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Law Exposes Russia's Gay Divide; Twins Stolen from Parents Back Home; Protesters Crackdown Feared in Cairo; Prime Minister Take Norwegians for a Ride; Tube Travel to Revolutionize Long-Distance Travel?

Aired August 12, 2013 - 12:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He tells me about his broken jaw and broken nose, the results of multiple beatings.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: That was before the anti-gay propaganda law in Russia. Ahead, we're going to hear from both sides of this contentious issue, including the man who helped put those laws in place.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Also ahead, twin baby girls allegedly stolen and sold by a doctor in China, now back in their parents' arms.

HOLMES: And the tension continues in Egypt. Protesters say they are ready for anything, buying gas mask, setting up barricades and sandbags. We're live in Cairo.

BALDWIN: Good to see you all today on this Monday. Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Brooke Baldwin, sitting in for Suzanne.


HOLMES: Lovely to see you.

BALDWIN: Good to be here.

HOLMES: It's been a while.

BALDWIN: It's been a while.

HOLMES: Yes. I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today. Let's start with this.

A Republican senator has a message for President Obama. It is time to get tough with Russia.

BALDWIN: The already strained relations between Washington and Moscow have now taken a turn for the worse. And John McCain thinks President Obama is under estimating Russian President Vladimir Putin. Senator McCain criticized President Obama for comparing the Russian leader, and I'm quoting here, to a board kid in school.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, the president comparing him to a kid in the back of the classroom I think is very indicative of the president's lack of appreciation of who Vladimir Putin is. He's an old KGB colonel that has no illusion about our relationship, does not care about the relationship with the United States, continues to oppress his people, continues to oppress the media and continue to act in an autocratic and unhelpful fashion.


HOLMES: Well, President Obama cancelled a one-on-one meeting, of course, with President Putin, but McCain says that's not enough. He says by granting asylum to the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, the Russian leader has poked his finger in Mr. Obama's eye.

BALDWIN: Uh-huh. And for his part, President Obama says the U.S. needs to pause, needs to reassess its relations with Russia.

So, President Obama says he opposes any boycott of the winter Olympics in Sochi because of this, because of Russia's new law against gay propaganda. The law has exposed a deep divide over gay rights in Russia.

HOLMES: Bit talk there. Olympic officials says Russia has assured them the law won't apply to visitors, but is that hardly the point? It has put the spotlight on the fierce debate within the country. Phil Black with that part of the story.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Vitaly Milonov practicing his faith. He says he found Christianity while traveling in the United States. He joined the Russian Orthodox Church and was later elected to St. Petersburg's city council. He tells me about his politics. It's pretty standard stuff for a Christian conservative.

VITALY MILONOV, SAINT PETERSBURG LAWMAKER: Russian family church traditions.

BLACK: But one issue has brought Milonov national influence and international fame.

MILONOV: These sick people who are marching on the gay marches, while trying to proclaim - to attract people with their naked bodies.

BLACK: Milonov wasn't the first Russian politician to think up a law banning gay propaganda, but his efforts drove it onto the books in Russia's second city, its cultural capital, St. Petersburg. Soon after, it was adopted nationally, inspiring protests and violence that have shocked many around the world. At the heart of the law is the belief gay and straight relationships are not equal and it enforces big fines on anyone who suggests otherwise to children. MILONOV: Or other relations, you know, sins. For me they are sins. For many doctors it's a disease, I know, but it's not - it cannot be called equal.

BLACK: This is Igor Yeshiv (ph), practicing what he believes in. Yeshiv grew up and came out in the remote Russian region of Tartavstan (ph). He moved to Moscow and began the often dangerous job of fighting for gay rights in Russia. He's got the scars to prove it.

He tells me about his broken jaw, broken nose, the results of multiple beatings. That was before the gay propaganda law became a reality. Yashiv says his country has always had little tolerance for open homosexuality and there's even less now that the law says gay relationships are unequal. Yashiv knows he's part of a distinct minority, socially liberal, those who want Russia to change. Vitaly Milonov says he's a voice of the conservative Russian majority, those who believe in what they call traditional Russian values.

These two men represent a sharp social divide that is now being exposed to the world as Russia prepares to host next year's winter Olympics in Sochi. Milonov says gay athletes and tourists are welcome, but he hopes they will respect Russia's traditions and laws. Yashiv hopes athletes and visitors will join him in challenging laws and ideas he believes promote intolerance and discrimination.


BALDWIN: And Phil Black joins us now from Moscow.

And, Phil, to hear in your piece that gay relationships are unequal and everything, the backlash we've seen around the world, still it seems that Vladimir Putin and Russia wavering in how they feel.

