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Benedict XVI Defends Record in Newspaper; Kenya Begins Terror Investigation; Earthquake in Southwest Pakistan; China Eases Internet Censorship

Aired September 25, 2013 - 12:30   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Retired Pope Benedict XVI is back in the spotlight today after comments he made to a newspaper about the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Yeah, that pope, not this pope.

This is the Pope Emeritus, as he is now called, responding to criticism from a philosopher and mathematician who also happens to be an atheist.

Let's bring in John Allen, our senior Vatican analyst, senior correspondent for "The National Catholic Reporter."

He's been extremely quiet since he stepped down earlier this year, which one would have thought would be the protocol, given this extraordinary position that he is in now.

What made him speak up, so to speak?


You may recall a few days before his papacy formally ended on February 28th, Pope Benedict in a talk with clergy said that from now on he was going to be hidden from the world.

And what most people assumed that meant is that he wouldn't be seeing him or hearing from him in public anymore, and that has largely been the case since the new pope was elected on March 13th.

But yesterday, as you indicated, he broke his silence, writing a letter to an atheist mathematician and philosopher named Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who had written a book criticizing the pope's book on Jesus of Nazareth, and among other things, Benedict defended his record on sex abuse.

In terms of why he chose to respond, I don't think that's the puzzle. Benedict is an intellectual who loves the exchange of ideas, so I think that's a lot -- a large part of what he's spending his time doing.

The unusual thing is that he apparently gave his permission for this letter to be published, not just in an Italian newspaper, but also in a new edition of this intellectual's book.

Obviously, Benedict felt he had something important to say, including his handling of probably the most important scandal to erupt during his watch, Michael.

SIDNER: I just want to quickly ask you this. Is this causing any friction with Pope Francis? Can Pope Benedict speak for the church, so to speak?

ALLEN: No, at this stage, Benedict can speak only for himself. The Catholic Church only has one CEO, so to speak, at a time, and it now is Pope Francis.

You asked if it's going to cause any friction. I don't think, to date, there's any indication that Francis objected to the publication of this letter.

But I think if Benedict were to make a habit of this, that is sort of repeatedly speaking out, particularly on controversial questions in the life of the church, then it could become a problem.

One of the reasons he said he'd be hidden from the world is precisely so no one would be confused about who's in charge.

And it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out going forward.

HOLMES: Yeah, fascinating.

John, always good to have you on the program, John Allen there in Rome.

SIDNER: New video of the terror attack in Kenya shows a tense scene inside the Westgate Mall.

A mother and her two small children are too terrified to move even when a police officer arrives to try and rescue them.

We'll show you the remarkable video, coming up next.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

Kenyan officials say they don't expect to find any more victims in the rubble of the Westgate Mall, which, of course, is now partially collapsed largely due to that fire there. They believe that they're only going to find the bodies of terrorists.

SIDNER: But new amateur video of the siege shows an absolutely remarkable scene from inside that mall.

You're seeing the pictures there, a police officer in civilian clothes on the left side of the screen crawling on the floor to rescue a woman and her two small children, but they are too terrified to move.

Eventually, the officer, you see there, grabs them up in his arms and takes them away to safety.

HOLMES: Yeah, Nima Elbagir joins us now from Nairobi.

And, Nima, there's a lot of questions about how they planned this attack and even questions being raised about whether they rented a store inside the mall, how they got the weapons in, heavy weapons.

What have you been hearing? I know there was a news conference a few hours ago.

NIMA ELBAGIR , CNN CORRESPONDENT: The minister of interior, we did put all of these questions to him during that news conference, but he keeps saying it's just simply too early to be able to tell.

He wants everybody to hold on until the forensic investigation finally starts issuing its findings, but that's not stopping a lot of people from talking about what we do know.

What we do know, Michael, is that the extent of the heavy weaponry that was used in this attack, it would have been extraordinarily difficult for the attackers to come in, carrying -- for instance, eyewitnesses report seeing machine guns with bases.

Now, I know you've been to Iraq. You've seen them out there. That's some pretty heavy weaponry. You can't just walk through the door or carry that around in the boot of your car.

So, you know, we do -- there are a lot of questions that aren't being answered right now, but the reality is this must have taken a lot of planning, Michael.

SIDNER: I have a question for you, Nima. In looking at this, and I know it's always confusing in scenes like this, we've all been to them, where there's absolute chaos, destruction, a lot of fear, but are authorities saying anything about the nationalities of those involved in the attack at this point?

ELBAGIR: Well, again, the minister of interior said that they don't want to speculate until they -- until the forensic evidence is in, but counter-terror sources that we've been speaking to said that they have -- at the moment, they have a British national in their custody.

