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U.S. Backs Israel in Standoff with Iran and Syria; Oxfam Denies Cover-up in Prostitution Scandal; President Expresses Sympathy for Ex- Staffers Accused of Assault; Korean Diplomacy; Thousands Gather in Italy for Anti-Fascism Rally; Day 2 Action Underway at Winter Games. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 11, 2018 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Israel launches airstrikes after the downing of an Israeli fighter jet. We are live in Jerusalem this hour.

Also ahead, British aid agency Oxfam denies it tried to cover up a sex scandal after allegations that some of its workers sent to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake paid for prostitutes.

And an Olympic style charm offensive between North and South Korea. Are they sidelining the United States?

We are live from CNN World Headquarters here in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell, CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Around the world, good day to you. It is 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast and the United States is responding to a growing confrontation between Israel, Iran and Syria, Israel saying that it had the right to defend itself. That nation launched attacks on Iranian targets inside Syria.

Now these attacks follow the crash of an Israeli F-16 warplane after it was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire on Saturday. The downed jet was returning from a raid on what Israel says was an Iranian command center in Syria.

We're across the story with our correspondents throughout the region; CNN correspondent Oren Liebermann, live in Jerusalem, and our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Let's start with you, Oren.

First of all, what sort of responses are you hearing about this conflict from the United States, regarding its key ally in the region? OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were two big responses we were looking for from some of the regional players. The first was the U.S. and the second was Russia.

The U.S. -- and this is perhaps no surprise, sided almost completely with the Israelis, saying Israel has a right to defend itself. The U.S. backed Israel's actions and it was a short statement but significant and it showed where the U.S. stood.

As for Russia, remember that Russia is both an ally of Israel and Iran and has leverage over both countries. Russia's statement was much more in the middle, urging both sides to de-escalate. It would be Russia that has the power, or at least more power, to affect that decision.

So far, since about yesterday afternoon, so Saturday afternoon local time, the level of military tension has not escalated, even as the rhetoric in statements coming from all sides has escalated.

So this could be the end of the escalation. I would say the Russians would have a part of that in making sure that nobody else carries on this cycle of retaliation. But it is still very early. We're less than 36 hours after this all started at roughly 4:30 in the morning local time. So we are still waiting to see in what direction this goes at this point -- George.

HOWELL: All right. Let's bring in Ben Wedeman to give some context here.

Ben, we are seeing an escalation between long-time rivals and their capabilities against each other here.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, George. We've heard from Hezbollah and Iran and from Syria, all saying that the downing of this Israeli F-16 yesterday is a game changer, that the old equations are being revised.

This is the first time since, at best the early 1980s, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 that Syria has managed to, it appears, shoot down an Israeli aircraft, an F-16, a very sophisticated aircraft. And therefore, certainly, this is a major change.

Now the question is, where does it go from here?

The major allies of the Syrian government, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, have been very busy in recent years, trying to counter the anti-regime forces in Syria, as well as ISIS.

That seems to be, they now have the upper hand and the question is, are they willing and ready to start focusing more on Syria's long- running confrontation with Israel?

It appears that, even though yesterday at this time things were looking very tense, it's calming down a bit. But really, what we're looking at is the post-ISIS reality in this region. For years now, the U.S., Russia and others, have been focusing on

crushing ISIS. ISIS is gone. But the old conflicts between Iran and Israel, between the United States and Iran, are coming back to the fore. And that's what we're seeing now.

HOWELL: These two longtime rivals, certainly a line in the sand here and it's good to have the reporting and context from you both, through your experience, to give us a sense of where things stand now --


HOWELL: -- and where things stand now and where things could go, hoping for calm, of course. Ben Wedeman live for us and Oren Liebermann as well, thank you, gentlemen, for the reporting.

The aid agency Oxfam is denying it covered up allegations that some of its senior employees paid for sex in Haiti. This apparently happened shortly after the earthquake that took place in 2010.

An investigation by "The Times" newspaper in London says a confidential Oxfam report found that, quote, "children may have been among those sexually exploited by aid workers."

Important to point out here, CNN has not independently reviewed the report and the aid agency says sexual allegations involving minors were never proven. Let's bring in CNN's Erin McLaughlin, following the story, live for us in our London bureau this hour.

