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Former Lebanese Ambassador To U.S. Mohammed Shattah Killed In Beirut; Chinese Icebreaker Closes In On Stranded Science Vessel; Concerns Over China's Treatment of Foreign Journalists; Security Breach At Newark Airport Calls Into Question Expensive Security

Aired December 27, 2013 - 08:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

Now a deadly blast in Lebanon's capital kills an advisor to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

A ship trapped in ice off the coast of Antarctica is only hours away from being rescued by a Chinese icebreaker.

And the fish that bit back: swimmers at one beach in Argentina get injured by a swarm of carnivorous fish.

In Lebanon, a powerful car bomb has rocked downtown Beirut, killing former finance minister and ambassador to the U.S. Mohammed Shattah. Five others are dead, more than 70 people were wounded when the blast struck Shattah's convoy today.

Now the bomb left buildings destroyed and cars ablaze. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mohammed Shattah was known as a fierce critic of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group based in Lebanon. He had also been critical of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In fact, about an hour before his death he tweeted this, quote, "Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security and foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 years."

Now, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has condemned the attack. He is canceling his vacation plans and returning home.

And for more, McClatchy News journalist Mitchell Prothero joins me live from Beirut.

And Mitchell, after the car bombing, you went straight to the scene of the blast. What did you see there?

MITCHELL PROTHERO, JOURNALIST, MCCLATCHY NEWS: Well, upon arrival at the blast, which took place just shortly before 10:00 am, there were about a dozen cars on fire. And here in a luxury district of, you know, central Beirut, you could see that windows were blown out, some pedestrians had been killed. And there were numerous rescue and security personnel coming to the scene to try to take control of what initially was quite anarchic.

LU STOUT: And you're reporting live now from the blast site. Could you tell us more about who was targeted, Mohammed Shattah, and why he would be targeted in this attack?

PROTHERO: Well, he's a profoundly important adviser to the Hariri family, both Saad Hariri and his father Rafik had been prime ministers in the past. And it's considered something of a dynasty here.

Saad Hariri hasn't come to Lebanon for three years since he was forced out of office due to security concerns. And I think a lot of people are starting to register that in fact this political party, the Future Party, does face constant threats. And this is a prominent figure in that party who was killed today.

LU STOUT: Shattah was an adviser to Saad Hariri. He was also a critic of Hezbollah. Did that cost him his life?

PROTHERO: Well, it's a little early to say exactly who might have done the attack. It is notably professional. A lot more people and a lot more damage could have happened if a larger bomb or a less sophisticated weapon had been used.

But what we are seeing here is that he does have a history of criticizing Hezbollah, which his party considers a state within a state. And he had put out that tweet that you referenced earlier in the day, although it's very unlikely that somebody could have put an operation of this caliber together in under an hour, to target him specifically.

LU STOUT: And since this huge blast earlier today, what has been the mood among the residents there in Beirut? Is there more concern about how Syria, and namely Hezbollah's involvement there could lead to more instability in Lebanon?

PROTHERO: The Lebanese at this stage are pretty much resigned to violence from both their political situation and the Syrian civil war drifting over into the border. We've seen suicide bombings in Hezbollah controlled suburbs to the south. We've seen some bombings in the north where, you know, Minister Mohammed was from. And we've also seen, you know, gunfights between Hezbollah and some pro-Syrian regime forces against the rebels in the Beqaa Valley. Just this weekend, there was an ambush in which 32 alleged al Qaeda linked militants were killed in a Hezbollah ambush.

So, the Lebanese are pretty concerned, and rightfully so. It does look as though the Syrian situation has drifted across the border.

LU STOUT: No, Mitch, you've been on this story since the news broke earlier today. And we thank you for your reporting.

Now Mitch Prothero of the McClatchy News service joining us live from Beirut.

Now, a prosecutor who was removed from his role in Turkey's high profile bribery investigation, he has slammed the country's police force. Now Moammar Akas (ph), pictured here, accused police of interfering with the judicial process and failing to carry out court orders.

