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Fire in Chechnya; Pope Francis Prays at Pope John Paul II's Tomb; French Group Suing Twitter; Venezuela's Election Campaign Starts; Life in the Circus

Aired April 3, 2013 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We've got some breaking news, want to show you some pictures, very dramatic pictures here.

This is a fire at a four-story apartment building. This is in Grozny. Take a look at this.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, this is the capital of Chechnya, of course.

Let's have a look at more pictures. Now, I'm looking at the Novosti news agency, the Russian news agency. They're saying this 40-story -- it's an apartment building which is fully ablaze, as you can see there.

But apparently, according to Novosti anyway, but no one killed or injured so far. Dozens of people were evacuated. This is a 475-foot building.

MALVEAUX: And they're saying now -- I mean, there are a lot of people that are on scene as you can imagine. A hundred firefighters, 16 fire engines that are trying to put out that fire as we speak.

And we are also learning here that all the floors of the skyscraper that you see there, except for the ground floor, are actually on fire. They don't even know how this started yet.

HOLMES: Yeah, extraordinary pictures.

Fortunately, as we say at the moment nobody killed or injured.

Trivia for you. The Chechen leader actually -- you remember when the French movie star, Gerard Depardieu, sort of famously got a Russian passport. He was actually given a five-room apartment in that building as a gift from the Chechen leader.

So keeping an eye on that, as you can see dramatic stuff coming in from Grozny, the Chechen capital.

MALVEAUX: We're going to get you more information as soon as we have more information on that and get back to that.

It is really very dramatic when you take a look at the pictures and the amount of black smoke and really the fire just coming up from the ground above. HOLMES: Yeah, the biggest building in the city. We'll keep an eye on it.

Other news now, rebel fighters in Syria getting more military help from Jordan and the United States. U.S. officials say they are training rebels to possibly man a border buffer zone that hasn't even been established yet.

MALVEAUX: About half a million Syrian people have fled to Jordan since the civil war began just two years ago.

In western Afghanistan, insurgents stormed a courthouse, killing 44 people and wounding dozens more. This attack began when a car bomb exploded and militants, disguised as army officers, they raced into the building and started shooting.

HOLMES: The Afghan national security forces finally defeated them, but not until there had been nine hours of fighting.

In China, a third person dead from a strain of bird flu that's not been seen before in humans. That's according to state-run media.

Reports say a total of nine people have now been infected with the H7N9 virus.

MALVEAUX: Authorities are trying to find the source, but so far they say it doesn't appear to have come from pigs. That was the theory that was believed before.

One professor says it is likely that the virus spread from wild birds to poultry, actually.

HOLMES: Yeah, very worrying.

Well, before last month many people had no clue who Mr., or Cardinal, Bergoglio was. Now we all know him, Pope Francis.

Since his appointment, there has barely been a day in the news without him in it.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, that's definitely true, and today no exception, of course.

We're seeing pictures of him praying at the tomb of Pope John Paul II. This is the eighth anniversary of his death. He is paying his respects.

Want to bring in Reverend Edward Beck in New York. He's a CNN contributor, host of the show, "The Sunday Mass."

And tell us, Reverend, why it is that we have seen and he has captivated us so much just in the last three weeks or so, breaking so many traditions.

Do we think this is really a sign of many more things to come? FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it probably is. And you know what I was thinking as I was watching him there at the tomb of John Paul II?

I recently read the book, "The President's Club." Maybe you've read it. It's about the link that former presidents have with each other because it's this rarefied group that has experienced something that no one else has.

And so this is, by all reports, a reluctant pope, supposedly the last election he kind of said, please don't vote for me, a humble man from Argentina.

And suddenly he is thrust onto the world stage. And he's thinking to himself, I'm sure, what do I do now?

So consult your predecessors. Go to their tombs. Pray to them. I'm sure he'll talk to Benedict.

Remember, it's a rarefied group who have ever been pope, so of course, he's consulting with them, what should I do now, I think.

HOLMES: When he's shaking things up in a way, as he is doing, whether it be security or just how he is interacting with the people, officials within the church, the Vatican hierarchy structure, if you like, who are worried that he's getting a bit too -- I don't know -- mainstream.

