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AROUND THE WORLD

Zients Says HealthCare.Gov Should Be Fixed by End of November; Former U.S. Drone Operator Shares His Inner Torment; Saudi Women to Protest Driving Ban; Saudi Women to Defy Driving Ban; Interview with Manal al-Sharif; Obamacare Site Fixes; Mirrors Direct Sunlight on Gloomy Town

Aired October 25, 2013 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We've got some breaking news here, perhaps potentially some good news here.

We've all been following the Obama healthcare website, the federal Web site. Now we are getting an update on that Web site. It is expected to be almost fully functioning by the end of November.

Now, this is something that is being predicted by Jeffrey Zients, and this is a guy that's been appointed by the president to help lead in fixing this site, the site healthcare.gov.

We know there have been a lot of delays and problems in registering for various plans, and at some point, just wasn't able to get through. They've been trying to deal with this.

There have been hearings on the Hill. The secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, has been under fire because of all this. They're trying to get it all sorted out.

Zients spoke to reporters for the first time, and today, he actually said that they're being brought on board and that the vast majority of those who want to get through are going to be able to get all elements of that site, they're going to be able to use it and it's going to be functioning well, most of it by the end of November.

He also says they're appointing a contractor, QSSI, to lead in the effort to fix that site. So you know, we hope it all, would out in the end.

At this very moment, the U.N. has now learned that there's a hearing over the civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes, and that drone program very controversial because innocent people, innocent people, have died in attacks that are intended to target terrorists.

Now, human rights reports that a highlight -- the highlight of this is that it has taken a toll. Amnesty International, for instance, tells a story of a grandmother who was killed by a strike in front of her own grandchildren.

The group also says that attacks like these might even constitute war crimes.

Well, today, a U.S. airman, part of a team that killed more than 1,600 people in drone strikes, spoke to CNN, talks about his experience and the memories that he just can't get out of his head.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDON BRYANT, FORMER U.S. AIR FORCE DRONE OPERATOR: It's like really opened my eyes to how -- what the war was about, that it's not clean.

Like we were told that this was a clean -- everything was precise and you can -- we're not a scalpel. We're still a missile and there are still mistakes that happen.

There's a lot less mistakes than an F-16, but it still made me feel like I just ended a human life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: CNN International anchor Hala Gorani joins us here in the studio.

A very, very powerful interview that you did, I mean, we've been watching this and we've really actually been trying to dissect it because he's emotional. Clearly he's been impacted but what he's done.

Is he rare? Is this unusual that you have somebody who's been pressing buttons, looks at a video and really feels the emotion of what he's done and understands how he's killed?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I can't answer that question, and there's one good reason for it. They rarely speak out, those individual who operate the drones and push the buttons in windowless bunkers in states like -- in the case of Brandon Bryant, he was in Nevada; he was in New Mexico.

However, what he said was extremely interesting because he was saying, look, you think that you're watch essentially pixilated, black-and- white video and that, therefore, this is not going to affect you.

But there were times when I would go home crying. He felt and said in other interviews that he felt like a sociopath, disconnected from humanity, that he knew that the button he was pushing was ending the life of a human being.

And, so, therefore, he wanted to tell Americans in particular, don't think this is a clean war. There is no such thing as a clean war. If you wasn't anti-septic, you don't get it with drones, because on the other end of and halfway around the world, you have individuals who die.

I asked him what he would tell Americans about this, because as you know and most viewers know, most Americans, when asked, support the drone program to target non-U.S. citizen, suspected militants.

This is what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYANT: There's a level of intimacy that goes with every action in war, and while we're not as close as someone who's knifing someone on the ground or shooting their rifle or their weapon at someone, we still have this level of intimacy where we see what we do and we see the actions that happen.

We see the immediate effect, and the effect isn't physical at all. It's completely psychological. You hear the hum of a computer. You don't feel the missile coming off the rail.

You watch it, and that disconnect right there I think affects a lot of people because there's no physiological effect on people.

GORANI: And what was the worst -- when you look back at your years doing this, operating drones from afar, what were some of the most shocking video you saw that really to this day stays with you?

BRYANT: The most shocking, I think, was when we were following someone and the guy stopped and pulled out two kids and executed them in the middle of the street, and he knew that he wasn't -- that he had no consequences.

