems that the main takeaway from that speech from Bashar al-Assad over the weekend is that the violence will drag on.

NICK PATON-WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly France adding to western apprehension of that speech saying that it shows there's nod of reality in which he finds refuge to justify the repression of the Syrian people adding that he's not, quote, "fooling anyone."

I think the one thing we can take away from that is despite these weeks of diplomatic shuffling by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in hopes that Moscow, perhaps even Tehran, might somehow be involved in persuading him to accept some kind of concession that may involve him leaving power. He's absolutely not behind that.

Defiant in that speech today, calling a cabinet meeting, according to state TV, to discuss this proposal for a national dialogue, but frankly that's going to go nowhere with rebels, frankly nowhere with the international community in many ways because so much of this discussion was about trying to find a way of easing him from power.

Escalation now is the real fear. The worst weaponry now being used, it's claimed by U.S. officials by the Syrian regime, Scud-type missiles, but also from the NATO side, Holland today moving its PATRIOT missile batteries out of a base in The Netherlands to deploy them along the Turkish-Syrian border, putting that massive military machine right on the doorstep of this 22 month long now civil war.

But as the violence worsens, the big issue is going to be the humanitarian crisis. Already over half a million refugees in neighboring countries to Syria. And some suggestions that as winter approaches we could see hundreds of thousands more in the months ahead.


PATON-WALSH: They fled this far, almost to safety in Turkey, but still they dig. To these boys, dragged fast into manhood, it's not really a game, it's an air raid shelter.

"We make it so if the jets come and bomb us, he says, we put children here to hide them. But of course we'll make it much bigger for 20 to 30 people."

The holes are so they could see outside when the bombs come, although they've already seen so much.

"We were sitting suddenly and the rocket comes, making this noise," he says. "A big explosion, an artillery shell."

Here, in Bab al-Salama (ph) 8,000 of them fled everything they had hoping for something, but finding the new free Syria could give them little. 100 yards from Turkey, they're not allowed into its bustling camps.

"Of course, 80 percent of those here," he says, "came hoping to cross into Turkey, but the Turkish government stopped hosting over six weeks ago. People are furious. And we can't provide a lot of their daily needs."

What was temporary in summer is now looking permanent in the frost. The distance sound of shelling, a reason to endure even this.

(on camera): Even though these people just about hundred yards from the Turkish border, they've still had to bring what little plastic tent shelter they have under cover, because of the intense cold approaching. You can still hear sometimes the shells in the distance reverberate inside this open concrete hangar, but the real enemy in the months ahead is going to be that bitter winter cold.

For Abdul Qatr al-Hassan's daughter Siham (ph), the cold came too fast.

"She wasn't sick," he says, "she didn't have any problems at all. We were up late that night and playing with her. We woke the next morning and her mother checked on her. She was curled into a ball from the cold. We buried her in the village. Her sister is afraid now of the cold."

Now he burns plastic to keep warm. Wood is in short supply and expensive. In fact, they've stripped nature almost bear here. Even these plants cut down for food. Trash, plastic, gathered hungrily its acrid, poisonous smoke, cluttering a dense, wretched world. After 21 months of this war, this is the best the world has done for them.


PATON-WALSH: Now the UN says 84,000 Syrians left their country as refugees in December alone. Some reports suggesting that they're in fact a 1,000 Syrians trying to cross into Turkey some days already so far this year.

Turkey itself has, according to reports, spent a billion dollars on assisting refugees, but Prime Minister Erdogan faces a significant amount of popular discontent about the affects the overspill the war is having on his country. And there seems to be I think perhaps a limit as to how many refugees they're willing to accept in their camps, 148,000 at this particular point.

But as you see, those images there of people stuck very much on the Turkish border, if that were the model ahead, he's going to face a severe problem. The Turks perhaps wanting to see them staying on that side of the border. But of course the international community and outside observers wondering why it's not possible for them to get more help -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yes, some desperate scenes and very horrific scenes in that report just then. Children going hungry, an infant dying from the cold in the camp. You told us just now why Turkey seemingly can't help and provide more for Syria's refugees. What's the situation where you are in Lebanon. We know that last week the leader of Hezbollah called on Lebanon to open its border to refugees. Will Lebanon step up and help ease this crisis?

