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Cruz Joke Angers Nigerians; Uptick in Iraq Bombings Raises Concerns About Al Qaeda Resurgence; Ex-Soccer Player Found Decapitated; Boston Red Sox Win

Aired October 31, 2013 - 12:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: He says his agency doesn't do it and that any information collected from commercial, online Companies like Google is actually provided to them.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, known for his rather vocal opposition to ObamaCare, made a comment that has angered Nigerians living in Houston and elsewhere around the country.

MALVEAUX: He was making a joke about a troubled ObamaCare Web site during a speech in Houston on Monday, and here's what he said.


SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Have y'all noticed, you know, the Nigerian e-mail scammers?

They've been a lot less active lately, because they've all been hired to run the ObamaCare Web site.


HOLMES: And Joe Johns joins us from Washington.

Apparently, a lot of Nigerians live in Houston where that comment was made, none too happy, apparently.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Obviously, there are Nigerian- Americans all over this country, but a large concentration of them are in Texas.

And, yes, this was apparently a joke that simply didn't go over well, this notion of Nigerian e-mail scammers being a lot less active because they've been hired to run the ObamaCare Web site.

Some U.S. residents of Nigerian dissent got upset, demanded an apology, and issued a statement. Part of it said, "Cruz has maligned all hardworking, decent, outstanding Nigerian-Americans who add value and bring goodwill to their different communities, especially in Texas with the largest concentration of Nigerian-Americans in this country."

The executive director of the organization Mr. Laolu Akande tells CNN he believes the comments made by Senator Cruz are distasteful. He considers them maligning of hardworking Nigerians in the U.S. and Nigeria, Michael. MALVEAUX: And, Joe, have we heard anything from Cruz yet?

JOHNS: Well, his spokesman has said previously that, in their opinion, this was only a joke. It meant no offense.

Nonetheless, it doesn't sound like that has satisfied Nigerian- Americans in this organization still looking for that apology, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Joe, appreciate it.

HOLMES: Fierce fighting has been going on in Iraq. We've been seeing that in recent weeks and months, violence of dramatically on the rise. And critics are pointing a finger at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, and not for the first time.

And guess what? Mr. al-Maliki is in the United States trying to convince people it's not his fault.


MALVEAUX: A recent uptake in bombings -- uptick, rather -- across Iraq, renewing concerns about al Qaeda's resurgence in the country.

It's been also two years now since the U.S. troop withdrawal, but now there is growing pressure within the United States for President Obama to take action, try to prevent Iraq from sliding back into civil war.

Chris Lawrence has the story.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The bad old days are back, but it's not 2008. It's Sunday.

Multiple car bombs exploded across Baghdad, killing at least 35 people and wounding 100.

The week before, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a coffee shop, leaving at least 24 dead.

And before that, it was eight worshippers getting killed in a mosque when a car bomb exploded outside.

Those are the big headlines, but small-scale attacks happen every day.

On Wednesday, Vice President Biden kicked off high-level talks with Iraq's leader, Nouri al-Maliki.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're committed to strengthening security in Iraq.

LAWRENCE: Critics on Capitol Hill excused Maliki of steering his country into another civil war the situation.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The situation is deteriorating and it's unraveling, and he's got to turn it around.

LAWRENCE: This week senators wrote President Obama, urging him to reengage with Iraq, increase U.S. assistance, and pressure Maliki to loosen his growing ties to Tehran.

JESSICA LEWIS, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: I think it would be a very bad thing for us if he find that his best option for partnership is Iran.

LAWRENCE: Jessica Lewis is an Iraq expert and former Army intelligence officer.

She says Maliki needs to stop cracking down on Iraqis who aren't part of his coalition and focus on al Qaeda's explosive growth there.

Is this version of al Qaeda doing more than just randomly placed car bombs?

LEWIS: They are naming campaigns, setting campaign objectives, militarily achieving those objectives.

They have phased operations. The Iraqi security forces don't.

LAWRENCE: Al Qaeda in Iraq has already exported fighters to Syria and may not stop there.

