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Conflicting Reports Of Death Toll Emerge From Algerian Hostage Crisis; Former Australian Prime Minister Commiserates With Obama Over Gun Control Fight; Roger Federer, Andy Murray Continue March Towards Semifinal Clash; Hong Kong Researchers Finding Innovative Solutions For Food Waste

Aired January 21, 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, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

And we begin in Algeria. The hostage standoff is over, but the search for answers goes on.

Also ahead, behind closed doors: five men appear in court over the gang rape and murder of a student in India.

And preparing for pomp and ceremony: U.S. President Barack Obama gets ready for his formal inauguration.

In Algeria, the search for answers continues after a four day hostage crisis that finally ended on Saturday. Now we are still trying to get a handle on the exact number of casualties, but here is what we're being told right now. At least 29 captives and 35 militants died during the standoff at the In Amenas gas facility in the Algerian desert. And one private TV station in Algeria is reporting the bodies of more hostages have been found today so those numbers could go up.

And a Mauritania news agency reports that Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for that attack. He says his al Qaeda linked group was retaliating after Algeria let France use its airspace to advance its campaign against militants in Mali.

Now AFP reports that according to an Algerian TV station five suspected kidnappers have been arrested.

Now one factor in the hostage takers' initial success was the sheer remoteness of the In Amenas facility. It's sits deep in the Sahara Desert more than 1,500 kilometers by road from the Algerian capital of Algiers. And to put that into context Algiers is actually much closer to the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona.

Now the site is just west of the Libya border, close to the dead center of a desert that extends 4,800 kilometers from east to west.

Now the Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal is due to give an update on this crisis this very hour. We'll bring you that statement live when we get it, but first let's go live to our Dan Rivers in London. And Dan, we need more details about the lives lost and about the raid itself and when the Algerian leader speaks, what will you be listening in for?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think particularly confirmation of a final death toll. As you say, the numbers have fluctuated a lot. The unknown quantity in all this is the large number of charred bodies that have been found. And as yet they are still unsure. They haven't told us whether those are terrorists or whether they could be further hostages that have been killed.

I think also questions about how on earth this was allowed to happen. This was supposedly a very well protected facility. These terrorists, you know, came out of the desert. How they weren't spotted earlier on, how they managed to get right inside the gas plant -- and lots of reports or suggests that they have had inside knowledge. So if there's any more confirmation about whether any of the terrorists either worked at the plant, or used to work at the plant, or had been passed information from people inside the plant will be interesting as well.

We've had a briefing from Downing Street this morning. No major headlines other than the prime minister, David Cameron who has been sharing another meeting of the COBRA emergency committee at 9:00 this morning. They're continuing to try and get details of the situation on the ground and establish what happened to those Britons that are unaccounted for and they're also involved in the repatriation of the bodies of those who have sadly died. David Cameron last spoke to the Algerian prime minister yesterday. He's due to address the House of Commons in two-and-a-half hours.

In terms of the nationalities of the terrorists, there's some reports that some of them may have been Canadian, for example. There was no further information on that. But a very clear sense that there is no plan at the moment to have British boots on the ground in Mali. The message continues there to support the French, but no sense that they are going to deploy troops on the ground...

LU STOUT: And Dan, what has been the reaction from there on 10 Downing Street and elsewhere to the raid itself, to Algeria's response to the crisis, choosing to favor military action over negotiation?

RIVERS: Well, I think that there has been a bit of rowing back in the kind of posture. If you remember on Friday, David Cameron pointedly said that they were not informed of the raid before it happened, suggesting some diplomatic disquiet behind the scenes. Now the position very much is that the Algerians had to act very quickly. It was a dynamic and fast changing situation and that they -- that also that they've noted the Algerian loss of life in all this and thank the Algerians for what they've done. So a slight change in emphasis there.

Meanwhile, some of the survivors who managed to get away, some with quite miraculous stories of escape, have been speaking. One, Alan Wright spoke to journalists here describing how he and his colleagues cut a hole in a fence to try and escape for 15 hours across the desert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN WRIGHT, FORMER HOSTAGE: ...national employees and there was this (inaudible) they were convinced it was clear enough to escape. So they said they were going to cut the fence and head into the desert. So they gave us clothes. They gave us a hat to make us look a bit more blending in. So they just said, the hat will take care of you, you know, so put the hat on and off we went.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: There were also questions in lobby today about -- which is the briefing from the prime minister's official spokesman -- about whether Britain had had any communications from the terrorist leader on the ground, Abdulrahman al-Anjari (ph). Now they wouldn't be drawing on that, the simply the line was that they do not negotiate with terrorists, but they wouldn't answer the specific question of whether they'd had any communications with him. He had claimed through Mauritania news services that he had been talking to the British.

