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Carnival Clean-up Includes P.R.; "One Billion Rising" Movement; Syrians Cautiously Return to Homs; Role Propels Actor to Fame; Learn the ABCs of Heart Health

Aired February 15, 2013 - 12:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. We take you around the world this 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

In Caracas, Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez had to have a trach. He cannot speak. That is what the country's communications minister told reporters today. Also released this picture of Chavez in a hospital bed with his kids. The Venezuelan president has had cancer surgery in December.

The rocky nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary hits another bump in the road. Senate Republicans have stalled Hagel's nomination for at least another two weeks. The Senate could not come up with enough votes to end a filibuster and bring the nomination to the floor.

Critics say they need more information on Hagel's finances and on the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. But Republicans suggest that they are willing to let the nomination go forward after they get back from the recess.

South Africa's superstar Olympic athlete, Oscar Pistorius, formally charged with murder today. Pistorius was arrested yesterday after his girlfriend was found shot to death in his home. He broke down in tears in the courtroom. His agent says he rejects the charge in the strongest terms.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brings a whole new meaning to the term "poop deck."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Glad you said it and not us. Thanks very much


MALVEAUX: All right, they're joking about it now, but it was pretty rough going for five days for the Carnival Triumph cruise ship. More than 3,000 passengers, they're now on their way home, thankful, never before as much as now, for those hot showers and flushing toilets.

Folks talked about the deplorable conditions on the ship, but they also -- they had a lot of praise for the crew.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we were in awe of the entire time is the crew that was completely unselfish. They served us with smiles and served us in ways that are truly unthinkable, the things that they had to do for us. Yet, they did it with smiles.

We built relationships with the crew. We came home, intending to keep up with those relationships. They did not have to serve us to the capacity that they did, but they chose to make the most of it and that encouraged all of us to make the most of it.


MALVEAUX: While passengers are make their way home, Carnival has a mess to clean up, not just the ship, of course, the P.R. disaster. The company is dealing with refunds, possible lawsuits and, of course, the bottom line, how much money they're going to lose over all of this. And the cruise line industry generated more than $40 billion in 2011. That is huge.

Nilou Motamed, she's joining us from "Travel + Leisure."

So, 20 million folks around the world went on a cruise last year. Did we think this is going to make a dent at all? And do you think it's going to change anything in terms of how these big ships are prepared to handle something like this when they lose power?

NILOU MOTAMED, "TRAVEL + LEISURE" FEATURES DIRECTOR: Well, Suzanne, the first thing to remember is, as you said, 20 million people traveled on cruise ships in 2011 and, so, this is a very unusual and rare circumstance.

Obviously, our hearts go out to everybody who has been through this ordeal and it is nothing that we want to make light of, but however, it's important to realize in the context of how these crews ships are run, this is a drop in the proverbial bucket. Sorry to use that euphemism.

And it is -- the cruise companies have been extremely attentive to making sure that their cruise ships are at the top of the line. They get very regular updates to all of their systems. But this is something that can happen and I can assure you that after this disaster and, certainly, Costa Concordia, the cruise companies are going to be on heightened alert even more.

MALVEAUX: Is there anything, Nilou, that you can do to take a look at the cruise lanes and say, OK, this looks like this is reliable, this looks like they could deal with a disaster and this company not so much?

MOTAMED: I think the cruise companies, there are a lot of websites. If you have ever any questions about cruising, which is the governing body, CLIA's, website, it's a great place to go to find out information. But, in general, as I was saying, this is such a rare incident that I think for people who are regular cruisers, I can tell you even the 14 ships of Carnival's that are being -- that were canceled, those people, I've heard from travel agents, are already rebooking their cruises.

So, for people who are regular cruisers, they are committed to cruising. For people who haven't done it before, they're skittish. However, what I'm super impressed by and what we've heard over and over again in these past few days is how well Carnival has handled the situation.


MOTAMED: As you said, it is a P.R. nightmare for any company, but what they've come out very forthcoming about what they're doing for these passengers, not only are they giving them their money back, they're giving them credits towards a future cruise. They're giving them $500 in cash per passenger. And that is very much beyond what they need to do.

MALVEAUX: All right. Well, good for them. I mean, yeah, the crew, it sounded like the crew did a really good job of at least trying to help them get through that really difficult five days. I'm not a cruiser myself, but, you know, I'm willing to give it another shot.

MOTAMED: Well that's good to hear. And actually, incredibly, this might be a good time to look for cruise deals. It's a weird thing to say, but this might be a moment where, as things shake out, you might find some great values on the high seas.

MALVEAUX: All right. I'm going to think that through.

Nilou, thank you. Appreciate it.

MOTAMED: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: All right, we are rolling out a big new surprise on Monday. We're going to be getting a co-anchor, anchor buddy, to join us for NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

Can you guess now who this is? He's a cutie. He's a little bit older now.

So, you've been tweeting me @SuzanneMalveaux. Here's what some of you said.

Jaciell Cordoba saying, "I think it's pretty obvious. It's Dennis the Menace." Awww.

All right, how about this one? "Ron Burgundy?"

