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West African Journalist Goes Undercover To Uncover Child Trafficking; The Best and Worst Of CES; Syria's Rebel Groups Clash With al Qaeda In North; Chris Christie Embroiled In Bridge Closing Scandal

Aired January 9, 2014 - 8:00   ET


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

Why the man the Republican Party is betting on to take back the White House is in trouble over a bridge.

Syria's civil war faces further divisions as rebel groups start fighting other rebel groups.

And we look at the best of the Consumer Electronics Show including Sony's new game streaming service Playstation Now.

That we've all heard the word gridlock used to describe American politics, but the scandal surrounding New Jersey governor and possible White House hopeful Chris Christie involves actual traffic gridlock. And the leaks expose emails between members of the governor's inner circle suggest that they may have orchestrated traffic jams on a major bridge and at the political retribution. Joe Johns explains.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The scandal involving closed lanes at the nation's busiest crossing has exploded and ensnared Governor Christie just as he takes a prominent role on the national stage as a leading potential candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

It started in September when several lanes of the George Washington Bridge were shut down for four days without warning, including on the first day of school in nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey, resulting in an hour's long traffic nightmare for the town.

And now a letter from an EMS official suggests even emergency first responders were first delayed, one case involving paramedics responding to a woman suffering a heart attack.

There were questions whether the gridlock was politically motivated payback for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who had declined to endorse Christie's last reelection bid. CNN obtained text and emails that seemed to be the closest thing to a smoking gun.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

It was sent August 13, a message from the email account of Bridgett and Kelly, the governor's deputy chief of staff to David Wildstein, one of the governor's top appointees at the agency that controls the bridge.

"Got it," he replied.

When the mayor of Fort Lee called about the gridlock, Kelly then emailed Wildstein to find out if anyone had called him back.

"Radio silence," was the response.

The official excuse for the bridge snarl, a traffic study reviewing safety patterns for toll lanes. Christie later denied his office was involved in the bridge problem.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I actually was the guy working the cones out there. You really are not serious with that question.

JOHNS: Late Wednesday, the governor issued a statement responding to the revelations. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.

The question now is whether any state or federal laws were broken.

MARK SOKOLICH, MAROR OF FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY: Those that are responsible are responsible for this most heinous act. They can no longer be in positions of power in government.

JOHNS: But now residents of New Jersey are angered by this scandal.

YORMAN BORG, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: I think this story is beyond belief. The whole concept that it is politically motivated is wrong. I mean, you don't hold people hostage for whatever political reason.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


LU STOUT: Now the Christie administration could face a formal investigation over the bridge controversy with one state senator planning to request one.

Now you heard Joe just then say that the George Washington Bridge is the nation's busiest crossing.

Now the port authority of New York and New Jersey calls it the busiest bridge in the world. And says 102 million vehicles used it every year. That's an average of nearly 280,000 cars a day. It connect New York's Manhattan Island to Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Now Fort Lee's mayor, a Democrat, did not endorse Christie's reelection last year.

Now Christie will hold a news conference in about three hour's time for more on the potential fallout. Let's go live now to Washington.

CNN's Peter Hamby is standing by. And Peter, just how critical is this moment, this upcoming news conference for Chris Christie?

PETER HAMBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a really big deal for Chris Christie. And frankly, Kristie, this is the biggest controversy that's hit Chris Christie since he's been governor.

Look, this is a essentially a local traffic story that has blossomed into a full blown political crisis for the governor. And as you mentioned, a potential criminal investigation and the committee that's leading the charge on investigating this has not ruled out issuing a subpoena to the governor testify before senate Democrats, before the senate and the assembly in New Jersey about this issue.

Look, the biggest problem here politically for Governor Christie is that one, this undercuts the notion that he is carefully cultivated of him as a bipartisan figure. We do not know yet if he knew about this. But the people around him punishing a Democrat for not endorsing him in this fashion really kind of undercuts that whole image that he's really carefully cultivated as he lays groundwork for a potential presidential bid.

And the other thing here, Christie, is that this feeds a narrative of Chris Christie that is preexisting that he is a bully. That might be fair, or it might not be, but that is an image that is out there in the American voting populous. And this just reinforces that he will hurt his enemies for his own political gain. That's been a knock on him ever since he first ran for governor in 2009.

So today at this press conference he has to come out hard, look for people to get fired, look for him to be contrite. He cannot afford any more drip, drip, drip for the scandal. He's hoping to get it swept under the rug by the end of this week, Christie.

LU STOUT: His integrity, his credibility all on the line. He has to, in your words, come out hard this upcoming press conference due to take place three hours from now. Are Republicans turning against Chris Christie in a significant way?

