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Rapist Gang Attacks Tourists; King Richard III Identified; Justice Dept: Permits Killing of American Citizens Deemed Al Qaeda Threats; Lindsey Vonn Airlifted After Accident

Aired February 5, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We are taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

In Austria, American skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn has been airlifted to a hospital after a serious crash on the slopes today. It happened during an opening event at the Alpine Ski World Championships. The hospital says she suffered a complex knee injury. Vonn is a four-time world champion and an Olympic gold medalist. We're going to have more of a live report later in the hour.

In Mexico, a very disturbing story. Police are now searching for a gang of armed men who they say raped six Spanish women near the resort city of Acapulco. Investigators say the rapists attacked the women after tying up the men in their group. Now the city's mayor had some pretty amazing comments about what happened. More on that story straight ahead.

Also, in Alabama, the five-year-old boy held hostage for more than a week, he is now free. His captor is dead. Now people are asking, how does this boy heal after seeing his bus driver shot to death and after being dragged into an underground bunker by a stranger with a gun. We're going to have a live update.

And, it is something, of course, a lot of us worry about when we travel. Are we actually going to be safe? And for us women, it's even more of a concern. It brings us to the allegations of this gang of armed men raped six Spanish women who were visiting -- simply visiting the Mexican resort city of Acapulco.

Want to bring in Elizabeth Espinosa with CNN Latino. She's in L.A.

And, Elizabeth, what do we know about what happened, first of all? And then we'll get the reaction from the mayor.

ELIZABETH ESPINOSA, CNN LATINO: Hi, Suzanne. Absolutely a horrifying attack, as you described it.

What we know at this point, according to local media reports, six Spanish women were raped inside a condo. They were staying near the beach resort (INAUDIBLE), and seven men were tied up with cell phone cables. Now, as you mentioned, the mayor of Acapulco just reacted, saying that this is definitely horrifying, and condemned the attack, but said it's something that could happen anywhere in the world.

We also know that the Spanish ambassador is in contact with the victims. At this hour, they're not specifying exactly where they are, but they have told us that they have received medical attention and they are taking care of them as we speak. But certainly horrifying details. These tourists reportedly just staying in a condo. No motive yet why the attack. But, of course, the hunt, the manhunt, on for the gang of armed masked men.

MALVEAUX: Yes. And there's a lot of -- a lot of pressure on the mayor to respond here because clearly this is a very popular place. A lot of us go to vacation, a lot of people are -- feel very safe there. I want us to listen to the mayor in his own words, his response to what happened.


MAYOR LUIS WALTON, ACAPULCO, MEXICO (through translator): We know that it's very unfortunate what has happened. But, hey, it happens anywhere in the world.


MALVEAUX: So, Elizabeth, you know, the "hey" there, when he adds in that "hey," it sounds like kind of a casual response there. How seriously are authorities taking this?

ESPINOSA: Well, they certainly are taking this very serious. But I think you're absolutely right about it raising eyebrows. In fact, one of our producers said to me, wow, to say that this happens anywhere in the world. But the reality is, as a news reporter, you know, anchor in Los Angeles, I'll tell you, I've covered a lot of violence in this town and certainly we do see home invasion robberies, we see, unfortunately, these, you know, rapes.

And also think about it, Suzanne, we live in a country where a man dressed up as Batman and walked into a movie theater and killed a number of people, not to mention what just happened in December in this country, as you know, over at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 innocent children were killed by a gunman. So certainly it's a tough situation. Certainly Mexican authorities want to make sure that tourists feel safe when they come to Mexico. That they feel that if they go, they spend their money, especially the beach resorts, because you hear of a lot of drug violence and a lot of gang violence along the border. But at the beach resorts, it's certainly a different issue.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Certainly a surprise when you think about it that way.

Elizabeth, thank you very much.

Want to take us now to Washington, D.C. That is where New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, he's now speaking out about those allegations that he partied with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Our Dana Bash, she got an exclusive interview with the senator. He is also facing allegations of improper travel connected to flights that he took on a private jet owned by one of his biggest campaign donors. Now, Menendez says, this is all a bunch of rumored stirred up by his political opponents. Well, he got a little heated when he was talking about those allegations of prostitution. Listen to this.




MENENDEZ: The smears that right wing blogs have been pushing since the election and that is totally unsubstantiated.