Somebody else tweeting, "I'd say Anderson Cooper, but he's got too many jobs already."

Keep them coming. Tweet me @SuzanneMalveaux. We'll reveal who it is at the end of the hour.


MALVEAUX: Imagine people around the world dancing for a common cause. Well, that is what happened as part of "One Billion Rising." It's a movement that highlights the problem of violence against women. People in more than 200 countries took part in this global movement on Valentine's Day.

So, in New Zealand, a flash mob got into the groove at the University of Auckland. Check it out. The name "One Billion Rising" comes from a U.N. statistic about the number of women who'll be beaten or raped in their lifetime.

An actress who joined the "One Billion Rising" movement, she is now speaking out about her own experiences. Thandie Newton's movies -- of course, you know her -- in "Crash," "Mission Impossible 2," "The Pursuit of Happyness."

But Newton says when she was a young actress, she was exploited by a casting director. She told her story to our Max Foster.


THANDIE NEWTON, ACTRESS: The director asked me to sit with my legs apart -- the camera was right between -- positioned where it could see up my skirt -- to put my leg over the arm of the chair, and before I started my dialogue, think about the character that I was supposed to be having the dialogue with and how it felt to be made love to by this person.

And I was thinking this is so strange. Why would I need to do that? But this is the director. He is talking -- you know, this is a -- there's the casting director.


NEWTON: It must be normal, that I'm 18-years-old, you know, and I'm thinking, this is obviously something that -- I was in a protected -- you know, there were boundaries.

And three years later, I was at the Cannes film festival and we bumped into this -- my husband and I bumped into this rather drunk producer, a British producer, who said, oh, he mentioned the director that I had had this audition with.

And he looked very sheepish and walked away. And my husband grabbed him later and said, why did you start to say something and then didn't.

And it turned out that the director who had went on to make the film and who I was auditioning for used to show that video late at night to interested parties at his house.


MALVEAUX: Unbelievable.

Check this out. This is a new masterpiece, now, an artist juxtaposing the painting "The Kiss" against the backdrop of Syria's raging civil war.


MALVEAUX: An artist from Syria is lighting up the Internet with his images contrasting beauty with the heartbreak of war. This image here called "Freedom Graffiti." It is going viral. It's a digital mashup of a destroyed building in Damascus overlaid with the masterpiece "The Kiss." It looks so realistic, many people think it's an actual mural. The artist fled Syria when that civil war started. He says he hopes to some day create real murals when he goes back.

Also in Syria, a very important development. This week, United Nations aid workers brought a load of blankets and tents to an emergency camp. This was inside Syria. This is pretty big because it is only the second time that the Syrian government has let U.N. supplies in that country since the civil war started. Some people in Syria, they are now cautiously returning to their towns and what is left of their homes.

Fred Pleitgen is reporting from Homs.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A game of soccer in the rubble of a civil war. After months of heavy fighting, people are returning to the Baba Amr district in Homs. Slowly and cautiously.

PLEITGEN (on camera): You know, there's not many places in the world where you can feel how fierce and intense fighting was if you go there after the fact. But Baba Amr is certainly one of those places. The government now says it's in complete control of this area, but you can clearly see just how fierce the fighting here was.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): During our visit, we couldn't find a single house left unscathed. Baba Amr was one of the first places to fall into opposition hands in the uprising against President Bashar al Assad. It began with peaceful protests. But what followed was some of the worst fighting in the ongoing (INAUDIBLE), including artillery shelling and air raids by government forces and fierce urban combat that cost thousands of casualties. Now the battle is over and some shops have reopened.

"Business is OK," he says, "but compared to when we returned two months ago, it has really improved because more and more people are coming back."

We had a government escort with us as we toured Baba Amr, clearly making it difficult for people to speak openly with us. Regime troops have driven rebels out of many areas in Homs, but it remains a city with two faces. Just a few blocks from the utter destruction, you would never know there had been an armed conflict. The streets are full of life in predominantly Alawite areas loyal to the regime. We got a chance to speak to the governor of Homs. A man respected even by many opponents of the government. He says he believes the turmoil here is almost over.

"If the support of terrorism is stopped in the media and on the battlefield, I am convinced, God-willing, Homs will go back to what it used to be within four months," he told us.

The governor says he's trying to reach out to opposition fighters not affiliated with Islamist groups, even offering an amnesty for those who surrender. Rebels still control some places. The government estimates that about 7,000 are hold up in neighborhoods especially in the old city. The fighting continues there as fierce as ever says one opposition activist we managed to reach on Skype.

"There are hundreds of thousands living in tents and hundreds of thousands living under siege," he says. "There are tanks and rockets fired on a daily basis. This is what the regime and its supporters want."

For many months, Homs was the symbol and epicenter of the uprising against the Assad regime. What remains is a city divided between those who want to forget the civil war and those still entrenched fighting on. And places like Baba Amr, that serve as a warning to both sides what might happen to other parts of Syria if the civil war isn't brought to an end.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Homs, Syria.


