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Christian Syrians Fight To Protect Their Homes; French, Malian Troops Take Control Of Kidal; Richard III Hunchback?; Backlash After Jerusalem Based Club Signs Two Muslim Players

Aired February 5, 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. An exclusive look at one group that is firmly behind Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Christians.

The face of a king reconstructed from a skull discovered underneath a parking lot.

And which music stars were these American kids lining up to see? The answer may surprise you.

Now first we go to Syria where there is fierce fighting in one northern hotspot. Activists say at least 32 people have been killed across the country on Tuesday, most of them from clashes in a number of neighborhoods in Aleppo. And there are warnings today from one opposition group which says it has video evidence that there have been incidents of some beheadings by two Islamic rebel groups targeting individuals they call government agents.

Now Syrian activist Rahmni Abdul Rahman (ph) tells CNN that if the international community does not intervene soon these radical groups will be on the rise. He says, quote, "we don't want to replace one monster with another."

And just north of the capital Damascus, generations of Christians live in the small town of Saidnaya. And they are deeply loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and they say that they will do whatever they can to protect their home.

Now Fred Pleitgen has this exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A checkpoint in the predominantly Christian town Saidnaya, but this isn't a government outpost, it's manned by a local Christian militia loyal to the Assad regime. None of the men would speak to us on camera, afraid they'll become targets for the opposition.

The militia has several checkpoints throughout the town of Saidnaya, but they also have several hundred men under arms who patrol the streets here to make sure that no militants infiltrate this fairly safe area.

Hussam Azar (ph) organizes the group. Driving through Saidnaya streets he tells me he can't imagine Syria without Bashar al-Assad.

"I don't know why, but we love the president very much," he says. "We love him a lot. Sure there have been mistakes, but we love the president a lot."

Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's population. So far, most of them have not joined the uprising against the Assad regime, weary of Islamist militants within the ranks of the opposition.

There are 44 churches in Saidnaya. The town is a center of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world.

But standing on a hilltop, Hussam (ph) points to nearby towns he says have opposition fighters in them, some of them radical Islamists who have fired mortars at Saidnaya and even kidnapped people from here.

"We will not leave," he says. "Syria is our country and Saidnaya is our town. We will not leave even if it's destroyed, if it's bombed every day and 1,000 people die. It's our land and we will not leave it."

And so the Christian militia members man their checkpoints and patrol the streets, fearful the opposition might try to oust them from their homeland should they prevail.

As the Muslim call to prayer rings over the many churchtops of this town where Christians and Muslims live side by side, many here worry the conflict in Syria might put an abrupt end to a calm that has lasted for generations.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Saidnaya, Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: A Syrian opposition leader is reaching out to Damascus calling for talks and what he called a transitional phase. Now Moaz al- Khatib says he wants to sit down with the Syrian vice president if he accepts the idea.

Nick Paton Walsh joins us now live from CNN Beirtu. And Nick, has the Syrian government responded to this offer for talks?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a fairly muted and vague response given to the Russia Today TV channel. Their national reconciliation, as Mr. Haidar (ph) suggesting that he would be open to perhaps talking to any members of the political opposition who renounced violence, that's going to of course be a tricky precondition there. And also suggesting that one of Mr. Khatib's main demands for talks, which that 160,000 prisoners be released, was something of an exaggeration saying that he really would like to see a list of particular names.

Mr. Al-Khatib went out on something of a limb last week when he posted a Facebook statement saying he would talk to the Assad regime without the permanent precondition that's always been of Mr. Assad leaving power initially. He took a lot of flak from his own opposition, but over the weekend they appear to have coalesced and given a sort of pretty broad and vague backing to the idea of these talks and has also seen support from Russia and strangely enough Iran as well who said they met Mr. Khatib in Munich and how what they refer to as a fruitful discussion.

So this diplomatic idea gaining a lot of momentum in the past 48 hours, but there is still one enormous hurdle ahead and that's the opposition want to be sure that these political talks end in a transitional government that sees Assad leave power and that's quite off the table when it comes to Russia and of course Damascus -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, this conflict has dragged on for some, what, 22 months now? So is there a sense on both sides that any solution, any ending to this conflict must be a political one, a brokered one?

PATON WALSH: Well, those fighting on the ground completely reject that. They see this, of course, because they're fighting a war as being about military victory of some description. But we've seen certainly from the west, western powers and other regional entities as well are suggesting that, yes, a political transition is the best solution. That would avoid the kind of jolt they fear, the vacuum if Assad suddenly disappears one particular morning. And of course now the political opposition having had a position of the precondition of Assad's departure being quite an obstacle really for anything being able to begin in terms of political discussion, now that's been dropped. It can begin to shift forward.

