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Sweltering Around World; Headmistress Flees After Children Die; Top Putin Opponent Sent to Jail; Springsteen Fans Pay Tribute to Trayvon Martin; Malala Yousufzai Receives Pseudo-Apology from Taliban;

Aired July 18, 2013 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Now the Taliban have written a rather bizarre letter reaching out to the Pakistani school girl their gunman tried to kill.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: And antiapartheid icon Nelson Mandela marks a huge milestone and the world is celebrating.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today.

Well, let's start off with this, the northeast, the Midwest of the U.S. getting even hotter today. Tens of millions of people under heat advisories.

MALVEAUX: We are not alone. This is not the only part of the world struggling under these stifling temperatures. This is really hot around the world. Eastern Canada, from Toronto to Montreal, all reaching the 90s yesterday, which is way above average. A new report finds at least 85 people have died from this extreme heat this summer in Japan.

HOLMES: Yes, then go to Britain. They're in the grips of a heat wave as well.

Chad Myers, let's start with the U.S. and Canada.


HOLMES: What can folks expect today?

MYERS: You know, heat index 105, 110 and all these numbers that we talk about, when you add the heat and humidity, some people call it humidx (ph), humidture (ph), whatever, all it is, is just the -- will your body, when it perspires, will that perspiration evaporate? And when it does, then you get cooled down, just like getting a shot at the doctor. Put a little alcohol on a cotton swab, put it on your arm, your arm turns cool. That's the evaporation.

So that's what your body's hoping to do, it's hoping to evaporate some of the heat that is building up inside of it. It's unable to do that when the heat index is above you your body temperature, and that's everywhere across the Midwest, all the way into southern Canada. Atlanta, Canada, has been very hot all week long too. New York City, 101. Washington, D.C. today will go to 104. That's what it feels like outside.

Now, there's relief coming. There is some relief coming by Sunday into Monday. But, still, tomorrow could be a degree or two warmer than today itself. Finally, Montreal, you're going to cool down, 73 on Sunday. That will feel real good compared to where you've been the last couple of days.

MALVEAUX: And, Chad, tell us about Japan. I understand that people are dying from heat stroke, most of them elderly people, and the U.K. pretty much dealing with this heat wave as well.

MYERS: Yes. You know, U.K. and Japan as well, parts of Asia. Again, I know it's summertime, but this has been a particularly brutal summer with the heat and humidity and then it rains. When it rains and then that rain evaporates, that's what increases the humidity. You can see the heat there just in that picture coming off the ground there. And that's what they've been dealing with, with air temperatures well above 90, 95 degrees there in Japan where they really don't expect it many times.

In London, London has been well upped into the 80s and 90s the past couple of days and even the past couple of weeks. And if you're going to go and look at the British Open, (INAUDIBLE) they're just calling it the Open Championship, temperatures up there way up north Edinburg will be around 72, 73 where, you know, it should be like in the 60s and raining. It's beautiful in some spots, but in London, where you have all of those people all packed together you have 86, 80, 86, 90, 90. That's hot for people that a lot of them don't have A.C.



MYERS: I mean there's not a lot of air conditioning in London because they don't expect it to get hot.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, that's the thing. Yes. No, I lived there for many years and, yes, you're right, no A.C. So when it gets into the 70s there, the media calls it the sizzling 70s. Everybody just starts complaining about the weather. But I was talking to Alex (INAUDIBLE) up at the British Open, Chad, and I don't know what the forecast is up there, but sun in Scotland? I'm sorry, they're not used to that.

MYERS: I know. Unheard of. The scores might be ridiculous.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly.


HOLMES: Yes, they're all going to start collapsing just because it is sunny.

Chad, good to see you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: Thanks. You're welcome.

HOLMES: Stay cool out there.

MALVEAUX: Nice to see those pictures, though. A lot of the Brits had the popsicles.

HOLMES: Oh, yes.

MALVEAUX: Everybody had like either ice cream or a popsicle in their hand.

HOLMES: Out in Hyde Park. Oh, yes.

MALVEAUX: Nice. Nice job (ph).

HOLMES: All right, now to a more -- far more serious story, a deadly story, the poisoning of nearly two dozen school children in India. Police now searching for the school's headmistress.

MALVEAUX: They actually want to question her about how the school's free lunches became contaminated with insecticide. That's right. This poison was so toxic that some of the children actually died in their parents arms on the way to the hospital. You see those just heartbreaking pictures there.


