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Iraq, Ten Years Later; Students Turn Trash Into Instruments; Power Outage Hits Japan Nuke Plant

Aired March 19, 2013 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CO-ANCHOR, "CNN AROUND THE WORLD": In a place where it's so dangerous and it's still very much at war.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It most certainly is. This is a war that never really ended for the Iraqi population and today was a day that might as well have been back when back when the violence was really at its worst.

There were 17 car bombs and seven roadside bombs that went off across the entire country. Out of all of that, 14 of those car bombs, 5 of those roadside bombs went off in Baghdad alone.

The majority of these attacks happening during the morning rush hour between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., and, again, targeting people -- areas where people were gathering, such as markets, busy roads, areas where day laborers come together.

And, you know, you read that tweet out. The expression I was talking about, seeing on people's faces was one of complete shock and it was also as if the color completely drained out of their faces.

They were just so terrified, not only because of the memories that it brought back, but because it really shook them to the very core. Their voices were trembling talking about this.

This is so many people's worst fears being realized, and it also drives home the reality that so many Iraqis continue to live with, and that is that this country is neither stable nor secure at this point.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CO-ANCHOR, "CNN AROUND THE WORLD": Yeah, Arwa, you've spent -- I don't know if you've ever sat down and added up how much time you've spent in Iraq over the last 10 years. It's a good chunk of your life, I know.

What -- I'm curious. You've been back. You were back a couple weeks ago. You're back there now. What's it like for you to go back and meet with the people again?

DAMON: You know, it's very emotional and there's a lot of mixed emotions that goes with it.

There's, obviously, the excitement of reconnecting with people one has known over the years or just talking to the people for the first time, getting an idea of where they were. I must say, though, that was actually struck by how many people this time around are telling me that they feel more hopeless than they did back when the violence was at its worst, despite the impression that one might get when they first do take to the streets of Baghdad.

Here's a small snippet of what we've been seeing.


DAMON: There is a bustle to Baghdad's streets that suggests routine, a normal.

But this is still a city of blast walls and checkpoints. The violence that ripped Iraq apart after 2003 permeates everything.

Where those boys are right now with their bikes, that is where the vehicle would pull up, the victim dragged out of the trunk and then shot in cold blood.

In those days you wouldn't see children gathered here for a game of soccer. Instead, they would all have been crowded around witnessing an execution.


You saw there one of the many al Qaeda killing fields that existed here. This is also a city where mosques were even turned into torture chambers, where explosions happened, as we saw this morning, just about anywhere.

And it's really hard at this point in time to find a neighborhood in Baghdad that isn't associated with some sort of tragedy.

HOLMES: Arwa, good to see you there, reporting again. Sad that the story's still so sad. Thanks, Arwa Damon there.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Arwa.

HOLMES: Yeah, I just sort of -- we'll talk later.

MALVEAUX: All right.

She was brought to the United States as a baby for a life-saving surgery. Now, Baby Noor is back in Iraq and having a tough time.


HOLMES: Well, her name is Noor. It means "light" in Arabic. Her story was a bright spot during the height of the Iraq war.

MALVEAUX: American soldiers helped save the girl who had spina bifida. She came to Atlanta for surgery, stayed for six months, then went back to Iraq.

HOLMES: Well, how is she doing?

Moni Basu follows up on that story we first brought you several years ago.


MONI BASU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The doctor says she seems strong today, but Noor al-Zahra Haider has been battling life-threatening medical issues since she was born.

Today's checkup is a rarity. In Iraq, more than a year after the U.S.-led war officially ended, quality medical care is hard to come by.

This girl, who has the congenital disorder spina bifida, needs a specialist, but isn't able to see one.

Her family worries. How long till a complication? How long will their Baby Noor live?

It's been five years since I was last in Iraq, reporting on the war. While I was there, I made a deep connection with some of its people.

Now, I'm returning to Iraq in search of a little girl I once met, a girl who became known to millions.

I've always seen Noor's stories as a metaphor for the war. She was someone whom the Americans saved, but now she's unfinished business, seemingly forgotten by the same people who helped her.

I first met Noor in 2005. I was an embedded reporter in Iraq when soldiers came upon her family during a routine house raid.

Noor was tiny. She couldn't move her legs and had a growth on her back. Her family was told she had spina bifida and that in Iraq there was nothing they could do to help her survive.

But American doctors knew something could be done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no specialists in this country, apparently, that can deal with this, so her best shot would be to go to the United States for somewhere else.

BASU: Her family quickly agreed to the life-saving invention.

I was riding in the back of the military humvee the night that Noor was shuttled away from her home.

Despite warnings of complications and extended care, her father and grandmother were resolute, get treatment for Noor. It was life or death.

Noor's surgeries worked. Doctors in America fused the gap in her spinal column, saving her life. That was their goal, but the burden of taking care of Noor would fall on her family in Iraq.