But we've seen how divided the opposition were even split on the idea of these talks just as recent as last week. So while there is increasing momentum in the international community to support them, we have to see exactly where it goes, because Khatib certainly went out on a limb here, but it's not really clear exactly who he can find to talk to in Damascus.

LU STOUT: Yeah, and back to the specifics for this proposal for conditional talks from the opposition leader Khatib. Why is it that he's asking for talks with the vice president of Syria Farouk al-Sharaa. Why him?

PATON WALSH: Well, Mr. Al-Sharaa hasn't been seen around a lot of late. There were rumors months ago that he was under some sort of house arrest, suggestions he tried to defect. It's not really clear what's happened. But Mr. Al-Khatib says, many opposition members consider his hands not to be stained with blood. And I think people are looking within the international community for a figure who may be acceptable to some parts of the Alawi Shia Damascus regime sitting on the fence or knowing they need to talk their way out of this and they can't fight their way to a victory. He may be some sort of figure that would perhaps placate parts of the opposition, because as I say, Mr. Al-Khatib and others there don't consider him to be key behind much of the slaughter of Syrian civilians in the past 22 months.

But at this point, he's not stepped forward. And we haven't seen this idea embraced by Damascus. So a very defiant Assad when he was last seen. Mr. Al-Khatib certainly getting international backing, but this really has a long way to go yet, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right, Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us live from Beirut, thank you.

And now to the conflict in Mali and news that 1,800 soldiers from Chad had entered the city of Kidal to help oust Islamist rebels, one of their last remaining stronghold in northern Mali. Now French forces, they are already there. They have taken control of the airport.

The military action, it comes as UN, African Union, and European officials are meeting in the Belgian capital Brussels to discuss ways to support Mali's long-term stablity.

Now Vladimir Duthiers is following developments. And he is in Nigeria. He joins me now live from CNN Lagos. And Vlad, first, we need an update from the battlefield. Are the militants still in retreat in Mali?

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, the French and Malian forces had been able to push back the militants from where they were just about three weeks ago. They've been able to retake the cities of Timbuktu, the strategic city of Gao, the strategic city of Konna, which was what ultimately was the reason why the Malian government reached out to the French military in the first place.

Now in Kidal, which you mentioned, the French and Malian forces have taken control of the airport, which is of vital importance, but according to reports the militants are still somewhat within the city and that is why the Chadian troops are being sent into the -- into that city in particular to try to root them out and to push them further into the desert. And so - - as of this point, we know that many of the Islamists have fled most of the country, but there are probably still some elements within the northern part of the country that have either shaven their bears or removed their clothes and have blended into the population and that will mean for a much harder fight in the days and weeks ahead, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, and so all eyes on Kidal.

Now the future of Mali is being debated right now at a meeting in Brussels. Tell us what needs to be done to rebuild the country?

DUTHIERS: Well, you know, since this calamity first took place back in March of 2012, there are some estimates that a quarter-million people have been displaced due to the violence and to the turmoil. This is an area that historically has had severe droughts. And so people have moved either out of the cities and are being forced into the desert, which means that food is very, very scarce.

What we also know is that because of the Islamist control of northern parts of the country that trade has been more or less suspended. And so what Oxfam and other humanitarian groups are saying is that this will really be a major catastrophe for the displaced people because they're also being -- not only are they being pushed into the desert, they're being pushed into countries surrounding Mali like Niger and Mauritania.

So just a real problem, and getting these folks back, it's not just the people, they literally uproot their entire lives. They bring their livestock -- their cattle, their families, and you know it's unknown when or how they'll be able to move back into their communities, Kristie.

LU STOUT: So long-term humanitarian support is being discussed at this meeting in Brussels currently underway. And Vladimir, near-term, the U.S. and France, they want African troops to take over the military operation. How ready are they to secure Mali?

DUTHIERS: Well, Kristie, France has always said that they did not want this to be their Afghanistan. They'd had not -- they do not intend on staying there indefinitely. What they want is they want an Africa-led force of soldiers, primarily from the Economic Community of West African States, to take the lead as far as military planning and execution going forward.

Now this is -- West African troops have had a long history of deploying to surrounding countries. Nigeria, which fields some of the -- biggest military forces in the region was instrumental in helping to end the civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone. But that environment is very, very difficult from the environment that we're talking about here. In this environment, this is a desert environment. Most West African troops historically have fought in Savannah like settings or in the bush. It's a very, very different environment.

