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UK Weighs Options For Syria; Wildfire Near Yosemite National Park Still Rages; 13 Killed As Tropical Storm Fernand Slams Mexico; Loved Ones Hunt For The Disappeared In Egypt; Reaction To Miley Cyrus's Performance; Leading Women: Diana Mulligan: U.S. Speedskater Suspended For Skate Tampering; Brazilian Foreign Minister Resigns
Aired August 27, 2013 - 08:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.
Now Britain's prime minister announces lawmakers are being called back from vacation as world leaders deal with the escalating crisis in Syria.
A huge fire continues to burn in California's famous Yosemite National Park.
And we'll hear from the speedskater who was suspended and won't compete at next year's winter Olympics for sabotaging his rival's skates.
Now Syria's foreign minister says that his country can hear the drums of war. Walid Moallem spoke a short time ago as the British Prime Minister's office announced contingency planning is underway for a strike on Syria and the United States considers action.
Now we'll have more on the possibility of western intervention in a moment, but let's go straight to the Syrian capital right now.
Now CNN's Fred Pleitgen is the only western TV correspondent in Damascus. He joins me now with the very latest.
And Fred, the UN mission to investigate last week's reported chemical attack, that was delayed again today. Tell us why.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
Apparently, it was security concerns. The United Nations team allegedly wanted to go to the eastern Khouta (ph) region around Damascus, which is of course one of the places where those chemical weapons were allegedly used last Wednesday.
The UN has now said that especially after the incident that happened to them yesterday when of course their convoy was shot at by a sniper. They've decided to postpone that mission for a day to get a better assessment on the ground and would just be better prepared for what might happen.
Now, the Syrians for their side, as you say, say that they are hearing the drums of war from the international community. They reacted today. There was a presser by the Syrian foreign minister where he basically warned the United States of intervention saying that the Syrians will defend themselves. And he also once again reiterated that Syria says that it is not responsible for any sort of chemical weapons use in the outskirts of Damascus. And also says that it's not responsible for delaying the UN mission on the ground here.
Let's listen in to what Walid Moallem had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALID MOALLEM, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The Syrian side is fulfilling their obligations. And I say this to Mr. John Kerry, we aren't the people who are hindering the operation. They say you are late in sending the mission investigators. They came on Monday. We did not argue with them about the area they wanted to visit. There was no delay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: There you have it. Walid Moallem speaking there. Of course, he's referencing that speech that Secretary of State Kerry gave yesterday, which was very emotional where he said that the use of chemical weapons was, quote, "undeniable" and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Assad regime.
One of the things, of course, Kristie, that the U.S. has been saying is that they believe because the regime is shelling the outskirts of Damascus continuously that it might be trying to destroy possible evidence on the ground there.
The foreign minister also denied those claims, saying the only reason why they are shelling those areas is because they fear that otherwise the rebels might try to make advances from there -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Now Fred, momentum is building for western military intervention. And if there is a military strike, how would it change the situation on the ground?
PLEITGEN: Well, that certainly would depend on the scale and the scope of the strike. Of course there's no doubt here or anywhere else that if the U.S. really got involved in this conflict in a major way that it could very quickly tip the balance on the battlefields here. However, not many people actually believed that that is going to happen. They believe that these strikes are going to be limited. If there are limited strikes that especially target the infrastructure of chemical weapons here in this country, then that certainly wouldn't tip the balance of the battlefield, that probably wouldn't make much of a difference. But of course it would be a blow to the Assad regime.
Now, of course, there is the question then what could other fallout be in all of this?
The Syrians, for their part, have said that they will defend themselves if the international community decides to send cruise missiles or war planes here to Syria. The big question is how exactly they would do that. They're remaining mute about how they'd want to do that. So the question is, if there is a limited response, would there be a response from the Syrian side and what exactly would that be?
But certainly depending on how big an intervention is, it could definitely change things on the ground here, Kristie.
LU STOUT: Yeah. And as we wait to see if there is any western action, and we also are waiting to hear for the results of that UN inspection team report, the war continues there inside Syria.
There's been heavy shelling around Damascus. What have you heard there on the ground in the capital?
PLEITGEN: Well, there's been heavy shelling that's been going on in the evening and also in the morning hours as well. We have heard from the opposition that apparently there was heavy shelling last night in the Moademiya (ph) district, which is interesting because that's exactly the place that the UN chemical weapons inspectors went to visit.
Again, the Syrian regime is saying the reason why they're doing that is because of course even as the UN weapons inspectors are here in this country. The war continues unabated. They say that they're afraid that the opposition might try to start advances into government controlled territory and therefore they say that this is a deterrent.
The UN -- the U.S. of course has a very different point of view. But there is no doubt that things have been escalating in the past couple of days. We've heard a lot more artillery fire going off. We heard the cannons in action for pretty much 24 hours, is very rarely that you have any sort of time in between. And there are a lot of plumes of smoke that you can see over the suburbs of Damascus, which is of course the territories that are controlled by the opposition, Kristie.