Now this follows Wednesdays resignation of three cabinet ministers after their sons were arrested, or temporarily detained in an anti-graft sting. One of those ministers called for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign over the corruption allegations.

And that is exactly what the protesters are demanding as well. They are marching on the streets again today in cities across the country.

A draconian anti-gay bill passed by Uganda's parliament has drawn strong condemnation from leaders and rights groups around the world. Now activists feared the bill could encourage more violence against homosexual and transgender people in the country.

Arwa Damon spoke to some of those feeling the direct effects of that controversial legislation.


MALCOLM, TRANSGENDER UGANDAN: I got so much involved with God, praying so hard to like change me. ??

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Malcolm still prays, but now knows who he is, transgender, born female, but identifying as male, in a nation that is deeply conservative, religiously, and rabidly homophobic. ??

MALCOLM: Physically, it's -- it's painful because it has been mostly done by my family. ??

DAMON: Male relatives, including, he says, by his own brothers. ??

MALCOLM: They want to teach me like how to behave like a woman. And they raped me. I was around 17.??

DAMON (on camera): And you had no one to protect you? No one who you could talk to about it? ??

MALCOLM: No one. All the people I ran to were just blaming me. That experience made me hate my family. It made me leave them and I just stayed with my grandmother. But, unfortunately, she also died. ??

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went out to the Europeans (ph). ??

DAMON: Most members of Uganda's LGBT, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, tend to live secret, double lives. ??

JACQUELINE KASHA NABAGESERA, FOUNDER, FREEDOM AND ROAM UGANDA: People are out but they've gone back to the closet now. ??

DAMON: Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, a gay rights activist, one of the few to speak out in public. ?

NABAGESERA: I've been beaten on so many occasions I can't count. ??

DAMON: Kasha goes to great lengths to protect those around her from repercussions because of her sexuality, rarely leaving her home, and these days never alone. ??

NABAGESERA: I've tried to come up with a security plan of my own to see to it that I stay alive because I believe you're a better activist alive than dead. ??

DAMON: Homosexuality has always been illegal in Uganda and now parliament has just approved a bill that is waiting presidential signoff. Draconian measures, life in prison for repeated homosexual acts and simply being viewed as promoting homosexuality, a crime that could land someone in jail. ??

STANLEY NTAGALI, ARCHBISHOP, CHURCH OF UGANDA: The homosexuals, the recipients are children of God who (ph) are welcome to repent and have everlasting life. ??

DAMON: At church on Christmas Day, praise from the archbishop. ??

NTAGALI: Sexual immorality, homosexuality and lesbians (ph) and I want to thank the parliament for passing that. ??

DAMON: The widespread belief is that homosexuals are possessed by the devil or victims of sexual deviance brought in by the west. ??

NTAGALI: Maybe in your country you understand, but here it's a new thing, a new idea that is not from here. Someone is imposing it on us. Another kind of colonialism (ph). ??

DAMON: But Kasha will not be scared off. ??

NABAGESERA: I'm not going to allow someone to push me out without a fight. Another thing is that our movement needs a face. Our movement needs a face. I don't want them to think that they've won because the battle is just starting now. ??

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was also blaming me. ??

DAMON: For a community already living in the shadows, the fear is that the new bill only legitimizes the violence against them. ??

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so hard when the people you expect to be near you are just the people who are hurting you the most.??

DAMON: Arwa Damon, CNN, Kampala. ??


LU STOUT: Now, Ugandan legislations who are pushing the anti-gay laws say that it is meant to protect the tradiational family and to outlaw practices that don't match up to the country's culture.

Now this is News Stream. And we have much more ahead on the program. We'll have the latest on the UPS package deliveries. The trucks, they are back on the road, but can angry customers about the U.S. forgive and forget?

A huge security breach at an airport in the New York area is raising questions about a multimillion security system.

And help is on its way for a ship stuck in the Antarctic, but how did it get there in the first place? Those stories and more coming up on News Stream.


