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Lance Armstrong to Talk to Oprah; Prostitutes Prepare for World Cup; Hundreds of Wildfires in Australia; Elephants Slaughtered in Animal Reserve

Aired January 9, 2013 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL": Some hot dry weather fueling hundreds of fires -- yes, hundreds -- in the Australian state of New South Wales. Also, Victoria and Tasmania.

You can hear it there, can't you? A change in wind direction has brought temperatures down just slightly.

The fires, of course, coming on the heels of Australia's worst heat wave on record. During the last four months of the year the average daily temperature, 104 degrees, all part of a general global warming that does include the United States, 2012, the hottest year on record in the continental U.S.

Chad Myers is joining us now. I want to talk about how this record- breaking hit and feeding the Australian fires. My family has been telling me it's just been ridiculous.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A couple of things and you have ground truth. You lived there many years.

It burns. Australia does catch on fire.

HOLMES: Annual event.

MYERS: But the problem with this is that we had temperatures almost reaching 110 in some spots. The weather service in Australia had to adjust their color table because the forecast didn't go high enough on the top of their color table.

Now, they have a new color, purple. That just means really darn hot.

So, here's the deal. We had a very wet season when it was supposed to be wet and things grew like the grass and then the rain stopped, kind of like the rain stopped in America with our drought. And when the rain stopped, it got hot.

So, you have all of that grass, all of that beautiful grass out there and it is now drying up. In the dry up and in the heat, it is now just a forest fire, a wildfire waiting to happen.

Alice Springs today, 95. Darwin, 98. Now, it is summer. This is the other side of the world so temperatures are warm there anytime. Ninety-nine, Alice Springs, not that unusual.

But here's the map that I was drawing your attention to a little bit ago. That's the new color that Australia had to put on their weather map over here on the key above 50 degrees C, 50 degrees Celsius.

You can do all the math you want, but that's hot. That's over 110, 120 degrees there in the central part of Australia.

We did have a cold front go by through Australia yesterday. That cooled the temperatures down a little bit, helped the firefighters, but the fires are still going, 13,050 square miles of fire so far from the beginning of 2012 to right now in Australia. Slightly cooler temperatures today.

But let me give you an idea of just 2012. Australia is about 30 percent smaller than America, but Australia in 2012 had 880 square miles burn. The United States had 14,400 square miles burn in the same amount of time and Australia is only 30 percent smaller.

This number is tremendously bigger in the fires they had in North America because of the drought and the heat that they had there. That drought and heat caused the warmest year on record for the United States.

Every here -- every spot here in the red, a new record for the hottest event for any year ever recorded. And July 2012 was the hottest year on record of any month we've ever recorded since we've been here.


HOLMES: Yeah and, growing up an aging surfer from Australia, I mean, we grew up with a hole in the ozone layer over top of us and skin cancer, right? So, I've had a couple off and that's just sort of part of the deal when you grow up down there.

The whole movement, though, with the U.S., Australia, elsewhere, too, is the talk of global warming. I mean, what do you think the debate is at now? Where do you think the debate is at? Is there a debate?

MYERS: You know, the science is so overwhelming, Michael. The parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has never been higher, 340, 350-parts-per-million. Now and that's proven.

Carbon dioxide holds in heat. That's proven. So, if you have something that's never been higher that's holding in heat, it's going to warm up the globe. It just has to happen.

The thing is, can we do anything about the numbers going higher? And the issue that I have is that, you know, 10 years ago until now our cars are producing 50 percent less pollution.

Guess what? There is twice as many cars on the road, so you're not gaining anything. You're still -- even though we are trying to do the best we can, you're not getting any progress with the amount of carbon dioxide still being pumped into the atmosphere. We had a long conversation about this. What can we possibly do? What if we had a million machines out there that could disassociate carbon and oxygen and it just sparked and the carbon would fall up and the oxygen would go back and you had a million of these machines, could you ever get the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

And right now, it just seems -- it seems overwhelming.

HOLMES: Thanks for depressing me even further.

MYERS: I'm sorry.

HOLMES: No, I'm with you, Chad, and I think you are absolutely right.

And it is a tragedy. And, you know, you've still got countries out there that are pumping stuff from factories and elsewhere into the atmosphere because they think it is their turn and that the U.S. has had its industrial revolution and others get a chance now to pollute.

All right, we could go on, couldn't we, but we shan't.

MYERS: And we will someday.

HOLMES: And we will another time. Good to see you, Chad.

MYERS: Good to see you.

HOLMES: Chad Myers, there.

All right, a whole family of elephants slaughtered for their tusks, the gruesome price for Asia's lust for ivory. It does continue. You'd think that'd be over by now, wouldn't you?

Philippe Cousteau joins me to talk about the slaughter, what we can do to stop it. He'll be with us when we come back.


HOLMES: Wildlife officials say it is the biggest mass shooting of animals on record in Kenya, a disturbing image. Have a look at that.

This is Saturday. A gang of poachers slaughtering a family of 11 elephants and hacking off their tusks, the animals the latest victims caught up in the growing illegal ivory trade.