LU STOUT: All right, Frederik Pleitgen reporting live for us inside Damascus, thank you.
Now international military chiefs have been meeting in Jordan to discuss the escalating conflict. And Britain is drawing up contingency plans for a strike on Syria as lawmakers have just been recalled to parliament to vote on possible action.
Now for more, Matthew Chance joins me now live from London. And Matthew, first a lot happening this day there. How is this contingency plan taking shape? And when will this vote happen?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all on the contingency plan it's not been made clear to us yet what exact measures are being planned by UK armed forces. We know that there are contingency plans being made, that was revealed to us by the spokesperson for David Cameron, the British prime minister earlier.
I expect those plans will be finalized at the National Security Council meeting which is scheduled to take place here tomorrow, which David Cameron who is returned early from his annual vacation in southwestern England, will be chairing along with intelligence and security chiefs.
What has, though, changed in the past few minutes is that David Cameron has recalled the British parliament to discuss the British response to the alleged chemical weapons attack inside Syria.
Again, we don't know the nature of that response yet. It will be spelled out, though, it seems in a government motion in that parliamentary session, which will take place on Thursday. And crucially there will be a vote on it as well. David Cameron clearly very confident that whatever measures he proposes will be supported by the majority of MP's inside the British parliament. But of course it's an incredibly divisive issue. And so the fact that he's agreed to put it to a vote, or decided to put it to a vote, opens the possibility that it could be defeated on the issue as well. And so it adds more sort of uncertainty to this ongoing and developing situation, Kristie.
LU STOUT: And how does the UN weigh in all this? I mean, would the UK wait for the findings of the UN team on the ground in Syria before making any decision to act?
CHANCE: Well, I think there may be a good many members of the British parliament who are looking at this and will be thinking, well yes, I think they should wait for the findings of the UN weapons inspectors before Britian makes a decision on what its response should be.
But the fact is that -- those findings could be some time off in the future. They could even take weeks to be -- to come to their conclusion. And so that may not be an option for the military planners who are at the moment, as we mentioned, making those contingency plans.
We also know that as far as the British government is concerned, along with other countries as well, including the United States and France. They believe the carrying out of a sort of limited strike, or limited strikes on Syria facilities who want to deter the futurte use of chemical weapons is something that is already legal and doesn't necessarily need a mandate from the United Nations security council.
The British Foreign Minister William Hague has already made that clear. And so it's possible, perhaps even likely, given the fact that Russia and China are on -- have veto wielding powers on the security council, that there may be some kind of coalition of the few, as it's being called, lead by the United States, with the strong backing of Britain and possibly France as well that may go ahead and carry out military action against Syria without kind of mandate from the UN.
LU STOUT: All right. Matthew Chance reporting. Thank you.
Now as we've mentioned the White House is weighing its options on Syria. Now Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has more.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within days, President Obama's national security team will present him with its final detailed options. The administration is already making the case for taking action against Syria.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people.
LAWRENCE: Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Assad regime of gassing its own people and called it --
KERRY: Moral obscenity.
LAWRENCE: If the president gives the order a senior defense officials says four Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea could execute a mission within hours. U.S. and British submarines are also likely nearby, all armed with cruise missiles. The extremely accurate Tomahawks can be fired from 500 miles away, with an ability to change course in mid flight. The potential targets include the delivery systems that can be used to launch weapons, militia training camps being run by Bashar Al-Assad and most importantly, the Syrian government's command and control centers.
The options are not designed to overthrow Assad's government, but send a message to deter any further use of chemical weapons, President Obama's red line.
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Any time you throw down a diplomatic gauntlet your words have repercussions.
LAWRENCE: The president is under some pressure to back up his own ultimatum. And while the U.S. is consulting with its allies, officials say it may not need a formal coalition to execute the response.
Chris Lawrence, CNN, The Pentagon.
LU STOUT: All right. You're watching News Stream. And coming up next, wildfires rage in northern California, putting San Francisco's water and power supplies at risk.
Also ahead, the search for the hundreds, maybe thousands of Egyptians still missing after the Arab Spring uprising two years ago.
Also ahead, sentencing could come soon for the Army Psychiatrist who carried out the Ft. Hood massacre. We'll go live to Texas. Stay with us.
LU STOUT: Welcome back. You're watching News Stream.
And you're looking at a visual version of all the stories we've got in the show today.
Now a little bit later in the show I'll tell you why Brazil's foreign minister resigned. But now, an update on the massive wildfire in the U.S. State of California. Now firefighters are desperately trying to stop the fire from spreading further into the famous Yosemite National Park. Now the fire has been raging for nine days now. And despite the efforts of thousands of firefighters, it is still only 20 percent contained.
Another major concern is that the blaze is threatening San Francisco's main power and water sources.