LEWIS: This is going to be something that is a security concern for us as well.

LAWRENCE: So when President Obama meets with Maliki on Friday, neutralizing al Qaeda in Iraq will be near the top of the agenda.

That could include additional military sales to Iraq, as well as greater sharing of intelligence.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Yeah, and, of course, the U.S. has already spent billions and billions of dollars on Iraq and helping Iraq, and the Iraqi leader, what he wants the U.S. to sell his government is weaponry like F-16 fighter jets, but also Apache helicopters.

But as we just heard in Chris' report, Mr. Maliki is seen by many as part of the problem, that somebody who was meant to foster reconciliation and inclusiveness on the political stage has done the opposite, consolidating power around himself and in many ways excluding the Sunni minority on any meaningful level.

Now, I discussed the -- what is the multifaceted nature of this crisis a short time ago with David Kilcullen, a former State Department strategist on counterterrorism, one of the people who actually helped design the Iraq War troop surge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID KILCULLEN, COUNTERINSURGENCY AND COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: The Iraqi government has really failed to put the effort in terms of reconciliation and rebuilding of trust among Iraqi communities that would lead to, you know, a reduction of longtime tension among those sectarian groups.

But the second big factor is the Syrian conflict, which has led to really a rebirth of al Qaeda in Iraq in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, which is now one of the most dominant factions in the conflict against President Assad in Syria.

And, of course, thousands of people are coming back across the border from Syria into Iraq, which is fueling some of the conflict.


HOLMES: Yeah, the violence, of course, unrelenting, up to 7,000 people -- between 5,000 and 7,000 people have been killed in Iraq just this year.

And the world, well, barely notice these days. Just today, six more people were killed in Iraq, three of them women, shot in the head, execution-style.


MALVEAUX: And we are waiting for the White House to respond to the latest NSA spying allegation. Set to comment on problems with the ObamaCare Web site.

We're going to bring that to you, live, the briefing, as soon as it happens.

And now brace yourself for this. This is a former professional soccer player, decapitated. His wife finds his head on her front steps. This happened in Brazil.

Now, how this horrific story is simply shedding light on the violence in that country ahead of next year's World Cup. We're in Brazil.


MALVEAUX: We are watching the White House briefing there, taking a good look there at Jay Carney answering -- making a statement right now.

We're going to dip in, live, as soon as he starts taking questions regarding the NSA spying, the controversy around that, as well as addressing some of the concerns and the problems of the ObamaCare Web site.

As soon as he starts taking those questions, we'll bring that to you, live.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, a particularly brutal killing in the soccer world, looking nervously now at Brazil, which is going, of course, to be hosting the 2014 World Cup. Let's not for get that.

The wife of a former professional player found her husband's severed head in a backpack on their front doorstep. For now, police have no motive.

Even for a country with a pervasive crime and gang problem, this case has stunned Brazilians.

Shasta Darlington is in Sao Paulo.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A gruesome story coming out of Rio de Janeiro where a former professional football player was killed and his severed head was left on his doorstep. Thirty-five-year-old Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos never came home on Monday night. When his wife opened the door to go to work the next day, she found a backpack with his head inside. Now, the police wouldn't provide any further details, but according to Brazilian media, Santos eyes and tongue had been gouged out.

Santos played for a number of mostly second tier football teams in Rio de Janeiro before he retired and opened a health food store. Police again refused to comment on the lines of investigation, but according to Brazilian media, there were a number of surveillance cameras in the area. Those are being reviewed. And, of course, police did tell us that since then they found the remains of a man. They're investigating that, testing that, to see if those remains belong to Santos.

Now this horrific story is shining the spotlight yet again on violence in Rio de Janeiro, just months before the World Cup kicks off. And while it isn't likely to affect ticket sales, it could have an impact on the kind of tourist who's willing to jump on a plane and come to Brazil for the big event.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.



HOLMES: Yes, horrible story. And, yes, the World Cup coming up. My goodness me, people getting worried. The Olympic, of course, as well.

