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Abe Tours Fukushima Disaster; Congress, President Square Off; Government Shutdown Looms; Extremist Groups Grow in Syria; Extremists Tilting Power in Syria; Woman Rescued from Well after 15 Days

Aired September 19, 2013 - 12:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: To Japan now, that's where the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, took some steps toward his goal to give the world a safe and secure Olympic games in seven years. Interesting way to do it.

Of course people there very, very worried about radiation and nuclear safety since the reactor disaster happened after the tsunami.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: So this is the prime minister. He is in the red safety helmet, personally visiting the reactors in Fukushima.

This happened today, and Paula Hancocks has more on this.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the second time that the Japanese prime minister has visited the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Shinzo Abe, wearing full protective gear, made a short tour on Thursday, a couple of weeks after pledging almost half a billion dollars to help with the cleanup effort.

Abe met with some of the plant workers telling those in the command center, quote, "The future of Japan is on your shoulders."

He also decided the two remaining reactors would be decommissioned. Reactors 5 and 6 shut down for maintenance at the time of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, so were undamaged.

The prime minister was shown the water tank that leaked 300 tons of radioactive water recently and said dealing with contaminated water issues is the immediate priority.

He also defended comments he made earlier this month when bidding for the 2020 Olympics, which Tokyo won. He had said the situation at Fukushima was under control.

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (via translator): I told the world and Buenos Aires there is no health impact and be assured to feel safe. That's why I came to visit today. Having seen firsthand the hard working people in severe conditions hear to block the impact to the Japanese people, I renewed my resolution that the government stand in front to fulfill our responsibility to end the crisis.

HANCOCKS: Mr. Abe first visited the crippled power plant in December, shortly after taking office.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


MALVEAUX: Hard to imagine people are comforted by those pictures.

HOLMES: Yeah, exactly. If you want to reassure people, that's an interesting image to put out.

But he wants to show that the government's taking control of the situation now from Tepco, the company that had been widely criticized for how it had dealt with it.

MALVEAUX: And it's not close to where the Olympics are going to be held -

HOLMES: Nowhere near.

MALVEAUX: -- which is a good thing.

HOLMES: Still, interesting p.r.

All right, 11 days and counting until a possible government showdown and things getting a little bitter in Washington.


SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: They think we're going to back off. They're wrong. They're on a different planet.




It is now just 11 days to a possible government shutdown. House Republicans are likely to hold a vote tomorrow that would provide funding to keep the government open while stripping away money for parts of the president's health care law called ObamaCare.

October 1st, that is the deadline for the shutdown, and finger- pointing, fierce on both sides.


REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Refusing to raise the debt limit poses a cataclysmic danger to the stability of our markets and the economic security of our middle class.

This is playing with fire. Legislative arsonists are at work when they start using the debt limit for their own agenda.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The president's decided to just sit out this debate. He say his won't engage.

You know, most presidents refer to their bipartisan efforts to reduce the deficit as achievements. The president sees this, quote/unquote, "as extortion."

So while the president is happy to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, he won't engage with a Congress on a plan that deals with the deficits that threaten our economy.


HOLMES: All right. Let's go live to Capitol Hill.

Lisa Desjardins is following all of the political drama. You know, a lot of colorful language around, but is a government shutdown more likely?

LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I just got back from walking alongside Senate leader Harry Reid, and I asked him, is a shutdown possible?

He didn't want to answer a lot of questions, but he did turn to me and he said, yes, it is possible.

So it is possible, but we don't know yet how likely it's going to be. There's a lot of hot air, as you said. There's a lot going on here.

But let me try to break this down to two basic divides that are causing this problem and that will tell us if we have a shutdown or not.

One is the classic Republican versus Democratic divide. Republicans want to defund ObamaCare. Democrats don't. That defunding ObamaCare is right now stuck to the spending bill.

Well, the other divide is among Republicans themselves. Some of them say the spending bill spends too much. So they're having an internal debate about how much taxpayer dollars should be spent.

And let me tell you, guys, Democrats are exploiting that. Let me throw you two sound bites we heard of Democratic leaders.


SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: They're being guided by a few member there's who are of a certain political faith that I can't even describe who believe that chaos is the best thing.

SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: It would be good political theater to watch them self-destruct, and that's what they're doing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DESJARDINS: The truth is both sides are clearly a part of this political theater, as are those sound bites.

And I have to tell you guys the truly bad news is, even if we get a solution, and we might next week, it probably won't come until the end of next week, right up to that deadline.

MALVEAUX: So, Lisa, there have been at least four threats since 2011, right of a government shutdown?

But I remember covering the government shutdown in the Clinton years. I mean, it's serious business here.

Do they realize what they are doing really what they are doing, what they are playing with here?

Because we understand politics, but there's a real economic side to this if the government shuts down, and people are not able to get checks or their services, federal services, all those kinds of things.

DESJARDINS: Right. This is the problem with where our Congress and where our government is right now, Suzanne.

Everyone realizes that a government shutdown is not in the interests of the United States. But the problem is, no one wants to budge from their positions over spending, over things like ObamaCare, in order to avoid it.

It is a classic game of chicken even though these leaders do seem to have a sober eye toward what a shutdown would mean, most of them.

Now there is another divide I've not to talk about within the Republican Party. Right now, in fact, we're going to show video of a news conference going on with some conservative senators, including Ted Cruz.

He's a man who has been telling the House all summer long, House Republicans, he has said, stand firm, be ready to stand your line on defunding ObamaCare, go right up to a government shutdown, be proud of it.

He's someone who has led that fight and sort of like pushed them in that direction. Then last night, Suzanne, Ted Cruz came out with an e- mail saying, we can't help you in the Senate. You're on your own essentially.

Still supporting the idea, but this has created a real rift among Republicans. The House very angry at those Republican senators who say, what are you doing? You're saddling us with this entire bag now, and you're trying to walk away.

So there are a lot of dynamics here, and there's certainly divide within the Republican Party.

MALVEAUX: All right, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

She brings up a very good point there. Karl Rove had an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" saying this is not going to work.

We don't have numbers, the tea party does not have numbers, to connect the funding of the government with ObamaCare, defunding Obama care.

HOLMES: And the thing is also, you know, when people look from the outside looking in, we're doing this again? We're going to do this every few months?

It's just such a serious issue, and it comes up again and again and again.

MALVEAUX: Hopefully, it will get resolved.

We are also following this, of course, Syria. Some of the Syrians fighting to topple Bashar al-Assad, now they're battling each other.

HOLMES: Yeah, up next, we're going to discuss the radicalization of some of the opposition groups and why they are fighting each other.

It's important ground being lost.


HOLMES: A lot of people watching the civil war in Syria say they are seeing a disturbing trend, more and more often.

We're talking about the rebel movement fighting to topple the Assad government. We know it's far from united, but now what we're seeing increasingly is some of the more Islamist extremist factions fighting and killing more moderate rebels.

MALVEAUX: So, that, of course, it's a problem for the United States, but also the Western nations who would like to support the rebels.

But you have hardcore Islamists like al Qaeda who are now joining the fight against Assad in larger and larger numbers.

Their influence among the rebels is actually really pretty strong.

Want you to see this. This is Nic Robertson reporting.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The strength of Islamist groups sympathetic to al Qaeda, like al Nusra, appears to be growing, a view supported by this former CIA officer, who tracked al Qaeda in Iraq.

NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Nusra has found the sweet spot for terrorism and how al Qaeda's going to -- is evolving.

ROBERTSON: The Jane's Defense Analysis estimates approximately 1,000 different rebel groups, close to 100,000 fighters, as many as half with radical leanings, according to other experts.

According to Jane's, al Qaeda's closest allies, ISIL and al Nusra total about 10,000 fighters. Many veterans of al Qaeda in Iraq. They're experienced and well-skilled.

ROBERTSON (on camera): The others, an estimated 35,000 are believed to be hard line Islamist whose share some of al Qaeda's views. An estimated 30,000 are believed to be moderate Islamists. And only 25,000 fighters are believed to be purely secular or nationalists. And it's the moderates who are losing ground.


