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North Korea Moving Missiles; Facebook to Enter Smart Phone Market?; West Bank Funeral for Man Who Died in Prison; Prominent Egyptian Comedian Arrested

Aired April 4, 2013 - 08:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Jonathan Mann at CNN Center and welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

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MANN (voice-over): North Korean missiles on the move. Washington fortifies its territory in the Pacific after the latest nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

Anger in the West Bank as thousands join the funeral procession for a man who died in prison.

And after three long years of rumors, is today the day that Facebook finally announces it's getting into smartphones?

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MANN: The moment of explosion is approaching fast. That's the latest threat from North Korea as the situation intensifies on the Korean Peninsula. South Korean media are reporting that the North has moved a medium range missile to its East Coast mostly for a test firing or a military drill, it's thought.

Pyongyang also threatened today to pull its 53,000 workers out of the Kaesong joint industrial complex. That would effectively shut it down. For the past two days, it's kept out hundreds of South Koreans who normally work there.

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MANN (voice-over): At the border crossing today, vehicles were seen going out of North Korea; none were going in.

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MANN: North Korea says what it does next rests squarely on the shoulders of the United States.

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MANN (voice-over): Its state-run news agency, KCNA, says -- and we're quoting here -- "We formally inform the White House and the Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people, and cutting-edge, smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK."

It goes on to say, "The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation."

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MANN: All the rhetoric is adding to already heightened tensions. Jim Clancy is (inaudible) from the South Korean capital, Seoul, and joins us now.

Jim, rhetoric is rhetoric, but moving a missile, that sounds ominous. What can you tell us?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the South Korean defense ministry today made it clear that a missile or missiles -- they didn't specify -- were moved by the North Koreans to the eastern side of the peninsula. They believe this is part of a drill. They think also that it could signal there is going to be a test firing.

Now the U.S. has obviously felt for the last week that another missile test was probably imminent. The North's answer to the South Korea's and the U.S. annual military maneuvers, this is what the minister of defense had to say tonight.

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KIM KWAN-JIN, SOUTH KOREAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We are closely monitoring North Korea. As I told you before, we haven't found any signs of all-out war. But we consider that as provocation is always possible and we are ready for it.

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CLANCY: Ready for it -- deterrence is still the main strategy of the U.S. and South Korea at this hour, diplomacy going nowhere. Some think it should; some think that North Korea has given an opening here, saying that they want to reform their economy, putting a new man in charge, a known reformer. And maybe it's time for the U.S. to at least launch an offensive of its own, a diplomatic offensive, Jon.

MANN: Well, let me ask you about the U.S. position in all of this, because we've been watching over the last few days as the North Korean talk has been going from ominous to outrageous. Is the U.S. changing its talk or its posture in any way as a result?

CLANCY: Well, you know, Chuck Hagel, the Defense secretary, made it clear that there was a plan in place. One of the most provocative things that was done in the last week or so has been the overflight of B-2 bombers, advance bombers that carry nuclear weapons.

Aging B-52s that for decades have been nuclear capable also seen over the Korean Peninsula. This was part of a public display by the U.S. It was part of the game plan.

But Secretary Hagel said at a briefing on Wednesday it -- this is a complicated, combustible situation that could explode into a worse situation. We're wondering tonight whether the U.S. military will announce if they have any more F-22s or other advance strike aircraft moving into the theater of operations. They may just want to keep it quiet and dial things back, Jonathan.

MANN: Well, let me ask you, on that very point, South Korea has a lot of forces that are not involved in these war games. The United States has a lot of troops stationed in South Korea. Again, not involved in these war games.

Are those troops at any heightened alert?

CLANCY: They are, Jonathan. They're on what's called weapons readiness posture. Now that means in military terms the troops are ready to react to any threat that is posed. They are aware that it's a heightened security situation and they are ready to defend this country and this region to the best of their ability, Jonathan.

MANN: Jim Clancy, live for us in the South Korean capital, thanks very much.

Well, most observers say it will be years before North Korea can put a nuclear warhead on a missile. But as Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon now, the U.S. is taking the latest threat seriously.

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BARBARA STARR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): North Korea's threat: to attack the U.S. with what it calls "cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means."

CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And some of the actions they've taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly, of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan, and also the threats that the North Koreans have leveled directly at the United States regarding our base in Guam.

STARR (voice-over): The Pentagon is now sending this missile defense system to that base in Guam 2,000 miles east of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea may not be able to attack the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile, but it can reach 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. So far, U.S. intelligence satellites have not picked up any unusual troop movements by the North.

But one very real concern: North Korea's mobile ballistic missiles. They can instantly launch with no advance warning.

Joseph DeTrani, a U.S. intelligence expert on North Korea, says this time the talk of war is worrisome.

JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER U.S. INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL: But they must realize now they've gone beyond the pale by threatening the United States with a preemptive nuclear strike.

