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Surprise Meteor Shower Injures Hundreds In Russia; People Return To Homs; Nightmare Cruise Over; Republicans Filibuster Hagel Nomination

Aired February 15, 2013 - 08:00:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

A shock meteor shower smashes through the skies in Russia. Hundreds are injured. We will have the latest live from Moscow.

Also ahead, breaking down in court: athlete Oscar Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend.

And making their way back home: passengers on the Carnival Triumph reveal what happened on board.

Now Russian TV is reporting at least 500 people have been injured by a meteor shower that sparked an explosion over southern Russia. As you can see, a bright flash, it appeared in the sky for a few seconds followed by a loud bang that sounded like a blast. And many of the injured were hit by flying glass because of the explosion.

Now the media shower, it came on the same day that an asteroid is expected to narrowly miss the earth. And officials say the meteor in Russia blew up after it partially burned up in the lower atmosphere.

Now Phil Black joins us live from Moscow with more. And Phil, and now hundreds of people have been injured in the wake of this shock meteor shower. What is the latest you can tell us?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, it's interesting to note that the event that we're talking about here lasted only a few seconds, but the effect, the destruction has been incredibly widespread and really quite dramatic.

As you've said, the latest government figures say that more than 500 people have been injured as a result of this meteor, around 30 of those or more than 30 of those are being treated in hospital, and a much smaller number, we're told around three or so, are in a grave condition.

This all happened -- and you can see it from the video that has emerged from this region after a meteor struck the Earth's atmosphere over this region of (inaudible) around a four hour flight east of Moscow here.

The Russia space agency Roscosmos says that this particular meteor was traveling at great speed, around 30 kilometers a second, as it struck the Earth's atmosphere. At that point, it has fragmented, sending a shower of smaller fragments across a wide area. Russian authorities are still trying to track some of those. They believe that one of the larger fragments has come down in a lake not that far from where a lot of these white streaks in the sky were first seen.

But the important thing to note here is that although the devastation has been widespread, it was certainly a very shocking event to those people who witnessed it, who felt it. A lot of the damage is not substantial. We are talking about a lot of broken glass, broken windows across this wide area. And as a result, also the injuries are mostly cuts and scratches caused by this flying glass at the point that these shockwaves, these sonic booms struck this region, Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, the video and the amount of video documenting this media event above that region in Russia has been absolutely extraordinary. And we have seen this incredible footage of the media shower and its aftermath. You mentioned that the eyewitnesses in the region, they say that this was a shocking event. What more are they saying about what they saw, what they heard, and what they felt at the time?

BLACK: Just a little side comment to this. You're right, there has been a lot of video from a lot of different sources. One of the reasons for that is that by way of a strange cultural twist, if you like, Russians in large numbers have video cameras installed in their cars. It's their personal way of dealing with police corruption. And as a result when events like this take place, they are often caught on a large number of cameras. It's becoming very much an increasing trend here.

But certainly the witness accounts very much mirror what we're seeing in those videos. We know that this took place at about 9:20 in the morning local time, the time when people are up and about, going to work, at work, driving at home, at school. No warning about this taking place. Suddenly, bright flashes in the sky. A few seconds later, these loud sonic booms, windows breaking all over the place, and those very dramatic white streaks across the sky.

Certainly a very terrifying few seconds for those people who witnessed it. And as I say, a few seconds that have had a very wide devastating and very dramatic effect on the region, Kristie.

LU STOUT: That's right, feelings of terror in the region there. An interesting fact that you shared with us about the plethora of the dash cam video coming from Russia documenting this event. It's all because of the rampant police corruption there in Russia.

Phil Black joining us live from Moscow, thank you so much for that.

Now around the world such incidents are rare. And the last major event of this kind occurred in Russia in 1908 and that was when an asteroid exploded in the atmosphere near the Tunguska River in Central Siberia. And the impact, it was so great that it leveled trees across an area of more than 2,000 square kilometers. In fact, according to NASA, it released energy equivalent to about 185 atomic bombs.

A study into the event says that the object may have weighed 1 million tons.

Let's get more now. Mari Ramos joins us from the world weather center. And Mari, we have Russia rocked by meteors and this record breaking asteroid that's flying by soon. I mean, what a coincidence both these events happening within 24 hours or so.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: I think that gets people a little more scared with all of this going on at the same time. So let me just go ahead and start by saying that asteroid that we've been watching, the one that's going to get closer to Earth that's larger than the one that has affected Russia right now is not expected to impact Earth directly. And we're going to talk about that in just a moment.