PATON-WALSH: Well, they already are significant number of Syrian refugees inside Lebanon, many unofficial, many official. It's really part of Lebanon's dilemma here who has already tried to stay outside with this policy of detachment the government always talks about here. It's almost impossible to separate the conflict from next door from the similar sectarian divides that are already inside this country. But Lebanon is so desperately trying to be sure that what's -- the maelstrom storm swelling next door doesn't envelop its own country.

It can't stop the flow of refugees, and frankly many people who are able to cross have already done so. I'm not quite sure how much more opening the border will cause more people to flee in this particular direction, but Lebanon awfully cautious about trying to destabilize this already fragile society here, Kristie.

LU STOUT: So many desperate people. Nick Paton-Walsh reporting for us. Thank you.

Now the human cost of Syria's civil war continues to skyrocket. And the UN now says the death toll has surpassed 60,000. And the number of refugees is expected to top 1 million.

Now this is the story of Sharifa (ph). Now injured in a bombing, she now struggles to survive at the Bab al-Salam (ph) camp we just saw a moment ago in Nick's report.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my leg about one year ago, after the revolt began in Hayyan. I weep over it, but it's gone and I can't get it back.

I was in the window, watching the jet above us. My family ran away, but I stayed there. I wanted to drink water then run away, but I couldn't. The jet came and bombed my uncle's house -- we have big ceiling joists in the house that's been unstable since we built it. Then the house started shaking. And while I was running away, the ceiling joist fell on my foot and cut it. I fainted. I didn't feel anything.

It's god's will that it happened.

I felt, then -- I can't talk.

I just want to walk again. I just want to walk. I don't want to play again, I just want to walk.

When I would play with my brother, we would draw our imagined kingdom. But now I can't play anymore.

It's very difficult for me after this accident. The bathrooms are far from me. It's hard to keep going and get there. The crutches hurt my arms from here, that's the most difficult thing for me. The situation here is hard, nobody can bear this.

I will go back to my village and complete my studies and everything. I will study whatever I have to to be a teacher.


LU STOUT: A powerful and haunting profile of Syrian refugee there, just a young girl.

Now the opposition has called for Bashar al-Assad to stand trial for war crimes. And now the president of Egypt is the latest world leader to back that demand. Speaking exclusively to Wolf Blitzer, Mohamed Morsy said that ultimately it is for the Syrian people to decide.


MOHAMED MORSY, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): The Syrian people, through their revolution and through the movement, will, when the bloodshed stops, move to a new stage where they will have an independent parliament and the government of their choosing. And then they will decide what they want to do against those who committed crimes against them. It is the Syrian people who decide.


LU STOUT: Now, Mohamed Morsy was of course the beneficiary of a revolution in Egypt that saw his predecessor Hosni Mubarak ousted from power.

Now you're watching News Stream. And still to come, the men accused of gang raping a young woman in India who later died of her injuries, arrive in court. We'll go live to New Delhi for the latest.

Plus, we could learn new details about the man accused in the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre. A preliminary hearing gets underway soon.

And this man looks set to lead the U.S. Defense Department, but only if he can pass a major hurdle: getting approval from his former peers in congress.


LU STOUT: Now in New Delhi five men accused in the gang rape of a 23- year-old woman arrived in court to hear the charges against them. Now the victim in last month's attack later died from her injuries. And this was the police van believed to be carrying the suspects to court. The case has ignited protests on the streets, even sparked a confrontation between lawyers in court today that prompted the magistrate to order a closed door hearing.

Now the case is expected to be transferred to a fast track court to expedite proceedings. And Sumnima Udas has been monitoring the story and joins us live from CNN New Delhi. And Sumnima, we know that the magistrate said that the news media not allowed to publish proceedings related to the case without the court's permission. Can you tell us more why that is and what we do know?

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, it was always expected to be an in camera proceeding. In India, that's actually normal for rape cases, because the assumption is that victims, rape victims would not want the media or the public around. What it means, in camera, is that it is off limits to the media and the public. So the media will not be able to report on what's going on in those proceedings even if they have access to that information from elsewhere, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And as we await the verdict in this case, how has it already changed the situation for women in India? I mean, have there been any meaningful changes in security and law enforcement there?

UDAS: Well, that will take time to see some actual change here, but this government has taken a few steps. For example, they have announced that they will be organizing training and sensitization programs for the police. We often hear of those stories where rape victims go to the police and instead of helping them, they ask them why were you out in the first place at that time? Why were you wearing what you were wearing?

They're also planning on recruiting a more female police officers. Right now, only 7 percent of the Indian police force is female. So in a lot of these police stations you don't have a single female police officer -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: So small, but meaningful steps towards a safer environment for women there in India.