Also, the enemy is a hardened enemy, an enemy that has trained in regions stretching as far as Pakistan, in Niger and Algeria. They've -- many of them are ex-mujahideen fighters. These are hardened Islamists and so it will not be as easy for African troops to win -- to take the lead from the French.

But I think that what they're saying is that they're confident that ultimately the force will be big enough to do just that. They're talking about deploying some 6,000 soldiers to the region and hopefully -- you know, with what the French are saying, what's being discussed today in Brussels, that should be enough to at least hold the areas that the French and Malian armies have already taken back, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, confident, but it is quite an enemy that they're up against. Vladimir Duthiers reporting on the story for us. Thank you.

You're watching News Stream. Coming up later on the program, the discovery of an English king's remains could solve some longstanding mysteries.

And we'll try to shed some light on one modern day mystery that stunned spectators and players alike at last weekend's Super Bowl.

And another sports story, this one out of Israel, that is exposing the deep divide that just won't go away in that region.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now claims of match fixing in football dominated the sports headlines across Europe. Amanda Davies joins us now with more -- Amanda.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi Kristie. Yes, I can tell you that both Liverpool Football Club and Hungarian side Debrecen say they've had no contact from Europol regarding the European police unit's match fixing investigation. Reports suggest that their Champion's League game at Anfield back in 2009 is one of the matches under suspicion after the biggest investigation ever held into corruption in football. 380 matches across Europe are being looked at, 600 in total worldwide.

Well, the FIFA general secretary Jerome Valke last month described match fixing as a disease that he was worried could kill football. And with globalization and the power of the internet it's easier than ever to bet on a match. But it's not just the results that you can currently stake your money on.

Let's have a look at the website for betting firm Labrooks (ph). This is the list of what you can currently put bids on. They're offering odds for England's friendly against Brazil on Wednesday. You can bet on the results or final score, but you can also bet on the halftime score, or the first goal scorer, or even on what will happen first, a goal, a substitution, or a card.

This one is obviously a pretty high profile game, but you can bet on plenty of smaller matches as well.

This we can have a look at now is the football page of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. They offer bets on Under 21 international matches, French Division II sides, even matches in the third tier of English football. And World Soccer's Keir Radnedge told me yesterday that matches like this are where the problem lies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEIR RADNEDGE, WORLD SOCCER MAGAZINE: It's very, very difficult to buy a Premier League player. For example, you think how much they earn. But the players who are very vulnerable are those in the lower leagues, maybe in Central Europe, where the clubs and FIFPro, the international player's union, has really hit on this problem. You know, players are not getting paid regularly, therefore, they are very, very vulnerable. You know, if you've got mortgage payments, rent, whatever, coming up and you're club is not paying you, you're vulnerable to be approached and bent by a match fixer.

Look, I mean, the figures look big, but in terms of the criminality -- and the criminal gangs and the criminal worldwide organizations from which this is just -- you know, it's a little part of their business really. Their comparison is small. And it's the tentacles of criminality that I think are really the worrying factor in, you know, looking towards the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIES: So how much is it worth? Well, a lot. You probably already know gambling is big in Asia. The true size of it, though, may well surprise you. A recent study estimates that the entire Asian gambling industry is worth $450 billion a year, that includes both legal and illegal gambling. And analysts say that that is 20 times the revenue of all of Europe's professional football leagues combined. So really some quite frightening numbers there, Kristie.

The most worrying thing for me was the report yesterday they said this is just the tip of the iceberg. So you fear what more there is to come.

LU STOUT: Yeah, it is incredible. I mean, just how vulnerable football is to criminality, criminal gangs based there in Europe as well as here in Asia.

Amanda Davies there reporting for us. Thank you, Amanda.

Now a football club in Israel's premier league has just signed two new players. Now that, in and of itself, would not normally make international headlines, but the new players are Muslims. And as Sara Sidner reports, the way some fans are reacting has local authorities involved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "Go to hell. Go to hell. Go to hell," they screamed, not at the opposition, but their own team. Beitar Jerusalem is not your ordinary run of the mill football club. No Arab has ever played for the team whose supporters are notorious for their anti-Islamic and racist chants.

YOAV BOROVITZ, KOL HA'IR NEWSPAPER: 20 percent of the people in Israel are Arabs, a big chunk of people in Jerusalem are Arabs, this is a public team. So how for seven years of this club's existence there is not even one Arab player?

SIDNER: A reality that is about to be challenged, because Beitar's management signed Gabriel Kadiev and Zaur Sadayev from the Chechnyan team Terk Grozny.

