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AROUND THE WORLD
Kerry Tries To Lower Tension; Teen's Alleged Rape Investigated; Stocks Pull Back From Record Highs; Venezuela Prepares for Sunday's Election; Five Women Detained at Jerusalem's Western Wall
Aired April 12, 2013 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Thanks for watching, everybody. AROUND THE WORLD starts now.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Suzanne Malveaux and Michael Holmes.
We begin in North Korea. It's the touchiest diplomat dilemma on earth today and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is right in the middle of it. He's in South Korea right. First priority, to reduce the tension and convince North Korea not to test-fire a ballistic missile. Kerry has already made some moves aimed at mellowing out the tough talk. We're live from Seoul in a moment.
In Cypress, the government has to come up with more money to fix its finances. Today, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund said they won't give Cypress any more money beyond the 10 billion euros they've already agreed on. Cypress needs another 6 billion to shore up its banks and pay its debt. The country's economy was on the verge of collapse before the bailout deal. Banks there closed for almost two weeks.
And North Carolina A&T State University and two other schools in the area are on lockdown right now. The university website says it received a report of a man with a weapon. No shots have been fired. The university police department is conducting a campus wide search. Parents are asked not to come to the university right now.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in South Korea today working to stop the spiral of threats from the North. Kerry landed in Seoul a couple of hours ago. He told reporters that he is willing to open direct talks with North Korea but on one condition, North Korea must get serious about ending its nuclear program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are committed to working with the Republic of Korea and the other six-party partners in order to get the North to live up to obligations that the North freely accepted and adopted. And we are prepared to work with the conviction that relations between the North and the South can improve, and they can improve very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Anna Coren is live for us from Seoul right now.
So, Anna, you know, John Kerry says relations in the region can improve very quickly, his words. How can that be? North Korea has done considerable damage with specific threats and some would say rather hostile action.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Fredricka. I mean a month's long worth of warlike rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang and then the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, arriving in Seoul. And as you say, that conciliatory tone, in a way, obviously opening the door to diplomacy if North Korea is serious about denuclearization. The problem is, Fredricka, as we know, North Korea is determined to go ahead with its nuclear weapons program. It's nonnegotiable. It's not for sale. So, it sort of leaves it at a bit of a - a bit of a stalemate really.
But John Kerry also had some pretty tough words for North Korea, told them not to go ahead with the missile launch that the U.S. and South Korea believe will still happen in the coming days. There's a very important date coming up on the North Korean calendar, and that is the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, who is, of course, the grandfather of Kim Jong-un.
John Kerry also saying that the United States would support its allies, South Korea and Japan, if there is any provocation. So the door opened for diplomacy, but at this stage still no way forward, Fredricka. WHITFIELD: And so, Anna, what about this information that the U.S. had conversations within the Pentagon and beyond that North Korea may have the ability to put nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile? How might this influence Kerry's message?
COREN: Yes, it really caused quite a stir, didn't it? And I'm not sure if everybody in Washington was too pleased with that message that got out. Some within the intelligence community basically saying that North Korea has a nuclear weapon, has miniaturized a warhead to put on a missile. It did, however, say that the likelihood of it being fired accurately is very low, but it did cause a stir.
Now, John Kerry, he is heading off to Beijing, off to China, tomorrow where he'll be holding talks with the president, Xi Jinping, as well as other officials in China. And the -- his message is that China holds the key. It has so much leverage over North Korea and that hopefully the Chinese can, some way, get through. So far they've backed the U.N. sanctions against North Korea but they haven't necessarily imposed them. So I think that's what John Kerry's message will be, you've got the leverage, you can change the situation on the Korean peninsula.
WHITFIELD: Anna Coren, thanks so much, from Seoul.
Much more on North Korea straight ahead, including a look at Kim Jong- un's mysterious wife. We'll look at her designer clothes, the pregnancy rumors and how she helps her husband's image.
Tonight at 6:00 Eastern Time, Wolf Blitzer will devote an entire hour to the crisis in North Korea. Tune in for a special edition of "The Situation Room" at 6:00 Eastern.