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

And a little bit later, we'll update you on rescue efforts for a ship trapped in ice just off the coast of Antarctica. But now to a very different transport crisis as UPS tries to recover from not being able to deliver some packages in time for Christmas.

Now UPS trucks, they were up and running on Thursday, but it is too late for the angry customers who didn't get their packages on time. And the world's largest package delivery company has now apologized. UPS says that the delays, they were caused by a backlog from bad weather and a higher than expected volume of shipments.

Nick Valencia joins us now live from CNN Center -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Kristie. Two days after Christmas, many of those here in the United States still don't have those packages they were expecting under the Christmas tree. The amount of people so affected so diverse that even some UPS employees didn't receive their Christmas gifts.

Now the world's largest package delivery company still dealing with the fallout of its broken promises.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Better late than never???

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says it hasn't been processed yet.??

VALENCIA: Not quite, especially when it comes to Christmas gifts.??

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell you how many countless hours we have spent on the phone dealing with this issue.??

VALENCIA: FedEx and UPS are delivering normally today, after delays in Christmas shipments. Neither company has released any numbers, but it's estimated thousands were affected. Both companies have apologized, but a UPS spokesperson couldn't even guarantee all delayed packages would be delivered by Thursday.??

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can only do what they can do given the conditions.??

VALENCIA: UPS says it hired 55,000 seasonal employees to keep up with their projected demand of 132 million packages. FedEx says it hired 20,000 people and they, too, admit they had minimal service disruption despite the increased volume. UPS blamed, quote, a "perfect storm, bad weather and an increase in online sales." FedEx noted a shorter holiday shopping season.??

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weather is always going to be a factor somewhere. That's not a good enough excuse.??

VALENCIA: Experts say shipping companies can't simply look into the past as predictors anymore. The internet is changing things.??

MARSHAL COHEN, CHIEF INDUSTRY ANALYST, NPD GROUP: This is really about underestimating the power of online now and stores as well as online retailers were driving so much traffic and so much opportunity to buy gifts and use it as a vehicle to ship it.

VALENCIA: Online sales broke records this year with sites like amazon leading the way reporting sales of over 36 million items on Cybermonday, promising on-time shipments. UPS says they will absolutely be looking at changes in policy during the holiday season, but couldn't say what kind of changes they might be. Neither UPS nor FedEx made deliveries on Christmas day, but after this, it's something they might reconsider.??


VALENCIA: Now this issue has now turned political. A congressman from the state of Connecticut asking shipping companies to refund customer's shipping costs. UPS for their part, Kristie, they say that they will refund some customers. No telling how much that's going to cost them financially. But it's already damaged their reputation -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, that for certain.

How many packages are we talking about here?

VALENCIA: Well, there's no official number. We asked UPS, in fact, how many deliveries were delayed. They didn't have a number on that. But just do the math here, 16 million packages on average delivered by UPS at their peak during a time like this holiday season. That goes up 8 percent. So, you know, you can just figure out how many people were actually impacted by this, thousands enraged here in the United States -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah. And little wonder they don't want to release that number just yet. Nick Valencia reporting for us. Thank you.

Now, I want to tell you about a security breach at Newark International Airport. It is raising big questions about an expensive system designed to protect airports in the New York City area. Alexandra Field has more.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: $100 million have been spent on securing the perimeters of all New York area airports, but wasn't enough to stop one intruder from making on the runway at Newark Liberty International.

Two officials say the suspect was coming from the New Jersey Turnpike and jumped the airport's security fence. He made his way across two runways before reaching gate 70 at terminal C where an airline employee stopped him. ??

Police arrested Siyah Bryant and charged him with trespassing. They say the 24 year old Jersey City man was wearing women's clothes and that told them that he had been in someone's car when he got spooked and ran off. Officials say planes were never in danger but the whole episode raises questions about the airport's expensive security system.

JEFF PRICE, AVIATION EXPERT: When the system is working, working effectively, it becomes a good layer of security, an additional layer and a layer that goes above the regulatory standards.