STARR (voice-over): DeTrani says Kim Jong-un may be listening to hardliners telling him to escalate tensions in hopes of then getting concessions on sanctions.

DETRANI: And I think Kim Jong-un is listening to people who are giving him some very bad advice.

STARR: The fundamental problem remains lack of intelligence. The U.S. simply doesn't know how close North Korea is to a nuclear warhead and being able to put that nuclear warhead on top of a missile. If they can do that, and they can deliver that weapon to a target, that changes everything -- Barbara Starr, CNN, The Pentagon.

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MANN: And coming up on NEWS STREAM, we'll talk about what the American strategy might be. Retired U.S. General James "Spider" Marks joins us about 20 minutes from now.

Mourning and outrage are filling streets of the West Bank.

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MANN (voice-over): Thousands of people are joining the funeral processions of three Palestinians. In Hebron, a funeral was held for Maysara Abu Hamdiya (ph), a Palestinian who died of cancer while serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison. Violent protests in several places followed his death Tuesday.

Two teenage boys died of wounds they received during clashes with Israeli security forces and their funerals were also held today in the northern West Bank. Israel says security forces opened fire on Wednesday after rioters threw firebombs at a military post.

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MANN: The man whose death started the protests died from throat cancer Tuesday. Maysara Abu Hamdiya (ph) had been convicted of planning an attack on a cafe in Jerusalem in 2002. Our Atika Shubert is in Hebron and joins us now live.

Atika, when we first caught up with you, the funeral was underway. But it didn't seem quite so tense and you weren't quite so well protected. What's going on around you now?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the funeral just ended a short while ago but already clashes have started here in the middle of Hebron. Now basically Abu Hamdiya is somebody who was extremely well respected in the Palestinian community. And his death has sparked a lot of anger. It's really become the focal point for a lot of frustration, particularly about prisoners' rights.

And so what we've been seeing, a lot of rock-throwing from kids on the other end of that street there in response. We've seen a lot of tear gas being fired. We had a whiff of that earlier. And so it's -- this is how it's starting in this afternoon. And it's likely to continue out into later on today.

There were clashes yesterday. And as you mentioned, two of those young teenagers were killed in those clashes. Israeli forces said they could not confirm that how those two teenagers died, simply saying that they shot in the direction of where several firebombs were coming at Israeli post.

But this is really just the beginning of the day here. We do expect to see more escalation in the clashes here in Hebron.

MANN: You know, all of this is unfolding live in front of your camera, in front of you. But there's also a very different part of this drama being acted out behind closed doors, quite literally, in Israeli prisons. Tell us about that.

SHUBERT: Yes, I mean, there are more than -- there are close to 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails right now and about 4,600 roughly have joined in a three-day hunger strike in solidarity with Abu Hamdiya's death. They blame the Israeli prison system for his death, even though he died of cancer. They say it was medical neglect that hastened his death.

And that's why there is so much anger. There are also four Palestinians now on hunger strikes within the prison already for more than 250 days in one case, Samar Esali (ph). And he is in very dire condition. So within the prisons, there are protests. Outside, these -- this is what you're seeing.

This is really the bubbling over of frustration. We're getting a little bit of that smoke and just a little bit of that tear gas there. So apologies if it's a little harder to see right now.

MANN: Hope you can stay with us. Just one more question for you. While this is going on on the West Bank, Gaza has been the scene of rocket attacks coming in and out. Are things any quieter there today?

SHUBERT: Well, yes. There were rocket strikes coming in from Gaza. Hamas did not claim responsibility for those strikes. It was by a much smaller Islamist group there. And as a result, it has ratcheted tensions up even further because it was an obvious breaking of the cease-fire that was put in place after the conflict late last year.

So things are perhaps marginally quieter today. There doesn't have -- seem to be those sort of rocket strikes. But, again, it's a very tense time. And it comes at a time when Secretary Kerry is supposed to be due to visit here in an attempt to renegotiate peace talks. He certainly has his work cut out for him.

MANN: Atika Shubert in the fire and trouble and rubble of Hebron, thanks very much.

Well, still ahead on NEWS STREAM, no laughing matter; how the arrest of one of Egypt's top comedians is raising very serious concerns.

And call me, maybe. Rumors are out there. But what do we really know about the phone that Facebook might be releasing?

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MANN: Welcome back. The arrest of a prominent Egyptian comedian and television personality, Bassem Youssef, is drawing international attention. Critics worldwide are pointing to Youssef's case as evidence that Egypt's new government is not sincere in what it says about free speech. Ian Lee has our report from Cairo.

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IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Egypt's government is doubling down on taking down popular satirist Bassem Youssef. The talk show host is now under investigation for allegedly disturbing public peace and security. That's on top of recent charges of insulting President Mohammed Morsi and Islam.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday, Youssef remained defiant.

BASSEM YOUSSEF, EGYPTIAN SATIRIST: I'm just going to continue and continue with the show, continue with the same high tone of the show. We're not going to back down, we're not going to actually -- we're not going to -- we're not going to relax about what we -- we're going to have fun doing it, as usual.