HAMBY: Not yet. There are a lot of conservatives within the Republican Party who do not trust Chris Christie. They think he's squishy on social issues. He's a moderate. He's perhaps too close to the president. So, you see some conservative voices come out and be critical of him. We heard Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host come out yesterday and sort of criticize his leadership style and say that he punishes his enemies, et cetera.

But by and large, you're not seeing a lot of Republican officials come out and condemn him, ask him to resign, ask him to resign the chairmanship of the Republican Governors' Association, which he took over recently.

And I think that's because, according to the Republicans that I talk to that they still don't know all the facts here. People within the Republican Party are being very quiet. They don't want to get into this mess. They don't -- you know, without knowing what he knew, when he knew it. Maybe we'll see some commentary after this press conference later today, but for the moment you're seeing the Republican Party be very cautious about how to address this, because it's still an unfolding scandal. And it's still extremely sensitive at this time, Kristie.

LU STOUT: A lot of explaining to do. We're going to hear directly from the man just a few hours from now. Peter Hamby joining us live from Washington, thank you very much indeed for that.

Now, Dennis Rodman is now apologizing to the family of Kenneth Bae for an outburst about the American citizen imprisoned in North Korea.

Now the former basketball star is in Pyongyang on a visit that has sparked controversy and criticism. And he spoke about Bae in that interview on Tuesday with CNN's Chris Cuomo.


DENNIS RODMAN, FRM. NBA PLAYER: If you understand what Kenneth Bae. Do you understand what he did.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What did he do? You tell me.

RODMAN: this country.

CUOMO: You tell me, what did he do?

RODMAN: No, no, no. You tell me. You tell me. Why is he held captive?

CUOMO: They haven't released any charges. They haven't released any reasons.

RODMAN: I, I, I...


LU STOUT: No Dennis Rodman says stress and the effects of alcohol were to blame for his behavior in that clip. And in a statement out today, he apologized to Bae's family. He said this, quote, "I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry."

Now for more on Rodman's controversial trip, let's go straight to our Anna Coren. She joins me now live from Beijing. And Anna, what more did Rodman say in this apology?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, it was quite unusual, a real backflip from Dennis Rodman to him issuing this statement, if you like, through his publicist, this apology. You mentioned that he apologizes to Kenneth Bae's family for obviously offending them, deeply offending them.

He basically implied that Kenneth Bae deserved this 15 year sentence of hard labor in North Korea.

I want to read you a little bit more of that apology. He said, "my dream of basketball diplomacy. It was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. I want to apologize to Kenneth Bae's family. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo," who of course was the CNN journalist who was interviewing Dennis Rodman. "I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements."

So he's blaming his emotions. He's blaming alcohol for this bizarre outburst, whether that's enough to placate the Bae family remains to be seen. They, of course, were deeply offended by the comments. Kenneth Bae's sister came out saying that Dennis Rodman should have used this opportunity to appeal for her brother's release. Obviously on several occasions now this of course was Dennis Rodman's fourth trip to North Korea. He is still in the country.

He says that Kenneth Bae is not his problem and that he doesn't want to get involved.

But certainly we will wait to see whether there is any development in the Kenneth Bae saga and whether Dennis Rodman has some other statement to issue when he finally comes out of North Korea, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And Dennis Rodman, he may have apologized, but he continues to attract a lot of criticism for his behavior, his actions in North Korea, including that bizarre birthday salute to Kim Jong un. Can you tell us what happened?

COREN: Yeah, he was rather bizarre. He bowed to Kim Jong un, a 90 degree bow, in front of stadium packed with, you know, 14,000 mainly North Koreans. There were 20 western tourists. We caught up with some of those tourists a little bit earlier, but I think you're now hearing Dennis Rodman sing to -- Dennis Rodman sing happy birthday. One tourist, American tourist described it as, you know, Marilyn Monroe singing to JFK. Another tourist said it was very heartfelt of Dennis Rodman and that he'd made remarks towards his friends that were very sincere and very genuine.

You know, this is a very unlikely friendship. As I say, this is his fourth trip. He has described Kim Jong un as a dear friend, a beloved friend. And that he hopes to bridge the gap between the United States and North Korea. Certainly the U.S. State Department says that Dennis Rodman is not working on their behalf, but they're certainly interested as to what Dennis Rodman says when he returns to the United States, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Anna Coren, live in Beijing for us. Thank you.

Now still to come right here on News Stream, the civil war rages in Syria. And now, there's a battle within a battle. They go live to Ivan Watson on the ground for more.