Now the fire has so far burned through more than 65,000 hectares and is going to become one of the largest wildfires ever seen in California.
Now the U.S. Forest Service says it is doing everything in its power to protect the park. Now Nick Valencia joins me now from near Yosemite National Park.
And Nick, what is the latest on this battle to contain this huge fire?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, the conditions have been very difficult for those that are fighting this fire and if you can see around me, the smoke here is very thick this morning and that's a constant reminder that there is a wildfire still raging.
VALENCIA (voice-over): Huge plumes of smoke fill the sky as the rim fire continues to rage nearly out of control. Firefighters made small progress on Monday saying the fire is still less than a quarter contained, but the dangerous inferno is still rated to have extreme growth potential as massive flames ignite groves of trees and dry brush.
The fire is in inch near Yosemite National Park growing to an area now roughly the size of Chicago. More than two dozen aircraft are being used to fight the fire, the steep terrain making it nearly impossible to access some of the forest by land. Campgrounds turned into ashes, this car completely charred.
But the flames are still miles from one of the biggest Yosemite landmarks, Yosemite Valley, home of the half dome, a rock formation that attracts thousands of tourists every year.
LEE BENTLEY, SPOKESMAN FOR THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE: Visitors are thrown here by the thousands going in the north interest of the park. This year that's not going to happen.
VALENCIA: The fire also threatens the reservoir that supplies both water and power sources for San Francisco.
JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Move all the ash and loose debris onto the water, and the water gets contaminated that's bad.
VALENCIA: As well as several groves of towering sequoias, some of the oldest living things on the planet. Groveland, California, is looking more like a ghost town. The owner of this bar says it's peak season leaded into labor day. When the highway business closed her business is down a staggering 98 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody who lives here, who owns businesses here is terrified.
VALENCIA: The economic impact yet to be seen, but businesses and residents are grateful for the 3,700 firefighters risking their lives to try and contain the inferno.
VALENCIA: And Kristie, yesterday fire officials point out to us for all the personnel fighting this fire, only two have reported minor injuries. Another silver lining in all of this is that for as large as this fire is, no one has died -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Yes, that's very, very good to hear.
Now visitors I heard, they are still going to Yosemite National Park despite this fire. At what point will the park be forced to tell visitors to leave, to evacuate?
VALENCIA: Well, there have been a few cancellations. Any time you have some iconic national treasure like the Yosemite National Park tied to something this big like a wildfire, you're going to have people that are going to bail out on the reservations.
But we should point out that the flames, this frontline of the flames is still about 30 miles away from the more heavily trafficked, heavily visited Yosemite Valley. That place got about 4 million visitors last year, so, so far fire officials there say there's very little smoke and they're not discouraging people from canceling their vacation plans -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Yeah, this fire as you put it in your report, Nick, is raging nearly out of control and the conditions there not helping. It is extremely dry, it's very hot. What are firefighters telling you about what's next and the battle ahead?
VALENCIA: Well, it is a battle ahead and they're in it for the long haul, since the days that we've been here this fire has grown more than 30,000 acres. I think the top priority right now from what they tell us is to make sure that that fire doesn't further encroach on the Yosemite National Park.
There was a critical loss. Just yesterday we were told that one of the Berkeley campgrounds, it's a campground owned by the city of Berkeley which is a couple hundred miles away from here, but that campground it's critical. Why? Becuase it's about two or three miles away from the northern entrance of the Yosemite National Park. So that's the big concern right now.
Also, the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, that's where San Francisco gets a majority of its municiple power and a lot of its water comes from this area. San Francisco is famous for its pure drinking water. And that's another concern, Kristie, that some of this ash could contaminate that water -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Yeah, so much at stake and under threat from this huge fire. Nick Valencia reporting. Thank you.
As Nick just said, very, very challenging conditions for crews battling the rim fire there in northern California. Let's get the latest now with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.
MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, so many layers to this story as Nick was telling us there. Just a couple of things to put it into perspective. The fire is burning about 240 kilometers to the east of San Francisco, so this is up into the mountains there of North Central California.
Now one of the reasons why we're still seeing some visitors coming into the park, especially that central valley that Nick was talking about is because the winds have been generally coming out of the south. And that has kept the smoke away from that region.
However, authorities are saying that that northern part of the park could still get -- could still see the fire continuing to encroach into some of those areas despite their efforts. There's a lot of reasons for that.
First of all, it's the brush down here on the ground that continues to be extremely dry. And you can see it right over here how all of this grass just catches on fire. There's a lot of dead plant material that is there, a lot of old plant material that is there, and that is extremely dry, really so much fuel to continue burning.
The other thing that is a little bit different about this fire -- and I was talking to you about this yesterday is that it's not only the underbrush that's burning. Many times we see this was with wildfires, it's almost a natural thing for that to happen, the lower -- the underbrush will burn, but the trees will be OK. In this case, we are seeing these giant trees, these huge trees burning all the way to the tops of the trees. And that is another thing that's concerning authorities, because we're going to have -- you know, it's already, what, 120 square kilometers. We're going to have huge areas that are going to be completely bare from any kind of vegetation for quite a long time. And we haven't even gotten into what this is doing, of course, to the animal life in that region.