LEE (voice-over): Youssef's case is grabbing international attention. The U.S. State Department, among those voicing concern, pointing to Youssef's case and others.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: This, coupled with recent arrest warrants issued for other political activists, is evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression.

LEE (voice-over): Youssef's main inspiration, Jon Stewart, came to his defense during a recent show.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": By the way, without Bassem and all those journalists and bloggers and brave protesters who took to Tahrir Square to voice dissent, you, President Morsi, would not be in a position to repress them.

LEE (voice-over): The U.S. embassy in Cairo tweeted a link to the episode from "The Daily Show," prompting a swift reaction from the president's office, which said, quote, "It's inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda.

But human rights groups say the government's actions have been inappropriate and at odds with what Morsi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer earlier this year.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: But just to tie up this issue, Bassem Youssef, Amr Moussa, Mohamed ElBaradei, they don't have to worry about going to jail?

MOHAMMED MORSI, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): They are Egyptians, they are part of my family from Egypt. There is no way that any harm can befall them because of their opinions or their personal opposition

LEE (voice-over): The president maintains the arrests aren't his decision but rather the judiciary's. Rights groups, though, disagree.

HEBA MORAYEF, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I think that says that there is a clear intention on the part of President Morsi and the ruling Freedom and Justice Party to limit free speech, to limit free media.

If President Morsi wanted to stop this crackdown on the media that we're seeing tomorrow, he could do so. And he could do so because his party, the Freedom and Justice Party, controls the legislature. And they could amend the penal code tomorrow to decriminalize defamation.

LEE: Two dozen Egyptians have been investigated on charges of insulting the president and Islam since Morsi came to power, according to documented cases by human rights groups. They say unless the law is changed, that number will grow -- Ian Lee, CNN, Cairo.

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MANN: If you've ever posted anything on the Web, you've probably gotten some negative responses once or twice. But what if that feedback gets to be so nasty it's taken to the next level and become harassment?

Internet trolls -- trolls are people who make offensive or controversial comments online with the very intention of provoking outrage or argument. They often hide behind fake names and apparently get satisfactory from inciting a response. In the coming weeks here on CNN, we're going to take a look at Internet trolls more closely.

But where is the line between free speech and troll-like harassment when you're on the Internet? And what kind of online behavior characterizes a troll? Well, some Jewish students in France are suing Twitter over racist and anti-Semitic tweets which they say violate the country's anti-racism laws. Atika Shubert is reporting on that story.

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SHUBERT: Now this case revolves around the Twitter hashtag #unbonjuif, which translates as "a good Jew." Now this hashtag became the third most popular in France on Twitter last year in October. Unfortunately, some people were using this hashtag 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 in Francis wanted 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. And that split public opinion in France. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a rabbi and as a Jew, I feel very hurt and very sorry about certain tweets. And it really hurts me. And I think like the French law should be strong with people that say such things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that should not be. I mean, it's a free line of expression and it's (inaudible) we can tweet whatever you want to say or whatever you think. So I think it's quite dangerous that the French government wants to track people. I mean, for me, it's an alienation of freedom of speech. You have the right to say whatever you want to say.

SHUBERT: 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. And 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.

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MANN: We contacted Twitter about the lawsuit and the company's communication manager had this to say.

"They are sadly more interested in grandstanding than taking the proper international legal path for this data. We have filed our appeal of the civil matter and would have it filed sooner if not for UEJF's" -- that is the Jewish students' union -- "intentional delay in processing the court's decision."

Still to come on NEWS STREAM, we're used to seeing Lance Armstrong on two wheels. So his latest challenge could cause something of a splash. Stay tuned for details.

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MANN: Welcome back. The first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals are in the book. Amanda Davies joins us now with details. And I guess one phrase to keep in mind is simply Real Madrid.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jon, it's difficult to look past the Spanish teams this season. The Real Madrid manager, though, Jose Mourinho, isn't getting too carried away despite his side's convincing 3-0 win over Galatasaray in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. They've got one foot in the last four if they stretch for a record 10th European title.

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DAVIES (voice-over): Real were always the favorites heading into the tie. And despite a number of chances for the Turkish champions, goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain left many commentators talking of the Spanish side already into the semifinals.

One blemish was the Real Madrid camp's Sergio Ramos. He was booked. So he's going to miss the return leg in Turkey.

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JOSE MOURINHO, REAL MADRID COACH: They need a miracle. But there are miracles in football. The story of football, it's full of miracles. So why not? Why can't they dream with a miracle? I have enough experience to understand that we have a very good result but it's not over. And I will try everything in my -- in my hands to convince my players that that is not over and that we have to go there seriously.

DAVIES (voice-over): Well, Malaga's ties against Borussia Dortmund certainly isn't over, either. It's a really tough one to call, heading into the second leg after a goalless draw in Spain. Both sides missed chances and it leaves the German side vulnerable to an away goal in the return leg.