A change of heart for one former elephant poacher. We take a look at the dangerous work of ecoguards fighting a deadly trade in ivory in the Republic of Congo.

And consumers are treated to all kinds of weird and wonderful gadgets at one of the world's biggest tech shows. But some products didn't quite hit the mark. We've got our wrap with the best and worst in show.


LU STOUT: Live from Hong Kong, this is News Stream.

Now fierce infighting continues in Syria between rebel groups formally united in their battle against President Bashar al-Assad. A war within a war has been raging all week in northern Syria on the border with Turkey. Rebel groups are fighting each other in a violent power struggle. Opposition fighters are trying to drive out the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which is linked to al Qaeda.

Now human rights groups accuse both sides of committing atrocities.

Let's go live now to the Turkish-Syrian border. A senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is there. And Ivan, there is a battle underway right now between rebels and al Qaeda militants. What's the latest?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There's a lull in the shooting right now, but let me just take you to the scene, Kristie. If you look over here, barely two kilometers away is the Syrian border town of Jerablis (ph). And though it has been the scene of days and nights of fighting that we'd witnessed here, the black flag of the al Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continues to fly from a number of buildings in the center of that town. Now we witnessed last night, a massive fireball explosion, an indication of the fighting. We also heard booms coming from there, gunfire as well last night and today. The fighting has been going on for days now. And that is just one of the many towns and cities where a coalition of Syrian rebels have basically mounted a coordinated offensive within the last week to try to dislodge this al Qaeda linked group called the ISIS from opposition controlled northern Syria.

The rebel coalition is claiming that the ISIS had maintained a reign of terror in northern Syria, that it had basically gone on a kidnapping spree, on a rampage that involved the execution of anybody who disagreed with the group.

One of the concerns about the battle here in this town is rebel fighters tell us that they fear the ISIS have possibly hundreds of prisoners in their base their. And that's one of their fears as they try to go up against these ISIS militants on both sides there have been reports of summary executions of prisoners that they've come across -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Ivan, we have this deadly power struggle taking place in Syria right behind you across the border. What does this mean for the civil war. Is the focus going to shift away from pressure on Bashar al- Assad to more pressure on...

WATSON: Well, certainly there's some concern because as both sides they're involved in this -- in this internal struggle. What's that going to do to the front lines in this two, three year war that's been taking place between the Syrian opposition and the forces of the Syrian regime?

But on the other hand, it's been a great concern to many members of the Syrian opposition, the rapid rise of the ISIS just in the last couple of months and how this movement has sought to, in the eyes of some critics, basically usurp the Syrian revolution, impose what the ISIS says will be an Islamic state that is not just in northern Syria, but would bleed across borders to countries like Iraq. That is one of the justifications for why the rebels are going after the ISIS.

But as one Syrian activist I've talked to has put it, a Syrian activist who was forced to flee because of the rapid rise of this hard-line Islamist al Qaeda linked group, as he put it, what's a real concern right now is he's getting reports that people are being executed at checkpoints depending on which faction they belong to. And that isn't good for anybody in this already brutal civil war that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced.

On top of that, we've seen gruesome video emerging from the northern city of Aleppo from a children's hospital that was used as a headquarters by the ISIS, video of what is described as 42 prisoners of the ISIS who appear to have been summarily executed.

We don't know when that took place, accounts that some of these prisoners had their eyes gouged out. We've seen video evidence that some of them had their hands bound behind their backs. That is part of the gruesome scene that we're seeing unfold in opposition controlled northern Syria, a region that's already been devastated by this horrific conflict -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Ivan Watson reporting live from the Turkish-Syrian border with the very latest on what has emerged as a war within a war inside Syria. Ivan, we thank you.

Now coming up next from poacher to reformed protector of endangered elephants, we will continue our exclusive look at the ivory trade with Arwa Damon. Stay with us.


LU STOUT: All this week, we are bringing you an exclusive series on the illegal ivory trade in the Republic of Congo. And today, we follow a man who came of age as an elephant poacher, but has now turned protector of the endangered animals. Here's CNN's Arwa Damon along with photographer Peter Rudan (ph) and producer Brent Swales (ph) in part four of the series.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Gunfire rings out. We just try to keep up as the ecoguard unit charges after elephant poachers. (inaudible) returns and described how he wrestled a gun away from the suspected poacher.

Today, he's a hero. Growing up, he was anything but.

Mapuler (ph) was a poacher. He used his knowledge of the forest to kill elephants for their tusks. As a Pygmy, he had grown up in the forest and knew its ways, but he also knew that he was born into a long suffering minority, smaller in stature because of centuries of adaptation to life in the forests.