MALVEAUX: We have another horrific story here. This is one of sexual violence in Kenya. It is spurring a protest movement around the world. Four months ago in the Kenyan village a Tingolo, a teenage girl walking home from her grandfather's funeral was gang raped, left for dead in a sewage ditch.

HOLMES: Yes, get this, though, her alleged attackers, or at least three of them, were caught. And guess what they were told to do? Mow the grass at the police station and then they were freed. Now the activist group PEMNET (ph) started a petition called Justice for Liz. That's the nickname that they've been giving this victim, Liz. And they've been demanding that the attackers be prosecuted properly. They also want the police officers in the case to be disciplined, those who just sent them out there to mow the lawn.

MALVEAUX: So far more than 1.3 million people around the world, they have signed that petition. And social media sites like Twitter are all abuzz under the #justiceforliz.

We want to go to the White House briefing. That is where they are addressing some of the concerns about the Obamacare website. Let's listen in.

QUESTION: (In progress) -- in order to ensure that those risks have been taken care of. I don't understand how you would have that memo come out, and then today, a month later, say that there are no risks.

CARNEY: Again, what I would say is that in any website like this, you -- you have to constantly monitor and mitigate potential security risks. That's what will happen and is happening at The fact of the matter is, CMS leadership granted authority to begin operations on September 27th, and this memo gave temporary authority to operate for six months and listed a number of strategies, as you said, to mitigate risks, including regular testing. So authority was granted. A process was put in place, as you would expect with a website like this, to ensure that security standards are met. And as Secretary Sebelius said, consumers can trust that their information is protected by stringent security standards.

QUESTION: Was the president made aware of this memo and these concerns four days before the rollout?

CARNEY: Again, the president, as you know, was regularly briefed on the implementation process and all the things that were happening in the run-up to and since the launch of I don't have a specific meeting or memo to read out to you, but what I can tell you is that this -- you know, this is a memo that, you know, identified the fact that, for websites like this, we need to be sort of constantly vigilant and making sure that security risks are mitigated to ensure that standards are met and individuals -- consumers' information is protected.

QUESTION: Just one other topic. The Iraqi prime minister is in Washington. He meets with the president tomorrow. He's planning to ask for more U.S. weapons and manpower to help fight the violence in Iraq, which is really spiraling out of control. Does the president feel like the U.S. has any obligation to assist the Iraqis in combating the violence at this point?

CARNEY: Well, let me say broadly that the president looks forward to the meeting and -- and that we remain engaged with senior Iraqi fleaders on security issues and support efforts to resolve differences through direct dialogue and the political process.

The two leaders will have the opportunity to discuss the strategic framework agreement and coordination on a range of regional priorities.

There is no question that there has been an increase in violence, and the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent terrorist attacks across Iraq.

We are deeply concerned about the nature of these attacks and the increased levels of violence in Iraq in recent months. These attacks are disturbing, and are a constant reminder of the formidable challenges Iraq continues to face on the security front.

However, it is important to focus on where this violence is coming from. It's coming from Al Qaida and its affiliates. They are trying to provoke cycles of sectarian reprisals. But we are confident that they will not succeed. We've seen them try this repeatedly in Iraq.

And for a period there, they succeeded. But we believe they will not succeed in this new effort.

The vast majority of the Iraqi people continue to reject this violence and call for political dialogue to resolve tensions.

You know, so targeting -- to go into the assistance question, targeted foreign assistance to Iraq remains an essential piece of our engagement, and it helps cement the United States' enduring partnership with Iraq during this important period of transition.

U.S. security assistance and foreign military sales (ph) are two tools for building and shaping Iraq's defense capabilities and integrating Iraqi security forces into the region, anchored by U.S. materiel and training.

You know, suggestions that we deny security assistance would only serve to undermine our relations with Iraq, decrease our influence and impede progress toward our long-term efforts in the region.

HOLMES: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney there talking to reporters about Iraq and other things. We'll keep an ear out on what else comes up in that briefing.

Meanwhile, when we come back, yes, Boston, yes, they won, the Red Sox, the World Series. And this was a game that was the first big event since the Boston Marathon bombing. That's coming up on AROUND THE WORLD. They're pretty happy in Boston today.