BECK: Well, I think they're wondering what he's going to do next. And he's not easily managed, which I'm sure upsets them.

Remember, this man is 76-years-old, so they're thinking probably maybe he won't shake up things too much.

Interestingly, a former Pope John XXIII, whom we all remember, started Vatican II. He was elected when he was 77-years-old. They thought he would be a caretaker transitional pope and he calls together the most revolutionary meeting of the last century in the church.

So I think the way Pope Francis has begun, people are thinking, gee, this man could even call Vatican III. He's going to do some major things when maybe they thought this humble man from Argentina wouldn't be doing that at all.

MALVEAUX: All right, Reverend Beck, thank you so much. Appreciate it as always. Good to see you.

BECK: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Commuters in Berlin had a good excuse for being late to work this morning. You're not going to believe this really.

HOLMES: Yeah, it does, though, there. This is not about traffic or a sick kid, but a 200-pound Russian bomb.

MALVEAUX: A 200-pound bomb? Really? HOLMES: That will slow down your commute. We'll tell you about it.


MALVEAUX: This is out of Berlin, Germany. Amazing, this is a leftover from World War II, made some folks very nervous.

HOLMES: Yeah, it's actually one of those sort of daily-life things that pop up quite literally sometimes in German cities that, of course, were destroyed largely by the Allied bombing campaign.

MALVEAUX: So workers actually found a 220-pound bomb, yep, in a construction site. This was near the main train station in central Berlin, dropped by a Russian bomber some 70 years ago.

So the bomb is old, but still very much alive. And there are, I understand, quite a few more like it around.

HOLMES: Yep. They pop up every few months, normally when somebody's digging a foundation for something.

One popped up in a car park a few -- well, last year, I guess. It does happen.

MALVEAUX: Scary stuff.

A student group in France is now suing Twitter. It's a Jewish organization of students from all over the country, and they wanted Twitter to hand over the real names of users who they say are racist.

HOLMES: Well, Twitter said, nope, and now here comes the lawsuit.

Our Atika Shubert watching developments from London.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now this case revolves around the Twitter hash tag, #unbonjuif. Now this hash tag became the third most popular in France on Twitter last year in October.

Unfortunately, some people were using this hash tag to post anti- Semitic comments and jokes, even tweeting photos of the Holocaust.

Now, frankly many of these posts are so offensive we will not be repeating them on CNN, but these tweets did pose a legal dilemma for Twitter.

Twitter did remove some of the most offensive posts, but the Union of Jewish Students France want Twitter to take it a step further, and they sued the company, demanding that they hand over the details of who posted these abusive comments online.

Now, Twitter refused, but in January, a French court ruled that Twitter must hand those details over.

Now, Twitter has ignored the ruling, arguing that it is based in the United States and protected by the First Amendment, the right to free speech.

The French court, however, has said that Twitter must hand those details over to them. Until it does it is fining the company $1,000 a day.

Not much perhaps for a company like Twitter, but the Union of Jewish Students is also suing Twitter for $50 million. So it could get a lot more expensive.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.


HOLMES: All right, in Berlin, a museum doing what art often does, controversial, making some people angry in this case.

MALVEAUX: So here's the exhibit. It's at the Jewish museum. It's a simple chair, a glass box and a Jewish man or woman sitting there for a couple hours inviting visitors to ask them anything about their religion or what it's like to be Jewish.

HOLMES: Yeah, it seems pretty simple, but it's the box part that is making some people a little uneasy.

They say it's dehumanizing, even degrading, and call the exhibit "Jew in a Box."

Now, we asked one of the museum curators to join us here on CNN to talk about the exhibit and museum. He did agree. He'll join us here tomorrow and we'll discuss it.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, really interesting on that. I'm dying to talk to him about that.

An unlikely challenger playing a big role in Venezuela's election, up ahead, we're going to show you how Hugo Chavez's ghost is actually haunting this race.

HOLMES: This is bizarre. It's a day of bizarre stories.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to AROUND THE WORLD. In Spain, a member of the royal family caught up in a corruption scandal. Investigators say Princess Christina faces charges in the case involving her husband.