LU STOUT: Our Dan Rivers reporting live for us. Thank you.

And again, the Algerian prime minister due to speak live within the hour. We'll bring that to you when we get it.

And turning now to the unrest in neighboring Mali. France says it is aiming for the, quote, total reconquest of the west African nation from Islamist militants. Now France joined the battle over one week ago. And defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday that France will not leave any pocket of resistance.

Now his comments come as Mali's military regained control of Diabaly over the weekend. It's a key town in the battle for Mali. And the French military says it only provided air support for that operation.

And for more on the unrest in Mali, Nima Elbagir joins us now live from Diabaly. And Nima, the city has changed hands in recent days. So who is holding Diabaly now?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, Well, the Malian government is now back in control of Diabaly, Kristie. The French troops arrived this morning and were actually at the town's perimeter where they are undertaking their final sweeps.

This was very, very hard fought. It took a week to regain Diabaly from the Islamists who had only themselves taken it just over a week ago. The concern here is whether that fight was entrenched, whether the Islamists were able to mount such a concerted resistance because they've had local support.

We've also been hearing from residents here in Diabaly, Kristie, who say that there were many foreign jihadis amongst the militants, including Algerians. And that's something that the French and international community are going to be looking for how much intersection there is between the militants in Algeria and in Mali and how much continued cooperation there is in the coming days, Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, a lot of concerns about the fighting power and the capability of Mali's own army. They have regained Diabaly where you're reporting live for us, but they've lost it before. So can they push these rebels out for good?

ELBAGIR: That is absolutely the question, Kristie, is whether the Malian government can hold this town on their own or even others like it. And when you speak to the French, they say that is why their longer term goal is to build up and support and supply Malians in such a way that they can push back and be a resistance against that Islamist tide in North Africa.

What is really interesting about Diabably is that the commander here was actually part of the Malian government. And he defected, taking the town with him to the Islamists, which makes it very difficult on you as a government are attempting to reestablish control, it is whether that will happen again and how sure you can be of the loyalty of your forces going forward, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And tell us what the Malian army is up against. I mean, you mentioned that within this rebel force are a number of foreign fighters. Just how well organized and well equipped, well trained are they?

ELBAGIR: When we spoke to the French, Kristie, they said that they were in no way underestimating the fight ahead of them and the Malians. They said these are well equipped, experienced, committed fighters. These are people who have been operating in this area, indeed in control of vast swaths of this area and across the Sahara in Mali for a long time now.

They've also there -- their ranks are being swelled by Islamists coming across from Libya, from Niger. They even had credible eyewitness reports that fighters from Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram have been seen fighting alongside the Malians here, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right. So Malian troops have regained control of Diabaly for now. Our correspondent Nima Elbagir joining us live from Diabaly there in Mali. Thank you.

You're watching News Stream. And there is much more to come.

In India, the trial begins today for five men charged with gang rape and murder. We'll have a live report from New Delhi.

And then one rebel held town devastated by the relentless civil war in Syria. We'll take you inside.

And later, a different tone in the United States? How President Obama looks ahead to the challenges of another four years in office.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: OK. Now it is a case that stunned India and made headlines around the world. Five men are charged with a gang rape and murder of a 23 year old woman in New Delhi last month. And today the case is going to trial in a so-called fast track court, which means that hearings in the trial will take place every working day until a verdict is reached.

Now the court has imposed some pretty tight restrictions on media coverage, but that's done little to curb public interest, which remains quite high.

Now since the attack, thousands of taken to the streets across India demanding change as you can see right here at this student protest in front of the presidential palace.

Now much of the anger is directed at government authorities who many charge have failed to tackle endemic violence against women. Now India's national crime records bureau says there is a rape every 22 minutes in India.

But there has been some change in attitude. India's home ministry recently approved hundreds of police control room bans as they harness new technology as they speed up emergency response times.

And women themselves are raising their voices. There's even been a surge in self defense classes such as this one in New Delhi.

Now let's get the very latest on the court proceedings today. Sumnima Udas is live for us in New Delhi. She joins us now. And Sumnima, first off, what can and what can't you tell us about the trial that's under way?

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, the court has said it is against the law for any person to print or publish anything, any matter relating to the court proceedings until they get prior permission from the courts. Essentially the media cannot report on anything that happens inside the court, even if they were to get that information from elsewhere.