FIELD: The multi-million dollar question, how did the suspect get all the way to a gate without getting stopped? The system includes radar, motion detecting cameras and other technology. It's meant to signal police when the perimeter is breached.

The same system came under fire in 2012 at New York's JFK airport when a jet skier who ran out of fuel was able to climb out of the water and onto the tarmac, again, undetected.

The New York New Jersey port authority put out a statement saying, quote, "the preliminary investigation indicates the airport's perimeter intrusion detection system worked properly during the incident..."

The statement goes on to say investigators are questioning employees, quote, "to determine why it took an unacceptably long time to locate the suspect."

GLENN WINN, FRM. SECURITY DIRECTOR, UNITED AIRLINES: It's very disturbing because you have this system that has been installed and tested over the past several years and there continue to be different breaches at the different airports in the port authority jurisdiction.


LU STOUT: Now that was Alexandra Field reporting.

Now port authority police say that the alarm went off and cameras captured the suspect coming over the fence. The investigation will now focus on the operator who monitors the system.

Now this is News Stream. And coming up next, millions of smokers are making the switch to the e-cigarette. So is it a healthier habit or smoke and mirrors? Stay with us.


LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you are back watching News Stream.

Now the European Union has approved new tobacco regulations. And for the first time, they include rules on electronic cigarettes. Now under the deal, e-cigarettes will not be banned, but they also cannot be sold as medicinal products. Isa Suarez looks at the rise of the e-cigarette.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always smoke when I work. They go together.

ISA SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the 1950s, cigarette ads were all about being manly and about being in control. Eventually the ads were banned, because smoking is a health risk. Now with the e-cigarettes, the marketing is back. Wherever you go it seems vaping is in vogue.


SUAREZ: With some 7 million Europeans making the switch.

(on camera): It's called vaping, because the liquid nicotine, which is in here, vaporizes when you press this button. Now even though there is no tar and no smoke, there is still nicotine, which is the addictive part. Yet, e-cigarette advocates say this is healthier than one of these.

KATHERINE DEVLIN, PRESIDENT, ECITA: Really not a problem. The research demonstrates that the side stream vapor is not an issue. There are no, sort of carcinogens being carried around in that. Certainly nothing on par with what we see with tobacco smoke and secondhand smoke.

SUAREZ (voice-over): This new spin on an old habit is a marketing gold mine. The e-cigarette market is valued at $2 billion with the United States according for a quarter of all sales.

Then there is the potential for growth with the industry expected to out-perform traditional tobacco within 10 years.

While this is igniting worries they will pick up new addicts along the way, already we're seeing celebrities leading the craze.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're awfully good with that.

ALLISON COX, HEAD OF TOBACCO POLICY, CANCER RESEARCH UK: E-cigarettes are being presented as this new, trendy product, the latest thing that people are trying in social environments. They're referring to celebrities using them. So we've very concerned that possibly by seeing all this exposure to e-cigarette marketing, the lines are being blurred. And that message that smoking kills will get lost.

SUAREZ: As the health debate burns in the background, businesses aren't waiting for a verdict. Here at Heathrow, they have launched the first ever vaping zone, allowing passengers a final puff before boarding.

Isa Suarez, CNN, London.


LU STOUT: Now you're watching News Stream. And still ahead, a snow dragon has been spotted in Antarctica. Now that is the name of an icebreaking vessel on the way to help this stranded ship.

And it's an issue raised by the U.S. vice president on his latest trip to China. We'll explore Beijing's treatment of foreign correspondents.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines. Now a car bomb in Beirut has killed six people, including Mohammed Shattah, a former Lebanese finance minister and ambassador to the United States. The national news agency reported his car was targeted as he traveled through the downtown area. So far, no one has claimed responsibility or the attack.

In Turkey, protesters have held more rallies demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His government has been shaken by an investigation into alleged bribery and corruption. On Thursday, a prosecutor involved in the probe was removed from the case. In a statement, he accused the police of interfering in the judicial process.