HOLMES: Yes, both are now accused of skimming money from a non-profit foundation, misusing those funds. It was initially her husband. He denies doing anything wrong. Now his wife's been caught up. Another spokesman for the royal family says they're not commenting on legal decisions.

MALVEAUX: Here in the United States, of course we're very familiar with these heated presidential campaigns. The candidates, they're traveling back and forth. The air waves filled with ads. They vie for endorsements. This is a little different. HOLMES: This is a little different. Venezuela. Two candidates there running for president. And while they're using some of those same tactics, there is an unusual twist. You've got one candidate who claims he has an endorsement from beyond the grave. Here's Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): It's been almost a month since President Hugo Chavez died of cancer, but he still seems to be everywhere in Venezuela. His image appears constantly on national TV. Public officials thank Chavez for the completion of housing projects. This woman says Chavez didn't die but is alive inside every Venezuelan. And take a look at this video. It suggests Chavez is in heaven in the company of important historical figures like Venezuelan independence hero Simon Bolivar.

These are the messages Venezuelan voters are exposed to daily as they get ready for the April 14 presidential election. Chavez's handpicked successor, former foreign minister Nicolas Maduro, launched his campaign in Chavez's hometown of Sabaneta, surrounded by a sea of Chavez loyalists in red. Maduro told people attending his rally that the spirit of Hugo Chavez appeared to him in the form of a little bird while praying.

NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN ACTING PRESIDENT (through translator): The little bird landed on a wooden beam in front of me, stared at me and whistled. It whistled and I answered back by whistling as well. The little bird flew around one more time and left. And I felt the spirit and the blessings of Commander Hugo Chavez were there for this battle that begins today towards the battle of April 14th.

ROMO: Meanwhile, the opposition is crying foul, alleging Maduro's campaign is using public resources for propaganda purposes.

STALIN GONZALEZ, CAPRILES CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR (through translator): Where is the money coming from? From the campaign of lies. Isn't it true that the communications ministry is putting Maduro on the state channel? Isn't it true that he's using the Venezuelan state airplanes for his campaign? Isn't it true that they're using the resources of the Venezuelan state TV for their campaign events?

ROMO: Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is challenging Maduro to a debate, but so far the invitation has been ignored.


HOLMES: Oh, my goodness, really? Really?

MALVEAUX: We were kind of laughing during the whole piece here. A bird.

HOLMES: Are people -- but are people going to buy that? I mean --

ROMO: The reality is that a certain segment of the population does really buy that. And some of these tactics are not new. Chavez used them before. They come straight from the Cuban playbook. And there's a segment of the population who really believes that. And you have to remember, less than a month ago, Hugo Chavez, the president, died as a martyr. And to a lot of people, his spirit remains alive in Venezuela.

MALVEAUX: So how much of this -- I mean they believe that perhaps, you know, the ghost of Hugo Chavez is making a difference in this. Are they paying attention as well, I imagine, to really some of the corruption and the serious issues? I mean there were so many problems around his reign.

ROMO: Well, there's a lot of economic problems in Venezuela starting with food shortages, distribution of energy. The electric grid is in really bad disrepair. But the reality is that so far, and especially for this election, Chaveztas are still in power. They have a very strong message. And like you saw in the video, their rallies are attended by thousands and thousands of people.

HOLMES: Wow. To put whole new meaning to "a little bird told me." I mean, you know --

MALVEAUX: He did that bird whistled himself, too.

ROMO: That's right, at (ph) the microphone.

MALVEAUX: Or was that a sound effects?

ROMO: No, no, no, it was right there in front of the microphone.

HOLMES: Nothing like a little tweeting in an election campaign.

MALVEAUX: Literally. Thank you.

HOLMES: All right, Rafael, good to see you.

ROMO: Good to see you guys.

MALVEAUX: Performing with Cirque du Soleil, it might seem like a dream job. I'd love to do it. But behind the costumes and those astounding acts, well, it also comes with the headache that comes with constant travel. We're going to show you how they really live behind the scenes.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

Once again we're getting more breaking news too. This in the entertainment world. We're hearing from NBC that Jay Leno is -- has announced that he will be stepping down as host of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and Jimmy Fallon, well he's getting big (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: Yes, Jimmy Fallon. He's taking the hot seat there. They're both responding. They have statements out. Leno saying, "congratulations, Jimmy, I hope you're as lucky as me." And, "hold on to the job while you've got the old guy. If you need me, I'll be at the garage." HOLMES: Yes, I --

MALVEAUX: Fallon says he's really excited to host.

