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Two Suicide Bomb Attacks In Volgograd Leave At Least 34 Dead; Michael Schumacher In Critical Condition After Skiing Accident; Research Ship Still Trapped In Ice Off Antarctic Coast; A Look at 2013's Best Movies

Aired December 30, 2013 - 08:00:00   ET


MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: Hello, I'm Monita Rajpal in Hong Kong. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

Formula One's greatest ever driver is fighting for his life. Michael Schumacher is still in critical condition after a skiing accident.

Russia says two bomb blasts in the city of Volgograd were acts of terror.

And South Sudan's people continue to suffer as weeks of fighting show no end -- no sign of ending.

German Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is fighting for his life this hour. The 44-year-old is in critical condition at a hospital in Grenoble, France after he suffered traumatic head injuries in a skiing accident in the French Alps on Sunday.

Schumacher was rushed to hospital in a coma. Doctors say they have performed urgent brain surgery, but are not prepared yet to give a prognosis.


DR. JEAN-FRANCOIS PAYEN, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL CENTER OF GRENOBLE (through translator): He was operated on as soon as his arrival following a brain scan. And following that, his state is critical as far as the work, which is being carried out, everything is being implemented. And for the moment, we cannot say what the future of Michael Schumacher will be.


RAJPAL: Well, Michael Schumacher's family has thanked doctors and have asked for privacy at this time.

CNN's Jim Boulden joins us now live from Grenoble. And Jim, as we heard there from the doctors, it was a very somber news conference that was being held. Of course, this is just 24 hours after he was taken to hospital there since Sunday.

One thing they did say was the importance of the fact that he was wearing a helmet.

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Monita. If he wasn't wearing a helmet I think it was very clear he wouldn't have survived the accident. Of course it is -- he's severely injured in an induced coma. The doctors also say they have lowered his temperature, sort of hypothermia, which they say should help with the swelling.

The biggest issue for anybody who had this kind of brain injury is the swelling of the brain against the skull and that's what the doctors have got to try to keep from continuing if they can. So the induced coma and also lowering of his body temperature.

But Dr. Jean-Francois Payen did have this to say about the helmet if he wasn't in fact wearing a helmet.


PAYEN (through translator): I think that given the violence of the shock, his helmet did partly protect him, certainly. Some (inaudible) had this kind of accident would -- without a helmet -- would not have reached this stage.


BOULDEN: Of course, Monita, we're told that Michael Schumacher was skiing off-piece so this is an area that would have not been as supervised as much as he been on-piece, if he had been in one of the main running areas. But the doctors said that they did get to him very quickly and that he was helicoptered here to this hospital in Grenoble behind me where the doctors continued to work on him, they said hour by hour. But they have absolutely no way they want to project or predict what would happen with Michael Schumacher in the comings days and weeks.

I've been reading up on this a little bit, and they've said that because of the pressure on the brain, because there's so much damage that could take place, sometimes it does -- it takes weeks until doctors know the extent of the damage to somebody like Michael Schumacher.

But they have said that it is, of course, a severe, serious injury to the brain that he has suffered -- Monita.

RAJPAL: An extremely worrying time, lots of support that he's been receiving online from fans, supporters, but also wondering where his family are at this point?

BOULDEN: Yes. Well, he was actually on a family holiday when he was skiing at Meribel. He was with his two children and his wife.

He turns 45 in a couple of days, so you think of it as a Christmas holiday, New Years and a bit of a birthday present as well.

So the family, we are told, is by his side.

But as you said earlier they've asked to be left alone, to be left in private. And they've said they will not be doing interviews, Monita.

RAJPAL: All right. Jim, thank you very much for that. Jim Boulden there live for us from Grenoble in France.

Well, Schumacher isn't just a Formula One legend. To many, he is quite simply the sports greatest ever driver. Now, the proof is right here, because Schumacher holds virtually every significant record in Formula One history. He has seven world championships, more than anyone else. He got more poll positions and fastest laps than any other driver. And it should come as no surprise that he also has more race wins than anyone in history and it's not even close. Schumacher has 91 grand prix wins, that's almost as many as the next two combined.

We will of course keep our eye on Michael Schumacher's condition. And we'll bring you the very latest from the hospital as soon as we hear more.

Russian authorities are on high alert this hour after another bomb blast hit the souther city of Volgograd. An explosion ripped apart a packed passenger bus, killing at least 14 people.

It is the second bombing in as many days.

Now, on Sunday, a suicide attack of the city's main train station killed 17 people. This video shows that explosion inside the station.

