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Japanese Airlines Ground Dreamliners; Algerian Hostage Drama Continues; Manti Te'o Hoax Revealed; Australian Open Update; Obama Unveils Gun Control Measures; Talks Ongoing in Pakistan
Aired January 17, 2013 - 08:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong and welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT (voice-over): The tense situation of a gas plant in Algeria continues. Islamic militants have been holding several Westerners captive. And we'll give you the latest.
The entire fleet of Dreamliners is grounded as Boeing investigates the flames and batteries.
And this college football star earns sympathy after his girlfriend's tragic death. There's just one problem: she was never real to begin with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: Now there are conflicting reports at this hour about an ongoing hostage situation in eastern Algeria. Reuters is quoting an Algerian security source that says 25 foreign hostages have been freed. CNN can't confirm that and here is what we know right now.
The militants, they attacked the gas field in Amenas on Wednesday. And they kidnapped both Westerners and Algerians. Algeria's interior minister says the Algerian captives have now been released. And among the foreigners that were taken captive are American, U.K. and Japanese nationals.
Two people were killed during Wednesday's attack, including a British citizen. The U.K.'s foreign minister has described the death of one of its citizens as "coldblooded murder." And France's president has also been speaking out.
Let's get more now from Dan Rivers in London.
Dan, some dramatic news of an escape by many of these hostages. What's the latest?
DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a really confused picture, Kristie. As you say, there's that one security source being quoted by Reuters suggesting an escape. There's all through the morning that I've been reporting on this there have been different reports from different news agencies suggesting different numbers of people may or may not have escaped.
I think at the moment it's safer to say there's a possibility. But we just don't know. It's incredibly isolated, this place. We haven't had any pictures out of that location since this happened at all in the last 24 hours. So that gives you an idea of just how far into the desert this place is. A lot of this area is a military zone, anyway. So it's very difficult to get access to.
Confusion as well about the nationalities of those hostages. We think that there are Americans involved, although the State Department are not saying how many.
Francois Hollande, the French president, said basically he wouldn't be drawn on whether there could be French hostages there; not denying that there could be, either.
So I think the Western governments are all in concert on this, that the less information that gets out while these people's lives are in jeopardy, the better it gives them the ability to try and control the situation.
The Algerians have got this place surrounded and that, you know, we'll wait to see whether they can get them out safely or whether this will develop into a very bloody siege.
STOUT: And let's talk about the militants who've been holding the hostages, even acting under the orders of a man named Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Tell us more about who he is.
RIVERS: Well, he is an Islamist terrorist with a very, very long history. He fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets, going there when he was just 19 years old. He lost an eye in combat. He then came back to North Africa, to Algeria.
He was involved in the GSPC, which was an offshoot of one of the Islamist armed groups during the Algerian civil war in the 1990s. That name kind of morphed; it was rebranded into Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Quite how high up he is, open to debate. One analyst I spoke to said, well, he's always been seen as a bit of a maverick inside AQIM, that he is involved in a lot of criminality, so not so much a devout political end.
He's been involved in cigarette smuggling, in drugs, in human trafficking, very, very slippery character. He's been convicted in absentia for his involvement in the shooting of Algerian customs agents.
They've been after him for years and years and years and -- but he's always evaded capture. So a guy with a lot of former very violent terrorism combined with criminality in this deserted, lawless part of the Sahara in the southern Algeria.
STOUT: Yes, this is a man with a very violent past. What will it take for Belmokhtar and the militants to release the hostages they still have? What do the militants want?
RIVERS: Well, I mean, I (inaudible) this morning. He said, in the past, you know, that this can be dressed up in a number of ways, but essentially often it comes down to money, the ransoms are paid, have been paid.
Officially no governments will confirm that but behind the scenes between intermediaries, between employers, between different multinational companies, money is paid to get aid workers, to get employees out in these sorts of situations sometimes. And that can be their primary motivating factor, according to the analyst I spoke to.
In this particular case, he said, he thinks there is a moreover political bent to this as well, that they have already talked to Mauritanian news agencies, claiming that this is in retaliation for Algeria allowing flights by French warplanes to attack Mali.
And he pointedly said that this is now a regional conflict in the Sahel in northern Africa, that this is all beginning to form a locus around Mali that will spill out into neighboring countries like Niger and like Algeria.
STOUT: Yes, there could be a destabilizing effect.
Dan Rivers reporting on this ongoing hostage crisis, thank you very much indeed for that, Dan.
And the militants, if claimed, that their attack in Algeria is retaliation for the French-led offensive in neighboring Mali.
Now a statement released to regional media demands an end to the, quote, "brutal aggression on our people in Mali." Now the French began the offensive in Mali nearly one week ago, launching airstrikes on rebel targets in the north. And they began a ground offensive there on Wednesday in attempt to retake the towns of Diabaly and Kana.