Erin, good to have you. First, let's start with the backstory, when these crimes allegedly happened and what looks to be a cover-up.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. I think it's important to remind our viewers what Haiti was like back following that devastating 2010 earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Hundreds of thousands of people were injured; 1.5 million people displaced. It was truly a country devastated.

Oxfam was one of the major aid organizations that was supposed to be there to help. Now allegations that it engaged in a cover-up, allegations coming to light now, due to an investigation by the "London Times," which obtained a copy of an internal Oxfam report that had not been made public.

Inside that report, detailing sexual misconduct by Oxfam employees, including the country director, allegations that those employees had hired female prostitutes, not ruling out the possibility that some of those prostitutes could, in fact, have been minors.

Now at the time Oxford -- Oxfam, rather -- was forthcoming that it was investigating employee misconduct. But it did not go in to detail with Haitian authorities or with its trustees.

The nature of that misconduct, the details of the investigation and now we are hearing from some of those trustees.

The Department for International Development here in the U.K., putting out a statement that reads, in part, "We often work with organizations in chaotic and difficult circumstances. If wrongdoing, abuse, fraud or criminal activity occur, we need to know about it immediately, in full.

"The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer."

The Department for International Development saying that it is now reviewing its partnership, its current work with Oxfam as well.

We're also hearing from the Haiti ambassador to the U.K. express his outrage. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is clear it's a cover-up case. The fact that those folks were allowed to leave the country without any punishment, without even informing really the Haitian authorities about that, it was a cover-up.

And now, the fact that they did such a crime or there was such a cover-up, now we are wondering how many of those cases are still being happening in Haiti.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now Oxfam says seven of its employees were either dismissed or fired in the wake of its own internal investigation. But now, the "London Times" is reporting that some of those employees actually went on to work with other aid organizations in other countries. And those aid organizations were not made aware by Oxfam of this internal investigation -- George.

HOWELL: And those details, Erin, important here, because, given the allegations here, some agencies may have taken different steps had they known those critical details. There's a lot, certainly, to look into with this.

It also leads to that age-old question, the cover-up, which is worse, the cover-up or the crime?

How has Oxfam responded to these accusations?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Oxfam certainly not excusing the employees' behavior. But it is denying that a cover-up took place. Take a listen to what the Oxfam CEO had to say.


MARK GOLDRING, OXFAM CEO: Well, I think at the time Oxfam took serious and immediate action and it was open, Oxfam was actually pro- active in going to the British public, the Department for International Development and the Charity Commission, to explain that there had been serious misconduct and we'd taken action.

What Oxfam didn't do was describe the detailed nature of the offenses, which included the use of prostitution.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now Oxfam says it did receive legal advice that, given the situation on the ground in Haiti at the time, that nothing would have happened had they --


MCLAUGHLIN: -- reported those employees to Haitian authorities. It does acknowledge, though, that it could have done more to inform other NGOs of that employee misconduct, putting out a statement saying, "While there is nothing we can do to stop individuals falsifying references or getting colleagues to provide a reference in a personal capacity, there's clearly more that can and should be done to ensure that individuals who are found to be guilty of sexual misconduct do not continue to find work in the sector." -- George.

HOWELL: There are some serious questions raised in this report. Erin McLaughlin, live for us, thank you for the reporting on it.

Now let's get some context with Andrew MacLeod, Andrew is a visiting professor at Kings College in London. He was a senior official with the United Nations and is now an adviser for Hear Their Cries, an organization fighting sexual exploitation.

Andrew, thank you so much.


HOWELL: With us to talk about this very important story. You recently wrote about this controversy. More specifically, the part about the report that states that children may have been among those sexually exploited.

And the aid agency, of course, they say that that was never proven. But let's talk about that first, because you say this is a growing problem that, quite frankly, is not being handled effectively enough.

MACLEOD: That's right. The National Crime Authority in the United Kingdom has been warning since 1999 that, as we crack down on pedophiles in the developed world, the predatory pedophiles are now going to the developing world to get access to children.

It's disgusting. But you can see the truth in that. Worse, the National Crime Authority has been warning that predatory pedophiles' chosen methodology to get access to children is to join a children's charity. Again, disgusting, but easy to believe.

And that means that charities have a higher than normal obligation to ensure that they do everything they possibly can in training, prevention, detection and, critically, prosecution.

