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U.S. Government Shuts Down; Tragic Tale Of Failed North Korean Defectors; Kenyan Government Criticized For Slow Handling Of Westgate Mall Attacks; Leading Women: UN Development Program Administrator Helen Clark; The Science of "Gravity"

Aired October 1, 2013 - 08:00   ET


PAULINE CHIOU, HOST: I'm Pauline Chiou in Hong Kong. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

The U.S. government is closed for business as the political stalemate continues.

We'll show you new video of the Kenyan mall attacked by militants.

And a daring escape from North Korea that went horribly wrong. We'll bring you the very sad story of these children who thought they were on their way to a better life.

For the first time in nearly two decades, the U.S. government has partially shut down. As you can see on the right-hand side of your screen it's eight hours in and counting. The last shutdown in the mid-90s dragged on for 21 days.

Here's a live look at Capitol Hill. The Republican led house and Democrat controlled Senate have failed to reach a spending deal.

Senators are expected to vote down another House plan when they meet in the next hour, that's because the House has been including amendments that delay or defund the health insurance law, also known as Obamacare. Senators are refusing to let that happen.

As both sides blame each other for the stalemate, the American people will suffer. Some 800,000 federal employees are being told to stay home. Together, they'll lose about $1 billion a week in pay.

Economists say the impact on the economy is most likely to be 10 times greater. And one reason for that, many of the nation's biggest tourist attractions are national parks and museums. Christine Romans has more on that.


ROMANS (voice-over): This morning, hundreds of thousands of federal civil service employees are waking up to their new furlough status.

DIANE SCHWENKE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GRAND JUNCTION, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Our economy is going to be affected by it and that is scary. It's too much for lower middle class people to deal with right now.

ROMANS: All across the country, national monuments, zoos and parks closed for business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Along with the government shutdown comes with the closure of all the nation's national parks and that includes Lady Liberty. So for folks coming to new York to see the iconic Statue of Liberty, this may be their last chance and who knows how long.

ROMANS: Tourists are dealing with not only writing off a paycheck --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He works for the government.

ROMANS: But writing off their vacation plans as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not much I can do about it. If I'm furloughed, I'm furloughed. We'll deal with that.

ROMANS: The shutdown is sure to take a toll on the employees of these iconic sites as well like those who work at Liberty Island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has a big impact on our check.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My only source of income.

ROMANS: And not only are employees at national monuments staying at home today...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have liftoff.

ROMANS: The 97 percent of NASA employees are closing the office doors on the agency's 55th birthday. D.C., the Washington Monument, Smithsonian and even the National Zoo, closed for business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The national zoo is a ghost town. It's been closed since 8:00 p.m. last night. Now the National Park Service says that anything that's a safety function will continue to be funded. And any employee that comes here to feed and take care of the animals will continue to do that, but if you want to see the pandas online, too bad. Even the animal cams are going dark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we're shut down it really takes away from things that families can do.

ROMANS: Locally owned businesses around the Hill worry that lack of tourists will dry up their income as well.

TRIPP BURDETT, BARTENDER AT WASHINGTON, D.C. BAR: D.C. might be the next Detroit, because when half the city is unemployed or doesn't have a paying job, this could become Detroit in close to two months.

ROMANS: Across to the mountain, national parks taking a hit, too.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the Angeles National Forest, this morning the crown jewels of the park system, Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone, Mt. Rushmore, Yosemite, all closed. Anyone in any national park allowing camping has 48 hours to vacate.

MIKE HERY, YOSEMITE VISITOR: We've been coming here 35 years. This is not fun if we have to get booted out.

CARL SOLLARS, SAGUIMO NATIONAL PARK TOURIST: It's very frustrated. We invested quite a bit to come out here and see this. It's going to be a huge disappointment, huge disappointment.


CHIOU: Some U.S. government services will stay open despite the shutdown. Air traffic controllers and airport security, for example, remain on the job. So, if you have a flight in or out of the U.S., you won't be affected theoretically by the shutdown.

Most immigration, border and customs employees are also considered essential personnel.

The last time there was a shutdown, thousands of passport applications went unprocessed. But the U.S. State Department says it will continue visa and passport operations overseas.

And mail will still get through. The U.S. Postal Service is staying open.

Active military personnel will continue getting paid. Lawmakers did manage to pass a measure to pay troops on time.

Well, congress has not agreed on much in the last three years. There was a shutdown showdown back in September of 2010. And in August of 2011, an ugly battle over the debt ceiling led to the first ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

That fight looms again. The Treasury says it will run out of money to pay its bills in a couple of weeks unless lawmakers raise the debt limit.

