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Countdown To Opening Ceremonies; Liverpool Cashing In On Beatles; Schapelle Corby Granted Parole In Indonesia; Taliban Kidnaps British Service Dog; Princess Cristina To Testify in Tax Evasion, Fraud Case

Aired February 7, 2014 - 8:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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

Now years of preparation are building up to this moment. In just a few hours the Winter Olympics will officially begin in Sochi.

Nine years after being jailed for drug trafficking, Australian Schapelle Corby will be released from prison.

And 50 years after the Beatles made it big in the U.S., we look at how their home city continues to capitalize on their fame.

Now Russia's very first Winter Olympics has been seven years in the making. And for weeks, the Sochi games have been overshadowed by security concerns, cost controversies and criticism over human rights.

But in just over three hours from now, the opening ceremony begins and world athletes will finally take center stage.

Now here is a live look at the Olympic stadium, that is where the competitors will parade proudly waving their national flags before an expected crowd of some 40,000 people.

Now qualification events have already gone off without a hitch, but anxiety lingers over potential terror threats. Now the president of the International Olympic Committee had this message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS BACH, IOC PRESIDENT: We can maybe not mention how many threats there were on games, on each of the games before. We had threats on Sydney. We had threats on Athens. Maybe you'll remember the situation in Salt Lake City, there were -- there were many. So you cannot single out these games in this way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: The Sochi games have been a pet project for Russian President Vladimir Putin. His name has spent an estimated $50 billion preparing for the Olympic spotlight. Nick Paton Walsh explains what is at stake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Behind the grandeur, the scale, the exorbitant cost is one gold. One man's place in Russian history restoring the state to its Soviet glory.

Friday's opening ceremony is the pinnacle of the 14 years at the helm for this KGB veteran.

But like much of Putinism, his uncompromising pursuit of total power, it favors the state over the people. His initial deal with Russia was simple. He dragged it from a war in Chechnya and economic chaos to a fragile stability where a middle class grew fast, a piece of mind Russians welcomed, a single, sober figure finally in charge, even if the price was the loss of nearly all their political freedoms.

His most open adversary, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, had his business empire crushed and was only released from jail perhaps to soften Russia's image ahead of Sochi.

This as Putin's games even in its creation redolent of his era.

The road and ski jump that cost $9 billion, about the same as the GDP of Laos, money claimed lost to embezzlement, inefficiency, a decision to hold it in the only place in Russia where winter snow isn't guaranteed, almost defying the impossible like the Soviets in their prime.

And above all, the enduring threat of attack from crazed radical suicide bombers, an extremism that simply didn't exist in Russia when Putin came to power and that critics say was forged from a moderate insurgency by his hammer and anvil strongman approach.

This is Putin's moment, perhaps his peak. Russia's boom is deflating, the middle class he created demanding more political power. He may wish the lights and spectacle never fade.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Sochi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now, CNN delves into the personality of the former KGB agent turned president in a special report. Don't miss the power of Vladimir Putin. It's airing Saturday 6:30 pm here in Hong Kong. That's 7:30 pm in Tokyo.

Now, some outspoken critics of President Putin are speaking out. Two members of the punk band Pussy Riot are in the United States and calling for reforms back in Russia.

Now they spent nearly two years in prison after being convicted of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred. They were released in December.

And they spoke to our Christiane Amanpour about their latest cause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA, BAND MEMBER, PUSSY RIOT: What we're doing right now is creating a human rights organization called the Zone of Law, which will deal with prisoners' rights in Russia.

And we would like to start international observation of the rights of prisoners.

AMANPOUR: Masha, let me ask you, are you not afraid of going back to Russia? You have been very outspoken. You haven't been, you know, intimidated at all by having been in jail.

Are you not afraid of being thrown right back into jail?

MASHA ALYOKHINA, BAND MEMBER, PUSSY RIOT (through translator): We were never afraid from the beginning. Neither before our imprisonment nor during it, nor right now; we have no reasons to be afraid. We are free people and free people feel no fear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Now say a nod to the band Pussy Riot in this snowboard's design. Now the Russian athlete Alexey Sobolev used it during Thursday's slope style qualifier. And you can kind of make out a woman wearing a sort of a face mask right here, similar to what the band have worn during performances. But the athlete has declined to say if the board's image was a political protest.

Now it appears Google has taken a stand on Russia's gay rights record with their logo on their homepage today. It is a drawing of several Winter Olympic sports on a rainbow background. The rainbow, of course it's a well known gay rights symbol. But to emphasize the point further, Google also included a passage from the Olympic charter. Underneath, it writes this, quote, "the practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sports without discrimination of any kind."

