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Chinese Director Zhang Yimou To Pay $1.2 Million For "Excessive Children"; Chasing The Ivory: Protecting The Gorillas; Russian Authorities Investigating String Of Murders Near Sochi; Rebels Fighting Rebels in Syria; Polar Vortex Retreating From North America

Aired January 10, 2014 - 08:00   ET


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

Now police on edge in Russia as they investigate whether a suspicious discovery has any link to next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

And Indian diplomat arrested in the U.S. is on her way home as India calls on the U.S. to withdraw one of its diplomats from New Delhi in apparent retaliation.

And we'll explain why Chinese filmmaker apologizes for his, quote, "excessive children."

As the world prepares to converge on Sochi for the Winter Olympics, authorities are investigating whether six suspicious deaths in southern Russia have anything to do with next month's games.

Now the state run Rio Novosti news agency says the deaths have already prompted an anti-terror sweep by security forces.

Now the incidents happened at Stravropol territories, about 240 kilometers from Sochi. And security in the Black Sea resort town that is hosting the games had already been tightened after deadly twin bombings on public transit in Volgograd in December. No group has claimed responsibility for those attacks.

Now the Olympic Games are due to begin in just 28 days. And for more, let's take you straight to Moscow. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is standing by. And Nic, is there any link between these killings and the upcoming winter games?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Russian officials aren't saying that yet. They've had forensic teams on this. They've got their intelligence services working on it. They say it was the same type of pistol, a Makarov pistol, the most commonly used pistol here in Russia, they say that was used in all six of the killings. Not necessarily the same pistol, but the same type of pistol. At least those are the details that are released so far. And perhaps there's no surprise that Russian security services aren't -- and who they generally don't -- put out a lot of information about these type of situations. And in this case in particular perhaps they don't want to tip their hands to any would be terrorists about what they know.

But of course the proximity to Sochi is raising questions. And as long as there are -- as long as there are very, very few answers coming from Russian security officials, I think the importance of the questions, therefore, goes up. The less people know, the less athletes and officials who are coming to the Olympics know about this latest -- these latest attacks close to Sochi, the more concern it's going to raise. So perhaps a lot of pressure on Russia to come up with more answers.

But so far nothing other than two taxi drivers were killed, what a furniture maker also one of the dead. And again this same type of pistol used in all six shootings, Kristie.

LU STOUT: So many questions and so many concerns.

So what are Russian officials saying about security for the games?

ROBERTSON: Well, they're saying that they've got the formula right, that they rehearsed the security for the Olympics a year ago. They've had several events in Sochi and they say that they're ready. 37,000 security officials, a new security perimeter and security exclusion zone in and around Sochi itself. So they feel that they're on top of it. What they've got in place is good and adequate, they say, since the bombings in Volgograd that killed 34 people. They're not changing -- they're not changing their setup in any way.

So right now, the Russians feel confident, but that's not -- that's perhaps not enough as we're hearing from the U.S. FBI director James Comey. He's saying that you -- the United States has already dispatched a dozen federal and other law enforcement officials to Russia to help U.S. athletes. They'll have a number of different specialities.

So, his concern that Sochi is so close to this volatile region of the Caucuses, that the terror threat is high, and that poses a real safety and security threat for U.S. athletes. So for him, these Olympics are ones where -- or are an Olympics that's giving him a high level of concern. And again that will only be heightened if there are not many answers forthcoming on these latest potentially terror related murders here, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And Nic, a question about possible threats. I mean, we know a Chechen warlord has told his followers to target the upcoming games. What do we know about him and the threat he poses?

ROBERTSON: Well, that threat was issued last summer on a fairly rare video message. And he said the Olympics were essentially on the graves of the bones of the -- of their ancestors in the region. And Sochi was, you know, a century-and-a-half or more ago the place where occasions were -- were sort of shipped out of the region after being forced from their homes. So he is going to have an appeal to a certain number of people.

The reality is, is, can they really against this very tight Russian security launch an attack in Sochi. Perhaps for people like Dakarov (ph), there is going to be a sense of the Russians are putting something in his face, so to speak, by sending 400 Cossacks in their traditional uniforms to assist the police in Sochi, because of course for Dakarov (ph) the -- Umarov, rather, the expelling of people from the Caucuses, the Cossacks were seen as largely behind that at the time.

