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Putin and Snowden Situation Examined; Massive Flooding in India; Pope Francis No-Show; Workers Holding Boss Hostage; Illegal Border Crossing Simulated

Aired June 25, 2013 - 12:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to AROUND THE WORLD. Russian president Vladimir Putin says the NSA leaker Edward Snowden is in the Moscow airport. As a matter of fact, Mr. Putin says that Snowden is a free man. The sooner he figures out where he's going to go, the better.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, better for everyone, Chinese thought that, too.

Former CNN contributor and former CIA operative Bob Baer joins us now. Bob, what sort of position is Russia in?

The average person would think they would want to grab this guy and ask him a bunch of questions about what he knows about what the U.S. was spying on in Russia. What do you think about how Mr. Putin is handling this now?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, there are a couple of things, Michael. First of all, we don't know that they haven't grabbed him and asked him a couple of questions. He'd be a gold mine for the Russians, you know, NSA protocols, what the CIA station was doing (inaudible), what he knows about the CIA. He'd be a gold mine. There's no question about it.

Secondly, Putin, I guess, is loving this. You know, a couple years ago we throw out almost a dozen Russian spies. He's very proud of the KGB. He was infuriated by this, humiliated and now he can turn around and give us the same.

MALVEAUX: What is it like in this airport, I mean, this no man's land here? I mean, will Russian officials essentially -- will they be able to talk to him? Will they be able to manage this, manipulate the situation?

And it -- does the U.S. have any control because it is officially or technically he is not in Russia.

BAER: Suzanne, the Russians don't fall (ph). They don't care. If they want to talk to the guy, they will. They control that airport, every part of it.

It's not sovereign territory, you know, international territory that belongs to just any country. They will get a hold of the guy. They will interrogate him if they want. If they see a use for it, they'll keep him there as long as they want. They are probably planning on how to extend this embarrassment to the United States. And I think they can do a very good job of it.


MALVEAUX: So what -- can the United States do anything? Can the Obama administration step in and do anything at this point or basically their hands are tied?

BAER: Back channel political pressure; go to Putin, promise his something. And let's not forget; let me add that Putin is really mad about Syria, the decision to arm the Syrian rebels. This is payback. How the horse trading will go, I can't tell you. But it will all have to be done back channel.

HOLMES: He's apparently -- well, he's said to have a fistful of laptops for them, full of NSA secrets. One imagines the Chinese would probably have a look at that before they let him go from Hong Kong. And now the Russians will probably want to have a look at it, too. He says he wants to release more secrets.

Is there more damage that can be done, do you think? Or do you think he's done most of it?

BAER: I think the investigation is still going on, what he had access to. It could have been a lot, what he had on those thumb drives and the laptops could have been enormously damaging, very helpful both to the Chinese and Russians.

And while I don't know this and I've been talking to people in the intelligence community, the assumption is that those laptops were grabbed early on, copied at the very least. Now whether the Chinese let him go to the Russians or not, it's pure speculation.

MALVEAUX: And Bob, in your many years of experience in intelligence, do you think that Snowden is going to end up in Ecuador, granted asylum?

BAER: I think that once the Russians are done with him, send him some place like Ecuador, Havana, where he'll spend the rest of his life, or if we're lucky we'll get one of these countries to extradite him back to the United States, where he'll spend the rest of life in jail.

HOLMES: Yes, quick left field question, I mean, the spy novel snatch squads ever leap into people's thinking when it comes to that? If he's in Ecuador, he wouldn't want to be too relaxed or is that a bit, I don't know, farfetched?

BAER: No. We could grab him in Ecuador. Moscow, no. We'll see how this plays out. But the man's future is not bright.

MALVEAUX: All right, Bob. Thank you so much as always. Appreciate it, Bob Baer.

Tonight at 6:00 pm on "THE SITUATION ROOM", Wolf Blitzer is going to take an in-depth look at Snowden and where he is headed next.

HOLMES: Yes, it's a fascinating story, isn't it?

Coming up, more than a thousand people now feared dead in India. Rescue trains having trouble getting to those trapped by floods and landslides. One rescue helicopter has already crashed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then Pope Francis, a no-show at a concert where he is supposed to be the guest of honor. Is it part of his plan to shake things up? We're going to talk about that, up next.