At least one moderate supporter is OK with that. YORAM, BEITAR SUPPORTER (through translator): They could be called two Chechnyan players. Why do they have to call them Muslim players? They're not Arab Muslims, they're Muslim-lite, Russians. So we accept them. If they're good they'll play. And if not, they'll go.

SIDNER: Others are less forgiving.

HEZI, BEITAR SUPPORTER (through translator): I'm not saying if he is a Muslim or Arab he's bad. It is possible he is a good person, but he is my enemy, and I don't support my enemy.

SIDNER: The man charged with dealing with the hardcore supporters is Beitar's general manger Izik Kornfein.

IZIK KORNFEIN, GENERAL MANAGER, BEITAR JERUSALEM: Beitar has always categorized as racist. And Beitar is not racist, not the players that play in it, not most of the fans, not the managers, not the management.

SIDNER: The Chechens know a thing or two about conflict. But the two newcomers say they're not interested in either politics or religion. They believe Beitar will provide them with a stage for showing off their football skills. Not if the hardcore have it their way. Recently, a sign appeared in the stands declaring Beitar is pure forever. That shocked many Israelis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's unbelievable that in this country -- you know, we all know the history. We all know what happened to us so many times as Jews. You know this thing that we can have those signs, it's just something that is sickening.

SIDNER: The club was fined $12,000. And at the team's next league game, police checked to make sure that 50 supporters banned from attending future matches did not get into the stadium.

In Israel, even football is part of a bigger struggle.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: A centuries old mystery has been solved. And now it is changing the way we see Richard III, but can it repair his reputation? We'll speak to one woman working to do just that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: A dramatic nighttime scene here in Hong Kong. Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching News Stream.

Now this is a discovery that could rewrite history. For centuries, England's King Richard III has been regarded as a monster from Shakespeare to modern cinema, he has been portrayed as a hunchbacked villain with a withered arm. It's a case of killing his own nephews to steal the throne for himself. And Richard ruled for only two years from 1483. And his death during battle in 1485 ended the long and bitter War of the Roses, and his enemies put his body on display.

It was finally found last year, buried under this car park in Leicester. And that was once the site of a church. And now a new image of Richard III has been revealed.

Now this is the first reconstruction of the recently identified remains. And that model, it was made by the Richard III Society. And the group says that it wants to set the record straight on this much maligned monarch.

Now Philippa Langley is a member and she drove the project to find the king. Philippa, welcome to News Stream here on CNN International. And take us back to last year. I mean, how did you know that you needed to dig up that parking lot in Leicester to find the remains of Richard III. What led you there?

PHILIPPA LANGLEY, SCREENWRITER: I think it was a combination of things. It's an odd story. I had an intuitive feeling about it. But then after I'd had the feeling, we brought in the research. And I worked with a historian and a geneologist. And putting together those things we knew we were ready to look for Richard III.

LU STOUT: So it was a combination of your intuition as well as research. But how did you convince city authorities in Leicester to dig up that car park? I mean, did you have to go through a lot of red tape?

LANGLEY: Yeah. There was a lot of meetings, a lot of pitch meetings. And I think -- you know, when I first pitched it to them, they probably thought I was mad, but I think when they realized they could see all the research behind us, particularly that we had Richard's mitochondrial DNA sequence. I think they then realized that we were serious. That's when they started really talking to us.

LU STOUT: Now, the remains, they were were first excavated in August of last year, finally confirmed in a variety of tests, not just DNA testing, but also CT Scans, carbon dating, et cetera. The bones themselves -- I mean, when you look at the bones, I mean, scientists analyzed the remains, what do they reveal about Richard III?

LANGLEY: Well, I think they reveal some really interesting facts. It reveals that he wasn't a hunchback. And he didn't have a withered arm. And that as far as we can see, he was a well nourished man, you know, who went about his business doing normal stuff. So, a lot of the Tudor information that we were given, and Shakespeare's portrayal is history.

LU STOUT: So the bones reveal that he wasn't a hunchback, he didn't have a withered arm, but do the bones tell the story of Richard III the man? I mean, what he did and what type of leader he was?

LANGLEY: The bones won't, particularly, no they won't. But funny enough, the facial reconstruction that we've had done gives a very different face of Richard III, because the Tudor portraits that -- you know, they gave him slanty, narrowed eyes and a mean mouth. And they tried to make him look as evil as they possibly could. But now, through the CT Scan of the skull, we've now recreated his face. And, you know, the face is a face of, you know, a 30 year old guy. You know, he doesn't have the mean eyes and the thin lips and it's a very different face.

