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Children Terrified By Meteor; Pistorius Murder Case Details Emerge; Lakers Owner Dies; Letters Written by John Lennon's Killer, On Sale; Danica Patrick Wins Pole; Donkey Meat Found in Products Labeled "Beef"; Prisoner X Identified

Aired February 18, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Today I am joined by my new co-anchor, Michael Holmes, in the house.

Good to see you.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: What a pleasure to be here.

MALVEAUX: CNN International. You're an Aussie. You're a suffer dude as well.

HOLMES: The mission, to teach you an Australian accent before the year is out.

MALVEAUX: I'm going to good day.

HOLMES: Good day, mate.

MALVEAUX: Good day. Is that what you say, good day, mate?

HOLMES: Yes, good day. Hey, ya (ph).

MALVEAUX: Maybe we'll start the show that way every day.

HOLMES: That would be fun.

MALVEAUX: We'll get started.

This hour we'll take you around the world in 60 minutes.

Beginning with South Africa. Police investigating the death of Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend tell us that she was shot four times through a bathroom door. Local media report that police are examining a blood- stained cricket bat found at the Olympic track star's home. More details of the investigation just minutes away.

HOLMES: Let's go to Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez finally back home in Caracas after a two month absence. The socialist leader flying back home in the middle of the night and, guess what, announcing his arrival via, what else, Twitter. He tweeted this. "We come back to the country of Venezuela. Thank God! Thank you dear people! Here we continue the treatment." Chavez had been recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba.

MALVEAUX: And, Venezuelan officials released this picture of Chavez with his daughters while he was in Cuba last week. Critics have accused him of putting his country in limbo with no leader for two months now.

And the country music community is grieving today. Police say singer Mindy McCready committed suicide Sunday at her home in Arkansas. She was just 37 years old. McCready rose to fame back in the '90s. More recently, she struggled with addiction and mental illness. McCready had been in a custody battle over her six-year-old boy. And just last month, the father of her infant son was also found dead of an apparent suicide.

HOLMES: Well, the largest meteor to streak across the sky in 100 years has left 50 people still in hospital, hundreds of children traumatized. Now, NASA says this meteor blazed across Russia's Ural Mountains Friday morning. You'll remember our coverage of this. It sent out that deafening sonic boom before exploding and sending debris around a lake and a town. It weighed about 10,000 tons before it broke up in the atmosphere. Phil Black talked to the parents of children injured by flying glass in the town of Chelyabinsk.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This small, Siberian village is usually a quite place. One thousand people living just south of the city of Chelyabinsk. But on Friday morning, they, like everyone in the region, were shocked by what they saw. An intense light, followed by a trail of smoke across the sky.

Kindergarten worker Olga Mathous (ph) says the 20 children who were in this room ran to the windows when they saw the light. But she felt something was wrong, and moved them away. She says she was still facing the windows when the meteor's shock wave hit.

As the windows blew in, flying glass cut Olga's face and hands. She says she didn't notice because she was worried about the children. Most were safe, but terrified. But one was bleeding heavily.

Three-year-old Sasha (ph) suffered deep cuts to her head and face. Her mother, Marina Ivanova, ran to the kindergarten after she heard the blast. "I was shaking," she says. "I grabbed her and started to calm her down. A lot of kids were crying, too."

Kosina Zalkina (ph) was also in the room that morning. She wasn't hurt physically by the blast, but her mother says she's traumatized. She's been too afraid to stand next to windows. And she keeps asking if the glass is going to break again.

Ukaterina Galuza (ph) says she understands what the children of this village are feeling. She says the blast was so terrifying, it rekindled her own childhood memories from the Second World War.

Most of the visible damage to the buildings and people of this region can be easily repaired, but the meteor's impact on some will take longer to heal.


HOLMES: And Phil Black joins us now live from the lake where the meteor debris hit, or at least a lot of it did.

Phil, I understand they're finding pieces of it now, but there's one big chunk that's a bit harder to get to?

BLACK: Yes, Michael, when the meteor first hit here, they sealed off this area. And government experts, scientists searched this area very thoroughly, ran tests, and they've now confirmed in that process they found 53 individual meteorite fragments that they say are very similar in makeup to the sorts of meteorites that have been found all around the world.