And the crew that got hem later, it was like vengeance, almost. And these were really -- these are bad people. Like, you have to understand that there are bad people over there, and we do our best to get them.

And -- but like you said earlier, America wants an anti-septic war. We want a clean war. And the reality is, is that nothing is clean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: And Brandon Bryant also said that at one point, he thought he had killed a child in one of those attacks.

His superiors, however, insist that it was not a child, that it might have been a dog. He, however, and this is part of the reason he says he has PTSD, it's something he hasn't been able to shake.

But you mentioned Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. It's important. This is very important, because all these groups, including U.N., are saying, look, out of the several thousand that possibly have been killed -- and these are all secret numbers, the U.S. government is not releasing them -- potentially you're looking at a third to sometimes half according to Human Rights Watch in six attacks that it documented in Yemen might be civilians.

And those who look at these programs say here's the problem, Even if it is effective, it breeds so much resentment abroad against the United States that possible it's counterproductive.

In other words, it helps recruitment for groups like Al Qaida.

MALVEAUX: Is he getting help? Is he getting medical help, in any way? GORANI: He is trying to deal now, day to day. Part of the reason he's speaking out, by the way, he said is so that he tells American and people all around the world what this drone program is about.

And also to explain that drone operators and these people who are in charge of pushing the button, if you will, quote/unquote, that they get a bad rap, that they too are exposed to the type of violence that people in battlefield situations are exposed to.

MALVEAUX: They can feel it.

GORANI: Yeah. You can see it with him there.

MALVEAUX: Hala, thank you. You absolutely can. Hala, excellent interview. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

And we're following this, as well. Imagine that you're told that you're not allowed to drive. That's the case, of course, for all women in Saudi Arabia.

Well, now they're fighting back. We're going to hear directly from a woman who is leading a protest this weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Running errands, carpooling kids, driving to work, all these activities carried out every day, every country around the world with one glaring exception, we're talking about women in Saudi Arabia. They're not allowed to drive, and this really prevents a certain sense of freedom, as well.

Tomorrow, women across The Kingdom are going to defy that unofficial ban. They're going to get behind the wheel and they are going to carry out a united protest to pressure the Saudi government to grant women the right to drive.

Many are already doing it, posting these videos on YouTube. You're seeing it there. They were inspired by this woman, Manal al-Sharif, a prominent woman's right activist. Well back in 2011, she shot a video of herself driving, then posted it on YouTube. Well, she paid for that with a jail sentence.

Manal al-Sharif, she's joining us now from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. She's on Skype.

Manal, I mean it's great to see you. It's great to see you out of jail. You did this two years ago. And what was - what was the impetus here? What was the motivation? Because you knew that you could potentially face arrest and you had to do jail time.

MANAL AL-SHARIF, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: OK. I think that there's been misunderstanding. Most of the news channels, they call and they think it's a demonstration or a massive protest, which the same thing in June 17 (ph) they thought. But it's not. It's a symbolic day, just to tell them we're serious. So (INAUDIBLE). And I'm not even a leader in this movement. I'm a big supporter of these women in Saudi Arabia because I don't live there anymore.

MALVEAUX: Manal -

AL-SHARIF: On October 26th -

MALVEAUX: Sure. You're very modest. And I understand. But tell us - tell us why you did what you did because it took a lot of courage what you did by getting behind the wheel and then posting that on YouTube. Why was that important to you?

AL-SHARIF: It was because they told us when we were encouraging women to go out and drive. They told us there will be men walls (ph) in the streets to harass you, rape you and kill you. So I was just trying to show women it's OK, you can go out and drive. I drove twice. Once to show that there are no men walls. It's safe. And other times to pass by a police car and see what authorities' response or the -- what's the action when they arrest or when they stop woman drivers.

So tomorrow I don't -- it will be another normal day in Saudi Arabia. You will see a lot of police cars. As I said, five authorities will be cooperating to stop any demonstrations in the country. For us, it was good the statement that they issued yesterday because this is the first time in three years we've been shaking them to give us -- the officials did not want to respond to all these tries that we've been doing.

MALVEAUX: Yes.

AL-SHARIF: For the first time in three years, they respond. And they said, it's bad. Now, great, for us it's a victory because now we know what we are facing. It's banned by law. And they've been keeping -- telling it's a society issue, it's not a political issue and it's not up to the authorities.