On to Nova Scotia, Canada, now. Officials are taking a closer look at the alleged gang rape of a Canadian teenager who killed herself a week ago. The parents of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons say the boys who attacked their daughter showed a picture of the assault to a few fellow students. After that, they say a relentless campaign of online bullying began. No charges were ever filed in that case. Paula Newton is following this story from Ottawa, Canada.
So, Paula, when the attack happened a year and a half ago, now we understand, police said there wasn't enough evidence to file charges. Have they changed their minds now?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're not saying that they've changed their minds, Fred. What they are saying is, look, we're going to take a fresh look at the case. So that means that they're going to look at how they handled the evidence that they have and also they are pleading with people who have more evidence to come forward.
But on top of that, Fred, what they're doing is, the province itself is looking at how the school board might have handled this, how any officials could have done something to really look at the bullying situation before it got out of hand and what steps were taken.
But, you know, this is causing outrage here in this country, obviously, also online for many reasons that people can relate to. You know, Fred, even our prime minister, Stephen Harper, is saying, look, you know, I'm raising a teenage daughter. Of course this whole thing sickens me. But I want you to listen now to what he said after that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN HARPER, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Bullying, to me, has a connotation of kind of kids misbehaving. What we are dealing with in some of these circumstances is simply criminal activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: You know, and what that means is that they're hinting at the fact that they're going to take a look at what happened in this case and other similar cases and saying, look, do we have to change some laws here and do we have to make those laws about cyber bullying stick?
WHITFIELD: And then I understand hundreds of people attended the vigil for Rehtaeh yesterday. Her cousin apparently made an emotional appeal to the public. What was said?
NEWTON: Well, you know, her cousin is saying, look, I remember this as the child I used to babysit. I mean people are just devastated by what happened. But I know, isn't it sad, Fred? And then you sit there and you think, at the end of the day, did a girl really have to die for people to come out and do something about this?
And it was funny, the school board officials were there with the families themselves saying, look, we have to stand up. We have to be accountable. We're going to take another look at what we did. And, in many cases, people are looking at the whole situation, because there are similar situations across the United States, across Canada, really around the world in saying, what can we do earlier to intervene to make sure it doesn't get out of control?
I have to say, Fred, sad thing today. There's visitation for Rehtaeh Parsons. Her family will be there today as well. There will be -- her funeral will be held on the weekend.
WHITFIELD: Gosh, that's painfully heartbreaking. All right, thank you so much, Paula Newton.
All right, the red hot stock market is a few degrees cooler today. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 closed at record highs yesterday, but they're trading slightly lower today. Zain Asher is joining us now from New York.
So, Zain, you know, what's effecting the markets?
ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred.
Well, we got two reports that have got investors cautious. Let's take a look and see. The Dow is down pretty much 31 points right now. Part of the reason for that is retail sales. Retail sales fell last month by the most in nine months. Also want to talk about consumer sentiment. That hit the lowest levels in nine months as well.
But going back to retail sales, people are basically cutting back on electronics, books, music, that kind of thing. The dismal weather might have had an effect. Also want to talk about those payroll tax hikes we got after the fiscal cliff. That also might be effecting spending as well.
But most telling is really that people are really worried about this job market, Fred, and also their pay. Unemployment at 7.6 percent. How people feel about what they spend has a huge effect on the economy. It's essentially what's driving economic growth. Also a factor is mixed earnings from the banks Wells Fargo and JP Morgan.
WHITFIELD: All right, and, of course, big picture, most of us are happy to see the markets are going gang busters, but is there a downside if the stocks keep hitting record highs over and over again so quickly?
ASHER: Yes, Fred, you know, well, it's this disconnect we keep on talking about, right? So the market is doing one thing, taking us on this joyride, but the economy still has some catching up to do. The question is, how much more before we see a correction? That's what's on everybody's mind. Will it all end in tears? After all, the S&P has been rallying. For months now we've pumped 60 billion into the market so far this year. But the market could essentially run out of steam any time. Markets usually rally between November and April and then they sort of usually pull back. There's this whole saying, sell in May and go away. I'm sure you've heard it. But this time it could be different because we are on a sugar high. We've got QE, that's what's propping the market up right now. So, you know, who knows how long before we see a correction.