HOLMES: And we're waiting for the attorney general Eric Holder to speak. He's expected to weigh in on the Supreme Court's ruling on voter rights. We will bring you that live as well. You're watching AROUND THE WORLD.


HOLMES: To India now, tragedy continues to unfold in this country's massive flood zone, the government now saying, by the way, that eight people were killed when one of the rescue helicopters crashed.

MALVEAUX: And there are more than 1,000 people are feared dead now. There is concern that that death toll could be much, much higher. Thousands are trapped by high water and mudslides. These floods were brought on by monsoon rains that just came early.

HOLMES: Much of the damage is in northern India. In fact, in one place they've had 400 percent of their June rainfall just in the last couple of weeks. Entire villages and roads swept away, which is why it's hard to get these people off the mountains. There aren't any roads anymore --


MALVEAUX: And then --

HOLMES: -- yes.

MALVEAUX: -- yes, it's just (inaudible) on to Canada as well, Canada flood victims in western Canada, getting $1 billion in aid to help them rebuild their lives. The flooding that's affected now more than 100,000 people. This is the province of Alberta. And the government there says that they are going to provide money for recovery because it has been such an extraordinary situation there.

HOLMES: Look at that.

MALVEAUX: Really, really hard hit, about 65,000 people have gotten the all clear to return to their homes. That's in Calgary.

HOLMES: Yes, if they're still there. You can see one floating away. Other parts of that province still very much underwater.

MALVEAUX: Pope Francis continues to make waves. He was a last minute no-show. This is a concert where he was actually supposed to be the guest of honor.

HOLMES: Yes, there was just the big white chair sitting there that had been set aside for him. Nothing like standing out, is there?

Right before the concert began, a senior cardinal told the audience the pope, quote, "had an urgent commitment that could not be postponed." Now senior Vatican analyst John Allen joins us now from Rome.

Some people seem to be saying it's a snub by some cardinals; some were saying that or what should you read into an empty big white chair in the middle of the room?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SR. VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Michael and Suzanne, by now we all know that Pope Francis is a guy of simple tastes who is uncomfortable with some of the imperial pomp that often surrounds the Vatican.

The danger is knowing that about him, we're going to spin up absolutely everything he does into some kind of sweeping statement. And I think this is a good case in point. Truth is, this concert was organized months ago, when Benedict was still the pope. Of course, famously a music loving pope. And it was obviously put together with him in mind. The singers were all German and so on.

Now at the same time, all the papal ambassadors from around the world happened to be in Rome this weekend. And before they went back to their posts, Francis thought it was better use of his time to meet with them about some of the decisions that he has to make rather than going to this concert. In other words, if this illustrates anything, it's not so much a snub to the system or a rejection --


MALVEAUX: All right. John, we're going to have to interrupt here. Sorry to interrupt you. We're going to bring you Attorney General Eric Holder, who's speaking out now. Let's take a listen.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's a decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder and invalidated an essential part of the Voting Rights Act, a cornerstone of American civil rights law.

Now like many others across the country, I am deeply disappointed, deeply disappointed with the court's decision in this matter. This decision represents a serious setback for voting rights and has the potential to negatively affect millions of Americans across the country.

In the nearly half-century since its initial passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has consistently enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress as well as the executive branch.

After extensive hearings, Sections 4 and 5 of this important law were reauthorized most recently in 2006, just seven years ago, with the unanimous support of the United States Senate and the near unanimous support of the House of Representatives. This is a uniquely legislative function and responsibility that the Constitution expressly gave to Congress. The last reauthorization was signed into law by President George W. Bush, just as prior reauthorizations had been signed by Presidents Ford, Reagan and Nixon, in accordance with core non-partisan American values.

After all, as Congress correctly recognized in the hearings held in 2006, racial and language minorities face significant voting discrimination in some parts of our country. Given the successful decisions in the departments, the Voting Rights Act cases over the last 18 months, over the last 18 months, the need for a vital and intact Voting Rights Act remains clear.

Last year a federal court decided the value of the Voting Rights Act in blocking the Texas congressional redistricting map on the grounds that it discriminated against Latino voters. In that case, the court noted that the parties -- and now I'm quoting -- this is from the court.

"The court noted that the parties provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space or need to address here" -- "provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space or need to address here," unquote.