So there's maybe a lot of emotions at play, but the reality is Russia does have very tight security operations in and around Sochi that won't perhaps stop other attacks in the region, which will worry athletes coming here from other parts of the world, Kristine.

LU STOUT: All right, Nic Robertson on the story for us, thank you very much indeed for that.

Now after a month long diplomatic row, an Indian diplomat arrested in the U.S. is now on her way home. Now Devyani Khobragade was arrested and strip searched in New York charged with visa fraud. Her treatment has soured U.S.-India relations and incensed many in India.

Now Sumnima Udas is in New Delhi. She joins me now live for more. And Sumnima, how is it that this Indian diplomat was allowed to leave the U.S.? I mean, what spurred U.S. authorities to let her go?

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, Kristie, through a lot of diplomatic maneuvering. If you remember soon after this controversy began in December, India had promoted Devyani Khobragade from a deputy consul to a consular and that would basically entitle her to diplomatic immunity status. So India was basically waiting for her to get that G1 visa. She was awarded the G1 visa two days ago, officials say, which allowed her to leave the U.S.

Now the U.S. had asked India to waive her immunity so she could face those charges in the U.S., but India rejected that and flew her back. She should be here the next few hours or so. And she --- they said she has been transferred to the ministry of external affairs here and she will be taking a posting here.

Now, right before she left, her father said that she had been offered a plea bargain by the U.S., which she rejected, because if she had accepted it that would be accepting that she had committed a crime and they say they did not commit any crime. Have a listen.


UTTAM KHOBRAGADE, FATHER OF DEVYANI KHOBRAGADE: Accepting a plea bargain means what? Means one, you are accepting the crime which you have not done. And most important, our stand was since this is a dispute between two Indian citizens, the agreement was entered in India, not only that the place of work was Indian territory, where the Sangeeta Richard was working in the permanent mission of India which flies India's flag. On that, the India -- the U.S. government has no jurisdiction.


UDAS: He also added that even if the U.S. had jurisdiction over the Indian consulate in New York that in fact his daughter Devyani had been paying the maid, the nanny, above the minimum wage here. That they had broken no U.S. laws.

He said that they'd been paying her about $1,000 in the U.S. and about $700 here for the children's education here. Of course, she had also been provided accommodation in Manhattan, food, and of course her medical bills were also taken care of. So he says that they didn't break nay law and that she was being paid a reasonable amount, Kristie.

LU STOUT: You know, her arrest and her treatment there in the United States, it really soured the relationship between India and the U.S. Now she's on her way home, due to arrive in just a couple of hours. Do you think her return will calm the tension?

UDAS: That's certainly the hope, Kristie. But to be honest, there's still a lot of anger here not just in terms of the Indian government, but also the people. They're completely outraged, or they were completely outraged in the way she was treated and the way she was arrested on the street and the way she was strip searched. This is not how a criminal -- or let's say someone who has been suspected of a minor crime would be treated in India. And certainly this is not how a diplomat would be treated in India, according to Indian officials.

So there's a lot of outrage here still. And we're just getting some reports, in fact an officer at the ministry of external affairs here has said, has confirmed that India has requested the U.S. embassy to withdraw one of its officers as well, an officer of a similar rank as Devyani Khobragade.

Now we don't know what the reasoning is, but according to media reports here he or she, this officer at the U.S. embassy may have somehow been linked to this case -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right, thank you for that update there. Sumnima Udas joining us live from New Delhi.

Now, the governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, he was under fire at a news conference on Thursday. He says he was embarrassed and humiliated by staffers who apparently organized a traffic jam on a New York bridge as political revenge. But he says he knew nothing about it and has nothing to hide.

Now Brian Todd takes a look at how the unfolding scandal might affect a potential presidential run in 2016.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This isn't the Chris Christie many of us expected to see, humbled, apologetic.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I am not a bully.

TODD: And yet it's that jersey tough-guy style which launched him to political stardom.

CHRISTIE: Are you stupid? On topic. On topic. Next question. Good. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very much and I'm sorry for the idiot over there.

It's none of your business.

I'll ask you where you send your kids to school. Don't bother me about where I send mine.

And you know what, and you know what, let me tell you this. You know what, it's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. We're here to bring this country together, not to divide it.


TODD: According to the book "Double Down" about the 2012 campaign, Christie insisted that Mitt Romney get his approval to raise money in New Jersey. The authors say Romney wasn't pleased, quote, "It was like something out of the "Sopranos."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're running a business here.