MALVEAUX: So he plays a terrorist on the hit TV show "Homeland." And his acting so convincing, now he's actually getting harassed at airports.


MALVEAUX: Iranian born actor Navid Negahban might not be a household name just quite yet, but for millions his face instantly recognizable as Abu Nazir, a top al Qaeda terrorist in Showtime's hit show "Homeland." Asieh Namdar has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "HOMELAND": You pervert the teachings of the prophet and you call it a cause.

NAVID NEGAHBAN, ACTOR, "HOMELAND": Generation after generation must suffer and die. We are prepared for that. Are you?

ASIEH NAMDAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For two seasons he played the word's most wanted terrorist on the hugely popular Showtime drama "Homeland," and life hasn't been the same for the Iranian born actor Navid Negahban, who played the terrifying Abu Nazir.

NAMDAR (on camera): So when you go out, people recognize who you are now?

NEGAHBAN: They recognize Abu, definitely. I mean they walk up to me and, "oh, oh, Abu, Abu."

NAMDAR (voice-over): "Homeland" changed everything.

NEGAHBAN: All the projects that I've done in the past, I've never gotten so much recognition for my work.

NAMDAR: The show is on the CIA's hunt for Abu Nazir, a wanted terrorist who is out for revenge for a U.S. drone strike that killed his son. Nazir enlists a prisoner of war to help him carry out terror attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "HOMELAND": I swear on the soul of Isa (ph).

NEGAHBAN: This show doesn't give you an answer. It raises questions. So you sit there and you ask yourself the question, how would I behave if I were in that situation? They say that there is no hero. Everybody has flaws.

NAMDAR: Negahban says he knew he wanted to be an actor growing up as a little boy in Iran. He got the acting bug when he starred in a school play at eight. After the Iranian revolution, he moved to Germany where he studied acting while working as a painter and taking on other odd jobs. He later moved to Los Angeles and started to get roles in television shows and movies.

Being an Iranian and playing a terrorist has gotten him some criticism from Iranian Americans who say it's the exact image they've been fighting to change.

NEGAHBAN: First of all, I'm an actor and I'm not playing an Iranian. Just because I know the culture better, I think I can do a much better job to bring that character to life.

NAMDAR: In season two, Abu Nazir gets caught and killed.

NAMDAR (on camera): Is there a chance you might come back in like somebody's dream? Oh, come on.

NEGAHBAN: I don't know. I really don't know. At this point, I'm sure that's no.

NAMDAR: But if you knew, would you tell us?

NEGAHBAN: If I knew, I would not have told you, but --

Do you think I'm stupid?

NAMDAR (voice-over): Negahban is working on a number of TV projects and is already thinking about one particular leading lady.

NEGAHBAN: I would love to do something with Meryl Streep.

NAMDAR (on camera): Meryl Streep? NEGAHBAN: Definitely.

NAMDAR (voice-over): And one thing is definite, Abu Nazir may be dead, but this is only the beginning for the actor who made the character a household name.

Asieh Namdar, CNN, Atlanta.


MALVEAUX: And here is Elizabeth Cohen with this week's "Heartbeat."


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Keeping heart healthy is many times like alphabet soup. So what do all the letters mean?

Know your numbers, or BP, LDL and HDL. BP is blood pressure. HDL and LDL are cholesterol.

DR. WARREN LEVY, PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA HEART: HDL, which is your good cholesterol, that stands for high density lipoproteins. And for men that should be above 40. For women, above 50. And you should know your LDL, which is your low density lipoproteins. And those are the bad ones. They need to be under 100 for the general population.

COHEN: And what does BMI stand for?

LEVY: BMI stands for body mass index. And it's a very simple way of calculating the percentage of someone's body that is made up of fat. And we have ranges that we know are healthy and unhealthy. A BMI less than 25 is healthy. Above 25, you're overweight and you need to do something about it.

COHEN: And an EKG or ECG?

LEVY: EKG is actually the German abbreviation for electrocardiogram. In English we say ECG. But it's simply an electrical measurement of the heart's activity.

COHEN: And if you suffered from a TIA, should you be worried?

LEVY: A TIA is a transient ischemic attack. That's a stroke that almost happened. A TIA can be a warning sign that you're at risk of having a stroke. And that should never be ignored.

COHEN: All important letters to know when it comes to your health.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN.



MALVEAUX: And, of course, we told you, we are rolling out a new surprise starting on Monday. I'm going to be getting a co-anchor, an anchor buddy to join us for NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

All right, you guys have been guessing. You've been tweeting me about who this is. Half you guys said it was Anderson Cooper. Come on. The other half said Michael Holmes. Drum roll. Here he is, all grown up.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We actually did have a drum roll. That was very exciting.

MALVEAUX: That was -- you were such a cute kid.

HOLMES: I was an evil child.

MALVEAUX: Oh, you're going to bring a little bit of that evil --

HOLMES: That's what my mother says anyway.

MALVEAUX: You're not a diva, though, I hope? No.




MALVEAUX: But we share the same passion, international news.

HOLMES: We do.

MALVEAUX: You've been covering war zones around the world. Tell us a little bit about what you love to do.