But let's go ahead and head back -- let's head back in time, because Kristie, I have video of what happened in Russia back in 1908. I want to show you this, because it's pretty dramatic. There's the river. And we think this video was taken about maybe 13 to 15 years after it happened. Look at the trees, even that much longer in time, you can see there the trees completely leveled.

You mentioned how this broke up into the atmosphere, that combination of heat and pressure caused it to break up. It leveled trees 40 kilometers away. And the earthquake was actually picked up -- the earthquake that it caused was actually picked up on seismographs as far away as the UK.

The other interesting thing is this is -- it weighed 220 million pounds. Compare that to this event right now that happened in Russia today, that one is estimated to weigh about 20,000 pounds. So it's a huge difference. That one was much, much larger. And it didn't even make impact on the Earth intact, because it was -- it broke apart in the atmosphere much as this one did.

That one from 1908 is about 36 -- about nine meters smaller than the 2012 AD-14 asteroid that's expected to pass close to Earth today.

Some of what people heard that air being displaced by that fast moving object moving very quickly through the atmosphere, that creates energy, it creates sound. The bigger the object, the bigger the wave that it's going to create in the atmosphere, that's what people heard. And then because it broke up into pieces you heard several different explosions as that was hurling through the atmosphere.

That sound energy can be very strong. And as we heard from Phil, a lot of damage reported to buildings and windows and a lot of that broken glass is what has actually hurt people the most. And that's why we have so many people that have been injured here.

The other really interesting thing to remember, we've been talking about this, we have comets. We have asteroids. And then we have meteoroids. And meteroids are actually smaller pieces of asteroids, scientists think, that are usually made of rock and metal. Asteroids can range in sizes from small to large. And then comets are the really big ones that are several kilometers in size. And most of them are made out of ice, frozen water really, and when they usually break up.

Near Earth objects that we're talking about, these things that are closer to the Earth that NASA is watching very closely, they think that there's over a million of them. Only about 1 percent have actually been discovered, they think, because it's pretty hard to track. These near Earth objects can be any of those things like that. I mentioned the comets, the asteroids or the meteoroids, and there are about 1,300 of them that they've already identified as PHA, those are potentially hazardous asteroids. It doesn't mean that they're going to hit Earth, but just means that they're a little too close like the one that we're going to see later today.

We actually have the first images of that asteroid already from some Earth based telescopes. And I want to show you that image next. A little bit grainy, a little hard to see. You're going to see that little flash of light, that dot of light kind of moving up toward the screen, that's -- those are the first images.

And that line that you see there to the right of your screen, that's actually a satellite that passed through around that same time. And of course these are time-lapse videos. It's still very far away.

Later today they're going to be able to pick up better images, they hope, even though it's going to be moving so quickly.

Come back over here to the weather map, that is the 2012DA14. There is the satellite ring. So it will pass in between these areas. The chance for it creating any kind of actual damage to satellites is slim to none. They can't say no. It won't cause any damage, but it's very, very unlikely that it will damage any kind of satellites.

Had the Earth, Kristie, been 15 minutes earlier, it would have had an impact on Earth. So it's just a matter of time, so to speak.

LU STOUT: Yeah, incredible, just that difference of 15 minutes. And even though that imagery that you showed us was grainy, it is riveting just to see that asteroid about to fly past us in the next two hours ahead. And also that video earlier you showed us of the aftermath of the Tunguska incident in 1908. I mean, that was something I only read in schoolbooks. I've never seen video of the aftermath of that, that was absolutely incredible.

Mari Ramos there, thank you so much. Take care.

Now the asteroid, it's about half the size of a football field. And scientists and Mari Ramos, you heard it just then, say that it will miss Earth by just 15 minutes. Although there's no cause for alarm as Ralista Vassileva reports, it has certainly got people talking.


RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pop culture turned us against these otherwise benign space rocks in the late 1970s. The object of the arcade came Asteroids: destroy them before they destroy you.

Flash forward 20 years and things haven't changed much. Thank goodness we had Bruce Willis.

But Armageddon didn't happen then. And 15 years on, with a real life asteroid coming within a stones throw of the Earth, it's not going to happen now.

BILL NYE, SCIENCE GUY: This one will miss us by about 15 minutes. 15 minutes difference and that's it. So this is a really serious business. It's coming closer than the satellites that are providing this CNN broadcast around the country and around the world right now. These satellites are at 22,000 miles -- 36,000 kilometers. And this thing is coming 17,000 miles.

It is something to think about.

VASSILEVA: And reason to be concerned if many scientists are right about the one that snuffed out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Such collisions are extremely rare. But our planet still bears the scars.