So here we are, some of the current conditions, kind of in between here. The winds still generally calm. A little bit of cloud cover here and there, nothing in the way of rain, which is really what we need across this region. We're not really seeing anything significant as far as any kind of relief.
Not as hot today, not as windy, that could help somewhat, but such the scope of the fire is so huge that it really is going to take awhile to take a handle on the situation here.
Notice a little bit of moisture here to the east. But overall we're still remaining very dry in this area.
There's a story though across the central U.S. with temperatures in southern Canada, actually, where temperatures have been up to 10 degrees above average, anywhere from Manitoba and Winnepeg all the way down even into North Texas where temperatures are going to be into the 30s. It's kind of late in the season already to see temperatures that warm.
Let's go ahead and head to another part of the world, Mexico. This is a picture from Veracruz. The remnants of Tropical Storm Fernand making landfall yesterday, or I should say the actual storm, killing 13 people in deadly mudslides. Here you see some of the work that was ongoing, trying to find those people that were missing.
Unfortunately we are going to see still more rain coming out of this weather system. You can see a lot of moisture still kind of hanging on into some of these same areas. And Veracruz, that first picture that I showed you, they had over 200 millimeters of rain in 24 hours compared to their monthly average of 320. Here you see the rain and any amount of rain that falls here will still be a huge concern for people in this area.
Very quickly in the Philippines, we still have that tropical storm just to the north of you. You're still going to get some rain, very heavy Kristie, but I'm not expecting the rain to be as heavy as what we had last week.
And that's important, because we remember that horrible flooding that we had across Luzon, this storm system, a little bit different, the track, it will pull in some moisture, but it is moving away. So I think the condition should begin to improve for Luzon in the next 24 hours.
Back to you.
LU STOUT: All right. Good to hear. Mari Ramos, thank you.
Now coming up right on News Stream after the break. An excruciating wait in Egypt for the families of those who have gone missing ever since the revolution two years ago. We'll bring you their stories.
LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching News Stream.
Now in Egypt hundreds, perhaps thousands have gone missing since the 2011 revolution. And Karl Penhaul talked to the families of some of the missing.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They call them the mufkatine (ph), the disappeared. Some went missing as they fought a dictator, others vanished facing down a military coup. They're the forgotten victims of Egypt's political upheaval.
Activists squarely blame the security forces.
Sabaab Hadelfatah (ph) has been waiting two-and-a-half years. Every day, every hour, she longs for her son Mohammed (ph) to come home.
"Mohammed (ph) I miss you so much. I'm dying to see you again. God punish everyone who disappeared my son," she says.
Hadelfatah (ph) last saw her son at the start of the 2011 revolution. He was headed to join protests against President Hosni Mubarak. She says army intelligence officers told her Mohammed (ph) had been arrested, but warned her not to look for him in any official prison or on any public list of detainees.
"Sometimes I dream of him surrounded by prisoners. I dream he's tired. I wonder if they're torturing him. He's in my head all the time," she says.
Hadelfatah's (ph) quest has taken her to prisons and morgues. Still no clue if Mohammed (ph) is dead or alive. Sometimes for a fleeting moment, she thinks she spots his face in a crowd.
There are no accurate figures for how many Egyptians may have been disappeared for political reason since early 2011. Estimates range from several hundred to several thousand.
Mahmoud Salmani (ph) is a volunteer with a campaign called We Will find Them. He says those lost must be found one way or another.
"You waiver between desperation and fear that you will never find them, but the truth does matter even if they're dead, because dead or alive, you can bring closure to their families," he says.
For decades, Egypt's police and military have operated as a shadowy state within a state, answerable only to themselves. The army and the Interior Ministery did not respond to CNN's written request for information about alleged forced disappearances.
The last Nadia Offmann (ph) heard of her husband, Mohaseen, was that soldiers dragged him out of Cairo university two weeks ago. The biologist was protesting the July military coup. She searched every day. Then Monday she emerged from Wadinatroum (ph) prison with unexpected news. Offmann (ph) had found her husband sick from diabetes, but alive.
"I say continue to search for the missing. If they're not dead, they must be somewhere, perhaps in a prison like here," she says.
But for the mother of Mohammed Sadik (ph), the wait drags on.
"My heart is burning. Sometimes I close my eyes and just cannot sleep. I'm going crazy," she says. Her son is still missing, one of Egypt's mufkadine (ph).
Karl Penhaul, CNN, Cairo.
LU STOUT: And while the scale of what's happening in Egypt isn't clear, the situation brought to mind other conflicts where people have simply vanished. You'll recall that in Argentina it is estimated that as many as 30,000 people disappeared during the Dirty War, which started in the mid- 1970s.