But the scientists who identified these strongly believe, because of what they saw in the sky that day and because of the huge hole in the ice here at the lake, they believe very strongly that there are bigger fragments now at the bottom of the lake. Some divers have already gone in to see if they can find them, but the condition are too dark, too murky. They're going to try it again when the spring and the summer thaws the ice and the snow from this region.


MALVEAUX: Yes, and, Phil, this is Suzanne. It looks like you're freezing out there. I imagine the cold is probably going to affect how they figure out where this glass is, what they're able to piece together, all those windows that were broken from that boom?

BLACK: Yes, it is bitterly cold in this part of world. So the first priority, after the meteor flew over, that boom struck, knocked out hundreds -- thousands of windows across this region. The priority was patching them up as quickly as possible. So when you walk around here, drive around here, you see many, many windows -- what were windows, now covered with glass -- sorry, with fabric, plastic, timber, whatever people could possibly use. And now glassers (ph) are moving through and steadily repairing them properly, installing glass at a rate of a few hundred homes a day. So it's happening relatively quickly. And within a few weeks, that work should hopefully be done.

Suzanne, Michael.

MALVEAUX: All right, Phil, try to stay warm there. I know it's really, really cold where you are.


MALVEAUX: Now to South Africa, where guards are using rubber bullets to break up a confrontation between rival union groups. This is at a platinum mine. The company says that nine employees, they were shot with those bullets. Three security officers also sustained injuries. This incident happened at the same mine where the violent protest happened last fall. And still in South Africa, Johannesburg, local media now reporting that police are examining a blood-stained cricket bat found at the home of Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius. He is facing, as you know, murder charges in the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. A bizarre twist here, a new reality show featuring her premiered, as scheduled, over the weekend. Our Robyn Curnow, she has more on the police investigation, as well as the follow-up.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days after being shot and killed at the home of her boyfriend, Olympian Oscar Pistorius, Reeva Steenkamp appeared on South African television.

REEVA STEENKAMP: You fall in love with being in love with love.

CURNOW: This is how her beach adventure reality show began on Saturday. But while Reeva's television debut aired, her boyfriend, the double amputee and Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius spent the weekend in this jail. Prosecutors plan to charge Pistorius with her murder. A charge strongly rejected by Pistorius and his family. This is his uncle, flanked by his sister, who struggles to keep herself together as they make a brief statement to the media.

ANTHONY PISTORIUS, OSCAR PISTORIUS' UNCLE: As you can imagine, our entire family is devastated. We are in a state of total shock. They had plans together and Oscar was happy in his private life than it seemed in a long time.

CURNOW: Investigators, who have been combing through his house in this high-security complex, are starting to piece together what they think happened early on Valentine's Day. CNN has been told, and local media is reporting, that police believe Pistorius shot Steenkamp four times through a closed bathroom door, and then carried her downstairs where she died. Neighbors have told police that they heard shouting before the shooting, but there's still no solid explanation as to why he might have shot her.

Pistorius appears is court again on Tuesday for his bail hearing. He hasn't entered a plea yet.

While Pistorius is in court, Reeva's family say there will be at a memorial service for her on Tuesday. But, still, South Africans will be able to watch her beach adventures on the reality show which airs for another nine weeks. Producers released this final message from her, meant to be to the cast, but which now becomes her last words, her last good-bye.

STEENKAMP: I take home with me so many amazing memories and things that are in here and are in here that I'll treasure forever. I'm going to miss you all so much. I love you very, very much.


MALVEAUX: Wow. Robyn joins us from Johannesburg. And, Robyn, first of all, I've got to ask you, that must be pretty painful for the family and even the friends of those who knew her to watch that video. I mean is that going to be played weeks on end?

CURNOW: Absolutely, tell me about it. I mean, for the next nine weeks she's going to be on South African television every weekend. Now, the producers of that show said, you know, hey, this is the perfect way to respect her, to show what kind of a beautiful person she was. On the other hand, others will just say, this is in very poor taste.

MALVEAUX: And, Robyn, you also had a very unique perspective, because you had a chance to interview Oscar Pistorius a couple years ago and you've learned about things in his life, a time when he was really struggling. What was he dealing with?

CURNOW: I got to know Oscar quite well over the years. Interviewed him a number of times. And, you know, he was a very complicated human being, as you would be. You just remember, he had no legs and he really pushed himself to compete and to be part of an able-bodied world. So -- and so did his parents. He was very much treated as a normal kid.