Also Sumnima, CNN has been speaking to the family of the young woman who was killed in this brutal attack. I mean, what are they saying? How are they coping? And what are they saying about how they would like to honor her?

UDAS: Yes, we spoke to the brother of the victim. And he was saying that they're having a hard time actually coming to terms with this. The mother is still having a difficult time normalizing with the situation. And the father is still -- father often breaks down still.

But what they want is a hospital to be built in their village, in Usapradesh (ph), which is not too far from here, a hospital in her name basically as a tribute to her.

LU STOUT: Yeah, this is a case that has stirred emotions in India and around the world. Sumnima Udas reporting live from New Delhi, thank you.

Now, in the United States, the man accused in a massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado will go before a judge today. Now 12 people were killed and dozens were wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire at a screening of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. Now the issue at this week's hearing is whether there is enough evidence to go to trial.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aurora, Colorado, just after midnight, July 20th, 2012.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 315 and 314, first shooting at Century theaters. 14 300 East Alameda Avenue. They're saying somebody's shooting in the auditorium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came down with his gun in my face. He was about three feet away from me at that point. In that instant, I honestly didn't know what to do. I was terrified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We rescue inside the auditorium multiple victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy is standing right by the exit just firing away. He's not aiming at a specific person. He's just aiming everywhere, trying to hit as many people as he can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a child victim. I need rescue at the back door of theater nine. Now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just thinking we've got to get out, just got to get out the doors. And if I just fall dead, just get my kids out of here. It was just so horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspect is going to be a male, unknown race, black camo outside outfit, believed to be wearing a vest, gas mask and multiple long guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a right to remain silent.

WIAN: That suspect, 25-year-old James Holmes, is charged with killing 12 people and wounding dozens more. Prosecutors are expected to call scores of witnesses before Arapahoe County district judge William Sylvester. He'll determine whether the evidence is sufficient for Holmes to stand trial on more than 150 counts, including murder, attempted murder and weapons charges.

The weapons included explosives allegedly used to booby trap Holmes' apartment. His attorneys are expected to present a diminished mental capacity defense.

RICK KORNFELD, FORMER PROSECUTOR: The government has been absolutely say that. The government is going to say this guy wasn't crazy, he was crazy like a fox. He was conniving, he was premeditated. He was methodical. And that all may be true, but at the same time, you can be all those things, but you can also have a mental disease or defect.

WIAN: He had been seeing a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado where he was a doctoral candidate in neuroscience until dropping out in June. His attorneys says he was hospitalized in November after repeatedly banging his head into a jail wall.

(on camera): The preliminary hearing is expected to last several days. The judge has issued a sweeping gag order, so this may be the first time that the public hears much of the evidence against Holmes.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


LU STOUT: And again, the accused shooter is due in court later today.

This is News Stream. We'll be back right after this.


LU STOUT: Live from Hong Kong, you're back watching News Stream.

Now AC Milan returned to the pitch a week after suffering racial abuse during a friendly. Amanda Davies joins us now with more on this story -- Amanda.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kristie. Yeah, the team are back on the pitch, but the Italian interior minister has very much weighed into the racism row in football saying that matches shouldn't be stopped if only a handful of fans are involved in racist chanting. Anna Maria Cancellieri has spoken following Kevin-Prince Boateng's decision to walk off the pitch last week in protest to racist abuse from fans. That match was stopped. But she did, however, praise Boateng's actions for highlighting the issue.

Boateng and Milan were back in action on Sunday for the first time since their abandoned game. And they ran out 2-1 winners against Serie A's bottom side Siena. Ahead of the game, they wore anti-racism slogans on the backs of their shirts.

Well, on the NFL playoffs, the final eight line-up is now decided after the wild card games this weekend. And Ray Lewis's last horrah goes on after the Baltimore Ravens saw off the Indianapolis Colts.

Lewis went into the game knowing it could have been his last having announced his retirement ahead of the playoffs. And he made sure he was going to enjoy it in front of the Baltimore faithful. With the Ravens ahead 3-0 in the second here, he almost made a huge play, but drops the interception.

But despite that, the Ravens pulled away in the second half thanks to a couple of touchdown passes from Joe Flacco here going 24-9 ahead midway through the fourth quarter.

And the vaunted Ravens defense put the game away later in the fourth as Kerry Williams intercepts Colt's quarterback Andrew Luck. Ravens win 24-9. And Ray Lewis will have to put off that retirement for at least one more game. They play at Denver next week.