Well, support for congress, not surprisingly, is at a record low, just 10 percent. But even if Americans think their lawmakers are doing a lousy job, paychecks for members of congress are protected.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us live from Capitol Hill now.

Athena, explain how the politicians will get paid, but thousands of other government employees won't.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Pauline. Well, this would probably surprise a lot of American voters and a lot of viewers around the world that members of congress can still collect a paycheck. Why? It's mandated by the constitution.

I went around Capitol Hill yesterday and spoke with members of Congress about this issue and asked them what they're going to do with their pay.


JONES (voice-over): Congress's approval ratings may be at historic lows, but that won't stop members from getting paid, even during a government shutdown.

(on camera): They'll still get paid. Is that appropriate?


JONES: I'm trying to find out where he stands on the issue of members of Congress collecting their pay during a shutdown.

(voice-over): I worked the phones and hit the halls.

If there's a shutdown, members of Congress still get to collect their paycheck. What do you think about that?

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: I actually think nobody is above the law. That means the president, the attorney general as well as us. All of them ought to be putting that on hold until this is resolved.

JONES: And what will members of Congress do with their money?

REP. PETE GALLEGO (D), TEXAS: I am urging my fellow members of congress to donate their pay to charitable causes.

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: I'm going to be writing a check back to the U.S. Treasury and giving my pay back and standing in solidarity with everyone else.

JONES: So, why do senators and representatives get to collect their paycheck while hundreds of thousands of federal employees will have to go without? Blame the Constitution. Ordinary members of congress in both chambers make $174,000 a year. Congressional leaders make more. No Congress can change its own salaries. It can only vote to change the pay of future sessions of Congress.

Senator Boxer says she'll probably give her paycheck to charity but that's no consolation to government workers like Dee Alexander.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we're not getting paid, I don't think Congress should get paid either because I think they need to kind of feel what we're feeling.


JONES: And members of Congress are well aware that their constituents back home are probably not going to be too happy to hear they're still collecting a paycheck.

Just hours before the shutdown, we heard from a New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiondo who tweeted out a letter to the folks who handle congressional pay here on Capitol Hill saying that he wants his pay withheld. And we also heard from Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz who said that he's going to donate his paycheck to charity.

So, those are just a few examples for you there, Pauline.

CHIOU: Yeah, Athena, at least it looks like the charities will benefit from this shutdown.

Now the other big concern that's looming is this whole debt ceiling issue. Considering how deadlocked we're seeing congress at the moment, do you think the members of congress can get over that next hurdle?

JONES: You know, Pauline, that is really the big question, the big next question. Here we are just now entering a shutdown. We don't even know how long this initial impasse is going to last. And then in just a couple of weeks, October 17, you have this other big deadline. And if you talk to economists, people who have testified here before budget committees and on the Hill in the last couple of weeks, they say that yes this shutdown is going to have an impact. If it lasts for a long time, it could be bad for the economy.

But the debt ceiling, not raising the debt limit would have disastrous impacts on the economy, a much, much bigger impact on anyone who takes out a loan. It would affect the U.S.'s credit rating and standing in the world.

And to the problem here is that we see this tension, this gridlock here with this one issue. And it bodes poorly for the next big issue. All I can tell you is it's unclear what's going to happen, but that right now the signs don't point in a good direction, Pauline.

CHIOU: Yeah. It doesn't instill a lot of confidence there.

Athena, thank you very much for giving us the latest from Capitol Hill.

JONES: Thanks.

CHIOU: Well, shortly after the shutdown started, U.S. President Barack Obama tweeted this. He tweeted, "the Affordable Care Act is moving forward. You cannot shut it down." He used the hashtag #obamacare.

The president signed it into law back in 2010. The law requires that every American have some form of health insurance by 2014. Anyone without coverage by next year will be fined at least $95. The Supreme Court says that fine is a tax and it upheld the law in 2012. But many Republicans strongly oppose it and have tried 41 times to repeal, defund or stop it.

Democrats argue that voters endorsed Obamacare when he won reelection. Supporters say it will provide affordable medical care to the 48 million Americans who still currently lack health insurance.

Today, ironically, is the first day they can enroll in this program.

And you're watching News Stream. Later on this hour, prayer services are held for victims of the Westgate mall terror attack. As the investigation raises new questions we'll go live to Kenya for the very latest.

NATO holds Navy drills in the Mediterranean Sea. We'll take you on board one high tech ship for a look.