When I heard that clip from the Oxfam man that you just put on, "we took immediate and serious action," are you kidding me? If these were adult prostitutes you've broken the law in Haiti so you should have reported them to the police. If any of these prostitutes were under age, then these British aid workers have actually broken British sex tourism laws and should be held to account in front of the courts here.

And if Oxfam has turned a blind eye, question whether senior executives in Oxfam have broken the child sex tourism laws here in the United Kingdom for aiding and abetting people by turning a willful blind eye.

HOWELL: Well, here's the thing, so, you know, we heard that response just a moment ago from the chief executive, that they took serious and immediate action.

But, you know, the question is raised, the uncertainty with that, many of these aid workers were allowed to move on to other aid organizations, with seemingly spotless records.

MACLEOD: Let's be really clear here. A lot of your viewers are good hearted people who have put their hands in their pockets, donated money to charity and will be feeling sick to the stomach to think that their money is going to fund pedophilia or sexual abuse -- and it is.

How can Oxfam possibly say that they took serious and immediate action but didn't tell the police, didn't ask for an investigation, either in Haiti or in the United Kingdom?

Oxfam are right to say that it was not proved that any of the prostitutes were underage but it wasn't disproved that they were underage, either. So British crime authorities should have a close investigation.

But there is a bigger issue here. We know in the aid industry that we -- and I'm a former aid worker -- have the responsibility to look after people on the ground. We are sent there to help. There is a higher than normal obligation on us.

And what this should be is a warning to all charities and the United Nations, that we need to do more in training, prevention, detection and prosecution.

Now many aid workers have blown the whistles over the years and they have all been chastised. I spoke to Ambassador Haley's office late last year, and we recognize that we actually need at the international level a new independent whistleblowing mechanism.

The secretary of state for international development in the United Kingdom here, Priti Patel, agreed that the United Kingdom will host a meeting in the first half of this year to create a new independent whistle-blowing mechanism.

Unfortunately, Ms. Patel is no longer the secretary of state, there is a new secretary of state. So I'm wondering, between the secretary of state for international development here in the U.K. and Ambassador Haley's office in the United States, can we please create this new whistle-blowing mechanism so good aid workers who are really doing their best for people, can report on these horrendous acts of both adult and child sexual abuse that is rife within the U.N.?

HOWELL: And, Andrew, look, to the credit of the many people that you've worked with, it is important to point out there are many good men and women doing good work around the world.

MACLEOD: That's right.

HOWELL: But this report certainly makes one take pause.

When you went out to write on this --


HOWELL: -- you compare this to what you saw happening in the Catholic Church.

That's indeed. When I was a young lawyer I acted on some of the Catholic Church insurance in the 1990s -- sorry; the Catholic Church litigation in the early 1990s.

And I have to say, a lot of the responses are very similar: minimize, deny, shoot the messenger. But I understand that. For many Catholics in the 1970s and '80s, it was very difficult for them to understand that this child abuse was happening in the organization that they loved and worked for.

And many aid workers are finding it very difficult to comprehend that a number of people that they work with, that are their friends, are actually committing these heinous acts.

The vast majority of aid workers are doing great, vital and very important work. But the truth is, unless we stamp down hard now on adult and child sexual abuse in the aid industry, people will stop donating and should stop donating. Money will stop flowing.

And I now ask you this, Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson and David Beckham are very big ambassadors for U.N. agencies and big international charities, very passionate in the #MeToo movement.

I call on Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson to suspend their ambassadorial roles in the United Nations, strengthen their activity in the #MeToo movement and work with the U.N. to stamp out this scourge, ensure that all major charities and all U.N. agencies report all accusations to the police forces.

And until there is a new protocol of reporting these people to the police, Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson should suspend their ambassadorial roles with the U.N. They are ambassadors for organizations that are not doing all they can in the prevention, detection and prosecution of adult and child sexual abuse.

HOWELL: Andrew, somehow I believe we'll be talking more about this story. Thank you so much for taking time and giving us your perspective. And we'll stay in touch with you. MACLEOD: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: Around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. And still ahead, the U.S. president seems to dismiss accusations of domestic abuse against two former White House staffers.

But does he really believe it's a mere allegation?