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First-time Paris Saint-Germain have said they might take action against the Marseilles midfielder Joey Barton after he used Twitter to abuse the PSG captain, Thiago Silva.

Barton insulted Silva for his performance against Barcelona in this week's Champions League quarterfinal. He used language that some interpreted as homophobic. And Marseilles have apologized to their league counterparts and described Barton's behavior as "unacceptable."

Well, today it's Thursday, which means it's CNN FC Day and Pedro and the team will have a full breakdown of this week's Champions League action. This week it's the Dutch legend Ruud Gullit in the studio with the team. It's 5 o'clock London time, of course, 6:00 pm across central Europe.

As always, you can get involved as well. You just have to go to CNN.com/footballclub to post a comment or ask Ruud a question. The team is standing by, waiting to hear from you.

And the disgraced American cyclist, Lance Armstrong, looks set to return to competitive sport, not on his bike but in the swimming pool. The 41-year old has signed up to take part in three events at this weekend's Masters Swimming chairmanship at the University of Texas.

Masters Swimming isn't covered under the same drug testing rules as the U.S. or World anti-doping agencies, which of course, banned Armstrong for life for his doping offenses.

And Rob Butcher, the executive director of Masters Swimming, says they don't drug test and encourage all adults to swim.

So a story, Jon, that caused a lot of surprise amongst the team here in the office, not only that he's making a comeback to competitive sport, but so quickly as well, seemingly just this weekend.

MANN: And you know what, Amanda, if they won't let him swim, he'll dance. And if they won't let him dance, he'll cook. But that man, he wants to get back into something. Amanda Davies, you --

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DAVIES: Yes, you very much get that impression, that he needs to give himself a challenge, don't you?

MANN: Really. Thanks very much.

Coming up next on NEWS STREAM, more on the tensions flaring on the Korean Peninsula. What would the U.S. do if North Korea actually attacks? We'll talk about the scenarios.

And more cases of bird flu in China. Officials there struggling to contain the spread of 879N.

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MANN: Welcome back, I'm Jonathan Mann at CNN Center. You're watching NEWS STREAM and these are your world headlines this hour.

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MANN (voice-over): Palestinians in the West Bank have held a funeral for an activist who died of cancer in Israeli custody. Maysara Abu Hamdiya was serving a life sentence for planning a bomb attack on a Jerusalem cafe. Some Palestinian groups have accused Israel of denying him Medicare.

Two teenagers were killed overnight in protest clashes with Israeli forces.

The U.S. state of Connecticut has passed a bill banning more than 100 assault weapons as response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that took place in that state. The bill also makes it harder to buy guns that aren't banned. The state's governor is expected to sign it into law in hours to come.

And North Korea has threatened to remove its 53,000 workers from the Kaesong joint industrial complex, which would effectively shut it down. Pyongyang is still now allowing South Koreans who work at the complex to cross the border. And South Korean media are reporting that the North has moved a medium range missile to its East Coast.

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MANN: The U.S., meantime, is beefing up its defenses in the Pacific, sending what's called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THADD to its military base in Guam.

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MANN (voice-over): THADD is a defensive missile system that can shoot down ballistic missiles using hit-to-kill technology. That means it destroys missiles by colliding with them during their final phase of flight.

This is final video of a test of intercept in Hawaii. Guam's considered a possible target because of its relative proximity. It's about 3,400 kilometers from the Korean Peninsula and home to 6,000 American military personnel.

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MANN: So what would the U.S. do if war broke out on the Korean Peninsula? Let's get some insight now from retired U.S. Army General James "Spider" Marks, joining us now from CNN Washington.

Thanks so much for being with us. We have seen the rhetoric on both sides; we have seen some missiles being moved and now anti-missile defenses being moved into place.

But as serious as all this is, war is a completely different level of concern, obviously, and a different level of preparation. What would be the signs for that preparation? What are they watching for in South Korea and at the Pentagon that would really make them nervous from the North?

GEN. JAMES MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): David (sic), great question. What we see right now is more stridency and a lot of bellicose language coming out of the North. What we have not seen is the associated military preparations that would be necessary.

For example, they would begin to mobilize all of their armored capabilities, all of their tank units, would begin to be -- you'd see a lot of motion associated with that. And we'd be able to detect that through technical means, through imagery, through signals intelligence, et cetera. We would see those anomalies; we'd be able to pick them up.

We'd see some additional mobilization of special operations forces. The North Koreans have the largest special operations forces in the world, well over 100,000. They would be inserted through submarines and small attack boats coming along the coast and we'd see, again, the mobilize of aircraft in order to get some of those folks into the South.

And additionally, we'd be able to start picking up the communications necessary to activate sleeper cells that have probably been in the South for decades.

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MANN: And we're not seeing any of that. But if the Pentagon --

MARKS: We're not, we're not.

MANN: -- did spot that, what would Washington, what would Seoul be able to do?