Now, one story he told me, which I think is quite telling, particularly now with what's happened, and when people are talking about him having a gun next to him -- his bed. Him worrying about intruders and being slightly paranoid, perhaps. Oscar told me once that when he was at boarding school, the children, the kids, would often play jokes on him. They would set off the fire alarm in the dormitory where all the boys slept and then they would steal his prosthetics, which he'd have to take off to go to sleep at night. So when they were forced to evacuate with the fire alarm going off, Oscar would not be able to find his prosthetics and he'd probably have to crawl through the dormitory to evacuate.

Now, that gives you some sense of the vulnerability he felt. Even though he -- you know, he'd fought to be -- to belong in a way, the fact was is that he was vulnerable and severely disabled. And I think that makes someone who's very complicated. And I think, in terms of the defense, I'm sure, no doubt, they'll be playing with those kind of stories.

MALVEAUX: All right, Robyn, thank you very much.

HOLMES: All right, now the man credited with making basketball entertaining for the masses has passed away. L.A. Lakers owner Jerry Buss. He was 80 years old. The Lakers, of course, won NBA titles 10 times under his tenure. And he showcased some of the biggest names basketball has ever seen. We're talking about people like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and others. He had been suffering from cancer.

Joining us now from Los Angeles, Paul Vercammen.

How much of a surprise is this, Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not a tremendous surprise because Jerry Buss had been in failing health, Michael, and everybody had worried that perhaps he might pass soon. And confirmed by Cedar Sinai Hospital that Jerry Buss passed away this morning at 5:55 a.m. He had an unspecified form of cancer.

What now everyone's turning to in Los Angeles is just how much they adored Jerry Buss. Why? Because he was a winner. You mentioned those 10 championships. By far and away the most championships in his era of any major professional sport in America.

And he's also the man, the architect, if you will, and he talked about this candidly, of show time. He wants the Lakers to be flashy, he wanted them to be tinsel town, he wanted them to be Hollywood. And when he came in, they drafted Magic Johnson. Soon thereafter, Magic Johnson would lead the Lakers to five NBA championships. And all the glitz and the glamour and the celebrities were on the sidelines.

And you could always see the smiling picture of Jerry Buss over there. He was a little bit of a playboy as well. He dated a lot of beautiful women. There in the stands, he was there with his family as well. His daughter Jeannie and a son Jim are now running the team.

But Buss is considered the mastermind of all of this. And many people also credit him for jump-starting the NBA. It had some teams at that time that were bankrupt. And after Jerry Buss had stepped in and infused the league with, you know, all of this hoopla and all these great players, the NBA seemed to take off, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. And, Paul, thanks so much. Of course "Forbes" saying that the L.A. Lakers are worth $1 billion. Second on to the Knicks. So, yes, quite a legacy. Thanks so much, Paul. Paul Vercammen there.

MALVEAUX: Here's more of what we're working on for NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

We are talking donkey meat, Michael.


MALVEAUX: I don't know, is that tasty or not tasty?

HOLMES: We were talking --

MALVEAUX: I'm not really sure.

HOLMES: It tastes like chicken. No, it -- we've been talking about horse meat. Now we're talking donkey meat. That's what's been turning up reportedly in some frozen food in Europe. The beef scandal gets even uglier.

Also, bourbon drinkers, well, you can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief. Maker's Mark won't be watered down to keep up with skyrocketing global demand. Who would have suggested such a thing? Well, they did. We're going to take a look at why this southern elixir is suddenly taking the world by storm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: It's kind of bizarre here. Letters written by the man who killed John Lennon are now on sale.

Michael, it's a little weird because we read about this.


MALVEAUX: And this is to the New York cop that arrested him. They spent a couple hours together, and he says he wrote to him because he felt close to him. And he said you're one of the best damn cops there is. I felt really, really close to you.

So, he starts to write him. He's trying to strike up a friendship with him.

HOLMES: You get torn a little bit. I mean, it's an insight into the mind of the guy. But, also, I don't know, something tacky about everything just seems to come up for sale these days.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, they're selling the letter. They say part of it goes to charity, but still, it feels a little weird, yeah?

HOLMES: It does. Now, apparently, you can buy them for $75,000.

