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Syrian Rebels Claim to Have Taken City of Raqqa; 'Leading Women': Arianna Huffington; Dennis Rodman's Trip to North Korea; Chinese Hold National People's Congress; Kenyan Elections Examined; Chavez's Condition Worsens

Aired March 5, 2013 - 08:00:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jim Clancy at CNN Center. Hello and welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.


CLANCY (voice-over): China's old leaders facing the final curtain as the National People's Congress opens and sets new priorities.

Venezuela facing an uncertain future as Hugo Chavez's health is taking a turn for the worse.

And a second sinkhole threatening homes in the U.S. state of Florida. We take you underground for a tour inside one.



CLANCY: Priority number one: unite and fight corruption. That is the message from outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. He opened the National People's Congress by delivering his final government work report.


CLANCY (voice-over): Mr. Wen spoke for nearly two hours, touching on China's recent accomplishments as well as the challenges it still faces.

WEN JIABAO, CHINESE PREMIER (through translator): The transformation of government functions has not been fully carried out. And some areas are prone to corruption. Some of these problems have cleared up over time.

We should have a strong sense of responsibility toward our country and people, work harder and solve these issues more quickly in order to meet people's expectations and never let them down.



CLANCY: Mr. Wen will be replaced in the coming days as part of China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition. It may feel as though you've heard that phrase before, and you did.


CLANCY (voice-over): During the Communist Party Congress or CPC back in November. That's when Xi Jinping emerged as the new General Secretary of the party. The CPC also sets party policy. It is held once every five years. The NPC we're talking about today convenes every year. According to the constitution, it is the highest organ of government power.

But take note: it passes virtually every measure, resolution and law put forward by the Chinese Communist Party. It is expected to pick Xi as the nation's next president when it votes during this session.


CLANCY: All right. Let's get more now on what we can expect from the National People's Congress. David McKenzie joins us now from CNN Beijing.

David, what are the priorities?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the priorities today certainly were the economy and stability. It's the two catchwords you'll hear a lot during the next week to 12 days while this NPC (inaudible).

As you say, it is a rubber stamp for the Communist Party programs. But it's also a way for us to kind of get a sense of what the next 5-10 years are going to be like in China, at least what they want it to be like in terms of the leadership.

Outgoing Wen Jiabao did talk a lot about the economy in those nearly two hours. He talked about maintaining robust growth. He wants a 7.5 percent growth rate.

Interestingly, he also tapped into this idea that China wants to move away from manufacturing and export and move towards more innovation and consumer-driven economy. They want to build the middle class and increase urbanization.

They did admit, though, in that speech, though it is a quite rosy speech in some ways, Jim, that they have seen some problems that corruption is an issue that there have been costs to some of this progress that China has seen in the past 20 years.

And that -- some of the citizens are fed up by not being heard or catered to, certainly in the provincial setting. So a rubber stamp, yes; but interesting window into the thinking of the Communist Party, Jim.

CLANCY: All right. So they talked domestic issues. I'm wondering if any of the foreign policy issues will come up here, questions about what to do about Pyongyang and its increasing isolation from the West. It's facing sanctions. The whole islands issue, as China competes for natural resources in the region. Did those issues come up here? Or is that for closed door sessions?

MCKENZIE: No, I think they will come up. I think the (inaudible) speak about increasing defense spending, increasing spending on sort of high- level intelligence. There is a sense that China wants to bolster its defense even more.

It is still, compared to, say, its main rival on the world stage, the United States, I think less than a fifth of the spending on defense here in China. But in the last few years, you have seen a rollout of more hardware and also more aggressive push, as some see it, in the region, as you mentioned.

There's this dispute of the disputed islands between Japan and China. Some saber rattling in recent days. That's been set back a bit from that rattling during this conference. It's more about domestic issues at the moment.

We spoke to some Chinese on the street and just asked them what they thought about what the leaders were doing here and what they thought about what is important to them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I hope the new leaders can have a better understanding of the livelihood of ordinary people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The new leaders are doers. They have been proactive on many aspects. For example, cracking down on corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I wish they would reinforce policies on our salary so that we can be sure to receive our paycheck every month, no matter how much we make.


MCKENZIE: Well, 3,000 delegates at this conference, but really what ordinary people want is some money to put in their back pocket and some food to put on the table. And with that widening wealth gap in China, leaders are worried about potential social unrest unless they make sure to spread the wealth a bit evenly, more evenly, and stamp out corruption.

CLANCY: David McKenzie, reporting there live from Beijing, thanks, David.

Well, Chinese netizens, they're also weighing in on Mr. Wen's speech. Here's some comments from a microblog.


CLANCY (voice-over): One says, "It never sounds real to listen to the government work report." It goes on to say, "I can't tell. Is the country Wen describes the same one I'm living in?"