MALVEAUX: Senator Menendez, by the way, he just became the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Well, this guy, we've all heard of him before, infamous royal arch villain Richard III in Shakespeare's play about him, this conniving king, he kills his own nephews so he can grab the throne. But for 500 years, it's been a mystery over what happened to the body after his death, until now. Yes, Max Foster explains how the work of some history buffs helped rediscovered the medieval king. Check it out.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Richard III was the last British king to die in battle and has been demonized ever since. Not least by William Shakespeare. This is a classic performance by Laurence Olivier of Shakespeare's villain. The king, who is said to have had a hunchback, was buried in a forgotten grave somewhere in Leicester in the English midlands. A group of enthusiasts made it their mission to find the grave and restore the king's reputation. Their work appeared to pay off when here, beneath a car park in Leicester, they found a skeleton with a twisted spine. It was a man that would have been Richard's age.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've just been excavating the spinal column. And if you take a look at it along here, you can see that there's really abnormal curvature of it. So what we're actually seeing here is that this skeleton, in fact, has a hunchback.



FOSTER: The bones were sent off for age and DNA analysis, which was difficult enough considering how degraded they were. But there was also another missing link. To make a DNA match to Richard, they needed one of his living descendants. Genealogists worked tirelessly to track Richard's lineage to the modern day and they ended up here in London. A Canadian carpenter was a 17th generation descendant of Richard III.

MICHAEL IBSEN, DESCENDANT OF RICHARD III: My mother gave a DNA sample back in 2004. She died in 2008. And when they launched the date back in the end of August, they asked me to provide a new sample, just because the testing process had become a bit more complex.

FOSTER: If his DNA matched that of the bones in the car park, then Richard III's burial place would have been found more than 500 years after his death. And that's what happened.

RICHARD BUCKLEY, LEAD ARCHAEOLOGIST: It is the accurate (ph) conclusion of the University of Leicester that beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Gray Friars in September 2012 is indeed Richard III.

FOSTER: Richard's first funeral may have passed by undocumented and forgotten. But after a 500-year wait, he is now set for reburial, fit for a king, at Leicester Cathedral, courtesy of his modern day followers.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


MALVEAUX: Want to bring in Richard Quest from London, not to be confused with Richard III.

Richard, why is everybody so fascinated about this story? I mean like the Twitter verse is blowing up over this thing. I mean and some people think, maybe he was unfairly painted as this villain and hundreds and hundreds of years later they want to rehabilitate his image.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it is everywhere. Just look. The newspapers all have the story in the U.K. Bent spine, slashed skull and DNA. Even "The Harold Tribune." (ph) Everybody's got it. And you want to know why, because it's the thought of mystery. For half a millennium, we wondered, not only what happened to him, although it was known he died at the Battle of Bosworth, but also how did he die? Where was he buried? Was he the evil king of Shakespeare? Remember, here -- we all read this, Richard III, a horse, a horse, my kingdom, for a horse. It's everywhere. And it's that element of mystery that's now being uncovered.

MALVEAUX: And why do people care so much about this? Because he really was like a pretty evil dude, you know, killing people. But then they said, well, that happened a long time --


MALVEAUX: A lot of people did that, right? That was part of the culture.

QUEST: Oh. You say that, but the Richard III Society is in the business of rehabilitation. Did he really kill the young princes in the tower or his brother? No, we don't know these things. We do know now, and this is one of the fascinating parts of this whole story, we know how he was killed. We know the ax (ph). There were 10 wounds to the body, two of which into the head, into the skull, could have knocked it off in one go. And then you have this pauper's grave. But we still do not know exactly what sort of man he was. Was he this evil villain of Shakespeare, this Machiavellian, or did he have the empathy of the working man, which, of course, we saw in many of his other works.

MALVEAUX: And, Richard, do we have any idea his descendants, right? Because they tracked them down to this one Canadian carpenter. Do we know if like there's any link between Queen Elizabeth and Richard III.

QUEST: Ah, well, glad you asked. Now, there is absolutely no direct descendant between Richard III and her majesty, the queen. Richard had no issue, therefore there could be no lineage that way.

However, if you look back through the family tree, as I've spent more times than decent in the last few hours, you do see connections well and truly up the family tree. And it's always by marriage, by nephews, by nieces. It is not direct. So, yes, there is a very indirect descent from Richard III to Elizabeth II, but it is distant at best.