This happened in the Sabo National Park, home to some 13,000 elephants.

CNN special correspondent Philippe Cousteau joins us now from Los Angeles. Yeah, Philippe, I don't know about you. A lot of people might have thought, wasn't the ivory thing done for? I mean, the poachers were caught. They stopped the trade. It is illegal. But no.

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, you're right. For a long time during the '80s and '90s, we saw a drastic decline in poaching of elephants and rhinos.

Unfortunately, though, 2011 was confirmed -- I've been working on this issue with the World Wildlife Fund and their experts -- 2011 saw the largest increase and the largest amount of wildlife and elephant poaching in the last few decades.

And really the problem is that it's no longer the individual rangers or individual poachers -- excuse me -- that are going through and killing these elephants in order to feed their families.

This is now part of very sophisticated organized crime syndicates that are spending a lot of money. They have attack helicopters. They have AKk-47s and assault rifles and, oftentimes, they are over -- better equipped than any of the rangers trying to protect these animals and it's growing precipitously because it is worth so much money.

And it's relatively easy money for these organized crime syndicates, mostly from Southeast Asia. And it's also supporting conflict in areas in Africa and it's also, in some case, we estimate, also supporting organized crime and terrorism organizations, as well.

HOLMES: Yeah, you know, it is -- as you say, it is big business, sadly.

You know, last week, I think it was, Hong Kong's customs confiscated -- you see it there -- almost 800 elephant tusks worth $1.4 million. Officials believe that shipment came from Kenya, was smuggled through Malaysia.

You know, besides Hong Kong, though, major illicit seizures have been made also -- you're talking about mainland China, the Philippines, places like Vietnam, Thailand.

What is causing the demand for the ivory? And, actually, when you look at that, I mean, it's only a million dollars. I mean, that's a lot of dead elephants for a million dollars worth of ivory.

So, where's the demand? What's being done about curbing it?

COUSTEAU: Well, one of the big issues is there is still demand for people to have trinkets on their mantle pieces and it's not just in Southeast Asia. Many people will probably be surprised to learn that, last July in New York City, $2 million worth of ivory was confiscated in one of the largest busts in U.S. history out of two antique stores in Manhattan. So, it's really is an issue of demand.

HOLMES: It's a cultural thing then, too. What is being done to sort of change that?

COUSTEAU: Well, it's a cultural thing in Southeast Asia. It is also a demand issue for people buying what they think are antiques here in the United States.

There is a lot of efforts on the supply side of increased enforcement and that's the good news is that organizations are waking up to the importance of the issue. But also trying to do education. World Wildlife Fund and others are doing a lot of education programs saying, buyer beware. When you buy a trinket to place on your mantle piece, it's a beautiful carved ivory. You are supporting organized crime, terrorism and you're driving animals towards extinction.

And that type of education programs are starting to gear up and they're starting to gain some traction in Southeast Asia, but, unfortunately, the growth of the middle class in places like China that feeds demand for, say, shark fins, is also allowing more and more people to afford these types of luxury items.

It's a display of wealth and the key is for governments to step up and engage in enforcement and education to help people understand the true cost of what they're doing.

HOLMES: Exactly.

Before we leave, I want to show people, give people an idea of where the elephants live in Africa. It's interesting to see.

We've got a graphic we can show you. You can see where they live there in red. And, as you know, the elephant population in a lot of those place is shrinking.

With the rate of poaching going back up again, which just, again, seems to me incredible, is it conceivable it could can wipe out certain populations all together?

COUSTEAU: It is absolutely conceivable. There is a great deal of concern that by the middle of the century there may be no large herds of roaming elephants that aren't particularly fenced in and protected in national parks. And that's very possible.

Again, the sophistication of these organizations with attack helicopters -- imagine flying in helicopters, 10 men jumping off, shooting these elephants, hacking off their tusks and flying out before rangers can even respond.

The sophistication is incredible. It's worth, you know, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars every year.

So, we have to step up our game if we're going to allow a future of elephants for our children and for the future of this planet which I think is certainly something that is a laudable goal.

HOLMES: Yeah, indeed. Yeah, absolutely. And, unfortunately, they're hard to catch, too, these guys, a lot of times, because of the vastness of the areas.

COUSTEAU: Very, very difficult. The rangers are outgunned and outmanned and it's very hard. But we can do better and we should do better.

HOLMES: Good to get the word out there. Always good to see you, Philippe. Philippe Cousteau there. COUSTEAU: Thanks, Michael. Always a pleasure.

HOLMES: All right, Lance Armstrong at the center of controversy again. Anyone surprised? This comes after reports that he tried to give $250,000 to an anti-doping agency. We're going to get the latest on the athlete's continued fall from grace.


HOLMES: Check this out. A representative for Lance Armstrong reportedly tried to donate a quarter million dollars to the U.S. Anti Doping Agency before it investigated the disgraced cyclist. The head of the agency told "60 Minutes Sports" he was, quote, "stunned by the offer" made back in 2004. And in a wide ranging interview with CBS "Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley, Travis Tygart said Armstrong threatened his fellow riders to keep them quiet.