And a compelling story of a group of young North Korean defectors. They fled with hopes of a better life, but their dream became a real nightmare. That exclusive report coming up.


CHIOU: You're watching News Stream. And you're looking at a visual version of all the stories we've got in the show today.

We started out by talking about the government shutdown in the United States. Later in this show, we'll bring you a story you must see, an attempt to leave North Korea for a better life goes horribly wrong.

But first we go now to Kenya which is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Nairobi terror attack.

Now interfaith services are being held in Kenya today to pray for the victims of the Westgate Mall terror attack. 67 people were killed. And according to the Kenyan Red Cross, 39 people are still unaccounted for. These are new images from inside the mall. Forensics investigators have been collecting evidence and Kenyan lawmakers have also inspected the site.

Officials are now being asked what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

Let's go live now to Arwa Damon in Nairobi. Arwa, what new information are you getting on the investigation?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Disturbingly, very little, Pauline, and that is exactly why so many Kenyans, especially here in Nairobi, are going increasingly angry and frustrated at the pace of this investigation. They feel incredibly uneasy. In fact, the mood on the streets here -- this is something that Nairobi has never really dealt with in its recent history.

Now what we do know is that there were warnings that were given to the Kenyan authorities. CNN has seen some of the intelligence that was delivered to the intelligence agency here. The government not commenting on that at this stage saying it's still an ongoing investigation.

But based on what we know there were specifics in that intelligence that should have given the government warning to perhaps put more security measures into place. A lot of questions being asked about why that did not, in fact, transpire.

There is a joint committee that includes members of parliament, defense and security agencies that is tasked with putting together a report, trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. They have 30 days to put that together. The clock on that started ticking yesterday.

But the fact that there's been no significant movement on this in the last few days is really not making the Kenyan authorities at this stage look as if they have complete control of the situation. It most certainly is causing a lot more questions to be raised then those questions that are actually be answered, Pauline.

CHIOU: Arwa, we're getting new still photos today of forensics investigators at the mall. Also, I mentioned that lawmakers visited the scene. What exactly is going on at the site inside the walls of tae mall?

DAMON: Well, as far as we can gather, those forensics teams are still on the ground. The Kenyan government had said that there were five bodies of the attackers, that they were going to be conducting testing. There is additionally the body of an individual who has been identified as the white woman. Unclear at this stage if she was directly involved or not, but forensic testing in that instance going on as well.

There have been some media outlets that have been able to obtain images from inside that really show you those harrowing final moments, the hand bags that were discarded on tables, drinks that were partially drunk that just left behind, the scale of the devastation, some images showing just how burnt out everything is.

And there's also been various reports from individuals who have shops inside the mall itself that looting had taken place as well. Individuals accusing the Kenyan security forces of carrying out that looting. The government saying it is investigating those allegations as well.

But again, all of this and how the Kenyan government is handling the aftermath of all of this really causing a lot of disgruntlement to say the least amongst the population here.

CHIOU: Yeah, disgruntled and frustrated, those are some words we keep hearing.

We're also getting conflicting information of the number of missing people. We're getting different information from the Red Cross and also from the police. What exactly are you learning about the number of people who are still missing/

DAMON: Yeah, and this has been a point of contention pretty much since this all began.

The Red Cross is now saying that 39 people are either unaccounted for or missing. The Kenyan government is saying, well, that's not the case. There's nobody who is missing.

But CNN's Zain Verjee spoke to a woman who has been searching for her 23-year-old daughter who she last heard from on Saturday. So that's at least one case of an individual who has been missing or unaccounted for.

A few days ago when we were at the morgue there were individuals there who were still looking for information, looking for the bodies of their loved ones. So that's also contributing to this sense of, again, anger and frustration amongst the population here.

They want to know, especially the families who have not yet had closure, want to know where their loved ones are and what happened to them, Pauline.

CHIOU: Of course, that's entirely understandable.

All right, Arwa, thank you very much. Arwa Damon there live in Nairobi.

Let's move on to the situation in Syria. The painstaking process of identifying and securing Syria's chemical weapons is now getting underway. The disarmament team tasked with that job has crossed into Syria from Lebanon. They are implementing a UN resolution passed last week demanding that Syria give up its arsenal of chemical agents.

Experts from the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons will need to find any gaps in the list of weapons supplied by the Syrian government.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joins me live now from London. And he's following this story.