You're watching News Steam. And still to come this hour, in war-torn Syria, reports that a short cease-fire in Homs has got the go ahead. It will allow aid in and some of the most vulnerable civilians out.

Australian citizen Schapelle Corby has been granted parole after nine years behind bars in Indonesia for drug smuggling. And take a look at the high profile case and the media frenzy surrounding it.

And this little guy is becoming unlikely captive of the Taliban. We'll tell you how the pooch ended up there and why international militaries are getting involved.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Live pictures there from Sochi.

Now Russia's very first Winter Olympics, it is going to start today. We waiting for the official economy to take place a few hours from now.

The Winter Games there in Russia has been seven years in the making. But for the last few days and weeks, it's been eclipsed by a number of concerns about human rights, security and general readiness.

Now CNN's Rachel Nichols, she is there standing by and joining us live.

And Racheal, let's first talk about the security issue. I mean, do you think the security and the so-called ring of steel is affecting the athletes. And will it affect the spirit of the games?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you talk to athletes, they tell you different things, because of course you're dealing with thousands of athletes with different opinions.

Some of these athletes risk life and limb in a way that you and I would. so for some of them, standing at the top of a 400 foot ski jump, which they'll be doing over the next few days, that's a much more specific threat than the more general security conversations we've been having. And frankly, that's all they're concerned about.

I've spoken to other athletes who are much more aware of the security issues going on here. and they've told me that they're less concerned for themselves -- remember, they've got Russian military protecting them, the - - actually the Americans have U.S. diplomatic officers protecting them as well. But they are more concerned for their families who will be out at some of the soft target locations.

So it's a little bit of a push and pull. One of the American bobsledders, in fact, told his mother not to come to these games. She was planning on coming to the Olympics to see him in his bib moment. And he said, you know what, I'd rather not have you here and worry about you.

So it's been a really wide variety across the spectrum depending on who you speak to, but across the board they've told me that when they walk into that stadium tonight it is going to be the culmination of so many hours of practice, so many of their dreams that that's really their focus going into this evening.

LU STOUT: You know, it's great to get the athletes' perspective here. And you've talked to so many athletes in the runup to the games and what's happening and starting today. But I also wanted to get their perspective on human rights and gay rights at the games.

We saw earlier the front page of Google. They have stepped forward with a very vocal protest about gay rights in support of gay rights. Do you think we're going to see a protect happen during the games? Could we say an athlete make a stand for gay rights?

NICHOLS: Well, it's certainly a tricky business, because the Olympic charter prohibits athletes from making political statements during the games. In fact, several of the Olympic teams have reminded their athletes that they do something like that, they risk being expelled from Sochi, expelled from the Olympics overall.

So we've asked a few athletes who have said they're considering doing something, but maybe on the medal stand, which we've seen before, or even after their event is completed, because they are not interested in throwing away their, in some cases, decades of training to be here at this moment to make that kind of political statement.

And then on the other end of the spectrum, by the way, there have been some athletes who have said they don't think this is the place to make any kind of political statement. The American skier Bode Miller came out and said that he doesn't think that any kind of political opinions should be part of these games no matter whether it is for a cause he supports. And he made the point that he certainly does support gay rights. He just said he doesn't think that it belongs here at the Olympics.

And the U.S. side as well, we had the Olympic delegation from the American government come today. Brian Boitano was one of the key players to step off the plane. And he said just by being here he thinks that he is making a statement as an openly gay athlete.

And we've seen several other delegations from other countries include gay athletes in their group being sent here. And that, of course, makes a statement as well.

LU STOUT: Yeah, any concerns about human rights, gay rights, and security aside, the Winter Olympics are at the end of the day about sport and about looking at the athletes and seeing who will be the new stars and the new heroes who will emerge there from Sochi.

As a sports reporter, which athletes are you keeping a close eye on during the winter games?

NICHOLS: Well, we're certainly interested in a couple of members of the Russian team. Yevgeny Panchenko, the much decorated figure skater is trying at the very ripe old elderly age of 31 to win another medal, carrying his countries hopes on his shoulders again. He competed yesterday in the team event, did very well so there's a lot of excitement here about him.

And the Russian hockey team, of course, we saw what happened in Vancouver four years ago when the Canadian team won the gold medal. It was a huge point of national pride. And the Russians would certainly like to do that on their home soil. They have a big game against the Americans next week, a little -- reliving of the USA-Russia rivalries of past. And of course the Canadians are still a big rival here as well. So we'll see a lot of attention to that.