Now France is providing support to Mali's government in the fight against Islamic rebels in the north of this West African nation. But why the sudden urgency now? Northern Mali has seen decades of rebel activity.
Jim Clancy gives us some perspective.
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JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Africa, Europe and the U.S. have come to the realization that Al Qaeda is driving closer to having a country it could call its own: Mali. Ignoring that is not an option.
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Any effort by terrorist groups, particularly regionally based ones, to make inroads into ungoverned spaces has to be confronted firmly by the government. And if that can't happen, then there has to be international support.
CLANCY (voice-over): The French defense minister was more to the point. "A terrorist safe haven in Mali," he said, "would be within striking range of Europe and France itself."
Mali was ripe for the plucking by Islamic extremists. The military had effectively lost control of an area the size of Spain after decades of fighting a low-level insurgency by independence-minded Tuaregs. In Bamako, the government was in disarray after a March coup. Islamic militias pushed aside Mali's own Tuareg minority rebels and began pushing toward the capital.
How did they get so strong so fast?
CLANCY (voice-over): Arms and experienced fighters. Groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb celebrated the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi and helped themselves to the abundance of guns and rockets and abandoned government weapons depots.
For the West that intervened in Libya, it is a lesson in unintended consequences. The battle that is brewing in Mali now involves three or more Islamic groups intent on setting up their own extremist safe haven.
African companies are expediting their own forces to counter what they see as a major new threat.
EL-GHASSIM WANE, AFRICAN UNION: They all do terrorist at the city's threat (ph) thereby affecting many of our member states in East Africa, in West Africa and elsewhere on the continent, in North Africa as well.
CLANCY: Countries like Algeria, Nigeria and Libya all see jihadist being drawn to Mali as they were to Afghanistan or Iraq, a shift that could certainly pose more serious problems for them. The reality: these forces may be small in numbers today, but they are experienced veterans. And in the view of some, better armed than any Al Qaeda group ever seen -- Jim Clancy, CNN.
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STOUT: Now the French operation inside Mali has been endorsed by many Western and African nations. And Vladimir Duthiers joins us now live from CNN Lagos.
And, Vlad, the ground operation is now well underway. What is the very latest from the battlefield?
VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kristie. The ground operation, French ground forces, are pushing northwards to engage the -- to engage the Islamists in the northern part of the country. They have said that this will be a difficult fight. The defense minister, Jean- Yves Le Drian, said that in Mali, the insurgents are well entrenched.
They're dug in. They're well equipped and they are very well armed. This will be a difficult fight for the French. This is a terrain that they're not necessarily familiar with, although the French army has, over the past 10-15 years, engaged in multiple military actions across Africa in the Ivory Coast. They've engaged pirates in Somalia.
This is a desert terrain. The militants have the ability to blend into the population, to hide their weapons in homes of civilians. How will you tell a nomad from a Tuareg from a civilian? It's going to be a difficult slog for the French -- for the French army.
But they say that this is necessary to drive them out, to ensure that these -- the Al Qaeda-linked Muslim terrorists do not gain a foothold in that country, Kristie.
STOUT: That's right. This is new terrain, new ground for the French troops. And separately, Vlad, the International Criminal Court has opened a war crimes investigation into Mali. What will it focus on?
DUTHIERS: That's right. The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has said that the International Criminal Court is investigating allegations of torture, of rape, of mutilation, of floggings. And they say that they will be able to make a case against some of these terrorist groups that have taken control of the north.
Now what the French are also hoping, I should say, Kristie, is that the African contingent of soldiers that should be arriving any day now -- we know that there are 190 Algerian soldiers that meant to be in Mali within hours, followed by another 700 soldiers in the next week or so.
We know that the French have said that, hopefully, at some point, the West African nations will take command and control of the situation. What we also learned in the last hour, however, is that Mali has asked the European Union for help.
And the European Union has said that they will be providing up to 450 military operational personnel to come into Mali to help train the Malian military, which, at this, is very weak, Kristie.
STOUT: Yes, the international assistance continues to grow.
Vladimir Duthiers joining us live from Lagos, thank you.
Now when NEWS STREAM continues, Dreamliners grounded. Airlines around the world stop flying their Boeing 787s as safety checks are demanded in the wake of Wednesday's scare in Japan.
And President Obama makes his case for greater gun control in America. But he faces a tough fight getting those proposals turned into law.
And the mysterious case of the girlfriend that never was. College football star's tragic tale is unmasked as a fake. Now was he duped or did he dupe the public?
STOUT: OK. Welcome back. And some breaking news for you.
Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Olympic bronze medal. You'll recall that Armstrong apparently admitted to using performance enhancing drugs to the talk show host Oprah Winfrey. He won this medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney in the middle of his run of winning the Tour de France seven times.