Matthew, whether or not the officials in Syria are calling this a civil war, there is fighting that is going on. It's going to be dangerous for these inspection teams. What kind of obstacles face these teams?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are numerous obstacles. You're right, first of all, this is the first time the OPCW, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has taken on a mission to disarm a country during a war in that country. It's obviously going to be very difficult.

In fact, the Syrian foreign minister has said that at least seven of the sites that they've declared for inspection and for disarmament are in active combat zones. And so it's going to be very dangerous and very time consuming, perhaps, for this advanced team of inspectors from the OPCW to get to those places they need to go to to verify what's there on the ground and to undertake their mission to destroy the production facilities and munitions that have been declared by the Syrians.

They may even have to negotiate some kind of local truce, depending on the actual situation on the ground.

So it's a very time consuming process made even more lengthy by the fact that this war is raging in Syria. And of course the deadline for this to be completed is very tight indeed. All of this has to be done, Syria's chemical weapons have to be effectively taken out of use, by November 1. And so they're working on a very, very short timeline indeed.

CHIOU: Yeah, November 1. So how realistic is this considering that these inspection teams need to be very delicate and need to try to maneuver their way into these combat zones where some of these arsenal sites are. How realistic is that November deadline?

CHANCE: Well, of course there are some critics out there that believe it's unrealistic to complete the disarmament process by that point. Remember, even if there weren't a conflict going on, the actual physical process of destroying chemical weapons is itself very hazardous and very long winded and time consuming.

You know, they're going to have to take machines, for instance, that are used to mix chemical weapons and run them without lubrication until they seize up. They're going to have to potentially destroy actual munitions on the ground in Syria if they can get the right facilities and the right environment to do that, otherwise to load them up safely and securely and to take them out of the country to some other place where they can be more safely destroyed.

They're going to be, you know, smashing up equipment in warehouses, in storage facilities with sledge hammers.

It's going to be a really, really difficult and long winding process.

And so, yes, they have to work very, very quickly. And that's why it's incredibly important for this inspection team that they get the maximum possible cooperation from the Syrians.

At the moment, there hasn't been a problem, but we're just at the start of that process.

CHIOU: Right.

All right, thank you very much for the details of what these inspectors face. Matthew Chance there live from London.

And this is News Stream. Coming up, high tech and highly flexible, is this aircraft carrier of the 21st Century? We'll take you onboard the Cavoor (ph) to find out.


CHIOU: This is a lovely live shot of Stonecutter's Bridge here in Hong Kong as we look out over Victoria Harbor.

Well, NATO is carrying out military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, but they're designed to show off more than military might, they also hope to prove the alliance as well as big navy fleets are still relevant. Ivan Watson checks out some of the state of the art technology on the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour (ph).


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An armada of ships at sea, a show of force by the NATO military alliance in the Mediterranean. 23 ships and thousands of sailors and airmen from a dozen countries performing joint exercises to prove that this 64 year old military alliance can still defend itself in the modern world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This joint force has to be ready if the nations of the world and NATO calls on it.

WATSON: NATO forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for more than a decade. And the alliance helped defeat Moammar Gadhafi's troops in Libya just two years ago. But NATO is not being sent to intervene in the biggest crisis in the region: the civil war in Syria.

ALEXANDER VERSHBOW, DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: The situation in Syria has not generated the same kind of consensus that we saw two years ago in Libya in favor of international military intervention. And the military options are not as clear cut in Syria.

WATSON: Spanish special forces simulate boarding a hostile ship that could be smuggling weapons of mass destruction.

But these drills are not just demonstrations of combat readiness.

(on camera): Part of the goal of these exercises is to convince cash strapped European governments to continue paying for hugely expensive defense programs like aircraft carriers and navies in general.

(voice-over): To some critics, big navies are relics of a bygone Cold War era. And tough economic times in Europe have not helped.

VERSHBOW: What we're hoping to see as the financial crisis begins to improve is to see the members of NATO collaborate more in developing military capability to get more bang for the euro and more back for the buck.

WATSON: On board the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour (ph) it can sometimes feel like the set of some science fiction movie. Italian admirals boast about the cutting edge technology here while also stressing flexibility. They say this carrier was converted into a floating hospital that helped treat victims of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

A combat ship that could also play a unique humanitarian role, that's basically what NATO is calling the aircraft carrier of the 21st Century.

Ivan Watson, CNN, aboard the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour (ph) on the Mediterranean Sea.


CHIOU: Still ahead on News Stream, a couple tries to help young North Korean defectors, but the escape plan ends in heartbreak. We have an exclusive report.