LU STOUT: All right, well Rachel, enjoy the competition, enjoy the opening ceremony later today. We look forward to seeing and hearing more from your reports there live from Sochi. Rachel Nichols joining us live. Thank you.

Now, we'll have a lot more on the winter games a little bit later in the show, but now let's look at some other news.

And now let's go to Syria where the state news agency reports that all arrangements are in place to evacuate at least 200 people from the besieged city of Homs. Now the UN and the U.S. confirmed an agreement between the Syrian government and opposition rebels.

Now these buses are said to be moving into Homs right now to take evacuees out of the city.

Now a temporary cease-fire will allow some civilians to leave and for humanitarian aid to arrive for the first time in a year.

Now there are also reports that the Syrian government will be participating in a second round of peace talks aimed at ending the country's three year now civil war.

Now Mohammed Jamjoom is covering this story for us live from Beirut. He joins me now live. And Mohammed, what is the latest on this evacuation operation?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kristie, it seems to be a pretty complex situation there on the ground in Homs. Now we've heard today for several hours from Syrian state television that in fact this deal has been reached, that there are buses there at the ready to try to evacuate at least 200 women and children from the old city which has been under siege for over 600 days now. But it's unclear as to whether or not these buses have actually started moving into the old city.

What we've heard so far, as far as the deals of this cease-fire, is that once the cease-fire actually takes hold -- and we're unclear if it has yet -- that these buses will start moving into the old city in Homs, will start evacuating people from the old city in Homs that a humanitarian corridor will be established by which aid agencies and workers that are on the ground there will then be able to deliver the much needed medical supplies and food aid to the old city.

But we don't yet know if that has actually happened. We've been trying to reach aid workers on the ground. They have not been reachable the last few hours. So it is seemingly still a very fluid situation. There is a lot more hope amongst the aid workers and the opposition activists that I've spoken with today that this will actually happen, but it's unclear if it has started yet -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: So right now we're just waiting for this evacuation to start. I mean, looking at this video of charter buses there. But they're not moving. And not only that, if and when this begins, Mohammed, only 200 people will be evacuated. I mean, many, many, many others are still trapped. And how much aid -- when that arrives, how much aid will be to assist and help them?

JAMJOOM: It's virtually guaranteed that no matter much aid is delivered to Homs today, if it is in fact delivered, that the people that have been so besieged there for so long will need more. This is just the tip of the iceberg. These people have not been able to get any kind of humanitarian assistance for over a year now. And we hear how dire the humanitarian disaster is there how bad it gets, that it is worse by the hour.

We've gotten so many reports over the last few weeks that people have been starving to death, that those who have wounds can't get the kind of care that they need. We spoke to medics who said that the kind of medical care they're able to offer right now is medieval, that's how bad it is on the ground in Homs.

And the fact of the matter is that even if these aid convoys start taking the aid into Homs, any little hiccup on the ground there, because it is so volatile, because it is so dangerous, could stop the aid from being delivered even if it is on the way.

So it is a very difficult situation, the logistics of it are near impossible.

And I've spoken over the past couple of weeks to aid workers who have been perpetually frustrated. They are at the ready. They want to start getting aid to the people there that really need it, but they have not been able to.

Even when there's been so much discussion about both sides wanting to affect a cease-fire, wanting to come to some sort of a solution, that all of it is left to the details. And it is so dangerous trying to actually deliver it on the ground there, that's what makes it particularly precarious, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Mohammed Jamjoom reporting for us live, thank you very much indeed for that.

And you're watching News Stream. And still ahead on the program, this Australian woman has spent years in an Indonesian prison for drug smuggling. and now Schappelle Corby is set for release. We'll have a live report from Bali.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

And as you can see, there's less than three hours to go to the official start of the Winter Olympic games in Sochi. We'll have a lot more on Sochi throughout the hour right here on News Stream.

But now, let's go to Indonesia where after nine years behind bars the convicted drug smuggler Schappelle Corby has been granted parole.

Now back in 2005, the Australian woman was found guilty of trying to smuggle four kilograms of marijuana into Bali. Indonesia's justice ministry reviewed her case along with more than 1,000 others. It's not yet clear when she'll be released from prison.

Now Corby has always maintained her innocence. And Saima Mohsin looks back at the trial and the media frenzy that has surrounded the case in Australia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She was 27-year-old Australian beautician who had just touched down for a beach holiday on the island of Bali.

SCHAPELLE CORBY: The custom's officer said whose bag -- whose boogie board bag? I said it's my boogie board bag.