Mark David Chapman wrote these letters, as Suzanne was saying, to the officer that arrested him.

Now, in the first one, he asks the officer to help him find his copy of the book, "Catcher in the Rye," which, of course, he was carrying on the night of his arrest. It was taken from him after the arrest.

Then Chapman tells the officer to read the book if he wants to understand his motive for killing Lennon.

Those letters run from January to May '83, 1983, each one is typed and does include Chapman's signature. A little bizarre.

MALVEAUX: Would you buy it? Would you buy a letter?

HOLMES: I would not.

MALVEAUX: I wouldn't be buying letters of killer, no thank you. That's all right.

In Florida, Danica Patrick has become the first woman to win the pole position in the Daytona 500. So what does it mean?

It means she's gong to be in the best position on next weekend's race on the inside of the front row.

The Daytona 500, of course, is like the Super Bowl of NASCAR racing, kicks off the season.

Patrick's pole winning time was more than 196-miles-per-hour. That is pretty fast. She says she hopes her performance is going to inspire other women. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANICA PATRICK, NASCAR RACER: One of the coolest things is to be able to think that parents and their kids are having that conversation at home about it.

And to -- you know, I've heard stories about a little -- a kid, a little boy or girl, saying, but, mommy, daddy, that's a girl out there racing.

And then they can have that conversation to say you can do anything you want to do. And gender doesn't matter. Your passion is what matters.

And that's cool.


HOLMES: Yes, I don't know if it's true, but I read that Jeff Gordon who is number 2 on the pole, said, "At least I can say I was the fastest guy"

MALVEAUX: He gets to be the fastest guy. He still gets his cred, his street cred, a little machismo, if he needs that, right?

HOLMES: It's great for NASCAR. I still can't get used to that sport, I'm afraid.

MALVEAUX: But I love it. I love the fact that you've got a woman who's in the hot seat. She's fast. She's showing how it's done.

HOLMES: I'm an F1 man, myself, rather than car driving fast, turning left. I'm just saying. Very popular.

MALVEAUX: All right, do you know what we're talking about here, the scandal out of Europe?

HOLMES: Oh, yes. Yes.

MALVEAUX: Have you ever had horse meat, honestly?

HOLMES: I have not had horse meat. I've had many strange foods. but not horse meat.

But in Europe, you can order it at a restaurant.

MALVEAUX: I kind. I mean, I guess it's kind of common in some places, but, you know, the idea here is that was sold as beef in restaurants and these supermarket chains.

So, you know, I mean, it's false advertising. You know, you think you're getting beef. You're getting horse meat. However you feel about it, that's what's happening.

HOLMES: And here's the twist and we touched on this before the break. There are now reports that the probe into the meat producers and distributors and all the rest have found that donkey meat may also have made its way into the food supply, also labeled as beef.

Nic Robertson is in London. He's been following this story from the start.

Now, Nic, the government's been looking into this now, the agency doing the probe.

What more are we hearing about their findings? And the pressure that's being put on those supermarkets and others?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're being told at the moment by the food standards agency here is that they haven't so far found donkey, although serious concerns have been raised by the border agency here who say they picked up donkey and horse meat by the ton being smuggled in the country in the past, so that concern is still out there.

We know that about -- as of Friday last week, a quarter of all tests were done. And of those tests about one percent of all the products tested, 29 out of 2,501 that have been tested, came back. They're showing positive for horse DNA.

The government says these are front-loaded, if you will, that it was the worst -- or the agents with most concerns that were tested first.

We just heard from the environment secretary saying that he hopes all the testing will be done by the end of the week, that the results will come in by the end of next week.

It may drag on into next week, Michael.

MALVEAUX: OK, so, Nic, are people still buying what they think is beef? Are people confident in this and is it dangerous if there was horse meat?

ROBERTSON: You know, I think that the danger issue has been somewhat laid to rest because the danger was that it was horse meat contaminated with a drug that prevents or sort of cures animals of pain, but in humans, it's very, very dangerous.

The levels you would have to eat, we were told by the government scientists, would be so high, impractical, unlikely.

But, yeah, consumer confidence here has really been marked. Three -- two-thirds of people here say they're no longer or not as sure about what's on the box as they were before.

And a quarter of people say that they're going to cut down buying processed meat.