And this one from WeiWeiWeiWei, writes, "From the report, everything is a success. Can we talk about something that is not succeeding? Like pm2.5?" That's a reference to air pollution.

And the list goes on, "Housing prices? Food safety? Medical safety?"

But there were also some very positive responses. This person says, "I hope that the goals would be realized so that people's lives will be good."


CLANCY: Let's turn to Kenya now, where vote counting is underway following that country's most peaceful general election. Reports say Deputy Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta has an early lead in the tallies. But there is still a lot more vote counting to be done. Let's be honest about that.


CLANCY (voice-over): Voters cast ballots for a new president, members of parliament and civic representatives. While the vote was mostly calm, there was some unrest. Three members of a separatist group are now due to appear in court. They face murder charges in connection with a pre- election attack on Monday on a police station in Mombasa. Ten people were killed in that.

It is not clear if the attack was even related directly to Monday's vote.


CLANCY: Now Kenyatta is running for president against his own boss right now, Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Nima Elbagir joins us now from Kenya's capital, Nairobi, with the latest on the vote counting.

Nima, how is it going?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, Kenyans awoke today to some controversy. The Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the chair of his party came out this morning and alleged that they had evidence of multiple voting and ghost voters. Take a listen to this, Jim


FRANKLIN BETT, ORANGE DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT ELECTIONS BOARD CHAIRMAN: In face of multiple voting in areas that are perceived to be strongholds of our main opponents. (Inaudible) on facing that some of the staffers were arrested for issuing more than one ballot (inaudible) to one individual. (Inaudible) same in other areas like Nukuoro (ph).

This puts the exercise in jeopardy and it certainly smacks lack of credibility.


ELBAGIR: The crux of this issue, Jim, lies with the failure in some parts of the country of the electronic voter verification system, the biometric verification system. That failed. But IEBC electoral commission officials we were speaking to said that they were expecting -- they plan that there might be some issues and they had a manual backup.

They say they're very comfortable with the election; they're very comfortable with how it's gone, although they do accept that because of the very late voting, the very high turnout, that there were some issues with their server.

The -- Odinga's guys aren't accepting this. They put in a formal complaint. We're going to see where this goes, Jim.

CLANCY: It's good to hear the positive news. You know, the overall -- this election considered a great success. At the same time, that troubling incident still to be unraveled in Mombasa, violence perhaps not even related to the election, what's going on there, three men due in court.

ELBAGIR: Well, the sense is that that was a premeditated attack in the weeks running up to polling day. We were receiving reports of flyers warning of insecurity, posters up on walls, some really troubling reports.

The prime minister actually told the day before the election, he received reports from security agencies that Mombasa was one of several potential flashpoints. And they upped their presence on the ground there.

It was an incredibly audacious attack, Jim; 200 men ambushing armed police officers on patrol in, you know, a lot of the fingers at the moment are being pointed towards the Mombasa Republican Council as the session (inaudible). They come out and denied it.

The question now that's being asked of the government, well, if it isn't them, given where Mombasa is geographically given how close it is to neighboring Somalia and the overflow of weapons, the issues with the Al Qaeda-related Al-Shabaab group, if it isn't them, then who is it? Jim?

CLANCY: Troubling questions indeed, Nima Elbagir reporting for us there from Nairobi, thanks, Nima.

Strong words coming out of North Korea. It's threatening to nullify the 1953 armistice agreement that put a halt to the Korean War. That is according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Pyongyang is angry about U.S.-led efforts to impose yet more sanctions on the North. The U.N. Security Council expected to meet later Tuesday in response to the widely condemned nuclear test Pyongyang carried out last month. The U.S. and China, a key Pyongyang ally, have been hashing out the wording of a proposed resolution.

All right. Still to come, fighting for his life. We will have the latest on the health of this man, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

We've also got new video from Syria that bears a striking resemblance to Iraq a few years ago. Stay tuned for the latest.

And get this: another sinkhole opens up in Florida without warning. But stay tuned: we venture inside one.




CLANCY: Welcome back to NEWS STREAM.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's condition taking a turn for the worst. The country's information minister describing Mr. Chavez's health as "very delicate."


ERNESTO VILLEGAS, VENEZUELAN INFORMATION MINISTER: (through translator): There is a worsening of his respiratory function, which is related to his depressed immune system. He now shows a new and severe infection. He's been receiving high-impact chemotherapy along with other complementary treatments.

CLANCY (voice-over): Now this photo of Mr. Chavez and his daughters was taken last month, but he hasn't been seen in public since. Friday, the Venezuelan vice president said Mr. Chavez was fighting for his life. The government accounts of his health have largely been vague.

Let's go to Venezuela now. Shasta Darlington is in the capital of Caracas.


CLANCY: How is this latest news going down there?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim announcement is actually rattling Venezuelans. And that's because the language was a little more dire, a little more bleak than we've heard in the past. It was a very terse announcement.