And more recently in Mexico, more than 26,000 have gone missing in the drug war over the past six years.
You're watching News Stream. And still to come we'll go live to Texas where the army psychiatrist who carried out the Ft. Hood massacre could soon hear his sentence.
And sabotaging a rival's skates costs a U.S. speedskater a spot at next year's Winter Olympics.
LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.
Now British lawmakers have been called back early from summer vacation to vote on a British response to the suspected chemical attacks in Syria. Meanwhile, a UN inspection of the site of the suspected attack has been delayed today because of security concerns. Now the team did visit another site near Damascus on Monday.
Now a huge wildfire raging in the U.S. State of California has destroyed more than 65,000 hectares. Now more than 3,000 firefighters were trying to put out the flames backed up by helicopters and air tankers. And right now, only 20 percent of the fire is contained.
Now at least 13 people have been killed in a series of mudslides in Mexico. Now Tropical Storm Fernand slammed into the country's east coast, bringing heavy rain. Now the governor of Veracruz state says the victims were all buried alive when mudslides crashed into their homes. And forecasters warned that more mudslides are still possible.
Japan's space agency says a technical glitch caused it to cancel today's scheduled launch of its new epsilon rocket. And with only seconds left in the countdown, engineers discovered what they call abnormal positioning of the unmanned rocket. And Japan has not set a new date for the launch.
Now in the U.S. a military jury could begin considering the sentence from Major Nidal Hasan by the end of the day. Now he was found guilty last week on all charges relating to the mass shootings at Ft. Hood in November of 2009, that's 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. Hasan could face the death penalty.
Now Hasan indicated early on in the court martial that he is willing to die as a martyr. Ed Lavendera is in Kolleen, Texas following the proceedings. He joins us now live. And Ed, Monday was a very emotional day of testimony. What did the jury hear?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are entering the fourth week of this court martial military proceeding and it, by far, was one of the most excrutiating days that we heard from survivors and victims families that talked about how stressful and how much pain they've gone through in the last four years. Families still struggling to find peace, dealing with thoughts of depression and suicide.
The wounds from that horrific day four years ago are not just physical.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was the immediate aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre. Emergency crews scrambled to save lives, but the real impact of that horrific day is only now coming into full view.
The jury in the trial of Nidal Hasan is hearing testimony from a dozen witnesses, including relatives of those killed and victims who survived.
Staff Sergeant Patrick Ziegler was shot four times, once in the head. Doctors had to remove 20 percent of his brain.
Zeigler says he's retiring from the Army in October and fears he'll never be able to hold a regular job. He told the jury, "It's affected every facet of my personality. I'm a lot angrier, a lot darker than I used to be."
Twenty-one-year-old Private Francheska Velez was pregnant when Hasan gunned her down inside the Fort Hood medical processing building. Other survivors said they could hearing her screaming, "My baby, my baby," before her voice went silent.
Her father, Juan Velez, testified, "This man did not just kill just 13 people. He killed my grandson and he killed me slowly."
For the first time in court, Nidal Hasan appeared flustered, repeatedly asking the judge for breaks during the testimony.
LAVANDERA: Several more survivors and victims' family members will testify again this morning here at Ft. Hood. And then it will be Nidal Hasan's turn. This will be his last chance, basically, to speak to the jury, but it's not clear if he'll even take advantage of that, so we'll wait and see how he reacts in what he does as this court martial proceeding comes to an end. And then it will be up to a jury to decide if Nidal Hasan lives or dies.
Kristie, back to you.
LU STOUT: And what have we heard from Hasan? Hasan has served as his own attorney. Has he defended himself in court?
LAVANDERA: Well, throughout -- leading up to the conviction, Nidal Hasan has had very little to say. He's only asked a couple of questions here and there. As you mentioned, he's been acting as his own attorney. But by and large he's had very little to say. He made no closing arguments. And yesterday, as these victims' family members and others, survivors testified, he had no questions for them either.
LU STOUT: All right, Ed Lavandera reporting for us. Thank you.
Now a UN inquiry into human rights abuse in North Korea has heard disturbing allegations of abuse and torture from defectors. The North Korean government's response, the allegations are false and slanderous.
Now Paula Hancocks has more from Seoul in South Korea.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They told stories of prison camps where executions and torture were a way of life. North Korean defectors also made allegations of human trafficking and forced abortions.
A week of often disturbing testimonies given to the United Nations commission of inquiry is over here in Seoul. The head of the inquiry, Australian judge Michael Kirby, told reporters on Tuesday that he believes the testimony is believable, repeated, and highly specific.
MICHAEL KIRBY, UN COMMISSION OF INQUIRY HEAD: In some cases by reference by satellite images, it is supported by apparently incontestable objective evidence, it points all in the one direction. At the moment, it is not answered by the government of North Korea.