Russia has labeled both incidents acts of terrorism and believes the two attacks could be linked. No one has claimed responsibility right now, but fingers are being pointed at separatist groups from the North Caucuses region.

The two blasts are raising fresh security concerns less than six weeks before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics. Diana Magnay has more.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two deadly terror attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd in less than 24 hours. This morning's attack on a crowded trolley bus in morning rush hour. More than a dozen killed. Authorities say the blast, the work of a suicide bomber, possibly detonating his device towards the back end of the bus where the damage seems worse.

Many on board were students; this is exam time in Russia. Among the injured, a baby in serious condition.

This follows another attack at noon on Sunday in Volgograd's main railway station, the moment of the explosion caught on CCTV. 17 people were killed in that blast. Authorities saying that was also the work of a suicide bomber.

These attacks come less than six weeks before the start of the Winter Games in Sochi, which is around 400 miles southwest of Volgograd. Russia's president Vladimir Putin has vowed the highest possible security around the games themselves in the town of Sochi, but it is clearly hard to police the whole of southern Russia to the same level.

Russia is fighting an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucuses not far from Sochi. In July, Russia's most wanted man, Doku Umarov, a Chechen extremist and leader of an Islamist faction in the North Caucuses threatened to unleash, quote, "maximum force" to prevent the games from happening.

The U.S. State Department has a $5 million reward out for Umarov.

Former intelligence officials believe further attacks are entirely possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if we don't see one, an attempt on the Olympics, I'd be very surprised.

MAGNAY: Even if the high security around Sochi means terrorists may not be able to strike there. They are proving themselves more than capable of spreading maximum fear ahead of the games themselves, targeting other cities in the region with deadly results.

Diana Magnay reporting there.

Now extensive security measures were already in place as Russia gears up to host February's Winter Olympics as we heard Diana reporting. But these recent blasts have laid bare the challenge of ensuring security in a region that neighbors the turbulent North Caucuses.

Volgograd is a major rail hub and is less than 1,000 kilometers from Sochi, that's the site of the Olympics. The games are a prestige project for President Vladimir Putin. He says security will be very tight and vows spectators and athletes will be safe.

We will be speaking to Diana Magnay about the attacks a little bit later on in this show.

You are watching News Stream. And coming up, fear and desperation in South Sudan as ongoing political strife fuels a growing humanitarian crisis.

Also, mother nature just won't cooperate: a research ship stranded off Antarctica will have to wait even longer for help.

Also, what really happened at Benghazi? A New York Times report disputes claims made on both sides of the political aisle in Washington.


RAJPAL: Welcome back.

Let's take you to -- back to one of our top stories right now, the two blasts in the Russian city of Volgograd. Diana Magnay joins us now from Moscow.

And Diana, right now we've been saying there's been no claim of responsibility, but what is clear is the real insecurity that I'm sure many Russians are facing and perhaps even those that are involved in the Olympics are facing as we gear ahead to the Sochi games.

MAGNAY: Absolutely. Russian parliamentary officials are telling us that they have all necessary security measures in place around the Olympic games themselves, and that nothing needs to change as a result of these terror bombings. But it is quick clear that if you have very tight security around Sochi, it is very easy for terrorists to target other cities within the southern Russian region or elsewhere in Russia, possibly Moscow.

Of course Volgograd is perhaps targeted, because it's a major railway hub, which serves as a sort of point between central Russia, Moscow, and the southern Russian regions, which of course in the southwest are Sochi and in the southeast the troubled North Caucuses regions, which most of the terrorists threat from within Russia emanates from. There is an Islamist insurgency there focusing essentially on the Republic of -- semiautonomous Republic of Dagestan. And that is where most of the terrorists who have committed acts, violent acts in Russia in the years since 2000 have come from, Monita.

RAJPAL: So, we know that -- we should say that Russia as a whole is not -- has not been immune. They have been -- they have experienced and fallen victim to such kind of terrorist attacks before, been blamed on Chechen separatists in the past and now there is suspicion -- and again I stress suspicion -- that it might be them again. That said, with just a few weeks left until the 2014 Winter Games, one would have assumed that security in a major transport hub like Volgograd would have been tight already if anything as a practice in the lead-up to the games?

MAGNAY: Well, you know how difficult it is to police against this kind of thing, to police against suicide bombers acting on their own.

If you look at what happened in the railway station, the reason authorities tell us that the damage caused and the casualty count was not higher was because the woman or man, we're not quite sure who it was -- the reports, what we're hearing from the authorities has changed a little -- but was stopped before they went through a metal detector. And a policeman went towards them and stopped them, whereupon they detonated the device.