MALVEAUX: Many other students survived, but remain hospitalized.

HOLMES: Sumnima Udas takes us now to the ward where some of those kids are being treated.


SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Twenty-two children have died after eating their free lunch in school and all the children who fell ill from that meal have been brought to this government hospital. There are two dozen children here. Doctors say all of them, though, are now out of danger. When they arrived here, though, many of them were vomiting, they were feeling dizzy. Many of them even fainted. Doctors suspect it's a case of organophosphorus (ph) poisoning, which is an insecticide that is commonly used by farmers in this part of India.


HOLMES: Sumnima joins us now on the line.

Sumnima, you know, yesterday there was a lot of concern or talk about the cooking oil which was supplied by a grocery store run by the headmistress's husband. The husband's disappeared. The headmistress has disappeared. What are they saying?

UDAS (via telephone): That's right, Michael. The local police in (INAUDIBLE) they're still looking for the principle and her husband, actually, for questioning and that she has been on the run since that mass poisoning happened. We were actually at the village earlier in the day and a local (INAUDIBLE) say the principal actually disappeared as soon as she saw a young student die after eating that meal. A lot of those villagers did see what happened. They said these students, a lot of them are students that eat their meal. They went to the water pump there to wash their plates and some of them just started throwing up right there. Some of them fainted right there, and then the principal disappeared.

It is unclear what the principal's involvement was. The cook of the meal had initially told the local media here that she had questioned the quality of the oil but the principal told her to use that oil anyway. And we actually spoke to the cook as well. She's now being treated at the (INAUDIBLE) hospital there and she receded (ph) this claim (ph). She said she hadn't noticed anything odd about the oil. So a lot of questions still remain about this, Michael. And whether or not that meal was accidently or deliberately poisoned, it's still a bit of a mystery.

MALVEAUX: And tell us a little bit about this free lunch program, because this is really the biggest in the world. It feeds more than 100 million people here. But some people see it as being very uneven, if you will, inconsistencies in the safety, the quality of the food, just depending on where you live, what state you live in.


UDAS: That's right. It really depends from state to state. The authorities are in shock because while there had been some minor issues of (INAUDIBLE) food with this (INAUDIBLE) meals in the past, they've never seen anything of this scale. The human resources minister actually just announced that it is setting up a committee now to look specifically into the quality aspect of the (INAUDIBLE) meal in all of the schools across the country.

Again, this is, as you said, this is in one of India's most ambitious and most successful development (ph) programs. It's the largest (INAUDIBLE) school feeding program in the world. They feed about 120 million children every single day for free. And for many of these children, it's the only warm and nutritious meal they get and it also encourages many children to come to school. Children who perhaps otherwise stay at home, they help their parents in the fields. Many of them, of course, are children of farmers. And this - in this particular village as well, it wasn't just the children from that village who were in that school who ate that meal, but the children had brought their brothers and sisters and their friends and cousins from other districts as well just because they were given this free meal in this school.

HOLMES: Just terrible. Sumnima, thanks so much. Sumnima Udas there is on the spot where this happened reporting for us.

MALVEAUX: And we saw those pictures too of those protests.

HOLMES: Yes. MALVEAUX: I mean sometimes that - all -- the frustration of a lot of people, they feel like that's the only thing that they can do is just to lash out.

HOLMES: Yes, they feel powerless. Yes. That's a huge problem in India, the malnutrition side of things. Tens of millions of children who rely on that food program and look what happens.

MALVEAUX: In Russia today, a man is facing a five year prison term for corruption, but you have to know who this man is and who would actually love for him to be out of the picture.

HOLMES: Very suspicious. We are talking about Alexei Navalny. Now, that is not a household name here in the United States, but he is very well known in Russia and also he's a major headache for President Vladimir Putin. Navalny is an outspoken politician. He's against just about everything that President Putin stands for.

MALVEAUX: Well now he has been tried and found guilty of something that he has accused Russian officials of doing for years, and that is embezzling money. U.S. officials, they say his trial was a sham. European officials calling it a joke. Even Mikhail Gorbachev is upset, saying this guy's prosecution nothing but dirty politics. Our CNN's Phil Black is in Moscow.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was Alexei Navalny in a more hopeful time, leading tens of thousands of people protesting against Vladimir Putin. Navalny's passion, charisma, fierce language and commitment to fighting corruption inspired many to join him on the streets on those brutally cold winter days.