When they were forced to emerge, Pygmies found themselves routinely abused by the Bantu majority.

"Yes, they used to hit me a lot. The Bantu's even kicked people violently," Mapuler (ph) tells us.

He learned to hunt with his father who was dispatched into the forest by his Bantu masters. "He was never paid. He wasn't even able to show anything for his job. My father died not even leaving us with anything."

Mapuler (ph) says he had no choice but to follow his father's footsteps.

"I had to go to the forest and kill the elephants. There was no work," he explains.

He began exploiting the very forest that gave birth to the Pygmy culture, of harmonious existence with nature. He isn't alone.

PAUL TELFER, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: They're being abused. They're the only ones that really know the forest well enough to go into these remote areas and stand up to an elephant and pull the trigger. And they're -- you know, they come out with the ivory and they give the ivory to somebody else. And they're either not compensated so they just got a little bit of meat, or maybe they're just given $100 at the most and that's it.

DAMON: The majority of indigenous people here still don't have access to education, medical care, or even proper birth certificates.

Would you call it a form of modern-day slavery?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. Definitely.

DAMON: UNICEF says while the government has taken notice, the initiatives in the capital have been slow to reach the remote forests that still cover most of this country.

At stake, a culture that is fast disappearing and along with it, the elephants and an unrivaled knowledge of the forest that both poachers and protectors want to exploit.

TELFER: They need education. They have the right to education. They have the right to everything that everyone does. But they learn that PhD in forestology from the age that they're starting to crawl and (inaudible) the forest every day. And that's how they learn it. And when you take these kids out of the forest and put them in school, they lose their culture. They lose their capacity to live in the forest. They lose their cultural identity.

DAMON: Mapuler (ph) is still using the skills learned as a young boy, but his choice now is to protect the forest as an ecoguard. Mapuler (ph) takes us to meet his mother.

"I am proud. My son stopped poaching," she tells us. "I am now proud of him."

In a community pushed to the edge, his is a story of redemption.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Odzala National Park, Republic of Congo.


LU STOUT: And for more on CNN's exclusive look at the illicit ivory trade in the Republic of Congo, let's bring in our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. She joins us live from our London Bureau.

And Arwa, you brought us that story of redemption. But what about the rest of the population?

DAMON: It's incredibly difficult for them, Kristie. And it continues to be, even though there has been some slight improvement in the government's attitude towards the Pygmy population, which make up around 10 percent of the population of the Republic of Congo. They don't really have much access to education. They don't have much access to medical care. And as we're seeing they're both being used by the poachers and also by those who want to protect the forest, because of the invaluable knowledge that they have. So they need to be given economic alternatives. They need to be able to be given the opportunity to find that balance between living in the forest, living off the forest, that harmonious existence with nature, but also being able to make a living so that they aren't then abused by the population and by the poachers, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Arwa Damon live from CNN London, thank you very much indeed for that.

And coming up tomorrow, it's not just the elephants of the Odzala National Park that are at-risk, the western lowland gorilla also in harm's way. And we'll bring you more on efforts to protect this endangered species on Friday.

And for all the latest in CNN's exclusive coverage of the fight against poaching and the illegal ivory trade, you could follow Arwa Damon's reporting right here on our website,

Now you're watching News Stream. And when we come back, he was jailed over a parody video in the United Arab Emirates. And now this American man has been freed. We'll have a live report from Abu Dhabi.

And the CNN Freedom Project special, an exclusive report from Ghana where children were allegedly sold and beaten in what's being described as modern-day slavery. Stay with us.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Now Syria's civil war has taken a shift this past week. Rebel fighters allied against the government are turning on each other. Opposition groups told CNN that they're fighting against al Qaeda linked militants. There have been several days of clashes in northern Syria. Both sides have reported casualties.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has apologized for remarks made during an interview with CNN on Tuesday. The retired American basketball player made controversial comments about Kenneth Bae, an American sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp. Now Rodman admitted to drinking before the interview and said stress played a role in his outburst.

North American has recorded its first human case of avian flu. Canadian health officials say the Alberta resident died after contracting the H5N1 strain of the virus. But they called it an isolated case. The infected individual had recently traveled to Beijing. And officials say Canadians are at little risk of contracting the virus.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie will address the growing scandal surrounding a traffic jam on a key bridge. Now emails suggest his top aids may have orchestrated the September slowdown on the George Washington Bridge to punish a political rival. The state senator plans to request a formal investigation. Now Governor Christie is seen as a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

The family of an American man imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates says he was freed early on Thursday. Now Shezanne Cassim was sentenced to one year in prison last month after posting a satirical video on YouTube.