TODD: But with his sight set on 2016, has Christie gone soft?

PROF. MATTHEW HALE, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY: Governor Christie has spent a good part of the last year trying to run away from the idea that he's a bully. This whole incident just blew that out of the water.

TODD: Between his elbows out style and this bridge scandal, is Chris Christie losing fans? We ask people in D.C. and New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were to question him in six months, you know, people would say, hey, you know, we don't trust this guy, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like his style. He's very blunt. He's out there. He's different compared to other politicians and his own party that just beat around the bush.

TODD (on-camera): New Jersey political analyst, Matthew Hale, says Christie did help himself with that news conference, but he's got to stay in front of this scandal, has to be engaged with the investigation. Hale says if Christie doesn't do that, or if information comes out that he knew of the bridge closing around the time it happened, the scandal is not over, Christie is over.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


LU STOUT: Now coming up on News Stream this hour, opposition forces in northern Syria fighting each other. We'll say that they are battling an extremist agenda pushed by al Qaeda linked militants.

A special CNN freedom report takes a look at child bridges in The Gambia. We hear from a very brave young woman campaigning against forced marriage.

And inside this national park in the Republic of Congo, there is a fight underway to protect a critically endangered species of gorilla. Stay with us.


LU STOUT: Now AFP reports infighting between rebel groups in northern Syria has killed almost 500 people, including civilians. That's according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

And in the city of Aleppo, rebels say dozens of people have been murdered by militants.

Senior international correspondent Ivan Watson has more. And a warning, some images in his report are difficult to watch.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They march through Aleppo's battleground streets carrying bodies of the dead and chanting revenge, but not against the government of Bashar al-Assad, this crowd is cursing al Qaeda, al Qaeda-linked militants accused of executing at least 42 prisoners who had been detained at a children's hospital in the northern city of Aleppo.

Amateur footage, some too gruesome to broadcast, shows some victims hands bound before execution. Many of those killed here were Syrian rebel fighters.

Opposition controlled northern Syria is in the midst of a war within a war.

(on camera): The black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continues to fly over the Syrian border town of Jerablus (ph), which has been the scene of days and nights of fierce fighting as Syrian rebels tried to evict this hardline al Qaeda-linked group from opposition controlled northern Syria.

(voice-over): At night, a car bomb explodes. It's been a week since a coalition of rebel groups mounted a coordinated assault on their al Qaeda-linked rivals all across northern Syria. One of the anti-al Qaeda rebels tells me the militants were just too extreme for the Syrian people.

"They're worse than Bashar al-Assad's regime," this rebel says. "They banned smoking cigarettes. And if my wife went out showing even an inch of skin they would arrest her."

The clashes with al Qaeda so close to the border have Turkish border guards on alert. Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria moved quickly in recent months, establishing strongholds across the Syrian north. They're accused of going on a kidnapping and killing rampage, targeting anyone who challenged them.

Among the hundreds of people believed to have been kidnapped by the group was Turkish newspaper photographer Binyamin Igun (ph). Last Sunday, he escaped unharmed after 40 terrifying days of captivity with help from another Syrian rebel group.

"Even the fighters who helped me escape look like al Qaeda," Igun (ph) says. "They may not wear the same masks, but they have the same flag that says god is great. And they wear the same shalwar kameez uniforms all in black."

In fact, there are hardline al Qaeda inspired militants battling on both sides of Syria's newest conflict; it's war within a war.

Ivan Watson, CNN, on the Turkish-Syrian border.


LU STOUT: And now here is a heroic story. In a country that has seen more than its share on instablity and violence. Now witnesses say 14-year- old Aitazaz Hasan Bangash died while they're trying to stop a suicide bomber from destroying his school. Now this boy ended up saving the lives of hundreds of students inside the school. It happened in the rest of northwest Pakistan near the country's tribal areas. And many Pakistanis have rallied behind this young hero and are calling for him to receive a posthumous award.

Now our latest Freedom Project special is taking a closer look at the historical roots of the Transatlantic slave trade as well as modern-day forms of slavery in Africa. Now in today's report, we take you to The Gambia where child marriage is not uncommon, particularly in rural areas.

Activists say the practice robs too many young girls from an education and in many cases a thriving future.