WHITFIELD: Yes, you said sugar high, that means you come down quickly too.
ASHER: Exactly. Exactly.
WHITFIELD: All right, Zain. All right, thanks so much.
All right, here's more of what we're working on this hour from around the world.
He's a former bus driver who claims Hugo Chavez spoke to him through a bird and he's running for president of Venezuela. Up next, we'll meet Nicolas Maduro and talk about his chances of winning in this weekend's election.
And more protest and detentions at Jerusalem's Western Wall as Jewish women fight to perform some of the same religious rituals as Jewish men. And we'll tell you what the Israeli government is doing to try to calm both sides.
And remember the song, "ding dong the witch is dead"? You don't want me to sing it, but you know it. Well, it has risen close to the top of the British music charts this week. We'll explain why after this.
WHITFIELD: All right, a pretty frightening scene off the coast of Galveston, Texas, there. You see, this is a shrimp boat and it is on fire, fully engulfed in flames, as we see it right here. But we understand, according to Galveston Police, no one has been hurt in all of this. Of course, we don't know the circumstances as to how this shrimp boat caught fire, but, of course, when we get more information, we'll bring that to you live.
All right, other stories making news around the world right now. In France, the Senate says I do to same-sex marriage. The bill gives couples the right to marry and adopt children. The lower house has already approved the legislation. The bill still has a couple more readings to go through before it becomes law. Giving same-sex couples the right to marry was one of President Francois Hollande's campaign pledges last year.
The northern U.S. is getting hit by a powerful line of storms today. Strong winds and a lot of rain creating very dangerous situations from Virginia all the way into New England. In the south and Midwest, however, the storms were deadly. Three people were killed in Mississippi, Missouri and Nebraska. An i-Reporter captured this tornado as it ripped through a rural part of Mississippi right there. Dozens of homes were damaged across the southeast and thousands of people are still without power.
Venezuela, well, it's gearing up for its presidential election on Sunday. And for the first time in 14 years Hugo Chavez is not on the ticket.
But the election still seems to revolve around the late leader. Rafael Romo reports.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: He used to be a bus driver and now the former union leader is campaigning for president of Venezuela from behind the wheel.
Nicolas Maduro, the 50-year-old acting president, has no formal college education or training, but he has what nobody else does, the anointment by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who died of cancer last month.
HUGO CHAVEZ, FORMER VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (via translator): You should elect Nicolas Maduro as President of the Bolivarian Republican of Venezuela. I ask you that from my heart.
ROMO: Maduro led Chavez's state funeral, which was attended by world leaders. No one in Venezuela would dare run against the man who was the right hand of a leader who is widely viewed as a martyr, no one except Enrique Capriles.
The former mayor and now governor ran against Hugo Chavez last October and came within 10 percentage points of beating Chavez.
The 40-year-old Capriles strongly questions Maduro's record of forging relations with some countries.
ENRIQUE CAPRILES, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via translator): What does Venezuela have in common with Iran or Belarus? Isn't the president of Belarus a dictator?
ROMO: The race for the presidency has become an all-out war with Capriles accusing Maduro of using the military to mobilize voters.
Maduro has been highlighting social programs created under Chavez and telling voters that he would do away with them.
And then there are these surreal moments. During the speech to launch his campaign, Maduro claimed Chavez appeared to him in the form of a little bird to give him spiritual support.
The story has been ridiculed by the opposition, prompting one leader to say Maduro needs a mental evaluation.
WHITFIELD: All right. Rafael Romo joining us live now.
OK, the U.S. is watching this very closely. Why? What's at stake here?
ROMO: It's all about perspective. Venezuela sells about $100 billion in oil every year. Guess who buys 40 percent of that oil? It's the United States. We get about 8 percent of Venezuela's oil here in the United States.
