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Dancer Confesses to Acid Attack; Venezuelans Mourn Dead President; Snowstorm Slams Northeast; Press Proclaims Royal Baby Female

Aired March 6, 2013 - 12:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Suzanne Malveaux and Michael Holmes.

We begin in Venezuela. One leader dies. People react in two very different ways. Venezuelans in Caracas publicly mourn the death of the president Hugo Chavez. But this is the other side right here. Cheers and celebration in the Venezuelan heavy Miami suburb of Doral. Some ex-pats say they're not necessarily happy about the president's death, but they welcome the post Chavez era.

And after closing at an all-time high, the Dow is marching even higher today. Right now up about 26 points. Improved economic numbers are driving this rally. A strong report from payroll processing firm ADP shows private sector employment increased by 198,000 jobs last month. That is much better than expected.

And in Sicily, Mt. Etna had a spectacular eruption last night as you can see here in these just amazing pictures. This video is showing Europe's tallest active vocal, sending plumes of ash and lava into the night sky. Eruptions are not uncommon, but Italian scientists say they've recently registered increased explosive activity.

And is the royal secret out? British newspapers are buzzing with speculation that Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine is expecting a girl. Why is this? Well, according to a telegraph, the duchess almost let the sex of her unborn child slip when she was chatting with fans. One handed her a teddy bear and she said, thank you, I'll keep that for my d -- then corrected herself and said my baby.

Well, it sounds like something out of a movie. Russia's illustrious Bolshoi Ballet rocked by scandal. First, the company's artistic director is attacked on the street, acid thrown in his face. And now a confession from one of its star dancers. It's all happening in the heart of Russia's capital, Moscow. And that is where our Phil Black is.

Phil, this is a very bizarre case. Police have a number of suspects confessing to this attack. Do we know what the motive is?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the motive as described by the police here, Brianna, is that there was a hostile relationship at work between the artistic director, Sergei Filin, who is the victim, and who they believe was the mastermind of this attack, Pavel Dmitrichenko, who is the lead dancer, who has been arrested and who has, they say, confessed to this attack. Police have even released their own video, which shows him saying that, yes, he did indeed do it. He organized it. But, he says, not to the extent that it happened.

What happened, we know was that in January, Sergei Filin was arriving at his home here in Moscow when someone called out his name. And then he turned around and someone threw a jar of sulfuric acid into his face. Police say they've also found the man who threw the acid and a third man who acted as the driver in this attack.


KEILAR: And, Phil, Sergei Filin has these third degree burns to his face. He almost lost his sight. Barely recovered. Does he think that he's going to be returning to the Bolshoi?

BLACK: He's pretty optimistic. Yes, he's undergone multiple surgeries, both here in Russia and in Germany, where he is now recovering, and he expects to spend many, many more months recovering. His doctors believe that his eyesight has been saved, but to what degree is still unknown. Just how good his eyesight will be in a few months is still very much an open-ended question. But he believes that he will return to the Bolshoi as its artistic director and he says he is still very much involved in the running of it on a day-to-day basis.


KEILAR: Well, hopefully, he will be able to do that. Phil Black for us in Moscow, thank you.

Venezuela is all but shut down today. This is a country in mourning. People by the thousands are publicly showing their grief after the death of President Hugo Chavez yesterday in Caracas. And South American leaders have begun arriving in Venezuela to attend the official functions there. Much to talk about today after the death of this controversial and very polarizing president. So I want to get to Michael Shifter, who leads Inter-American Dialogue. A policy forum based here in Washington. Also on the phone is CNN's Shasta Darlington. She's in Caracas right now.

So, Shasta, let's talk to you first. Give us a sense of the mood there in Caracas and where is the body of President Chavez?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, it's pretty amazing, Brianna. There are thousands of people here in the streets. They're all headed towards the military academy, which is where Chavez's casket would be laid out. It's on its way there now. It left the hospital this morning and it's being carried through the streets and just thousands and thousands of people are pouring out in their red t-shirts, in their baseball caps, carrying flags. We saw a convoy of over 100 motorcycles pass by. It's almost like a party atmosphere. People honking their horns, waving their flags. And these are, of course, the people who are celebrating Hugo Chavez's life and his 14 years of presidency.

There are others who aren't so enthusiastic. This was a very polarizing country that he's left behind with millions of people who enjoyed the benefits that he brought to them, basically narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, but also millions of Venezuelans who feel like the country became a worse place to live under him. They felt that the opposition was silenced. They felt that the economy was left in tatters. And these people have tend to sort of lock themselves up in their houses and just hope that this very emotional outpouring doesn't in any way turn violent.