Now Vladimir Duthiers speaks to one young woman who was fighting against that tradition in this CNN exclusive.


VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ramatoulie Jalloe was only 14- years-old when her father delivered the devastating news.

RAMATOULIE JALLOW, CHILDREN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: You're going to get married. You're no more going to school. You have to stop going to school. I said, dad, please. I want to go to school. He said, no, there's no way you can go to school, because you know you're the only child (inaudible) you have to get married (inaudible) like this. The only way to get money is to get married.

DUTHIERS: A straight A student who hoped to become a doctor, Ramatoulie feared her childhood and her dreams of an education were over.

JALLOW: I said no way. When I graduate from school I can do a lot for you, more than getting to married. I want to be like somebody. I would like to be somebody in three or four years who will get you out of poverty. Getting me married right now is not the solution.

DUTHIERS: But for many families in The Gambia where nearly two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 a day, childhood marriage means one less mouth to feed and cash in exchange for the bride.

Plus, in this culture, girls rarely question their fathers.

JALLOW: My dad got (inaudible) vex on me and (inaudible) slap me that I'd run away to hide behind my mom.

DUTHIERS: Her mom also thought Ramatoulie was too young to be married and stood up for her.

JALLOW: (inaudible) so go to school. Let her. Just allow her. And let us (inaudible).

DUTHIERS: With the help of her teachers and Child Fund, an international NGO that partners with local communities, she's now able to pay for school. And her father came around too.

"I'm very proud of her," Gobu Jallow (ph) says. "She'll get an education and what she deserves out of life," he adds.

She's now a children's rights activist talking to other young girls about what they deserve.

JALLOW: We have the right to education, but remember that every right goes with a responsibility. And your responsibility is to work hard at school and not to (inaudible) married is to (inaudible) everything that no one is going to accept you. Any problem that's (inaudible) just feel it out. Have the right. Yeah, you have the right to speak out.

DUTHIERS: To speak out against the culture of silence and early marriage, which she says is robbing so many of their future.

Vladimir Duthiers, CNN, The Gambia.


LU STOUT: A passionate and brave young woman. And that is part of a CNN Freedom Project special presentation. Vlad Duthiers traces the historical path many slaves took through West Africa during the Transatlantic slave trade and examines the conditions that allow modern forms of slavery to persist today. It airs today 4:30 pm in London, 5:30 in Berlin.

Up next here on News Stream, fans of rock bands, they often get a little bit out of control, but it's not every day the U.S. government gets involved. After the break, we will tell you why these two clowns are so sad and what the FBI has to do with it.


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

Now this is the Insane Clown Posse, which is you can probably guess is not a children's act. Now rather, they are a rap and heavy metal band with a very enthusiastic following in the U.S. But fans have found themselves in hot water with the FBI, which has labeled the groups' followers as a gang.

As Jake Tapper reports, the fans are fighting back.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So first off, for the uninitiated, who or what exactly is the Insane Clown Posse?


TAPPER: Well ICP is a horror core band, mixing rap, heavy metal and heavy makeup. Their songs focus on homicidal themes. The Detroit- based duo, Violent Jay and Shaggy Dope, formed two decades ago and have sold millions of albums and inspired an intensely loyal following among their fans, who call themselves Juggalos and share a subculture and love of face painting.



TAPPER: Every year, since 2007, fans have gathered for a week-long summer festival, the gathering of the Juggalos in southern Illinois. The event attracts about 10,000 people, and heaps of trouble. There have been several deaths in recent years, and dozens of arrests, according to Illinois State Police.

UNIDENTIFIED INSANE CLOWN POSSE MEMBER: We're the most hated band, because people hate and people fear what they don't understand. You know? And there's a lot more to us than what you see on the surface. Or even what you hear listening to just one of our songs, you know?

TAPPER: Those songs are often profanity-laced, fictional narratives that the band says has an underlying positive message. But the FBI disagrees. In 2011, the Juggalos ended up on the National Gang Threat Assessment, as, quote "a loosely organized hybrid gang. Quote, "A small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity," the FBI says.

UNIDENTIFIED INSANE CLOWN POSSE MEMBER: Let me tell you something about Juggalos. They're human beings. They're not Neanderthals. You don't have to tell them that. You know what I'm saying? They know not to go out and murder somebody because of our music. They're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) human beings, man.