HOLMES: Ivan Watson is in New York to talk about this.

And you were just up in that neck of the woods on the Syria/Turkey border. And the thing is that Islamists are often the better fighters and have won some of the key battles for the rebels, but this situation where groups with common names are fighting and killing each other must be worrying observers and there's been one particular battle going on in the last couple of days.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's the second day of fighting now, Michael, between the more moderate rebels from the Free Syrian Army and an al Qaeda-linked group of rebels, hard line group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in a strategic area in northern Syria, right near the Turkish border. The fighting underway right now, as we speak, for a second day.

And these al Qaeda fighters, these are tough cookies, you could say. They're a lot of foreign Jihadi volunteers. Many of them have come through Turkey to Syria to volunteer and fight. They're from places like North Africa, from Chechnya, from all over the world, really. And they really frighten many of the Syrians I've been talking to because they've been imposing on opposition controlled parts of Syria hard line Sharia-Islamic law that some Syrians say is almost like medieval law, preventing women from being able to go outside without covering their hair. One eyewitness telling me that a lot of these fighters, if you can believe it, wear suicide bomb belts as part of their daily uniforms. And now they're fighting with Syrian rebels for control basically of the main border gate between Turkey and Syria, that is used for deliveries of U.S. humanitarian assistance, for example, to refugees and displaced civilians inside Syria.


MALVEAUX: And, Ivan, one of the things we've been talking about here is the fact that the Obama administration is prepared to provide with arms and support the rebels. How do they keep it from the al Qaeda elements? Is there anything in place on the ground that you saw that could prevent that from happening?

WATSON: Well, I mean, right now, at least in this one area, we have all-out war between presumably some of the more moderate Syrian rebels that the Obama administration would be interested in supporting. This border gate, where the battle's happening, is actually where U.S. Senator John McCain crossed the border into Syria to meet with the head of the Syrian rebels, just to give you a sense of where this is and how important this border gate is. So now these rebels that presumably western governments want to support are in open war with the al Qaeda militants. And some of the Syrian rebels, Suzanne, have said, right now we're facing a two-front war. We're fighting against the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad and we're fighting against al Qaeda. That is not a very nice position to be in right now.

HOLMES: And one imagines unsustainable from the rebel side. They can't go on doing that. And as I say, the jihadists are often the better fighter. And you had the al Qaeda chief, Ayman al Zawahiri, just last week calling on the Islamists to not work with the secular groups that are allied to the west. What -- in the big picture, if this continue -- and this isn't the only battle going on like this -

WATSON: No, it's not.

HOLMES: It's in other parts of the country near the Iraqi border as well. If this sort of in-fighting continue, where does that leave the uprising?

WATSON: Well, I mean, that's one of the fears that some of the Syrian rebel commanders have expressed. They can't really pull reinforcements from the front lines with the Syrian government to the northern border with Turkey to fight against al Qaeda because they're afraid that their front lines will collapse. Perhaps one of the vulnerable points for al Qaeda, Michael, is that they've really angered a lot of the Syrians living in the north with their kind of hard line Sharia views and widespread kidnapping, we're told, of more secular moderate activists.

I mean, I know people who have been detained by them. They stopped Syrians at checkpoints and basically accuse them of not being Muslim enough. This isn't an indigenous character for Syria. It's really making people angry and that may be one of their weakest points. They could trigger revulsion from Syrian -- ordinary Syrians.

HOLMES: Exactly. And, you know, let's face it, as we saw in Iraq with the awakening, as it was, where al Qaeda was beaten up and defeated by other Sunnis.

Ivan, thanks so much. A very important topic. Appreciate it. Ivan, who knows that area well.

MALVEAUX: Yes. And one of the things that very likely could happen is that what Ivan was predicting, is that you've got a lot of people, ordinary folks, who are going to start taking up arms or at least demonstrating and becoming a part of this bigger and bigger fight.