MARKS: Well, it's more than just Seoul. It's a combination of the United States and South Korea. It's a unified command led by a U.S. four- star. But all of the South Korean forces come under his command under these contingencies.

And what would happen initially is you would see the increase in terms of U.S. Naval presence, primarily to get more fighter and air-to-ground capabilities, aircraft, so that we could go after those very precise targets.

Because what we didn't discuss, David (sic), is there would be an initial artillery barrage coming from the North as well as surface-to- surface missiles that would begin to start hitting targets that are tucked up right on the south side of the DMZ. And that includes Seoul. So there would be a counter firefight.

That means aircraft going after those artillery pieces and missiles that are firing into the South, and then establishment of air control over the North by going after their command and control and their air defense capabilities.

So it would be a very intense air war that we would see taking place over the course of the first few days. And then the coalition forces would begin to establish the momentum. And the objective for the coalition forces is to reestablish the armistice. The objective for the North is to reunify the peninsula, two entirely different views.

MANN: Now right now we have aptly, I think, it's apt to use an oxymoron that would be inappropriate anywhere else, a tense calm on the Korean Peninsula. But how much warning would the South, how much warning would the Pentagon have if this were going to escalate in a bad, uncontrollable way?

MARKS: In an uncontrollable way, as you just described and we were just talking about, frankly, is unlikely.

However, to answer the question, the concern that everyone has on the peninsula and having served there for quite some time, the concern is what's called the no-warning scenario, and that is the North Koreans simply begin to launch surface-to-surface missiles as well as artillery and they start to attack targets in Seoul and elsewhere in the South by long-range fires. That could take place like that.

Now the United States has the ability to respond instantaneously as well through the application of air power. It's already stationed in Japan and already stationed in South Korea.

MANN: But you don't expect that. So let me ask you what people are more afraid of, what's considered more likely if dramatically less ominous, is the possibility of some kind of gunplay of a kind we've seen before in the past, where the North fires on a coastal island; they fire on a South Korean naval vessel.

Does that look like where this might go actually next?

MARKS: I think so, David (sic). I think you just hit it right the nail on the head. We'll probably see -- there could be targeting against very specific South Korean targets that would not personally and specifically threaten the U.S. presence in South Korea, although we have this very tight alliance. It would go against some very specific South Korean target like they've done before.

And probably some incident at sea like we've seen before, probably going against a commercial -- South Korean commercial fishing vessel. That would happen. So that could occur before.

And you could also see the insertion of a very small special operations team, again, what has occurred before. So these scenarios have been played out before. The playbook, if you will, is in place to accommodate each one of those. They would be limited in their scope.

MANN: Let's hope it doesn't even come to that. Lieutenant -- or rather retired General James "Spider" Marks of the U.S. Army, thanks so much for talking with us.

MARKS: Thank you, David (sic).

MANN: Uruguay's Senate has voted overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage. The measure still would have to be approved by the lower house, though, and signed by the president. They have both indicated they support marriage equality, despite opposition from the Catholic Church.

Uruguay would be the 12th country to approve same-sex marriage and only the second in Latin America. Argentina legalized same-sex marriage three years ago.

Lawmakers in France, meantime, are debating same-sex marriage as well and Jim Bittermann reports it's a much more divisive issue there than you might expect.

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JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Ben Lafouche (ph) and Emmanuel Allanos, a French law guaranteeing marital rights to gays and lesbians cannot come soon enough. They've been together for 13 years and are raising two children, legally adopted by Lafouche (ph) as a single parent.

But, says Allanos, as the law stands now, if anything were to happen to his partner, the kids might be taken away and perhaps separated. For the moment, he has no legal parental rights.

EMMANUEL ALLANOS, GAY PARENT: The marriage is less important to us. I mean, what is more important is making sure that our children are protected and that I'm recognized as a -- as a father also.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): But as natural as legally establishing same- sex marriage seems to a family like this one, it's condemned by many in France. In fact, few social issues in recent years have provoked such an outcry in the streets as this.

Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of people turned out to oppose the government's proposed law on same-sex marriage because, while public opinion polls show a majority of the French favor gay marriage, most are not ready to accept giving marital rights, such as adoption and in vitro fertilization, to homosexual couples.

And the debate has been almost as noisy in the French parliament as it has been in the streets. One of the sponsors of the legislation has an inch-thick file on his desk of angry letters, including some death threats.

ERWANN BINNET, SOCIALIST PARLIAMENT MEMBER: What is very controversial is the fact that two people of the same sex can raise children, can have their own legal rights of parenthood by adoption or artificial insemination.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): With a leftist majority in both the French national assembly and Senate, the opposition has tried to block the gay marriage law by introducing more than 5,000 amendments to the government proposal, something that has led to weeks of late-night parliamentary sessions and crystallized the opposition, which includes the Christian Right as well as those in the center and left who think the issue has become a distraction.

JEANNE SMITS, CATHOLIC ACTIVIST: I think the point of -- that we're trying to make is that there's a natural order of things and that it's not a good thing for two men and two women to be considered as a married couple in view of what society needs.