In that sense, yes, that's giving us an idea that perhaps he wasn't the evil looking man that the Tudors says he was.

LU STOUT: I understand that you're writing a film script about the real Richard III. When you look at that recreation, the model based on his remains, is that the real Richard III?

LANGLEY: Yeah. Do you know what, that's as close as we can get, that really is. They've tested this facial reconstruction work on living people to see if it really does get the likeness right. And so, yeah, we can say with some degree of accuracy that's probably what Richard III looked like.

LU STOUT: You're a member of the Richard III society. I read some place that members of the Richard III society, they believe that he was one of the best English kings. Is that true, do you believe that? And why do you believe that?

LANGLEY: There's a number of reasons. I mean, he fought for justice most of his life, and particularly for the common man when he was a king. He gave us the system of bail. He opened up the printing industry, giving us books and the freedom of information. And he also initiated and applied the legal principles of the presumption of innocence and blind justice.

How many people know that today?

LU STOUT: So is this recent discovery and confirmation through DNA testing that the remains are indeed that of Richard III in a way a campaign to exonerate Richard III?

LANGLEY: It is. I think it's a campaign to make him a realistic Medieval man and a Medieval king. It's not to make him into a saint. And it's not to make him a paragon of virtue, but it's to get rid of this two dimensional Tudor-Shakespearean sort of caricature, cartoon man. And, you know, let's have the three dimensional Richard III.

LU STOUT: And why is it that his remains were lost for so long? I mean, how does one lose the remains of a king? I mean, why is it that no one knew where Richard III was for so many centuries?

LANGLEY: Well, it was down to Henry VIII who was one of our Tudor monarchs, because he ordered the disillusion of the monasteries. So when they brought down the church where Richard's burial was, his grave got lost over time and eventually became a car park.

LU STOUT: Which -- and we know the story and how it comes up from there. And with your intuition coming into play, digging up that car park, and then leading to the discovery of his remains. It's a fascinating story. Philippa Langley joining us live from London, thank you so much for joining us here on CNNI.

LANGLEY: Thank you.

LU STOUT: Now you're watching News Stream, and coming up next, a little boy is safe after a gunman held him for nearly a week in an underground bunker. We'll have a live report from Alabama.

And the search for answers goes on in New Orleans. We'll look at the Super Bowl blackout in just a moment.

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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): Now the U.N. and representatives from African and European nations are coming together in Brussels to discuss Mali's future once the military offensive ends. Now they are focusing on how to train local forces to take over from French troops and get the country on track to hold elections; 1,800 Chadian forces entered the northern Sea of Kidal today to help French troops oust Islamist rebels.

Now in the U.S., a six-day ordeal has ended for a boy named Ethan and his family. The 5-year old is at an Alabama hospital after being held hostage in an underground bunker for nearly a week. Police moved in on Monday and rescued the child. His armed kidnapper is dead.

A report will be released in Ireland today on a long-running system of the tension inflicted on tens of thousands of women. Now for 74 years, unmarried women and girls were detained and put to work without pay in the so-called Magdalene laundries run by the Catholic Church. The institution closed in 1996.

And today's report looks at the Irish government's involvement in the abuse. Relatives and survivors are asking for compensation for their treatment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: The Baltimore Ravens put to rest the matter of who would be this year's NFL champion, but another burning question remains long after the final score: what caused the electrical failure in the middle of American football's most important game? John Zarrella picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The night the lights went out at the Super Bowl is a story about, well, a few things: what went right, everyone remaining calm --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never met so many people that are so hospitable.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): What happened? Video from inside the stadium control room shows the Superdome's uh-oh moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we lost lights. All right, we're going to the manual override.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): And then there's that head-scratching, still unanswered question, what went wrong?

Here is what we know, kind of.

SMG, the company that owns and operates the Superdome, says the problem originated outside the stadium.

DOUG THORNTON, SUPERDOME SMG: Truth is the interruption in service, it didn't occur inside the building. We could not receive the power from the Entergy vault (ph), the substation that supplies us.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Entergy, the utility company, tweeted Sunday night that "service to the stadium had not been interrupted."

A spokesman said later --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system worked the way it was supposed to work.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): But in a statement to CNN Monday, Entergy cautioned, "Until the investigation is complete, any statements on possible causes of the outage are just speculation."

There was speculation that Beyonce's power-packed halftime show pulled too much power.

SMG says no, quote, "The halftime show was running on 100 percent of generated power, which means it was not on our power grid at all."