Kristie, as you know, some of those defense lawyers have been coming out and talking to the media outlining everything that's been happening inside the court and even in some cases providing the media with the charge sheet.

As far as the court is concerned, all of this is against the law. And if we are to abide by the rules then we cannot report on any of it.

What we can report on, Kristie, is what is happening outside of that main court room. And what we saw today is five of those six suspects appear in court for that first hearing in the fast track court that has been set up - - Kristie.

LU STOUT: Understood. As you just said, the case is now on a fast-track court. How well do these courts work?

UDAS: Well, lawyers tell us that these fast track courts actually work really well, because what it essentially means is that the hearings will take place, or supposed to take place, every working day until a conviction is reached.

Now these fast track courts were set up almost 10 years ago by the government because there's a huge backlog of cases, as you know, in India. Millions of cases that are just sitting there. There's a huge dirth of judges in this country. So lawyers say this is actually a good thing, but they also warn that because of the added pressure for a speedy verdict that the suspects may not always get a chance for a fair trial -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And since that brutal attack took place, I mean, there have been many reports about better security for India's women. And there's also been more rape cases as well. So how is that?

UDAS: That's right. Every single day, almost every single day, a new rape case is being reported in this country. And what the authorities will tell you is that that does not necessarily mean that the number of rape cases has increased and perhaps women feel more emboldened to come out are report these cases.

Just to give you an example, right after the December 16 game rape, the two weeks following the December 16 gang rape, 40 rape cases were reported in Delhi alone. That's three rape cases a day. That's the highest number ever for Delhi.

And again the police were telling us that this does not mean that the rape cases have increased, but simply that women are perhaps reporting them more -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, still some startling figures there.

Sumnima Udas joining us live from New Delhi. Thank you.

Now ordinary people caught in the middle of Syria's civil war are paying an extraordinary price. Homes, families and lives are being torn apart on a seemingly daily basis.

Ivan Watson takes us to one traumatized town under rebel control.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An old man sits in the rubble of what used to be his house.

"This was my house," he says. "And now I sleep here in the street."

Traumatized residents wander through this border town's bombed out market. A week after the attack, some are clearly still in shock.

"We're crying because of the planes," says this weeping man. "I was at home when the fire exploded and then came the smoke. The motorcycles were on fire."

This amateur video shows the immediate horrific aftermath of the airstrikes on January 13. The organization Doctors Without Borders says the bombs killed at least 20 people here and wounded dozens more.

It's not the first time the town of Azzaz (ph) has been hit since rebels drove government forces out last summer.

The Syrian military appears to be punishing Azzaz (ph) for its experiment in self rule. This was the town's main hospital. It was hit, locals say, by war planes on December 31, one of several civilians targets to be pounded by airstrikes in just the last couple of weeks.

The bombs damaged the only department in the hospital that was still functioning -- the dialysis center where blankets are still stained with the blood, a police officer said, came from a female patient wounded by the blast.

Hadi Ahmed Delbala (ph) is a member of a new city council that's been given the unenviable task of trying to run Azzaz (ph) after the government was evicted.

"We rebuild and then right afterwards the planes come and bomb us," he says. "We haven't even had enough time to dig proper graves for the dead."

Most of the towns population has fled to places like the nearby Bab al- Salama (ph) refugee camp where residents recently got wood stoves to heat their freezing tents.

This positive development brought some unintended consequences, the tents are not fire resistant. In fact, they're highly flammable.

By mid-morning, three year old Omar is the second child of the day to be treated for serious burns at the camps first-aid clinic. In this corner of rebel controlled Syria, it feels like people are hanging on by their fingernails.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Azzaz (ph), Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: A traumatized little boy there. And quite a struggle to run a liberated town in Syria.

You're watching News Stream. And coming up next, it is a big day in the U.S. capital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: I swear.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear.

ROBERTS: That I will faithfully execute...

OBAMA: That I will faithfully execute...

ROBERTS: The office of president of the United States.

OBAMA: ...the office of president of the United States.

ROBERTS: And will to the best of my ability...

OBAMA: And will to the best of my ability...

ROBERTS: Preserve, protect and defend...

OBAMA: Preserve, protect and defend...

ROBERTS: The constitution of the United States.

OBAMA: The constitution...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Washington rolls out pomp and ceremony as Barack Obama begins another turn as America's leader.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: It was a sparking night here in Hong Kong coming to you live from the city. Your are back watching News Stream.