It was a sad end to the season for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, though. The rookie quarterback inspired the Redskins to a 14-0 first quarter lead over the Seattle Seahawks, but his troublesome right knee just couldn't keep pace. His counterpart Russell Wilson responded late in the second quarter, finding Michael Robinson for the four yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 14-10.

With Seattle down by one midway through the fourth quarter when Marshawn Lynch gets the handoff, makes one man miss and runs 27 yards for the score. Seahawks take a 21-14 lead after a successful two-point conversion.

One last chance for RGIII and Washington, but he goes down after a bad snap and reinjures that knee. So that was it for his game and his season. Seattle tacked on a field goal to win 24-14.

In the end, there was a little bit of argy-bargy after the game. Nothing too serious. But it's Seattle that advance to play the Falcons next week.

Now the golf community are hoping it'll be fourth time lucky for the PGA Tour's season opening tournament of champions in Hawaii. They're hoping Monday will see 36 hole plays with another 18 on Tuesday to finally get a 54 hole event completed, because for the last three days players failed to get going because of strong gales and heavy rain.

It is quite sunny, but not great golfing conditions. Matt Kutcher, for instance, tries to tee off, but there goes the golf ball off the tee. And have a look at Ben Curtis trying to line up an already difficult birdie. The little white ball there just takes off on its own.

There we were thinking Hawaii was a wonderful place for holidays. Not at the moment, Kristie. They are going to try again today, though.

LU STOUT: That's right, that's more than trade winds there in Hawaii. Literally blown off course there. Amanda Davies, thank you so much. Take care.

Now, let's slip over here. Lionel Messi, he is one of the most recognizable names in international football and he could soon become one of the most decorated. He is in the running to win the prestigious Ballon d'Or for a fourth time. As Pedro Pinto shows us, the Argentinian is facing some tough competition.


PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Lionel Messi can do something no one has ever done before: win the Ballon d'Or four years in a row. The 25 year old Argentine is quite an expert at beating records. In 2012, he set a new mark for goals scored in a calendar year. The Barcelona star hit the back of the net 91 times for club and country.

EMERSON, FORMER BRAZIL MIDFIELDER (through translator): Considering everything Messi has done this year, I think he is the favorite. He has really played at a different level at Barcelona.

PETER SCHMEICHEL, FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED AND DENMARK GOALKEEPER: With 90 goals in one season, I don't think he's ever put that kind of output. So if he doesn't win it this year, he shouldn't have won it the other years for sure. So, tough luck for Ronaldo, I have to say that, but I think he'll win it.

PINTO: Speaking of Christiano Ronaldo, he may not have reached Messi's heights when it comes to goal scoring, but he did win the Spanish League title and helped Portugal reach the semifinals of Euro 2012. In a recent interview, the 27-year-old Portuguese star told me how much he would like to win this award.

CHRISTIANO RONALDO, REAL MADRID MIDFIELDER: A lot. This would mean a lot for me.

PINTO: So if you were someone voting and someone would ask you why are you going to pick Christiano Ronaldo instead of Messi, what would you say?

RONALDO: Well, I will put everything in one bag and to see what they've done by the year. If you speak about me and Lio, who win more things, who play better. So I cannot say I deserve to win. But I think I'm in good position.

PINTO: Andres Iniesta could be seen as an outsider to win Monday's big prize, but he shouldn't be overlooked. The 28 year old midfielder already beat the odds when he was named UEFA's European footballer of the year ahead of Ronaldo and Messi back in August. The fact he lead Spain to an unprecedented second straight European championship title stands him in good stead with the voters.

And who are those voters? National team coaches and captains, plus an elite group of journalists. They're not only picking the FIFA Ballon d'Or winner, but also the women's world player of the year with Marta looking to pick that award up for the sixth straight time. The coach of the year title is also up for grabs. Vicente Del Bosque of the Spanish National Team is the favorite for that.

No doubt, it should be a drama filled evening here at the Congress House.

Pedro Pinto, CNN, Zurich.


LU STOUT: Now still ahead on News Stream, could this man be the next U.S. Defense Secretary? If former Senator Chuck Hagel is nominated today, he could face a big battle before he even gets the job.

And taking a stand against censorship, journalists in China stage a rare protest. We'll tell you why.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Now Syria's opposition and western leaders are rejecting a reconciliation offer put forward on Sunday President Bashar al-Assad. He proposed holding a referendum on a new constitution. And he accused foreigners of helping to fuel terrorism in his country.