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS "EVENING NEWS": Was Lance Armstrong personally involved in intimidating these other riders to keep them quiet?

TRAVIS TYGART, USADA CHIEF: He was. It was tough. All of these witnesses were scared of the repercussions of them simply telling the truth.

PELLEY: What could Lance Armstrong do to them?

TYGART: Incinerate them.


HOLMES: Alex Thomas of CNN International Sports joins me from London.

Good to see you here on CNN U.S.

These allegations against Armstrong keep on coming. And, of course, now he's going to sit down for this interview with Oprah Winfrey later this week. Do you think he's finally going to cough to it, admit to doping?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS: Michael, it's a do or die indeed for Lance Armstrong. He's seen the writing on the wall. He knows that his entire future, both personally and professionally, rests on getting the right message across. And maybe no coincidence that he's picked Oprah Winfrey as the person that he's going to speak to first of all, ever since he was finally, officially stripped of those record seven Tour de France titles and labeled a drugs cheat by the U.S. Anti Doping Agency.

First of all, the head of which Travis Tygart, we just heard from and we saw the face and language he used in relation to the intimidation tactics Armstrong used while not only instigating the most professional and systemized doping cheating program in professional sports, but then also trying to cover it up afterwards. So, you know, Oprah Winfrey doesn't have the reputation as the most fierce interviewee possibly, it's fair to say, but Lance Armstrong still has a real task on his hands. He needs to convince the American public and the wider world indeed that he is a victim in all this because, to all intents and purposes, he's just about the best drugs cheat in the history of sports.

HOLMES: Yes, I mean, I'm going to put you on the spot and get you to pull out the crystal ball or whatever by asking you this. But, you know, I'm just curious, it's game over for him really. I mean what does he even hope to gain from this? It's not like he's going to get his career back.

THOMAS: Well, we've just been speaking actually in one of our other studios, Michael, to "The New York Times" writer that first broke the suggestion that Armstrong might finally come clean and confess that he was a drugs cheat because throughout the whole process we saw over the last six months, he's always denied that he ever took drugs and he said it was, you know, a cynical attack and a vendetta that the U.S. Anti Doping Agency was pursuing against him.

But her suggestion was, Michael, that he wants to compete again. He's 41 years old, but he misses running in the New York Marathon, competing in triathlons, as he does now, or maybe even getting back on the bike. And that just shows how pathetic a figure he's become really that he's desperately holding on to the hopes of a sporting career in his 40s, well past his peak, because he has no other outlets.

He's had to sever all his ties to the Live Strong cancer charity that he was heavily involved in as well because the damage that these allegations have done to that organization, raising funds to help the victims of cancer. So he really has nowhere else to go. He's sure to make some sort of confession on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," but whether or not he'll admit everything is highly unlikely because so many people are pursuing him for money through the courts as well --

HOLMES: Yes, exactly.

THOMAS: After, you know, the false way that he earned that prize money.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. I -- I don't know. Ego, who knows. Alex, good to see you, my friend. Alex Thomas there in London.

Well, check this out. Prostitutes preparing for the World Cup in Brazil. Yes, the ladies of the night. Their trade's legal there and they even have an industry work that is offering English lessons for free just to keep business booming. Keep this (INAUDIBLE) going. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Do you speak English? Well, the answer will soon be "yes" for prostitutes living in one Brazilian city. In Belo Horizonte, they are being offered free English classes ahead of the 24-day World Cup. Shasta Darlington is live in Sao Paulo for us. Shasta, I don't know where to begin. A bit of a bold step. You know, prostitution is legal in Brazil. I suppose this is good for business.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Michael. I talked to the president of this regional association of prostitutes there in Belo Horizonte. She was actually very pragmatic about the whole thing. She said, look around Brazil. The private sector everywhere is trying to take advantage of these big sporting events. The games are going to be played all over the country, including in this city. And so people are preparing their employees. Why shouldn't we? This is a profession, too. Fair enough.

She also said, you know, the members of our association will have to carry out financial transactions in English and they also have to learn a very specialized vocabulary that comes with the trade, Michael.

HOLMES: I'm not -- I'm not even going to touch that. Oh, I suppose they'd have to learn that as well.

We'll have to leave it there, unfortunately, before we get into trouble. Shasta, always good to see you. Shasta Darlington there in Sao Paulo.

All right, when we come back, we're going to have a look at what is topping the charts in Puerto Rico. (INAUDIBLE)


HOLMES: All right, before we go, we want to check out some music getting a lot of air play around the world. A Grammy Award winning duo from Puerto Rico has the number one song in Chile. And, yes, we're going to let you hear it.


HOLMES: It's called "Something I Like About You" by Blue Sin and Yam Del. It features American artist Chris Brown and T Pain was the other one.


HOLMES: It's also the number one song on the Latin billboard chart as well. So now you know, impress people at parties with that tidbit.

That will do it for us. CNN NEWSROOM continues though with Christine Romans.