Now two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who were free from prison on Monday, they are back in Moscow. In a news conference just a short while ago, Maria Alyokina and Odessa (sic) Tolokonnikova promised to continue to challenge President Vladimir Putin's government. They say they will continue to live in Russia and perform in the band.

Now to a rescue mission at the bottom of the world. Now dozens of people on a ship trapped in the Antarctic sea ice can now see help in the distance. Now they've been stuck in Commonwealth Bay since Monday. And three icebreakers are now closing in the try and free them. But the nearest is still about 5 hours away.

Now the leader of the Antarctic expedition has been tweeting about the journey. Now Chris Turney is a professor of climate change. And the trip, it started with good conditions. This video is from Sunday. It shows the ship passing by icebergs, but it's path got blocked by ice.

On Christmas Eve, they realized that they were stuck. And Turney says everyone is still in good spirits. And they're looking on the bright side, the sit back gives scientists more time to study the environment.

But after days at a frozen standstill, Turney says the team is happy that help is near.

Now the stuck ship is a Russian flagged vessel. Diana Magnay is follow the story for us from Moscow.

And Diana, we know this Chinese icebreaker is slowly reaching the ship. What's the latest?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's almost the middle of the night now in the Antarctic, but because it's summer in the Antarctic, it stays light the whole time. So they can watch the painstaking progress of that Chinese vessel, the Snow Dragon, as it becomes tantalizingly close, as it comes tantalizingly close to where they are.

Let's take a look.


MAGNAY (voice-over): Just hours ago, joy on board the ship, passengers pointing out into the distance as a Chinese ice breaker set to rescue them slowly makes its way towards them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's that on the horizon, Chris?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the icebreaker coming to rescue us, Alec.


MAGNAY: This Russian flagship, the Akademik Shokalskiy stuck in the ice for four days now after weather conditions turned bad. But help is on its way. And behind it, two more ice breakers, one French and one Australian, if the Snow Dragon gets stuck, too.

On board, are 74 researchers, a mix of professional and amateur scientists who decided to spend their Christmas checking out the effects of climate change in the frozen Antarctic.

They sailed around 100 nautical miles east of their starting point, the French Antarctic base of Dumont Deuville (ph) when they got stuck. Despite blizzards with wind speeds of nearly 45 miles per hour, we've heard the moral remains high and while they wait, they've had a few friendly visitors checking in to say hello. This morning's visitors are far more welcome.


MAGNAY: Weather conditions obviously change very, very fast in the Antarctic. And we're hearing that there is a bit of a blizzard coming in, which is probably going to slow things down for the Snow Dragon, but it's a question of watching and waiting. We know that they've been in pretty good spirits. Chris Turney said morale was high, that Christmas was great. They've got lots of supplies. They've kept warm inside the ship.

But nevertheless, the whole of Christmas week spent waiting, stranded in the frozen sea, well there are probably better things that they could have hoped they might be doing at that time, Kristie.

LU STOUT: That's right. It is extraordinary, isn't it, that morale is high. They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of so-called Snow Dragon, the Chinese icebreaker. But they have been able to send out these misses, these updates, post them on YouTube to let the world know that they are OK.

But I've still got a question about the condition of the vessel itself, the ship itself. It has been stuck in the Antarctic ice since Monday. What do we know about the condition of the ship?

MAGNAY: The ship is fine. It's built to withstand this kind of thing.

So, the rescue mission is really just to clear the ice, because this research, scientific research vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy, that wasn't designed to be an icebreaker. It wasn't really designed to find itself in a situation where the sea freezes around it, that was just because they got stuck in a low pressure system. And it froze so quickly they didn't have time to get out. So that's the only problem they have breaking through this ice.

So all of the three vessels coming to find them are icebreakers. And once they've cleared a route so that the ship itself, the Shokalskiy can travel out itself, then all will be well. They won't have to transfer the crew from one ship to another for example, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And could you remind us, who is on board the vessel? And why did they go on this expedition?