Armstrong, he was stripped of all those titles after the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency presented a new case against him. And Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey is due to air in the United States on Thursday.
Now Boeing may be coming to regret naming its 787 aircraft the Dreamliner. Every single 787 that had been in service is now grounded as safety checks are carried out on a fire risk linked to battery failures. The global response swiftly followed the emergency landing of an ANA Dreamliner in Japan on Wednesday. That incident followed a similar problem on the ground in Boston last week.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday that all 787s should stay on the tarmac. And by early morning Thursday, Washington (inaudible) carriers in other countries had followed their lead.
CNN's Jim Boulden joins us now live from London.
And, Jim, tell us more about the FAA announcement and its aftermath.
JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting here is, of course, the Dreamliner made by Boeing, a U.S. company, so once the FAA grounded the 787s on Wednesday, it was a fait accompli, really, that the other regulators would follow suit. And so the European regulator followed suit immediately and grounded the two Polish LOT 787s.
Interestingly, one was already in the air. It had its inaugural flight from Warsaw to Chicago. This is a very important route for LOT. And LOT was the first and only European carrier to get its 787s. And so it was grounded and now sits in the U.S. and followed suit from, pretty quickly after that, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airways, LAN Airways in Chile and, as I said, LOT followed suit, Air India.
So there are eight airlines with 50 of these 787s in service. All 50 are now grounded, Kristie. And it could take a couple days; not really sure how long this will take until the regulators decide they want to lift the lid, as it were, on the problem with these batteries.
And, of course, it's the lithium ion batteries that have been catching fire that's worried the regulators. And it's unprecedented, really. And the FAA hasn't grounded a plane, I think, since 1979, an entire fleet of planes, if you will.
So to do this is drastic. And so, as I say, no surprise, really, that other airlines have just decided we better ground them as well until we know exactly what's going on with these batteries, Kristie.
STOUT: Yes, and the response from Boeing, I mean, with its entire fleet now grounded, around the world, what is the company saying and how will it manage this crisis?
BOULDEN: Two things I think are interesting. One is that no airline has said they want cancel their orders. There's more than 800 orders at the moment. So Boeing continues, obviously, to construct these 787s. It's an extremely important part of its stable of airplanes. And Boeing, of course, like other airlines, has said they're immediately looking into the situation.
The battery maker's actually a company in Japan. And they will be looking at the batteries -- and they already probably are looking at the batteries. What's interesting, the FAA actually ordered these planes grounded before their investigators were able to get to Tokyo and look at the battery itself.
Usually, I think you would say, they would want to test it; they would want to see it. They want to know exactly what's going on. But they're erring obviously on the extreme side of caution.
And I should say this. This isn't just like a battery in a flashlight. You don't just change it. It would -- it would be possibly redesigning the 787 or parts of it, in the software, if they find that these lithium ion batteries are not the right ones to be controlling critical parts of the electronics in the 787, so it isn't just a simple process of maybe finding a new supplier or fixing the battery.
They need to get down to find out why these batteries are getting too hot and causing smoke and, in one case, fire. And that could actually take some time. And it could be a real problem for Boeing.
STOUT: That's right. I mean, so many questions. Is it because of its design or the way that they're manufactured? Anyway, Jim Boulden, joining us live from London, thank you so much for that.
Now the Dreamliner, it may be the first aircraft to use lithium ion batteries. But the battery technology is nothing new for consumer electronics. Virtually every portable gadget is powered by a lithium ion battery. Laptops, phones, tablets, game consoles, digital cameras, GPS devices -- if it has a rechargeable battery, it's most likely lithium ion.
And that's because there are many advantages to lithium ion batteries. They're small, light and pack a lot of energy into a small package. But they have had problems in the past. Lithium ion batteries have been known to overheat and possibly even catch fire. You're looking at video of a phone battery that exploded a few years ago.
Back in 2007, Nokia recalled 46 million lithium ion phone batteries. And the year before that, almost 10 million laptop batteries were recalled by Sony. But for every battery that's been recalled, there are even more that are out there and they're working just fine. So is there anything different about the Dreamliner's batteries?
"The Seattle Times" spoke to a battery expert at MIT who suggests it could be a question of size. These devices are all small and therefore have relatively small batteries. But the Dreamliner's batteries are huge, in fact, twice the size of a car's batteries. And the bigger the battery, the more energy it holds. And that energy must be contained.
Now the U.S. president, he faces pushback on his plan to reduce gun violence. Barack Obama, he laid out his proposal on Wednesday. It was formed in the aftermath of last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Mr. Obama, he signed 23 executive actions that stiffen existing background checks for gun buyers. And he requested that funds be made available to help treat mental illness and provide schools with support to enhance their safety.