Also, many people fleeing hardship back home, board rickety boats like this trying to reach Australia. Can regional leaders work together to address the problem?


CHIOU: I'm Pauline Chiou in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Washington's Smithsonian museums and hundreds of U.S. national parks are closed because the government has shut down. Around 800,000 federal employees are being forced to stay at home. It's unclear when they will get paid again. This is all because lawmakers failed to agree on a spending bill. This is the first U.S. government shutdown in almost 18 years.

Kenyan lawmakers are beginning an investigation into the terrorist attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall to find out whether failures in intelligence played a part. Legislators visited the scene on Monday and are asking anyone with information to come forward. 67 people were killed during the siege that started on September 21.

Venezuela says it's throwing out three U.S. diplomats accusing them of trying to destabilize the country. President Nicholas Maduro says the Americans were working to sabotage Venezuela by financing a group of right- wing opponents. Washington is denying the claims.

The global war on drugs is failing, says a team of researchers in the United States and Canada. They say prices for heroine, cocaine, and cannabis are falling and the degree of purity is improving. And they say that suggests efforts to stamp out the drug trade simply are not working.

Now to the story of a dream that became a nightmare for nine young North Korean defectors. A missionary couple helped them on their long and arduous journey to a better life, but just when they thought their dream was about to come true their hopes were shattered.

Paula Hancocks has this exclusive report.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Trekking through the jungle at night to avoid detection. Nine young North Koreans crossed the border from China to Laos believing their next stop was South Korea and freedom. They were wrong.

Aged between 15 and 23, some escaped North Korean four years ago into China looking for food. This video was filmed by a South Korean missionary who calls himself MJ.

MJ and his wife hide their identity because they try to help refugees that China regularly arrests and sends back to North Korea.

"They look for fish bones and rice," he tells me, "to mix together to make porridge. Then they eat toothpaste to help them digest it."

This boy says he wants to live in China because here even the beggars don't go hungry.

The nights were spent living in an abandoned building, the days avoiding Chinese border guards.

When MJ met them in December 2009, it was minus 30 Celsius. Most had frost bite on their hands and toes and skin diseases. Some had injuries they say came from beatings by guards when they were caught stealing food.

"All of them seemed to have suffered from tuberculosis," says MJ. "And as they were malnourished, their growth was stunted."

MJ and his wife offered to help them leave China for Laos and then on to South Korea or the United States to claim asylum, a route they had successfully taken with other defectors. But after crossing into Laos this time, their plan went wrong.

"There was a search made while we were on the bus," MJ says. "This is the first time it ever happened."

The defectors and missionaries were investigated by Laos immigration for more than two weeks, calling the South Korean embassy repeatedly for help. MJ says they were told everything was fine and the youngsters were being processed. No embassy official came to visit.

May 27, the defectors were told to pack as they were leaving for South Korea. As the missionaries tried to follow them, they say the door of the immigration office was shut and they were locked in a room for two hours. According to the United Nations, the young defectors were deported to North Korea via China.

MJ's wife breaks down, saying "it is unbearable that these children were taken away from us. But what makes me really angry is the response from the South Korean embassy."

South Korea's foreign ministry tells CNN it is unfortunate and regrettable the nine young North Korean defectors were forcefully taken and they are inspecting the problems revealed from this incident and have improved and strengthened the overall support system.

(on camera): The foreign ministry in Laos says that the North Koreans were in their country illegally and they also accuse the missionaries of human trafficking. But the United Nations and human rights groups are criticizing the country for deporting the refugees.

(voice-over): The defectors were last seen on North Korean state television saying they had been tricked into leaving the country and it was by the grace of North Korea's leader Kim Jong un that they were allowed to return.

Human rights groups say defectors who are sent back are sometimes tortured or even executed. Fears are high for the nine young North Koreans who thought they had escaped.


CHIOU: And the fate of these children is still unclear.

Paula Hancocks joins me now live from CNN Seoul with more.

Paula, do we know why these children tried to escape from North Korea on their own without their parents or their families?

HANCOCKS: Well, Pauline, many of these children were actually orphans. And those that did have one or two parents, those parents were either unable or unwilling to look after the children. MJ told us about one of the children who lived with his father. When the father went to a military base in North Korea to try and steal some food for his son, he was caught and he was beaten to death. And that son actually witnessed this.

He then went back to his mother and his mother told him he had to leave and threw rocks at him to keep him away from the house.

So these children had a desperate life in North Korea. And they escaped North Korea, which is no mean feat considering how heavily guarded that border between North Korean and China is now. And when they got to China, they did believe that things were getting better.