But the reality is that the relations between these two countries have been rocky at best for the last few years.
I don't know if you remember this, but Hugo Chavez called former President Bush "El Diablo."
WHITFIELD: Yeah, I remember. Who could forget?
ROMO: The devil.
And then in between 2008 and 2010, we had a situation where Venezuela would kick out the American ambassador. Now the United States would do the same thing and then the following year they would reinstate relations and then the next year they will do it all over again.
WHITFIELD: Do either one of these candidates kind of promise that there may be hope for better relations between Venezuela and the U.S.? ROMO: The rhetoric from Maduro who is ahead in the polls and who is Chavez's handpicked successor has been exactly the same. He talks about the U.S. as this evil empire. And it's just very inflammatory rhetoric against the United States.
Capriles, who is the younger, more liberal candidate, says that Venezuela has to be smarter about who he deals with.
For example, he's criticized the government for having relations with Belarus and its dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, with Iran and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And he says we have no business with that part of the world. We should have better relations here in the Americas and especially with the United States.
WHITFIELD: Fascinating race. This Sunday.
ROMO: This Sunday.
WHITFIELD: All right. Rafael Romo, thank you so much.
ROMO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. It's a battle of the sexes taking place at one of Judaism's holiest site. Up next, we'll tell you what led police to detain five women at Jerusalem's Western Wall.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Remember a few minutes ago I told you about a shrimp boat that was on fire off the coast of Galveston, Texas? Well, now we can proudly report to you that they have the situation under control. They're putting out that fire.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that we have the information to explain how it all happened. But we can tell you, according to Galveston police, no one was hurt. Confirmation of that.
So you see right there kind of the before and after. And now they're putting it out there, as you see. right off the coast of Galveston, Texas.
All right, now back overseas in Jerusalem, Israeli police detained five women during a protest at the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites. The women were questioned for wearing prayer shawls.
This is the latest round in an ongoing battle between orthodox Jews and more liberal movements in Judaism. Sara Sidner joining us live.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, tradition, customs and actually the Israeli courts have said that it goes against the local custom, that traditionally it's men who wear these prayer shawls, men who are allowed to recite the prayer out loud down at the Western Wall.
And these women who go down and try to wear the shawls and try to do their prayers out loud are often detained when they go down there. They've been doing this, by the way, for more than two decades.
Why are they doing it? Because they believe what they are doing should be perfectly legal and perfectly normal because they say they're just trying to pray as they wish at the holiest site for prayer in Judaism.
So what's happening is you're seeing a clash of tradition, if you will. These women, by the way, call themselves the Women of the Wall, and they go down to the wall quite often.
Sometimes they're detained. Sometimes they aren't. This time they were detained.
And they've been detained -- in February, they were detained again by police. And police say, look, we're just following what the court said which was that this goes against local customs and that the women can't pray there out loud and wear the shawls, but they can pray in another area that's not at the wall but is on the site.
The women say that's just not good enough. They want to be able to perform the prayers and to wear the shawls just like the men.
WHITFIELD: Are there any signs of compromise?
SIDNER: There are, actually. The latest in sign of perhaps a change is that the prime minister's office has set aside someone to look into this and look at what possible solutions there might be to try and make something work for these women who have been fighting for this for more than two decades.
We know that in February this became a big issue around the world because, guess what? Two people who are related to a very famous U.S. comedian were actually detained.
When everybody found out about that, you know, the celebrity culture, everyone was saying, wow, what happened there? And suddenly attention was pointed towards Israel and this issue.
By the way, the comedian was Sarah Silverman and her sister happened to be arrested who actually turned out to be a reform rabbi who really says we should be able to pray there.
But the government is now looking into how they can perhaps find a solution which may be further down the wall to try and set aside a place where people can pray as they wish.
We'll have to see what happens though, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Sara Sidner, thanks for keeping us posted.
All right, more ahead on North Korea's dangerous game of nuclear threats. We'll look at what might be motivating Kim Jong-un and we'll also meet his mysterious wife.
Stay with us.