The president also called on Congress to pass a new assault weapons ban, restrict ammunition magazines to no more than 10 pounds -- or 10 rounds, rather -- and to require universal background checks for anyone buying a gun.
But getting Congress to do more will be difficult. And Dana Bash examines the battle ahead.
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DANA BASH, SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama knows the fate of his new gun control agenda depends on the on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act. And Congress must act soon.
BASH (voice-over): The president also knows his first hurdle is his own party, persuading many fellow Democrats from conservative pro-gun states to take a big political risk. One of those historically skeptical gun-owning Democrats is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
But he released a carefully worded statement signaling an open mind.
"I'm committed to ensuring that the Senate will consider legislation that addresses gun violence and other aspects of violence in our society early this year."
Another gun-owning Democrat is the Senate Judiciary chairman, who announced he will hold this year's first Congressional hearing on guns.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Spare me symbolic arguments. Let's have a constructive discussion about how better to protect our communities from mass shootings while respecting the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Supreme Court.
BASH (voice-over): Democratic leadership sources tell CNN the president's proposals to renew the assault weapons ban and magazines with more than 10 rounds are unlikely to go anywhere. Sources say the only measure with much of a chance is universal background checks. It was no accident the president mentioned it first.
OBAMA: As many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. That's not safe. That's not smart.
BASH: Although Democratic aides caution discussions are just beginning, background check legislation would likely give states financial incentives to report mental health records to a federal database. Currently, only 19 states comply, and make it a prosecutable crime to sell a gun privately without a background check.
The president is galvanizing Americans to pressure lawmakers.
OBAMA: Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. And if they say no, ask them, why not?
BASH (voice-over): That question is already going to reluctant Democrats, like North Dakota freshman senator, Heidi Heitkamp. When CNN's Candy Crowley described the president's plans earlier this month, she said this.
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I don't think that that proposal necessarily, as you described it to me, fits the bill for me.
BASH (voice-over): A gun control advocacy group took out this tough ad against Heitkamp, saying, quote, "Shame on you."
BASH: Democratic leadership sources tell me, in order pass anything, those gun control groups, who are traditionally Democratic allies, are going to have to engage in more of that kind of friendly fire in order to compete with the influence of the NRA and to beat back genuine concerns among many lawmakers about curbing Second Amendment rights -- Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.
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STOUT: Now he is one of the world's most coveted coaches. So where will former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola coach next? The answer may surprise you.
STOUT (voice-over): That's the Hong Kong harbor outside. We're coming to you live from Hong Kong. You are back watching NEWS STREAM.
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STOUT: Now Serena Williams is in pursuit of a sixth Australian Open title and Amanda Davies joins us more with Serena's quest.
Can she do it, Amanda?
AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's been very much the one to beat, Kristie, on a very busy sports day. We are going to start with the tennis. But have to say, it hasn't been the smoothest progress so far for Serena Williams. Her accident-prone progress through the draw is how it's been so far.
Continues as well, the five-time Melbourne champion followed up her twisted ankle from the first round by hitting herself in the face with her racket in round two.
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DAVIES (voice-over): She says she's got a fat lip, but it didn't affect her performance too much. (Inaudible) brushed past Spain's Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0 for win two in the women's draw for Victoria Azarenka and 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm.
In terms of the men, Roger Federer safely through as well. He (inaudible) challenge of Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets. (Inaudible) meeting against the home favorite Bernard Tomic and (inaudible) Andy Murray wasted no time in the searing Melbourne heat. He got past the relative inexperienced (inaudible) Joao Sousa to make it through to the last 32 to the last of just eight games.
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DAVIES: Well, the IOC has called on Lance Armstrong to return the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Olympics. It comes on the day of Armstrong's long-awaited interview with Oprah Winfrey when it's finally aired.
And whilst as many individuals and organizations very much holding their breath about what he's going to reveal, (inaudible) governing body, the UCI, say that they would be willing to give an amnesty to those who give evidence to its independent commission on drug use in sport as long as it's within world anti-doping rules.
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DAVIES (voice-over): Armstrong's charity, The Livestrong Foundation, has urged him to come clean as well, saying that they expect him to be completely truthful and forthcoming with both Oprah and everybody in the counter (ph) community.
The doping scandal, which cost Armstrong his seven Tour de France titles, also forced him to stand down from the charity he founded 15 years ago. And at the same time, the major league soccer team Sporting Kansas City has announced that they're dropping the name Livestrong from their stadium and terminating their contract with the charity following the Armstrong controversy.
The team's CEO has said, quote, "Our faith and trust in this partnership have been permanently damaged; therefore, we are terminating our agreement with Livestrong effective immediately."