Now Bahrain's highest court has rejected an appeal by 13 prominent activists. The court upheld their prison terms of charges of plotting to overthrow the government during protests in 2011. And the sentences range from five years in prison to life. Now there is concern that today's ruling could spark more protests and violence in Bahrain.

Now a judge in India has ordered a high profile rape and murder hearing be held behind closed doors after chaotic scenes erupted in court. There were confrontations between lawyers ahead of an appearance by five men accused of gang raping a woman who later died of her injuries. Now the judge banned the media from reporting proceedings without court permission to protect the suspects.

Now the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading back to work today. It is her first day back since she was sidelined last month by a stomach virus followed by a concussion and a blood clot near her brain. Now Clinton was released Wednesday from a New York hospital. She plans to step down as Secretary of State as soon as her replacement is confirmed.

Now U.S. President Barack Obama is set to nominate a new CIA director and Secretary of Defense today. Administration officials say that this man, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, will be nominated to lead the U.S. Defense Department. But opposition to Hagel's appointment has already been building in Congress. Some Democrats and Republicans take issue with his previous stances on Iran, Israel, and troop surges.

Now could those obstacles derail his confirmation? Now Barbara Starr takes a look at his military and political record.


BARBARA STARR, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chuck Hagel's view of the world today was shaped when he served with his brother, Tom, in Vietnam. Hagel recalled being burned in a land mine attack.

FMR. SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (r), NEBRASKA: The pain and we didn't have any medics with us and we did some guys again I think that were in pretty bad shape so the morphine was used for them.

STARR: The brothers saved each other's lives in combat.

HAGEL: Thinking to myself, you know, if I ever get out of all this, I am going to do everything I can to assure that war is a last resort, that we, a nation, a people calls upon to settle a dispute. The horror of it, the pain of it, the suffering of it.

STARR: After coming home Hagel worked briefly as a newscaster then had a career in business before entering public service as a senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009. Most recently he has taught at Georgetown University while co-chairing the president's intelligence advisory board. What everyone who knows him well will tell you, Chuck Hagel has independent views on national security. It's caused him problems.

To the dismay of fellow Republicans, Hagel opposed the troop surge in Iraq as did President Obama, but then opposed Obama's surge in Afghanistan. He has called for deep cuts in defense spending. Reshaping spending, dealing with Iran's nuclear programs, and being ready for potential involvement in the war in Syria are all top priorities this winter. That means the political buzz saws are out again.

Like Hagel, William Cohen was a Republican senator before he was Bill Clinton's secretary of defense.

WILLIAM COHEN, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think he'll face the same challenge in terms of people on the democratic side saying, "Hey, wait, we've got some pretty talented people that are - could step in in a moment's notice and fill that spot," and the Republicans will say "Why are you helping out a democratic administration"?

STARR: One key Republican already is challenging Hagel.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am concerned about many of the comments that he made and has made like reference to, "Jewish lobby," which I don't believe exists. I believe a pro-Israel lobby exists.

STARR: Others insist Hagel is not anti-Israel.

AARON DAVID MILLER, V.P., WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CTR. FOR SCHOLARS: He belongs to a sort of tough-minded in this case Republican view of Israel that, in fact, accepts the reality that while the United States and Israel are very close allies and will remain close allies, their views on every issue cannot be expected to coincide.

STARR: And critics in the gay and lesbian community have turned around their opposition to Hagel. In 1998 Hagel opposed James Hormel, an openly gay man, to an ambassador's post. Hagel now says "My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views. I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights."

(on camera): Whatever Chuck Hagel's views were as a senator, if he does become secretary of defense, he will have to fall in line with President Obama's policies on everything from defense spending to what to do about Iran's nuclear program.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


LU STOUT: And along with Hagel's nomination, President Obama will also tap John Brennan to be the next CIA Director. Now Brennan is currently Mr. Obama's chief counterterrorism and homeland security adviser. And they are described as being very close with Brennan easily able to gain the president's ear. Now Brennan also has a long history serving for the CIA. He previously worked 25 years at the agency, establishing himself as an expert on terrorism and the Middle East.

Now Monday is also a big day in the upper tier of British politics. Now the controversial coalition that leads the UK is unveiling a series of new plans to mark the halfway point of its government. Now Prime Minister David Cameron is stressing the stability of his union with his deputy Nick Clegg and will try to convince the British public of their achievements to date.