He was picked up for, they said, acting suspiciously at the airport. He also had a bandage on his face and cuts and grazes on his body.

The British ambassador here has said that he doesn't believe that he's being held in conjunction with that, but our sources are insisting that he is, Sara.

HOLMES: Yeah, long way to go in this investigation, and as they start to sift through the rubble, they're going to (inaudible).

As they sift through the rubble, they're going to find some bodies and hopefully some evidence as well about how this was carried out because, as she said, some of those weapons were belt-fed machine guns, apparently. It's hard to carry that through the front door.

SIDNER: Right, and it takes a lot of planning to do some of this as well, but we know that the death toll will likely go up, so very sad news there.

Plus, this is the first day of mourning, official mourning. and so the country will be going through three days of mourning, and our hearts and minds are with the people of Kenya right now.

All right, in less than a week, the federal government could shut down if Congress doesn't agree on a temporary spending budget.

HOLMES: Also, Republican Senator Ted Cruz pulled an all-nighter, trying to persuade the Senate to defund ObamaCare.

With the Senate vote coming next hour, or one of the votes, we're going to have a look at the battle over the budget.


SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Standing on your own feet, there are sometimes some pains, sometimes some fatigue that is involved.

But you know what? There's far more pain --


HOLMES: Bring it to you live when we get under way.


SIDNER: We want to get you caught up with what's going on right now at the United Nations.

Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with diplomats from Britain, Russia, China and France, the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.

They're discussing the Syrian crisis and the new groundbreaking deal to collect and destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, this as U.N. inspectors are on the ground in Syria, looking for evidence of chemical weapons use.

HOLMES: We'll keep an eye on developments there.

Meanwhile, rescuers are rushing to a remote area of southwest Pakistan following a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake, did a lot of damage.

SIDNER: So much damage and it's really, really done something else that's incredible, a new bit of land that has come up.

The death toll, though, more than 200 people and that is expected to rise. Hundreds more have been injured.

The quake struck at night while most people were inside their homes. Our Saima Mohsin is reporting entire villages are said to be wiped out there.

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rescue workers have really been struggling to get to this remote part of Pakistan.

People there in Awaran didn't even have electricity. They certainly don't have a hospital unit that can deal with this kind of disaster, no emergency room and no surgical unit.

So more than 1,000 troops, the military, have been dropped in. A lot of them getting aid to them by air. They're either airlifting in medical teams and rescue workers and air lifting those seriously injured out.

Michael and Sara?

HOLMES: Saima Mohsin there.

And, as you just mentioned, an extraordinary thing, the earthquake caused a small island, if we can call it that, to be born in the Arabian Sea. This is one mile off the coast.

There it is there. You look closely you can actually see people on it, checking it out. It's about 200 feet long, about 20-to-30 feet high.

The experts are saying it's a mud volcano, but geologists say don't go building on it. These things often disappear as quickly as they rise up. And those people are taking a bit of a risk there, too, because it's emitting a lot of methane gas, apparently.

SIDNER: Yes, standing on it. Absolutely. But it is amazing to see a brand new bit of land pop up so quickly.

HOLMES: Pop up, yes.

SIDNER: Although not completely unusual when it comes to (INAUDIBLE) that big.

HOLMES: Yes, it has happened before.

SIDNER: All right, coming up, after years of saying no, China is saying yes to Facebook. We'll explain on AROUND THE WORLD in just a minute.


SIDNER: Hey, this is kind of a big deal because in China the government limits Internet access. That everybody knows. But soon you'll be able to use Twitter and Facebook in China.

HOLMES: Yes, you might be surprised that they couldn't until now. But it's kind of one of those sort of situations. The Chinese government, of course, slammed - clamps down on social media websites because they don't want too much information being spread around, people talking to each other. They're worried about it causing problems. But this is going to be a sort of free trade zone, if you like, that's going to allow unblocked access. SIDNER: Well, let's get the details now with Alison Kosik. She is standing by right there at the New York Stock Exchange.

Pretty interesting news. A lot of people wondering how far they're going to be able to go with this social media there in China.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is a harsh reality to this, Sara. You know, the ban is being lifted, but keep in mind it's being lifted only in a very small area. It's the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. It's basically made up of 17 square miles. It's opening up on Sunday.

Now, the "South China Morning Post" is reporting that Facebook, Twitter, "The New York Times" and other sites are soon going to be able to be seen in that part of China. They were blocked because, as Michael alluded to, they're considered to be politically sensitive. You look at Twitter, it was a driving force behind the 2011 Arab Spring, helping to get the message out. Even into 2009, there was a minority group in China that used Facebook to organize against the government. So, in most of China, you can try to access those sites right now, you're going to get an error message. It's really known as "the great firewall."