The federal court that reviewed South Carolina's photo ID law noted also noted, and I quote, "the vital function that the Voting Rights Act played in prompting the state to change how it will implement the statute in future elections so that it would no longer disproportionally impact black voters."

Without the Section 4 coverage formula, neither of these discriminatory voting changes would have been subject to review and both could have been implemented immediately. These are just two of many examples demonstrating that these problems have not --

HOLMES: All right. The attorney general, Eric Holder, there saying that the decision of the Supreme Court, in his words, "invalidates a cornerstone of American civil rights law," he said it is a serious setback for voter rights and will affect millions of voters across the country.

MALVEAUX: We're going to have more on that as well as following the continuing coverage.



MALVEAUX: Welcome back.

It's one thing if you feel like you're stuck at work. It is totally something else if you are actually or you believe that you're being held hostage.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: An extraordinary story. This about an American businessman who says he's being held in this Chinese factory for five days now. It's all over a pay dispute with his employees. He may not be able to get out, but our David McKenzie was able to get in. Check this out.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American executive Chip Starnes puts on a braver face. He's being held captive in his own medical supply factory in China.

MCKENZIE (on camera): So are you being held hostage now?

CHIP STARNES, HELD HOSTAGE IN LABOR DISPUTE: The answer is, yes. Thirty or 40 of them ransacked my office, come in there for three hours, standing there on my desk and just staring at me. 1:00 in the morning my GM and I had finally gotten them out, laid down for the next two hours. There was banging on the doors, windows and lights and stuff. And so a lot of sleep deprivation the first 48 hours.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): His family back home in Florida say they're in constant contact, worried sick, staying Starnes has a medical condition. He says he just wants to leave but they won't let him.

MCKENZIE (on camera): And so if you were to try and leave now, you couldn't leave?

STARNES: I -- it would be interesting to try. And that's definitely crossed my mind.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): In a bizarre twist, we're let in to view the factory. Starnes says he's been investing in China for more than a decade. He wants to move some manufacturing to Mumbai, India.

MCKENZIE (on camera): You and I talking here and you're spill being held hostage, it's kind of surreal.

STARNES: It is kind of surreal. In fact, I don't think I've been back here in three days or so. So, yes, it actually - the whole thing saddens me greatly.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Now he's meeting with workers trying to negotiate his way out of the factory.

STARNES: This is not out to accomplish something. You know, I'm at the point now, you know, we're at a standstill. I deserve the right to go back to my hotel room and I deserve to come back and we can address things professionally.

MCKENZIE: The workers say they're owed two months back pay and told us Starnes isn't a hostage but he can't leave.

David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.


MALVEAUX: I think you and I are just baffled by this altogether.

HOLMES: It's bizarre.

MALVEAUX: Like why he can't hop a fence or --

HOLMES: Or what happened to 911? Hello.

MALVEAUX: Or the authorities. I mean everyone is taking pictures. They're milling around. (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: Really odd. Yes, very, very strange. There's more to that tale.

All right, now a bizarre attraction. This is rather interesting, actually. It's a place that shows you what it's like to be an illegal immigrant trying to jump the U.S. border.

MALVEAUX: This is a bizarre theme park in Mexico. $20, I guess, they offer you some kind of experience like this. We're going to check it out, up next.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

A broad immigration reform bill crossed another hurdle in its journey through Congress. The Senate has approved a Republican-backed amendment to put a border patrol agent in place every thousands feet along the border fence 700 miles long.

MALVEAUX: A final Senate vote expected this week and then the bill faces a tougher fight in the House.

Well, this is a bizarre twist to the immigration story. It seems rather insensitive as well. A theme park in Mexico offering visitors a chance to experience what it would be like to cross the border.

HOLMES: Yes, all dangers included. Here's Nick Parker.


NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): El Elberto (ph), an indigenous town with a history of mass migration to the United States.

PARKER (on camera): The U.S. border is 700 miles or more than a thousand kilometers in that direction. But tonight, in one of Mexico's most famously off beat amusement parks, we're going to experience a simulation of what it's like to illegally cross the border.

PARKER (voice-over): As night fall, the tourists gather.

KAREN NAVA, TOURIST: I have some family who crossed to the United States in that way. So it could be interesting for me to know that kind of experience. But I -I don't want to do it like that.