HOLMES: Wild thought. Could it push the opposition to the negotiating table to talk with the Assad government because they both have a common enemy, that is al Qaeda.

We'll be right back with an amazing story. A woman in China trapped for 15 days in a well. How she survived.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back.

This is an incredible story. A woman missing for more than two weeks now, you'll never guess where the searchers actually found her. Pauline Chiou actually tells us how this all unfolded.


PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have an amazing survival story for you from China. Authorities in Henan province say this woman was found in the bottom of an abandoned well after 15 days. Su Qixiu was looking for plants when she tumbled into that well. She told a local newspaper that she lived on rainwater and raw corn, which fell in with her. A doctor says she lost more than 37 pounds during her ordeal. According to Chinese state media, she's now in stable condition and recovering.

Back to you.


HOLMES: Pauline Chiou there. And the entire family was searching for her, by the way. Su Qixiu's husband thought she'd been kidnapped. Su Qixiu herself said she never gave up hope, kept yelling for help.

MALVEAUX: She was lucky.

HOLMES: Yes. Amazing story.

MALVEAUX: Amazing.

ANNOUNCER: CNN tonight, at 7:00, "Erin Burnet OutFront." The Navy Yard massacre. How did a man, with a history of mental issues, pass a security review.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight disciplinary actions that were kind of swept under the rug. It sounds a little familiar to me. I mean the political correctness.

ANNOUNCER: Then at 8:00 on "Anderson Cooper 360," were money and diamonds the real motivations behind televangelist Pat Robertson's work in Africa. Robertson denies it, but Anderson talks to the filmmakers behind the film "Mission Congo," about their explosive allegations.

And at 9:00 on "Piers Morgan Live," the Billy Ray Cyrus interview. Guns, America, Miley. It's all tonight on CNN, starting with "Erin Burnett OutFront" at 7:00, "Anderson Cooper 360" at 8:00, and "Piers Morgan Live" at 9:00 tonight on CNN.

MALVEAUX: All right, looks like awesome lineup there tonight.

HOLMES: It does, doesn't it?

MALVEAUX: Yes, I'll be watching. So, Michael, image - can you imagine 14 wives - having 14 wives.

HOLMES: All at once?

MALVEAUX: Let me get - it will only get you into trouble. Don't even answer the question.

HOLMES: All oat -- one at a time or all at once?

MALVEAUX: All at once. This is what we're talking about. The king of one country getting married again. We're going to tell you where, up next.


MALVEAUX: OK. This is the fun story. You need a program to keep track of all of these queens in this one African country because this man, king of Swaziland, just announced he's getting married for the - well, I don't know, 14th, 15th time, depend on actually who's counting.

HOLMES: Who's counting.

MALVEAUX: Who's counting.

HOLMES: The 45-year-old king --

MALVEAUX: Just 45.

HOLMES: Yes, it's keeping him young. He looks all right. He reportedly chose his new fiancee, who is 18, from a group of young women who danced for him at a festival. Now Swaziland, if you don't know, it's a land locked country, borders South Africa, also Mozambique.

MALVEAUX: And he holds absolute power in the country. But, you know, he faces some criticism here -

HOLMES: He does.

MALVEAUX: Because this is an extremely poor country. The king, of course, worth a couple hundred million dollars.

HOLMES: Yes, a lot of -

MALVEAUX: Hopefully he's sharing it with his many wives, I guess.

HOLMES: Well, a lot of people think he should be sharing it with the people -

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

HOLMES: But that's a whole other story for AROUND THE WORLD.

Meanwhile, rubber duckies, not just for the bathtub any more. Take a look at this.

MALVEAUX: All right. Taiwan. Thousands watched as a giant rubber ducky arrived. This is the Glory Pier. It's the latest stop in its own around the world tour. It's been in nine countries, including Hong Kong, Brazil, and Australia. It's going to be there for a monthly on display. Got to live it.

HOLMES: Why? I don't know.

MALVEAUX: I don't know. People love rubber duckies.

HOLMES: Anyway, we don't know. We'll find out. We'll let you know.

Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. We've got to go.

MALVEAUX: Yes. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.