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Pope Francis Blesses Thousands of Bikers; On the Front Lines of the Syrian Civil War; Vladimir Putin: Jewel Thief?; Justin Rose Wins U.S. Open; Vendor Creates G-8 Ice Cream

Aired June 17, 2013 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Sadly familiar scenes from Iraq, 15 people killed yesterday. Another 12 killed today and there the deaths is always multiples of that wounded. Bombings, of course, been on the rise as outrage grows among the country's Sunnis towards the mostly Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Add to this, today is a special voting day for police and other security personnel ahead of some regional elections, so security forces very much on high alert.

North Korea telling the United States, let's talk, but Washington says North Korea needs to back up its words with action. A statement yesterday on North Korean state-run media called for discussions on easing military tensions on nuclear matters. The statement left out some details like when and where the talks might actually take place.

HOLMES: Yeah, a spokesman for the National Security Council says the U.S. has always been willing to talk.

Well, it's not exactly what you expect to see in St. Peter's Square, the bikers rolling in, and here's something perhaps even more unexpected.

MALVEAUX: Pope Francis offering his blessing, you see him there. The pope blessed thousands of bikers and the bikes as well, too. This is part of Harley-Davidson's 110th celebration. It's pretty cool, right?

HOLMES: I wonder if makes your hog more valuable if you sold it.


HOLMES: As blessed by pontiff.

MALVEAUX: Blessed by the pope? I'd take it.

President Obama and Russian president planning a one-on-one meeting, that's happening today, to discuss, of course, the war in Syria, the civil war. Both leaders are at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

HOLMES: Yeah, a lot of people are waiting to see what comes out of this meeting. Remember just last week the U.S. confirmed plans to start arming rebel fighters in Syria, and that is something that Syria's longtime ally, Russia, strongly opposes.

MALVEAUX: So there are big worries as well. The war with the rebels, our Fred Pleitgen, he is taking us to the front lines. This is pro- government fighters in Syria. This is a CNN exclusive. This is near Damascus. Watch.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The urban combat is fierce in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascus, close to the city center.

We're on the front line with Palestinians fighting for the Assad regime.

Snipers do much of the fighting and death can come any second.

This is a pro-government sniper position and this fighter here just told me he sees the snipers through his scope from here, so we're waiting to see what happens.

The man said that shot took out a rebel fighter.

Yarmouk which was set up as a Palestinian refugee camp by the Assad regime decades ago bears the scars of war, but the pro-government fighters tell me, like on other front lines in Syria, they are now turning the tide, winning back ground.

The commander's name is Abu Mihab (ph). I asked him who his enemy is.

They are mostly Islamists from al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra, he says, mostly foreigners from the emirates from Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also Syrians and Palestinians.

A lot of the fighting happens inside the houses, and here only a wall of sand bags separates the two sides.

The pro-government militia men say the rebels knocked these holes into the walls when they owned this turf and rigged some of the passages with explosives when they fled.

So the men tell us they've just recently retaken this house, and, as you can see, the fighters that left from the other side, they booby- trapped this entrance here with, it looks like, a hand grenade or something so anybody who would have gone through there and triggered that wire there would have been killed.

The pro-government fighters say they're angry at the U.S. after the Obama administration's announcement that it will help arm the opposition.

We will keep fighting until we get rid of Jabhat al-Nusra and al Qaeda, he says, and all other insurgents in Syria. And we're sure that god will be on our side.

In breaks from combat, the pro-government militia men sing the praise of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, emboldened by recent gains on the battlefield, but also worried what changes U.S. involvement might bring.


MALVEAUX: Our Fred Pleitgen is joining us from Damascus, and, Fred, first of all, the U.N. says almost 93,000 Syrians have been killed so far in this civil war. That's the official death toll at least. When you cover this, whether it's on the Syrian side, the government side or the rebel side, are you seeing civilians who are essentially in harms way?

PLEITGEN: Oh, absolutely. When we went through that district there, Yarmouk, which is basically a part of Damascus, but is considered an outskirt, here are still people living in most of those houses.

You'll have some directly on the front lines which will only be occupied by fighters. And we obviously -- we walked through people's living rooms in some cases that they had to abandon, but there's other houses there where people are still very much in harm's way.

And when you're in place like that, you really see why this conflict has taken such a heavy toll and why most of those killed are civilians. You go through those houses. The fighters when they take each other on there, they go room by room and fight each other. There was blood all over the walls.