DON YEOMANS, NASA ASTEROID SCIENTISTS: An object the size of DA14 actually impacted the Earth on June 30, 1908, the so-called Tunguska Event. An object about 30 or 40 meters came down into the Earth's atmosphere and exploded, leveling trees for 820 square miles.

VASSILEVA: Space agencies keep a running log of large mountain sized asteroids. But it's the smaller ones, like the one this Friday, that are problematic. Astronomers say there are thousands of them they have yet to locate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We only have found a very small fraction of those objects yet. And they could still cause considerable damage.

VASSILEVA: There's zero chance that Friday's asteroid will hit the Earth, but it will be closer than an orbiting satellite, close enough for people in Asia and Eastern Europe to see it, not with the naked eye, but as a tiny moving speck through a telescope.

Ralitsa Vassileva, CNN, Atlanta.


LU STOUT: And we will have more from a NASA scientists later in the show. Do stay with us for a live interview from the Goddard Space Flight Center. You don't want to miss that.

Now you're watching News Stream. And coming up next, Oscar Pistorius, he breaks down emotionally in court as he is charge with murdering his girlfriend. I'll be live in South Africa with the latest, including what he plans for his defense.

And after five days drifting at sea, passengers on the Carnival Triumph are finally back on dry land.

Also ahead, the toll of war. We have an exclusive report on a city at the center of the Syrian uprising: Homs.


LU STOUT: Now Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius will reject the murder allegations against him in the strongest terms, that is what his agent is now saying.

Now the athlete earlier today, he broke down sobbing and shaking in court as he was formally charged just a few hours ago with murdering his girlfriend.

Now 29 year old model Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead at Pistorius's home on Thursday. And South African prosecutors say that they will argue that the crime was premeditated murder.

Now the athlete's bail hearing has been postponed until Tuesday. He will remain in custody until then.

Now let's get the details of what happened at the hearing at Pretoria magistrate's court. Robyn Curnow is live outside there right now. She joins us.

And Robyn, this -- we see a very emotional Oscar Pistorius in court today, but now his agent is revealing how he plans to fight the charges.


We'll, we're outside that court now. Inside, as I was explaining earlier, that it was an incredibly emotional scene. Oscar Pistorius broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably at time, visibly shaking. He really looked very upset. And I spoke to his agent just a short time ago. There's also been a press release issued.

And Oscar Pistorius's legal team and himself have put out a statement saying that they deny these murder accusations in the strongest possible terms.

Now this is conflicting with the prosecution who have said that they will charge him with premeditated murder. They're obviously feeling confident enough that they have enough evidence to say that he actually planned this murder, or that there was some sort of premeditation.

So Oscar on one hand saying he strongly denies all of this. He's obviously going to fight, and the prosecution team coming at him also with what they believe is strong evidence.

So, you know, a lot of this information is going to come out in the days, weeks, perhaps even years ago. But for now, we still don't know what really happened in the early morning of Valentine's Day in Oscar Pistorius's house when his girlfriend was shot dead.

LU STOUT: You were inside the court room earlier today, but were cameras allowed inside?

CURNOW: No. And I think that's why we also don't have pictures of Oscar or the magistrate. There was an application brought by local media here in South Africa to have the proceedings filmed live. So the cameras were all set up, all poised actually looking towards Oscar, but the magistrate ruled that he wouldn't allow any live broadcasts of the trial or of the initial bail hearing. And he also ruled that there would be no pictures. So that's why I'm trying to describe, perhaps paint a picture, of what it was like in that court room, because essentially we don't have any visual proof of it.

And, you know, on one hand, Oscar's people argued that, you know, he needed to -- they need to do this without the glare of publicity. On the other hand, you know, local broadcasters saying this is in the public interest, this huge, international interest of course.

So it depends whose side you're on, but Oscar himself very much broken. And someone close to him who I spoke to recently said he was absolutely destroyed.

LU STOUT: And also, the court delayed the bail hearing, which is something that the defense was asking for. Why was that decision made?

CURNOW: Sorry, I didn't hear you there. It's quite loud her here. Do you mind repeating the question?

LU STOUT: Of course. The court decided to delay the bail hearing. Why?


It was actually a mutual decision between the defense and the prosecution. The defense wanted to prepare more, I think, to give a sense of how they're going to deal with things. The prosecution seemed OK with it, essentially. So it was in agreement that we'll all be back here on Tuesday morning at the magistrate's court for that bail hearing to continue. And that's when we'll probably get more information as the legal process sort of really starts winding up.