MALVEAUX: And, Richard, I want to show you some of these tweets, because everybody is talking about this today. We have one of them who says, "the ability to produce this sort of reconstruction of a long dead face truly remarkable. Many congratulations to all." Another one says, "if this guy did 1 percent of what he was accused, any reasonable person would conclude he was not a nice man by any stretch." Then you've got somebody else weighing in saying, "wow, kind of eerie to see a full sized replica of his face."

QUEST: But this is the amazing part about it. This replica. This -- that they've just re-created, knowing what the skull was like, knowing how he looked, knowing what the features were. And let me tell you, when he was done in, it was brutal and bloody. I mean, this wasn't sort of a nice -- I mean you don't, I assure you, for family viewing in the United States at this timing of the day, we're not going to go into details. But put it this way, it was painful and unpleasant.

MALVEAUX: Yes, we see the replica there on the right. Pretty amazing when you look at the picture and the replica.

Richard, I think we're just going to keep talking about this for days because everybody is really just, you know, blown away by what we're seeing here. And, you're right, I mean, it's a mystery. We still don't know a lot about what happened back then.

QUEST: I think I'm going to get some Cole's (ph) notes, some Cliffs' notes, as you would say, and actually maybe re-read Shakespeare. Knowing what we now know about him, I think it's probably a good moment to reinvest some time in Richard III.

MALVEAUX: Yes. I think I might re-read it myself, in our free time, of course, right, Richard? All the free time we have these days. Thank you. Good to see you.

Here's more of what we're working on for this hour of NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

The Iranians now say they've launched a monkey into space, but some in the media, they think it was a fake. We're going to get to the bottom of it.

And late, Korean music goes a lot deeper than "Gangnam Style." We're going to show you why Americans are going crazy for K-Pop.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a huge fan of many K-Pop groups, of all K-Pop groups.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Levi Alexander's (ph) watched this K-Pop video countless times on the web and you can, too.




Here's one for all of the techies, Apple's new iPad going on sale today, and here's the big new selling feature. This one has double the memory of the old one, also comes with a bigger price tag, of course. We're talking about 800 bucks and up. Probably won't see the usual frenzied buyers at the Apple stores. It's because it's more aimed at the professionals not the rest of us consumers.

Vice President Biden now paying a visit to 10 Downing Street, he met with Prime Minister David Cameron. Sat down on a U.K. security meeting. Among the issues topping the agenda for both of them, the battle against Islamist rebels in Mali and, of course, the civil war in Syria. The vice president arrived in the U.K. yesterday after stops in Berlin and Paris.

In Mexico, officials say a gas buildup caused an explosion at the state oil company's headquarters, happened last week, killed at least 37 people, injured more than a hundred. Now, investigators are still looking for the exact source of the gas. They say that there are no traces of explosives -- were found actually at the scene.

And, of course, the question we are asking today, when is it legal for the U.S. government to kill its own citizens overseas? We're talking about Americans here.

Justice Department memo made public by NBC now spells out the position by the Obama administration. Now, what it says, says the memo justifies the targeted killing of an American who is considered a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or an associated group and who poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.

Want to bring in Hala Gorani to talk about this. Such a controversial issue, under President Bush, now under President Obama, the fact that the government does have the power and the authority to kill an American overseas that's considered a threat. And how do they define that?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question because when you say imminent, it could be imminent in a few hours. It could be imminent in a few weeks. Saying you can target a member of al Qaeda, senior operational al Qaeda leader, or associated forces, how are you defining associated forces? How are you defining the word imminent? How are you defining the word threat?

All these things are things that are open to interpretation and has civil liberties groups, as well, worried about what this means as far as the U.S., the executive power's authority to decide, based on kind of unclear, sometimes, terms in terms how they're defined, to go ahead and assassinate a U.S. citizen abroad.

And when you look at the Justice Department memo, as you said, leaked and made public by NBC, it's 6 pages. It details the case for the use of those armed drones, which are terribly unpopular outside of the United States.

I don't think in the U.S. people realize how unpopular the use of armed drones are. That this is -- yes, that it is believed to be, as I said, a senior operational leader or associated force. And what's important is, even if they are not believed to be actively pursuing an attack on the United States.

MALVEAUX: So, we're not talking about some tourist who might be suspicious that they're looking at. We're talking about people like Anwar al Awlaki, right?

GORANI: Who was killed in Yemen in September 2011. And I think part of the ...

MALVEAUX: Inspired the underwear bomber, I understand, as well? That was his role.