MOHSIN: Inside that bag officials at Denpasar Airport found more than 4 kilos of marijuana.

CORBY: And I swear by god as my witness I did not know the marijuana was in my bag.

MOHSIN: Throughout her 2005 trial, Schapelle Corby maintained he innocence. Her lawyers argued that drugs were planted possibly by airport employees involved in drug trafficking.

CORBY: I (inaudible) seven months, which I've already been imprisoned is severe enough punishment for not putting locks on my bag.

MOHSIN: What Corby called a simple mistake turned into a 20 year sentence when a panel of three judges decided they didn't buy Corby's story.

The sentence, while short of the life term prosecutors had called for and the maximum penalty, death by firing squad.

The trial, heavily covered by Australian media, who scrutinized every twist and turn often overwhelming Corby and her family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leave her alone. All of you.

MOHSIN: Corby's sentence sparked outrage across a country that largely believed she'd been set up and stoked fears that other young Aussies head to Bali and other tourist hotspots across southeast Asia could be next.

UNIDNETIFIED FEMALE: I'm not going to let her stuck there for 20 years. It's insanity.

MOHSIN: Fears that were reinforced with the 2006 conviction of the so-called Bali nine, a group of young Australians jailed in connection with trying to smuggle eight kilos of heroin off the island.

Indonesian authorities continue to defend their justice system.

Corby has spent around nine years behind these walls at Bali's Carobacan (ph) Prison with regular visits from her sister Mercedes and her mother continuing to maintain her daughter's innocence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you admit to something that's not yours.

MOHSIN: After exhausting courtroom appeals, Corby appealed for clemency after a medical exam diagnosed her as suffering from acute depression with psychotic symptoms. And in 2012, Indonesia's president issued a decision that shaved five years off Corby's 20 year sentence and laid the foundation for her parole application.

And while some Indonesians have accused the authorities of giving Corby's case special attention, the country's justice and human rights minister says she's been treated the same as everyone else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now let's get more from Saima now. She joins me live from Bali. And Saima, when could Schapelle Corby be released from prison? And when can she return to Australia?

MOHSIN: That is the big question now. She's been waiting for this day and her family, of course, Kristie, for so long. This morning we saw her sister Mercedes visiting her in prison. She moved to Bali to be closer to her, to be able to visit her regularly. When she came out she was asked by a huge media scrum what's happening, was she expected to receive parole. And of course her sister reminded everyone that they have been waiting for this day for a year-and-a-half. She wasn't sure at the time whether she would get parole. And she did ask everyone to respect their privacy.

But as you can see there, there are so many cameras here that are waiting to see when -- when Schapelle Corby will walk out of these doors behind me at Carobacan (ph) Prison here in Bali.

Now we don't know actually will she walk out of these doors behind me or will she drive out of these gates over my shoulder. But as we understand it, what happens now is quite a lengthy bureaucratic process.

But crucially, Kristie, it will take a document and it has to be a document on paper sent by post, not email or fax, you know, not what we would think perhaps they could just wire it through, but it has to be sent from Jakarta, from the justice ministry via the attorney general and eventually make its way to the head of the prison here.

Now he told us earlier today at CNN that he's hoping to make this not too long for her, but she can get out.

But crucially, Kristie, she can't fly home immediately back to Australia. She will have to stay in Bali to complete her sentence, which runs out in 2015, but she can -- if she's given permission, to visit abroad. So likely she'll have to apply for that, gain permission, and then head to Australia to be with her family -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And Saima, what has been the reaction to the parole announcement both from inside Indonesia where you are currently reporting and also from her home country Australia. Have you had the chance to speak to her family yet?

MOHSIN: I think what we're expecting is her sister to be able to visit her again. Of course they'll be incredibly happy. They've always maintained her innocence and said that, you know, she shouldn't be in jail and they didn't want to leave her here in this jail in a foreign country. She came here when she was 27-years-old.

Of course, a lot of perhaps jubilation and celebration as far as the Australians are concerned who backed up her story that she was innocent and she was simply caught up in this drug trafficking ring. So much media here today, Kristie, in that from all eyes on that door. Every second it opened people were waiting to see if they could see her.

On the flip side, from the Indonesian side, the justice minister at pains today to emphasize that she has not been given preferential treatment. And that is what we've seen throughout the years since 2005 for her legal battle to be able to appeal or get clemency or of course to have her parole as well.

Now Indonesia and Australia have had various diplomatic falling outs over this. Indonesia, of course, very keen to shed this image of a kind of route for the transportation of drugs, for drug traffickers to use their country as a base, if you like. And so that's why it comes with a death penalty. and they were very, very keen today to emphasize that Schapelle Corby is not being treated any differently.

