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A Look into the World of Gaza Militants; Murder Plot Targets Soul Singer Joss Stone; Air Pollution in China at All-Time High; Cyprus Looks to Russia for Help

Aired March 21, 2013 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. President Obama says Palestinians deserve a future of hope and a state of their own.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The president met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Mr. Obama's trip does not include a stop in Gaza which is controlled by Hamas.

HOLMES: Sara Sidner has been into Gaza and got an exclusive look at the world of Gaza militants, and those training, possibly to join them.


SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Gaza's next generation of potential fighters and leaders.

Military training for boys, the latest weekly class on offer in high schools courtesy of Hamas' education ministry.

At this one, the principal says every student has joined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We learn about strength and jihad, God willing.

SIDNER: Sixteen-year-old Yasser Abu Jassar (ph) and his classmate, Bilal Firwana, say they don't know if they'll join one of Gaza's many militant groups, but there's no doubt this is fertile recruiting ground.

One of the things these high school students don't need to be taught is what it feels like to be in war. They have all experienced it, and they all believe the fight between Gaza and Israel will never end.

BILAL FIRWANA, 16-YEAR-OLD STUDENT (via translator): For example, me personally, I've lost three people dear to me in the war. Therefore, the seed of (INAUDIBLE) grew in us for the next round.

SIDNER: The trainers themselves are military men.

FAHAD MUSLA, HAMAS MILITARY TRAINER (via translator): The goal is to teach them to get accustom to manhood.

Why are you singling us out here in Gaza? Even other countries like China and Western countries even have similar programs.

SIDNER: Including the United States. High schools there have a military program called Junior ROTC. Why should Gaza be any different, he says.

Except Gaza is different. The U.S. and several other countries have deemed Hamas, which runs the strip and other militant groups here, terrorist organizations.

The fighters say the U.S. has a biased view. The militants see themselves as oppressed freedom fighters struggling to get their land back from Israel.

The Islamic Jihad has invited us, actually, to come and see them train, but it is not an easy road. This is how they all got up with all the weapons. And they've also asked me to cover my head because seeing my hair is offensive to them.

Once at the top, we get an exclusive look into the world of Gaza militants. They train here with Israel in plain view because they, too, have no doubt another war is inevitable.

Their leaders and the Hamas government say the United States' leadership can't make peace because it sees things one way, Israel's way.

KHALED AL BATSH, ISLAMIC JIHAD POLITICAL WING (via translator): The Palestinian people consider the U.S. government and not the American people partners in our suffering.

If you want to change this perception, you should be fair and just and not look at our suffering from an Israeli perspective.

SIDNER: As President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry look to revive the peace process, they will not be making a stop in Gaza.

But this is another piece of the peace process puzzle that so far no one has solved.

There is little chance for lasting peace if Gaza's future generations can't imagine a world without war.


HOLMES: And Sara joins us now, live from Jerusalem. There's obviously a lot of frustration among Palestinians over the lack of progress in what we could loosely call the peace process. I'm curious. As you well know, the West Bank and Gaza are really two different Palestinian entities in terms of society. I'm curious how it's playing out the visit of the president in Gaza versus the West Bank.

SIDNER: Look, the people in Gaza feel very much ignored. And they didn't think that they were going to get anything out of this trip as it is. And they didn't. They felt like, again, the president was really, surely backing Israel. And you know that there are several groups that really feel there should not be an Israeli state, that this land was stolen from them and that's their stance. And that is one of the reasons why you see they believe they are still in a war with Israel despite the ceasefire.

But one of the things that Israel has said time and again is that they're not going to negotiate with someone who is never going to recognize them. They're not going to negotiate with someone who is sending rockets over to Israel.

The Palestinians say, look, we also get hit by air strikes and we have to deal with our own sorrows, plus the fact that, you know, there are huge areas there that are huge refugee camps for people that lost their homes, lost their land, lost the things that were dear to them when Israel was formed.

So, there's a lot of emotion that is at the heart of all this. And that's why I think this peace process, ultimately, is very difficult because there are strong emotional ties that are broken oftentimes and people don't want to let go of that. And that's why I think that's why you're seeing some of this. But certainly the acts of terror, both sides condemning the other, saying they're both acting in a terrorist type of way.

And they're saying, look, we're just trying to make them understand what it is that we need and what it is we feel. Israel saying, look, you're targeting our civilians, people who have done nothing to you. This is not a group that we can have any conversations with.

HOLMES: All right, Sara, thanks so much. Sara Sidner there. Fascinating look at that training.

WHITFIELD: And it was a murder plot that included a metal spike and a samurai sword.

HOLMES: Yeah, the target, soul singer Joss Stone, if you can believe that. Now two men are in court on trial. We'll have that when we come back.


WHITFIELD: All right. It's an alarming list. We're talking about a samurai sword, two hammers, a metal spike, gaffer tape and black bags. Police say all of these things were found in a car ready to be used in an alleged murder.