KEILAR: Shasta, thank you.

And to you now, Michael. The big question of the day is, what now for Venezuela? Who's in charge there today? How will this caretaker government handle this transition?

MICHAEL SHIFTER, PRESIDENT, INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE: Well, I think, Brianna, that Nicolas Maduro is in charge. He's the vice president. He's going to call the election that should happen within a month or so. And he's in a very strong position to win those elections. There's enormous sympathy and compassion for Chavez. Maduro is his designated successor. The different factions within Chavez's movement will close ranks and join together and support Maduro. And the opposition, as it exists, is very demoralized, very fragmented and really -- doesn't really have a clear strategy. So the government has the upper hand in this and I would suspect that the next couple of months, things would be reasonably stable. What happens after that, I think, is a different question given the depth of the economic crisis that the country is facing.

KEILAR: So, speak to that a little bit. How do you see the next chapter here beyond these next few months, as you talked about? I mean, obviously, they were prepared, it seemed, with Chavez being so ill to kind of carry on here in the following months and for things to be stable. But beyond that, do you think that we will be seeing the opposition sort of organize better, come to maybe a meeting of the minds and oppose the government and perhaps we'll see a softening of the stance towards the U.S.?

SHIFTER: Well, I think the opposition suffered a defeat in October. Another defeat in December elections. So, they have to regroup and they're going to be really put to a test now over the next couple of months. They're not in a strong position. But on the other hand, the government is, while today it's strong, you have an economic situation where they just devalued the currency 35 percent. The chances are, they'll do it again.

Inflation is already the highest in Latin America. The security situation, the crime level, is really off the charts. They're a scarcity of basic goods. So the economy -- decaying infrastructure. So the economy is not in very good shape. And when there are really pressures on the fiscal side, then I think you're going to start to see some infighting and jockeying for position within the Chavez coalition.

Maduro now is the undisputed head of it, but he's going to have to share power with other leaders. Nobody can come close to having the charisma and capacity to bring the country -- bring all the factions within the Chavez camp together. Chavez was unique in that sense and that's going to be a real problem for the governing coalition.

KEILAR: Well, it's going to be a very interest, it seems, but also unsettling time. Michael Shifter, thanks for joining us.

SHIFTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: Now here's more of what we're working on this hour for AROUND THE WORLD.

Inch by inch, the snow keeps piling up and we are live on the East Coast on this massive storm.

And is it a princess? Duchess Catherine may have accidentally revealed that she's having a baby girl.

Plus, drinking on the job at the United Nations. One U.S. ambassador wants it to stop, asking his colleagues to put down the alcohol during budget debates.


KEILAR: Remember all of the problems that we had with electronic voting in the 2012 presidential election? Well, we're not the only ones. Vote counting in Kenya is being slowed by technical glitches. Some of the systems have failed and officers are manually delivering paper copies of vote tallies. Early results show Uhuru Kenyatta leading over Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

And in South Africa today, the family of Oscar Pistorius is in a public spat over comments made to the press. The father of the Olympic athlete told a reporter that his son kept guns in the house for his personal protection because the police could not be relied upon to protect white South Africans. Some South Africans called the comments racist. A statement from other Pistorius family members show some distance from the father, saying the family owned guns just for sport and hunting. Olympic track star Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

And at the Vatican, cardinals are doubling their meeting schedule before voting on a new pope. Tomorrow they'll hold two pre-conclave meetings, instead of one. And all but two voting cardinals have arrived for the election. Workers are preparing the Sistine Chapel, where the conclave will take place, but so far the cardinals haven't set a date for the vote.

Now back here in the U.S. There is a huge snowstorm. It is bearing down on parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast right now, as you can see in these pictures that we're getting from our affiliates. Hundreds of thousands of people are already without power. Flights have been grounded. Schools are closed for about a million students.

This storm hit the Midwest first. You can take a look here at this scene from Minneapolis Airport, where storms rarely trigger flight cancellations. They generally have a pretty good handle on things there because they're used to it. But this storm certainly did. And in Chicago, it just smashed records. The city got more than 9 inches of snow. That's actually the biggest one-day snowfall there in 14 years.

But that's nothing compared to what it's bringing to parts of the Northeast. Alexandria Steele is tracking the storm from the CNN Weather Center. Our Joe Johns is right in the thick of it, of course, in Winchester, Virginia. So let's go ahead and start with him.