But now, Oscar is going to spend the weekend in a local prison. And, you know, in terms of actual information of what happened it's still drip, drip, drip, leaks and speculation and rumors, you know, which many of us are reluctant to report on.

LU STOUT: All right. Robyn Curnow joining us live outside the courtroom there in Pretoria. Thank you.

Now this case, it has created shockwaves in South Africa and around the world. It is a dramatic fall from grace for the athlete who was celebrated for being the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics last summer. Errol Barnett has more.


ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oscar Pistorius covers himself with a coat as he makes his way to the Pretoria Magistrate's Court in South Africa where he faces the charge of murder. This comes after he spent Valentine's Day being questioned by police, subjected to standard blood tests, and after a night spent in jail.

It's an incredible fall from grace for a man dubbed The Blade Runner for his distinct prosthetic limbs. Born with a disability that left him without legs below the knees, Oscar Pistorius would overcome incredible odds to become the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympics. He was a standout star of the London games last year. Nike signed him to endorse their products as did Oakley and British Telcom. The world seeing this 26 year old as a stellar example of perseverance. But now all of that is in question.

In the early morning hours on Valentine's Day, police responded to calls from Pistorius's neighbors that multiple shots were fired in his mansion. His new girlfriend, cover model and aspiring reality TV star Reeva Steenkamp, was found dead at the scene sustaining multiple gunshot wounds. South Africa media report she was shot four times through a bathroom door. Pistorius is the prime suspect.

The Blade Runners' billboards are being removed around Johannesburg. The murder charges so severe the state is opposing bail as investigators as well as an entire nation wonder who this man really is.


LU STOUT: Now the case against Oscar Pistorius, it has put his multiple sponsorship deals in jeopardy. Now Nike has not yet withdrawn its support for the athlete, but it has pulled this, it's an advertisement featuring Pistorius saying the slogan, quote, "I am the bullet in the chamber."

It is the latest in a series of publicity disasters for Nike involving athletes who are so much a part of its reputation.

Now Zain Asher has more.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN MONEY: Nike, sponsor behind some of the biggest names in sports now dealing with a publicity nightmare with yet another disgraced star.

OSCAR PISTORIUS, THE BLADE RUNNER: They told me that I'd never walk.

ASHER: The company's $2 million deal with Oscar Pistorius, the South African runner and amputee now hangs in the balance. This after reports Pistorius allegedly shot his girlfriend dead at his home.

JIM HAGGERTY, CRISIS MANAGEMENT EXPERT: At the beginning of any crisis, you have to say something. Very often we call it dressing up no comment as a comment.

ASHER: The sports giant now doing just that, saying Nike extends its deepest sympathy and condolences, but as it is a police matter Nike will not comment further at this time.

But Nike's PR migraine doesn't end there. The company now dealing with the unfortunate irony of a 2011 ad with Pistorius saying, quote, I am the bullet in the chamber.

PISTORIUS: This is my weapon.

ASHER: Scandals are nothing new for Nike. Just a month ago, Lance Armstrong also endorsed by the company, admitted to doping. When Nike ended their relationship, it accused the cyclist of misleading them for more than a decade.

And then there's Tiger Woods. Accused of a different type of cheating, extramarital affairs back in 2009 with at least nine different women.

HAGGARTY: I think in the past, Nike has been very slow to respond to a Tiger Woods situation or other situations. And that really makes the public question what their true motives are.

ASHER: But not all scandals mean an endorsement breakup. Nike washed their hands of Armstrong, but chose to keep Woods, recently offering him a generous $100 million deal over five years. And Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick, convicted of animal cruelty in 2007, also got a second chance when Nike resigned his deal in 2011.

But for Pistorius things might be different.

HAGGARTY: It's certainly more serious, because it involves a homicide. They should at the very least suspend their relationship, I think, until an absolute determination of whether he's guilty is determined.

ASHER: Zain Asher, CNN, New York.


LU STOUT: All passengers have disembarked from the Carnival cruise ship the Triumph. But more trouble lies ahead for the company that runs the cruise liner. All the details after the break.


LU STOUT: And that's Victoria Harbor here in Hong Kong. You are back watching News Stream.

Now passengers on the crippled U.S. cruise liner Carnival Triumph have finally returned to shore. Now the company says all the guests have now disembarked. Now earlier, the ship made its way to Mobile, Alabama guided by three tugboats and the U.S. Coast Guard. An engine fire shut down the ships propulsion system on Sunday, leaving it drifting in the Gulf of Mexico. And anxious families waited as the ship was slowly towed to port. Now cheering passengers waved and held up signs over the balconies relieved that the ordeal would soon be over.

And passengers say sewage had flooded hallways and people had to line up for hours to get food.