Now, you see from that, that there are metal detectors in place in all of these railways, that there are police standing by at major hubs, at railway stations, at airports, et cetera. Security is high in any case around this country.

But bear in mind, what huge distances we're talking about. I mean, Sochi is 420 miles away from Volgograd. You know, there are many other cities in Southern Russia that could be targets too.

The point of the terrorists, they don't have to target Sochi to spread fear and panic ahead of the games, to prevent people from coming. If they manage to prevent people from coming because they're scared of traveling through major transport hubs, then they've achieved their purpose, Monita.

RAJPAL: Well, this is it, isn't it, Diana, the fact that there is a fine line between security and ensuring that there is a high level of security in the lead-up to the games, and ensuring that people don't feel like they are at a police state, if you will.

You're in Moscow right now. What is being said in terms of what kind of fears people are feeling right now?

MAGNAY: Well, there is, of course, a huge amount of sympathy for the people of Volgograd, an outpouring of support for them. There will be three days of mourning as Russia celebrates its new year in the city of Volgograd. And the new year is, of course, the most important holiday for Russians. So this celebration will be fairly muted, I think you could imagine.

But from what you said earlier, let's bear in mind that, you know, there are anti-terror operations going on on a daily basis in the North Caucuses. What happens in the rest of Russia in terms of a police state or otherwise is very far removed from what's going on in the North Cacuses.

And President Putin has to tread a very fine balance in cracking down in that region whilst trying to make sure that he doesn't further radicalize those intent on disrupting the Olympic Games, intent on causing terrorist atrocities in Russia.

Bear in mind, that we've had a video statement in July from one of the key Chechen warlords there who promised to unleash maximum force had of the games. He had, a couple of years ago when there were anti-government demonstrations taking place in Moscow, he declared a moratorium on any kind of attacks outside of the North Caucuses.

And over that period we didn't see terrorist attacks in Russia itself. They were confined to that period.

Since July, he announced that that moratorium had lifted. And we're now seeing attacks again across the region outside of the North Caucuses.

And if you see how easily -- we've had three terror attacks, one on Friday near the North Caucuses, two in the last two days. It is a very difficult threat, quite clearly, to contain, Monita.

RAJPAL: All right, Diana, thank you for that. Diana Magnay there live for us from Moscow.

Now in South Sudan about 20,000 members of an ethnic militia had been marching toward the town of Bor. But today, government officials have told CNN they've convinced leaders of the so-called White Army to retreat.

There has been weeks of conflict between government troops and forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar. And as Arwa Damon reports, there's a growing humanitarian crisis as terrified civilians flee the violence.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNAITONAL CORRESPONDENT: This, one of the UN compounds in Juba transformed into a teaming town for refugees.

Children have just started to receive polio and measels immunizations. Concerns are rising about the spread of other diseases and aid agencies that sent out their nonessential staff are struggling to cope with the overwhelming needs.

This woman, now a widow, with three children.

"He was walking when it all started. He tried to run away, but he was caught and killed," she tells us.

She never recovered her husband's body. She's still in shock, left to fend for herself, relying on the kindness of others.

Many more wait under the punishing sun for supplies.

Being handed out here are non-food items, plus essential nutrient packed products.

But as dire as these refugees' situation is, there are other who are potentially even more desperate.

CHRIS NIKOI, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME, SOUTH SUDAN: There are others who are seeking refuge in the bush and in other locations, whom we are also trying to reach.

DAMON: The world's youngest nation, just two years old, were after achieving independence few imagined it would so quickly end up like this.

(on camera): People are understandably very emotional and traumatized by everything that they have been through, so the camp managers have asked us not to conduct any of our interviews amongst the crowds, not even in people's tents or the markets out of concerns that those tensions could be inflammed.

(voice-over): Just this base alone now home to some 20,000 refugees. Many live within walking distance, and yet are too afraid to go back home, even though the capital has been relatively stable for over a week now.

But fear reigns.

James Gaegak is the de facto community leader here.

(on camera): When we were speaking, you said that your brother went to get water and then you never saw him again. What happened?

JAMES GAEGAK, COMMUNITY LEADER: My brother went back to the (inaudible) to collect water. I was given a call with his phone. And that caller -- they tell me that your brother is dead.

DAMON (voice-over): We go to see his sister-in-law. She's pregnant and due this month. But James stays behind. He says it's too painful for her and the children to see him. He reminds them of the husband and father they no longer have.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Juba.


RAJPAL: Still to come here on News Stream, deadly bombings have rocked Russia this week. The threat to security comes as the clock ticks down to the 2014 Winter Olympics. What will be the effect? Stay with us.