Now Dan Rivers joins us now live from London with the very latest. And exactly how will David Cameron and Nick Clegg mark this milestone, this halfway point in their coalition government?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're having a press conference in the next hour or so, a sort of mid-term review, like a mid-term report if you like. It's 32 months since these two parties were forced together in a marriage of convenience after no one party won an outright majority in 2010.

Well, this will be a kind of reaffirming of their vows, if you like, to carry that analogy forward, looking a stock take at what they've achieved so far and going forward what they hope to achieve in the next two-and-a-half years before the next election. There will be measures, we're told, on domestically on child care, elderly care, investment in infrastructure. But of course lots of people will be concerned as well internationally about this state of the economy, how much progress have they made in tackling the deficit.

LU STOUT: And that's a question, isn't it? I mean, they will insist that the coalition is united, but has it delivered on its promises? Has it successfully steered the UK forward, especially during this time of major economic challenges?

RIVERS: Well, they're saying that they have managed to cut the deficit by a quarter, but those figures are bitterly contested here. The opposition Labor Party and trades union groups here claim those figures are out of date. There are different ways of measuring the deficit. Some groups here are saying it's only been cut by as little as just over 2 percent, others by perhaps 9 percent. So there's an enormous range of opinion, even amongst expert economists as to how it has been reduced. I think most people agree it has been reduced somewhat, but the degree whether it's up to 25 percent or perhaps as little as 2 percent according to some, 9 percent according to others, is bitterly contested.

But I think they will agree here that we're only at the beginning of the cut and of the austerity. There is an awful lot more to do, a lot more pain to come before the British economy is put on a surer footing.

LU STOUT: All right, Dan Rivers joining us live from 10 Downing Street. Thank you.

You're watching News Stream. And still ahead, it is a very cold winter in China. And that is causing some chaos around the nation. We'll have the details coming up.


LU STOUT: Now censorship is always a sticky issue in China. And the latest controversy comes from the southern city of Guanzhou. And journalists at the paper you see here, it's called The Southern Weekly, they say that their recent editorial calling for political reform was rewritten as a tribute to Communist Party rule. And the four characters that make up the paper's name have been blocked from social media searches since Friday. But that has not kept people from talking about it.

Now here is a Weibo post from the actress Jao Chun (ph), and she quotes a Nobel Prize winning author by saying, "one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world."

And the prominently blogger Han Han penned a piece for Hong Kong's South China Morning Post after his Weibo posts were deleted. And he writes, "the only way for you to completely abide by their rules is to become like them. We end up censoring ourselves, always apprehensive, always afraid, always guessing."

Now a protest took place outside the newspaper's headquarters on Monday. And some journalists are threatening to go on strike. Let's bring in our Beijing bureau chief Jaime Florcruz. And Jaime, a number of supporters were outside the offices of Southern Weekly earlier today in Guangzhou. Can you tell us what happened?

JAIME FLORCRUZ, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Kristie, the controversy has been raging for a few days now. And today we did see journalists and their hundreds of supporters gather in front of the office building of Southern Weekly to condemn the censorship.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is attacking and it's suppressing press freedom and people getting to know the truth. It is not right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I came over here today to say I think Southern Weekly is not alone. Lots of people support them.


FLORCRUZ: Well, Kristie, the controversy started with a posting on Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging site, complaining that the local propaganda officials in southern Guangzhou Province, had rewritten an annual New Year's editorial without the knowledge of the editors. Originally, it was entitled, "China's Dream of Constitutionalism," but when it was published, it read "Chasing The Dream," which sort of echoed the official Communist Party line.

So soon enough, the China's social media saw postings condemning the censorship and expressing support for Southern Weekly -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, this New Year's op-ed, it was completely changed by this propagandist. And this entire censorship row, it brings to light the roll of China's propaganda departments. What can you tell us about how they supervise and manage the media in China.

FLORCRUZ: Well, Kristie, China's media over the past 30 years have changed, have become more robust and diverse thanks to open door and reform. However, over the years even though the media has been allowed more space to do more different things and to do them differently, still government censorship has never stopped. And most Chinese media groups are owned and run by the government. The Communist Party's propaganda department from Beijing and through their local branches regularly issue written and oral directives telling the media what to run and what not to run in terms of the news.

And so one can only imagine the frustration of China's journalists when they are faced with censorship -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, and some of the staffers at Southern Weekly were saying enough is enough.

