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Brazil's national museum razed; Myanmar face criticism after two Reuters reporters sent to prison; Taliban commanders signal peace talks; Saudi-led coalition denies hit the school bus with children; Microwave weapons used injure U.S. diplomats in Cuba and China. Aired at 8-9a ET

Aired September 3, 2018 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:00] KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong and welcome to "News Stream."

Irreparable damage. A huge fire engulfs Brazil's national museum and destroys ancient artifacts.

Widespread condemnation. Myanmar faces backlash after two Reuters reporters are sentenced to seven years in prison.

And monsters, dragons and superheroes, a look inside the multi-genre convention that takes over downtown Atlanta.

It was a proud and beautiful shrine to over 200 years of Brazilian history, but in just a matter of hours, Brazil's national museum was reduced to a

smoldering ruin. Emergency services worked through the night to battle a huge fire that engulfed the museum in Rio de Janeiro late on Sunday.

President Michel Temer described the loss of the museum's collection as insurmountable for his country. And joining us on the line is Luis Fernando

Dias Duarte. He is the deputy director of the Brazilian National Museum, and sir, thank you for joining us here, and our condolences. This is a

devastating loss for your museum and for the people of Brazil. Tell us what has been lost due to this terrible fire.

LUIS FERNANDO DIAS DUARTE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, BRAZIL'S NATIONAL MUSEUM (via telephone): Oh, it's just such a devastating -- a humanity heritage, you

know? It's not Rio de Janeiro only, not Brazil only that just lost the precious heritage. It's the whole of humanity. The museum housed the

collections that are very ancient, very old collections in the areas of archaeology, of anthropology, entomology, zoology, botany, geology and


It was a typical natural history museum. It had exhibits, of course, but had acts of science work going on with these collections. In all the labs,

all the collections are destroyed just as the pieces that were shown to the public in the exhibits. These collections were of scientific quality, of

course, on one side, but then also of an artistic and historical quality.

Some of these collections were here in the institution since its foundation, in the beginning of the 19th century. It housed for instance a

collection of geology that had been organized by a leading geologist, a German geologist in late 18th century, the (inaudible) collection. And it

had been bought by the Portuguese crown and it had come to Rio de Janiero when the royal family fled from Napoleon and it was one of my -- of our

most precious treasures. We had the --

LU STOUT: These are so many treasures that you're describing, these cultural, historic, scientific treasures that date back 200 years. It's

been reported that your museum has some 20 million artifacts. Were you and your staff able to save many artifacts? What were you able to save?

DUARTE: I'm sorry. I didn't understand the last question.

LU STOUT: Pardon me, what were you able to save from the fire?

DUARTE: Well, the only things that were saved from the fire were those that were housed in adjacent buildings, the central library, the botany

department, and so the herbarium, the collection of dried plants, and the zoology of vertebrates collections.

All the rest was turned into ashes, completely. There is nothing left except meteorites. Of course, all the rest, the (inaudible) collections

that was very, very important because they were representative of many tribal societies that no longer exist.

[08:05:09] The archaeological collections included a very good Egyptian collection and a very important Greco-Roman Mediterranean collection that

had been brought to Brazil by the second empress who was the princess of the Kingdom of Naples. All this has been completely destroyed.

We will try to resurrect the institution from the ashes, but it will be an entirely different institution, of course, without our characteristics, our

historical characteristics. We will have the activity, of course, of the scientists, around 90 scientists that are studying all these areas of


LU STOUT: Yes, sir. So much has been lost and you detailed very little that you and your staffs were able to save. This is a cultural tragedy, 200

years of work, of research and knowledge, all lost as a result of this fire. Luis Duarte, vice director of the National Museum in Rio, Brazil.

Thank you so much for joining us on the program.

Now the conviction of two journalists in Myanmar, that is being called a blow to democracy, free press and the rule of law. A judge today found the

reporters guilty in a case tied to the investigation of a massacre over Rohingya Muslims. As Alexandra Field reports, critics say the verdicts are

part of an effort by Myanmar's government to silence critical reporting.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The verdict from a court in Myanmar causes international outrage. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two

Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in prison for violating the Official Secrets Act and returned to the prison they've been in since

December. Kyaw Soe Oo says they're not exactly shocked by the verdict. Wa Lone calling it a challenge to democracy. Their families, their young

children, in court for the ruling widely seen as an assault on the press.


STEPHEN ADLER, PRESIDENT AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REUTERS: Without any evidence of wrong doing and in the face of compelling evidence of a police

setup, today's ruling condemns them to the continued loss of their freedom and condones the misconduct of security forces.


FIELD (voice-over): Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone say police handed them secret documents in December and then other officers arrested them for having the

secret documents. Retribution, the journalists say, for a report they were working on, an investigation later published by Reuters into the massacre

at a village in western Myanmar of 10 Rohingya men, part of a long persecuted ethnic minority group.

The military later admitted its forces had a role in the killings, jailing seven soldiers for the crimes. The journalists who worked to expose the

slaughter, still behind bars.


PHIL ROBERTSON, ASIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: This is about the military guarding its secrets and it's about investigative journalism

not being welcome in Myanmar.


FIELD (voice-over): Myanmar's military leaders already face mounting international pressure, accused in a new U.N. report of genocide for

violence against Rohingya Muslims that started again a year ago. The country's de facto leader, Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, accused in

the same report of failing to use her moral authority to stop the violence.

Now there are mounting calls for the country's government to pardon the two journalists who were seeking the truth and sentenced to seven years.