BLACK: Yes, very much so. They are standing by this law, Brooke. The Russian view is that this law will stand, even during the Olympics, they say. They deny claims that it's an anti-gay law. They say it doesn't make it illegal to be gay, it does not interfere in the private lives of gay adults. They say it is purely designed to protect children from material and information they believe they are -- those children are not yet ready to deal with.

It seems that that pressure is likely to increase as the games get closer. The challenge for Russia will be standing by this law that they believe in, which is broadly unpopular with much of the world, while also hosting an Olympics that Russia very much wants to be declared an international success.

Brooke. Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, and, Phil, you know, it's interesting, there was a Pew Research Center poll that said three quarters of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society. But look at the other figures there, 33 percent in the U.S., 18 percent in Britain. I mean it's a huge figure. What is it that in a societal sense has so many Russians feeling that way? BLACK: There are some big culture and historical factors here. Russia has always been a socially conservative society. For much of the last century, it was a closed off society when it was part of the Soviet Union. And during the Soviet times, being gas was illegal. It was only decriminalized back in the early '90s when the Soviet Union collapsed. So Russia has always had some catching up to do with the west, with more progressive countries when it comes to gay rights, equality, tolerance, that sort of thing and for activists, both internationally and here.

The concern isn't so much that there is a gap between Russia and more progressive countries on gay rights and tolerance and equality. It is that that gap is now getting larger because of laws like this. They believe Russia is going in the wrong direction.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, very concerning. Phil, thanks so much. Phil Black there in Moscow.

You know, a very well-known British comedian, Stephen Fri (ph), who is gay, has been recommending that athletes, the British athletes, and hopes others do, take on a protest if they win a medal and cross their arms over themselves, live TV, in Sochi, see how that goes down.

BALDWIN: See how that goes down. I think they may not be the only ones doing something come the winter games.

Meantime, we have a follow-up to the story on those Chinese newborns whose parents say their doctor stole them and sold them.

HOLMES: Yes, twin girls back home again. That's the good news. The latest twist in the ongoing baby trafficking scandals, this in northwestern China.

BALDWIN: Our David McKenzie reports authorities are investing scores of other cases. But in this one, thank goodness it is a happy ending for the parents who thought they may never see their little girls again.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A glimmer of hope in a baby trafficking scandal that has rocked China.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): These tiny bundles are twin newborn girls allegedly stolen by a maternity doctor in western China and sold to traffickers. They were reunited on the weekend with their parents. The mother, Wang Yanyan, overcome with joy.

When I met her just days ago, Wang felt betrayed, lied to, right as (ph) she gave birth.

WANG YANYAN, MOTHER OF TWINS (through translator): The doctor was pretending to be very anxious, telling me that my babies have genetic defects. The doctor said the twins would be brain damaged or paralyzed. MCKENZIE: She says she begged to see the children, but the doctor wouldn't let them. For two months, they thought their children were dead. The doctor allegedly sold the twins onto a human trafficking ring for $3,000 each. They were separated and found by police in different parts of China.

The case has generated huge interest and alarm here, but the twins took the attention in their stride.

MCKENZIE (on camera): According to state media, at least 55 parents say their children could have been taken by the same doctor. And for those parents, they'll be hoping for emotional reunions of their own.

David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.


HOLMES: All right, let's take you to Egypt now where supporters of the ousted president still bracing for a confrontation. This has been going on for a while now. They're worried the army will crack down on their demonstration, as the army has been promising to do.

BALDWIN: We've been watching these protesters. They've been camped out in two Cairo squares for weeks and weeks. They're demanding Mohamed Morsy be reinstated as the president of Egypt. Reza Sayah is at one of those camps.

HOLMES: He joins us now from Cairo.

Reza, first of all, we've heard some news about President Morsy. Not surprisingly, they're hanging on to him. But also, when it comes to these demonstrations, this has been threatened for a while now. What makes anyone think it's going to happen now?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was a lot of rumors swirling, Michael, last night that the crackdown would happen at down this morning. Morning came but the crackdown did not. A lot of people here sighing - breathing a sigh of relief.

This is the main entrance to the main sit-in here in east Cairo. And as you can see, this very lengthy brick wall is still upright, intact. This brick wall has been built with these bricks that have literally been pried from the sidewalk. About 10 to 15 pounds each. You can see demonstrators continue to come in and out.

These are pictures of some of the victims of the recent clashes. This is the first line of defense for this sit in. And if you look beyond this first wall, you see a second barrier or third barrier or fourth barrier and a few blocks down the street you're looking at, that's where the sit-in is located. So if security forces are going to launch a crackdown, this is what they have to get through.