Some of the rooms there were basically you could see that they had been set on fire to try and make progress. So it's really clear to see why so many people are suffering from this, not only being killed, but, of course, millions also being displaced, Suzanne.

HOLMES: And, Fred, you know, as this grinds on, one side gets the upper hand. The other side gets the upper hand. You've got the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland. You've got Obama and Putin going to have a chat about all of this. Is there any sense on the ground there or any hope that there is a diplomatic outcome of any kind?

PLEITGEN: I think hope might be the wrong word at this point in time, but I will say this. Most Syrians that I've spoken to, either supporting the opposition or supporting the government, have all said they want a negotiated solution. These are not people who want to kill their neighbors and who want to fight against people just because they are of a different religion, at least most of the people that we speak to here.

It seems very different when you look at the political situation, when you look at the Assad regime. When you also look at many of the people who are fighting amongst the opposition, it seems as though at this point in time, there doesn't seem to be much leeway for any sort of negotiated solution.

The Assad regime, of course, is making a lot of gains on the battlefield right now. It's really up in the air whether or not they actually want negotiations, although they still say they do.

And, of course, on the other side, we have the opposition, which is really fragmented and has a lot of trouble finding a common position. So within all of that, it's very difficult. One of the things, though, people always say to me, guys, is that they think if there is going to be any sort of negotiated solution, it would have to come from the U.S. and Russia getting together and somehow making it work.

But, of course, right now the hope isn't very big.

HOLMES: No sign of that at the moment.

All right, Fred, great reporting, as always. Frederik Pleitgen there in Damascus.

MALVEAUX: A very complicated situation, I mean, it just goes to show how many different groups are on the ground. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? The Palestinians are involved in the fight as well.

HOLMES: Yeah. And Hezbollah and everyone else.

All right.

MALVEAUX: Coming up, we know he's a motorcycle rider, a hunter and a judo expert.

HOLMES: Yeah, but is Vladimir Putin a jewel thief? We're going to take you live to Moscow after all this. Surely, it all a big misunderstanding. Surely.


MALVEAUX: All right, it's a case of international intrigue. This is the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has a Super Bowl ring with 125 diamonds on it, right? He says it's a gift, right?

HOLMES: Yes, but was it? Was it? The New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he wanted it back after gave it, and says he just wanted to show it to him.

Phil Black's in Moscow. Come on, Phil. You've been there a while. Is this -- was this nicked, or was it a gift?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not brave enough to give a definitive ruling on that, Michael, but the Robert Kraft version of events is that he showed this ring to Vladimir Putin, the president, back in 2005 in St. Petersburg.

Showed it to him. Mr. Putin tried it on, made a joke about its size, said he could kill someone with it, apparently, then took it off, slipped it in his pocket and walked away just as Mr. Kraft was extending his hand to take it back. That's what he says.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman says that's absolutely not true. He was in the room at the time, and everything he saw and heard that day indicated that it was offered and received as a gift.

So I'm going to be a little diplomatic and suggest that perhaps there is a third option. Perhaps there was just some breakdown in communication, that the ring was literally, perhaps, lost in translation.

MALVEAUX: Oh, my God, lost in translation. Lost in his pocket.

HOLMES: Lost in his pocket, yeah.

MALVEAUX: Phil, you're a brave man to even report this story.

So where is the ring now? Do we know?

BLACK: This $25,000 diamond-encrusted symbol of American sporting glory is currently behind those famous red brick walls of the Kremlin in a special vault that is apparently reserved just for the most valuable gifts that the president receives.

And it looks like it's going to stay there, too, because the president's spokesman has said that if Mr. Kraft is upset about the loss of ring then the president is prepared to buy him a new one of equal value, but there's no suggestion whatsoever of returning the original ring to the original owner.

HOLMES: No chance of a diplomatic incident here, is there? Didn't the U.S. sort of say to Mr. Kraft, you know, come on, let it go?

BLACK: That's what he says at the time. At the time, he released a statement saying that it was a gift. It was a gesture of respect to the president and the people of Russia and so forth. But he now says he only did that because he came under some pressure from the White House, that he did want this ring back.

But I think that if there was any potential for any great diplomatic embarrassment that's probably passed because Mr. Kraft now says that he loves the fact that the ring is in the Kremlin, and he still has a great deal of respect for the president and this country.

HOLMES: Good stuff, Phil. Phil Black there.

And he's got a couple of others because, yeah, the Patriots won, I think, under his command, so he's got a couple of spares.