The route to Noor's home is different this time. Her treatment in America brought trouble to her family. They had to leave their old neighborhood, driven out by the suspicion of family ties to America. So many things have changed in the five years since I've seen her. I wonder what her life is like. Who's taking care of her?

How are you? Wow. She's so big. I can't believe it. She's beautiful.

There aren't many options for Noor in Iraq. There are only two public schools for kids with disabilities in Baghdad.

At school, one of Noor's teachers tell me that Noor is shy and reserved, even isolated, and she fears that Noor's developing mental and emotional problems.

It's not just Noor's disability that complicates things. Her family is fragmented and struggling.

Noor's own mother left soon after her birth. She told her family she didn't want to raise a disabled daughter. Noor knows that, too. Her family has told her.

Noor's father works all day selling fruits and vegetables, making just enough for the family. Her aunts and grandfather help raise her.

And although he's there for her now, Noor's grandfather knows he won't always be there to take care of her, and he worries that no one will.

Noor's family held out hope she would one day be able to walking even though the American doctors said she wouldn't. They also said she'd face a lifetime of problems, typical for someone with spina bifida.

I watch as Noor flips through photos of her journey. She seems resilient, but in reality, a healthy life appears out of reach.

The family's hoping someone will help them again, but who? Noor is unfinished business, they say.

In some ways, she's become a symbol of her country, a broken girl in a broken land.


HOLMES: Sad story, isn't it?

MALVEAUX: Unbelievable.

HOLMES: We actually ...

MALVEAUX: You want to help her, you know?

HOLMES: Yeah, and that's what the family wants, too, and the grandmother who did a lot of help for that child, she's passed away.

There's a lot more information on Baby Noor on our website.

MALVEAUX: There's actually a special section that is devoted to Iraq, including a photo gallery of images from the war, all that and more on

HOLMES: Well, Ukraine's parliament is back in session. And guess what? It started out like this -- (INAUDIBLE) brawl.

MALVEAUX: Plus, kids literally living on a mound of trash in Paraguay, but they're using the garbage to turn their lives around.



Russia is now criticizing prosecutors in Texas. They're upset that a grant jury refused to bring charges against the American adoptive parents of a three-year-old Russian boy who died in January.

HOLMES: Russia has actually been citing that case to justify its ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. But a Texas prosecutor says the boy died accidentally. Most likely from a playground accident. And there is no evidence that anyone is criminally responsible.

MALVEAUX: All right, so check this out, Michael. Well, I don't know, another day in the Ukrainian parliament?

HOLMES: Have a look.



HOLMES: It almost sounds like a commentator, doesn't it?

MALVEAUX: I sometimes think, you know, you know, you feel like this is happening in the United States in Congress --


MALVEAUX: But it is, you know, it's all just verbal, I guess.


MALVEAUX: But they're actually suspended for a brief time while the dust settles there. It broke out when a parliamentary leader called members of another party neo-fascist. And one of them gave a speech in Russian instead of Ukrainian.

HOLMES: Yes, that will do it.

MALVEAUX: That's what set this -- set the whole thing off.

HOLMES: That will do it. Yes, yes, order, order, as they say in the British parliament.

All right. A whole new take on one man's trash is another man's treasure.

MALVEAUX: They're actually kids who are living in a slum in Paraguay and they're getting resourceful. They're actually making instruments out of the trash.

HOLMES: Yes, we're talking about things like old cans, bottle caps, coins, anything basically that makes noise. And this is happening in Cateura, which is a town built on top of a landfill. Rafael Romo has a look now at what is called the Recycled Orchestra.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): Cateura, Paraguay, a town built on top of a landfill where 1,500 tons of waste are dumped every day. The town's 2,500 families are employed by the landfill as recyclers and their children live among the trash. Favio Chavez is a musician and ecological engineer with an inspired idea. He started teaching the children to play music, but he only had five instruments to lend out. Soon, the orchestra of recycled instruments was born, fashioning instruments from trash. Eighteen- year-old Andres Riveros is a saxophonist with the group.

ANDRES RIVEROS, SAXOPHONIST (through translator): The instrument is made of galvanized pipe used in the gutters for houses. Then this is made with caps, coins, and these are keys from doors.

ROMO: Playing in this orchestra has provided a way out of the landfill for children and a way to help their families.

FAVIO CHAVEZ, DIR., ORCHESTRA OF RECYCLED INSTRUMENTS (through translator): We see that they are not changing their own lives, but those of their families, too. We've seen cases where parents with addiction problems have quit taking drugs to go to their kids' concert. And, in a lot of cases, their parents have gone back to finish school because their kids are being seen all over and they think, "they're going forward, I want to, too." They're not only changing their lives, but the lives of their families and their community.

ROMO: Myriam Cardozo once dreamed of becoming a musician. When she heard about the program, she signed up her granddaughter right away.

MYRIAM CARDOZO, GRANDMOTHER OF VIOLINIST (through translator): I signed her up and it happened. And now my granddaughter's fulfilling my dream. It makes me so happy. That is why I can die happy.