Now Roger Federer and Andy Murray, they are still on a collision course at the Australian Open. Pedro Pinto explains all. He joins us, of course, live from London -- Pedro.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. The two tennis superstars could meet in the semifinals providing they both get that far. And on Monday, both Roger Federer and Andy Murray won their respective matches at Melbourne Park.

17-time Tennis Grand Slam champion Federer advanced to the last eight after a comfortable straight sets victory of Milos Raonic. The Swiss star has now reached his 35th straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, an incredible run. Next up for him, a tough match, though, against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

As far as Murray is concerned, he made light work of Gilles Simon taking just a little over an hour-and-a-half to dispatch the Frenchman in straight sets. Next up for Murray, another player from France, Jeremy Chardy in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

What about the odds on favorite to win the women's title? Well, that's Serena Williams. And she proved her credentials again blasting her way into quarterfinals on Monday. The 15-time grand slam champion swept aside Maria Kirilenko 6-2 and 6-0. She'll now take on compatriot and friend as Sloan Stevens.

Super Bowl 47 will be a family affair. Brothers Jim and John Harbaugh will clash in the NFL title game after coachin San Francisco and Baltimore respectively to victories on Sunday.

Let's start with Jim. He led the 49ers to a big win over the Falcons in Atlanta. The outcome didn't look likely early in the game, however, as it was the Falcons who got off to a fast start. Matt Ryan to Julio Jones for the 20 yard touchdown strike, their second connection of the day for a score. Worth another look, great catch by Jones in the end zone.

Later in the first half, the 49ers were closer, but the Falcons extend their lead back up to 10. Tony Gonzalez in the end zone. Cool celebration from him. Now San Francisco just wouldn't go away. And they would take the lead for the first time on this play right here.

Frank Gore going in to the end zone.

Atlanta trying to come back. Time was against them. Here is Matt Ryan to Douglas. He appears to juggle the catch. The play would be reviewed and upheld so the Falcons keep possession and Jim Harbaugh not happy about it at all. I think the body language says it all.

One last chance for the Falcons, but they could not get another first down with the clock working against them. And it's the 49ers who go through. They will try to win their sixth super bowl title.

It was a big win for that man right there, the Niners coach Jim Harbaugh. And he was congratulated by brother John Harbaugh before he led the Baltimore Ravens into battle against New England, check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARBAUGH, COACH, BALITMORE RAVENS: Hey, Jim, congratulations. You did it. You're a great coach. I love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINTO: Well later John Harbaugh got a win of his own thanks to Ray Lewis and company. The Ravens' linebacker pretty emotional before the start of the game. Both teams got off to a slow start in the first quarter, but Ravens running back Ray Rice takes the hand-off at the Patriots two yard line and gets into the end zone.

Second quarter, the Patriots would answer. Tom Bardy to Wes Welker for the score.

The Ravens looking to regain the lead. They were down 13-7 and they do just that. Joe Flacco to Dennis Pitta in the end zone. The Ravens on top.

More from Baltimore, Flacco, play action, connects with Anquan Boldin -- 21-13.

And from then on, it was all Ravens as they seal the deal, they shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots who were denied on this occasion.

Here's an example of just how big the Baltimore's defense came up in this game with the interception there. So it will be both Harbaugh brothers going through.

Ray Lewis celebrating in emphatic style. Tom Brady's season has come to an end.

Kristie, that's a look at sport, dominated by the NFL and tennis. The big, big stories going on right now.

LU STOUT: Yeah, it's going to be the Ravens and the 49ers and the clash of two brothers, love that story.

PINTO: Great story.

LU STOUT: Pedro Pinto there.

PINTO: Yeah.

LU STOUT: Thank you.

You're watching News Stream, and still ahead here, we are just hours away from the ceremonial inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama. So what can we expect from Obama 2.0?

Now gun violence is one major issue on his agenda. And we take a closer look at how Australia managed to tackle the problem.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines. And we are waiting for a news conference from Algeria's prime minister in the wake of a bloody, four day hostage standoff in a gas facility in In Amenas. At least 29 hostages have been confirmed dead along with 35 Islamist militants.

Now the trial of five men accused of raping and murdering a 23 year old woman in New Delhi has begun. Now the suspects are charged with the crimes of murder, rape and kidnapping. And they could face the death penalty if convicted. Now the case is being fast tracked through India's court system after widespread outrage and protests across the country.

Now a Taliban suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the headquarters of the Afghan traffic police in Kabul. Other heavily armed insurgents forced their way into the building setting off explosions. Now the Taliban have claimed responsibility and some 10 people were wounded.