And let's not forget, there are going to be elections in Indonesia later this year. So they don't want their kind of domestic audience, if you like, their people, their citizens to think that the Indonesian government is being lenient with the Australians who they've had a lot of issues with recently. There was also the tapping scandal that went on between Indonesia and Australia.

So there's a lot of politics at play, a lot of diplomacy at play behind this story as well -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, Saima, and many thanks indeed for giving us a bit of the thinking and the politics behind the scenes leading up to this decision to grant this young woman parole. Saima Mohsin reporting live from Bali, thank you.

And you are watching News Stream. Still ahead, the countdown to Sochi 2014 is almost over. Ready or not Russia's Winter Olympics are set to officially open in a few hours.

But the U.S. has imposed new restrictions on travelers to Russia. We'll talk to an expert about the threat posed by toothpaste tubes that officials warn could be packed with explosives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Now the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games gets underway in just a few hours amid tight security.

Now Russia is staging what has been called the most expensive Olympics in history. So the ceremony that officially opens it is sure to be extravagant.

Now after nearly a decade in an Indonesian jail, Australian Schapelle Corby has been granted parole. Now the now 36-year-old has behind bars when she was convicted back in 2005 of drug smuggling. She is one of more than 1,200 prisoners granted parole today, but it could be at least Monday before she leaves the jail. Now prison authorities are waiting for a release letter from the Justice Ministry.

Now violent riots erupted in Rio de Janeiro over increased bus fares. At least 28 people have been arrested. Now state media report that protesters clashed with police at Rio's central station. The demonstrators hurled rocks at police who fired tear gas back at them. A cameraman was injured by an exploding gas bomb.

And the U.S. monthly jobs numbers have just been released. The U.S. economy added 113,000 jobs in January. Now that is far worse than expected. Now the unemployment rate did drop slightly to 6.6 percent.

We'll have much more on the numbers in that jobs report on World Business Today up ahead with Maggie Lake about half an hour from now.

Now, it's nearly showtime in Sochi. The Olympics opening ceremony begins in just a few hours. The winter games have been largely overshadowed by concerns about security and gay rights in he host country Russia. But organizers insist that Sochi will be safe and that no athlete will face discrimination.

Now they're hoping attention can now be focused on the sporting event itself.

Now let's bring in our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh who joins us live from Sochi. And Nick, again just hours away is the big opening ceremony. This is, as you put it, Putin's moment on the world stage. So what should we expect to see?

WALSH: Well, we know a few details slipping out. We're expecting to see a lot of Russian literary references, Dead Souls, Gogol novel. We're also expected to see a number of ships and bridges as part of a quite substantial display being put on.

We're also hearing perhaps in response to a lot of criticism of Russia's homophobic legislation put into place of late that in fact the girl group Tattoo who rose to prominence only 10 years ago now with a pretty prominent lesbian kiss during one of their music videos were in fact will be taking part in the ceremony as well, perhaps that's Moscow's way of retorting to a lot of that criticism as well.

But really I think now people are beginning to try and work out what effect on attendance all these security concerns has actually had.

We went down to the venues earlier on this morning. Not a lot of bustle, not a lot of international visitors turning up here. And I think really the question is has the security numbers changed things at all?

We spoke to one American tour operator. They said that they had actually got more family members of athletes on their books then fans, about five times as many. In fact, where it normally would be the other way around, more fans than family members. And they had 1,000 tickets they were still trying to sell, $200,000 worth, in fact.

So that's one small indication. But it fits into a broader statement.

We spoke to a number of Americans and officials linked with the delegation here and they suggested perhaps, too, we may see smaller numbers.

Still early days. Opening ceremony hasn't begun yet. But not really the sense of intense (inaudible) you might expect as people build up to this big moment, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Interesting to hear how security concerns could affect attendance there at the games as they begin in earnest later today.

Now, we reported on this earlier in the hour here on News Stream. We showed the front page at Google announcing it's support for gay rights at the games. Now that is a virtual protest. Do you expect to see within the Olympic site a real world protest in Sochi during the games, could that really happen?

WALSH: Not really, frankly. The Russian authorities won't tolerate any Russian dissent. And it's not really part of the Olympic spirit for the Olympic athletes themselves to make a political statement. Actually it's against the charter of the games itself.

So you'll see, I think, a lot of noise on the outside. And I suppose in many ways the U.S. delegation itself comprises a lot of openly homosexual individuals. So perhaps that, in many ways, was their own perhaps political statement.