Now this story, it represents a serious problem for the Communist Party, doesn't it? I mean, especially in this era of the microblogs, of the Weibos, there has been this even greater push for freedom of expression in China.

So what line will the next president of the country, Xi Jinping take on censorship and press freedom?

FLORCRUZ: Well, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman insists that there is no press censorship in China and that the government protests press freedom according to law. However, there are signs that they are trying to reign in the media, especially the popular microblogging accounts which are used to expose problems and abuses that sometimes embarrasses the government. Right now the term -- search terms related to Southern Weekly are being blocked.

Now Xi Jinping took over only two months ago. So it's probably too early to tell where he actually stands on press freedom and censorship. Still, analysts are -- you know, wondering whether he actually supports the actions of the Guangdong propaganda department.

Still, they also agree that Xi Jinping, like his predecessors, his prime preoccupation is social stability. And if press freedom stands in the way of that, or jeopardizes social stability, Xi Jinping will sacrifice press freedom -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Interesting. We could call it a test, a test on whether or not China's new leadership is in fact open to reforms.

Jaime Florcruz joining us live from Beijing. Thank you very much indeed for that.

And you can find complete coverage of China on our web site. Among other things, you could read Jaime's latest column there. And this week it's on Xi Jinping and the fight against corruption. Just go to

Now there is tragedy on the Australian island of Tasmania as wildfires have destroyed more than 100 homes there. Now the fires started before the weekend. And it burned through tens of thousands of hectares of land on the southern coast. At least two bush fires remained out of control in the southeast region due to high heat and strong winds in the area.

Now the acting Tasmanian police commissioner says that there have not been any reported deaths so far, but the police are still combing through hundreds of inquiries regarding missing people.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited Tasmania on Monday. And she issued a warning to the nation and urged the people of New South Wales to be on special alert.


JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: In Tasmania, fires are still being fought. And it is very important that people stay alert to continuing information from local authorities about what they need to do to stay safe. And that message also continues to be true around the nation.

And I go want to say some particular words about forthcoming circumstances in New South Wales. We know that New South Wales is about to move into an extreme heat period. That does mean that there will be fire warnings in parts of New South Wales, that fire risk is extreme. Indeed, in parts of New South Wales, fire risk levels could be moved to catastrophic.

In those circumstances, people in New South Wales need to do what so many in Tasmania have been doing over the past few days, which is staying alert, listening to local authority warnings, thinking about what they would do, their bush fire plan, activating their bush fire plan. This is the time to be vigilant.


LU STOUT: All right, let's get the very latest on this now. Mari Ramos is at the World Weather Center. And Mari, we just heard Prime Minister Gillard calling for everyone to be alert, calling for vigilance. What's the latest on these fires.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is a very critical situation. And the reason she mentioned New South Wales is because of the population density there, an area very vulnerable, of course, to fires. The more people you have, the more danger there is because any little spark could really become a raging inferno very, very quickly. And so they're very concerned about that, Kristie.

Let's go ahead and start there. There are different things that they're going to look at when they issue these fire warnings. And right now when you see right over here across New South Wales you can see these reds, that's the high warning. These areas here, or some of them anyway, have what is called a catastrophic fire warning. In other words, that if any spark that starts could really rage out of control very, very quickly. There's a total fire ban across all of New South Wales right now and actually all across the south and east here.

Notice that that fire danger is still critical as we head into areas farther to the south and east and portions of Hobart, and I should say Tasmania, still have that -- get a little bit of an improvement and then we return to a lot of yellows and some oranges on the weather map stretching all the way back over here toward the west.

The heat is going to improve a little bit. But notice right now, this is why Tuesday is such a critical day. It's already pretty late in Sydney. And it's only 24 degrees. So in other words, they're not going to cool down much more than this. So even at night the temperatures are extremely warm. And that's a concern.

The other thing is that it's been very dry. And it's expected to be windy as we head through the day tomorrow.

As far as the high temperature tomorrow in Sydney it's pretty -- pretty significant, look at that, 43 degrees the Tuesday high in Sydney. Then we begin to cool down on Wednesday and Thursday, a little bit closer to average.

But as we head to the later part of the week, we could see those temperatures shoot up yet again.

And notice Adelaide back over here. They should be kind of remaining the same over the next few days. And Canberra looking at temperatures that will be well above the average over the next few days, 38 the high for Tuesday, so a critical fire area there as well.