Obviously conditions were unbearably hard for them in China, but better than they had been in North Korea -- Pauline.

CHIOU: Just a heartbreaking story all around.

Now this incident in Laos happened back in May. Why is the missionary and his wife speaking out now?

HANCOCKS: Well, quiet simply because it was too painful for them to speak out earlier. This is what we heard from MJ and his wife. And his wife broke down a number of times during the interview itself.

They spent a lot of time with these children. They basically saw them for the first time in 2009. And they looked after them up until 2013. So some of them had been with them a number of years. And they had come to see many of them as almost like their own children because these youngsters did not have parents of their own, or at least not parents that were able to look after them.

And so it was extremely difficult and heartwrenching for the two to believe that they were going to safety in South Korea and then to find out that they had been sent back to North Korea.

But they did decide to speak out to CNN eventually because they decided that this story, quote frankly, had to be told. They decided that there needed to be more discussion about what had happened to them. And MJ himself said that he knows they'll be used for propaganda purposes. We've seen that back in June.

But what he's concerned about is what happens next. Once the propaganda is over, once their use for propaganda has been -- has expired according to the North Korean regime -- then what happens to them? He's very concerned that they will just become lost. If nothing is heard from them, if no pressure is put on the North Korean regime to explain where they are or to even allow them to come back out again, which is of course highly unlikely, he is very worried that they will be lost forever -- Pauline.

CHIOU: And this story is putting pressure on the South Korean government. We saw in your story that they did make a statement.

What else has South Korea said about why these children were not given help when they were in Laos, and why they really fell through the cracks there?

HANCOCKS: Well, you know, the South Korean embassy in Laos was really slammed here. In South Korea there was a huge amount of criticism as to why they were so slow to react. According to MJ, it took 18 days for a South Korean embassy official to even go and visit them. And that was after the children had been taken by Laos authorities and then sent back to China and then to North Korea.

Now the South Korean foreign ministry, when we put these questions to them, did say that many defectors do come to South Korea and they do facilitate a lot of these defectors to come to South Korea, although we have seen the numbers drop quite significantly over just the last year, since Kim Jong un has taken power.

We believe that is because they're a stringent checks now and border security along that border between China and North Korea.

But the South Koreans have come under a lot of pressure as to why they didn't react quicker. But they do say that they have looked into the matter. They say that they've strengthened the checks that they have and the process that they have and clearly everyone hopes that this wouldn't happen again.

CHIOU: Paula, thank you very much for bringing this story to us. It really is heartbreaking when you think about what might be happening to these nine kids.

All right, Paula Hancocks there live in Seoul.

We told you on Monday about the deaths of at least 36 refugees who drowned off the coast of West Java in Indonesia. It's believed they were trying to make their way to Australia by boat. In Jakarta, key talks have been held on asylum seekers and as Anna Coren reports, the issue has generated a lot of tension between Australia and Indonesia.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's Tony Abbott first overseas trip as prime minister and one that's been overshadowed by the contentious asylum seeker issue. At the heart of the problem, Australia's stop the boats policy.

He wants the Australian navy to tow vessels carrying asylum seekers back into Indonesian waters. Abbott's also proposed buying up fishing boats and paying locals for information on people smugglers, a move Jakarta has said is a violation of its sovereignty.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We had a very frank discussion about issues of sovereignty and about issues of people smuggling.

COREN: Each month, hundreds of asylum seekers from countries like Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq board rickety boats along the Indonesian coast to make the dangerous journey to Australia for a better life.

Many don't make it. The recent drowning of dozens of asylum seekers, many of them children, a tragic reminder of the risks involved.

But 27 year old Muntaz (ph) is not deterred. Fleeing persecution in Pakistan, she arrived in Indonesia two months ago with her three children and elderly father.

"Here, I am not safe either," she tells me. "We have nothing to eat. Nowhere to go, no place to stay. We have no other choice."

And there is little sympathy from Indonesia, a country that refuses to sign the refugee convention, giving legal rights to asylum seekers.

SUSILO BAMBANG, YUDHOYONO, INDONESIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They give us a burden, socially and economically. When they want to make their way to Australia, they also burden Indonesia. So in this spirit to enable Indonesia and Australia to solve their problem, we have to work together.

COREN: In the short time that Tony Abbott has been in power, he and his government have managed to offend the Indonesians. And while he may describe this relationship, as Australia's most important, the reality is as long as boats, packed with asylum seekers, keep leaving these shores bound for Australia, this issue will continue to place a strain on these two nations.