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

Earlier, we talked about the blasts in the Russian city of Volgograd, which comes just six weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Now security is one obvious concern for Sochi, but as Amanda Davies reports, the athletes and the organizers are only focused on getting everything else ready.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The final countdown is on for athletes and organizers alike. Before we know it, the eyes of the sporting world will be on Sochi and the 22nd Winter Olympics.

It's been a buildup dominated by controversy. Sochi's sub-tropical climate, security, escalating costs and Russia's new anti-gay propaganda laws, meant there was plenty to discuss with the man in charge on my first trip to the Black Sea resort in September.

(on camera): One of the other issues I have to ask you about is the anti-gay law. You're at the IOC congress last week, what did the other delegates have to say to you about it?

DMITRY CHERNYSHENKO, CEO, SOCHI 2014 ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: They express the concern among the NOCs that they're -- what they called anti- gay law is harming the rights of the people in our country, which is not true. I can tell you that in accordance to the constitution of Russian Federation, any discrimination of any human, any man whether by sexual, gender or religious or any other discretization is strictly prohibited.

And I do believe that our games will be one of the most diverse and with the equal opportunity for anybody.

DAVIES (voice-over): The good news, though, is that snow has arrived. Any concerns about a lack of the white stuff were blown away by the massive blizzard that descended on our last visit at the start of December. So talk could turn to sport.

CHERNYSHENKO: It's good to have this kind of weather, because it makes everybody more confident and relaxed, because for such an event you know that there is a lot of pressure and it's better to have this known now than coming in January.

DAVIES: The 10 sporting venues have long been completed and are undoubtedly impressive. But it's the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies, the Fisht Arena, that has proved the biggest headache for organizers, running months past its August completion deadline.

Athletes will stay in one of three Olympic villages, complete with branded bedding, gyms, games room and motivational artwork on the walls. The aim, to leave no room for excuses when competition starts.

NICK BUCKLAND, ICE DANCER, UK: The Olympic Games are the biggest event in an athlete's career. I think you wait four years, you know, to get a chance to share what you can do at an Olympic Games to a worldwide audience. It's different to every other type of competition. With that, comes a little bit more pressure, but you know, that's what we do it for.

CHARLOTTE KALLA, CROSS COUNTRY, SWEDEN: When I started to train in May, I was really inspired and focused to do things even better. So, right now I'm up in tough training period, but everything (inaudible).

KRISTAN BROMLEY, SKELETON BOB, UK: I've competed in three Olympics. Fingers crossed. I'm hoping to go to my fourth in Sochi. The only medal I don't have is an Olympic medal. I've been relatively close on two occasions in Torino and in Vancouvery, but wasn't quite good enough to steal a medal.

To be honest, that's what's been fueling me for the last four years. I'd love to end my career on a high, but if it doesn't happen, you know, I can look at everything else I've achieved and still be pretty proud.

DAVIES: Sochi will provide unique challenges for athletes as it has already for the organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympics. But come Februrary 7, the dramatic setting promises to provide an incredible backdrop to one of the most exciting sporting events of 2014.

Amanda Davies, CNN, London.


LU STOUT: Still ahead here on News Stream, stuck in ice at the bottom of the world, a Russian research ship and its 74 passengers remain stranded off the coast of Antarctica. We'll bring you the latest.

Plus, a New York Times investigation into the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack creates some outrage in Washington.


RAJPAL: Hello, I'm Monita Rajpal in Hong Kong. And you are watching News Stream. These are the headlines this hour. Concern and well wishes are pouring in for Formula One superstar Michael Schumacher. He remains in critical condition at a hospital in Grenoble in France. Doctors say they performed emergency brain surgery on the 44-year-old after he suffered a head injury while skiing in the French Alps on Sunday.

Two deadly suicide attacks in southern Russia are raising security concerns ahead of the Winter Olympics. On Sunday and Monday, twin blasts hit the city of Volgograd, a main transport hub less than 1,000 kilometers from Sochi where the Olympics will be held in just six weeks. 31 people are dead in both attacks. No one has claimed responsibility, but authorities say they are the work of terrorists.

The South Sudanese government says it has convinced an ethnic militia to retreat from Bor. An estimated 20,000 people loyal to former vice president Riek Machar had been heading to the city, sparking fears of more violence.

The San Miguel region of El Salvadore\ is under a dark cloud of smoke after its Chaparrastique volcano erupted on Sunday. The first eruption in nearly four decades sent volcanic ash several kilometers high. The president is urging residents to head to nearby shelters. At least 33 flights have been canceled.

Well, stranded for six days now, a research ship remains ice bound off the coast of Antartica after the latest rescue attempt was suspended.