MALVEAUX: And tell us why is this important to be able to drive here? I mean this is - this is about human rights. It's about women's rights. You say it's not political. There's an economic cost, I mean, you know, in terms of just being able to move and to have to higher drivers and all that. But you are part of something that is very important, very big. What do you think this will do?

AL-SHARIF: It's more of a civil rights movement. This is what's going on in Saudi Arabia and women are part of that. Women are the prominent part of that because they are the ones who speak up in Saudi Arabia. For me, driving is more of a -- there are a lot of reasons that -- because it's a daily hassle and a daily agony that women in Saudi Arabia have to go through without public transportation and without being able to walk in the street. We don't have pedestrian friendly cities.

But the most important thing is shining the light on the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia. I'm a minor until the day I die as long as I have (INAUDIBLE) and this movement is just the first nail I would say in the coffin to just bury that thing -- or the casket to bury that thing -

MALVEAUX: All right.

AL-SHARIF: That's called male guardianship over women in Saudi Arabia.

MALVEAUX: All right, Manal -

AL-SHARIF: It's more of -- yes?

MALVEAUX: I'm sorry, I have to - I have to leave it there. We've run out of time. But really appreciate - really appreciate it. We'll have you back. Please tell us how this goes tomorrow. How this works out over the weekend, if people are arrested, if there are many people who come out to drive, if it is more of a symbolic gesture, as you suggest, and certainly where this movement is going because I know this is about really equal rights for women in Saudi Arabia. Thank you so much, Manal. Very brave of you to come on and to tell your story. We're going to take a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We've got some breaking news. Want to go to the White House. Our correspondent Athena Jones has the very latest on that federal healthcare site that we are now learning expected to be almost fully functioning by the end of November.

What do we know?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne.

Well, that's the big news that we have heard today from Jeff Zients. He's heading up this whole effort to fix healthcare.gov, heading up this tech surge with the contractors, trying to make sure this site, which has not been working well, is working. He told reporters on a call not too long ago that they expect this site to be fully functioning by the end of November. That is an answer to a question we've been asking all along here when it emerged that there were so many problems with healthcare.gov. He said that by the end of November, the vast majority of folks trying to sign up for health insurance will be able to do so.

He also said they're appointing one of the contractors, QSSI, to lead up this effort to fix the site. And you'll remember one of the big criticisms of all of this is that there was no one person in charge, no one leading the entire effort to get this site up and running. And so with pointing Jeffrey Zients to head up this effort and appointing QSSI to lead the fix, they've tried to answer some of those concerns.

But, of course, Suzanne, the end of November, if it takes until then, that's still about two months since the launch of the program, of the website.

Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, accountability, it's all about accountability. We'll see how it goes in the next couple weeks. Thank you. Appreciate it. And this is a solution 100 years in the making. A town surrounded by mountains in Norway doesn't get sun light for seven months out of the year. Well, now, it is getting much need light thanks to technology. We're going to show you how.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Imagine you live in a town where you don't see the sunlight for more than half a year. That is pretty tough. Well, that's what more than 3,000 people who live in Norwegian town, they endure this every winter. But now, thanks to some technology 100 years now in the making, light is flooding in. Erin McLaughlin explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Looks like the little town Rjukan in Norway is about to get some much need lights. The surrounding mountains are so tall, the entire town is in the shade for seven months out of the year. Residents take a cable car up the mountain to get some much need vitamin d.

Now, thanks to three giant mirrors and a local artists, it looks like that's all about to change. The plan is to use the mirrors to reflect the light down onto the town. What a bright idea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And several stories caught our attention today, photos, as well. Take a look at this.

The British royal family unveiled the official photos of Prince George's christening. He had a pretty good time, it looks like. One photo includes a shot of baby George smiling with his hands in the air. Look at him. He's such a cutie. Another photo is history in the making. The newest heir to the throne joined for the first time with Queen Elizabeth, Prince William and Prince Charles. The group shot also including, of course, the Middleton family.

And over in Germany, Lady Gaga making her latest fashion statement. It's hard to even understand what that is. But she stepped out in Berlin. This is a bizarre bird-like mask covered in fur and a featured golden beak. Well, the pop star had to be assisted by her bodyguard since the headpiece actually blocked her vision. She wasn't able to see with that thing on. She's in the country to promote her new album "Art Pop." Weird.

Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. Have a great weekend. CNN NEWSROOM continues.