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DAVIES: One of incredible sporting stories to bring you today, Chelsea, Manchester City and inter-Milan are amongst the clubs reassessing their options after Bayern Munich (inaudible) the manager they all wanted, Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona boss, has agreed a deal to move to the German side at the end of this season.
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Guardiola signed until 2016 with the Bundesliga leaders, taking over from Jupp Heynckes, who is retiring. (Inaudible) of course has been on sabbatical since leaving Barcelona at the end of last season after guiding the team to 14 trophies in his four years in charge. Promises to be an interesting time ahead.
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DAVIES: Well, that's 28 years and 17 days old, LeBron James has become the youngest player to score 20,000 points in the NBA as the Miami Heat beat the Golden State Warriors. James was 18 points shy ahead of tipoff in California and late in the first half he got his place in the history books with his double-pump jump shot.
He finished the game with 25 points in all, passing Kobe Bryant as the youngest to break the 20,000th point (inaudible).
Kristie, it's back to you. It's fantastic. One of those day, though, we're fighting over the top sport story for our "WORLD SPORT" show in a couple of hours' time, struggling to fit it all in.
STOUT: That's right. A lot of great stories, especially that last one. You know, he's been in the public eye for so long, LeBron. I can believe he's only 28 years old. Amanda Davies there, thank you.
STOUT: Yes, that's right, especially he's in the public eye since, what, he was in high school? Amanda Davies, thank you.
You're watching NEWS STREAM. We've got a lot more ahead, including facing off with the government. Now the man behind massive protests in Pakistan, he gets at least one of his demands.
And the bizarre mystery that is gripping the American sporting world: the tale of the college football star and the girlfriend that doesn't exist. We'll explain.
STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM, and these are your world headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT (voice-over): There are conflicting media reports about the hostage situation at a gas field in eastern Algeria. Reuters is quoting an Algerian security source who says 25 foreign hostages have been freed. CNN is working to independently verify that report. Two people were killed earlier when armed extremists launched a raid on the plant.
Militants say the international offensive in neighboring Mali is the reason behind the attack and kidnappings in Algeria. French and Malian troops now launch a ground assault on Islamists rebels in central Mali. And the ground attack, it was preceded by days of airstrikes on rebel positions there.
And all the Boeing 787s currently in service around the world have now been grounded while safety inspections are being carried. European regulators ordered the Dreamliner to stop flying while in similar actions in the U.S., Japan, Chile, Qatar and India (inaudible) response to a string of technical problems in the past two weeks.
And U.S. President Barack Obama has unveiled his plans to curb gun violence. He asked Congress to reintroduce bans on military-style weapons and magazines that he called high-capacity. And he signed 23 executive orders that include opening a national dialogue on mental health, improving background checks and doing a better job of enforcing current laws.
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STOUT: Turning to Egypt now, and this man, President Mohammed Morsi, is being criticized over comments he made before his rise to power. Some are calling his words anti-Semitic and deeply offensive. But he says it was taken out of context. Reza Sayah has more.
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REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, under fire for hateful comments he made more than two years ago against Zionists and the Israeli government.
In a 2010 interview that resurfaced on YouTube, Morsi, then a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, calls Zionists "warmongers," "descendants of apes and pigs" and calls on Muslim countries to break off ties with Israel.
MOHAMMED MORSI, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): These people who want nothing but our blood, they want the blood of Muslims and Arabs on this land. Therefore, we must resist them with all avenues of resistance. We must besiege the Zionists, wherever they are. None of the Arab or Muslim peoples and regimes should have dealings with them.
SAYAH (voice-over): Washington was quick to blast Morsi's comments. On a visit to Cairo, Senator McCain and six fellow U.S. lawmakers told Morsi how they felt in person.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: In our meeting with President Morsi, we voiced our strong disapproval of statements he made a few years ago that have recently surfaced.
SAYAH (voice-over): President Morsi hasn't backed down from the statements. His spokesman said they were taken out of context from comments not aimed at Jews, but at Israeli aggression against Palestinians.
"It's necessary to separate Judaism and the Jewish people and the violent practices against the unarmed Palestinians and the assaults on their lives and properties," Morsi's spokesman said.
SAYAH: Despite U.S. condemnation and no apparent regret from President Morsi, it doesn't look like Washington is viewing his comments as a game-changing crisis.
NULAND: We will judge him by what he does, what he has been doing is supporting that peace treaty, continuing to work with us and with Israel on common goals, including in Gaza.
SAYAH (voice-over): Indeed, in a letter to Shimon Peres last year, Morsi called the Israeli president "a great and dear friend." Washington also viewed Morsi as playing a key role in negotiating the current Israeli- Palestinian cease-fire. For now, Washington's view seems to be Morsi's actions, speak louder than words he spoke long before he became president - - Reza Sayah, CNN, Cairo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: And the man who's been leading tens of thousands of people into the streets of Pakistan is now face to face with the very government he's been protesting against. For days, cleric Tahir Ul-Qadri, he's been holding massive demonstrations against corruption. And he wants the current leadership to be dissolved.