ROMO: Her granddaughter, Aba (ph), is now a violinist in the orchestra.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The people can't believe it. They have to see it to believe it, because they don't believe that it's trash. I've been to three countries, Brazil, Panama and Columbia, and I never thought I'd leave the country.

ROMO (on camera): A documentary about the Recycled Orchestra called "Landfill Harmonic," is in the words and a video clip has captured the attention of people around the world. The orchestra, meanwhile, plans to travel to the United States this year to perform at the opening of the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


MALVEAUX: I love that story. It's it great.

HOLMES: It's terrific. Landfill harmonic. I love that.

MALVEAUX: That's a great title as well.

Of course the last thing you want to happen at a nuclear plant is for the power to go out, but that is what is going on in Japan.

HOLMES: We're talking about the same plant that was hit by the earthquake and tsunami two years ago. We'll have that when we come back.


MALVEAUX: Two years ago this was the scene at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. You might recall the earthquake and tsunami that hit the area, waves knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, leading to meltdowns at three of them.

HOLMES: Yes, that's right, tens of thousands of people, of course, were evacuated. And they still have not been able to return to their homes. Well, last night, a power outage hit the same nuclear plant. And now crews are working to restore some of the cooling systems.

MALVEAUX: So want to bring in Chad Myers.

So, Chad, help us understand actually how the cooling systems work and how dangerous this potentially is.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's a closed system. Water pumps in and out of a reactor. The core here is not acting at all. But we're talking about this pool that the use spent rods go into. Those rods are about 13 foot long. The pool is about 40 feet deep. Water's pumped out into an exchanger. It cools down and then pumps back in. So no radiation ever goes anywhere. It stays in that water.

What they're worried about is that now they've lost power to that pump so it's not cooling that water to that little pool right there and that water is heating up. The only risk is that if that water gets above 100 degrees Celsius, or 212, it stars to boil away. If it boils away, those rods get dry, those rods get dry, fission (ph) occurs and that's a very, very bad thing. But even so, that's four days away if they don't do anything at all. And certainly they're working to get this back up.

But this is what the reactor plant looks like. So that graphic I just showed you was a nice representation. But look at just the destruction that's happened here because of the explosions, because obviously a 9.0 earthquake. One, two, three and four, the reactors here, in really bad shape still. And one more thing to worry about -- Shawn (ph), go ahead and move it -- we've had five earthquakes in the Japan area just in the past seven days. So, you know, these things aren't stable. The earth is still moving there. And the number four reactor pool has a little bulge in it. Has a little bit of a crack on the one side, too. And this whole thing is a mess if the water would ever fully fall out of there, that would be a much bigger concern. If that vessel would ever break, the water would be released. That's a way bigger deal than what we have right now.

MALVEAUX: Oh, that's a good thing.

HOLMES: That's a relief. Yes, all right, good to see you, Chad. Thanks so much.


HOLMES: You know, I'd love to be able to do what Chad just did there. I need to say, roll it!

MALVEAUX: Roll it! Having a little control over our own show here.

HOLMES: Maybe it's just with me, yes.

MALVEAUX: All right, so not a surprise, many Americans think rather fondly of Brits. Yes.

HOLMES: They do. They do, yes, although I'm not one. But what about some countries that don't rate so high? We've got a list for you, coming up.


MALVEAUX: All right, got a quiz for you here.


MALVEAUX: Yes. So the latest here. Gallup did a survey of countries that Americans like and don't like. You know who came up on top?

HOLMES: What, with the like?

MALVEAUX: Yes, the like.

HOLMES: Australia.


HOLMES: No, that's not --

MALVEAUX: No, sorry.

HOLMES: Yes, I know.

MALVEAUX: Sorry my Aussie.

HOLMES: Canada, apparently, is that right?



MALVEAUX: Yes. In very -- ey (ph). Canada, ey (ph). Very friendly.

HOLMES: Well, they're certainly nice to everyone aren't they? They're such lovely people. When I'd backpack around Europe, you'd have Americans wearing Canadian flags because the people were nicer to the Canadians. I swear that's true.

MALVEAUX: Not the rude Americans.

HOLMES: In Europe, yes.

MALVEAUX: OK. Now the bottom of the list here.


MALVEAUX: What do we got for the bottom of the list here? Not surprising, this is Iran. This is dead last, right? Unfavorable rating of 87 percent.

HOLMES: Eighty-seven.

MALVEAUX: No surprise, North Korea as well at the bottom of the list. And, of course, we are seeing problems in Syria.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes.

MALVEAUX: It will be interesting to see, right, if that turns around, if rebel end up making peace.

HOLMES: Yes, end up being victorious. I like it because North Korea's 84, but nobody gets to go there. It might be lovely.

MALVEAUX: Yes. I don't think so.

HOLMES: Probably not.

MALVEAUX: Everything I've heard.


That will do it for me. I've got to go again, but you carry on, will you?

MALVEAUX: All right. Nice to see you, as always. I will. You're my favorite Aussie.

HOLMES: Oh, good. I'm glad.