While we are still in the dark over what happened, pardon the pun, we do know this. The delay lasted 34 minutes. The lights came back on, and the Baltimore Ravens won, and a record 164 million people had more to talk about than just the final score.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: That was John Zarrella reporting for us.

Now a six-day hostage drama in America's Deep South has ended with a young child safe and his kidnapper dead. Yesterday officers stormed an underground bunker in Midland City, Alabama, where a man had been holding a 5-year-old boy. Now take a look at this animation of this scene.

The bunker, it was built on the man's property and authorities, they moved in after they said that negotiations broke down. And they saw the suspect holding a gun.

Now the boy is being identified only as Ethan. And police say that he was unharmed and is doing well after a night of observation in a hospital. And the hostage drama, it began one week ago when the suspect boarded a school bus, killed the driver and abducted Ethan.

Now Victor Blackwell is in Midland City, where the story unfolded. He joins us now. And, Victor, tell us more about that critical moment when the police decide to move in.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: You know, it was about more than a moment, but more like a day, we're told, by the FBI. And this picture is still coming together. About the 24 hours leading up to the decision to go in, they say that, as you mentioned, those negotiations broke down.

Well, I spoke with the Alabama State Police, and I said, tell me more about how did they break down? Did he stop talking? Did he ignore you? They said, no, the communications continued. He just became more agitated as the hours went on.

And then when they saw him with that gun -- you put a man who has some really strong views, who has kidnapped a child, killed a bus driver, now agitated, has a gun, they said this is a time we need to go in. They went in; we're told the FBI went in. The man was fatally shot.

Now the question is -- because we're told he did have a weapon when they went in. Did he shoot himself or did the FBI shoot him?

Well, the FBI Shooting Review Board from D.C. is on their way to Midland City. We're going to get more details and confirmation of that. But we know that Ethan is safe. Jimmy Lee Dykes is dead.

STOUT: And that's wonderful to hear, but why did he do it? Why did Dykes kidnap the boy?

BLACKWELL: There was a news conference right before all of this started at a -- yesterday afternoon, and the sheriff here, Wally Olson, said that he knows that Jimmy Lee Dykes had a very complex and important story that he wants to tell.

So from what we've gathered -- and this still is an ongoing investigation; that's the line we're getting from everyone about all of the details we're looking for, that he wanted to get a story out. What that story was we're still trying to figure that out.

But the question is now, what now happens as this investigation goes forward? And will we get those answers? And was this the way to get the story out? He will never tell his story now because he's been shot and killed. But we know that is -- there was a story somewhere.

STOUT: Yes, and this kidnapping, it is every parent's nightmare. We have a 5-year-old boy; he was taken off a school bus -- knew that the driver was shot dead and the driver, tell us about him, because he's been hailed as a hero, right? Because he protected the other children.

BLACKWELL: Yes. His name is Charles Poland; he was 66 years old. You know, when I went around to find out about Charles Poland, everyone said, "Who?" And then someone said, "Oh, you mean Chuck," because everybody here calls him Chuck. I mean, he's lived here for decades; been married for 43 years.

This is a man who every month went and took a $50 check to the Christian mission to forward their work. And he put himself between that gun and as many as children as he could protect. Twenty-one of the kids were able to get out the back door or hide under a seat. But we know Ethan was taken.

His funeral was on Sunday. There was a caravan of school buses with black ribbons tied to them, as teachers went to the funeral. And this community, yes, is calling, as they call him, Mr. Chuck, a hero.

STOUT: The driver hailed as a hero; the 5-year-old boy, Ethan, now safe. Victor Blackwell reporting for us live from Alabama, thank you.

You're watching NEWS STREAM. And still ahead, U.S. fans cannot get enough. Some are screaming, even crying as the hottest entertainers out of Korea start the U.S. K-pop craze.

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STOUT: Welcome back. Now this week's Leading Woman helped spread samba reggae music around the world. Now she is singer and performer Daniela Mercury. Now Felicia Taylor talked with her in Brazil.

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FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's known for her megaconcerts, with people stretching as far as the eye can see, reflecting the cultural and racial mix that is Brazil. She is part Portuguese and Italian, but has a surprising nickname.

TAYLOR: And they even say you're the whitest black girl from Bahia.

DANIELA MERCURY, SINGER AND PERFORMER: A lot of people thought that I was black during a lot of times.

TAYLOR (voice-over): Her career in music started when she was 16, singing in bars and at carnivals.

After nearly 30 years in entertainment, this singer, songwriter, record producer and Latin Grammy winner is recognized for popularizing samba reggae music around the world.