SIDNER: All right, thank you so much, Alison Kosik, there at the New York Stock Exchange.

HOLMES: Get it? Get it, "the great firewall" comment?

SIDNER: Oh, I get it. I get it.

HOLMES: I got that. That was good, Alison.

SIDNER: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, "the great firewall" of China.

All right. Now, for 21 hours and change, Senator Ted Cruz talked about why the Senate should vote to defund Obamacare.

SIDNER: But he also took a few moments to vent about life and even read to his children.

HOLMES: And talk about cowboy boots, all sorts of stuff. He's got to fill the time.


HOLMES: About an hour ago, Senator Ted Cruz ended that marathon speech by sitting down. The Republican from Texas was on the Senate floor on his feet for 21 hours. In fact, 21 hours and 18 minutes, protesting Obamacare. SIDNER: He talk about defunding Obamacare and he read some bedtime stories, like one of my favorites, Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham." And he was reading that to his children.

HOLMES: Your taxpayer dollars at work. It was his attempt to stall the Democrat's plan to pass the spending bill, of course, to fund the government. The bill would be -- have a provision that takes away the funding from the president's health care plan, if you didn't know already. Now, for your viewing pleasure, want to play you a little bit of that talkathon.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: And since tonight, girls, you aren't here, you girls don't get to pick the book, so I got to pick "Green Eggs and Ham." And I love this story, and so I'm going to read it to you.

Sam, I am. That Sam I am, that Sam I am, I do not like that Sam I am. Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam I am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

Would you like them here or there? I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.

Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse? I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.

Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox? Not in a box, not with a fox, not in a house, not with a mouse. I would not eat them here or there, I would not eat them anywhere. I would not eat green eggs and am. I do not like them, Sam I am.

Would you could you in a car? Eat them, eat them, here they are. I would not, could not in a car. You may like them, you will see. You may like them in a tree. I would not, could not in a tree. Not in a car. You let me be. I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.

A train. A train. A train. A train. Could you, would you, on a train? Not on a train. Not in a tree. Not in a car, Sam, let me be. I would not, could not in a box. I would not, could not with a fox. I will not eat them with a mouse. I will not eat them in a house. I will not eat them here or there. I will not eat them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.

Say, in the dark? Here in the dark. Would you, could you, in the dark? I would not, could not in the dark. Would you, could you in the rain? I would not, could not in the rain. Not in the dark, not on a train, not in a car, not in a tree. I do not like them, Sam, you see. Not in a house. Not in a box. Not with a mouse. Not with a fox. I will not eat them here or there, I do not like them anywhere. You do not like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam I am.

Could you, would you with a goat? I would not, could not with a goat. Would you, could you on a boat? I would not, could not on a boat. I will not, will not with a goat. I will not eat them in the rain. I will not eat them on a train. Not in the dark or on a tree. Not in a car, you let me be. I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I will not eat them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.

You do not like them, so you say. Try them, try them and you may. Try them and you may, I say. Sam, if you will let me be, I will try them, you will see. And this page, he's simply holding green eggs and ham on a fork, preparing to bite them.

Say, I like green eggs and ham. I do. I like them, Sam I am. And I would eat them in a boat. And I would eat them with a goat. And I will eat them in the rain and in the dark and on a train and in a car and in a tree. They are so good, so good, you see. So, I will eat them in a box and I will eat t hem with a fox. And I will eat them in a house and I will eat them with a mouse. I will eat them here or there. Say, I will eat them anywhere. I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you, thank you, Sam I am.


HOLMES: A little bedtime story, but I don't know about you, it put me to sleep.

SIDNER: Well, here's the thing. I was listening to it, of course, it's one of my favorite books. I love Dr. Seuss. He's done a lot of good for the world. But it does show how someone has kind of taken over the Senate -


SIDNER: And using his whatever he can to sort of keep this all going. I could see the American public getting frustrated with this. There's a lot of business that needs to get done.

HOLMES: Well, people wonder why Congress - people have such a low opinion of Congress. I mean there you have it, the theatre of the absurd. I mean that's making a mockery, a lot of people think, of the system of government. I mean that went on for 21 hours and 18 minutes, from cowboy boots, to Dr. Seuss, to Nazi (INAUDIBLE). It was (INAUDIBLE).

SIDNER: Yes, it was rough. It was rough. But he was trying to make a point, and that point I think is now well taken. We got it.

HOLMES: Exactly. Wolf Blitzer takes it over from here.