But that was more than a year ago and a lot has changed. New laws considered by many to be repressive, crush the protesters' enthusiasm and Navalny, the movement's most popular figure, became the target of a criminal investigation.

ALEXI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION FIGURE (through translator): This day has finally come. I expected it.

BLACK (on camera): Why do you believe this is happening?

NAVALNY: I've been investigate and corruption in state-run companies by government officials over the last six years. These people steal billions. I'm making it harder for them to steal. They understand my anticorruption work is a threat.

BLACK (voice-over): The corruption fighter accused of corruption. He was prosecuted for allegedly stealing $500,000 worth of timber from the state when he was an adviser to a provincial governor. Navalny has always said the charge is ridiculous.

BLACK (on camera): Do you think you have any chance of winning?

NAVALNY: Of course not. They didn't fabricate this case to allow that. It's obvious for me it's going to be a guilty verdict.

BLACK (voice-over): Navalny also has political ambitions. He wants to be president. But Russian law forbids convicted criminals running for office.

NAVALNY: It's through one of putting (ph) goals in this trial is to stop me from being involved in politics. But this law only exists in Putin's system and our goal is to destroy Putin's system.

BLACK: The president's spokesman said Putin didn't follow the trial. Navalny is not the first prominent Kremlin opponent to be sent to jail. Mikhail Hoberkofski (ph) has been locked up for the last decade. Once Russia's richest man, he was convicted in a case widely seen as punishment for trying to promote democracy in Russia and Navalny was in court last year to see the women of Pussy Riot sentenced to two years for their anti-Putin punk prayer in a Moscow cathedral.

BLACK (on camera): Are you ready to go to jail? Is your family ready for that?

NAVALNY: I always understood right from the start, you can go to jail in Russia for any independent political activity. You shouldn't do it if you are not ready to go to jail.

BLACK (voice-over): Russian authorities have always insisted Navalny's prosecution is not political, but a senior investigator recently admitted his colleagues had fast tracked their work in Navalny's case because of his criticism of Russia's political system.


HOLMES: And Phil Black is live with us now in Moscow.

Now, Navalny, the risk here, of course, from the perspective of Russia's power brokers, is they could turn this guy into a political martyr, if you like. What is his level of support?

BLACK: It is considerable, Michael, especially within the cities of Russia. Major cities like Moscow, among urbanized, middle class, well educated people who travel, spend a lot of time online. These are the people that are angry about many aspects of Russian society, a lack of democracy, the continued domination of politics by Vladimir Putin and what they believe is an intolerable level of corruption. These are the people that Navalny spoke for. These are the people who support him.

Outside of these major cities, he is less well known and less supported. But the people who know him and support him feel very strongly, he was potentially a future leader of this country.

MALVEAUX: And, Phil, tell us a little bit about what the situation is with President Putin. It clearly seems like he is very challenged, if you will, and insecure about his opponents -- being challenged by his opponents here. Do people see this as an act of desperation?

BLACK: Well, I think certainly some of Putin's opponents would certainly interpret it that way, but it does very much fit a trend. Those who oppose President Putin know that they run the risk of the system in some way targeting them. And certainly that's what Navalny's supporters believe. They are in no doubt whatsoever that he is paying the price for his opposition to the government, to the political status quo, to President Putin in particular. They view this very clearly as political payback.

The case against Navalny was always very flimsy. It was dropped once because of a lack of evidence but authorities ordered that it resume. The Russian courts, they are notoriously lacking in independence from the political system and they have a very, very high conviction rate, said to be more than 99 percent. So when we spoke to Navalny, he was in no doubt whatsoever that it would end with a guilty verdict. He knew he would be convicted. But he hoped that he would not receive a jail sentence. But today he was led from the court in handcuffs to begin a five year prison term.


HOLMES: Yes. Yes. You don't want to be an opposition leader in Russia these days.

Phil, good to see you. Phil Black there.

He was running for mayor, too, but that's not going to happen, obviously.

MALVEAUX: Yes, that's not going to happen. And obviously the United States, the European Union saying it's a sham, you know.

HOLMES: Yes. Exactly.

MALVEAUX: It doesn't mean anything.