So I think really the Kremlin above all will be pleased if today passes without any major security incidents, will be please if the spectacle itself attracts the 3 billion viewers state TV expects to be tuning in, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right, Nick Paton Walsh giving us the true picture on the ground there in Sochi. Thank you.

Now Russia has deployed tens of thousands of security forces to protect the games. And still, concerns remain high.

Now on Thursday, the U.S. banned all liquids, aerosols and powders in carry on luggage on board flights to Russia. Now the move came after intelligence suggesting that terrorists might try to conceal explosives inside toothpaste tubes.

Now Brian Todd spoke to an explosives expert to find out just what kind of damage such an attack could cause.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Explosives hidden inside a toothpaste tube can be powerful and potentially deadly. This bomb in a toothpaste container blew off a car door, sent parts of it across the quarry in Southwestern England, where CNN commissioned this test with the help of Sidney Alford, an expert who helps people understand explosives.

What kind of damage could this bomb do?

SIDNEY ALFORD, EXPLOSIVES EXPERT: I wouldn't like to be in an airplane in which that exploded, not even a big one.

TODD: For this test, Alford used an explosive called RDX, a white crystalline powder. He mixed it with another ingredient to create a paste. In this container, he filled about three-quarters with his explosive concoction, the rest with toothpaste.

ALFORD: It smells and tastes like toothpaste. I have presented this in such a way that somebody giving it a casual inspection would probably pass it.

TODD: The size of container Alford used is the kind you have to place in checked baggage, but Alford says two smaller containers this size, which you can carry on, can also be used. Those tubes have to be attached or placed near each other to create a similar explosion.

They can be detonated by a heat source. Bombs that were successfully smuggled aboard U.S.-bound airliners in recent years show just how real the threat can be. This is what prosecutors say the 2009 underwear bomb would have looked like if it had gone off.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had snuck it onto his flight, landing in 2009 in Detroit, by concealing it in his pants. And this is one of two printer bombs that were found before they exploded aboard cargo planes bound for the U.S. In a reconstruction for CNN, this is what Alford said one of those printer bombs could have done.

ALFORD: If that had been passed through an airplane's fuselage, then heaven help the airplane. It would have -- that would have been a terminal event, I'm afraid.

TODD: Alford's demonstrations, then and now, used two different types of explosives which had similar effects. A toothpaste bomb has brought down a plane before. In October 1976, anti-Castro Cuban operatives hid explosives in a tube and brought down a Cubana Airlines flight over the Caribbean. More than 70 people were killed.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now we've often spoken about how Sochi is both a Winter Olympic venue and a beach resort. You may also have heard that Sochi lies on the same latitude as the French Riviera. It is true, as you can see Sochi is roughly as far north as the French coastal city of Nice, but that doesn't tell the whole story, because Sochi is also at the same latitude as Toronto. It's currently below freezing there in the icy Canadian city.

So how much snow is in store for Olympic athletes there in Sochi? Let's go straight to our Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: I like that latitude comparison. That's pretty cool stuff.

You know what, a lot has to do with geography, not only latitude has to do with it, but geography has a lot to do with it.

For example, Sochi is on the coast so it tends -- you know, temperatures to remain fairly quiet in a way, or moderated by the water. But as soon as you get up into the mountains it changes very, very quickly. And those mountains are very close by. Try to think of it like Vancouver or something like that.

But anyway, the average weather conditions in Sochi this time of year, kind of warm, you know, for an Olympic venue. Right along the coast around 10 degrees. The average low stays above freezing. We're talking about the coastline here.

And they do get precipitation, quite a bit, about 135 millimeters. And as you would imagine most of this along the coastline would be in the form of rain, but it should be snow as we head up into the mountains. They get about 18 days of rain, about six days of snow, and about four days this time of year where snow is actually on the ground.

And along the coast, it's not on the ground. On the mountains, yes they do have some snow.

Right now, the current conditions in Sochi about 9 degrees, light winds, and a little bit on the cloudy side, but you know what not too bad. I think it's going to be great for the opening ceremonies. Nice weather.

We're not going to see any snow anytime soon, though, not along the coast as you can see here where temperatures will be as warm as 14 degrees, wow. And then as we head up into the mountains, this is called the mountain cluster. As we head up into where a lot of the games will actually be held there we're seeing temperatures on Saturday a little bit on the cool side at 5, but then notice how it warms up on Sunday and also into Monday. So we'll have to see how all of this actually shapes up.

They have a big area of high pressure in place right now and that's what's keeping things relatively quiet along that region.