MALVEAUX: He can hang on to them, right?

HOLMES: Yeah, he could give the other two away.

MALVEAUX: Oh, just like, you know, don't give me anything. I'll keep it.

HOLMES: Exactly.

MALVEAUX: Coming up, an Englishman won golf's U.S. Open for this first time. This is in 43 years.

HOLMES: Amazing, but it's Phil Mickelson's heartbreaking loss that got a lot of people talking. Yeah, happy birthday, Lefty. Stay with us for the highlights. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well, it has been 43 years since the last golfer from England won the U.S. Open championship.

MALVEAUX: But Justin Rose ended the drought, winning the open at he won the open at Merion Golf Club. This is in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. And Don Riddell, he's joining us to talk about the big win not only for Justin Rose but all - I guess he represents the country, yes?

HOLMES: Yes. And for first - first win in 43 years in the open, but it's been - what has it been, 20 something since Faldo won the last anything mayor.

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Nick Faldo was the last English major champion in 1996. It's been a long time. And England got really excited about 15 years ago because they had this great generation of new golfer. But Westwood, Donald (ph), Poulter, and Casey had great careers, and still are having great careers, but never won a major title. But now Rose has finally broken through.

And I'll tell you what, it was a really emotional day for him yesterday when he stood here on the 18th green knowing he'd probably done enough. He'd just glanced up to the heavens and he later acknowledged that he was thinking of his late father, and mentor, who died in 2002. It wasn't lost on Justin Rose that yesterday was Father's Day.


JUSTIN ROSE, 2013 U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: I always knew the U.S. Open finished on Father's Day and, you know, I've been in contention most of the week and I kind of really wanted to have that moment where I could share with him and honor him.


RIDDELL: And I'll tell you what, if you can win here, you can win anywhere. It was a really, really tough test of golf. And the last Englishman to win the U.S. Open, Tony Jacklin in 1970, now says he thinks he could go on and win another five majors. He's that good.

HOLMES: He's got a great-- he's got a great swing, he really does.

You know, we've got to talk about lefty, Phil Mickelson. Six times he's been second and, yes, happy birthday lefty.

RIDDELL: Oh, you know, it's just awful for him, isn't it? You know, it really did look as though the stars were aligning for him. He was playing well this week. It was his birthday. It was Father's Day. The U.S. Open was even in Philadelphia. It was going to be perfect. But he came up short yet again. He's only really got himself to blame. He had the worst final round of the top five golfers. And his wait to win a U.S. Open title remains very, very illusive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PHIL MICKELSON, FINISHED 2ND AT U.S. OPEN: This one's probably the toughest for me because at 43 and coming so close, you know, five times, it would have changed the way I looked at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record. Instead, I just - I just keep feeling heartbreak.


RIDDELL: Yes, perhaps he's destined never to win a U.S. Open. How much heartbreak can a man take?

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. But, you know, I feel good about Rose because, I mean, Mickelson, I mean, that's just horrible, second six times. He has won four majors. I mean he's not short of (INAUDIBLE). I mean it's not like he's being a loser or anything, is it?

MALVEAUX: Yes, bridesmaid. Always the bridesmaid, not the bride.

HOLMES: Six times though. Oh, boy.

MALVEAUX: That is tough stuff.

HOLMES: Good to see you, Don. Get back to work, please.

(INAUDIBLE) he does.

MALVEAUX: He does. Yes.

Green tea for the Japanese prime minister and black forest cake for the German chancellor. Ice cream maker going all out at the G-8 Summit.

HOLMES: You love this story, don't you?


HOLMES: What flavor does President Obama get? Find out when we come back.


HOLMES: All right, it is summer, it's hot and, you know, a lot of people will think watermelon sometimes to cool down. But in Japan, that's going to cost you.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it's a lot of money to pay for this.


MALVEAUX: So, one of the watermelons sold for -- this is $3,200 at an auction in Japan there.

HOLMES: Don't cut it open.

MALVEAUX: So I guess it's because these are sweeter and they're considered luxury items over there so they're given as gifts during the summer and they're sold in department stores as well.

HOLMES: They'd better be sweet for $3,200. Boy, unbelievable.

MALVEAUX: What the -

HOLMES: Yes, that will be - that will be $15 for that. Thank you.

MALVEAUX: It's not - it's actually not hard to grow watermelons in your garden there. You can save a lot -

HOLMES: Oh, it's an expensive country.