GORANI: That's right. One of operatives. But civil liberties groups will say he wasn't charged. He wasn't indicted. There was collateral damage that ended up taking out, as well, his teenage son, who was also a U.S. citizen.

This is where you have concern, as well, that the executive is granting itself the authority. And we speak about civil liberties groups ...

MALVEAUX: What do they say?

GORANI: ... the ACLU says this is a profoundly disturbing document. It's hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks-and-balances.

So, you have that. And I spoke with Bruce Ackerman -- or, our team spoke with Bruce Ackerman who's going to be on our program on CNN International of Yale University, saying there are three words you have to remember here. One is "imminent," the third is "associated forces," which broadens the definition of al Qaeda, and third is "secrecy," that this is still done in secret.

These are leaked memos, not something that ...

MALVEAUX: You can bet there's going to be a lot of legal challenges, Hala.

GORANI: Well, there you have, of course, John Brenan who is going to -- who's nominated to head the CIA. His confirmation hearings are this week and that is certain to come up.

MALVEAUX: All right, Hala. Thank you. Appreciate it.

A legend on the slopes just airlifted to a hospital after a dangerous crash. We're going to get the latest on Lindsey Vonn's skiing accident, up next.


MALVEAUX: In Austria today, American skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn airlifted to the hospital after a crash on the slopes. A hospital says Vonn suffered a complex knee injury on opening day of the Super-G event al the Alpine Ski World championships.

Christina Macfarlane, host of "Alpine Edge." Tell us, first of all, do we know where she is and how she's doing?

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, HOST, "ALPINE EDGE": Hi, Suzanne. Yes, she's in a hospital, airlifted to hospital from the place close to where the tournament is taking place.

In the last 10 minutes, we've been able to confirm from her surgeon treating her at the moment, she has sustained a torn ligament to the right knee. However, no immediate operation will be necessary for her at this time, and apparently, the ski association considering whether or not to take her, fly her back to the United States.

MALVEAUX: what does this mean for her skiing future? Do we know?

MACFARLANE: Well, it not great for her skiing future. We spoke to her in December, and she was excited about this season, on the cusp of breaking the world record of number of world cup wins. Looking to next year, it's the Winter Olympics, the big one on the horizon, whether she'll be ready to defend the gold medal is another question altogether.

MALVEAUX: When we see the video of that, give us a sense of what was it like on the slopes, conditions that caused this accident. Do we have any idea what was behind this?

MACFARLANE: Yes. It was a very cloudy morning on the place, I understand, so much so they were deciding whether or not to let the race go ahead. When Lindsey had her crash, there was an outcry from skiers, fellow skiers below that this shouldn't have been allowed to take place, given the conditions.

And the ski world, of course, shocked that on the first day of the major championship such an event, that arguably the biggest skier in living history at the moment has sustained such an injury.

MALVEAUX: Do we know if they're continuing their event, the competition, in light of this?

MACFARLANE: I believe so, yes. I think they'll take the conditions into account in the days to come, but there's a raft of events set to take place over the next two weeks. And the event itself, I mean, it's reported that they've invested $584 million in the event. I think it will continue to take place but without its biggest star, Lindsey Vonn.

MALVEAUX: What a loss there. Thank you very much, Christina. Really appreciate it and we certainly hope that she recovers well.

In Syria, Christians are siding with the government of Bashar al Assad. They are helping his forces to fight off the rebels. We're going to explain why and what it means for the bloody civil war.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on now.

In Mexico, police are searching for a gang of armed men who they say raped six Spanish women near the resort city of Acapulco. Investigators say the rapists attacked the women after tying up men in their group.

In Cairo, Egypt, for the first time since the 1979 revolution, an Iranian president is visiting Egypt. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi earlier today. They are talking about improving relationships between these two countries, and here's why.

This trip would have been unthinkable under former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak. In 1979, Mubarak signed and enforced a peace treaty with Israel. A year later, Iran broke ties with Egypt. Iran, of course, does not recognize Israel as a country.

And it is the biggest buyout of its kind since the recession. Company founder Michael Dell along with a private equity firm is now buying back Dell, the deal worth $24.4 billion.

The reason? Michael Dell wants to go private to try to turn the slumping company around away from the pressure of Wall Street.

Almost two years now into Syria's bloody civil war, many Christians there remain firmly on the side of the president.

Much of the world, including the United States, opposes Bashar al Assad's regime, but Syria's Christians are afraid that if rebels overthrow the president, radical Islamists will target them.