And heavy snow is disrupting travel across western Europe for a fourth day. Many passengers spent the weekend camped out at Heathrow Airport. Now more flights are being canceled as the airport tries to clear out the backlog. And we'll have a live report on that coming up in just a few moments right here on News Stream.

Now we are just hours away from the public inaugural ceremony of U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Over 800,000 people are expected at the National Mall to watch the event live as Mr. Obama recites the oath of office outside the Capitol Building. Now President Obama will then leave the inaugural parade up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. And both Obama and Biden will attend the inaugural Command- in-Chief Ball at the convention center later in the evening.

And while the public ceremony takes place today, here are Mr. Obama and Joe Biden officially being sworn in on Sunday.

Now the U.S. Constitution calls for presidents and vice presidents to be sworn in on January 20. And the private events were administered by U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Now nearly 2 million people jammed the National Mall at his inauguration ceremony back in 2009, double the amount expected this year. It's a stark difference from just four years ago.

And there will also be some key differences in Mr. Obama's agenda. In his second term, he has vowed to amend U.S. immigration policies and boost the faltering economy. He's also pledged to oversee the implementation of his health care plan. And his agenda is likely to spark more battles with his political rivals.

For more analysis now, let's go straight to CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser. He joins us live from CNN Washington. Paul, welcome back. So good to see you.

We know that President Obama has to deal with a divided government, but what about a divided America? What's the latest read?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yeah, I think one of the reasons you see a divided government here in Washington, D.C. is because, well, Americans are divided as well, Kristie. Take a look at this, a CNN/ORC poll. We just did it a couple of days ago. And we asked just this, is the country more divided on the major issues that have to be resolved than in the past? And, well, look at that, most Americans a resounding amount, 76 percent, say yes the country is more divided.

Here's another way to illustrate that divisions in this country between Democrats and Republicans. We asked, do you hope that President Obama's policies in the second term will succeed? Well, no surprise here, the vast majority of Democrats say yes, seven out of 10 Independents say yes as well, but look at the bottom, only a minority of Republicans, Kristie, want the president's policies to succeed. In fact, a majority, a slight majority, hope that the president's policies will fail over the next four years -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, there was so much hope for post-parisan politics four years ago and now it's come to this, the graphs that we see here on our screen.

Now how does President Obama stack up against his predecessors at the start of his second term?

STEINHAUSER: A little better than some, not as good as others. One of the best ways to judge how a president is doing is looking at his approval rating. Well, here is his approval rating in our most recent CNN/ORC poll from the other day, 55 percent. Compare that to President George W. Bush eight years ago and it's a little bit better. You see he was at 57 -- 51 percent.

But what about the two previous presidents who served second terms? Well, not nearly as good as either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, both at 62 percent when they started their second terms.

And here's another gauge as well. How are things going in the country right now? We asked that. And you can see 49 percent say things are going well right now as the president starts his second term at his inauguration. That is lower than previous presidents in the most recent president who served second terms -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, is the buzz lower as well? I mean, there was just so much anticipation ahead of his first inauguration, but with the second one is the thrill not really there?

STEINHAUSER: Not really there. And this maybe not the president's fault at all, because this is just kind of the way it is with second inaugurations for presidents who have already been serving for four years. Listen, the country is used to this person, right, they've been there for four years. You get to know them --- their good, their bad, their warts, everything, everything about a person. So that's what second inaugurations are not nearly as exciting you can say as the first.

And of course in this case, President Obama making history four years ago, inaugurated as the first African-American president. Well, history was made. No history this time around, I guess, unless you can say he's the first African-American to serve two terms, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And we're looking at live pictures from St. John's Church there in Washington, D.C. Now the U.S. President Barack Obama and his family about to attend service before the inauguration ceremony, the public one later today. Paul Steinhauser joining us live from Washington.

More more question for you, Paul, especially as we look at these live pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama preparing to take the oath of office the second time. In the next four years, what will be the biggest challenge for him? Will it be the economy? Will it be the political discord? Something else?

STEINHAUSER: I think it's a lot of all of that. Listen, there are some serious fiscal issues that need to be resolved in this country. They were basically just pushed -- the can was kicked down the road and we have some major deadlines here in the U.S. to be -- that the president and congress is facing over the next few months. So, yes, the fiscal issues will be enormous.

But he also has some other big things he wants to pass in his second term that will be very challenging, like gun control, like immigration reform, and maybe even climate change. And all of these, all these issues will be very, very tough to pass.

And remember, with second term presidents, they usually have maybe about a year, year-and-a-half where they can get things done. And then this country almost moves on to the mid-term elections and then the next presidential election.