HOLMES: Extraordinary stuff. The target, soul singer Joss Stone. And that's Stone there singing her hit, "You Had Me".

WHITFIELD: Let's bring in Max Foster who is following this case from London. Max, this is so bizarre. How in the world did police or authorities kind of uncover this plot? Alleged plot?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Basically, there were -- the two accused -- they're both denying charges, by the way -- were found in a car in the village where Joss Stone lives ...

WHITFIELD: Oh, no. We just lost our signal with Max Foster. We'll try to reconnect with him.

HOLMES: Oh, no, we've got him.

WHITFIELD: Oh, he's back.

HOLMES: Where were you? Carry on.

FOSTER: Joss Stone lives in a village, a very rural area in southern England. And it's not an area where people drive through. And the local policewoman basically saw a car that she didn't recognize. The neighbors complained and she pulled over the car.

In the car, they found all of the weaponry that you described, a frightening haul, but also a load of notes, handwritten notes, by them and, subsequently, they found some more notes back at the accused apartment in Manchester some 200 miles away. And they discovered a sort of plot, as they call it. The accuse deny all the charges, by the way.

But they found that they've been accused of robbery. So, that's one thing. They think there was a financial motive here. But also they found a lot of negativity about the royal family.

Now, Joss Stone is friends with the younger royals. She went to Prince William's wedding. And that seems to be one of the big problems here, that this couple of men had with Joss Stone, according to the prosecution in this case, an incredible story.

WHITFIELD: It is incredible. And then apparently, Max, one of the suspects had a diary, and there are details in this diary that may reveal that there were some other plots involving some other stars.

FOSTER: Yeah. There is a lot of slang in this diary, but they did find the diary, belonged to Kevin Liverpool, one of the accused, that talked about "wetting," which is a phrase that means repeatedly stabbing someone until their clothes are soaked from blood.

And they wrote a list. It seems like a "hit list," from what many people see here. One, two, three, and saying whether or not they're going to rob or "wet" or death.

And on this list, it wasn't just Joss Stone, other names, as well, Eminem, Beyonce, R Kelly. So, it seems to be a "hit list," a problem with celebrities, in general, all uncovered during the course of this trial.

As I say, they deny the charges and it will continue for another couple of weeks.

WHITFIELD: Very bizarre.

HOLMES: Extraordinary stuff. Keep an eye on it for us, Max. Max Foster there in London.

WHITFIELD: All right. The smog in China, we've been talking about the water and the river with the pigs and all that taking place, but now we're talking about the smog, apparently so bad that it can actually be seen from space.

HOLMES: Yeah. We're going to find out why it's getting worse. Stay with us.


HOLMES: Welcome back everyone. In China the air pollution is often bad, but this winter it's been so bad it's sparking public protest.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. The smog can even be seen from space. Check out this time lapse photography showing Beijing on a clear day and then Beijing on a very bad smog day.

HOLMES: You can't see it. Amazing stuff.

Health officials in China say more than 8,000 people died from being exposed to this stuff last year. And that's before the recent so- called air-pocalypse even hit.

WHITFIELD: Our David Mackenzie reports that many people wear face masks to protect themselves, but a regular mask simply these days isn't good enough.


DAVID MACKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You need one of these. It's a very thick mask. You have to pinch your nose like this. And then wander around. But I have to be quite honest, it's kind of weird doing that out on the streets. You feel a little bit bad also because ordinary people, Chinese and ex-pats aren't wearing these.


WHITFIELD: Wow. Philippe Cousteau joining us now from Washington. Philippe, good to see you. So what's causing all this bad pollution in China? We know that on e a fairly regular basis they have problems particularly in Beijing because of all the vehicles and other things, but what do we think is happening this go-round?

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly it's contributed by all the pollution and the growth of vehicles in the streets of China. But we have to remember that one of the primary causes are coal-fired power plants. Believe it or not, China burns about as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and that increases tremendously every single year. There's still a little bit of weather patterns that have contributed to keeping these pockets of pollution over Beijing and parts of China, but it's really an issue of the amount of consumption of fossil fuels that's happening in China. Just staggering.

HOLMES: It is. And new electricity, coal stations are coming online literally daily. The stuff's obviously bad. What does it do to you, though?

COUSTEAU: You know, Michael, this is a great example of the reminder of how pollution is not just about the environment but about people and about the economy. If you think of World Bank report just talked about how Chinese farmers are four times more likely to die of liver cancer, twice as likely to die of stomach cancer as the rest of the world. This has a huge impact on the health on the people of China. And there's knockoff effects on the economy. So the key for trying to get a handle on this issue, learn from the mistakes as eastern Europe and the United States over the last hundred years or so and begin to put a serious curb on these types of emissions because it's having a major impact on the harmony of China.