As far as Tasmania, areas to the south, when we saw those terrible fires where so many people are still missing, one of the things that authorities are saying is that it's difficult to tell who is missing and who actually moved away. These are some of the areas there were more than 40 fires burning in this area and there's at least two, as you mentioned Kristie, that are still out of control.

They've had a little bit of a change in weather. While it's still windy, they've had plenty of moisture coming, or at least a lot more moisture than they had before. And this definitely something that they needed to see, because it had been so bad.

Over the next few days, we're going to see again once the moisture moves away very dry conditions settle in and that is why we have that concern across this region.

Very quickly I want to switch gears to our other main story. I have some video to share with you from China. This right here is from Chongqing. And what you're looking at here is -- this is a serious situation. There are at least 5,000 people that have been left without water. It has been so cold across these areas that the water has frozen in the pipes. And they can't get any water. This is just one example of the troubles that they're having across China.

The next piece of video shows you troubles at the air port, the thick fog, the cold temperatures, leaving at least 15,000 passengers stranded over this area.

Now across northern China, they're calling this the coldest winter in at least 30 years. State media reporting that at least 26 million people might be needing assistance across areas to the north.

We have more pictures to show you if we can just go ahead to the next one, because I know I'm out of time and I've got to go back to you, Kristie. But look at that, this is people at the airport who are just so mad that they have been stuck in some cases for two to three days over these areas.

We're not expecting any kind of significant improvement as far as the temperatures go across China, so this is going to be something ongoing for the next few days, particularly hard hit areas to the north, Inner Mongolia in particular, but we're still seeing those cold temperatures filtering farther south.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: Wow, tempers flaring as China freezes. Mari Ramos there. Thank you.

Now you're watching News Stream. And still ahead, just when you thought that there was an app for almost everything, we'll tell you about some new ways to make your smartphone even smarter.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now we have some new pictures coming in to us right here at CNN. Let's bring it up for you. And it shows the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presumably on her way to work. Now it is her first day back since she was sidelined last month by a stomach virus followed by a concussion and a blood clot near her brain. Now Clinton was released Wednesday from a New York hospital.

Now let's take a look at this picture. It's a high tech thermostat on display as part of the international Consumer Electronics Show which kicks off in Las Vegas this week. So why are we showing this to you? Well, because it can be powered by your smartphone.

As Laurie Segall reports, it's part of a growing trend in app development.




SEGALL (voice-over): Warm up your car with your Smartphone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for flying with us.

SEGALL: Technology now possible and starting to take off.

ZACH SUPALLA, CEO, SPARK: You're starting to see more products connect to the internet. And I think over time, it's starting to create the sort of home of the future where everything talks to each other and things happen automatically like the Jetsons vision.

SEGALL: So, what does the home of the future look like?

SUPALLA: I've got a button on my phone that I can press and when I press it, right away it's off.

SEGALL: Spark is a company building a product that connects items in your home with your Smartphone.

SUPALLA: Our first product is the socket and it's a little device that screws in your light bulb socket, it connects to the internet over Wi-Fi and lets you control your lights from Smartphone tablet, computer, wherever.

SEGALL: The idea started as a technology built for the founder's father who is deaf.

SUPALLA: If I text him and he's at home he doesn't note if his Phone's not in his pocket. And so, I wanted to build something that would let his lights flash when he got a text message.

SEGALL: Spark is one of several companies looking to make your home more connected. A company called smart things lets users attach wireless sensors around your house that make everything from your window to your refrigerator Smartphone controlled.

DAVID TISCH, INVENTOR, SMARTTHINGS: What they're trying to build a hub in the middle of your home that allows hardware such as your scale, your stove, your door, your dog to talk to it and then software that allows you to be aware of what's going on. And so, it will send notifications, hey, your dog just went outside. Hey, you left your door open. The lights are on.

SEGALL: Is it just the technology's smart enough now.

TISCH: The platforms have been built. And so, there's connectivity both in your pocket, through Wi-Fi, through 3G and LTE, but there is also connectivity at home.

SEGALL: And major industry players are taking note. GE took the concept outside the home experimenting with sensors placing them on everything from wind turbines to measure efficiency to hospital patients to keep track of them in the building.

TISCH: You have this controller in your pocket that can enable you to do things that three, five ten years ago were wildly impossible.

SEGALL: Laurie Segall, CNN Money, New York.


LU STOUT: Something else to lose if you lose your mobile phone.

And that is News Stream. World Business Today is next.