HANCOCKS: North Korea have consistently denied accusations of human rights abuses and refused entry to the country for the commission. Pyongyang has called the accusations slander and called those making the accusations, quote, "human scum."
Pyongyang has also accused Seoul of launching a smear campaign, which could jeopardize the recent progress between the two Koreas.
Now Kirby is calling once again this Tuesday for North Korea to grant the commission access, saying if Pyongyang believes the accusations are slanderous it should open its doors to objective, independent bodies.
Many of these testimonies have been heard before in different forums, but this is the first time the United Nations has investigated North Korea's human right abuses in this particular way.
Now the report will come out in March. It won't be legally binding, but the head of the inquiry says that his job is to make a series of recommendations. It's then up to the political branch of the United Nations to decide what to do with them.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
LU STOUT: Now Brazil's foreign minister steps down amid a diplomatic row with Bolivia. Antonio Petriota's resignation comes after a Brazilian diplomat helped a Bolivian opposition senator flee to Brazil. Now the senator, who was accused of corruption in Bolivia, said that he was a victim of political persecution.
CNN's Shasta Darlington is in Sao Paulo. She joins me now with the details. And Shasta, tell us more about what led to this diplomatic row?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, that's right, Krsitie, it really almost sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, you know, a rogue diplomat smuggles this opposition leader across the border in his car, 20 hour drive, with this escort. Gets across the border and says, oh, my bosses didn't even know about it. But that's exactly what happened.
Basically, this diplomat took a man who is called Bolivia's Snowden across the border. And when he got there, he told the Brazilian TV my bosses didn't know. And that's why the foreign minister here in Brazil has had to resign.
Now this man, he's the Bolivian senator Roger Pinto had leaked documents last year suggesting that the Bolivian president's government was linked to drug trafficking. In turn, he was accused of corruption. And he sought asylum in the Brazilian embassy. He was granted asylum 10 days after going to the embassy and he's been sitting there for over a year.
So obviously there were -- there was already a lot of tension over this case. And when he suddenly appeared in Brazil, the tensions were raised. And even though the top man -- the Brazilian foreign minister has lost his job, it's not clear if this will be enough to lower those tensions.
This is a man who has been accused of corruption in Bolivia. He's even been convicted to a year in jail on one of the counts. And he faces trial on other counts.
Again, they are going to have to come up with some kind of a compromise. Bolivia may seek his extradition. On the other hand, Brazil has already granted him asylum.
So while obviously one man is down, it's not clear if this will be the end of that diplomatic row, Kristie.
LU STOUT: Yeah, we know that the Bolivian politician at the core of this diploamtic row. It is in Brazil, but do we know exactly where?
DARLINGTON: Absolutely. He's in Brasilia. The -- he was driven to the border, a place called Karumba (ph), really in the middle of nowhere. Then he got on a private jet offered by a Brazilian senator, flown to Brasilia and he's going to give a press conference there later in the day to talk about his accusations, obviously to thank those involved for getting him out of Bolivia. And this rogue diplomat, as we're calling him, said that he felt he had to act because of Roger Pinto had shown signs of depression, had started talking about suicide. And he said that he -- for humanitarian reasons he felt he had to get him out of Bolivia and into Brazil.
Obviously, not everyone was on board, Kristie.
LU STOUT: Shasta Darlington reporting from Sao Paulo for us. Thank you, Shasta.
You're watching News Stream. And coming up next her crotch grabbing, tongue wagging antics shocked many viewers. So what is social media's verdict on Miley Cyrus's award show performance? Find out soon right here on News Stream.
LU STOUT: Welcome back.
Now on Leading Women this week, we hear more from Diana Mulligan, the CEO of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. Now this top exec says her passion for stastics helped her take the reigns at a Fortune 500 company. Felicia Taylor has more.
FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Diana Mulligan's rise as a top executive in the U.S. is due in part to her thinking outside the box, even about gender.
DIANA MULLIGAN, CEO, GUARDIAN LIFE INSURANCE: I don't really think about it as a man's world. I think it's all of our world.
TAYLOR: In 2011, Fortune magazine named the Stanford University graduate among the 50 most powerful women in business. The same year, she became president and CEO of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, which has about 3 million policyholders in the U.S.
Excuse me for saying this, but the life insurance business isn't exactly the sexiest business I can think of.
TAYLOR: What stimulates you about that?
MULLIGAN: Life insurance is all about stastics. And I always loved statistics in college and in graduate school. So there you have it, I am a nerd. And, yes, it's not sexy, it's not glamorous, but you know I'm willing to make that tradeoff in order to build something that's lasting.
TAYLOR: Mulligan developed a sense for business early on. And as she says started reading the stock tables at around 9 years old. Her parents were her early mentors. And now today she acts as a mentor as well.