And Australian icebreaker was making its way to the ship when it had to turn back into open water due to bad weather conditions.

74 people are stuck on board this stranded vessel. Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joins us now from CNN London with this.

Yet again, another attempt to try to get to this research ship -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Monita. It's the third attempt, actually, that's actually started and failed to reach this Russian registered research vessel. This time it was an Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis as its called, attempting on two occasions to try and cut through the thick pack ice in which the Russian ship is trapped to reach the 74 people on board, scientists, tourists and crew members as well conducting various experiments out there in Antarctica, but being unsuccessful in doing it.

A French ship had previously tried to reach him, but abandoned its mission and then a Chinese icebreaker, first of all, had led the pack as it were to try and break through this very difficult part of the world in the eastern part of Antarctica to reach that vessel. It got seven nautical miles away from the ship, within eyesight of the people on board, but couldn't actually get the last few miles towards the ship and break it free so it called off its mission as well.

CNN has spoken to the engineer on board the Chinese icebreaker and that engineer told the staff member that there would be at least two or three days before the weather conditions have improved and they can try again.

The Australian icebreaker, the crew there also say that if the weather breaks, if it gets better, they will also be able to attempt another rescue of that ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy, as its called.

RAJPAL: Matthew, can one assume that those that are on the ship right now, that the ship is actually well stocked with food, water and there's heat on the ship, because they were there on a research mission, one would assume that they are well prepared, obviously, for any eventualities.

CHANCE: Yes. I think they are very well prepared. And there's no sense in which there's a desperate situation on board the ship at the moment. In fact, spirits have been very high, people have been -- the crew members, the scientists have been posting video blogs talking about, you know, how they're continuing and keeping their spirits up as best they can.

They also said to have a big Christmas meal on Christmas Day, the day they got trapped in the pack ice.

They've got plenty of supplies on board. They're on a mission for a month. And it was two weeks into that mission that they got trapped in the ice. And so they've got at least another two week supplies left. And they've probably got more than that as well.

And so the hope is still that there will be a break in the weather and that they can be rescued before their supplies run out.

One option, of course, is to send in helicopters from one of the icebreakers. That's not been possible so far, according to the rescue teams, because of the very high winds that are gusting down in that part of the world at the moment. When that stops, at the very least, the 74 people on board will be able to be airlifted to safety.

RAJPAL: All right. Matthew, thank you very much for that.

Well, let's get a check to see when those high winds and treacherous conditions will subside for some time, at least, for these rescue ships to get to this research ship.

Mari Ramos is at the world weather center with a forecast for us. Mari, what can you tell us?

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is summer this time of year right now in this part of the world. And you would expect conditions to be a little bit better. But it has been one storm system after another that has been affecting this region. And actually, Monita, I don't think today is a better weather day, for example, than what we can expect over the next couple of days. You can see it right over here, there's Antarctica, that's their relative location of the ship. And here you see our next weather system starting to pull in across the area.

What happened is that we had an area of high pressure that was kind of dominating the weather pattern here. It had very strong winds, but now that area of high pressure is starting to move away opening up the door for these areas of low pressure to just sink all the way south here, so to speak, and bring us those not only windy conditions -- it probably will not be as windy as it had been -- but we're going to have problems with visibility, with snow showers, sleet, maybe even rain at times just depending on the time of day and the precipitation that starts to happen.

It looks like most of the action will be more toward the west of the ship location, but it is going to be quite treacherous and not easy over the next couple of days.

So today, partly cloudy, a high of one. Tuesday, that's when we begin to see that precipitation that I was telling you. And it should continue on into Wednesday with those gusty conditions.

So, at least in the immediate forecast, I don't think that they're going to have good weather to be able to conduct these rescue missions. And then, but things can change very, very quickly, of course. And it's difficult to forecast the weather for that part of the world.

Let's go ahead and move north. This is Tropical Cyclone Christine. We're staying in the southern hemisphere. This is the northwest coast of Australia. And that's Port Hedland. The storm making landfall just in the last few minutes, really. That center of circulation moving inland just to the west of Port Hedland. And the storm quite strong as you can see here, winds 160 kilometers per hour, gusting to nearly 200 kilometers per hour. There are warnings along the coastal areas here.

One of the biggest concerns with this is, of course, the strength of the wind as it slowly continues to move inland it's going to take about 12 hours for that center to actually make it just off -- inland, I should say, from the coast and the weather to begin to improve in areas to the north.

Storm surge is a concern, of course, with this storm. There's the potential for damage from those very strong winds. And then there's the rain.