PARKER: The aim of the hike is to educate on the dangers of border crossing, to discourage further migration. "In the last three years, our village has produced accountants and lawyers for the first time," says our masked guide. "We are going to learn tonight is that it came be done if you want to."

And then we are off. It wasn't long before you're hiding from border guards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They must be here somewhere (ph). Find them (ph).

PARKER: Then we were ambushed.

PARKER (on camera): The group has just been stopped by a gang of narco traffickers, which illustrates some of the vulnerabilities these migrants face crossing the border.

PARKER (voice-over): The hike lasts for nearly four hours at a cost of $20 per hiker.

PARKER (on camera): This is actually really deep.

PARKER (voice-over): I quickly learned that I was not very good at this. Eventually, some of our group were arrested. And the rest were blindfolded and driven to an imaginary Dallas by the smugglers. And here was the final surprise. A torch lit display for those who have died crossing the border and for those who stay to work in the village.

SERGIO CABRERA, TOURIST: It was a lot of excitement, a lot of curiosity at the end. It's fantastic.

PARKER: The park is expecting more visitors if, as many presume, the United States heightens border security. The message of hope for Mexico's economic future is shared well beyond this park.

Nick Parker, CNN, Alberto, Mexico.


MALVEAUX: Strange. I guess it's meant to educate people not to cross the border illegally because of all the dangers.

HOLMES: Right - right next to the water slide, yes.

MALVEAUX: It's just very odd..

HOLMES: Extraordinarily.

All right, well, forgotten pictures of Amelia Earhart discovered. Could they help researchers find out where she crashed her plane decades ago.

MALVEAUX: And coming up, Paula Deen is more hot water. Well, we are now hearing from her sons. What they're saying about the accusations against their mother, in the next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: All right, here are some of the other stories making news around the world right now.

Syria's civil war violence spreading to neighboring Lebanon again. State media reporting 12 Lebanese soldiers killed in the city of Sidon. That happened this week.

MALVEAUX: They were fighting armed followers of a hard line Sunni cleric who is a vocal supporter of rebels battling to overthrow Syria's president.

Emergency crews rushed to the presidential palace, this is in Afghanistan, after a brazen attack. Authorities say that three guards were killed, one injured when militants stormed an entrance to that palace.

HOLMES: Yes, this is supposed to be one of the most secure areas in Kabul, right near the U.S. embassy, also the headquarters of international forces. There was thick smoke for a while, you can see it there, as Afghan and U.S. troops battled the militants. Police say all of the attackers were killed.

MALVEAUX: The Taliban is claiming responsibility for the assault. It is a huge blow to planned peace talks with the Taliban.

And thousands of protesters hitting the streets in Brazil. They are angry about political corruption, problems with government services, many different things. Well, yesterday, the president called for sweeping reforms. That was in response to weeks of demonstrations.

HOLMES: Yes, the president making a lot of promises now. Among the changes she says will happen, the government's going to spend $22 billion more on public transportation. Those protests all started with anger over bus and subway fare hikes.

MALVEAUX: And a potential clue in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart has now surfaced. A museum in New Zealand has recently rediscovered photos of Gardiner Island. Now some believe that Earhart took shelter there -- that's in the South Pacific - after her plane went down.

HOLMES: Yes, these photos have spent 75 years in storage. They're now going to be analyzed, but researchers say it's too soon to tell what they will find.

MALVEAUX: In Manchester, England, a spooky mystery. Actually, it's kind of cool though.

HOLMES: It is kind of cool. This is a museum. They're trying to figure out - see that circle, that little figure there, it's an ancient Egyptian statue. And, yes, over time, lapse video, you can see it turns around by itself.

MALVEAUX: This has been in the museum for 80 years or so but suddenly it starts spinning. Some museum staff, they actually set up that video camera to record it and nobody can explain this thing. HOLMES: Yes, some experts say it could be from vibrations in the building or outside traffic just making it turn, but none of the other ones do, do they?

MALVEAUX: No. Mysterious.

HOLMES: Yes. They do say that if a mummy is destroyed that was found in a tomb with a mummy, that the spirit goes into the statue. So it could be the statue.

MALVEAUX: Could be. Could be.

HOLMES: That will do it for AROUND THE WORLD. It's going all around. I'm getting dizzy here (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: Oh, boy.


MALVEAUX: We'll be back tomorrow at noon. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.