And of course, many Venezuelans aren't surprised by this. They've been expecting to hear that his health has taken a turn for the worse, so that he might even be on death's door because they haven't seen him in so long, as you mentioned. It's really been almost three months since he went to Cuba to undergo cancer surgery.

But at the same time, this begins to feel like the government might be preparing the Venezuelans for the worst, for an announcement either that he's died or that he cannot assume all of his presidential responsibilities. And we went out and talked to people about the kind of tension that this doubt and uncertainty has created. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like Venezuelans, we need to know what's going on, really, with him. We know that he's the Vice President Maduro and he's on the power right now and he's handling all those things. But we need really to know what is going on with his health.


DARLINGTON: Now as that woman mentioned, in fact, Hugo Chavez has indicated who he wants to succeed him, and that's his vice president, Nicolas Maduro (ph), who's considered even more of a tough-liner than Hugo Chavez himself. But so many people just want to -- that step to be taken. They want the future of their country to be defined, Jim.

CLANCY: Well, inside Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is larger than life, no doubt about that. Regionally, what does his absence from the scene really mean for leadership in Latin America?

DARLINGTON: Well, Jim, that's a good question, because it really means so many different things for different countries. Obviously, Cuba relies heavily on Venezuela. They get so much oil at preferential prices and their economy is so dependent on the Venezuelan economy and all of the benefits that that offers other countries, according to analysts.

Brazil, for example, is actually been putting pressure on Venezuela to come clean, take those steps, decide where it's going to go because with Hugo Chavez officially president but in the hospital, it lends itself to a sense of uncertainty.

And so while some countries just would love to see Hugo Chavez recover and take over, others would prefer that they come clean and be very transparent about what's going on here, Jim.

CLANCY: Shasta Darlington with some interesting perspective there, reporting to us from Caracas, thanks.

The words used to describe Mr. Chavez's health have grown more serious over time; we've noted that. He's been battling cancer since 2011. He's twice declared himself cured. But back in December, Mr. Chavez announced the illness had returned.

It was made all the more serious when he said Vice President Maduro should be his successor if his health worsened, something he had never done before. Mr. Chavez added his life was in God's hands.

Three weeks after surgery in Cuba, Maduro said Mr. Chavez remains in delicate condition and has seen only slightly improvement in his health. Less than two weeks later, the government said his lung infection was controlled and the general medical evolution, as they said, has been favorable in recent days.

And then later that month, the technology minister said this, "He's constantly thinking, making decisions; in meetings, he's been giving out orders." But by mid-February, the communications minister admitted Chavez was temporarily having trouble speaking due to the fact he had a tracheal tube.

Mr. Chavez returned to Venezuela shortly afterward. But he remained under treatment for respiratory insufficiency. On March 1st, the government revealed that Mr. Chavez was undergoing chemotherapy again. Vice President Maduro said the president is fighting for his life. And in all of this, the type of cancer Mr. Chavez has suffered from, not being named, not being revealed.

Well, in Asia, a military offensive unfolding on the -- on a remote part of Borneo Island.


CLANCY (voice-over): Malaysian troops, backed by fighter jets, battling a Filipino group. At least 100 armed men arrived in the Malaysian state of Sabah about three weeks ago. Now they claim they're descended from a sultanate that once ruled that area.

Malaysian authorities tried to persuade them to leave, but that didn't work. Suddenly, it turned violent. There was a standoff. At least nine police officers and 19 Filipinos reported killed in ongoing clashes.


CLANCY: Well, a new game and a new look for Lara Croft. Coming up, we're going to bring you the new Tomb Raider. Don't want to miss this one.




CLANCY: Good news, Lara Croft is back, a new Tomb Raider game is out today. The action hero, of course, a legend among fantasy computer and game fans around the world. Lord only knows how many bedroom walls she adorns. Here she was back in the 1990s, renowned for her, well, how would I put this, how few clothes she had and how much figure she put under it.

Well, one of the most recognizable game characters of all time is back. Lara Croft, if you didn't notice, has had a makeover. You're looking at the new updated version. I'm not exactly sure how big a computer game fan Jim Boulden is, but he's been following this for us. Somebody had to do it. He joins us now live from London.

Jim, tell us.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, I got to play it last week before it launched worldwide today. So I did get a bit of a sneak preview. And I think it is most noticeable that Lara is younger and she does look different because this is a reboot.

This is a reset. They're restarting the entire -- the entire, you know, brand of Lara Croft with what they are calling a prequel. And I sat down with Ian Livingstone, the man who discovered Lara Croft back in 1995, to find out why they did this reboot and just to remember where Lara has come from over the years.


BOULDEN (voice-over): You might notice a few changes to Lara Croft in the latest Tomb Raider video game. Lara is younger and less buxom. After all, this is a reset, a prequel to all previous games.

IAN LIVINGSTONE: Since 1996, we've sold over 30 million Tomb Raiders.