Now Erin Burnett spoke to some passengers about their experience.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are glad to be on dry land. Our -- it's just been a horrible experience for us. It was a great cruise to start off with, but it just -- you know, the morning of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saturday morning at 5:30 there was a fire alarm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we've been kept in the dark a lot. We haven't been told everything that we probably should have known and it was just -- you know, the...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's because you just...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things just kept getting worse and worse and we could never get a straight answer, bathroom facilities were horrible, couldn't flush toilets. No electricity. Our rooms were total darkness. No air, and we had -- we had -- it was,,,

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Horrible, horrible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A really taxing experience for us. Honestly, I don't think this ship should have ever sailed out. I think there were issues with it, and I think it should have probably stayed in dock.


LU STOUT: All right, the passengers are relieved to be back on land. So what now for Carnival Cruise Line? Now the company says it will give passengers a full refund for the cruise and most expenses on board. It also is paying for the passengers' flight back home. And it's offering an additional $500 to each passenger. Now the company is also giving the passengers a discount on their next Carnival cruise.

But the ordeal, it could cost Carnival a whole lot more. It will be awhile until the Triumph will set sail again as Carnival has canceled more than a dozen journeys from February to April.

And the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board, they have also launched an investigation into Sunday's engine fire.

Now this is not the first time the company has experienced this. Now these similar scenes, they're from 2010 when an engine fire caused the Carnival Splendor to lose power leaving it drifting off the Pacific coast of Mexico until it was towed to San Diego.

Now there's more to come right here on News Stream. Up next, we will have an exclusive report on war damage in the Syrian city of Homs and why it seems only part of the city has suffered.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.


LU STOUT: And we will learn why the U.S. Senate is deadlocked over who should be the country's next Secretary of Defense.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

A Russian officials says more than 900 people have sought medical help after this meteor exploded in midair in the south of the country. Now it caused a shockwave that damaged hundreds of buildings. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass as windows shattered.

Now the Olympian Oscar Pistorius wears a black hood as he is taken to court today in South Africa. And prosecutors say that they will argue that he committed premeditated murder in his girlfriend's death. But the agent of Oscar Pistorius says that the athlete will dispute that in, quote, "the strongest terms." The man nicknamed The Blade Runner broke down in tears in court just a short times ago. And he shook uncontrollably as he was charged.

Now all passengers on board the crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship are back on dry land. The stricken vessel with more than 3,000 holiday makers on board, it was towed into port in Alabama late on Thursday. It had been dead in the water since Sunday when an engine fire knocked out the power and the ship's sanitary systems.

Now authorities in California have confirmed that the former police officer Christopher Dorner is dead. He was accused of killing four people and was the target of a nine day manhunt. (inaudible) scrambling to identify his charred remains since Tuesday's shootout and fire at this cabin east of Los Angeles.

Now while Syrian rebels say that they are making gains, a high ranking Syrian official tells CNN that the government is winning the war. Now, one thing is certain, almost two years of civil war is taking a brutal toll.

Now Fred Pleitgen has this exclusive look at the destruction in the ravaged city of Homs.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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.

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.

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 conflict, including artillery shelling and air raids by government forces, fierce urban combat that caused 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 predominately 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, but government estimates that about 7,000 are holed 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.


LU STOUT: CNN's Fred Pleitgen has just finished another dangerous assignment reporting from Syria and he's back in CNN's bureau in Beirut in neighboring Lebanon. He joins us now live.

And Fred, I mean, that was a powerful package just then, you witnessed firsthand just the cost of the conflict there in Homs. And you report that the fierce fighting continues there. So why is it that it's almost two years into this conflict, why is it that the Syrian army still can't get the upperhand.

PLEITGEN: Well, they aren't able to get the upper hand, you're absolutely right, but they're also not losing ground at this point in time. It's certainly one of the things that we witnessed when we were in Homs and also in other places is that the Syrian military is just stretched very thin with all the things that it's combating all over the country. And if you look at the various battlefields that they have as you have the north where right now it appears as though the opposition is very much on the offensive.

On the other hand, they're also trying to suppress a lot of the things that the opposition are doing. A lot of the fighters there in Damascus, in the capital, which is also really binding down a lot of the Syrian military. And then they have places like Homs where they were able to push back the rebels, but the rebels still control some of those territories and there is still fighting going on.

So by and large, this is a military that's stretched very thin. But one of the things that we witnessed, Kristie, is that they don't seem to be on the verge of breaking as some might have suggested. It still is one. And had a lot of firepower. The morale doesn't seem to be very low. So they are very much capable of continuing this fight, it appears, for quite some time, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Now fighting goes on. What's the prospect now for some sort of negotiated settlement? What are the prospects for talks between the opposition and the government?