WHITFIELD: So it's one thing to impact the health of the Chinese people, but how might China's pollution problems really affect the rest of the world?

COUSTEAU: Well, of course, Fredricka, China has been a really important economic driver here in the global economic scale especially over the last few years of the economic slump in the west. And when you look at this unrest and the riots that are happening, when you look at the impact on health care and the cost to the Chinese government, there's a very real impact on the economy of China as a whole. And that certainly impacts the rest of us as the world. From an environmental perspective too smog and particulates that originate in China can be found on the beaches of the Bahamas and the air quality in California because of the jet stream. So we truly live in the global world and what's happening in China is affecting all of us.

WHITFIELD: Philippe, thank you so much.

COUSTEAU: Always a pleasure.

HOLMES: Amazing, California.

WHITFIELD: It is. Bahamas? all the way on the Atlantic side of the U.S.? That's extraordinary.

HOLMES: That is.

WHITFIELD: Russians, they have billions of dollars invested in Cyprus.

HOLMES: One big reason, the tax code. So will Russia help this tiny nation facing bankruptcy? Details ahead.


WHITFIELD: We return to the financial crisis engulfing the island nation of Cyprus.

HOLMES: Yes. As lawmakers try to come up with a plan, the plan B we were discussing with Richard earlier, they are also looking to Russia for help.

WHITFIELD: That's because Cyprus is to Russia what the Cayman Islands are to the U.S., a tax haven. Nick Paton Walsh looks into the Russian connection.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyprus is in the bring in uproar over an EU plan to tax their life savings, their dreams really. But they're not just defending their money. The EU plan would also tax the money imported en-mass to this seaside getaway. It's sprinkled the hills with villas, toys (ph), and made this town like its friendly new occupies (ph). Many call this town (INAUDIBLE) because of the enormous physical Russian presence that sprung up almost out of nowhere just like the billions of dollars invested here by Russians into Cyprus. Critics are now saying Cyprus really didn't ask enough questions about where that money had come from.

PROF, HUBERT FAUSTMASS,UNIVERSITY OF NICOSIA: The Russians are accused by the Germans and others that a lot of this money is dirty, organized crime. The Greeks (ph) say no, all the regulations are in place, and are implemented, and that's disputed between the two sides. Currently an independent organization has been given the task to investigate accusations that some of the money is not clean.

WALSH: The crisis has shaken ordinary Russians like Larissa Molotkova (ph). And even her world of antiques has heard about shady dealings. It must be known amongst the Russian community that some people use Cyprus to hide away money from the Russian taxman (ph)?

LARISSA MOLOTKOVA, ANTIQUES DEALER: I heard stories that people say that. But I never knew anybody that come here.

WALSH: Some in Europe argue it's okay to tax Russian money here that's not being declared, but there's a more immediate cash problem. This shopkeeper selling Russian beer and sausage are wanting cash. Here they look anxiously to Moscow where finance ministers discuss Russia bailing Cyprus out perhaps in exchange for Cyprus's gas or banks. Might that not let Moscow finally tax hidden cash here. We asked one expert. Some Russians worry any deal with Moscow that Moscow gets their hands on the money again.

YURI PLANNIKH ASSOCIATION. OF RUSSIAN BUSINESSMEN IN CYPRUS: If the money according to the requirements of the Russian regulations, commerce regulation, there should be no worries.

WALSH: Questions about how this coast came to glitter so much taking some of the shine off of it. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Cyprus.


HOLMES: An important link there. Now, listen, this is for the guys. You know how difficult it can be sometimes to get a woman's attention. It can be complicated.

WHITFIELD: Not for you.

HOLMES: Oh, yes, it is. Look at this. Imagine riding a horse while trying to kiss a girl. And by the way, if you fail, you get whipped. Sounds like normal dating to me.


HOLMES: We'll tell you about it.

WHITFIELD: Okay. A twist on dating.


HOLMES: Before we go I want to share some photos around the world. This is what we were talking about before the break. Kazakhstan, men get to choose their bride by playing this traditional game. It's called "kiss a girl." When a man tries to kiss a woman while they're both racing along on horses. And if he fails, he gets whipped by the lady. And you can tell she's really enjoying that.

WHITFIELD: He doesn't seem disappointed either.

HOLMES: He's trying to pull off to get away.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. And then off to Kabul, Afghanistan. These kids riding a swing during new year's celebrations across central Asia there. A rather nice break for many from a decade of war.

HOLES: Decades really. Check this out. Today is world Down Syndrome day, and in Romania these kids with Down Syndrome, they're having fun aren't they, they're all smiles as they raise awareness about the condition. One in every 691 babies born in the U.S. for example, has it.

WHITFIELD: All right, and that's going to do it for us together, at least.

HOLMES: Together, yes, I'm off, you carry on your day is not over.

WHITFIELD: I'll see you tomorrow, Michael.

HOLMES: I'm out of here.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. All right.