MULLIGAN: I think mentoring is important to everyone. You know, occasionally I get emails or letters will you mentor me? And that's kind of an interesting situation. I think the situation that works the best is a relationship that grows over time when the person wanting to be mentored has something to offer, is willing to work a little harder or has a particular skill. And there's kind of a natural working relationship.
All right, let's try -- come on.
TAYLOR: When not in the office, Diana Mulligan often can be found outdoors. She's been riding since childhood.
MULLIGAN: It's a great way to clear your mind and unless you clear your mind once in awhile, it's hard to be creative.
TAYLOR: Mulligan once took two years off work to reflect on her life. She now says she's charged and looking to the future.
MULLIGAN: You know, it was probably the best investment I ever made in my career, because at that particular time in my life I had lost some people who were close to me, my husband had been in an accident and had a recovery period. I think the time off is always valuable. It provides perspective. But I think it was important that I came out of it with a clear definition of what I wanted to do.
TAYLOR: Does anything frighten you?
MULLIGAN: Not much.
I don't think fear is not really a productive emotion or productive state of being. And I do think that part of the success to the extent I've had any has been sort of a lack of fear.
LU STOUT: And next week, we'll introduce you to our new Leading Woman, Melinda Gates. And to hear more from inspiring women at the top of their fields, go to CNN.com/leadingwomen.
Among other things, you could read about the head of Britain's biggest art center, Jude Kelly.
Now coming up after the break, one of America's biggest ice skating stars has been suspended from the sport for two years. We'll tell you what he did next on News Stream.
LU STOUT: Welcome back. You're watching News Stream. And let's return to our visual rundown now.
In a few minutes we'll look at the backlash from Miley Cyrus's performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, but first let's turn to sport.
Now the Winter Olympics are still more than five months away, but the controversy has already begun. A top U.S. speed skater has been banned for two years. Now Simon Cho admits that he tampered with the rivals skates back in 2011. Rachel Nichols has the story.
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Olympic sport of speed skating is not exactly the first place you'd expect tales of sabotage and scandal, but American Simon Cho was suspended this week for tampering with the skates of a Canadian rival. The decision by the International Skating Union means Cho will not be able to compete in the Olympics in Sochi in February, a huge hit to the U.S. team that had been counting on Cho as one of its best and brightest.
Cho won a bronze medal in Vancouver in 2010. He was also crowned a world champion in 2011, although he has since confessed that at that competition he secretly bent Canadian Olivier Jean's skate blade while alone in a locker room the Americans and the Canadians shared. Cho says he didn't want to commit the crime. He only did it after being badgered by a former coach. The coach, Jae Su Chun, has denied the account, although he too was suspended.
The whole incident coincides with the approaching 20th anniversary of another Olympic skating sabotage scandal, the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan by associates of her rival, Tanya Harding. And while bending a competitor's skate blade before a race is hardly on the level of taking a metal club to someone's knee, Cho's suspension has reminded those in the Olympic community, the ice rink might just be a more treacherous place than it looks.
LU STOUT: Indeed.
Now Simon Cho, he spoke to our Chris Cuomo on our partner network CNN USA just a short time ago. And Cho offered this additional explanation of what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMON CHO, U.S. SPEEDSKATER: So, this event took place in 2011, start my coach, Jae Su Chun, and he was my coach and a fellow Korean. Started when he severed ties with the Canadian team when he used to work for them. He came over to the U.S. to coach our team. And there was a particular event where we were eliminated by the Canadian team.
At that point, he took it a little to heart and took it really personally and that's when he took to encouraging his team to be obnoxious and rude. And, you know, as for the ice you report, you know, it says he encouraged skaters to be obnoxious, sit on their massage tables, spill soup on the Canadian skaters. And he went as far as to -- ordered me to tamper with rival skates.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What does that mean, ordered you to tamper? You, you know, you're in the United States. You're a free man. You're a man. You control your own actions. What do you mean he forced you?
CHO: Well, you know, in the sport of - you know, in Olympic sports, we, you know, I wouldn't want to say we play by a different set of rules, but, you know, in our line of work, there's so many factors that come into play where it's a make or break situation. And when you have an authority figure like a coach that has ultimate control over, you know, making or breaking your dreams, sometimes it steers you to do some things that you don't necessarily believe in.
But, you know, I was approached by my coach. Told him no after he ordered me to do this. And, ultimately, he gave me a vendetta. He's like, are you going to be a man about this? Do you want a leader -- be a leader for this team or what? You need to pay your dues. And, you know...
CUOMO: If I were to ask you..
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: Wow. Competition can be brutal.
But Cho, he also admitted that what he did was unsportsmanlike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: At some point, I do have to take responsibility for my actions. You know, I am at fault here. Do I consider myself a tool for one man's, you know, abusive, you know, coaching behavior? Yes. But, you know, I was 19. That doesn't deter from the fact that I need to own up to my actions and I hope that's something that everybody can take away from this experience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: Wow. Cho's two year ban, it ends on October 2014. He says that he will go to school during his suspension and advocate sports ethics.