This musical tour de force is Daniela Mercury.

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TAYLOR (voice-over): Music is a big part of Brazilian life.

And no one embodies that like this superstar, who doesn't take herself too seriously.

She knows how to play to the camera.

Whether showing a friend how to samba or visiting children at a local foundation, music is in her soul and she says in her country's, too.

MERCURY: It's incredible. Everybody dance here, all the (inaudible).

And we have a lot of different -- a diversity of cultures in Brazil that's amazing.

TAYLOR: Describe to me what your music is like.

MERCURY: I don't like labels because labels, to me, are prisons.

And if you see my concert, you see that usually I don't play this -- in 20 songs, all songs are different.

TAYLOR (voice-over): Some do label her music as music popular Brasileira, Brazilian popular music, or as samba reggae.

Mercury was born in Salvador da Bahia on the northeastern coast. Bahia is considered the center of the country's Afro-Brazilian culture, which explains why Mercury is so connected to African culture.

MERCURY: The lyrics like (inaudible).

And the (inaudible). The thing of the city (ph) is mine.

It is one of primitive song. Imagine my poor, black people, Afro- Brazilian people. They sing to confirm, to confirm that they deserve to be happy, you know. They want to be happy. And they deserve it.

(Inaudible) my (inaudible) gave me as a person, you know, I am -- and I want to give back through my music.

TAYLOR (voice-over): And at this concert in her home city, she gives it her all.

Mercury still keeps a home here, though she's lived in Sao Paulo since 2009. It's in Bahia where she grew up that she comes to recharge and spend time with family, like her mom, who was a major influence.

Mercury says she was a born leader, but had to learn to become a business woman. And as a woman, she says, she hasn't always had support.

MERCURY: One time from one director, (inaudible) director of my company, he told me, "You are a woman. You don't have to think."

TAYLOR: What did you say?

MERCURY: Oh, I leave -- I left.

TAYLOR (voice-over): Her big break came in 1992 as a solo artist when her album, "O Canto da Cidade," was released, selling 2 million copies in Brazil alone. It's credited with bringing her music to the world.

In the coming weeks, more with Daniela Mercury.

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STOUT: You are watching NEWS STREAM. And coming up next.

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STOUT (voice-over): We'll tell you what phenomenon has all these people screaming and crying.

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STOUT: Welcome back to the program. And it's time for a check of the global forecast. Concerns from Japan over the pollution from China. Let's get the very latest on this with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the World Weather Center.

Mari?

MARI RAMOS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Kristie, this is something, you know, where when you have your neighbor shrouded in this cloud of haze and we saw those pictures over and over from China, as to what was happening there, you know, we talk about, oh, yes, they got cleaner air. Well, I'll explain to you how that affects their neighbors to the east.

Let's go ahead and look at these pictures from Japan. This is (inaudible). And you can see right there that very hazy air back on January 31st. Things are in around the same time that we were experiencing that very -- those hazardous levels and extremely hazardous levels of pollution in China.

Well, the concerns from Japan are growing because they're saying, well, you know, lately, our pollution levels here, they're saying, have been skyrocketing. They're installing new weather monitors and air quality monitors like the ones that you see there to try to understand what exactly is in the air and to be able to warn the population.

They're saying right now there's no risk for the general population, but they just want to make sure that they're monitoring the air quality overall.

Come back over to the weather map. Let me show you something pretty interesting. You know how we talk about how this pollution we've been talking about is quite (inaudible). It kind of sits here over the same general area. There's very little or no mixing in the atmosphere, that area of high pressure has everything kind of sinking in.

And we get this mess that just spreads, not just in Beijing, but across much of eastern China. Well, eventually, when we see these fronts coming through, well, that's what helps mix the air back up and that kind of helps sweep out and brings us improved air quality here.

But what do we end up with? That pollution that gets carried to areas to the east, not just to Japan, but sometimes across the Korean Peninsula and even areas farther to the south, for example, for you in Taiwan.

Sometimes you'll get that haze from China and that pollution over China kind of hanging over your skyline as well. It usually doesn't last as long as, of course, because of what we have in China and it tends to move on in a few days. But it isn't, I guess, a cost concern for some of the government entities across these countries.

The other thing to remember is that remember that (inaudible) not just going to stop here. Because of the wind patterns, the wind can spread these particles over very large distances. I mean, that's really important as well.

The other thing to remember is that those aerosols, those manmade aerosols, those manmade particles, like the pollution that we've seen over in China; those tend to disperse across air much, much quicker than some natural particles.