BOULDEN (voice-over): Ian Livingstone has been with Lara since the first Tomb Raider game launched in 1996.

In past Tomb Raiders, the combat hadn't been as real as it might have been. So the decision was to make it sort of gritty realism. And she was no longer armor-plated, Teflon-coated hero. Here was a character which you played as Lara, who was -- who could sustain damage.

BOULDEN (voice-over): And despite a recent controversy where one scene was characterized as an attempted rape, Livingstone says that's not so.

LIVINGSTONE: There was no rape implication. There was a threat, which she survived by throwing off her adversary and indeed, overcame him and, you know, killed him within a matter of seconds.

BOULDEN (voice-over): Livingstone was not the creator of Lara Croft, but he did discover her one snowy night in March 1995, when he was looking at characters being developed by gamesmaker Core Design. He was looking to buy Core Design for his firm, Eidos.

LIVINGSTONE: In the very last room, I guess you say it was love at first sight. There was this amazing character on screen. It was the very first character with 3D model in a 3D world, which is a female character. Here's one with a 3D character moving into the screen. And there she was, Lara Croft. And you know, we had to have her.

BOULDEN (voice-over): Livingstone and his business partner, Steve Jackson, were known for their role playing books and games starting in the 1970s. Then they bought the European rights to the game, Dungeons and Dragons.

LIVINGSTONE: And even though we had to live in a van for three months as we tried to get other people to understand this strange role playing game, we never kind of shied away from the challenge. And we ended up opening our own shops because other people were reluctant to stock the games.

BOULDEN (voice-over): Video games naturally followed. And then, of course, Lara Croft hit Hollywood.

BOULDEN: So no doubt if you've reset the game, then another film could be coming down the pike?

LIVINGSTONE: Well, it would be great to have a film based on the reset, you know. I can imagine being an amazing film.

BOULDEN (voice-over): Livingstone stresses the next film or game has not been formally announced. But he says it would be crazy not to take the Lara of this decade into a whole new series of adventures on multiple screens.


BOULDEN: And, Jim, I made it about five minutes into the game before, unfortunately, Lara was killed. I'm not very good at these games. But I did -- I did try. But it does show that she is vulnerable, as Ian said in the piece, Jim.

CLANCY: She is vulnerable and you'll have to get better at that game. We can't have you killing off Lara Croft after only five minutes. The game industry is huge. How important is a reset like this one?

BOULDEN: Well, yes. Especially in the U.K., which is what Ian Livingstone likes to talk about now, which is that it used to be one of the largest centers for video games. And when Lara came out, it was number three in the world. It slipped to number six.

And he wants to see many changes in legislation and in teaching, for instance, because the games industry here in the U.K., for example, is bigger than the film industry, bigger than the TV industry. He says bigger than the book industry. And yet a lot of people don't seem to realize that, because it's not just the video games.

These people also would make graphics for films and with all the films now, almost all of them, of course, using these kind of graphics, it's the same people who are doing both. And so he says it's critical for this game to be successful and others to be successful, especially the social gaming on your phone, because there's so many people now playing games.

He says this industry is just going to get bigger and bigger. But they need a big hit like this so that people remember that. And they want to see tax breaks here in the U.K., for instance, Jim.

CLANCY: Of course they want to see tax breaks.

Jim Boulden there with the latest on the games, thank you for coming in and taking on that tough assignment, James.

All right.

Coming up right here on NEWS STREAM --


CLANCY (voice-over): Syrian rebels claim they have taken over a key city, tearing down a statue of the country's former long-time leader.


CLANCY (voice-over): Plus another sinkhole threatening homes in the southern U.S. just days after one crater swallowed up a man in his own bedroom.




CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy at CNN Center and you're watching NEWS STREAM. These are the headlines.


CLANCY (voice-over): The National People's Congress underway in the Chinese capital of Beijing, opening Tuesday's session. Retiring Premier Wen Jiabao, he told -- he said that China's leaders should be unwavering in fighting corruption. He also set an economic growth target of 7.5 percent.

Venezuela says President Hugo Chavez's health has taken a turn for the worse. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas went on television to say the president has a new and severe infection. The 58-year-old president has cancer. It hasn't been identified just what kind of cancer.

There are increasing signs Syria's civil war is spreading across the border into Iraq. An Iraqi government officials says heavily armed gunmen ambushed a Syrian military convoy in western Iraq. Forty-eight Syrians, most of them soldiers, as well as nine Iraqi soldiers, were killed.


CLANCY: Syrian troops had been in Iraq for medical treatment.

All right. I'm going to take a look now at some images coming out of Syria.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).



CLANCY: Now, this is amateur video purportedly taken in Northern Syrian city of Raqqa on Monday. Rebels, of course, are saying that they have now overrun that city, and you can see men. They not only tore down the statue. Now, this is the father of president Bashar al-Assad. The man who set up the Assad dynasty. They're beating it with their shoes, with hammers and stones. Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 30 years until 2000.

Senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is monitoring developments in Syria for us. He joins us now from Istanbul, Turkey. Ivan. Inside Raqqa, what is happening today?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're getting a mixed picture, but the rebels are claiming they've captured this city. That the whole city has fallen, that it was a combined group of predominantly Islamist rebel brigades that captured that city. They claim that there is no government presence except in a military intelligence headquarters in that city. And this is a provincial capital. One of the capitals of 14 provinces in Syria, Jim. It's not far from the largest manmade dam in the country on the Euphrates River, which the rebels claim to have captured several weeks ago. So, it is a moral victory for the rebels, if this is, in fact, true. It's a strategic victory as well. And judging by the images that we see from the square there as they tear down the statue of Hafez al-Assad in the scene that's reminiscent of the statue of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq being torn down, it is a major city with the major square. Just today, for the first time, Syrian state media reported that there were some clashes taken place in Raqqa. The state news agency SANA reporting that Syrian government forces were battling a group called the Misra fronts, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, according to the U.S. government, Jim. But not conceding that this city has fallen into rebel hands. Jim.

CLANCY: You know, troubling news across the border. A group of wounded government soldiers, Syrian government soldiers ambushed by what appear to be Syrian rebels inside Iraq. What happened?

WATSON: This is scary and ominous. Because it looks like the Syrian civil war is spilling over into Iraq, a country that is still trying to come to grips with its own sectarian conflict. And what appears to have happened was a number of Syrian government forces were run out of a border crossing between Syria and Iraq over the weekend. And while they were being transported by Iraqi forces in a convoy presumably to come back into Syria through a Syrian regime controlled checkpoints, through the Iraqi town of Radba (ph) deep in Iraqi territory, that convoy was ambushed by gunmen. According to Iraqi government officials, the death toll is enormous, Jim. On Monday, 48 Syrians killed in this ambush, according to Iraqi government officials. At least eight Iraqi soldiers killed as well.

Now, this is really important, because this happened in al-Anbar province in Iraq that is a predominantly Sunni Muslim area that was a great problem to the U.S. occupation forces years ago. It has seen protests against the regime of the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, and here we see Syrian government forces and Iraqi forces ambushed and large numbers of them killed with heard reports that the Iraqi government has been helping funnel arms to the Syrian government coming from Iran, a close Shiite ally of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. And this has very ominous overtones, because it suggests that Iraq could be pulled in to what is increasingly looking like a sectarian conflict in Syria. Jim.

CLANCY: All right. Something that bears watching along the border between Iran, between Iraq and Syria right now. Ivan Watson keeping an eye and giving us some perspective on that. Thank you.

In the U.S. state of Florida last week, it made world headlines, really. When a man and part of his home were literally swallowed up by a sinkhole. And now, less than five kilometers away, there is another sinkhole opening up. Take a look at this. It's between two houses. It's more than 3 meters wide right now. And about one meter deep. Officials say the two holes do not appear to be linked in any way. Well, meantime crews have demolished the house where Jeff Bush died when his home was devoured by a sinkhole, at least his bedroom was on Thursday. Family members ravel to salvage some of their belongings including family photos, toys and the Bible.

Random, sudden and sometimes deadly sinkholes are a surprisingly common natural phenomenon. But how do they happen? Why do they happen? David Mattingly takes us inside the sinkhole in search of some answers.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's just a few short steps down to an incredible underground site.

JERRY BLACK, GEOLOGIST: And this was the original cavity that eventually collapsed in.

MATTINGLY: A massive sinkhole carved out of solid limestone by drops of water.

(on camera): So, this is what a sinkhole looks like from the inside.

BLACK: From the inside, yes, before you fill it up with sand and dirt.

MATTINGLY: And if someone were living right on top of this, they'd be at risk.


MATTINGLY (voice over): Geologist Jerry Black says Sunshine State homeowners might be surprised to find out just how common these are.

(on camera): What are the chances of someone having a house in central Florida and living on top of something like this?

BLACK: Very good. Not as probably as close to the surface as this, but you can - you definitely have cavities of this size all over the state of Florida.

MATTINGLY (voice over): Fossils found in this sinkhole show it's been around since the Ice Age, but no different, Black says, than the sinkholes we see opening up today.

These are just a few of his pictures. The one thing they all have in common is water.

BLACK: Rainwater is going to turn into groundwater, and that's what's naturally acidic. That's the - that's the device that dissolves the limestone. And will help create these cavities.

MATTINGLY: What is unusual about this sinkhole, it's easy to get inside. Called the Devil's Den, it's open to tourists for viewing and diving. And dive instructor Prince Johnston takes me under for a look. I find that this seemingly placid pool of water is anything but.

PRINCE JOHNSTON, DIVING INSTRUCTOR: The water has gone down considerably, because of (inaudible), and - but it's also reason when we've had hurricanes and tropical storms, it's risen another 45 feet.