HOLMES: Yes, he says he's excited to host the show that starts today instead of tomorrow. That's a great line.

MALVEAUX: We're going to have more from our entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner in the next hour.


MALVEAUX: Have you ever thought of giving it all up? Maybe joining the circus? Yes?


MALVEAUX: No. I didn't think so.

HOLMES: Oh, good. No. No. For some people, though, it's a way of life. Ayesha Durgahee, he takes us behind the scenes of not just of any circus but the famed Cirque du Soleil.


AYESHA DURGAHEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Effortless and elegant. The performers of Cirque du Soleil's (INAUDIBLE) excite and amazing in every performance in every city. The same precision to execute these moves and daredevil routines is applied to when they travel. Making sure it's a seamless transition from country to country.

On the road for 300 days a year, they're in constant motion. The cycle to travel, train and perform is a balancing act to create a home away from home.

VEDRA DELLA CHANDLER, SINGER, KOOZA: When I get to a new city, I really try to cherish it. I have six weeks in London. There's no place I'd rather be. And then when it's Madrid, that's it. I have six weeks in Madrid. There's no place I'd rather be. We do our best to make it our home for that time that we're there.

DURGAHEE: The cast and crew have been staying here in London Bridge in 85 apartments.

JEROME VEZINA, TRAVEL AND LODGING COORDINATOR, KOOZA: We always start with the housing first because we start that few months in advance. Like right now we're working on about three cities at the same time. For London, it's really nice that we have everyone in the same place here. But, for example, in Madrid, we're in 24 different places.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if I can put more stuff in this one.

DURGAHEE: Whether it's London or Moscow, Paris or Madrid, these ultimate road warriors have to pack for all seasons, taking everything they need all year round. GENEVIEVE DESLANDES, KOOZA MANAGER, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: We don't live in the present. Sometimes it's sad to say it like that. We really live in the future. Like right now we're in London, in the U.K., and we're working on making sure that we have documents ready for Spain, for Russia, for France, because we're visiting those countries by the end of the year. So we're always one day to six months in advance and living in the future.

DURGAHEE: Kooza is not just the circus. It's also a community. There are 175 cast and crew, including 53 performers, along with two physiotherapists and four chefs. The traveling circus also has a traveling school.

DURGAHEE (on camera): While training is in progress, the younger performers are trying to master mathematics.

THIERRY DE GAGNE, TEACHER, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: It's always a challenge because they are in a context, in the working environment. On the other hand, they are still teenagers. They still need to have that contact with their age, which they don't necessarily have in a working environment.

DURGAHEE (voice-over): And there's nothing better than a school trip. Learning on the road has its benefits.

DE GAGNE: One of my students, she's been reading about Egypt and the (INAUDIBLE) stones and the mummies and all that jazz. And now we're going to the British Museum to see them. So that's another opportunity that you don't have staying at home.

DURGAHEE: Getting a glimpse of how 175 cast and crew work, live and travel together shows Cirque du Soleil from a different perspective. Once the lights are on and the music begins, the only place they really feel at home is on stage.


HOLMES: Ayesha Durgahee there. It's not that glamorous, is it?

MALVEAUX: It was kind of like -- no.

HOLMES: Come on, you rethink --

MALVEAUX: Kind of like the campaign. It's like covering a campaign for a year.

HOLMES: Yes. So you're rethinking running away with the circus thing? OK.

MALVEAUX: I'm just not that talented.

HOLMES: I'm good at watching it.

MALVEAUX: All right.

HOLMES: All right. That will do it for me, actually. I'm going to go now. And I'll leave it to you. All right.

MALVEAUX: All right. I'll see you tomorrow.

HOLMES: See you tomorrow. It's (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: The circus continues.

The world watched Kevin Ware break his leg during the Louisville/Duke game. Well, today, Ware is speaking out for the first time since the injury. That is coming up in the next hour.