So, yes, a lot of challenges ahead, and really not that much time to do -- to get all this done. Four years? No, not really. In reality, about a year-and-a-half to two years is the time the president has to get major things passed through congress, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, always a challenge, that's why they call it the second term curse, right?

Paul Steinhauser joining us live from Washington. Thank you. Always a delight to hear your analysis.

And you can join CNN's political team for all the big moments of Barack Obama's public inauguration ceremony and celebration. It's live from the U.S. capital. It starts in about two-and-a-half hours from now, midnight in Hong Kong.

Now the gun debate, it is front and center on Mr. Obama's agenda as he enters his second term. And the shooting deaths of five people in New Mexico over the weekend will only strengthen his result to clamp down on firearms. Three children were among those killed. And the local sheriff says a 15-year-old who may be a family member was charged in relation to the shootings at a home outside Albuquerque.

Saturday's tragedy in the U.S., it joins a long list of mass shootings in recent months. But in other countries, such events are much rarer. And watching from the other side of the world is Australia's former prime minister. Now John Howard rewrote the country's gun legislation after a horrifying massacre in the 1990s. And says that he understands what Mr. Obama is up against.

And Anna Coren met him in Sydney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a beautiful remote part of Tasmania, history changed forever within a matter of minutes. Almost 17 years ago, gunmen Martin Bryant unleashed horror and carnage at Port Arthur, never witnessed before in Australia.

The former convict settlement turned tourist attraction was filled with visitors that day. 35 people were gunned down, more than 20 injured as Bryant sprayed the cite with bullets using semiautomatic weapons.

JOHN HOWARD, FORMER AUTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: This really shocked -- it was the worse mass murder at the hands of one person using a gun until that fellow Brevik in Norway.

COREN: John Howard was the country's newly elected prime minister. The conservative right-wing leader seized the moment to overhaul Australia's gun laws.

HOWARD: And the whole country just reeled for days afterwards. And the overwhelming feeling was this is terrible. We had to do something about it.

COREN: Less than two weeks after the massacre, automatic and semiautomatic weapons were banned, gun ownership legislation was tightened and a gun buy back scheme was enforced. Mr. Howard, wearing a bullet proof vest on the advice of his security, pleaded his case to gun rights supporters.

In the end, about 700,000 weapons were handed in and destroyed.

Mr. Howard, you say that the overhaul of the gun laws is one of your proudest achievements in office.

HOWARD: Yes, it was, because it produced a safer Australia and safety for families with children, the people going about their daily lives it is very important.

COREN: For Port Arthur survivor Cath Gordon, the massacre still haunts her. Battling bouts of depression, her horses are her daily therapy, but she's thankful for the action John Howard took.

CATH GORDON, MASSACRE SURVIVOR: To remove that threat and that disease from our society I think was a very, very brave step and it has made a lot of people feel a lot safer.

COREN: Well, Mr. Howard has no desire to lecture Americans. The statistics speak for themselves. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre there were 11 mass shootings in Australia. Since his gun laws were enforced, there have been none. And believes that's a direct result of semiautomatic weapons being banned in Australia.

Australia is by no means gun free. The reports show gun related deaths have halved. Gun control lobbyist Philip Alpers (ph) has just returned from addressing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun summit in Baltimore and supports President Obama's push for gun safety measures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there isn't change, more than 30,000 people are going to die every year from gun deaths, 83 people a day. It's a catastrophe for America. America deserves better than that.

COREN: While comparisons are being made between the American president and Mr. Howard on their response to gun violence, the former Australian prime minister says Mr. Obama has a tougher battle on his hands.

HOWARD: I wouldn't presume to give any advice to President Obama. The best thing I can do on this issue as a friend of the United States was explain what I did faced with the problem I had in 1996.

COREN: The rest, he says, is up to the Americans.

Anna Coren, CNN, Sydney.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now just ahead here on News Stream, it is a traveler's worst nightmare: snow in the UK and across western Europe means delays and cancellations. We'll be live from London's Heathrow in just a moment.

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LU STOUT: All right. Welcome back.

Now there is snow and ice just disrupting travel in Britain, France and Germany today. Now the roads are slick. And airports are canceling flights.

Now Erin McLaughlin is at London's Heathrow. He joins us now live. And Erin, give us the air travel update there?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kristie.