TAPPER: Now the members of the Insane Clown Posse and several Juggalos have partnered with the ACLU to sue the FBI, saying that designation has led to police harassment and denial of employment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three times police have stopped me on the street and asked me questions about my shirt, my tattoos, and what being a Juggalo meant. The police kept saying my tattoos and shirt meant I was a gang member, even though I told them that I was just a music fan.

TAPPER: They said they asked the FBI to explain its rationale for classifying Juggalos as a gang, and when they got no response, they filed the lawsuit on behalf of their fans.


LU STOUT: Now the FBI and the Justice Department, they have told CNN that they are aware of the lawsuit, but declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Now, you're watching News Stream. And still ahead, the ecoguards protecting wildlife in the Republic of Congo watch out for many endangered species. Learn more about the lowland gorilla in the final part of our exclusive series on the battle against poachers.

And million dollar babies, a famous Chinese film director faces a hefty fine for violating the one child policy.


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

An Indian diplomat at the center of a row between New Delhi and Washington has left the U.S. Devyani Khobragade is on her way back to India after a U.S. grand jury indicted her on charges of visa fraud and making false statements. And we have learned that the Indian government is now asking the U.S. to withdraw an official at its embassy in apparent retaliation.

The Central African Republic's interim president has resigned. Michel Djotodia has been under pressure to step down. Now deadly violence in the country has seen nearly 1 million people displaced.

French President Francois Hollande has told the AFP news agency he is considering taking legal action after a magazine alleged that he's been having an affair with an actress. Now she is the TV and film star Julie Gayet and the story appears in Friday's addition of Closer magazine.

Now Mr. Hollande has condemned the story as an attack on the right to privacy. And the U.S. Labor Department has just released its closely watched jobs report. The economy added 74,000 jobs in December. Now that is less, much less, than 193,000 that was predicted. Now the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent from the previous level of 7.0 percent. And World Business Today will have more analysis of the numbers for you. So be sure to tune in, in the next hour for that.

All this week, we are bringing you an exclusive series on the illegal ivory trade in the Republic of Congo. And today, elephants are not the only animals whose survival is threatened in the Odzala National Park. Now the western lowland gorilla is also in harm's way.

Now here is Arwa Damon along with photographer Peter Rudan (ph) and Producer Brent Swales (ph) in this final part in the series.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're searching for the western lowland gorilla, a critically endangered species. Tracker Ziseret Okoko (ph) motions for us to put on our masks and stay silent. We've reached the troop.

This is absolutely incredible. What allows for us to be this close to the gorillas, the fact that they've been habituated, but it's a lengthy and painstaking process. If a troop is friendly, like this one was at the beginning, it takes around three years, but it can take up to 10, otherwise the gorillas would have run away as soon as they heard the sound of our footsteps in the forest.

It's a unique experience, one that Okoko (ph) knows is becoming more rare.

"I see the gorillas as my family, my children," he tells us. "When I see people kill gorillas, when I see that it brings me to tears."

At stake, not just the survival of this species, but the survival of the Republic of Congo's Odzala National Park, a stunning mosaic of open and closed canopy forest and savannah, also home to a vanishing population of forest elephants. Its protection from 13,500 square kilometers, or the size of Connecticut, falls on just 76 ecoguards.

From the slashes and markings in the vegetation, the men figure out the direction of their target. They take cover in the undergrowth, barely visible.

This is a training exercise, but the war out here against elephant poachers and bush meat traders is very real.

MATHIEU ECKEL, ANTI-POACHING AGENT: So, for me, it's like a guerrilla war. You must make two job, law enforcement, but convince people too.

DAMON: At this community meeting, Eckel, who head the park's anti- poaching division, is attempting to do just that.

So, not with much success. He's trying to get new recruits for his program that gives poachers amnesty if they give up their guns and confess.

Though the villagers are wary, this is still progress. It was just a month ago that Eckel and his men were being chased out of these areas. But everything out here takes time.

On patrol, they move slowly, carefully, pausing to listen to the sounds of the forest, searching for clues of the poacher's activities and documenting every detail.

Every single time they find a casing, the GPS its specific location. And they're also constantly keeping track of the endangered, need to be protected species, so if they hear the sounds of chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants they'll also take note of that and try to determine exactly how big the group is, because they're still trying to map out this entire massive forest.