FRIGIDE BARJOT, GAY MARRIAGE OPPONENT (through translator): It's a misunderstanding of what the French want. Today they want jobs. They want to work. They want security in the streets and that their children have a good education. They are not at all making demands for homosexual marriage.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): Still, there have been huge demonstrations in favor of the gay marriage law. And given the political makeup of the national assembly and Senate, it's almost certain to pass. The only point that government has yielded to opponents is that it has dropped the right of homosexual partners to artificial insemination.

Otherwise, despite the outcry, both on the streets and in the parliament, it appears President Hollande will succeed with a key campaign promise to put a gay marriage law on the books -- Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

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MANN: China's state-run media say that authorities are looking for the source of a new bird flu strain that has now killed four people. The Shinhwa news agency says 11 people have been infected with the H7N9 virus, all of them in eastern China. David McKenzie's in Beijing with details.

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DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Local and global health authorities have taken notice of this new strain of bird flu that affected several people in the southeast of China, they're saying that causes severe respiratory illness and a few have died. But I want to show you what they believe is the source of this new strain.

MCKENZIE: They're calling the strain H7N9, and it's believed to be an avian flu that people contracted most likely from poultry products.

Now that doesn't mean that people can get sick in a place like this, where the health standards are actually very strict. And they believe it can't be transmitted from human to human. But they say it must be watched very closely and they're mobilizing testing kits and starting to work on a vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The public is concerned about the information regarding those in close contact with those infected. We are tracing many close contacts and they are all under strict medical observation. No one who was in contact with the confirmed cases has exhibited symptoms during the quarantine period.

MCKENZIE: There's a lot of distrust with authorities here in China because of previous outbreaks which the information wasn't spread effectively to the people -- David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.

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MANN: Australia has launched a national inquiry into child sex abuse. The Royal Commission created by Prime Minister Julia Gillard's government says it expects to hear from roughly 5,000 child abuse victims. Kate Osborn of our affiliate Seven Network has more.

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KATE OSBORN, SEVEN NETWORK (voice-over): For survivors of child sexual abuse, it was overwhelming. But for once, some of the emotions were positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just wonderful. We're both elated.

OSBORN (voice-over): A priest raped two of Anthony and Christine Foster's (ph) daughters. They were in the front row as the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse convened for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An amazing thing to sit in there with those powerful people and hear what they're going to do for future children.

JUSTICE PETER MCCLELLAN, ROYAL COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: If a community is to move forward, it must come to understand where wrongs have occurred. And so far as possible right those wrongs.

OSBORN (voice-over): Justice Peter McClellan outlines a process which will see at least 5,000 victims tell their stories, some confidentially in private while others want to appear at public hearings, which begin late this year.

OSBORN: An interim report was supposed to have been produced by June next year, but Justice McClellan said the sheer size of the task ahead meant it was unlikely the commission could make that deadline. Indeed, in other countries, similar inquiries have taken many years to complete.

OSBORN (voice-over): The Royal Commission can't compensate victims or prosecute offenders, but can refer cases to state police.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: It's complex, but wrongdoers should always be punished if that can be done.

JOAN FINN, CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVOR: For years, we have not been believed and should be believed and acknowledged. That's the most important thing for a victim.

MANN: Kate Osborn reporting from our affiliate Seven Network.

Still ahead on NEWS STREAM, reining in the changes could be on the verge of seeing a whole new era for Facebook. A media event is fueling rumors -- they're swelling out there.

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MANN: Welcome back. We're just hours away from what could be a new era for Facebook. Have a look at the invitation the social network has sent to journalists, inviting them to an event at their headquarters today.

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MANN (voice-over): As you can see, it tells them to, quote, "Come See Our New Home on Android." That's the head.

Reports of Facebook developing a phone handset date back to 2010, but tech watchers say this announcement points towards the social networking moving into software, more specifically an HTC phone running a customized version of Google's Android operating system that puts Facebook front and center on the home screen.

Images like this have been leaked on Twitter, giving us an idea of what the handset might actually look like.

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MANN: The theory is that the more prominently Facebook is featured on a device, the more likely users are to interact with the network. So what might a Facebook phone mean for all of us? Well, let's bring in NEWS STREAM regular contributor Nicholas Thompson, editor of thenewyorker.com and its new Elements blog.

Thanks so much for being with us. A Facebook phone. A bright idea or a loser, do you think?

NICHOLAS THOMPSON, NEWYORKER.COM: I don't think this is going to be a huge success but it is something they've been working on, something they think is important. The company is clearly making a transition to become mobile first. They really care about embedding Facebook deeply on all of our mobile devices. So this is a natural step.

Now the question is, A, well, first, what will this phone look like? The basic idea, I think, is that Facebook will become what you enter when you turn on the phone. It'll be your new (inaudible) on the phone. Your immediate contacts will be the contacts you have through Facebook. The email you receive will be your Facebook messaging.