For example, volcanic ash or even dust or sand, those things tend to stay in the atmosphere a lot longer, and those are the ones that tend to travel longer, like what we saw with the ash cloud a few years ago, and what we see every once in a while with those dust storms that sometimes even end up across portions of the West Coast of the U.S.

So different situations, but kind of like the same concept here when it comes to that pollution coming in from other parts. It's called transboundary pollution, something, I guess, that is going to be on the radar a little bit more.

And just so you know, Kristie, Beijing, it's back, let's say, it's away from its blue sky days again, unhealthy air pollution, air quality again, measuring up 192 in the latest EPA reading from that area. We do have, again, that very still air mass moving through here. Most of the moisture right now is across the Korean Peninsula and then back over toward Japan.

We're getting some pretty heavy snowfalls across these areas and the front stretches all the way back to Taiwan. Very windy weather here already cleared there from Hong Kong, all the way back up to Shanghai. But some rain showers and possibly some travel delays expected across this area later, overnight tonight and into tomorrow. Back to you.

STOUT: All right. Mari Ramos there, thank you very much indeed for that.

Now there is a Korean musical sensation sweeping the U.S. But it's not this guy. Now PSY's "Gangnam Style" may have been the overplayed hit of 2012, but as Kyung Lah tells us, other Korean stars are following in his footsteps.

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ELI ALEXANDER (PH), K-POP FAN: Hi. My name is Eli Alexander (ph). I'm 18 years old and I'm from Ogden, Utah.

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ALEXANDER (PH): I'm a huge fan of many K-pop groups, of all K-pop groups.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eli Alexander's (ph) watched this K-pop video countless times on the Web and you can tell.

ALEXANDER (PH): Music can connect people.

LAH (voice-over): It is an obsession, a devotion that led Eli (ph) to dance out of Utah to Southern California.

But why and how could the music from my homeland -- I was born in Korea -- connect with a white kid from Utah?

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LAH (voice-over): Or the thousands of the fans who turned up on a Saturday morning in Orange County, California, for the first Korean pop -- or K-pop convention in America.

LAH: Forgive me; you're not really the demographic I think of when I think of K-pop fans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can look like in anything now --

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- (inaudible) like any (inaudible). Like it (inaudible).

LAH: You pretty much stop anyone here and ask them how they found out about K-pop, they found out on YouTube. Prior to the Internet and the rise in social media, this would have never happened.

LAH (voice-over): And it's seeping into your world. By now, you've heard it. Likely, even tried it.

But PSY, the chubby Korean pop star, is just the tip of the Korean pop music tsunami. But this band, Newest (ph), wasn't discovered. It was manufactured, likely nearly all K-pop groups and singers.

Inside studios like this one in Los Angeles, young guys train. If they're lucky, they're eventually recruited by a Korean music studio and taken to Seoul and there molded into the image of a K-pop star. The K-pop makeover goes beyond skin deep. Dr. Kim Byung Gun is one of Seoul's top plastic surgeons at a clinic that performs 100 surgeries a day.

LAH: When patients come in and talk about why they want these types of surgeries, what do they tell you?

KIM BYUNG GUN, FOUNDER, BK PLASTIC SURGERY HOSPITAL: They want to have the faces of the singers and movie stars of Koreans.

LAH (voice-over): K-pop says Dr. Kim has helped fuel that desire. It's a well-known fact in the K-pop world.

"It's not uncommon," says the president of CJ Entertainment. "K-pop is very visual," he says. "Looks are important."

LAH: The one thing I will say after spending most of the day here is that things have come a long way. When I grew up, it was definitely not cool to be Korean. But things have certainly changed.

LAH (voice-over): A world only getting smaller, merging from the big stage to the personal one.

ALEXANDER (PH): Thank you all for listening. I'm Eli Alexander (ph) and piking (ph).

LAH (voice-over): Kyung Lah, CNN, Irvine, California.

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STOUT: Now around holiday time, one of the big dilemmas for people is always who's on my list for greeting cards. Well, with the Lunar New Year quickly approaching, KCNA says North Korea's leader has sent out his cards. So who's on Kim Jong-un's mailing list?

Well, according to North Korean state media, the leaders of all these countries received New Year's cards from Kim. These are over 20 countries, ranging from Indonesia to Mexico, Egypt to San Marino.

So it's not a surprise to see that the President of the United States is not mentioned, but neither is the leader of North Korean's long-time ally, China. And perhaps the biggest surprise was another world leader who received a card: the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea.

And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.

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