MALVEAUX: You can save a lot of money or you can sell them too and make some money.

HOLMES: Yes, got a black market for watermelons.

MALVEAUX: Thousands of dollars.

All right. We just spent hour dealing with, of course, serious issues. We're talking about the war in Syria. It would be nice to have a little break, a little treat at the end of the day of the G-8 Summit.

HOLMES: Uh-huh. And so an ice cream vendor in northern Ireland may have just the thing. She's created flavors for the G-8 Summit inspired by the world leaders. Here's Dan Rivers.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the security and high politics, there is some levity in northern Ireland. This store spotted a reselling opportunity and has perused it with gusto.

RIVERS (on camera): Can I get a Nuts About Obama, please.


RIVERS (voice-over): G-8 ice creams.

UNA LILLEY, STORE MANAGER: Well, we came up with the idea when the G-8 was launched. And we make our own ice cream on site. We had just decided, OK, that if world leaders coming to our - to our - literally to our doors, so we'll make them a gelato of their own.

RIVERS: Green Tea ice cream for Japanese Shinzo Abe, Black Forest (INAUDIBLE) flavor for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Eton Mess for British Prime Minister David Cameron, and President Obama -

LILLEY: Obama is Nuts About Obama. And we did some research on him and found out that he likes almonds and he likes pecan (ph) nuts and peanuts, so a combination. His is a layered gelato of a couple of different flavors, there's snickers, chocolate and Nutella in there. And then we've also took the pecans and toasted almonds.

RIVERS: So the million dollar question, well the two pounds 29 question may be, which is her favorite.

RIVERS (on camera): What's your personal favorite?

LILLEY: Oh, hard question. I am quite partial to the Black Forest (INAUDIBLE) and I'm also partial to the Maple Pecan (ph). I'm partial to the Nuts About Obama. In fact -

RIVERS: You like them all, right?

LILLEY: I like them all. I like them all. That's the problem, yes.

RIVERS: Well, if the leaders of the G-8 don't achieve anything else, they have inspired some pretty awesome flavored ice creams. The big question is, will they get to try them for themselves?

Dan Rivers, CNN, (INAUDIBLE), northern Ireland.


HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) ice cream cone, you know, that's - I'd like a tall box, yes.

MALVEAUX: I want some ice cream. I know. I want some ice cream.

HOLMES: I bet he -

MALVEAUX: (INAUDIBLE) the whole piece makes me want ice cream. (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: I bet he expensed that too.


HOLMES: I want to see his expense report.

MALVEAUX: Don't - don't tell his boss.

All right, coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, federal agents digging up a field in Michigan as we speak.

HOLMES: Yes, we heard this story line before. They're looking for Jimmy Hoffa's body. We're going to get the latest.


MALVEAUX: Google taking technology to literally the stratosphere. Yes? Maybe?

HOLMES: Yes, it's releasing this thing. Look at it there. That's a - there's going to be 30 of them actually. High-tech balloons that are going to bring wi-fi Internet to people who can't get it.

MALVEAUX: That's just cool.

HOLMES: Yes. MALVEAUX: It's a trial right now, but 60 homes in New Zealand has a special antenna put on their homes. It's going to pick up the signal from that balloon. Nice, yes?

HOLMES: Most of them, you know, I read about this the other day, most of them only get up to like 30 minutes day. So you'd be quick as it goes overhead. Quick, answer the e-mail.

MALVEAUX: Yes, hurry, right? (INAUDIBLE).

All right. And you might remember this from a few years ago.

HOLMES: Yes, you remember this. Yes, this is at a prison.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it's kind of -- it's a little unforgettable, actually.

HOLMES: Yes, it is. This is in the Philippines. They got prisoners there performing Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Well, you know, now with plenty of time on their hands, inmates in Peru started to think.

MALVEAUX: I guess it's productive.


MALVEAUX: Twelve hundred prisoners hoping to get their massive - this is an aerobics class - big enough to set a world record. (INAUDIBLE). Look at that color coordinated and everything.

HOLMES: The prison director says practicing every day has given the inmates something positive to focus on. And we're waiting for word from the Guinness World Record people about whether the inmates actually did set a new global mark. They were trying to. And, of course, they're very enthusiastic. If they don't take part, they go to solitary. No, I'm kidding. I just made that up.

All right, that will do it for me. Good to be back. Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD.

Nice to see you.

MALVEAUX: Great to have you. All right, we'll see you tomorrow.

HOLMES: All right, we'll do it again tomorrow.