This area very dry. It doesn't take a lot of rain for it to cause flooding. And you can see that over the next couple of days widespread areas could get eight, maybe 10 centimeters of rain not out of the question, continuing to move inland through this region.

The other thing is this northwestern coast of Australia very important for natural gas and oil production. Most of those facilities had to be shutdown while the tropical cyclone moves through this region. And then you also have very important mining areas here across northwestern Australia, particularly for iron ore and even some natural gas.

So all of those situations had to be shut down until the storm passes. And hopefully there won't be any significant damage.

So, that's going to be the next thing to monitor as we move through this region.

I want to stay in the southern hemisphere, Monita, because have you heard about this heat wave in parts of South America -- Argentina, Brazil, parts of Uruguay and Paraguay? But Argentina the hardest hit. We have some pictures to show you from Argentina.

While I quickly tell you the story, we are expecting conditions to slowly improve over the next couple of days, still above average. They have declared an emergency -- an energy emergency across this region, because of the high temperatures. People are trapped in high rises. They can't get down. A lot of elderly people have had to be evacuated. It's a pretty serious thing. When you look at the temperature, even right now it's 31 degrees right now in Buenos Aires. And it's still very early in the morning. They're well on their way to the mid to upper 30s. And over the next few days, even as we head into the new year, look at that, still about 10 degrees -- yeah -- about 6, 10 degrees above the average for this time of year. So very hot.

Back to you.

RAJPAL: All right. Mari, thank you very much.

Still to come here on News Stream, new light on Benghazi. The New York Times revealed its own investigation into the attack that killed four Americans in Libya last year. We'll tell you what it says after this.


RAJPAL: Welcome back. You are watching News Stream.

Let's return to our visual rundown now. In just a few minutes, we'll show you a preview of a landmark CNN series that is returning in 2014: the Cold War. But now, let's turn to a controversial New York Times report. The newspaper is shedding new light on questions surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attack on the U.S. consulate. Four Americans were killed in that assault, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Now the report is also igniting new debate over what really happened that day. World Affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty joins us now from Washington with more on that -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Monita, Benghazi has moved beyond being just a news story. It's really a major political issue. And this New York Times report is simply heating that up.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): "The New York Times" investigation calls into question claims made by both Republicans and the White House about what happened in Libya on September 11th a year ago. The newspaper finds fault with the Republican case saying, there's "no evidence that al Qaeda had any role," that local militias and looters were to blame, that an anti-Muslim video did play a role motivating the attackers, at least in part, and that the attack was "not meticulously planned but neither was it spontaneous" nor "without warning signs." A top Republican insists, the intelligence shows al Qaeda was involved.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: There was aspiration to conduct an attack by al Qaeda and their affiliates in Libya. We know that. The individuals on the ground talked about a planned tactical movement on the compound.

DOUGHERTY: The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee agrees but says it's a complex picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved, but there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al Qaeda that were involved.

DOUGHERTY: "The Times" also says, however, it was not a copycat of street protests in Egypt against the American made anti-Muslim video, as then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice suggested on Sunday talk shows.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo.

DOUGHERTY: The Obama White House isn't commenting or disputing "The Times" report, which notably does not mention then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: What difference at this point does it make?

DOUGHERTY: But former White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor blasted Republican demands for Benghazi hearings and for their claims that the Obama administration was lying, tweeting, "they were wrong" and "we could have avoided months of discussing demagoguery."


DOUGHERTY: Now this report uses the word murky. And it's saying that it's neither the black and white issue that the Republicans nor the White House have presented. And that of course guarantees, Monita, that this controversy is going to continue to go on.

RAJPAL: And of course the fact of the matter is it's that murkiness that's adding to the confusion in all of this. Can't seem to find any concrete information around it. Has there been concrete information that this report is particularly pointing to?

DOUGHERTY: Well, they point -- they talk to a lot of people on the ground in Benghazi. And I think, you know, the main thing would be that knocking down the idea that Republicans have proposed, or put forward, that it was an al Qaeda directly linked to al Qaeda operation.

Here, in this report, they're saying there are threads from al Qaeda, there are threads from other organizations and groups and a bit of spontaneity. So it becomes very murky. And that's one of the problems. Even this report is not going to lay anything to rest, I think you'd have to predict, because already Republicans are saying, yes, but we have other people on the ground who are saying that it was al Qaeda.

So, I think -- you know, it is in the realm of a news story. Obviously there's more and more information, but it really has become a debate. And there is no coming together of the minds on this whatsoever.

RAJPAL: All right. Jill, thank you for that. Jill Dougherty there live for us from Washington.