Well, we'll take a look. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Two White House aides who quit last week over allegations of domestic abuse apparently still have the sympathy and support of their former boss, the U.S. president. A tweet by Donald Trump on Saturday gave short shrift to the accusations against the former staffers. CNN's Ryan Nobles has more.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House dealing with yet another public relations crisis; this time involving two now former staffers who are pushing back against claims of domestic violence.

One of those staffers, Rob Porter, the former staff secretary, a very important job in this White House, resigned earlier this week.

And then, on Friday, it was David Sorensen, a speech writer who said that he approached White House officials, knowing that he had similar accusations against him, and tendered his resignation so he wouldn't be a distraction to the administration.

And the president himself, seeming to defend both of these men without mentioning them by name in a tweet sent Saturday morning.

He said, quote, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true or false, some are old, some are new, there's no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?"

The president not mentioning the victims in this case and there's not a whole lot of clarity yet as to when the White House learned about these accusations, particularly with Rob Porter, and why it took so long to address them and waiting until media reports surfaced before taking formal action.

Now as the White House is dealing with this particular piece of controversy, they're also dealing with the fallout from a decision by the administration not to release that Democratic memo that was a response to a Republican memo having to do with the FISA court and the way the FISA court conducts itself.

And the president weighing in on that, as well, in a tweet, saying, quote, "The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo, which they knew, because of sources and methods and more, would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for a lack of transparency. Told them to redo and send back in its proper form."

Of course, the president seems very concerned about how the Department of Justice and FBI have viewed this Democratic memo. He didn't seem to share those same concerns for the Republican memo which he allowed to go forward with no redactions, despite the fact that the DOJ and FBI did not want the memo to come out at all.

Now what Democrats are concerned about is that they agree that redactions are probably necessary for this particular document. But they're worried those redactions may be politically motivated as opposed to protecting confidential information.

So at this point, it is a waiting game. The memo is back in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee, where they will address some of these concerns. We're not sure if and when the memo will ever come out.

But, the White House says they are inclined to release that memo as long as their concerns are addressed -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: Ryan Nobles with the reporting, thank you.

Now James Davis joining us, James, the dean of the school of economics and political science at the University of St. Galen, live for us in Munich, Germany.

Thank you so much for being with us today.


HOWELL: Let's start with the president's defense. The president's sympathy for the two men who recently left the White House and the optics here that play out, given that the President of the United States himself also faces a host of allegations against him.

DAVIS: Yes, I mean, I think that the president is showing himself to be tone deaf. We have a national discussion going on right now about the status of women, the way women are treated, the efforts of men to cover up for each other when it's a question of sexual harassment or even perhaps domestic violence.

And so the president is showing that he's tone deaf. I mean, he's right on the issue, that we do have due process. You are innocent until proven guilty. [04:25:00]

DAVIS: But the bigger question is, of course, the question of how this White House is being run.

How are they vetting employees, high-ranking employees, employees with access to very sensitive information, employees that would be the target of any adversary of the United States that was trying to compromise them and get access to confidential information?

And so the question for me is, what's going on in the White House?

And why do we not have procedures in place that make it difficult for people that have such serious charges leveled against them from being hired in the first place?

HOWELL: And certainly no real mention of the women who spoke out about this, rather defense and sympathy for the men --

DAVIS: Well, that's right. I mean, these cases seem to be fairly substantiated. I mean, there was a restraining order placed on Mr. Porter by a court. So this is -- these are credible charges. This isn't just hearsay.

HOWELL: Now I want to switch over to the other issue that is in play, this Democratic memo. The president did send it back to the Intelligence Committee.

But here's the question, does it ever see the light of day?

And how important is it for that to happen?

DAVIS: Well, I'm one of those people that doesn't like the fact that these memos are being passed around, anyway. I mean, I would rather see the Mueller investigation proceed in an orderly fashion and not have classified intelligence information sources, methods, important matters of national security, politicized in the first place.

But, you know, the Nunes memo was the first to do this. The Republicans chose to go this path. The president went along with that, against the advice of the FBI and other intelligence services.

So he chose to put his personal political fortunes ahead of the security of the country. And so now, it appears that he's being rather cynical in claiming that he has to protect sources and methods when it comes to a memo from the other side.

DAVIS: A lot of fair questions to raise there. James Davis, thank you so much for being with us, live in Munich, Germany. Thanks.