PLEITGEN: Well, that's a very, very difficult one.

Both sides say that they want to talk, that they want to end all of this peacefully, but the one thing that they can't agree on is where these talks are supposed to take place and how they're supposed to take place.

One of the things that the opposition says -- there's parts of the opposition that doesn't want to talk to the government until Bashar al- Assad steps down. There's other parts of the opposition that says, yes, we would be willing to go into talks, but first the Syrian government has to release 160,000 detainees and the talks have to take place in northern Syria which is controlled by the opposition.

The government for its part says it wants talks to happen in Damascus.

Now we know there's this meeting coming up that's in Moscow where both the head of the opposition is meeting the Russian government and the Syrian foreign minister will also be in town. It doesn't appear as though the two sides are meeting face to face. However, at least they are talking to the same people and trying to get things on track, but they are still very, very far apart. And both sides seem to believe that on the battlefield they have at least somewhat the upper hand and that's why both remain very, very hardline as to the terms under which they'd be willing to negotiate for some sort of ceasefire at least, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Understood. Well, Fred Pleitgen reporting there. Thank you so much for staying fixed on the story for us.

Now you are watching News Stream. And right here next to me, this is a visual rundown of all the stories we're covering this hour. And if you can check out the column closest to me, we've told you about that incredible meteor shower in Russia. We've given you the update on the return of the Carnival cruise ship. And now, to man who is causing a lot of talk on Capitol Hill.

Now the U.S. Senate is having trouble moving forward on the confirmation of a new Defense Secretary. Now President Barack Obama has nominated a former senator, Chuck Hagel, a member of the opposition Republican Party. But fellow Republicans are blocking a vote on Hagel with a parliamentary procedure known as a filibuster.

Dana Bash takes us inside the process.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 58, the nays are 40.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a moment for the history books.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.

BASH: Chuck Hagel fell short of the 50 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster of his nomination to be Defense Secretary. Only four Republicans supported their former Senate GOP colleague.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The filibuster of Senator Hagel's confirmation is unprecedented. I repeat, not a single nominee for Secretary of Defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered, never, ever.

BASH: Republicans argued they need more time, saying Hagel is too controversial to be confirmed only days after getting through committee on a party-line vote.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has a right to appoint people in whom he has confidence, but we have a constitutional responsibility to consider the nominee. A number of the Republican senators have questions.

BASH: But Democrats see it another way, that Republicans are dragging their feet on Hagel in order to look for more information to bring him down.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Let's not hide behind a filibuster. Let's have the courage. Vote yes or vote no. Don't hide behind parliamentary tricks. BASH: The White House knew from day one Hagel's confirmation would not be easy. Controversial statements on Israel, Jews and gays as well as his positions on Iran and Iraq put him in the crosshairs of senators on both sides of the aisle, but mostly fellow Republicans.

And a widely panned performance at his confirmation hearing, even by Democrats, didn't help.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I misspoke and said I supported the president's position on containment.

BASH: But only in the last 48 hours did it become clear that Hagel did not have the votes to overcome a filibuster this week.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Senators have the right to have those questions answered.

BASH: Mostly because a handful of GOP senators who had said they would not block Hagel, including John McCain, reversed themselves deciding to go along with the majority of Republicans, demanding next week's Senate recess to study the nomination and ask more questions.

MCCAIN: I think during the break it's sufficient time to get any additional questions answered. And I will vote in favor of cloture on the day we get back. And I believe my colleagues would also -- enough of my colleagues would do the same.

BASH: Another vote to try to stop the Hagel filibuster is already on the schedule a little less than two weeks from the Senate returns from a break. A number of Republican Senators who voted no, now say they'll vote yes then. If they stick to that, Hagel should be confirmed as the next defense secretary after a very tough time here from his former colleagues in the Senate.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


LU STOUT: You are watching News Stream. And up next the sporting world reacts to the news that famed Paralympian Oscar Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

And from the CNN Freedom Project this week a story about ordinary people with a very unusual weapon in the war against modern day slavery. Now they collect donated bras in the U.S. for sex trafficking survivors to sell in the used clothing markets of Mozambique. Now bras are a luxury item there giving these women a sustainable income that reduces their risk of being trafficked again.

Now in this clip from "Mozambique or Bust," we meet Kimba Langas, the American woman behind it all.


KIMBA LANGAS, FREE THE GIRLS: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You guys are awesome. And I love you. And we're going to have fun today. Let's get packing. Let's get cracking. Thank you.