Well, so far today at Heathrow, 175 flights canceled. Of those flights, 120 preemptive cancellations in anticipation for poor visibility in the forecast for later today. So airport officials here saying that so far things running pretty smoothly. That being said, they decided to preemptively cancel some of these flights in order to avoid some of the travel chaos we've seen over the past several days at this airport, some 900 flights canceled since Friday, passengers complained of very long flight delays, other people seen camping out in Heathrow's terminals.

Passengers we spoke to earlier today, however, seem to be taking things in stride. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, in Finland, there is like snowing all the time in the winter time. So flights are not affected at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really miserable, because we didn't even thought that it that flights could cancel like this, because it's not that bad now, the weather.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Flights canceled elsewhere in Europe as well. At Frankfurt airport some 325 cancellations today, 180 inbound flights, 145 outbound flights as officials try to get things on track there after yesterday where they had to shut down the airport for several hours for deicing procedures. Flights also canceled out of Paris Orly Airport and Charles de Gaulle canceling some 40 percent of flights for today. Also reports of flight cancellations in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam as well.

Airport officials I spoke to are quick to emphasize that these airports are interconnected, what happens at one airport has an impact elsewhere, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now, travel chaos in London and throughout the region. Erin McLaughlin joining us live. Stay warm. Thank you very much indeed for that update.

Now, will there be more snow, more sleet there in the region this week. Let's get answers now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie. You're looking -- watching Erin's report there, at least it's not snowing anymore. That's good, right? Looking a little better out there. And that's going to help things out. I think that slowly conditions will start to improve.

You know, what happens is -- and this is what's different from in other places like, you know, you heard those passengers from areas farther north where it snows all the time during winter months, is that -- so airports have a certain schedule whenever they have their flights. So let's say a plane is going to land every minute-and-a-half or every two minutes or every three minutes depending on what airport you're at. And a very busy airport, it could be every -- within a minute or so of each other depending on how many runways.

Well, what happens is when you have these problems with either visibility like we're going to have later today at Heathrow, or with snow, or with rain, those rates of takeoff and landing have to be slowed down. So instead of having the planes landing every two minute or every three minutes it goes to every five minutes, or every six minutes. And then you start to see those delays kind of start piling up. So even though what happens in other countries where you're going to have this kind of weather more often, they actually plan for that ahead of time. In New Delhi, for example, they have their flight planes for the winter and their flight planes for the summer. They have to plane for the rain and they have to plan for the fog. So when it's a little bit more unexpected like we've had over the weekend over such a prolonged period of time that's when you see these big travel delays kind of start to pile up.

What you're looking at here is the snow that is actually on the ground. And at London it's about 5 centimeters right at the airport, so that's a lot for them this time of year, that's why we had pictures like this coming up all throughout, you know, the weekend. And I know travelers are not happy to see this kind of stuff, but it does happen every once in awhile. And as Erin mentioned, it is a snowball effect for lack of a better word, a domino effect when you see this kind of stuff.

So just a few flurries, possibly kind of flying around. It's still icy, though, on the roadways there across southern parts of England, including London, but there's still some snow in areas to the north. That flow coming in off the relatively warmer water here kind of converts it to snow as it hits the ground here as you can see. So there's still a lot going on there.

Also, a little bit of moisture in Northern Ireland, also parts of Ireland as well. And still as we head over to the mainland, we are still seeing significant snowfall, particularly over central Europe. So these delays here are still going to continue.

Where do they take those planes that were supposed to land in London? I don't know, but if they are anywhere across central Europe, it's going to take awhile to be able to get that back.

So I think the travel delays unfortunately for those people stranded, it's going to take at least 24 to 48 hours to fix.

Notice the scattered rain showers here back over across western France looking at rain, but then everybody else is getting snow, pretty heavy snowfall across Switzerland and then also back over toward Austria. This, unfortunately not improving too much across the region. You can continue to see that. Marseilles looking at 7 degrees right now.

A little bit milder as we head across areas of the Mediterranean, but pretty nasty weather still across Portugal and Spain with some very windy conditions again expected throughout the day today.

So as we move on over here and look at some of the forecast temperatures, I want to show you that even though they're going to get a little bit warmer in London as we get to Tuesday and Wednesday, we're still definitely still in the thick of it as far as winter is concerned. Same in Paris. And look at Berlin staying well below the average. The average in Berlin this time of year is, what, minus 6. And we'll be looking at -- the average is 3 and we're looking at minus 6 as we head into tomorrow.