Joe, Winchester could get almost two feet of snow. I'm wondering, I see some flakes sort of falling right there, but what are the conditions like and what are we expecting in the hours ahead?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, Virginia's governor has declared a state of emergency. There are about 170,000 people without power at this time. A lot of people, though, still believe that they haven't seen the worst of it and they think perhaps they're going to avoid any greater problems. Of course, here in the state of Virginia, particularly in the Shenandoah Valley, they say they've seen 12 inches, perhaps 14 inches of snow. Probably more is going to come in.

The roads are considered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the main roads at least, to be moderate. Meaning, they're in pretty good shape. They have been plowed. Some of the back roads, the secondary roads, are considered to be severe. That means, in some places, impassable. So authorities are asking people to stay where they are, ride this storm out. It's not the worst snowstorm the Mid- Atlantic region has seen by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, it's something to watch.


KEILAR: I imagine, Joe, though, people are still -- they've been preparing for this. Hitting the grocery store. Filling up their gas tanks. Have you seen any of that?

JOHNS: Yes, we've certainly seen a lot of that and today we've seen a lot of people who simply stayed home. And that was good news for all the authorities who are trying to clear the roads. Just not having people out there was a very good thing. The governor reports something like 300 accidents in the state.

Of course, you could have had a real mess, especially since a lot of this weather came in right before the rush hour and there've only been something like 200 or so stalled cars throughout the state of Virginia. It hasn't been, frankly, that bad.

KEILAR: Yeah, that's not too bad at all. It's a good thing I think, Joe. People maybe are just staying home and curling up with a good book.

Joe Johns for us there in Winchester, Virginia.

So, let's go now to Alexandra Steele. She's in the CNN Weather Center.

We see Joe there. He's west of Washington, Alexandra, but here in D.C., we're expected to get some major snowfall.

It's actually quite nice on the roads, I'll tell you, coming in because nobody was on the roads and I was able just to kind of rush right into work so easy, but how bad do we think this is going to get ahead?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right, Brianna, this storm's got three city stops. We've seen Chicago. Right now, it's Washington, and then it's going to be Boston's turn, and we're going to watch that tomorrow.

And it will have its own difficulties there and wind is one of them. It's march is a heavy, wet, excruciating snow if you're trying to shovel out there.

But let me show you the big picture. Here's where we are, and it's also a temperature battle setting up, you know? It's march, a high sun-angle. The asphalt in the city of Washington is an impacting factor.

All right, clearly delineated, right? Of course, the white, the snow where we're seeing it, temperatures are cold enough.

Here's the green. All this moisture, warm, moist air coming in off the water and, thus, we're seeing a battle of rain and snow, but the snow will win out in Washington.

So, let me show you. Right now in D.C., it's 36 degrees. So, right now, we are seeing kind of some light rain and light snow. You can see right there a live picture of it. It is beautiful, but it really hasn't accumulated within the Beltway. But it will.

So, let me show you this big picture. Here's Washington. We're even seeing a little bit breaks, but here's Winchester where Joe Johns is smack dab, really in the thick of it.

Places along this I-81 corridor have already received 12 inches, but we are going to see this cold air win out. We're going to watch the atmosphere change a little bit in Washington.

Here's some totals already. Rockville, Maryland, is just kind of a step away from D.C., one-point-five; Winchester, Virginia, seven; Front Royal, 12, Manassas, Fairfax. You get the picture. We're going to see this really begin to accumulate, so additional snowfall.

Here's kind of where we'll see the most of it, west of Washington around Dulles, 10-to-15. West of that, maybe another 10. East of that, though, of course, where there's this water influence, maybe in Annapolis, maybe one or two inches.

But here's what we're going to see, Boston, four-to-eight inches. It will be a Boston storm, Brianna, tomorrow into Friday, only four-to- eight inches, but the problem there will be power outages.

We'll see wind gusts of 50-miles-per-hour, so that may be the calling card of this, especially in New England. KEILAR: Oh, that's the worst, the power outages when it's so cold already.

Alexandra Steele for us in the CNN Weather Center, thank you.


KEILAR: It may be the worst-kept secret. Did Duchess Catherine reveal that she's having a girl?


KEILAR: It has Britain buzzing, not just Britain, in fact, the whole world wondering if the Duchess of Cambridge, the wife to Prince William, did she hint she's having a baby girl?