For now, though, it's a unified front being presented to the world and to people smugglers.

ABBOTT: We are determined to end this scourge, which is not just an affront to our two countries, but which has so often become a humanitarian disaster in the seas between our two countries.

COREN: And as long as the boats keep coming, this humanitarian disaster will continue.

Anna Coren, CNN, Jakarta.


CHIOU: Let's turn now to the weather forecast. We've been talking a lot about climate change recently. And now we're hearing about record ice in Antarctica. Mari Ramos is live at the weather center with more. Mari, what's going on?

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, you know, this is actually a pretty interesting story. Just last week the amount of ice in Antarctica got to a record high. But, you know, this is the time of year when they would get it normally as we head into the month of September is when you had all this time where it's been very cold -- of course it had been winter here in the Southern Hemisphere, they're getting into spring now. And they have -- they normally get the peak amount of ice that they would normally get for the entire year.

Well, the interesting thing is, is that -- you see that yellow line? You can barely make it out right there. That's normally the average. And you see that little bit sticking out of the ice that's standing out across these areas? That's very important, because it is a record amount of ice.

Not just this year, which is the interesting thing, last year was also a record number. This year is actually even more than what we've had before.

This is, of course, since they've been keeping records via satellite, because it's not easy to get down there and actually measure the ice that is available.

So since the 1970s, the early 70s, this is the most ice that they've actually had. And this graphic that you see here illustrates that a little bit better. The blue line is from 1981 until 2010. Then we have this area in the red line is 2012 and you can see this huge peak of ice that happened and actually got to a record. And then 2013 got even higher than that.

It's just about 1 percent higher, but it's still significant enough to actually make some people turn their heads and say, hey, what about global warming? I thought you were talking about global warming just last week and climate change and all of that? What's happening?

Well, they're saying it's a lot of different things that come into play. First of all, the temperatures are warmer. They're warmer all around the world. There's no disputing that.

But they're saying eventually as the temperatures continue to get warmer and warmer, this ice that you see here will eventually decrease. But there's a lot of other factors that come into play. So it's not just as black and white.

What they're saying is, we're still learning quite a bit about what's happening in Antarctica. And when you see the geography here in Antarctica, it's extremely important compared to the North Pole, for example, or the Arctic areas where you have a lot of open water and the ice is kind of crammed up into one area alone, here in Antarctica, because it's all open, you have these open ocean areas where the ice can move about freely. They said that's a huge difference compared to what happens in the Arctic, for example.

There's something that's been going on here with the wind. They have been more intense, those westerly winds across the area. Scientists from the University of Washington were saying earlier this month that -- last month, I should say, because we're in October now. But they were saying that they could be because these winds are stronger, they pack the ice even thicker. The ice gets thicker and thicker and thicker, so it takes longer for it to melt during the summer months.

So you end up having this domino effect opposite of what's happening in the Arctic, by the way, where the ice is getting thicker, takes longer to melt so you get more ice. There's more ocean that's exposed to those extremely cold temperatures so you get more ice buildup and that could be one of the main reasons why we have so much more ice this time around for the last few years than we did before. And then of course, they say, it may all just be a cycle in the air and the ocean temperatures and all these other factors could still be coming into play. But hey, it is record ice and it happened for the second year in a row.

Back to you.

CHIOU: Very, very interesting, Mari. Wow, who knew that it would be that wind effect and there could be other explanations.

Fascinating stuff. Thanks so much, Mari.

Well, still to come right here on News Stream. It's predicted to be an out of this world experience at the box office, so just how plausible is the idea behind the new film Gravity? That story and much more coming up.


CHIOU: On this week's addition of Leading Women, she is a powerful voice on the world stage and has accomplished many firsts in her long and varied career. Our Becky Anderson profiles Helen Clark, the administrator of the UN development program.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: There's arguably no bigger platform to tackle major global issues than the United Nations general assembly meeting, the UNGA.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution.

ANDERSON: It's where each year, heads of state and governments gather at UN headquarters in New York to present their views about world issues.

HELEN CLARK, UN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM: In the UN development group, we truly thank everybody who took part in the process.

ANDERSON: It's at these events that we find Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Program, UNDP. She's the third highest ranking UN official, appointed in 2009 by UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.

CLARK: I'm not running a big country, I'm not running a big corporation, but I am running a very influential organization.

ANDERSON: Clark is the first woman to hold this position.