DAVIS: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: Still ahead, the Vice President of the United States returns from the Olympic Games.

Did ignoring North Korea pay any diplomatic dividends? We have a live report to look into it as CNN NEWSROOM pushes on.





HOWELL: From coast to coast across the United States and live around the world this hour you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines.


HOWELL: So a lot to talk about here when it comes to diplomatic gamesmanship, diplomatic diplomacy, rather, Olympic diplomacy that's playing out. Let's bring in our Paula Hancocks, following this story from PyeongChang.

So you've been watching this play out, specifically that moment and if we can show the image again, the U.S. vice president so close, so close to this high delegation from North Korea. You know, this was not a moment that they would be passing the chips. In fact, we understand that the vice president, Paula, ignored them.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, that's, yes, exactly what we've heard now from a senior administration official, that it wasn't by accident that there was no talking, there was no eye contact, there was nothing between the two sides.

But of course, we didn't see anything from the North Korean side towards the U.S., either. So, yes, they were meters away. But there was no acknowledgment between the two sides.

We have though heard from the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence, on that trip back to the United States on the plane. He briefed reporters and he was saying that there is no daylight between South Korea and the U.S. and Japan when it comes to how to deal with North Korea, talking about how it is still important to have these sanctions and have the pressure and it's agreed upon.

But, of course, what we're seeing from the South Korean side is something very different. We have the invitation from North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to the South Korean president, hand delivered by his sister. We haven't had a response at this point from the South Korean president.

But there's very few people who would imagine that he would have objections to it, given he has always said he wanted more engagement, more dialogue, with North Korea.

So we are seeing two very different approaches now when it comes to how to deal with the North Koreans. Just tonight, in a matter of hours, the South Korean president will be going with the North Korea ceremonial head of state, Kim Jong-nam, and also Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the North Korean leader.

And they will be going to see an orchestra, They're going to see the art troupe which is performing now in Seoul, a few days after it performed down in this area of South Korea near the Olympics.

So we're seeing very different approaches, even though the United States is insisting there's no daylight between the two. And certainly from South Korea's point of view, they are welcoming the North Korean delegation with open arms.

HOWELL: So, Paula, a little context here. South Korea certainly a robust democracy. That point proven, given the controversy around its previous president. Now with this particular president, who has been --


HOWELL: -- focused more on engagement with North Korea, what is the general sentiment about what's happening here, seeing South Korean officials try to have more interaction with North Korea?

Is there a trust gap?

HANCOCKS: There's two very different views. There are some that believe that this is a good thing, that, given the tensions we saw just last year, just a few months ago, then engagement is absolutely necessary.

But there are also some and those that have been vocal today and over recent days, following the North Korean delegation, that have been protesting against what they see as the hijacking of the South Korean Olympics.

Many believe that North Korea didn't have to give anything up in order to come to the Olympics. And many are frustrated that South Korean athletes were not able to march into their own Olympics, under their own flag. They marched, remember, with the North Korean athletes under that unified Korea flag. So there is frustration here.

But for some also, they feel relief that the tensions have eased. But of course, no one quite knows what the end game is, from the North Korean perspective. There was quite a dramatic shift in tactic from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, on New Year's Day, when he decided that he wanted to send a delegation to South Korea.

So it's really a wait-and-see stance trying to figure out exactly what the next move is. And of course, if the South Korean president does go to Pyongyang, there will be a lot of pressure on him to actually come back with some kind of concession from the North Koreans when it comes to the missile and nuclear program -- George.

HOWELL: Paula Hancocks, of course, there at the Olympic Games, keeping a keen eye on the Olympic diplomacy that is also playing out. Thank you for the reporting and we'll stay in touch with you.

We just saw those images of protests. Protests have been happening. Our Paula Newton was in the thick of it all in Seoul, South Korea. Here's the report that she filed for us.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So it has to be said that South Korea has a very robust protest culture. There are a lot of protests here, week in, week out. But this protest in particular is anti-North Korea.

There has been a lot more tension in the last few days now that North Korea and its delegation have been getting so much attention here during these Olympics. Even before the Olympics started, some protesters here cynically were calling them the Pyongyang Olympics.