MATTINGLY (on camera): 45 feet?

JOHNSTON: 45 feet.

MATTINGLY: So, the water is constantly going up and down ...

JOHNSTON: Up and down.

MATTINGLY: Depending on drought or hurricane.

JOHNSTON: Correct.

MATTINGLY (voice over): Down here, it's easy to see how fluctuating groundwater has silently wreaked havoc. I passed by limestone boulders, as big as cars, sitting on the bottom. And these same forces are still at work, compounded by the demand for fresh water.

JOHNSTON: It is progressively dropping, yearly. And that's basically over the whole state of Florida. Aquafer is getting lower and lower.

MATTINGLY: Perhaps most striking to me, how appearances of this sinkhole are so misleading. A single beam of sunlight reveals the cavern is even bigger below the waterline, with tunnels and passageways carved deep into the darkness. But most disturbing could be the view from up top. The round opening is deceptively small, little indication of the cavern that's just beneath my feet.

(on camera): Until a hole like this opens up, there is really no warning, is there?

BLACK Correct. It is -- it is that random and that sudden, and it could happen obviously overnight or at any time.

MATTINGLY (voice over): It can, and it does. With thousands of sinkholes opening up in Florida every year. David Mattingly, CNN, Williston, Florida.


CLANCY: Wow. Some great camerawork there as we really got to be inside that.

Mari Ramos is at the world weather center. You've got storms to cover. What I mean - amazing video.

MARI RAMOS, METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. This sinkhole story. It's kind of scary, right, the think that all of that could be really beneath our feet, and I've got to tell you that sinkholes can happen anywhere in the world. We have some pictures to show you of the Florida sinkhole, and now that -- debris -- and I hate to say debris, because this is someone's home or was someone's home, has been moved away. You can see a little better what the size of the sinkhole and what it looks like, and look at all the damage that is there left over.

Really a sad situation. Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the country. Florida and Tennessee are the only two states in the U.S. that require sinkhole insurance. So, it was pretty interesting that that happens, and of course, the ground and the soil content has a lot to do with that, but sinkholes can happen anywhere in the world, and that story from David Mattingly, the thing that it reminded me of, is I once -- if you've ever been to Mexico, in the Yucatan Peninsula, they have what they call cenotes (ph), these areas underground that look exactly like what David Mattingly was showing us there. And actually tourists can go there, and you can go swimming in the sinkholes. And they're not - they don't call them sinkholes, they call them cenotes. And you could go in there and go swimming, and I actually did that a few years ago, and it just reminded me so much, and it's a small hole in the ground, you've got to kind of dive in to the bottom, and it's very deep and it's amazing and beautiful, but so, so scary when you think about what or how this can happen in the area that I went to. There were really no homes or anything like that in that area. But anyway. I want to go ahead and move on and talk about the winter storm here in the U.S.

Here comes another round of very heavy snowfall across the northern Plains into southern parts of Canada and all the way down to the Gulf Coast region, that's where the rain will be. So (inaudible) droughts, yeah, they need this. The winter is starting to pick up just a little bit. Those are those yellow number that you see there, these huge swaths of land that - covered in winter storm warnings, or winter weather advisories, and even some winter storm watches already posted up into the East Coast of the U.S.

So, yeah, this is going to be here for a while. Chicago will be getting some more travel delays throughout the day today. Ahead of the storm, they've canceled hundreds of flights already into those major airports. And today and even tomorrow we're going to see the travel delays just piling up one on top of the other here. And as this weather system makes its way to the east, it's going to be even more.

As far as the snow fall that we're expecting with this, that's also pretty dramatic. In Chicago proper, they could get maybe what, 20 something, 27 centimeters of snowfall just today, and that will be enough to cover their deficit for the entire winter season. That's how far behind me - the problem is, if you get it in just one day, that could be a problem. And then the storm moves to the east, and that will be a concern as well.

Here are the latest numbers: 23 centimeters in Chicago as far as snowfall, and then, as it moves to the east, we'll see even more of that continuing to affect the big airports and the big cities here in the northeast.

Look at Washington D.C, the latest model run has 35 centimeters of snowfall, and they are also in the snowfall deficit. But again, we don't want it all to happen in one day.

I want to update you on a story that we were talking about yesterday. This is from Panama. On the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, the city of Colon. And look at that, this is a huge ship, this is one of six that were grounded yesterday, Jim, in a winter storm. It's hard to imagine, a cold front that came all the way down into the Caribbean and through this area and caused very strong winds in this region right in here, very cold temperatures. They even had to cancel schools. It doesn't take much, even if it gets to 19, 20 degrees, that's cold in the tropics, and they definitely were feeling it yesterday.

CLANCY: Boy, I don't know. All this bad weather that everybody has been having - I talked to more than one person that just held up their hands and said, enough, bring on the spring.