I want to switch gears and take you to another part of the world. Let's head to Washington, D.C. You know what, it is a beautiful, beautiful day in Washington, D.C. today for the presidential inauguration. Couldn't ask for better weather, Kristie. Right now the temperature 1 degrees Celsius. Yes, I know that's cold, but compared to last year where it was well below freezing the entire day. You see a little bit of blue sky there above the mall there. We're going to see 6 degrees for the daytime high, maybe a few clouds moving in. The really cold air comes in tomorrow. So perfect timing.

Back to you.

LU STOUT: You know, it's chilly, but it's clear. And a blue sky day, always welcome wherever you are. Mari Ramos, thank you.

Now in just a moment right here on News Stream, the alternative to landfills may come from laboratories. We'll tell you how biotech is providing a partial solution to a huge trash problem right here in Hong Kong.

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LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently made a private visit to North Korea and brought along his daughter Sophie. And now she has posted her thoughts on the hermit kingdom on a Google sites webpage. She compared North Korea with the famous movie, calling it, quote, like The Truman Show at country scale.

Now she says she only interacted with state approved North Koreans and had minders with her at all times. As she put it, two, so one could mind the other. Now she wrote, "our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly orchestrated viewings, and what seemed like genuine human moments."

Now her father also posted on Google+ after their trip, but his posts, it was more technical, weighing North Korea's technological capabilities. He also warned the country that it may be left behind in many aspects.

Now Sophie on the other hand was more no hold's barred in her commentary on what she saw. Now officials, in her words, officials blame American sanctions for just about everything, though somehow the sanctions didn't stop them from stocking the sparkling new super market we saw with Doritos. Yep, Doritos in North Korea.

Now in big cities around the world, handling food waste is a challenge that strains budgets and brain power. And here in Hong Kong, some creative thinkers are finding solutions in biotech. Patricia Wu tells us more about their bright ideas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICIA WU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A typical lunch hour in Hong Kong and dirty dishes quickly stack up outside restaurants and cafes. But it's not dish washers who are facing the biggest burden when it comes to cleaning up the mess. The city itself, home to 7 million people, is trying to work out what to do with the leftover food.

More than 3,500 tons of food waste is produced each day, accounting for around 40 percent of the city's total solid waste. The majority of it will end up here, but with Hong Kong's existing landfills expected to be full by 2018, the city is looking for new solutions to a mounting problem.

Carol Lin, assistant professor at City University Hong Kong is leading one of them. Each week, she collects stale pastries from a local Starbucks. With government backing and partnering with the coffee shop and an environmental NGO, she and her team of researchers are using biotechnology to turn food trash into potential treasure.

CAROL LIN, ASST. PROFESSOR, CITY UNIVERITY OF HONG KONG: I think this process is going to be one of the innovative solutions to try to solve the food waste issues not only in Hong Kong, but also in Asian country, or in the rest part of the world.

WU: By treating the bread with fungi and bacteria, Lin is able to create succinic acid, a compound that can be used to make eco friendly biolplastics and detergents.

For local designer CL Lam, turning food waste into desirable products is already a viable business. His company, Green and Associates, makes household products, combining around one-third of food waste like apple pulp and used coffee grounds with more conventional materials.

CL LAM, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, GREEN AND ASSOCIATES: We hope that (inaudible) we can send a message to the people.

WU: That message is for Hong Kong's population to produce less waste in the first place.

Patricia Wu, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now, we like to think of ourselves as fast food connoisseurs here at News Stream. You just need to check our trash cans to confirm this. So we want to believe in what we're being sold, sometimes that's tricky. I mean, is a Big Mac really big? Is as Whopper in fact whopping? Well, it's all relative.

But when Subway tells us our sandwich is foot long, we like to think that we know what we're getting yet last week this happened, an Australian Subway customer claimed to have measured his sub and found it to be lacking a vital inch and he posted the evidence to Facebook and Subway responded.

"With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, Subway footlong is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the subs sold in Subway restaurants and not intended to be a measurement in length."

So in the name of research, we bought a so-called footlong from our local Subway here in Hong Kong and we found it to be lacking only a little. But for marketing purposes we'd have to agree with the chain that an 11 and three-quarter inch long doesn't really have the same ring to it.

Now as our producer Mark Campbell put it, Thousand Island dressing isn't made with a thousands islands.

Now we're going to end the show with a video you've seen before, but we just have to show it to you again. It is San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh reacting to a decision that went against his team. Now that is a deliberate understatement, because I'm not sure that there is a polite way to describe what he's doing here. In any case, it is safe to say that the Niners coach probably doesn't feel this way anymore. A few minutes later, after this incident, his team advanced to the Super Bowl where he will face a team coached by his brother on February 3.

And that is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.

END