Now Shezanne has left the UAE and is flying home to the U.S. right now. Sara Sidner is in the UAE, joins us now from Abu Dhabi. And Sara, Cassim's release and imminent homecoming must be very, very welcome news for his family and his supporters.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. They are overjoyed. And they had thanked all of the people that got involved to try and help get Shezanne Cassim out of prison. The courts here, though, said that he had defamed the UAE abroad and so he was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. After nine months he has been let out and is on a plane on his way home. As we understand it, he's supposed to get there in the afternoon Minneapolis time there in the state of Minnesota where he is from.

A lot of people got involved in this after the family went public. We heard from a U.S. senator. We heard from the governor of Minnesota who came out in support of Shezanne. And we heard from A-list Hollywood comedians like Will Ferrell who all came together to say, you know, let him out. All he did was try and be funny.

This 19 minute video he and his friends had no idea that it would stir up this much controversy. And certainly no idea that it would land them in jail. But he is now going home.

There were four other people who were in jail with him, all of them convicted. Two of them are from here in the UAE. They are Emirates. They were let out of prison after eight months and a bit. And he and two Indian nationals, actually, were in jail and have been -- at least he has been let out.

We still have not heard word on the two others who were in prison with him. And we're trying to find out information on that.

But this has been one of those cases that a lot of people were scratching their head, because if you look at this video it's kind of hard to tell why exactly the UAE actually arrested them and convicted them all.

LU STOUT: Yeah. And why is that hard to tell. Tell us more about the content of this parody video? And just what was it in there that made it deemed criminal in the UAE?

SIDNER: Yeah, you know, it's interesting. It's hard -- it is, again, hard to tell. And they didn't specify exactly what it was about the video that caused them to convict these men.

If you look at it they are doing things like throwing shoes at newspapers and going through a neighborhood saying that it's dangerous. You can tell that it is meant to be a joke, because if anyone knows Dubai and knows this neighborhood certainly not a place that people would consider very dangerous at all. It was supposed to be a parody, supposed to be a joke. But apparently it was taken seriously.

And so you have the situation where these guys were trying to be funny, trying to make a parody, a mockumentary if you will, about their neighborhood, particularly about the teens in their neighborhood, quote, unquote, wannabe gangsters. In what is a relatively safe place. And so that's what took everybody by surprise.

I think, in looking at the video a lot of people did not really understand what the problem was.

However, I will tell you this, that initially hardly anyone had seen this story, actually, but once this case went to the media, once people started paying attention because they've been arrested, suddenly tens of thousands of people jumped on and started watching this video, because of course it made the news around the world -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: That's right. An unsettling experience for Shezanne Cassim, but thankfully he is now on a plane enroute to go back home. Sara Sidner joining us live from Abu Dhabi, thank you.

Now this weekend we're airing a Freedom Project special on the slave trade in West Africa. We're shining a spotlight on modern-day human trafficking.

In this CNN exclusive, Vladimir Duthiers meets one Ghanaian journalist who has gone undercover to fight child trafficking.


VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A daylight rescue operation. Ghanaian police swarm a compound belonging to suspected child traffickers. Within minutes, the suspects are under arrested, the children taken to a safehouse.

Authorities say children held captive here were repeatedly beaten, denied access to doctors and an education. And for the underaged girls forced into marriage.

I went to the office of the man who spent weeks undercover in the traffickers camp. His name is Anas Aremayaw Anas, a journalist turned activist.

Anas is famous in Ghana for his undercover expose's of crime and corruption.

ANAS AREMAYAW ANAS, JOURNALIST: Traffickers have found the country as a very stable place to do their business.

DUTHIERS: These children, some as young as 10, soon find themselves in horrific, often brutal conditions with no way out.

It happened to this 15-year-old boy. He was just 13 when he says his parents gave him to a woman whose name he never knew. Days later, he and other boys were handed over to the owners of a farm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we said, even this job, we haven't done it before, so how you going to do this thing? And he said, the woman sell us to them.

Everyday we are going to the farm. They'll be beating. We'll be working and they'll be beating and we no eat. We will not rest, too. But if the man come to the farm -- the farm owner, he will beat you, and slap you. So we can't do nothing whether you are hungry or not, you will do the work. Even if you're sick, cry, you go to farm. They will not buy you medicine.

DUTHIERS: He tried to escape several times.

They caught you again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They caught me again. This one, they want to kill us.

DUTHIERS: He says because the owner of the farm was away, his life was spared.

After three years, he finally managed to get away. He was taken to the Ghanaian embassy and then back to Ghana.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: They think I'm dead or something happened to me. So the time that I came back they were happy to see me. They were happy to see me.