So, as we look to the west, though, western Europe still just getting hammered again by another area of low pressure. We had one that moved out, another one that's moving in. Very dangerous surf expected and also more heavy rain, anywhere from the UK through Ireland all the way down to Portugal, Spain and of course France included in all of this.

This is what it looks like on the map right now, getting a little bit of a break. And that's giving people a chance to kind of recuperate and recover and get ready for what's going to happen next, which is that next weather system.

Let's role the video, because the British Royal Marines have been out trying to help people. They were out in the overnight hours shoring up the flood defenses. Unfortunately, many of those defenses were breached. Thousands of homes have been damaged. The flooding has been ongoing for over a month along these areas. And more rain, as I was saying, is on the way across these regions.

Its' a serious situation, because the water really doesn't have a chance to drain out. These are very low lands. And over the next three to four days we're still going to get another two inches of rain, about 50 millimeters of rain expected in already flooded areas. They've had more rain across this area in the month of January than any other month since 1961. And for the south of England, it is the wettest January since 1910. Here we are now in February and we're seeing again even more rainfall across that region. So it's not shaping up to be good.

First snow of the season in Beijing. Here's your Tiananmen Square. They had about 3 centimeters of snowfall, all of that now beginning to move farther to the east. The Korean Peninsula is next. And Japan, Kristie, the snow in Japan could be the heaviest maybe in 20 years across parts of Tokyo could see some significant snowfall. That's the rain-snow line. We see kind of moving a little farther south into Tokyo. And then they end up on Saturday with kind of a messy mix of rain and snow, big travel delays expected. Watch for this as we head into the weekend.

Have a good weekend. Back to you.

LU STOUT: Yeah. You too. And thanks for the warning there. Mari Ramos, take care.

Now, coming up next right here on the program, a dog on duty in Afghanistan has been taken hostage by the Taliban. And now it's been revealed it belongs to the British military.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Let's return to our visual rundown of all the stories in the show. Now we have already brought you the latest from Sochi as Russia prepares to open its first Winter Olympics. But now I want to tell you why a video of this dog has gone viral.

Now the Taliban posted it to Twitter claiming the captive canine is an American military dog. But a U.S. official denies that claim.

Now let's bring in Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, this video certainly very compelling to watch. U.S. officials are saying it is not an American military working dog in Afghanistan, but in fact back in December a dog went missing while troops were on a mission and they have every reason to believe it is a British military working dog that was with British forces during a mission in eastern Afghanistan.

Their best guess is the dog was let off the leash during a search, ran to do the search and was somehow taken by insurgents.

The dog looking a little befuddled about what's happening to it.

The dogs, you know, do remarkable work in Afghanistan searching compounds, searching for explosives, very, very tied to their military handlers. So it's a bit of a sad case, but this is another moment for us to all pause and remember there is an American serviceman still missing in Afghanistan. And he, of course, is Sergeant Bergdahl, taken by insurgents and missing since July 2009, a case that is so compelling to the troops who serve. So it's another moment to remember him, the 2,000 U.S. troops that have died in Afghanistan and the 20,000 who have been wounded -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: And we appreciate that reminder.

Barbara Starr reporting live from the Pentagon, thank you.

Now the stage is set for a royal drama in a Spanish courtroom. Now Princess Cristina will testify on Saturday in a case involving allegations of financial corruption.

Now she and her husband are facing preliminary charges, both deny any wrongdoing.

Now Al Goodman reports virtually all of Spain is riveted.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You don't see Princess Cristina's face in newspapers and magazines like you used to now that she faces preliminary charges for alleged financial crimes.

Kiosk owner Pilar Menges (ph) says the only magazine cover this week of the princess is about the questions she'll get in court on Saturday for alleged tax fraud and money laundering in deals linked to her husband's business.

"This woman represents my country and we're not like that," Menges (ph) says. "As a Spaniard, I feel bad."

Her lawyers say she's innocent.

But King Juan Carlos's youngest daughter has been excluded from royal receptions like this one in Madrid. She's the first direct member of Spain's royal family to ever testify in court.

At this butcher shop, it seems everyone is following the case against the princess.

"She has enough education to understand what was happening," this woman says. "What is happening is a national disgrace."

It started with the princess's husband Inaki Urdangarin who also denies any wrongdoing. Newspaper editor Eduardo Inda (ph) co-authored this book about Urdangarin. The case centers on Urdangarin's nonprofit foundation, which obtained millions of dollars in government contracts to stage sports and tourism events.

Urdangarin testified a year ago for allegedly diverting some of that money for private use, including through a separate company he had with Princess Cirstina.