But now they're very angry, especially blaming Moon Jae-in for allowing them to take the Olympic spotlight and for accepting, it seems, an invitation to Pyongyang for peace negotiations. I want you to listen to one particular protester, who was quite angry. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very angry. Now I'm upset. I watch America demolish the North Korea before Moon Jae-in, before the visitors to South Korea.

NEWTON: Thank you. Thank you very much for your time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United States, please help us.


NEWTON: Now while protesters like that are, in fact, angry, what they really do not want is to have that unification with North Korea. What's interesting here is that even though these protesters are quite committed, it underscores what is a lot more anger in South Korea of late towards Moon Jae-in, especially in the younger generation.

His approval ratings are down. And it will be really interesting to see how South Koreans accept this kind of entente with North Korea in the weeks that follow the Olympics -- Paula Newton, CNN, Seoul.


HOWELL: All right, Paula, thank you for the report.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, millions of people in Iran come together to celebrate the anniversary of a revolution. We'll have details on that ahead.

Plus Norway developing a nice collection of medals at the Olympic Games after sweeping the podium in the men's cross-country skiathlon. We're live in PyeongChang as NEWSROOM continues.




HOWELL: Iranian state media say millions of people came together across that nation, rallying to mark the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. That's when the government of the U.S.-backed shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini who had returned from exile became head of the new Islamic republic.

The president of that nation, Hassan Rouhani, spoke to the crowds in Tehran a short time ago. But just weeks ago anti-government protests rocked the country. Hundreds of people were arrested there and at least 21 were killed in the unrest.

In Italy, organizers say 15,000 people marched to oppose fascism and the rise of far right political parties. The rally was held in a town of Misurata (ph). That's where a week ago an Italian man opened fire on African migrants in what officials are calling a racially motivated attack.

Six people were wounded there. Police arrested the suspected shooter. He ran as a far right candidate in local elections just last year. Protesters say they fear the rise in racist rhetoric in the country will lead to more violence -- listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are here because we want to be a dam against the mountain of hate which is spreading continuously, a social hatred against migrants and, in general, against the poor.


HOWELL: A larger anti-fascist demonstration is set for February 24th, one week before the national elections in that country.

Cape Town, South Africa, is inching closer now to Day Zero. Day Zero is the day when the city will officially run out of water.

Is that something you ever considered could happen?

Well, it is happening in Cape Town. On Friday, residents there felt a small bit of rain, though, just a bit of relief from a light rainfall. Excited people shared these pictures on social media, celebrating the sudden rain, hoping that more was to come.

But it wasn't nearly enough to ease the drought. Unfortunately, they saw just a bit of water, not a lot. So people are adjusting to a very strict 50 liter a day or 13-gallon water usage guideline, hoping for a miracle. Right now, Day Zero is set to happen on May 11th.


Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, PyeongChang, South Korea, may be freezing, the temperatures there cold. But the competition, it's heating up on the Winter Games. We'll have the latest ahead.

Plus our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, he is getting fully into the Olympic spirit. He hit the slopes to learn from an Olympic snowboarder. You won't want to miss his report. Stay with us.





HOWELL: The Winter Olympic Games are in full swing in PyeongChang, South Korea. Six medal events are scheduled for Sunday and Norway has dominated at the men's skiathlon podium, securing the gold, the silver and bronze medals. CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Amanda Davies joins now from PyeongChang, South Korea, with the highlights.

Amanda, good to have you.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. And the big news, look at this, it is actually snowing. It really feels like a Winter Olympics here on this Sunday evening in PyeongChang. We've got news of that skiathlon in a minute.

But the USA has a new superstar on the snowboard, 17-year-old Red Gerard competing in his first Olympic Games. He's admitted he cannot believe he claimed the gold in the slopestyle.

He beat off some pretty stiff competition from the Canadian, Max Parrot, who took silver and the comeback king, Mark McMorris who took bronze. McMorris has another one of the Games' truly inspirational story. I spoke to him just last week.

He fought back from a near fatal accident last March, where he feared he wouldn't survive whilst he was waiting for the helicopter to lift him off the mountain. But he's fought back in style to his place on the podium. And their performances --


DAVIES: -- were all the more impressive today, given the absolutely brutal winds that have been battering PyeongChang today. The ladies' snowboard slopestyle qualification was canceled. And so, too, one of the blue ribbon events of the games, the men's downhill.