DUTHIERS: We went to meet Ghana's minister for gender, children and social protection, Nana Oye Lithur. Lithur insists the Ghanaian government is committed to wiping out trafficking and child prostitution. She now chairs the human trafficking management board made up of government agencies and NGOs. They've recently drafted a new five year national action plan.

NANA OYE LITHUR, GHANAIAN MINISTER OF GENDER, CHILDREN AND SOCIAL PROTECTION: We will push it. I know the Ghana police service is also committed, because we've done some work together in that regard. We have to get the local governments to also buy into this and the intelligence to also buy in this, but we're very committed to this.

I see this as work in progress. And I'm very sure that we will get there in terms of ensuring that at the very minimum, we are able to get rid of these brothels.

ANAS: I know the inadequacies that our institutions are facing. But, hey, I'm going to take a step forward and meet them halfway.

DUTHIERS: Anas knows by stepping forward, he's pushing the boundaries.

ANAS: We do journalism because we want to impact this society that we live in. For me, that is key. It doesn't matter how or I do not have to follow any (inaudible) rules to be able to impact on my society.


LU STOUT: And do tune in tomorrow. We will have another report from West Africa on the issue of child brides in The Gambia. We'll hear from an inspiring young woman who was able to get out of a forced marriage.

You can also read more about CNN's Freedom Project investigations here on our website.

Now, in the United States, it is finally defrosting. It's getting warm in Europe as well. Details in your global weather forecast with Mari Ramos. She joins us now -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, good to see you.

You know, I wanted to show you this images here. This kind of shows us that polar vortex, that cold air coming down from the polar regions moving across Canada and into the United States.

So we're going to go ahead and head back in time all the way to Saturday. And remember that these purple colors are going to be the coldest air. This is the border between the U.S. and Canada. There's the Great Lakes region and down here is Chicago. So now we know where we are.

We put this in motion and you can see all of the cold air invasion. And as it continues to make its way down even past Texas and all the way down even into northern parts of Florida.

Of course, we get to Tuesday already and that is really was the coldest day overall across this entire region, even New York City and Atlanta in the deep freeze. That was then, this is now.

Just in the last 24 hours, and this shows us the temperature change. And Minneapolis is about 6 degrees warmer today than it was yesterday. Atlanta, 9 degrees warmer today than it was yesterday. New York City and Washington 7 to 8 degrees warmer. Even Miami warmer today. They had their cold day yesterday, so to speak. It was only one day and it only got, I think it was like 13 or 14 for their daytime high. Minneapolis still cold, though.

All of these areas are still experiencing well below the average as far as temperatures are concerned. And when you factor in the wind it feels much colder than that.

By tomorrow, though, that cold air will continue retreating farther to the north where it belongs back up to the Arctic Circle. And the entire country will be at or even above average by Friday. So definitely a big change compared to what we had before.

The average high, for example, in Chicago this time of year is 1 degree. And they'll be close to that as we head into Friday.

You mentioned Europe. And the thing about Europe is that it's across the northwestern corner it's been very wet, not necessarily cold, but the rain has been relentless and it's been very windy. They're finally beginning to get a break there.

But I really want to talk to you about this area of central and eastern Europe. Look at Moscow at 2 degrees. So still today Atlanta is colder than Moscow, which is not normal. And not only are we below average, they are above average. And you've stayed above average for quite awhile across this entire region. Almost no snowfall is maybe rain at times. And even as we head into the next three days, even though you'll get a little bit more moisture coming in into Moscow, you might even see some snow in the overnight hours when the temperature finally begins to dip below freezing and by Sunday you'll be closer to your average, about minus 1 -- minus 7 is the average.

But below freezing temperatures, you haven't had that in quite awhile. And that's going to be a big change for you. Similar situation in Kiev and also as we head over into Berlin where it feels like springtime. And the flowers have been blooming at times because the temperatures have been so above average.

But you'll start to see a little bit, a little bit of winter, not a lot of snow, but definitely more in the way of moisture coming in. The snow will be in areas farthest to the north. So this is a very unusual weather pattern, to say the very least, across this region.

I want to take you to another part of the world and head to Latin America. Look at that, Kristie. That's he sun in Santiago, Chile, barely visible. And, yeah, that's the city. Can you imagine? A huge city, 40 percent of the people in Chile live in this central part here near the capital. And it has been completely choked by smoke over the last couple of days.

Today, not looking any better than it did yesterday. All of this, of course, having to do with the dozens of wildfires that are burning along the central part of Chile. Very dry conditions that are expected to continue as we head through the next couple of days. Back to you.