Now if you want to play a tough guy in the movies, you'll probably know Krav Maga. Now Vladimir Duthiers introduces us to the Israeli martial art.
VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ever wanted to know how to floor bad guys like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible? How Matt Damon saves his girl in the Bourne films? Or simply wanted to fight like 007? Then you've got to learn what they did to prepare for these roles: the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a fighting system that give you a solution for any fighting situation that you can get in the real life.
DUTHIERS: For every form of aggression, Krav Maga offers a solution. Threatened by a man with a gun? Being attacked with a knife? And here's what to do if you can't see your attacker coming.
Krav Maga's techinques center around one rule, that there aren't any.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the streets, you have no rules. Many attackers, they attack you with tool, they attack you on every spot. They come from behind. They shout at you, put you on the ground. You don't have a mat. It's a different situation. You can be ready for everything, anytime.
DUTHIERS: Being ready for anything at any time was what Krav Maga's founder Imi Lichtenfeld learned on the mean streets of Bratislava in what is now Slovakia. He initially trained as a boxer and a traditional martial artist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was young and strong, but it was a problematic time (inaudilbe) and he felt that he need to defend himself and all the Jewish community.
DUTHIERS: Lichtenfeld realized that his traditional fighting skills were no match for a no hold's barred street fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He noticed that in this martial art that he knew, a conventional martial art, don't usually give the solution. So he started understand how to -- there is some change need to be done.
DUTHIERS: This is the essence of Krav Maga. What you see behind me here is not a gentle art, this is an art that has only one purpose, to teach you how to survive with your life intact.
In 1940, Lichtenfeld fled Nazi occupied Europe and made his way to what is now Israel. After Isarel's founding 1948, he became the first chief instructor of Krav Maga for the Israeli military where it is still being taught.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want anything happen to the soldier in the first time outside. We want to train everything. So we look what is happening, what -- how attackers attack, how they come, what they do. And we teach how soldiers and we simulate this kind of activities and attacks so he be ready.
DUTHIERS: These days, Krav Maga is also studied by civilians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The goal of the civilian martial art is self defense -- how to protect myself, protect my relatives from the danger and get out from it without -- with the minimum damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that your feet?
DUTHIERS: And while it may not teach you the moves of Israeli super spy Zohan, it may give you an edge if you ever need to defend yourself in the real world.
Vladimir Duthiers, CNN, Jerusalem.
LU STOUT: Now if her aim was to shock, she did it. By now, you probably heard about Miley Cyrus's steamy performance on the MTV video music awards and the public response has been almost as over the top as her on stage act. Some critics called her performance desperate, even cringe worthy. Jeanne Moos looks at the backlash and how Cyrus is responding to it.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a crotch- grabbing, butt-slapping, tongue-wagging, grinding performance, a story with legs, even if we can't show exactly what Miley Cyrus was doing through them. Never has one of those rare Number 1 foam fingers been so man- handled.
(On camera): But now everyone's pointing the finger at Miley.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC'S MORNING JOE: The whole thing was cringe- worthy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The tongue out and -- I think it's just a little desperate.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC ANCHOR: Trying so hard.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Just this side of onstage pornography.
MOOS (voice-over): She was the target of tweets. "Just watched that Miley Cyrus teddy bear performance and I think I'm now legally required to put myself on some kind of registry."
Her look was mocked on YouTube.
(On camera): Thumbs up, thumbs down on the Miley Cyrus performance?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that foam finger. Yes, it was a little awkward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down. I think that she's trying too hard to be sexy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to be way too old and too vulgar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you sit there and watch with your granddaughter, who is 11 years old, and you've got to be embarrassed. We looked at each other and went, oh well.
MOOS (voice-over): This was as close as we found to man on the street support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thumb in the middle.
MOOS (on camera): In the middle?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MOOS: Very good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bit much, but it's all right.
MOOS (voice-over): Everyone kept showing the photo of Will Smith's family Aghast, reacting to Miley's performance.
LIMBAUGH: They can't believe what they're looking at.
MOOS: It turns out what they're looking at was Lady Gaga's performance, not Miley's. And the person on the right was just scratching.
Miley's latex-clad bottom was compared to a chicken's. Her look was compared to Jim Carrey's as a steroid using female bodybuilder.
In reaction, Miley tweeted out, "My VMA performance had 306,000 tweets per minute. That's more than the blackout or Super Bowl."
She also sent out a photo gesturing with her own upraised fingers, rather than the foam one and to think that five years ago the satirical Onion News Network made this prediction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most experts now agree that at current usage levels, Miley Cyrus will be drained dry of entertainment value by 2013.
MOOS: Well, it's now 2013, but we are still getting a lot of entertainment value out of this performance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be a little more classy.
MOOS: So Miley, if you let your foam finger do the walking, try not to make it seem like street walking.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
LU STOUT: And that is News Stream. World Business Today is next.