A painstaking process to discover, preserve and appreciate one of the last remaining Edens on the planet.


LU STOUT: So many beautiful creatures under threat.

And for more on CNN's exclusive look at poaching 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, in this fight against the poachers, just how difficult is it to protect an area that is just so huge, so vast?

DAMON: It's incredibly difficult, Kristie, as you heard in that report. It's just 76 ecoguards trying to patrol this entire area. They oftentimes find themselves face to face with the poachers. While we were with them, they got into a bit of a firefight with one of the poachers. Their camp was torched after they made an arrest. They're constantly in conflict with the various different villagers in the area, because whenever they make an arrest, they're taking someone's livelihood away. And these are villagers who really rely on poaching to a certain extent to make an income. So they're also trying to look for economic alternatives.

So it's very much a multilayered battle. They're dealing with corruption as well, Kristie. Oftentimes when they do manage to make an arrest, people get released from jail with no court date that's set. So it's very difficult.

Mathieu Ekel was tell us that he only believes that when it comes to actual busts in the ivory that they're really just getting their hands on about 1 percent of it.

LU STOUT: And then there's not only fighting the poachers, they're also fighting the buyers, namely the demand here in Asia. What progress is being made on that front?

DAMON: Well, there's some incremental progress being made, there's a lot of awareness that's out there, but the issue is that the markets in Asia are growing, especially the markets in China are growing with ivory, of course, being considered a status symbol, people more and more people now being able to afford it. And we're also seeing the impact that that's having on the ground in the Republic of Congo with China being one of the top investors in the Republic of Congo, a growing number of Chinese businesses, they're working on paving the main north-south highway. So Eckel and his team are getting a lot of reports about how the Chinese construction workers are going out into the villages, asking people to kill and poach the elephants for them.

So again it really has to be a true international effort, but also a multilayered, multifaceted effort, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And from your perspective as a reporter, I mean all week we've seen how you've met and traveled through the forest with these brave ecoguards and you've come across evidence of illegal poaching. You've also come up close to its some really just beautiful creatures there in the African forest. What is the one message you want to leave with our viewers?

DAMON: You know, everyone talks about the need for conservation, the need to preserve the planet for the next generation. And that is just so incredibly vital. When you're out there, you're taking in the splendor, you're taking in the animals, just the sheer serenity of it on one level. And you also get to realize how difficult it is for these units that are out there to actually try to protect that.

I think we take a lot of nature for granted. And I think as a -- as members of the global community we really need to stop that attitude, because it's not necessarily going to be there if we keep taking it all for granted.

LU STOUT: Arwa, thank you so much for your reporting all this week. I mean, we have definitely learned and seen firsthand. Illegal poaching is such an ugly, ugly trade that definitely needs to stop right now. Arwa Damon reporting. Thank you.

Now our series, it may be coming to a close today, but you can continue to track the poachers with CNN's exclusive coverage of the fight against illegal ivory on our website. It's on

Now, after months of debate, U.S. President Barack Obama moved one step closer to telling the world how he plans to rein in the National Security Agency and his controversial surveillance powers.

Now CNN's chief U.S. security correspondent Jim Sciutto reports.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With his decision on NSA reform looming, today the president met face-to-face with key members of Congress, including some of the NSA's most ardent critics. Senator Mark Udall told us most of the meeting was focused on the government's bulk collection of phone metadata which he and others there sharply opposed.

SEN. MARK UDALL (D), COLORADO: We urged him to throttle back the collection of metadata on a bulk level. I hope he listens. I hope he will follow the panel's recommendations.

SCIUTTO: CNN has learned the White House is giving serious consideration to several new reforms, including new rules addressing the insider threat in the wake of Edward Snowden.


SCIUTTO: Including improving the issuing of security clearances and limiting access to classified networks by system administrators to better audit who can access what records. Setting standards for encryption to make clear the NSA will not break encryption for commercial spying or to disrupt the financial system.

And issuing new transparency reports, detailing exactly how many times the NSA queried phone companies and how many individuals' records were actually exposed.

Peter Swire is on the president's Intelligence Review Panel.

PETER SWIRE, GEORGIA TECH UNIVERSITY: I think it's really how many times they've queried a particular company for law enforcement or national security reasons and for that query how many people's records are being looked at. I think there's a belief out there sometimes that these searches are broader than they really are.