Ul-Qadri is now in talks with government officials. Let's get the very latest now from the Pakistani capital.
Saima Mohsin is live in Islamabad. And Saima, any update from these talks?
SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kristie. Just in the last hour, Qadri came out and he told all his supporters who are still gathered here -- it's day five of this protest -- and he told them to stay put, the talks are ongoing. We're going to take you over to that container in which he's been holed up since he's arrived here in Islamabad.
He has managed to bring representatives of the coalition government of Pakistan to him. They're all inside that container right now, about four or five politicians from the National Assembly of Pakistan inside right now, having those talks with Qadri.
When he came out, he said so far they've only managed to talk about one of the major points that he wants them to adhere to, which is all surrounding electoral reforms and trying to remove corruption from the Pakistan political system. But he came out; he spoke to his followers. He told them that the talks are ongoing, and not to move until those demands are met, Kristie.
STOUT: You know, this is incredible. And Ul-Qadri, he wants the government to resign. So why did the government agree to walk to where he's based, in that container behind you, and to talk to Qadri?
MOHSIN: Well, this is an embattled government, Kristie, and you cannot deny -- if I'm going to step back a little and show you how many people are down there -- this government wants to try and remain popular for as long as it stays put. Incidentally, Qadri has slightly changed his aggressive stance from calling on the government to step down.
Last night he spoke to CNN; he was on the "AMANPOUR" show and he told Christiane Amanpour that he's not quite saying they need to step down. What he wants is electoral reform. He wants elections to be announced sooner than they're supposed to be. It is, of course, a mandate that he's trying to soften his stance as time moves on.
But they've had to come to him because the people want them to have these talks, Kristie.
STOUT: And you've been following this movement from the very beginning, when it first started as a march. It's now a sit-in there at the Pakistani capital. How many people are still supporting Qadri and taking part in this anti-corruption drive?
MOHSIN: Pretty much, Kristie, the people who have been here since day one, I still keep bumping into them. And there is a vast crowd all the way up this main boulevard, which goes about half a kilometer to a kilometer down this way to my right. And another half a kilometer down that way towards the parliament and government buildings.
So still a vast crowd and real sense of solidarity amongst them, Kristie. People are bringing free food and water. They're handing them out whether they're part of the crowd or not, whether they're saying they're nice or not. (Inaudible) actually coming to give them food. And when it started raining, rolls of plastic were handed out to give them shelter, to give them cover.
And, in fact, Minhaj-ul-Quran -- that Qadri's NGO and movement -- has also been incredibly well-organized. This road (inaudible) by normal street lights. It's lit up by the floodlights that Qadri has brought with him.
It's also offering ambulance service, a free dispensary for people who have brought their young children there or might be feeling a chill. So every effort is being made to keep people here. So incredibly well- organized. And despite how cold and wet it has become here, Kristie.
STOUT: Yes, it doesn't seem like this sit-in's going to end anytime soon. Saima Mohsin reporting live from Islamabad for us, thank you.
Now in Turkey, this was the scene as thousands of people turned out to pay their respects to three Kurdish women shot dead in Paris last week. One of the women was a cofounder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
Now the group has been named as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the E.U. and Turkey. And there are now fears inside Turkey that the deaths of these women could derail peace talks between the party and the government.
Now meanwhile in Belgium, people are questioning their nation's euthanasia laws. Assisted suicide is legal. But a recent case is testing those boundaries. Jonathan Mann tells us about the Belgium brothers who face a difficult decision.
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JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eddy and Marc Verbessem, identical twins, inseparable in life and in death. The Belgian brothers lived together in a village near Antwerp. Already born deaf, the twins found out 18 months ago they were both slowly going blind, suffering from a genetic form of glaucoma.
DAVID DUFOUR, TWINS' DOCTOR (through translator): Their physical condition was rapidly deteriorating. They became increasingly dependent of their parents and they were afraid their parents would die before they did. They did not want to lose their parents and end up being alone.
MANN (voice-over): In all likelihood, in an institution. The 45- year-old twins had communicated with each other using sign language. The thought of losing their sight with no way to converse was too much. After talking to several psychiatrists, they sought legal permission to be euthanized, an option their parents initially resisted. A neighbor says she understands the decision.
ELKE ENCKELS, NEIGHBOR (through translator): I think it is good. If you don't have anything else anymore in life, if you can't see, can't hear and can't speak, what else can you do? And they both had it.
MANN (voice-over): Despite the fact their illness was not terminal, after a lengthy search for a willing doctor, the brothers' request was granted. By then, they had their family's support. And on December 14th, doctors at a hospital in Brussels gave both men a lethal injection. The doctor who oversaw the euthanasia says it was a weight off the brothers' shoulders.