MIRA SORVINO, ACTRESS: These are Kimba's volunteers.

LANGAS: If there's tags on the bras, go ahead and leave them on, because the new bras get higher dollar when they sell them.

SORVINO: They've been by her side from the start, counting and sorting and packing bras donated by thousands of women all over the United States. Collecting the bras has been easy. The problem is getting them to Africa.

Kimba says it would cost close to $7,000 to ship all of them, money she just doesn't have.

Then, a story about free the girls appeared on CNN.

LANGAS: It went viral and it was all over the place. And it was just incredible.

DAVE TERPSTRA, FREE THE GIRLS: We just had no idea that when CNN got ahold of the story that there was going to be such an overwhelming response.


LU STOUT: It's a great story all around. The documentary's narrated by the Academy Award winning actress Mira Sorvino. She's also the UNODC good will ambassador to fight human trafficking. It's called "Mozambique or Bust." It debuts on Friday 4:30 in London, that's Saturday 30 minutes past midnight in Hong Kong.

Now up next here on News Stream, Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee track star accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend made his first appearance in court today. And Amanda Davies joins us now with more. And Amanda, we heard that incredible account earlier from Robyn Curnow about just how emotional he was in the court room.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, it's really been an incredible two days of this story, very much a sports story that's been dominating the front and back pages of the newspapers here. And Oscar Pistorius's agent has said the Olympian will dispute, quote, "in the strongest terms" the murder charge that he now faces.

The South African Blade Runner was escorted into court in Pretoria on Friday morning and wept as he was charged with killing his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutors say they'll pursue a premeditated murder charge. His bail hearing has been postponed until next week.

And in that statement issued by his representatives, it says firstly and most importantly all our thoughts today must be with the family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius has appeared in court here in Pretoria this morning formally charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms.

More of course on that throughout the day here on CNN.

We'll move on to some football news, though. And after all the prematch worries, the Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers described Thursday night's Europa League tie in Russia as a wonderful atmosphere. Zenit Saint Petersburg fans went as far as unveiling banners with the likes of "Stop War, Be Football" written on them.

The result wasn't what Rodgers were looking for, though. His side were beaten 2-0 by the Russian champions in their last 32 first leg encounter. Two goals in three minutes midway through the second half turned the tide in Zenit's favor. Hulk and Sergei Semak on the score sheet leaving Liverpool to admit regret a string of missed chances.


BRENDAN RODGERS, LIVERPOOL MANAGER: I'd read and heard a lot about Zenit Saint Petersburg, the club, the supporters and the city before we arrived here as a football club. I can only thank the people of Zenit for their hospitality for the football club and how we've been received here. As I said, it's been fantastic. There was no problems tonight at the game. It was a wonderful game. Terrific atmosphere. And on behalf of the manager and Liverpool Football Club we want to thank the people of Zenit and Russia.


DAVIES: In fact, it was a good night all around for the Russian clubs in the Europa League with victories for Rubin and (inaudible).

Gareth Bale scored a 90th minute winner for Spurs against Lyon. And Chelsea were victorious at Sparta Prague as well.

Another day in the NBA, though, and another defeat for the Thunder against Miami Heat, their sixth in a row since last season's NBA finals. LeBron James became the first NBA player to score at least 30 points in seven straight games heading into the all star break. The Heat never trailed. And here in the third quarter with Miami up 20, LeBron picks up one of Kevin Durant's five turnovers and took it all the way.

The Heat led by as many as 23 at one point, but Durant almost singlehandedly rallied Thunder in the fourth quarter. Despite a terrible first half shooting, he found his range in the second to pick up 40 points.

LeBron, though, just kept on going. Here hitting one of his three four pointers as the shock clock expired. And with Miami up 10 with about a minute-and-a-half to play he throws down the alley-oop with two hands off the inbounds. In fact, he only shot 58 percent in this one. So the Heat went through 110-100.

That's it from me for now. We've got a full round up in World Sport in a couple of hours time. And also be looking ahead to the all star game this weekend.

LU STOUT: All right. Good stuff. Amanda Davies there, thank you.

Now up next, looking past the skies. I'll be speaking to a NASA scientist about that meteor shower that's injured hundreds of people in Russia. And an asteroid's upcoming close encounter with Earth right after the break.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now we are going to bring you war on our two remarkable space stories in just a moment, but as if close encounters with meteors and asteroids aren't worrisome enough, Canada's parliament has been addressing an even more dramatic issue: a zombie apocalypse. Yep, you heard me.