But again, this morning, a lot of people who have been camped out here for more than five weeks woke up. There was no crackdown. But you get the impression that they're still bracing themselves for possible operation that's been promised by this interim government. BALDWIN: Reza, I'm look at your pictures as we were sort of seeing beyond the stones, and I think I notice some children, some women. Tell me, whose making up these people who are in these camps?

SAYAH: Yes, this is one of the most alarming aspects of this sit-in. Over the past five weeks we've seen more and more families, women with their children, infants and toddlers. The interim government alleges that the pro-Morsy supporters, the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, are using the women and children as human shields. They, of course, reject this. They say they're living here. They're going to stay with their children and they're not going to leave until Mohamed Morsy is released and reinstated.

But you have to believe, if security forces launch this crackdown, they're going to want to do everything to avoid an incident involving police and security forces and children. But again, as you mentioned, a lot of families there at this hour.

BALDWIN: Reza Sayah, thank you so much. A live report from Cairo.

HOLMES: Yes, a bit of a worry, parenting and politics going together there.


HOLMES: Yes. Hopefully nothing bad happens.

Now here's more, meanwhile, of what we're working on this hour for AROUND THE WORLD.

A woman hangs on for dear life, dangling from the balcony of her apartment building.

BALDWIN: Look at this.

HOLMES: Check that out. There is a rescue we're going to show you, coming up.

BALDWIN: That is ahead.

Plus, what would you do if you jumped in a cab and, surprise, President Obama was your driver. Not the case here. But in Norway, the prime minister was picking up fares. The reactions, hello, priceless.

HOLMES: Moonlighting. He needed the money.


And it's like a scene from "The Jetsons." High speed travel that can get you all the way from New York to California in a flash in a tube.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of like, you know, those old school mail system where they -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stuff the package up and it gets sucked up. We're going to be launched out of this rail gun, boom, you're off, 600 miles per hour.


BALDWIN: It's like the things in the banks.

HOLMES: You first.

BALDWIN: Lollipop, please. Thank you very much.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. Here is a look at some of the stories making news AROUND THE WORLD right now.

Israel planning to build new housing settlements or expand the ones they've got in Jerusalem and the West Bank and that threatens to derail the upcoming peace talks before they've started.

BALDWIN: So Israel's housing minister made this announcement just yesterday. Opposition politicians and Palestinian negotiators were quick to criticize this decision. Keep in mind, all of this comes just days before peace talks are set to resume.

HOLMES: Also, this announcement overshadowing Israel's plan to release 26 Palestinian prisoners, those prisoner releases part of the conditions for restarting the stalled peace talks and that's not a popular decision in Israel either.

BALDWIN: A tragic announcement from the Dutch royal family earlier today, 44-year-old Prince Johan Friso died. He had been in a coma for more than 17 months after he was severely injured in an avalanche last year.

HOLMES: Yeah, he suffered a lack of oxygen while he was under the snow for quite a while, waiting to be rescued, never recovered. His brother, Willem-Alexander, of course, is the king of the Netherlands.

BALDWIN: And a Chinese couple -- you've got to see this -- counting their blessings. They were having an argument on their balcony when, before they realized, they were hanging on for dear life.

HOLMES: Oh, boy, that could have ended badly. This happened after some words were exchanged. The woman slipped from her balcony towards the boyfriend's balcony below. He tried to help her. He ended up hanging in the air as well.

BALDWIN: Look at the firefighter climbing up, up one balcony. They finally grab her. Neighbors got a hold of the fire department. They were saved in quite dramatic fashion, as you can, but it's frightening all the way around.

HOLMES: Yeah, next time, have a fight indoors. BALDWIN: Yeah, not good.

OK, so this is one of our favorite stories of the day, safe to say. So would you take a taxi if you knew President Obama was behind the wheel?

HOLMES: Yeah, or David Cameron or Angela Merkel or anyone else. Some Norwegians, they were taken for a ride, quite literally, by their prime minister.

Here's Dan Rivers.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Explaining that today will be quite different to most Fridays, Norway's prime minister was the master of understatement as he donned a driver's uniform and headed for his taxi, a political stunt to enable him to get closer to the voters.

He waited on a taxi rank like any other cab and this is what happened. Some passengers seemed totally oblivious that the man running them around should have been running the country. But plenty clocked him immediately and then tried to figure out how bring up the awkward fact that he was, well, the prime minister.

Some were delighted, but Jen Stoltenberg is trailing in the polls ahead of an upcoming election and some wanted to take him to task.