LU STOUT: Challenging conditions there and across the world. Mari Ramos, thank you.

Now it looks like the International Space Station, it could stay in orbit a while longer. Now the White House has given it a four year extension to operate until at least 2024. Now the extension will allow NASA to complete various research projects, including preparations for human missions to Mars. But approval from the Obama administration is just the first step. The ISS is a joint venture between the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency.

Now, just ahead right here on News Stream, a look at the best and worst gadgets to come out of this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Stick around.


LU STOUT: Now the sporting world has seen campaigns in recent years targeting major issues like racism and violence, but is homophobia the last taboo? Now in CNN's special series, it's called Journey of the Gay Athlete, we speak to those on the front lines in the fight against discrimination.

Now today, we meet the speed skater Blake Skjellerup. He dreamed of representing New Zealand in the Olympics, but he felt being gay would put that dream out of reach.


BLAKE SKJELLERUP, SPEEDSKATER: My name is Blake Skjellerup. And I'm an Olympic short track speedskater and I represent New Zealand. I started speed skating at the age of 10 after I had broken my arm rollerblading downhill with some friends in the school holidays. And I was also swimming at the same time, doing athletics at the same time. And I couldn't really do those with a broken arm. And I couldn't play rugby, obviously.

So my brother suggested that I try speed skating, because he had a friend that was a speed skater at Christchurch. And I sort of tried it and loved it and just kept doing it.

But when it came to those macho sports, I was considered by my peers to not be as macho as they were through the sport that I did. And that in turn lead to them applying to me that I was gay. I was being called gay before I even figured out and even knew what it was myself. And that's not what made me gay. Yes, I have always been gay, but to somehow my peers knew it before I did. And I don't think they really did, it's just that they, I guess, imposed a (inaudible) to this non-masculine sport, speed skating, which is (inaudible) very masculine. It's very dangerous.

I don't seen many people who (inaudible) playing rugby or breaking their ankle straight through their (inaudible).

Growing up in high school, being singled out as somebody whose different is never easy and it's quite a sad situation for a lot of kids across the world in today's society. And to me, when I was that age, I was called faggot, homo, gay boy on a daily occurrence. And I was, I guess, in some ways lucky that I was never physically bullied, but more mentally bullied. But in my opinion that is something that is a lot worse. The scars on the outside can heal, but scars on the inside definitely take a lot longer to overcome.

It's quite a hard thing if you're young and you're in sports and you don't have anybody that you can relate to on any level, because you just feel isolated and alone and that's definitely how I felt.

It was around the age of 16 when I just started to realize that I was gay. And at the same time I was also heavily involved with my sport. And one thing for me that I found really hard is that I didn't have any role models, anybody that I could look up to who were out and openly participating in sport. And I guess what I -- the conclusion I came to in my own head is that you couldn't be an athlete, you couldn't make it to the Olympics and you couldn't be gay.


LU STOUT: His strength and his wisdom is just amazing.

Now don't miss this special documentary, it's called World Sport Presents Journey of the Gay Athlete. It premiers on Saturday. Tune in at 5:00 pm here in Hong Kong, that's 10:00 am Central European Time.

Now this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it is the biggest one yet. And with more than 3,200 exhibitors, there are a lot of new gadgets to look at.

Now Samuel Burke and CNN Money's Adrian Covert scoured the huge show floor for us and shared their favorites from CES 2014.


SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, so let's talk about some of the best things we saw at the Consumer Electronics Show. I'll get to this in a second, but first I want to hear what you thought, Adrian, were the best things that you saw?

ADRIAN COVERT, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: I was really impressed with Sony's Playstation Now service, which is essentially gamestreaming, which let's anyone connect to the Internet. You can use the cloud to play videogames so you don't need a console in your home. And so it's not a new idea, but Sony has definitely the biggest company to try it. And their service works really well, or the demo did here. And I think it offers a promising glimpse at the future in gaming.

BURKE: Speaking of the future, one of the best ones I saw were the curved televisions. When you're actually sitting there you kind of feel like you're in the picture. But I think it's still the future, because I think it would really hurt my wallet if either me or you bought it.

COVERT: Yeah, definitely. And I was particularly impressed by LG's curved display, which is going to have an interesting smart TV interface in it, which is powered by Web OS. So I'm looking forward to that.

BURKE: And what about wearables? I saw great wearables all around. I'm still wearing some of them. What were the wearables that stuck for you?