Here's more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD this hour. Shocked, stunned, that is how the parents of Trayvon Martin describe their reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. They are now speaking out.

HOLMES: And remember the young Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban? Well, she's received a letter from a senior Taliban leader. You won't believe what he says in it.

MALVEAUX: And CNN was there when Panamanian authorities opened the containers of the seized North Korean ship. You're going to see what was actually inside.



BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, SINGER: (Inaudible) and justice for Trayvon Martin.


MALVEAUX: There you see rocker Bruce Springsteen paying tribute to Trayvon Martin during a concert in Ireland. Now Springsteen spotted a sign in the audience for his song, "American Skin (41 Shots)," when he grabbed the sign and said he wanted to send a letter back home for justice for Trayvon Martin.

HOLMES: Yeah, that song includes the lyrics, "You can get killed just for a living in your American skin."

We're following another development in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial, Trayvon Martin's parents speaking out for the first same since a jury acquitted Zimmerman of killing their son.

MALVEAUX: And they say they were shocked by the outcome of the trial and, the grieving parents, they say they don't understand how someone could argue self-defense for shooting an unarmed teenager.

Well, in an interview on CBS this morning, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton talked about her initial reaction to the verdict.


SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: I was in a bit of shock. I thought surely that he would be found guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter at the least.

But I just knew that they would see that this was a teenager just trying to get home. This was no burglar. This was somebody's son trying to get home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were stunned by the verdict?

FULTON: I was stunned, absolutely. I couldn't believe it.


MALVEAUX: Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law has now come under fire in the aftermath of the acquittal of Zimmerman.

HOLMES: Yeah, Zimmerman's lawyers didn't actually use the "stand your ground" law in his defense, but it was included in the instructions to the jury, so it played a bit of a role.

Victor Blackwell joins us now from Tallahassee. Victor, give us an update on the protests that have been targeting the "stand your ground" law and the Florida governor, by the way.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have now been waiting in the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott for 50 hours, a group called Dream Defenders.

This is how they're spending day three.





BLACKWELL: For a third day, student activists refused to leave the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott until they meet with him.

AHMAD ABUZNAID, DREAM DEFENDERS: We'd like the repeal of "stand your ground" or some type of modification where we can hold people responsible to a level that humanity expects.

BLACKWELL: The group is demanding a special session of the Florida legislature.

Governor Scott responded Wednesday.

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I took advice from the president. We had great people on that committee.

They went around the state and listened about the "stand your ground" laws, and they came back and said we shouldn't change it, and I agree with them.

BLACKWELL: Justice for Trayvon rallies are scheduled in 100 cities Saturday to urge civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.

JUROR B-37: I think George got in a little bit too deep.

BLACKWELL: One of the jurors in the Zimmerman trial who spoke exclusively with Anderson Cooper now says in a statement to CNN, there will be no other interviews.

As for her literary agent and a rumored book deal she writes, "There is not one at this time," and, "The relationship with the agent ceased the moment I realized what had been occurring in the world during the weeks of my sequestration."

And we're learning more about how the Zimmerman jury spent their 22 days sequestered when they weren't in court. The six female jurors occasionally left the hotel with court approval, going bowling, shopping, and to the movies.

Seminole County officials estimate sequestration cost the county $33,000, all to isolate them from the controversy surrounding the trial.


BLACKWELL: Now we have asked the governor's communications director several times, will the governor meet with these protesters? No direct answers over the last several days.

We have checked his schedule. On Tuesday he was in New York. Yesterday he was in other parts of the state.

Today he is in Tampa, but these protesters, thus far, are not on the schedule. They say they're prepared to wait for weeks.

Michael? Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Yeah, Victor, I was going to ask you, do they -- are they really prepared to wait for weeks here?

How long will they keep this going? Do they have people to support them to be able to do something like that?

BLACKWELL: They do have the support. They are a group of college students, also with some support from grad students and also some attorneys.

There are members of the Florida house who are here supporting them, local churches, student groups from across the state, and they're sitting in shifts, so right now they're about two or three dozen there and some come over night and then they switch out the next day.

So while the same people may not be sitting there, they do, they tell me, have enough people to wait as long as it takes.

MALVEAUX: All right. Victor, thank you. Appreciate that.

HOLMES: Yeah, And Trayvon Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, do sit down with Anderson Cooper to talk about how their family is moving forward.