On New Year's Day, the state of Colorado will be the first in the United States to allow the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use -- recreational use. Analysts suggest tax revenue from sales could initially reach almost $70 million a year.

CNN's Casey Wian visits one company preparing for opening day.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a big day for Tim Cullen.

TIM CULLEN, CO-OWNER, EVERGREEN APOTHECARY: I liken it to graduation. It's just been a tremendous amount of work to get to this point.

WIAN: He's joining a handful of business owners receiving Denver's first licenses to sell marijuana for recreational use starting January 1st.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's information that needs to go to every customer that comes in and buys (inaudible) marijuana, right?

All right.

CULLEN: Thanks, Jenny (ph). Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations. Have a nice year.

WIAN: At Cullen's medical marijuana store employees scramble to get ready.

Pot retailers must navigate so many regulations, only 14 of about 250 medical marijuana businesses in Denver have received one of these, a license to sell to anyone over 21.

There are multiple inspections, packaging requirements, and, in some cases, new construction.

ANDY WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT, MEDICINE MAN: We're building an absolutely impressive showcase for the world to see that this is an industry. This is not an underground business.

WIAN: At Medicine Man, all the pot sold is grown onsite.

WILLIAMS: Customers don't want it really leafy. They like it nice, tight and dense.

WIAN: It's hiring 25 new employees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just get some of this and smoke it in small quantities.

WIAN: And installing new equipment.

WILLIAMS: We have to tag all these plants with an RFID tag, radio frequency identification, and so it's another inventory control that we have to implement here.

This is a light tight, airtight container. And this is our San Fernando Valley O.G. Cush and the smell will probably hit you from there.

WIAN: There's a little bit of a sour milky smell to it. Am I wrong?

WILLIAMS: No. Some people like stuff that is really stinky.

WIAN: Each of these container holds about $7,500 worth of marijuana, so it's no wonder Medicine Man has an armed former army ranger guarding the front door.

WILLIAMS: I think next year we're going to have about two to two and a half times more business than this year.

WIAN: WeedMaps, a Yelp-like service for marijuana retailers predicts prices will spike.

AARON HOUSTON, STRATEGIST, GHOST GROUP: Demand is going to be very high on day one. With a potential shortage of supply, prices will go up.

WIAN: Lines are expected outside pot stores January 1st.

CULLEN: We're going to have cookies and coffee set out.

WIAN: Are those cookies going to be laced with anything?

CULLEN: Absolutely not. No, no. My parents volunteered to come down and hand out cookies and coffee.

WIAN: No one is expecting a marijuana Mardi Gras.

MICHAEL ELLIOTT, MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY GROUP: It's still illegal to drive impaired, to take the product out of state, to resell to anybody, to give it to someone under 21 or to consume publicly.

WIAN: The city says it's prepared.

ASHLEY KILROY, DENVER MARIJUANA POLICY DIRECTOR: We haven't seen a negative impact from 10 years of medical marijuana, and we don't expect to see that with retail marijuana.

WIAN: Statewide, about $300 million worth of medical marijuana was sold in 2013.

The industry expects sales to more than double next year.

Casey Wian, CNN, Denver.


RAJPAL: Well, it is almost the new year. And if you're a film fan, you'll know that means it's just about time for reward season. Coming up, we take a look at the box office hits of 2013 and the favorite to take home a prize.


Welcome back.

In less than a year, the world will mark the 20 -- mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the leadup starting in January, CNN will re-air it's landmark series "The Cold War." The first of 24 episodes looks at efforts to appease Hitler before World War II broke out. Here's a preview narrated by actor Kenneth Branagh.


KENNETH BRANAGH, NARRATOR: Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain trusted that Hitler would listen to reason.

NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN: When I was a little boy, I used to repeat, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try, tray again."

BRANAGH: In September 1938, Chamberlain flew to Munich. War seemed close as Germany prepared to invade Czechoslovakia. But Chamberlain went determined to appease Hitler.

At Munich, Britain, France and Italy licensed Hitler to seize the Czech Sudetenland with its German minority. Czechoslovakia's allies had abandoned her.

In Moscow, Stalin drew lessons from Munich. The western democracies, he concluded, would never stand up to Hitler. Stalin planned a desperate stroke of diplomacy. The fascist and Communist arch-enemies were about to embrace.

Hitler flew his foreign minister Ribbentrop to Moscow. The Nazi- Soviet pact was signed by Soviet foreign minister Molotov. The west was appalled.

SERGO BERIA, SON OF SECRET POLICE CHIEF (through translator): After the pact was signed, I heard this from Stalin's lips, he was often at our home -- he said, "we need to win time, at least two years' time. Only then will the Soviet Union will be able to defend itself against Germany."