RAMOS: Hey, I'm ready.

CLANCY: We need something. Especially in the Northeast.

RAMOS: That would be me. Enough! Enough!

CLANCY: I know. Mari Ramos. Thanks for that. Interesting notes on Mexico and the sinkholes there.

All right. Let's turn to Vatican City. That's where cardinals have been meeting for a second day, but the Vatican spokesman says he senses no desire to rush to try to set a date for the conclave that will ultimately choose the next holy father. But the clock - and they've got to admit it, is ticking. Easter is just around the corner.

Let's take a look at the timing. Benedict XVI announced his intention to step down. That was back on the 11th of February. He officially then resigned last Thursday. Now, normally cardinals can't select a new pontiff until 15 to 20 days after that. But Benedict amended the centuries old policy or tradition to get a successor in place sooner. The Vatican says it could - it could have a new pope by the 15th of March. Now, that would give him just nine days to prepare for Palm Sunday celebration. That's the biggest day in the life of the Catholic Church.

Well, Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester return in just a few hours. Real, Madrid and Manchester United will battle it out for a place in the Champions League quarter finals. And coming up, we preview you the tie of the round.


CLANCY: Welcome back to NEWS STREAM. We kick off "Leading Women" this month with the woman behind one of the most widely read media brands anywhere on the Internet. You probably know her. Arianna Huffington. She says she made it to the top by being inspired to dream big and not be afraid to fail. Poppy Harlow caught up with the Huffington Post founder to talk with her about her path to success.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's a woman on the move. Constantly. A power player on a global scale who turned an obscure blog into a publishing powerhouse. How she did it, is a story of business know-how, networking like crazy and dreaming very big.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP: I (inaudible) with my mother, who from her very young age would tell me that never to be afraid of failing. So, in that sense, I was absolutely fine taking risks.

HARLOW: And she did. Launching the Huffington Post in 2005. A New York- based Web site that's gone global.

HUFFINGTON: I started wanting to create a site that was incredibly engaging.

HARLOW: As president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post media group, Arianna Huffington oversees the Web site. It boasts it has some 40,000 bloggers and had 46 million unique visitors in December. Just in the U.S.

Davos, Switzerland as the World Economic Forum where titans of industry gather each year to discuss finance, conduct business and hob knob.

HUFFINGTON: Very outspoken.

HARLOW: It's here I meet Arianna Huffington to talk about her Pulitzer Prize winning Web site and her path to success.

In 2011, Huffington sold her namesake site to AOL for $315 million.

HARLOW (on camera): How would you assess the merger so far?

HUFFINGTON: I think really beyond my wildest dreams. It doesn't mean that it wasn't tough the first year, you know, bringing two cultures together, building the Huffington Post leadership team. But now, we're in the position where the growth that has happened over the last two years would have been impossible without the resources of AOL behind us.

HUFFINGTON (voice over): Very good. How are you?

HARLOW (voice over): Huffington has gone on both praise and controversy, some touting her achievements, others taking her to task. Claiming she's sidelined those who helped make her site a success by not paying bloggers and aggregating others' content. But Huffington disputes those claims.

HUFFINGTON: The Huffington Post is both a journalistic enterprise that has 850 people on the payroll, and pays good salaries and healthcare benefits and everything. And it's a platform, the way Facebook is a platform, the way Wikipedia is a platform, the way Yelp is a platform. And platforms exist for people who want to use them, if they want to use them.

HARLOW: Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL called Huffington a global brand.

TIM ARMSTRONG, CEO, AOL: It's hard to find somebody who's as up to date on all the mega trends happening in the society, because she really puts herself physically on the age of change, and I think that's a huge advantage for her in the business world.

HARLOW: Huffington has been a well-known public figure in the U.S. since the '90s. First, as the wife of a wealthy politician, and later as a columnist, television mainstay, and at one time ..

HUFFINGTON: Let me finish!

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: You're talking about the (inaudible) right now.

HUFFINGTON: Let me finish!

HARLOW: Candidate for governor of California.

HUFFINGTON: Not to have you write regularly--

HARLOW: When it comes to pressure, she says she doesn't feel it.

HUFFINGTON: Feeling pressure is completely self-imposed, which is what I call the obnoxious roommate living in our head, which is that critical voice that constantly judges us. That, according to which, we are never good enough.


CLANCY: Now, we are going to hear more from Arianna Huffington next week, including the lessons she's learned over the course of her career.

Coming up next on NEWS STREAM, bonding over basketball - the controversial, even bizarre connection forged by a former NBA champion in Pyongyang.


CLANCY: We are getting to what they call the business and of European Football's Champions League. Just 16 teams remain in the running to lift the coverage trophy. Arguably, the clash of the round sees Manchester United take on Real Madrid. The second leg later today, and as Amanda Davies reports, then it's finally balanced.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How big is this game? It's this big.