SCIUTTO: Today the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee released details of a classified Defense department report which found Snowden's disclosures may jeopardize the lives of U.S. soldiers in the field, cause a failure of current military operations, and may have already tipped off enemies to U.S. defense methods.

The sources of that classified report, Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, say that while much of the focus so far has been on the NSA's foreign intelligence collection, that much of the information stolen by Edward Snowden is actually related to current U.S. military operations and it is their assessment that this release could have lethal consequences for U.S. troops in the field.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


LU STOUT: Now, we have heard about security concerns ahead of next month's Winter Games. Well, the spotlight has also been on Russia's so- called anti-gay propaganda law. And when we come back, we will hear what one openly gay Olympic speed skater has to say about that law and his Olympic plans.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now new rules rolled out by China threaten to inflame tensions in the region. Now Hainan Province wants foreign fishing vessels to win approval from Chinese authorities before entering waters in the South China Sea. But there is a longrunning territorial dispute there.

Now the U.S. and the Philippines have already criticized the new fishing zone law.

And now to another controversial Chinese policy. Authorities say the famed filmmaker Zhang Yimou must pay a $1.2 million fine for violating the country's one-child policy.

Now Zhang and his wife have two sons and a daughter. In an open letter, he has apologized for what he called his excessive children.

Now local authorities say that he must pay the fine within 30 days.

Now let's bring in Anna Coren. She joins us live from CNN Beijing. And Anna, this case it comes right after China announced plans to ease its one-child policy, so why is this happening now?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's strange, isn't it, Kristie. You'd think that would give him a bit of a free pass, but it's quite the opposite. If anything, they want to make an example of him.

You know, there's been criticism of the government in the past that has allowed celebrities, the rich of China to get away with not adhering to the one-child policy whereas the common man, woman on the street must. So I think perhaps there is a bit of a mix of government pressure as well as, you know, the Chinese government wanting to make an example of him.

But as you say, he has been fined $1.2 million, the harshest fine ever handed out to somebody violating the one-child policy.

And as you say, it comes as the government late last year relaxed that policy. People can now have two children if one of the parents is an only child.

But it looks like this rule is not going to help Zhang whatsoever. He has apologized. He and his wife have deeply apologized. And they say that they accept their punishment, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And what has been the reaction there in China to Zhang Yimou is such a high profile figure breaking the one-child policy, getting caught and the penalty he has to pay?

COREN: Yeah, high profile figure and somebody who is acclaimed within Chinese society. I mean, this is an Oscar nominee. This is the director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics which were wildly successful.

But from the people that we've spoken to here in Beijing today, Kristie, there's a real mixed response. You know, some people say that he should pay that fine. It's obviously based on his income. And that, you know, this is his penalty. Others say that it's just way too excessive.

Let's now have a listen to some of those comments.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't think it's harsh. Everyone should be aware of the family planning policy, whether you are a celebrity or an ordinary person. Besides, a public figure should know better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I think it is necessary to ease the one-child policy. Those families with only one child could be bearing a lot of pressure in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I think the policy should be pushed forward. One child is too lonely. If permitted, I would like a second child.


COREN: So there is certainly is support for the easing of that one- child policy. We should mentioned, Kristie, that that law was brought in during the late 1970s to help curb the surge in the population growth. China, of course, is the most populous nation in the world. Currently, it has 1.3 billion people. So as to what this policy, the easing of this policy does, it remains to be seen. But certainly from the people that we spoke to, as you just heard, they feel that they are well within their rights to now have that freedom to chose whether or not they want to have a second child, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Our Anna Coren joining us live from Beijing. Thank you.

Now CNN is taking a closer look at homophobia in the world of sports in this new documentary Journey of the Gay Athlete. New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup says it took him time to find the confidence to come out as gay.

Now his next challenge will be competing at the winter games in Russia where a so-called gay propaganda law has stirred anger and debate.

Now he tells us why he wants to take a stand in Sochi.


BLAKE SKJELLERUP, NEW ZEALAND SPEED SKATER: I think the real big pick me up was in 2002, the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. And watching those Olympic games was sort of where the fire began. It was like, wow, it's -- that's somewhere where I want to go, that's something that I want to do. And that's what I strive for ever since.