MALVEAUX: Boston winning the World Series, one for the record books here. It is the first time since 1918 that the Red Sox won the championship at home. Well, the season, of course, as you know, started in tragedy.

HOLMES: Yes, the Sox played an early home game the same day that the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. The team then turned the crisis into a rallying cry. They were great for the city as it recovers and then the city was good to them and cheered them on to the championship.

MALVEAUX: Boston's World Series win is its third in a decade. But for the city, this means so much more than that. Poppy Harlow is live in Boston. And this is one of the biggest headlines that they've had since the tragedy of the marathon last year. And I imagine that this, you know, kind of takes on something larger than life. You know, these are the kind of things that, you know, that have - post-Katrina when they had the big win with the NFL. That was really significant.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Absolutely. I mean this is a team that has helped this city heal, no doubt about it. They have bared the weight of this city on their shoulders and brought them from last place last year to first place victory. Incredible. I mean this is just one of the headlines on "The Boston Globe," "tested and triumphant." An amazing, amazing day. Since 1918, 95 years sense they have won at Fenway. A huge deal for the fans here who told me over and over again last night after this victory how much it means for this city particularly this year. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just like it lifts the spirit that's off of -- after the marathon and I just like - they really just obviously deserve it. But I feel like I knew it was going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so exciting. So exciting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boston strong has really been like -- been such a theme this year and like everybody's really just been coming together, whether it's for little things or big things but like everybody's out, everybody's excited, everybody's united.


HARLOW: And I want to show you this picture because it speaks volumes. People, after this victory, going to the marathon finish line, kissing the finish line. How much this city has gone through. A year of hell for them and now a year and a moment of celebration of victory. They could not be more happy and this team has really helped them pull through.

One of the men who's done it most, David Ortiz, "Big Papi," saying to our own Rachel Nickels, this is something we did for our entire city. You see him there, MVP. It has been really a momentous few hours here since they won last night. Really tight security, guys, I would mention. Incredibly tight security all around Fenway Park just to be extra safe because, yes, this is the biggest event since the marathon bombing. The police were out in full force. You see them there pushing crowds, including us, away. But the memory of the night is the victory. That is for sure.

MALVEAUX: So awesome.

HOLMES: Yes, Big Papi, he was insane during the post season. It was 19 -- 25 plate appearances, 19 hits, something like that. And they walked him last night four times. They didn't want him to have a hit. It was great stuff.

HARLOW: Right. Right. HOLMES: Good on you, Poppy. Good to see you. And red there for the Red Sox.

MALVEAUX: And good for the city of Boston, you know, just coming back.


MALVEAUX: Coming back strong.


MALVEAUX: Well, a major airline really wants you to watch their new in flight safety video. This is Virgin Atlantic whose CEO, Richard Branson, of course, likes to do things just a little bit differently.

HOLMES: He does. He does. Now this is a video that shows you how to do those things like putting on your life vest, buckling your seat belt, as if you've never done a seat belt before, but it just got a lot funkier.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Yo, yo, yo, (INAUDIBLE) your head to the backseat, the eyes are glued to the flat screen, if the cabin pressure changes, you know that we won't be leaving you hanging.


HOLMES: Yes. Five minutes it runs. Singing, rapping, dancing, and all in keeping with the FAA's safety guidelines.

MALVEAUX: Virgin hired the guy who made Justin Bieber's concert film to direct this new video. They also pulled talents from "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance." So the video starts running this week on domestic flights. I mean --

HOLMES: People may concentrate a little bit more, although they'll be able to use their phones now, so maybe they won't look up.

MALVEAUX: This is awesome. I've interviewed Richard Branson a couple of times. He's always pushing the envelope just a little bit.

HOLMES: Exactly.

That will do it for AROUND THE WORLD. NEWSROOM starts right now for our domestic audience. "World Sport" for our international audience, followed by the iDesk. See you tomorrow.

MALVEAUX: Thanks for watching.