COVERT: I was really impressed by the activity trackers this year, which take the functionality of devices like the Nike Fuel band, which are very simple, very minimal, just track your activity, but they took some of the better parts of smartwatches, like passing on notifications from your phone when you get a text, when you get a call, and they're putting that in there. So companies like Sony, LG and Razor are all doing that with their products. And I'm impressed by those.

BURKE: One feature I really liked was on this Fitbit, it also has a silent alarm so that the person next to you won't wake up. It vibrates so that the person doesn't have to get up at the crazy hours that many of us at CNN get up.

This isn't quite wearable, but I think it's in the same vein, because all this wearable technology connects with your smartphone. This basketball, 9450, even connects with your smartphone. And the app is kind of like a coach and it can tell what's going on inside the ball and help you improve your dribble.

COVERT: Yeah, I mean just like, you know, sensor -- just like wearables. You know, the components are getting smaller and smaller, sensors are getting smaller and smaller and require less power so you can definitely stick them in products like this and they make them better. So it's cool.

BURKE: There was one that I didn't see, but you saw, MakerBots.

COVERT: Yeah, so what MakerBot is doing is with their Replicator Mini, they're making the 3D printer smaller and cheaper. It's their cheapest one yet. And what's important about that is even though it costs nearly $1,400, it's more and more accessible to someone who just wants to play around with a 3D printer as a hobby. And really it's an important step forward towards the mass adoption of 3D printing and getting that in the mainstream culture. So...

BURKE: Would you shell out the money for it?

COVERT: Not yet personally, but I really do like the idea of it for those people who, you know, are into that type of thing.

BURKE: That's like me, I love ball. I don't think I would shell out the nearly $300 for it.

But that's the great thing about CES, you can see what's coming. And what's going to be cheaper in the years to come.

COVERT: Definitely.


LU STOUT: Wow, a great roundup there. But this next product, it did not make Samuel and Adrian's best of list, but we thought it was worth a look anyway.

Now Blackberry users, they often say that the physical keyboard is the reason they can't switch away to touchscreen devices like the iPhone. Now one company says they have a solution. It is called the Tactus keyboard. And it creates these physical bubbles that rise out of the phone's screen to create temporary keys that you can actually feel and then disappear again.

So how does it work? Well, the company says it uses a layer on top of the screen filled with liquid. And that layer can move the liquid around and cause it to pool in places, causing those bubbles to just rise up.

As of yet, no companies have signed up to use this technology.

So, those are some of the high tech highlights, but we also want to look at the lows. The worst at CES is straight ahead. Stay with us right here on News Stream.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, before the break we took a look at some of the best new gadgets on offer at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, but some products failed to impress. Now, Samuel Burke and Adrian Covert take us through their list of the worst in show.


BURKE: All right, Adrian, this place is huge. The Consumer Electronics Show has lots of great stuff, but there is plenty of bad stuff mixed in there. What were some of the worst things you saw this year?

COVERT: You know, Canon is kind of back this year with another sort of crazy consumer idea where they want to have a pocket camera that has the lens on the front, but also a camera on the back that takes a selfie of you as you take your shot of whatever you're photographing. And it's an interesting idea, but it's one that you can already easily do on your smartphone. And there's no real reason to pack that into a pocketsized camera.

BURKE: I remember when you did this last year. So that's two years in a row Canon is on the worst.

One of the ones I -- that we saw here, the Neptune Time. You've heard of smartwatches, but I think this is actually a smart phone on a smartwatch. It's really that big.

COVERT: Yeah, I'm already not a huge fan of smartwatches, because they're trying to imitate smartphones. And really I don't need my smartphone on my wrist, I need it in my pocket. So I was kind of bummed out by that one.

BURKE: Any other bad stuff?

COVERT: Yeah, there is a company here called Phone Soak selling a case that has a UV light in it so you can stick your phone in it and it will sanitize it for you, which just seems completely pointless. I don't understand also why anybody would ever want that in a million years.

BURKE: I want to add one to this list. It's not one of the worst ones, but I think it was one of the serious ones, the Audi driverless car, which really isn't driverless, it just is driverless for small stretches at a time. But we almost had somebody rear-end us, because it stopped so suddenly.

COVERT: Right, I saw that.

BURKE: And I was very, very, very scared. But it is a great concept. I can tell that it's going to be the future. We're just not there quite yet.

COVERT: Yeah, it might have been a little brash of them to demo it out on the road, but it is very much a future concept that is years and years away. And it will get better with time, I think.

BURKE: All right, well, we'll have the best ones next year. And the worst ones next year. Hopefully Canon won't be on there three years in a row.

COVERT: Definitely.


LU STOUT: Hey, it's all a work in progress anyway.

And that is News Stream. But the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.