"They used that company," Indes (ph) says, "to pocket the public money. And also to pay the lowest possible tax or simply treat he treasury. In that business, Princess Cristina is the one who signs the annual reports."

The royal palace in central Madrid now facing a tough storm as the public reacts to financial scandals in the royal family and the political elite during the economic crisis.

Princess Cristina's testimony comes as a new report by the European commission shows that 95 percent of Spaniards think that corruption is widespread here.

College student Mariana Moriegra (ph) says the princess's court appearance will be mainly for show.

"It's great they're finally bringing preliminary charges," Moriegra (ph) says, "but considering she's the king's daughter, she'll be very protected and won't go to jail."

It's another challenge for the royal family in this case, to prove that all Spaniards are equal under the law.

Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: Now the U.S. is today marking 50 years since the British invasion, that is the day the Beatles landed in America bringing with them the highly contagious Beatlemania. We'll look back at where the legendary pop band started in Liverpool.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now it is 50 years to the day since four young men from Liverpool with mop top hair cuts descended on America. Now the Beatles, they were famous even before they landed, but it was after they crossed the Atlantic that Beatlemania truly took off.

Now Jim Boulden traces the roots of the Beatles' legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Musicians still perform on Mathew Street, perhaps taking inspiration from its past. A statue of John Lennon stands respectfully nearby.

Mathew Street was home to the original Cavern Club. It's where the Beatles performed 292 times in just two-and-a-half years. It's where fans lined up for hours to cram into a deep underground arches. And it's where in 1973, authorities tore down the building above and filled in the underground arches.

JON KEATS, DIRECTOR, CAVERN CLUB: They were going to build an insulation shaft for the underground railway system and it was forced to close, which was -- caused outrage in Liverpool at the time. They never went on to build the shaft.

BOULDEN: The new Cavern Club is just a few doors up from the original entrance. This new club opened in 1984. And it occupies about 60 percent of the old Cavern.

So now along Mathew street ad the Cavern Pub, the Beatles souvenir shop, the Fab 4 pizza parlor.

There are now plenty of reminders of the Beatles here on Mathew Street, some of it genuine, some of it recreation and some of it frankly attempts to cash in. But the truth is when the Beatles left Liverpool, the city moved on and it's only been in the last decade or so that it's been a concentrated effort to recognize the importance of the Beatles to Liverpool.

One of those efforts is on the corner of Mathew Street, the Hard Day's Night Hotel. It opened in 2008, the year Liverpool was the European capital of culture.

This independent hotel is full of Beatles photos, music and memorabilia.

MIKE DEWEY, GENERAL MANAGER, HARD DAY'S NIGHT HOTEL: I think there's been a level of inverted snobbery in Liverpool, however they've wanted to push culture and architecture and history and it -- for me, it's only in the last two to three years that they've actually realized that the attack brand is the Beatles. And all of that other nice stuff tucks in behind them.

BOULDEN: The Beatles last played the Cavern in August 1963, six months before playing their first gig in America. Mathew Street, has had to do with lookalikes and memories ever since.

KEATS: That was in the original Cavern. And that's one of the surviving pieces from the late 60s. I think there was a backlash in the 60s, you know, but there absolutely was. But you're too close to the event then.

It's like any period in history I think when you're so close to it you know that we don't think Liverpool appreciated just what the Beatles have done.

BOULDEN: Not that the Cavern Club is a museum, it has three live stages.

KEATS: When Paul played this stage he was actually closer to where the original stage -- the original stage is approximately over there.

BOULDEN: London may have been the Beatles springboard to the world, but Mathew Street was the springboard to London.

Jim Boulden, CNN, Liverpool.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LU STOUT: I love seeing those old pictures of the Cavern Club.

And finally, Joe Biden is at it again. The U.S. vice president is known for his off the cuff remarks. Just listen to what he had to say this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I blindfolded someone and took him at 2:00 in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said where do you think you are and he says this must be America, it's a modern airport. If I took him blindfolded and I took him to LaGuardia Airport in New York he must think I must be in some third world country. I'm not joking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LU STOUT: Well, this is a picture of New York's LaGuardia airport and we'll bring up a picture of Hong Kong's international airport. Is Biden right? Well, I'll be diplomatic, I'll leave that up to you to decide.

And that is News Stream. But the news continues at CNN. Stay with us as we count down to the start of the Winter Olympic games in Sochi. It officially begins in just over two hours from now.

And here is a live look at the area outside the stadium where the opening ceremony will take place. We'll be following it all right here on CNN.

END