CLARK: We do a lot on supporting countries to improve the way they run themselves. We have a big role in countries in crisis, either because like Haiti they got so severely affected by an earthquake and before that by a big hurricane. Afghanistan is our biggest program in the world. Iraq's been pretty big. Somalia is big.

ANDERSON: She leads an agency with a staff of 8,000 operating in 177 countries. She travels a lot for her work. Here she's on a recent visit to Chad.

CLARK: I could not have credibly done this job if I had not had the experience of leading small country and working my way up a very long political career.

ANDERSON: Clark was just appointed to a second term as UNDP administrator. Before that, she was prime minister of New Zealand for three consecutive terms. First elected in 1999 as a member of the Labor Party, becoming the country's first female PM.

She acknowledges that challenges of being a woman in a high position.

CLARK: There hadn't been anyone who seriously tried to be prime minister leading a major party. So all the peripheral things became issues. You know, your voice was too low, didn't like the haircut. And you had to work your way through. It was completely irrelevant (ph).

ANDERSON: And she believes in sharing the lessons of her experiences.

CLARK: I think it's a responsibility of women who have achieved high positions in whatever they're doing. You have to create a ladder for others to come up behind. You don't want to be the only person who ever did this, you want to inspire a generation of young women.

In New Zealand the joke is, for me, the proverbial child who would say that their mother -- mum, can a boy be prime minister in this country? Which kind of turns the tables, doesn't it?


CHIOU: That's a great quote here. Well, prime minister and now the third highest official at the UN, not a bad resume. Next week, we'll take a look at the more personal side of Helen Clark, including her upbringing on a New Zealand farm.

For more on Leading Women, you can log on to

Well, after the break right here on News Stream. Fact, or fiction? Often, Hollywood science fiction movies don't get it quite right. So how realistic is the new film Gravity? We'll take a look at the science behind the movie.


CHIOU: The film Gravity is set to premier tonight in New York. It's about an accident in space that sends two astronauts floating into the unknown. So we had to ask, just how realistic is it?

Nischelle Turner puts the science of Gravity to the test.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT ((voice-over): A thrilling nerve-shredding phenomenon. That's critics describing "Gravity." When it comes to space movies, it's no secret, Hollywood can be light on facts and heavy on fiction.

JEAN-LUC MARGOT, UCLA PROFESSOR OF ASTRONOMY: I was in grad school, we went to see "The Core" and there were maybe 20 or so geophysicists in the audience. And I remember we were laughing at different times than the rest of the audience.

TURNER: As for the science behind this movie? UCLA's Dr. Jean-Luc Margot says things are looking up.

MARGOT: From a scientific standpoint I thought the moviemakers did a very good. It was based on a shuttle servicing mission that has happened. They paid attention to the fact that sound doesn't propagate in space. They also tried hard to portray the conservation of momentum. So when Sandra and George collide with each other, and they will sort of bounce off with each other. I would give it an A.

TURNER: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney co-star in the 90-minute 3- D epic directed by Alfonso Cuaron.

ALFONSO CUARON, DIRECTOR: Well, the most important thing was to get the -- science on the screen.

SANDRA BULLOCK, ACTOR, "GRAVITY": Because the minute that you see a crack or you something that doesn't feel right, the audience are going to go, no, not there. You've lost me.

TURNER: The film's $80 million budget included scientists, new lighting technology and a gravity-free simulator.

CUARON: A lot of that for me was to see how a camera would react there.

BULLOCK: Explorer 2, do you copy?

TURNER: To portray an astronaut stranded 400 miles above earth, Bullock trained with real NASA veteran Katie Coleman.

BULLOCK: The thing I needed to know from her was physically what her body was doing. What it did in space.

TURNER: Margot, who saw the film in L.A., notes there are a few moments of movie magic.

MARGOT: Particularly there is one scene where you see the space shuttle spinning widely out of control because it's hit by a piece of debris. If you actually did that calculation it would have to be about a thousand kilograms. About a ton of materials.

TURNER: Space trash that big would have been tracked by NASA.

MARGOT: I mean every single piece larger than about the size of my fist is being tracked.

TURNER: As for the film's suggestion its heroin only had six months of training?

MARGOT: That would be implausible. But that makes the film more enjoyable.

TURNER: Enjoyable acclaimed, for the most part, realistic.

BULLOCK: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

TURNER: Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.


CHIOU: I must point out that Gravity is a Warner Brothers film, which shares the same parent company as CNN.

And that is News Stream, but the news continues right here at CNN. World Business Today is coming up next with my colleagues Nina Dos Santos and Maggie Lake.