It's difficult to imagine David Cameron doing a similar political stunt here in London, but that's because to get the license to drive one of these famous cabs, the so-called "knowledge test" can two or three years.

But for Norway's leader, the only qualification needed was a driving license, a pair of sunglasses and a sense of humor, a premiere taxi none of these passengers will ever forget.

Dan Rivers, CNN, London.


BALDWIN: There's so much too that. You and I both, as we were watching the piece, we were like uniforms in taxi cabs and a nice tie? I like that.

HOLMES: He got different kinds of tips to most taxi drivers, I'm sure.

BALDWIN: I like it.


BALDWIN: I like it.

How about this? How would you feel about going from, say, New York to San Francisco perhaps to, you know, cross-country, maybe to China in less than two hours?

HOLMES: Two hours to China, one billionaire inventor says he can make it happen. We're going to tell you about his mysterious new transportation system, coming up next.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. The billionaire inventor Elon Musk is best known for developing PayPal and also the rather nice, I have to say, Tesla electric car, and the Space X rocket program, right?

BALDWIN: So now he says, how about this, trying to revolutionize long-distance transportation? But this is all about tube travel.

Richard Quest joining us now to explain this. And, Richard, this has been all the talk in the news room today. Love the idea of getting from X to Y to Z like this, but in a tube? No way.

HOLMES: Yeah, my line here, Richard, is, you first.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Yes, now this has nothing to do with the sort of tube that I'm used to in terms of the London Underground where it's the Bakerloo or the Central Line. Oh, no.

Elon Musk has decided it's going to be what he describes as a tube, but not a vacuum. And the general thinking is there will be some sort of bullet or car which is shot down this tube using magnets to amplify the speed, which will go twice the speed of plane, so you're looking at anywhere from a thousand to 1,400 miles per hour.

And he believes this is perfect for those distances, not vast distances, New York to L.A., London-New York -- well, that'll be in the water anyway, but between, say, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The interesting thing about this is he said it will cost about $6 billion, which is a fraction of the high-speed rail price that are currently being considered.

HOLMES: And he's going to build this himself. Is he willing to put his own money up?

QUEST: Well, yes, I think he's looking for money and he's looking for an idea and he needs to make sure it works.

But here, look, I'm going to give you two a bit of grief because here we are, all three of us, sitting snugly, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in our mouths or sucking a lemon, saying, oh, this will never work. Oh, it's a very bad idea, terrible. No, never thought about it.

This man won the Anasri Prize. This man came up with Tesla. This man is a visionary and has foresight. And I've just got a feeling that in 10 years time our successors sitting in these studios may say, well, he did it.

HOLMES: What? We've only got 10 years? That's my next question.

BALDWIN: Well, it's like, when would it actually happen? And I think if you're shooting me in some sort of tube from, say, L.A. to San Francisco, I'm not like, my face isn't like flying back, you know?

QUEST: You two are like a wet weekend.

HOLMES: I love the Tesla. I think it's awesome.

BALDWIN: I'm in.

QUEST: It's called a hyper-loop, and if he does it -- it's called a hyper-loop, and if he does it, and he'll let me be on the first one, the hand is up.

HOLMES: Well, that's "hyper-loopy" if you ask me, to be the first one.

BALDWIN: Quickly, Richard, how expensive will this be?

QUEST: He says, it's $6 billion to build. He says that it hopes that the cost of a ticket will be an airline ticket or maybe a bit more, but it's a fascinating idea.

Remember, we've seen things similar before. We saw HTOL, which was the horizontal takeoff one. That went nowhere. People, again and again and again, are trying to find these new ways of fast communication, fast travel that will have less environmental impact. Is this it? I don't know. But this is a man who has provenance of coming up with ideas of the future that work.

HOLMES: I agree with you, Richard.

BALDWIN: I appreciate the innovation.

HOLMES: He's an extraordinary man. He really is. He's done some amazing, out-of-the-box things, so who knows? He probably will.

QUEST: Wet weekend. Wet weekend.

HOLMES: Get out of here. You first, as I said, then I'll pop along afterwards and meet you in San Francisco.

BALDWIN: Richard Quest, thank you.

HOLMES: Good to see you, sir.

QUEST: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I don't know. Richard Quest. What do you say? Would you pay cash for a home you've never visited in a country thousands of miles way? Some buyers in China are doing exactly that.

HOLMES: Yeah, they're looking at houses right here in the U.S.

Also, this story, a lot of concern from his relatives, this is an American imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp. He's being moved to a hospital after losing more than 50 pounds. He's not well.