So if you really live inside Facebook when you're on the Internet, this phone could be for you. We don't know how easy it will be to transition out of that to the rest of the Android operating system. But so it will really be a phone where you start inside of Facebook and then it's relatively hard to leave Facebook.

Who will want to use this? Really, really committed Facebook people, people who love the brand, people who do everything inside of it. I'm not sure how many of them there are out there and our phones are pretty good. So they're going into a pretty competitive, difficult marketplace right now.

MANN: And it's a strange technological development because isn't it like a snake eating its own tail? Google created Android; Facebook will be using Android to fight Google. It's a strange competition. I've got to ask you to stay there, Nick, because I want to remind people just how close these two -- these two rivals really are.

The stats on the 'Net are amazing. Google and Facebook are the two most visited sites on the Internet. And we have figures from alexa.com, traffic to both of them, neck and neck, amazing stuff. Yesterday, an estimated 44 percent of global Internet visitors use -- rather visited Google; an estimated 43.5 percent visited Facebook.

So let's go back to Nicholas Thompson of thenewyorker.com. I mean, is this the battle of the Titans right now?

THOMPSON: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the two companies hate each other. They're constantly fighting each other for talent; they're competing in a thousand ways. Google's big initiative, Google Plus, is a direct shot at Facebook. They're really going at each other.

So, yes, it's kind of funny that Facebook, the new Facebook phone, it's going to be based on an operating system that Google built.

However, when Google built this operating system, Android, they did it very specifically. They said, look, this is going to be entirely open. We're going to build it but anybody can use it. And that's why it's gotten such great market share.

Lots of phone makers have started using Android. It's been very easy to use. And now it's coming back to be used by their competitors. But they knew that would happen when they did this, when they opened it up. So, yes, it's very funny. But I don't think it's a surprise for Google that eventually that the device they put out in the world would be used against them.

MANN: But both companies had choices, essentially. Google could have tried to keep Android out of Facebook hands. And Facebook could have chosen another way to go about doing its business, other than Android.

THOMPSON: They could, but not really. I mean, Google, you know, the licenses of Android say that anybody can use it. I mean, Amazon Kindle, which also competes with Google in all sorts of ways, that's based on Android. I mean, so many devices are now based on Android. Google can't, you know, change the licensing terms on Android and stop it.

And what else is Facebook going to use? I mean, the great thing about Android is it's this free, very effective operating system. if you're going to build a new phone, you can either create your own operating system. You can try to get a license or something else.

Or you can be like Apple where you build your own phones, your own operating system or BlackBerry, where they have their own operating system. But if you're a new company going into this, you really are probably going to use Android.

MANN: What are the chances of Facebook backlash? People are just going to say this far and no further, this is too much Facebook?

THOMPSON: I think that what's more likely is that people will ignore this. but it is possible that if people start to use this and if there are privacy problems, there could be a massive Facebook backlash, right? So the thing about your phone is it always knows where you are.

And there are lots of things that a company that makes its money from advertising could do with that information. Oh, we know exactly where you are. In fact, we have a sense that you're tired because you only slept four hours based on your alarm. And there's a coffee shop around the corner. Let's send you an ad for a discount for 50 cents on a coffee.

Now that's a good way to make money. And it's also a good way to really alienate your users. Facebook has not had the best record on privacy over time. So I can see there possibly being a snafu. But I think the more likely scenario is that people just don't use this. They're fairly happy with how you can access Facebook on a regular Android phone or an iPhone or lots of other phones.

The app is right there; it worked really well. I'm not sure there's going to be a mass migration to this new Facebook phone. If there is, there's some backlash. If there isn't, then probably no backlash.

MANN: Nick Thompson, writing the Elements blog now at thenewyorker.com. Thanks so much for being with us.

THOMPSON: Thanks for having me.

MANN: Still to come on NEWS STREAM, we often do stories we call over and out there. And in a moment, the International Space Station's latest findings are way out there, in deep space, and may help explain how the universe works. We'll explain it all, too. Stay with us.

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MANN: Welcome back to NEWS STREAM. In Argentina, a flood that didn't come down a river; it fell straight out of the sky. They had that much rain that fast. Mari Ramos is at the World Weather Center and she's been watching it for us.

Mari?

MARI RAMOS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, a couple days already we saw the first images of the flooding rains. The day before yesterday, where Buenos Aires, the capital city, woke up pretty much underwater. And three days later, well, it still looks like this. Take a look at these images from Buenos Aires proper.

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RAMOS (voice-over): When you look at this aerial view, you can see how much water is still on the ground. But, Jonathan, you got to remember, they got two times their monthly rainfall in a period of 24 hours. So in one day, they didn't get one month's worth of rain; they got two months' worth of rainfall.

And the rain was very localized, too. So some areas of Buenos Aires are perfectly fine; they have no problems except maybe for power outages and things like that. But some areas look like this, where people are still trapped with whatever belonging they were able to save and their children and their pets on the rooftops of homes.