RAJPAL: That was a preview of the CNN documentary series The Cold War. The 24 part series will re-air in 2014 beginning January 4. Tune in this Saturday at 11:00 am GMT to see the first episode "Comrades."

As the year comes to a close, we look back at the most memorable movie moments of 2013. Becky Anderson shows us the standouts, including those destined to take home the awards.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESOPNDENT: Throughout the year, the movie industry has been vying for your attention. Endless interviews have been conducted and kilometers of red carpet walks. But it's now the competition really begins to heat up the awards campaign season.

We start with the current frontrunner "12 Years a Slave." Steve McQueen's harrowing depiction of Solomon Northrop's enslavement between 1841 and 1853 has put him in line for a best director award.

Plus, a powerful performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role puts him in the race for best actor.

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, ACTOR: I don't want to survive, I want to live.

I felt the responsibility of it, you know, the responsibility to Solomon Northrop and his descendants, the responsibility to a story from inside the slave experience, you know, which I'd never -- I'd never seen that film.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turned 26, I made $49 million, which really (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me off, because it was three shy of a million a week.

ANDERSON: Howling its way into awards contention is "The Wolf of Wall Street."

DICAPRIO: The real question is this, was all this legal?

ANDERSON: This is director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio's fifth collaboration.

DICAPRIO: Absolutely not.

ANDERSON: The film is based on the explosive autobiography of financial con man Jordan Belfort during the hedonistic and greed fueled 1980s.

DICAPRIO: It is the land of opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just tried to bribe a federal officer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People come from all over the world to see this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, he's good, yeah?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's impossible.

ANDERSON: Set in the 1970s, true life scam artists and swindlers are also the subject of David O'Russell's film American Hustle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody. Now who is the master? The painter or the forger?

ANDERSON: A member of the stellar ensemble cast, which includes Oscar winners Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence will surely steal at least one acting award.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go. We have to go, go, go.

ANDERSON: Since it's world premier at the Venice festival, the jawdropping space thriller "Gravity" has held a steady trajectory towards to awards podium.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Permission to retrieve Dr. Stone.

ANDERSON: Co-written by Alfonso Cuaron and his son Jonas, the film charts a course of calamities and catastrophes which befall a pair of astronauts following a spectacular encounter with lethal space debris.

CLOONEY: Man down. Man down.

ANDERSON: Both the film features inventive use of 3D visual effects and the tour de force performance from Bullock are bound to be recognized.

CLOONEY: You're off structure. Dr. Stone detach. You must detach. That arm is going to carry you too far. Listen to my voice. You need to follow it. I'm losing visual of you. In seconds I won't be able to track you. You need to detach. I can't see you any more. Do it now.


CLOONEY: Houston, I've lost visual.

BULLOCK: It took away anything that I knew as an actor. It left me enclosed in a box for 10, 11 hours a day, you know, with no one to talk to and no life form around me. You know, everything that they developed was pioneered. It was the first of its kind. It was a prototype. They invented it. They didn't know if it would work until the day we got into it. But it worked.

Houston, this is Mission Specialist Ryan Stone. I am off structure and drifting. Do you copy?

It's alienating and as frustrating and as cumbersome as it was, you knew you were a part of doing something that no one else had done before so you just sucked it up and, you know, as crabby as I was most days it worked. You know, I didn't want to be very comfortable. The character wasn't comfortable in space. So it made things a little easier for me.

ANDERSON: A real challenge to Bullock's reign could come from Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."

CATE BLANCHETT, ACTRESS: ...nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there's only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.

ANDERSON: Her portrayal of a socialite unraveling into depression is both tragic and mesmerizing.

BLANCHETT: No one wants to get out of here as fast as I do.

ANDERSON: Blanchett might just sway a jury away from the space odyssey.

Becky Anderson, CNN.


RAJPAL: And we've got this update for you that's just come in to CNN. Russia says most of the passengers aboard that ship that's trapped in ice off Antarctica, well they will be evacuated by a Chinese helicopter.

Now this ship has been stuck for six days now and a couple of attempts to reach it have failed. Russia's foreign ministry now says the Chinese helicopter will pick up 56 people on the ship should the weather allow them to.

There are a total of 74 people on board. Of course, we will get more information on this as soon as we know more. We'll get that to you then.

And that is News Stream for this Monday. I'm Monita Rajpal. We'll leave you now with some new pictures from Mount Etna, the famous Italian volcano, well, it's erupting again, which is not too uncommon. Etna is Europe's tallest and most active volcano. The news continues right here on CNN. World Business Today is next.