DUFOUR (through translator): They were happy and cheerful. We had coffee in the cafeteria and everything went well. Finally, they spoke to the hospital chaplain, which meant a lot to them. It was very helpful and reassuring. They said goodbye to their parents and to their brother. And then they waved at us. And that was the end of it.
MANN (voice-over): Belgium is one of a handful of countries where euthanasia is legal. But the twins' case has reignited debate over whether it really should be -- Jonathan Mann, CNN, Atlanta.
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STOUT: There have been conflicting reports about that hostage situation in eastern Algeria. The British foreign ministry says Algerian authorities confirm there was an ongoing operation. Let's try to get some clarity on the situation from Dan Rivers in London.
Dan, what can you tell us?
RIVERS: It's really confusing, I'm afraid, Kristie. This line from the FSO (inaudible) Commonwealth Office here in the last few minutes saying "Algerian authorities have confirmed there is an ongoing operation," suggesting clearly that there is some sort of attempt to go in and rescue them.
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RIVERS (voice-over): We put the -- there have been widespread reports that helicopters are being used; some other reports suggesting that some hostages have been killed as a result of that. We put that to the Algerian foreign ministry, which said that the stories about helicopters being used were a fantasy. So real confusion as to exactly what is going on.
But the -- just to reiterate, the foreign office here in London saying that the Algerians have confirmed to them there is an ongoing operation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: So Algeria has launched this operation to end this hostage siege there. Previously did Algeria ask for international assistance?
RIVERS: No, not that we're aware of. They had the gas complex surrounded with their troops fairly early on. Just to recap what we think happened and from the Algerian minister of information, this was the version of events that was being put out late yesterday, that three cars were on their way to the airport from the gas plant containing about 20 Westerners.
They were ambushed by a group of Islamists. The cars turned around; they went back to the base. They were followed and then surrounded and taken hostage. We then had various different sources giving a different picture as to what had -- is happening.
Some suggesting that some of the hostages managed to escape; others, as I say, in the last hour, suggesting that some of the hostages had been killed and that helicopters were being used. But we haven't been able to confirm that at all.
And in fact, that has been directly contradicted by the Algerian foreign ministry, which is saying that the use of helicopters is a fantasy. But clearly, something is going on because here in London, the FCO is saying that the Algerians are telling them that there is an ongoing operation.
STOUT: That's right. And as we do have this confirmation that this operation is underway, remind us about the people who are inside this facility awaiting rescue, these hostages who come from all over the world?
RIVERS: They do, yes, and a number of countries, again, I would love to be able to give you more specific information. We know that there are Americans among them. We don't know how many. The State Department is not confirming that. CNN has sources suggesting it could be three or four, but that has not been officially confirmed.
Again, it's being widely reported there are British, Japanese, U.S., French and Norwegian nationals. Now we know certainly that there are Norwegian nationals there. The -- this is jointly run by Norway's Statoil Company. Now it was -- its CEO has held a press conference confirming that a number of Norwegians are among those who are being held hostage.
Also, opaque, really, from Francois Hollande, the France president, saying he's not going to comment on whether there could be French hostages. But certainly not denying that there are French hostages. So it seems like all of the Western governments are doing everything they can to keep the amount of information going out to a minimum.
A lot of the information -- or some of the information has been coming out from apparently the terrorists themselves, calling into two different Mauritanian news agencies. And so, obviously, you've got to treat those reports with a huge amount of caution because, clearly, they could be trying to, you know, to give the impression that something's happening when it's not, for their own tactical reasons.
So I'm afraid we don't know much more than that, other than it appears that the Algerians are attempting to go in and mount some sort of rescue.
STOUT: Yes, this is such a fast-moving story. So Dan Rivers, thank you so much for staying across it all for us.
Dan Rivers reporting live on the very latest on this hostage standoff there in Algeria, now with confirmation that this Algerian operation is underway to free those hostages.
Now let's focus now on the world weather with a special focus on the region here, record floods hitting Jakarta. Thousands have been affected. Let's get more now with our Mari Ramos.
MARI RAMOS, AMS METE'OROLOGIST: Hey, Kristie, local media reporting that the governor there has declared a state of emergency because of the rising water.
It's happening very, very quickly here as well and one of the reports that I read saying that they don't even know how many people may actually be looking for help or have been forced out of their homes because the flooding is so widespread.
Look at that, Jakarta in the last 24 hours had over 200 mm of rainfall. This is on top of everything that they've already had over the last few days. And this is very significant because this gives us 160 percent of their normal rainfall for this time of year. They've had over 600 mm of rain in the first 17 days of January. Normally the entire month they only get about 380 mm of rainfall.