This is a very serious situation. Now many of the roadways were blocked and because of the high water. Buenos Aires was hit hard, but then later that afternoon, the rain came back in another area of the province. About 40 kilometers away in the city of La Plata (ph), they really ended up with tremendously heavy rainfall. And that is what we're really talking about, records of rain.

Shop owners, agricultural areas, all affected by the heavy rain. And you got to just throw everything away sometimes when things get flooded.

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RAMOS: Come back over to the weather map. So this is Buenos Aires and this is what I was showing you just a minute ago. But this is La Plata (ph). And La Plata (ph) really had the worst of it, because the rain came down so quickly. They had 300 millimeters of rain. That's about 10 inches of rainfall in only four hours. That's the latest number that we have officially at one of the weather stations there.

The death toll, unfortunately, continues to rise here. And they're concerned that they may find more bodies as the waters continue to subside. So very, very tragic situation.

So there's some of those rainfall totals. The monthly average is 107. They had almost 200 millimeters of rain. Montevideo in Uruguay also had some very heavy rain. In La Plata, Argentina, we keep putting 181 over here because that's the official observation.

But you got to think of it at another part of the city at the observatory. That's where they had those 300 millimeters of rain that were so extremely heavy.

As far as rainfall, well, we can forget about it, you know, as much as possible, because it is going to be dry here over the next few days. The rain has moved northward. I'm concerned about the heavy rainfall for you in southeastern Brazil now.

Uruguay will also begin to dry out; parts of Paraguay bordering Brazil will still get a little bit of rain, but not as heavy as what they had before. The concern that I have now, Jonathan, is this drop in temperature. They had a front come through; the temperatures dropped and the daytime won't be too bad.

But overnight, I think we're going to get into the single digits across some of these areas, including Saturday. So that's something we'll be watching closely.

MANN: Mari Ramos, thanks very much.

And Mari not only does meteorology, she does cosmology. She's the deep space physics. And I'm going to dedicate this next bit of news to you, because maybe you understand it.

The International Space Station shedding new light on what's called dark matter -- dark matter, the mysterious glue that's believed to hold galaxies together. It's called dark in part because scientists just can prove it really exists.

Now a $2 billion sensor on the space station has observed a new physics phenomenon, first theorized by the early Mari Ramos in some of her groundbreaking work. A particle interaction that astronomers say could help prove that dark matter is real. Mari was right.

In golf, the first major tournament of the season, the Masters, begins just about a week from now. Reigning champ Bubba Watson can't quite walk on water. But as Jeanne Moos shows us, he can float over it like a charm.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a golf cart that's anything but par for the course and it had wannabe drivers drooling, watching Masters champ Bubba Watson tooling around in a modified hovercraft, zipping over water hazards.

BUBBA WATSON, GOLFER: And who doesn't want to do that?

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: If it's real, then I want one.

MOOS: Well, Bubba put the "if" to rest.

WATSON: No, it's not a gag. This is the real deal. We -- me and Oakley teamed up.

MOOS (voice-over): Oakley being Bubba's sponsor. It took two months for this prototype to be adapted by a company called Neoteric Hovercraft. It's been building hovercraft for over 50 years.

CHRIS FITZGERALD, NEOTERIC HOVERCRAFT: It's sort of a magic carpet floating around on the golf course. It's about 9 inches off the ground.

MOOS (voice-over): The great thing about a golf hovercraft is it doesn't mess up the grass, says company founder Chris Fitzgerald.

FITZGERALD: You leave absolutely no trace.

It's about the same -- the same force as a seagull standing on one leg.

MOOS: Now some golfers might be tempted to take a club to the hovercraft. It makes about as much noise as a vacuum cleaner or an electric leaf blower.

MOOS (voice-over): Make that several leaf blowers, though they have reduced the engine noise some and hope to reduce it more.

WATSON: It was fun to do. It was scary to drive it. I only had a 5- minute lesson.

MOOS (voice-over): Actually, Bubba, you're supposed to say "fly it," not "drive it."

The controls are on a handlebar like a motorcycle. It's a little like flying a helicopter.

Hovercraft are especially good for rescues on ice and in swift moving floodwaters. But it took a golf cart version to get everyone excited. YouTube commenters say, "Should have called it the BubbaHova or Bubbacraft."

The small company that made the prototype is being flooded with orders from golf courses worldwide. But it won't be able to meet demand for months.

FITZGERALD: You just can't press a button and have these things coming out.

MOOS (on camera): The makers of Bubba's hover estimate its price tag would hover at around $30,000 or even $40,000.

MOOS (voice-over): Noted one poster: "Rich man's sport just got richer."

But at least Bubba didn't mow down golfers like Jackie Chan did with a giant hovercraft in "Rumble in the Bronx." Better to get hit by a flying golf ball than a flying BubbaHova -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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MANN: That does look like fun. And that is NEWS STREAM. But the news continues on CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.

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