Don't miss that. That's an all-new interview, tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

MALVEAUX: And we're also looking at this. This young Pakistani teenager survived a Taliban attack.

Well, now she is hearing directly from the leader of the group, the Taliban, about why she was shot, up ahead.


MALVEAUX: Here's a switch, the Taliban worried about its own public image.

HOLMES: It looks that way.

The group has gotten a lot of bad publicity, obviously, but even more so after the attack on the Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousufzai.

Remember -- excuse me -- militants tried to kill her because she spoke out against the Taliban ban on girls getting educated in traditional schools.

MALVEAUX: So now a senior Taliban commander has written kind of a bizarre letter to her. It's part threat, part apology.

ITN's Kylie Morris has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KYLIE MORRIS, REPORTER, ITN: A "Dear Malala" letter from her Taliban attackers, written by a senior regional commander, sent via e-mail from a trusted source to this program, intended as a response to the Pakistan school girl's impassioned speech to the U.N.

MALALA YOUSUFZAI, SHOT BY TALIBAN: On the 9th of October, 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too.

They thought that the bullet would silence us. They failed.

MORRIS: Not only did the attack fail to silence a girl who's become a global superstar, it's cost the Taliban key support at home in Pakistan.

This letter seeks to win back friends as well as keeping those they still have.

Its author is Commander Adnan Rasheed, a notorious Taliban commander.

ADNAN RASHEED, TALIBAN COMMANDER: You can see this death squad around me. We warn you to surrender yourself to us.

MORRIS: He was sentenced to death for his part in a plot to assassinate President Musharraf, but escaped in a mass jail break. Now he's trying to restore the Taliban's reputation by writing letters.

He writes to Malala ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): When you were attacked it was shocking for me. I wished it would never have happened.

MORRIS: Rasheed was in prison when Malala was shot at close range by a fighter that is boarded her school bus and asked for her by name.

He repeats the Taliban claim that she was not targeted because she was going to school, but because she had spoken out against their campaign in her home region of Swat.

He writes that the Taliban never attacked you because of going to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The Taliban are not against the education of any men or women or girls.

Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against them and running a smear campaign.

MORRIS: He admits fighters are prone to blowing up schools, but says the Pakistan army is doing it, too, since both sides are in the habit of turning ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): ... schools into hideouts and transit camps. MORRIS: That revelation certainly fails to explain the violent campaign against teachers and school students waged across the country.

But Pakistan has a new government and the Taliban seem to want to send a message they can be reasonable.

PROFESSOR ANATOL LIEVEN, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON: Sensible members of the Taliban are rattled by some of the bad P.R. they've been getting by the assassination attempt against Malala.

He wouldn't be saying all of this unless he felt that he had some kind of case to answer in Pakistani public opinion.

MORRIS: Playing to that opinion, the commander poses a question for Malala to ponder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I ask you and be honest in your reply, if you were shot by Americans in a drone attack, would the world ever have heard updates on your medical status?

MORRIS: Then he finishes his letter with some advice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture, join any female Islamic madrasa in your hometown, study and learn the book of Allah.

MORRIS: It's not an invitation Malala's family will be taking up. They have refused to comment, but say they never received their own copy.


HOLMES: All right. That was ITN's Kylie Morris reporting there.

I know you've got some news just coming in.

MALVEAUX: We do have some news. This is from the Massachusetts district attorney's office. This is investigating the death of Steven Rakes.

Now this is a man who was prepared to testify in the trial of the reputed Boston mob boss, James "Whitey" Bulger. He has been found dead.

HOLMES: Yeah, this is in Lincoln, Massachusetts, discovered at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Now the was on the prosecution list to testify, but then was apparently taken off the list and some reports suggesting he was upset about that. He wanted to testify.

But important to note here, no cause of death at the moment, we don't know what happened to him. He was 59-years-old.

MALVEAUX: And the district attorney's office is saying at least for now there are no signs of trauma, but, of course, they're going to be conducting an autopsy to figure out how it was that he died.

But we've been following this trial, the Bulger trial. It's been absolutely fascinating to hear.

HOLMES: That's Bulger, by the way, just getting off that chopper there back in June to be taken into custody.

Of course, he was on the lam for years, wasn't he, and finally caught up with by the long arm of the law, and that trial is just extraordinary at the moment.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, the details are amazing. I mean, Bulger, he's been charged in the deaths of 19 people.