And I've had some good results over the last few years. And the Olympic Games is always the time where you want to pull it out of the bag. I think once you get the taste of the Olympics, you get a bit drunk on it and you just want to taste it again.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what happens when gay rights supporters protest in Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New law signed by Russia's president jails and fines people who express any sort of support for equal rights for gays. Anyone who appears to be spreading, quote, propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's been a lot of international pressure on this, but Russia's sports minister said today that the country isn't bowing to it. They will not suspend anti-gay laws during the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only gay athlete known to be planning to compete in the games, Skjellerup is well aware of Russia's intolerance of gays and lesbians.

SKJELLERUP: That's the Olympics games. And, yes, they're in Sochi, but they have not brought about this law, the law has come from the Russian government. And I want to compete in those Olympic games for myself and my country. And now I have this opportunity to support a global LGBT community.

We need to have that identity and we need to have those, I guess, positive affirmations about who we are. And for me to do that during an Olympics Games is something that I'm very happy to do and very proud to do.

These laws are something that don't sit very well with me. And I'm very, very happy to show my support for the people of Russia that I'm here with them. And my presence in Russia will hopefully encourage them to stand up and give them the strength to fight against this, because that's what needs to happen.


LU STOUT: Now CNN gives you exclusive access to competitors on the frontlines of the fight against homophobia.

World Sport presents journey of the gay athlete, that's Sunday at 7:00 pm in Hong Kong, 8:00 pm in Tokyo.

Now this is News Stream. And coming up, a huge solar flare delayed the launch of this rocket to the International Space Station. We'll explain how the sun's weather affects light here on Earth.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now after the polar vortex, the United States is finally thawing out. Let's see how with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center - - Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kristie, feeling much better as far as temperatures are concerned across the U.S. Look at Minneapolis. It's only at minus 6. That's actually closer to their average for this time of year, even a little bit above average compared to where we've been across the region. But with the big warmup and the big thaw of course we begin to see things a little bit differently.

I want to show you, first of all, pictures of kind of rare scene. The first time, so far not only this year, of course, but in the 2000s that we've seen this happen at Niagra Falls. The falls are frozen over. They're not completely frozen. The water is still flowing. Niagra -- the river here moves about 6,000 cubic meters per second. So it would be hard for the entire falls to freeze and for the water to stop flowing, but there are areas where the water is not flowing at all. And this happening, of course, with that polar vortex deep freeze. It happened four other times during the 1900s. And now we're seeing, of course, happening again. And of course it'll start to thaw out as well.

And talk about ice moving, look at this, this is in another part of the U.S. where the ice and the river finally began to move. This next pieces of video, look what happened to this reporter as he tells the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the size of these things. And as you stand here, you hear the rumble. It feels like an earthquake is what it really feels like. And the size of these shards, literally coming at us. We keep having to retreat. I can't believe how much this is moving.


RAMOS: I can't believe how much that's moving either. That's pretty amazing.

But you know it does cause some problems. But you know what, it's the price we have to pay for the warm weather now. Even some rain moving across portions of the eastern seaboard. So that's definitely something we'll continue to monitor.

And let's talk space weather. You talked about that launch that was delayed to the International Space Station having to do with the solar flare. This is AR-1944. And it let out a huge solar flare, the sun spot. That was, of course, directed toward Earth. So what happens is when you have a solar flare, that solar flare gives out the solar wind. The solar wind interacts with Earth's magnetic field, which actually protects us here on Earth from the effects of the solar flare. But in space it could have some consequences to satellites, for example, and radio communications.

But any way, that gets directed and funnels to the poles because of the way the Earth is shaped and because of our magnetic field.

When that happens, that interacts with the electrons in the atmosphere. And they become excited. That's a technical term right. They become electrified, so to speak. And the result of that is of course the auroras.

And this is a picture by Fransisco Damm. He's a tour guide in Norway. And he said this time it was so easy. You just have to go out there, take the picture. No freezing in the cold temperatures or anything, just went out there and grabbed these beautiful images.

If you took images of the latest solar flare, send them to us, because we would love to see them. By the way, the solar flare that I just showed you, that one, the one that Francisco took in Norway, it's the most common, it's green. That happens when it's oxygen. If you get the purple ones, those are little less common, that's from nitrogen. And the very rare red auroras is high altitude oxygen. And those are pretty hard to spot -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Wow, the first major solar flare of the year, both powerful and beautiful. But I want to see a purple one coming up soon.

Mari Ramos, thank you. Take care.

That is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.