Jeanne Moos has more.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is there a zombie in the house, the House of Commons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't need to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that zombies don't recognize borders.

MOOS: This isn't the latest episode of The Walking Dead, though you could argue some politicians fit that description. This is actually Canada's parliament.

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: I want to ask the minister of foreign affairs, is he working with his American counterparts to develop an international zombie strategy so that a zombie invasion does not turn into a zombie apocalypse.

MOOS: It's clear these guys aren't brain dead, because they know how to joke.

The minister of foreign affair reciprocated with a pun that was dead on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure this member and all Canadians that I am dedicated to ensuring that this never happens.

MOOS: The zombie issue came up because Quebec was supposed to hold a mock zombie disaster training exercise. And while that might sound bizarre, zombie drills are not that unusual. This one took place in Ohio.

The idea is to have emergency planners think outside the box as opposed to dealing with crises they've dealt with in the past.

Even officials at the Centers for Disease Control have used zombies to grab the public's attention.

Zombies have no respect for romance.

There were false zombie alerts this week at a handful of TV stations in places like Michigan and Montana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bonds of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living.

MOOS: Hackers managed to temporarily take control of the station's emergency broadcast systems just as they used to do with far simpler traffic signs.

The zombie debate in Canada's house sure had members laughing.

But wait zombie apocalypse training has been canceled. The new scenario will simulate flooding. Flooding?

Yep, all the joshing about zombies had Quebec's government worried the training exercise would lose its serious focus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under the leadership of this prime minister, Canada will never become a safe haven for zombies ever.

MOOS: Anyway, Canada has nothing to fear as one guy posted on Gawker, zombies are allergic to maple syrup.

Jeanne Moos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To a zombie apocalypse.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Canada will never become a safe haven for zombies ever.

MOOS: New York.


LU STOUT: Three words: always be prepared.

Now it's been said that owning a home is the American dream. But for many veterans who are struggling with civilan life, owning a house is financially impossible. In this CNN Heroes segment we meet a man who despite losing two limbs in combat is helping fellow veterans get homes of their own.


DALE BEATTY, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I'm a combat-wounded Iraq veteran. As I was recovering at Walter Reed my community approached me and said they wanted to help build a home for my return. People would come and work on my project just because they respected the sacrifice that I had gone through. All veterans had been taught to be responsible for the guy to your left and the guy to your right. Other veterans haven't had it as easy as I have. So I sat down with my battle buddy John and we decided to level the playing field.

I'm Dale Beatty, and it's now much mission to help other veterans with the support and the homes they deserve in their communities.

There's thousands of veterans right here in our midst. People don't realize the need that's out there.

Purple Heart Homes can help any service connected disabled veteran regardless of their age or war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the young man, why we're all here today.

BEATTY: It's just getting the community engaged, to get a ramp built, or a foreclosed home remodeled, or an entire house built from the ground up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With my narrow doorways that I couldn't get through. I had to crawl in on my hands and knees to have them build a whole new bathroom was unbelievable.

BEATTY: We want to make their life easier, safer, just better. And their emotions are being rehabbed as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did three tours in Vietnam. For 35 years, no one cared. Purple Heart Homes said welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great to be home after 40 years.

BEATTY: Regardless of when you served, we're all the same. You just need to know that somebody does care about them.


LU STOUT: And finally from an old school action to new age romance, there is plenty in movie theaters this weekend. Chris Mozingo rounds up what's on in this week's movie minute.


CHRIS MOZINGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bomb blasts, spells are cast and love at last in movie theaters this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Moscow.

MOZINGO: Bruce Willis stars in A Good Day To Die Hard, putting a Russian twist on the action franchise. It's going global in a big way, playing in Germany, Japan, the UK, and close to 50 countries worldwide.

BRUCE WILLIS, ACTOR: Do you think I understand a word your saying?

MOZINGO: And for something completely different...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to go canoing with me?


MOZINGO: In Safe Haven, a lonely widower is looking for love with a mysterious woman. Romance fans can catch this film in Australia, Hong Kong, and a handful of other countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Loving this boy puts you in terrible danger.

MOZINGO: And in Beautiful Creatures, a pair of star crossed teens are caught up in a battle between a family of witches. The fantasy flick opens in nearly 20 international markets, including North American, Poland, and Singapore.

I'm Chris Mozingo, and that's your new movie minute.


LU STOUT: All right, you probably guessed by now that we couldn't reach NASA as promised on News Stream, unfortunately. For more information about the meteors rocking Russia and that planned flyby by that asteroid. But we are going to keep across the stories right here on CNN and bring you the very latest as we get it.

World Business Today is next.