The course is quite a good deal higher than we are here. And high winds on the slopes forced organizers to reschedule just hours before it starts. That's really tough on the skiers who woke up for what for many of them would have been the biggest day of their sporting careers.

But those on the alpine circuit are used to it. And Norway's (INAUDIBLE) tweeted, saying "Downhill canceled due to strong winds. It's imperative, with fair conditions and I applaud the decision, thanks FIS Alpine and Olympics."

It's all about maintaining the integrity really of the competition. It's now due to take place on Thursday, weather depending. The weather apparently, the high winds are likely to continue for the next couple of days.

There was a very good lesson, though, in never giving up in that men's skiathlon. Norway's (INAUDIBLE) Krueger made a remarkable fight back from last place in the field to win gold. The 24-year old was at the back and had to replace his poles after colliding with two other athletes in a very congested start.

But he took the lead on the penultimate lap to race clear to head up a Norway one, two, three. Look at those smiles.

In the last half an hour, as well, there's been an historic gold for the Dutch speed skater, Sven Kramer. He won the 5,000 meters for a third successive games. And there's another big name athlete going for the three-peat later on Sunday, that's Germany's Phoenix Loch (ph) hoping for a third straight gold in the luge.

So plenty to keep us on our toes. And we certainly need it, I have to tell you, George, in these temperatures. It is Baltic today.

HOWELL: And, Amanda, it's snowing. That's exciting. Thank you so much for the reporting. We'll stay in touch.

With more than 100 events scheduled, this is the largest Winter Games in history. But some of the lesser known sports can get overlooked like snowboard cross. Our Derek Van Dam takes a look at that sport and even got some lessons from a medal-winning pro. Let's watch.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are in the presence of greatness here.

I am totally intimidated just to be standing next to you.

This is Erin Simmons, an Olympian from Steamboat Springs. Erin competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics, world championships and multiple X Games as a snowboard cross athlete. She's even taken home some hardware.


VAN DAM: OK, and any medals?

SIMMONS: Three silver medals.

VAN DAM: Where are those now?

SIMMONS: Almost gold. They're in a little case at home.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Turin, Italy, was the first time that snowboard cross was introduced to the Olympics. SIMMONS: It was the inaugural year for snowboard cross, super fun.

VAN DAM (voice-over): The sport involves up to six athletes racing down a narrow, undulating course with the objective to reach the finish line first. Of course, it's a lot harder than she makes it look.

VAN DAM: Can you give me a couple tips and inside info?

SIMMONS: Mainly stay low, controlled, you know, parallel with your board.

We're checking out every feature, what we feel might be the best line, coming in to it, going off of it, connecting to the next feature. You basically are trying to absorb stuff and pump down the other side.

You want to land about here.

VAN DAM (voice-over): With Olympian training and 20 years experience under my belt, it was time to find out if I had what it takes to be a snowboard cross athlete.

SIMMONS: One, two, three, go.

There you go, nice. Up. Stay on top. Come down.

VAN DAM: Whoo!




SIMMONS: You did it.


VAN DAM (voice-over): I think I'll leave this one to the pros.

HOWELL: Derek --


VAN DAM: One of the better assignments.


VAN DAM: Yes, it was a fantastic -- you know, Erin was telling me how physical the start line can actually be. So you've got six athletes all competing to try and get down this very narrow course. And she said she's actually collided midair going over one of those little speed humps.

HOWELL: Wow. VAN DAM: So it can get pretty physical and pretty dangerous, because the ground -- and I had a firsthand look at this -- is extremely hard- packed snow. So it's not the soft, powdery, velvety snow that so many of us skiers and snowboarders look for.

It is hard-packed, machine packed snow. And if you fall or catch an edge, for instance you could definitely have a major --

HOWELL: -- hurt.

VAN DAM: Yes, absolutely.



HOWELL: All right, switching from cold now to the warm of Brazil. Let's talk about this.

That full week of street parties, parades and music, dancing, that is underway in Rio de Janeiro. The carnival festival kicked off on Friday with local samba schools filling the streets with colorful floats and costumes like that.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists came out to take part in the festivities. Those festivities continue through February 17th.

Thank you for being with us this hour for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The next hour of NEWSROOM right back after the break. Stand by.