MAGNAY: Well, this is really to retrace the steps of an expedition that went out 100 years ago, an Australian explorer who was called Douglas -- Sir Douglas Mawson. So that's why this trip is called the Spirit of Mawson. And basically they're trying to recreate his steps and see how marine biology, marine life, bird life has changed as a result of climate change since the time that he was there.

He spent two years on the Antarctic. You can imagine there was no chance of Skyping out or putting messages onto YouTube or tweeting back then. And they had a very difficult time. So two years was spent by his team back then. It was described by Chris Turney as the sort of Edwardian equivalent of space travel, because of what he managed to find out and how amazingly adventurous that exploring trip was.

This time around, 100 years later, there's a team of 74. Some of them are tourists. You could just pay quite a lot of money, $8,000 and you could be a part of this expedition, too.

But essentially they are all scientists, whether they are amateur ones or professional ones, assessing the marine life, assessing ornithology, the bird life there, and bringing their scientific discoveries back to sort of close the gap between the public and the scientific world was what this mission was all about, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, this expedition, a thrilling one for a number of reasons. Diana Magnay watching the story for us from CNN Moscow, thank you very much indeed for that.

Now there are fears that heavy fighting could lead to a new civil war in South Sudan. Now East African leaders will meet for emergency talks today in an effort to stem the violence there.

Now leaders from neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, they met with South Sudanese officials on Thursday, but they came away without any agreements.

Now the fledgling nation has seen nearly two weeks of bloodshed as President Salva Kiir fights a rebellion led by his former vice president Riek Machar.

Now the UN hopes to have more peacekeepers in the country by Saturday to help protect tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence.

Now the head of the UN mission to South Sudan says their humanitarian work is facing huge obstacles.


HILDE JOHNSON, HEAD OF UN MISSION TO SOUTH SUDAN: We are providing water, shelter and now good is provided in almost all sites, but not all due to insecurity and lack of logistical ability to bring food in large quantities to the locations. So this is happening as we speak, but the challenges are immense, and I have to say we are over stretched, both with regard to the response as well as regarding security.


LU STOUT: That was UN official Hilde Johnson. She says around 63,000 people are now seeking shelter at UN camps.

But the overall number of displaced people in the country is said to be much, much higher.

Now, let's turn to a hot button issue between China and the United States. Now several journalists from prominent U.S. news organizations have faced unexplained delays in renewing their press cards. Now they typically expire at the end of the year. And without them, the reporters cannot renew their visas.

Now Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times tweeted, quote, "five days until visa expire. Do you think hauling all my stuff to the gates of the foreign ministry and holding a tag sale will get their attention?"

Now, after a tense wait, most reporters were recently able to pick up their renewed press cards.

Now China ranks 173 out of 179 countries for press freedom, that's according to Reporters Without Borders. And the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China has noted a number of negative trends over the past year.

Now Melinda Liu is that organization's former president. She is a veteran foreign correspondent based in Beijing for Newsweek for 17 years. And she joins us now live from Beijing.

And Melinda, thanks for joining us. Let's talk first about these so- called visa wars in China. What are your thoughts on how this has been playing out?

MELINDA LIU, FRM. PRES. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS' CLUB OF CHINA: Well, of course it's better than it could have been since the press cards a week ago were issued, meaning now the correspondents of the New York Times and Bloomberg can actually go and use their press cards to then apply for their visas, which will take another 15 working days before we see whether they actually get them.

What's very worrying about what we've seen the tug of war we've seen in recent weeks between the foreign media and Chinese authorities is a sort of ratcheting up of the way the government can pressure foreign correspondents.

It's more sophisticated now than it used to be, it's much more corporate in its approach, meaning not just individual foreign correspondents being targeted, it is entire organizations. And it sort of shows a shift in perception. Going back a couple of decades, it was very clear that China saw itself as wanting the foreign media to be here more -- you know, more than the foreign media needed China.