And another one-fifth of people said they'd like to cut down on buying processed meat, they just can't afford to do it.

So, there's concern. The consumers are changing their habits based on this.

MALVEAUX: And, Nic, is there anybody here -- is the fallout here -- is there something where they could actually sue? I mean, is there a law against selling horse and donkey meat?

ROBERTSON: There totally are laws here. Three people were arrested in the U.K. last week. The police have been going in with the food standards agency to a number of different locations in the U.K.

I think we can expect to see prosecutions coming up in a number of different countries across Europe.

But the problem is here, is this so complex a web that it takes so long to sort of check through all the steps and find out precisely who is to blame, and then producing the right DNA, et cetera, evidence.

But it's going to be a very, very slow process. It could be months, even longer before the governments in Europe really get to the bottom of this, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Yeah, Nic, good to see you. Nic Robertson there in London.

The funny thing, I was talking to Nic the other day and he was saying one of the things that's extraordinary about this is people are surprised at the length of the food supply chain.

I mean, stuff that starts in Romania goes to France, goes to Amsterdam, goes all over Europe before it ends up on your dinner plate in London.

MALVEAUX: On your plate.


MALVEAUX: Another argument for being vegetarian or salad or veggie.

HOLMES: Or buy local. Yes, yes, go to the butcher.

All right, now, this is a bizarre story that's been in the Australian media for some time. A man they found hanged in an Israeli prison cell, was it suicide? Well, some are questioning that.

It's a real life spy story in the Holy Land. More twists and turns than a James Bond novel. Wait till you hear this.


MALVEAUX: The next story could be a plot from a James Bond movie. Has all the elements we're talking about, a mysterious death, a plan to kill terrorists, lots of mystery behind this and, of course, but this is a real life story, very touchy, involves an Aussie.

HOLMES: It does.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it does. HOLMES: It does, yeah. This is an Australian with dual citizenship with Israel. It's no movie either. This is very real, been all over the Australian press.

The Israelis have been trying to report, but it's been difficult because of gag orders.

Let's go to Sarah Sidner now. She's about to tell us about the identity of the man who is known as "Prisoner X." It's now being revealed, but how he died is still the big mystery.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Behind me is one of Israel's highest security prison. Ayalon prison is surrounded by controversy because of the mysterious circumstances of the death of an inmate who was allegedly housed in this prison and died here in 2010.

Now, the local Israeli media has been unable to tell the prisoner's story for the past two years because Israel activated its military censorship laws which are normally used when the military believes it could benefit an enemy of the state or harm the state of Israel.

But a recent investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed the name of the prisoner, and the report said that the prisoner was a member of Israel's spy agency, Mossad.

The ABC account said "Prisoner X" was actually Ben Zygier, who also went by several other names, Ben Alon and Ben Allen. We have not been able to independently confirm the information.

However, we were able to talk to an Australian investigative reporter who had been in contact with Zygierer over the years. Turns out, he says he was tipped off that the Australian intelligence sources who told him that Zygier was involved in a passport scam.

JASON KOUTSOUKIS, AUSTRALIAN JOURNALIST: I was contacted in October of 2009 by an Australian intelligence source.

He passed on to me the details of three Australian citizens, who were also Israeli citizens, and he suggested to me that they had been involved in a passport scam, a means to change their identities in Australia and use the new travel documents that they obtained to go and travel to countries that are sensitive for Israel.

SIDNER: Zygier allegedly killed himself inside the cell by hanging himself, but questions have surfaced as to how he managed to do that inside such a highly monitored and secured cell.

A human rights attorney who we spoke with said that he actually had a conversation with Zygier a couple days before he died. He told us that the cell was supposedly suicide-proof, and that Zygier had not been convicted, only suspected of a crime at the time.

Now, here's where the story takes another turn. A Kuwaiti newspaper has reported that Zygier was involved in the assassination in a Dubai hotel of a leader of the Hamas military wing.

But Australian journalist Jason Koutsoukis says his intelligence sources say there is no indicator that Zygier was involved in that assassination.

The assassination made news, worldwide, because surveillance cameras took video of the assassins in a hotel elevator while they were all dressed in tennis outfits.

Australian officials have made no comment as to the Dubai connection, but they are looking into the Zygier case as far as his time in prison and how he died.