JOSE MOURINHO, REAL MADRID MANAGER: Tomorrow the world will stop to watch this - this tie, and this doesn't look a tie, it looks a final.

DAVIES: It's a tie big enough for United's American owners (inaudible) to be in town watching their side train. This history, European trophies, great managers. And this Christiano Ronaldo back in (inaudible) for the first time since leaving United for Real Madrid in 2009.

ALEX FERGUSON, MANCHESTER UNITED MANAGER: What do you expect, you play against a team with Ronaldo and you expect (inaudible) as much as you can, as best you can. It's not going to be easy because he does this every week, unbelievable athlete, no one misses that game. Fantastic physique, (inaudible).

DAVIES: It was Ronaldo who canceled (inaudible) goal in the first leg to leave it level at one-all. And Sir Alex has admitted with the tie so finally poised, it's a night to call on all of his and his squad's experience. Luckily, he has got just a man to fit the bill, with Ryan Giggs set to make his 1,000th senior (ph) appearance.

RYAN GIGGS, MANCHESTER UNITED MIDFIELDER: Because as you get older, you take things in a lot more. For example, the second champions league that we won, you know, I was - I managed to tell you that I enjoying that a lot more than probably '99.

DAVIES: So Alex expects his (inaudible) to be hit on the counterattack by Mourinho's men. They've suffered a blow defensively with the news that one of the stars of the first leg, Phil Jones, has been ruled out. But Real Madrid have traveled with the full squad with Ronaldo, Ozil, Khedira and Higuain, all well rested from the weekend.

It wasn't that long ago that was talk of the end of the world at Real Madrid, but they've arrived here at Manchester flying high after two wins over Barcelona in just a week.

MOURINHO: We came here after two victories, but if you come here after two defeats, our feeling would be - would be the same. Three different competitions, you know, the first match against Barcelona will leave us in the final, the second one is in a championship, the championship we know we cannot (ph) win it. And the third one, the Champions League - the Champions League tie.

DAVIES: But this isn't any Champions League tie. This is a tie against Manchester United, with a place in the quarterfinals at stake. Amanda Davies, CNN, Manchester.


CLANCY: And we are getting a new look at former NBA star Dennis Rodman in North Korea. This video comes from Korean state news agency, KCNA. You can see Rodman sitting next to Kim Jong-Un. He traveled to Pyongyang with the Harlem Globetrotters for a television documentary. Rodman is believed to be the first American to publicly meet that young leader. Foreign policy experts say that fact is actually a bit scary, but Jeanne Moos finds something to - well, as she usually does, to laugh about.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dennis Rodman was embarrassing.

MOOS: -- like it couldn't get any weirder.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: In the week's most surreal encounter ...

MOOS: Then Dennis Rodman watching basketball with North Korea's Kim Jong- Un.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a great sitcom that would make, huh?

MOOS: This happened.


MOOS: Wearing sunglasses and a jacket covered in currency, Rodman went on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," praising Kim Jong-Un.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: He's a great guy. He's just a great guy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A great guy who puts 200,000 people in prison camps?

RODMAN: Well, you know, I guess what - it is amazing how we do the same thing here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that a Saturday Night Live skit?

MOOS: No, this is the Saturday Night Live skit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Korean high five!

MOOS: No pitting reality against the skit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this guy!

RODMAN: I love him. I love. The guy is awesome.

MOOS: Reality won.

(on camera): It was a mesmerizing interview, in which Dennis Rodman called George Stephanopoulos "dude".

RODMAN: You know what, dude?

MOOS: And engaged in a lot of guess work.

RODMAN: Guess what?

Guess what?

Guess what?

Guess what?

What I did - what I did was history.

Was history against what (ph)?

MOOS: Imagine the North Korean interpreter trying to make sense of this interview.

Now, there is at least one guy who came to Rodman's defense.

DONALD TRUMP: Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have.

MOOS: Donald Trump was dissing the Obama administration's diplomatic skills.

Rodman just returned to Trump's "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice," where he was picked last when two teams were formed.

RODMAN: I was the last one picked. It didn't bother me.

MOOS: Kim Jong-Un sure doesn't bother him.

RODMAN: He is very humble.

It was so honest. His country liked him. Not like him, love him.

MOOS: Cartoonist Steve Breen (ph) drew both of them thinking in unison, "standing next to him makes me appear less crazy."

From North Korea, Rodman tweeted, "Maybe I'll run into the Gangnam Style dude while I'm here." Which prompted the Gangnam style dude to tweet back. "I'm from #SOUTH man!"

South, not North Korea.


MOOS: This is diplomacy, Rodman style.

RODMAN: Guess what - guess what - don't hate me.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN ...

RODMAN: Don't hate me.

MOOS: New York.


CLANCY: There's nothing I can add to that. This is NEWS STREAM, but the news continues here on CNN. "World Business Today" is straight ahead.