Let's get more on this from our royal correspondent, Max Foster. So, Max, this is the front page headline in London. Tell us exactly what was said and why we think perhaps this is a princess?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely important to be precise on this, Brianna, because it's absolutely crazy in this country as I will explain.

I've got to the bottom of it. What happened was the duchess was doing a walk-about in Grimsby yesterday, so she was meeting the public and she chats with the public and she meets a lady, Sandra Cook, 67-years- old.

And, afterwards, Sandra speaks to the press pack who had gathered there because the duchess doesn't generally speak to the media. They get their information from the people she speaks to.

This is what Sandra says. "The lady next to me gave her a teddy bear and I distinctly heard her say, 'Thank you, I will take that back for my ..." and then she stopped herself and said, "You were going to ask -- you were going to say daughter, weren't you?" This is what she was saying to the duchess.

"She said, no, we don't know. I said" -- this is Sandra saying -- "Oh, I think you do." To which the duchess said, "We're not telling."

Anyway, it doesn't like a huge big deal. It doesn't even say that she's a daughter, but this is what happens to the newspapers today. It's literally on the front page of every newspaper, "The Sun," the broadsheet "Times," which apparently the queen reads and even "The Daily Mirror" here, very clearly, Brianna, saying, "It's a girl."

KEILAR: I think this is a huge deal, I have to say. I'm very curious about this.

But you know, we want to know about this because we're kind of, you know, voyeurs into the royals, but it's not entirely a trivial manner, right? This brings us to question of succession to the throne.

So, what if the duchess did have a girl? How does that affect things? FOSTER: Well, at the moment, if she had a girl and that girl had a younger brother, the younger brother would become king, leapfrogging the girl. In this day and age, it wouldn't acceptable. It's a sexist law, so the law is being changed.

But it has to be changed in 16 countries around the world. It's very, very complicated, so that's really the justification for hunting down this information.

But it's gone completely wild and a lot of people saying it's completely out of proportion.

And I have to say, we had a bit of confusion today, as well, Brianna, when a local newspaper in Grimsby actually spoke to someone else who said, "I asked her if the baby had been kicking. I swear she replied, 'Yes, he is.'"

KEILAR: Interesting. Maybe this is all part of the duchess' grand plan to keep us confuse us and keep us guessing. Who knows? Who knows? What if there's twins?

FOSTER: Exactly. But the palace then has come in saying, neither of them know. So, it's a complete frenzy.

Anyway, it's story that's everywhere, but it's pretty hard to get to the bottom of. More of this to come.

KEILAR: We're hoping you will crack it wide open for us very soon. Max Foster, appreciate that.

The "Blade Runner's" dad is speaking out. Some are saying that his comments are racist and it's causing some family drama, too.


KEILAR: Welcome back. Here are some of our top stories that we're following.

The United Nations today says 1 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began there two years ago.

Most of them get out of the country on foot like you see these people doing as they cross the border from Syria into Jordan. These are people who fear for their lives and for the lives of their families, and they are fleeing at an alarming rate of about 1,400 a day.

The head of the U.N.'s refugee commission describes Syria now as spiraling toward full-scale disaster.

In Europe, regulators have slapped Microsoft with a $730 million fine for antitrust violations. The European commission says Microsoft failed to honor an agreement to give Europe's 15 million users a choice of Internet browser.

This is the first time, actually, that the commission has imposed sanctions like this and they're calling it a serious infringement. Microsoft apologized for what it described as a technical error, though that technical error lasted 14 months.

And we're going now live to South Africa. This is a country consumed with the murder case involving a national hero, but attention this day is diverted slightly away from Oscar Pistorius. He is that Olympic track star accused of premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend last month on Valentine's Day, in fact.

Today, his father is accused of making racist comments about the reasons his son owned an arsenal of weapons.

And Errol Barnett is in Johannesburg. So, Errol, tell us what Oscar Pistorius' father said that's getting so much attention here.


ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this stems from a report released earlier this week in the "Beeld" newspaper -- that's an Afrikaans language paper -- which said that among the Pistorius clan -- that's Oscar's father, grandfather and uncles -- they had some 55 weapons between them, shotguns and pistols.

Now, when "The Telegraph" newspaper asked Henke Pistorius -- that's Oscar's father -- why the need for so many weapons, he responded with this.

Quote, "Some of the guns are for hunting, and some are for protection, the handguns. It speaks of the ANC government. Look at white crime levels, why protection is so poor in this country. It's an aspect of our society. You can't trust the police."