And now the tables are turned, the perception is that foreign media need China more than China needs foreign media. So that's a very big change.

LU STOUT: Yes. So the bottom line here, there's a ratcheting up of pressure on foreign journalists there in China. It is, in your words, getting more sophisticated, more corporate. And the bullying is coming in the form of not just the visa issue, but also for example the New York Times Chinese website being shut down, the Bloomberg website being interfered with. What other tactics have you seen that Beijing is using to pressure western reporters?

LIU: Well, increasingly in recent years we've seen foreign correspondents individually threatened with having trouble with their visas. Sometimes it's just a vague, you know, please be more objective in your reporting otherwise you might have some troubles around visa renewal time.

We continue to see new visas for some organizations basically just being pigeonholed, not being granted, and also not being denied, just sort of a limbo situation. These are press visas. Some of those correspondents have been able to get tourist visas, but you're not supposed to work on a tourist visa. So that's another catch 22.

And I think what we're seeing now is a much more sort of sophisticated in a bureaucratic and administrative tactic. The idea that business -- foreign media organizations that have business interests in China will start listening if you block their websites, if as in the case of Bloomberg, the sales of Bloombergs terminals have plummeted after Bloomberg wrote some critical -- published some critical articles about Chinese leaders or exposing the business dealings of the families of Chinese leaders.

So this greater sophistication, I think, unfortunately could draw in home offices to start making decisions, you know, meaning the business side of the operation, to start making decisions about editorial issues. That is another worrying trend...

LU STOUT: Yeah, and what could be done looking forward to (inaudible) this trend increasing pressure? I mean, for example, we know that Vice President Joe Biden, who was recently in Beijing and while there on the ground he criticized outright Beijing's treatment of American reporters. Is that type of public shaming, is that helpful? What works?

LIU: I think -- I think direct and candid talk can be useful, particularly when it comes from, you know, senior officials such as Vice President Biden and also from, you know, friends of China that Chinese authorities are familiar with and trust.

I think that -- I think that is actually useful. There are some other proposals that I've heard that are maybe not quite so useful in a strategic sense. For example, the question of reciprocity. I've heard many, many people say well, you know, if China is being more repressive towards foreign media in China, why doesn't America be the same way towards the Chinese journalists in the United States.

Of course, that in the short-term may have some impact. You know, if you stat restricting visas for Chinese journalists and media officials who want to visit The States that could certainly get people's attention. But in the long run, is this really the message that Washington would want to send to the world? You know, if China treats foreign media badly, then the answer is America should treat Chinese media badly? I'm not sure that's the right message that should be sent at this point.

LU STOUT: Yeah, visa reciprocity may not be the answer long-term here, but at least talking about it would be constructive.

Melinda Liu, a veteran correspondent, former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club in China. Thank you so much for joining us to talk to us about this topic.

LIU: Thank you.

LU STOUT: Now, after 17 years of debate, a controversial U.S. military base will be allowed to be relocated on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Now Tokyo and Washington agreed to an original plan to relocate the Futenma air base back in 1996. And now Okinawa's local government will allow the military facilities to be moved away from a densely populated urban area on Okinawa, which lies south of the main Japanese island.

The U.S. military presence is highly unpopular with residents. About half of all U.S. military personnel in Japan are stationed there. You could see here, a big portion of land on Okinawa is taken up by U.S. bases. That on an island that makes up less than 1 percent of Japan's overall territory.

Now the devastation from Supertyphoon Haiyan in the Philippines is not easily erased. People are still struggling to pick up the pieces. We'll take a look back after the break.


LU STOUT: Now there are just four days left in 2013. And we want your help selecting the top 10 stories of the year from the new pope to the war in Syria, the birth of Prince George and the death of Nelson Mandela. You can select our choice on our website. And the final results will be revealed on And of course, the super typhoon that hit the Philippines is one of the major stories of the year.

Now it has been seven weeks now since Typhoon Haiyan struck. It killed at least 6,000 people. And those who survived faced utter devastation. Thousands of people are still living in evacuation centers.