What does it look like on the ground? Let's go ahead and take a look at the pictures --
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RAMOS (voice-over): -- because it is very dramatic. Even areas that normally don't flood, like the central business district, they're seeing significant water rushing through the streets. They're doing their best to try to get people out. People are still trying to go to work and trying to get to where they need to go. But bus lines aren't going; train lines aren't going because they're covered by water.
So many roadways have been shut down and in many cases, a lot of people do not have electricity; a lot of people don't have running water. And schools have been shut down in some areas. They're just trying to do the best that they can.
The problem is that it rains so much in the over -- throughout the day today and overnight yesterday that the waters were rising extremely fast in many areas. And the people were just scrambling to try to take cover.
You can see that even in the middle of the city, where you normally do not see this kind of flooding, they are seeing widespread areas of flooding. And this aerial view that you're looking at right there, also very significant.
Our iReporters have been sending us pictures of what's been happening there. And they are also saying that this is the worst flooding that they have seen in those areas in a long time.
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RAMOS: What happens in this time of year is you get that very heavy rain across the entire region. And that water has to flow downhill from the mountains and eventually, as it makes its way to the Java Sea, has to flow through all of these areas here across Jakarta.
So they do tend to see some flooding this time of year, Kristie. Unfortunately, this time around, the rain has just been so extremely heavy that we're seeing widespread flooding around the rivers and canals, now starting to spread into other parts of the city. And, yes, more rain is in the forecast.
Back to you.
STOUT: Yes, it's incredible seeing this happen in a major city here in Asia.
Mari Ramos reporting, thank you.
You're watching NEWS STREAM. And still to come, the strange story of the college football star and his fake girlfriend. But is he the mastermind or the victim?
STOUT: Welcome back. Now Notre Dame's star linebacker, Manti Te'o, says he is the victim of a cruel hoax. He led the Fighting Irish to the national chairmanship game. And his success on the football field, it was seen as inspirational given the tragedy he was dealing with in his personal life.
In September, Te'o said that his grandmother and his girlfriend had died within hours of each other and he would keep playing to honor them. But the website "Deadspin" says Te'o's girlfriend did not die. It claims that she never existed.
Remember, people from around the world were touched by how in love Te'o seemed to be with Lennay Kekua, the girl he called his soulmate. Now here's what he said to ESPN back in October.
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(Inaudible) the most beautiful girl I've ever met, not because of her physical beauty, but the beauty of her -- of her character and what she is. She was just that person that I turn to.
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STOUT: Now Notre Dame officials, they are coming to Te'o's defense. The athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, says Te'o only spoke to the girlfriend in question online and on the telephone.
JACK SWARBRICK, NOTRE DAME ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: When I first talked to Manti on the 27th about this, and we went through it, and I asked him to take me to the beginning, he began by saying, "We met on."
And I said, "What do you mean, you met 'on'?"
"It was an online meeting."
He used the verb "we met," and he was referring to an online meeting, you know. He responded to an online inquiry. That was the first time he met her. And as part of the hoax, several meetings were set up where Lennay never showed, including some in Hawaii.
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STOUT: How his statement right there, it appears to contradict Te'o's own father. (Inaudible) reported that Brian Te'o said that his son would meet Lennay whenever she traveled to Hawaii. Now the (inaudible) writer, Timothy Burke, who broke the story, felt things just didn't add up. Now Te'o fall for a fake or take part in a hoax? Burke says he just wants the truth.
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TIMOTHY BURKE, "DEADSPIN" EDITOR: I'm agnostic about this. I don't, you know, whether he got scammed or whether, you know, he set this up from the beginning, I don't really have an opinion about it either way. I'm just trying to, you know, solve the mystery and sort of tell the end of the story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: It is a mystery. Now in a statement to ESPN, Te'o said, in part, "To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was and is painful and humiliating."
Te'o was the Heisman trophy runner-up, and he is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft this spring.
Now on yesterday's show we told you all about Facebook's Graph Search. It's a new chapter in the social network's bid for web domination. And today we end this show with a closing chapter in the lives of two people who met, thanks to Facebook's original search tool.
Kelly Hildebrandt of Florida was, so the story goes, she was bored one day and she typed her own name into the box at the top right here. Now imagine her surprise when she found her namesake in this man from Texas. And Kelly made contact with Kelly. The two fell in love and eventually walked down the aisle.
Now we are sad to report that the marriage is now ending. But both Kellys can take consolation. He apparently has almost 5,000 Facebook friends to console him, and she doesn't have to go through the hassle of changing her name.
Now before we go, one final update on our top story this hour. The British foreign office says Algerian authorities confirm that there is an operation underway to free hostages at a gas installation in Algeria. We'll have much more on this in the hours ahead, right here on CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.