Now here is a look back at CNN's coverage as the extent of the damage became apparent.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news, a super typhoon is slamming into the Philippines right now. Haiyan is not only the most powerful storm of the year anywhere on the planet, it's likely the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took less than 24 hours for Haiyan to cause its worst damage, leveling coastal communities.

In its wake, the missing...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am the only survivor of the family. And I want to know if they are still alive.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get international help to come here now, not tomorrow, now. This is really, really like bad, bad -- worse than hell. Worse than hell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They're all gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haiyan's fury turned parts of the country into a vast wasteland. Like Tacloban, the worst hit city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three days on since the storm itself, there are still bodies by the side of the road. Now we can't show you the faces of these bodies, it's just too graphic. You can -- you can still see the terror as the wave hit on the faces of these bodies. And they're still here three days on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than 800,000 people were displaced, more than 5,000 were dead, a number still expected to rise.

The search for the missing was unending.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: One of the first people we met was a woman who had lost six of her children. All six of her children were dead, she believed. She had found three of their bodies.

Where will you sleep tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. In the street. I don't know where I go.

COOPER: I keep thinking about her and the strength of that, the strength of carrying your children's lifeless bodies having to leave them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The devastation is -- it's -- I don't have no words for it, it's really horrific. It's great human tragedy.


LU STOUT: A powerful reminder there of the recovery still underway in the disaster zone.

Now earlier, we told you about a rescue mission on its way to a Russian ship stuck in the ice near Antarctica. Well, after the break we'll go live to the world weather center for an update on conditions at one of the coldest places on the planet.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now a Chinese icebreaker is on its way to rescue a ship stuck in Antarctic ice. Let's get an update on conditions now with Alexandra Steele. She joins us from the world weather center -- Alexandra.


You know, not only in Antarctica, we've got big storms affecting millions of people with power. And so let's show you, let's start off in Antarctica, but we're also going to go to Toronto and the UK.

But of course here is where that research vessel is, about 2,500 kilometers south of Tasmania. 74 people are aboard. It is right now summer there, so it is light all day, all night so they finally can see this Chinese icebreaker that's not about five hours away.

The problem is, it's been so cold, there's been such strong winds and there's ice, an inordinate amount of ice here, record ice for this time of year. And you can see this is just where it has shown you the above average ice, far above the average sea ice.

So there's been an incredible amount of ice. It's been cold, but the good news, again, the Chinese crew out there is coming in, coming toward them in about five hours or so.

But the weather has really improved -- the winds are coming down, the temperatures are coming up. And also you can see, we do have snow, but it's a very light, dry snow. So the forecast conditions are certainly getting better there.

Also what we're seeing about six days ago, remember we were talking about this in Toronto, they're calling it the worst blackout ever. There was an incredible amount of ice and freezing rain. And believe it or not there are still over 50,000 people without power here. And now temperatures continue to stay cold. So all these people without power and more snow is coming and temperatures are certainly coming down as well. So certainly not good news there.

To the UK, it has been a barrage of storm -- storm after storm, about five storms. The next one coming in from today into tomorrow with gusts over 100 kilometers per hour, severe winds, severe rain. And we're continuing to see that. So not only this storm coming in, we've seen debris on railroads, because of so much rain. And look at some of these wind gusts as well, 176 kilometer wind gusts from Dublin to London.

And Kristie, we're going to continue to see some very strong winds here and a lot of rain.

LU STOUT: Some dangerous conditions out there. Alexandra Steele, thank you.

Now here is something you don't hear every day, swimmers in Argentina, they were attacked by a swarm of flesh eating fish.

Now this attack, it happened at a beach along this river on Wednesday near Rosario. Now local media described the fish as carnivorous relatives of the piranha. There it is right there.

Now the fish have been known to bite the occasional swimmer, but this time over 70 people were injured. Luckily, nobody was killed.

That is News Stream. World Business Today is next.