Alexandra Field, CNN, Hong Kong.


LU STOUT: I want to get reaction now from one of the journalist's colleagues. Kevin Krolicki is the Reuters regional editor for Asia. He

joins me now via Skype from (inaudible). Kevin, thank you for joining us here on the program. This is a very troubling verdict. What is your

response to the court's decision today?

KEVIN KROLICKI, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR ASIA: Well, this is a deeply disappointing result. It's a dark moment. It's obviously, it's a heart

breaking result for the families of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who have already been imprisoned for eight months. And, you know, it's also very

clearly a threat to the rule of law and the free press that any democracy requires.

LU STOUT: You know, last week the United Nations, they called for Myanmar's top generals to stand trial for genocide for the crimes committed

against the Rohingya. Is this the very issue that your colleagues reported on and as a result prompted the state to come after them?

KROLICKI: As your report noted, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were looking into a massacre, a mass killing that happened in a village called Inn Din just

over a year ago. Those compelling evidence at the trial that the police arrested them to block that reporting.

[08:10:00] And unfortunately today's verdict lends support to those in the police department who sought to cover up evidence of a real crime, a real

crime that would not have come to light had it not been for the reporting of these two men.

LU STOUT: So what's going to happen to press freedom in Myanmar after this verdict? Is it going to be impossible to expose other rights abuses in the


KROLICKI: Well, the government of Myanmar has said through the process, through this judicial process, that it didn't want to comment, it didn't

want to intervene while the process was under way. Now it has the responsibility and the opportunity to do the only right thing that remains

and to free Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

LU STOUT: And this has been a called landmark press freedom case. This has been called just, you know, tragedy for Myanmar but really at the center

it's about the lives of two men who have been suffering for a while now. Could you tell us a little bit more about Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who they

are and what are they like as individuals and as colleagues?

KROLICKI: Well, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, very different personalities involved together in this reporting. Kyaw Soe Oo had said at one point he

would have rather been a real estate agent but he felt that at this stage in Myanmar's transition in democracy this is what he needed to do. Both of

them book lovers, both of them charitable, both of them now unfortunately and tragically separated from their young families.

Wa Lone has a newborn daughter he has not met. Kyaw Soe Oo's 3-year-old daughter that has only been able to see him in court and in handcuffs over

the last eight months. This is an injustice and it really needs to be addressed by the government of Myanmar.

LU STOUT: Absolutely. It's a sad day for these two reporters, for their families, for Reuters. A sad day for Myanmar for press freedom as well.

Kevin, thank you so much for joining us. Take care.

KROLICKI: Thank you.

LU STOUT: You're watching "news stream." And still to come right here on the program, the time for peace is now. That is the message from the

outgoing commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Find out why a deal with the Taliban may be close.

Plus, bizarre noises, mysterious headaches and nausea are just some of the symptoms reported by U.S. diplomats in Cuba and China over the past few

years. After the break, we'll bring you the latest view from experts about the possible cause.


LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong. Welcome back. This is "News Stream."

Now, the leader of ISIS in Afghanistan has been killed, that's according to U.S. forces in the region who confirmed he died alongside 10 ISIS fighters

in an airstrike in Nangarhar province a little over a week ago.

[08:15:00] The announcement comes as a new commander takes charge of NATO- led forces in Afghanistan. General Scott Miller has officially replaced General John Nickelson who left the role with a clear message for the

Taliban, the time for peace is now. CNN Sam Kiley has more on Nickelson's message and why it may resound now 17 years into the conflict.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Emerging from the desert, a glimmer of hope, coming from Taliban commanders on the

ground to offer to talk and to talk about peace. In this exclusive video, Mullayh Sher Agha laying out the terms.


MULLAH SHER AGHA, TALIBAN COMMANDER (through translation): Peace negotiations should be among Afghans and for Afghans. We should not wait

for Pakistan, Iran, Russia or America to bring peace to Afghanistan. If people from government die they are Afghans. If Taliban die they are

Afghans. Foreign countries are playing in Afghanistan to weaken Islam, he says.


KILEY (voice-over): Taliban leaders outside Afghanistan have inched towards peace talks, but it's a rare offer from fighting commanders. Just

weeks ago, the Taliban overran Ghazny, a city only 81 miles from the capital. It was recaptured and is being rebuilt.

But this brief Taliban victory has showed that they may enter negotiations if they have a position of strength, an increase in violence, a prelude to

talks. Recognized by the outgoing U.S. Commander, as he handed over the NATO mission to the former head of American Special Forces.


JOHN NICHOLSON, OOUTGOING NATO COMMANDER: I believe that some of the Taliban want peace also, but they are being encouraged to keep fighting.


KILEY (voice-over): His successor suggesting that the focus should be directly on fighting terrorist organizations.


SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER, NATO RESOLUTE SUPPORT: There are groups in Afghanistan who want nothing more than harm others. These groups thrive in

ungoverned spaces. They raise money, the recruit, they plan, they inspire attacks. We must maintain pressure on them.


KILEY (on-camera): There's a degree of optimism being shown inevitably by the general's handing from one command to the other here. But the

experience of 17 years they acknowledge means that the Taliban have to be brought in from the call. They have to join the political process and that

leaves ISIS, so-called Daesh, as the main focus both of the international community and ironically also for the Taliban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AGHA (through translation): Our enemy is first ISIS and then government.


KILEY (voice-over): A common enemy in ISIS does not make the Taliban friends with the Afghan government or the U.S. but it may be a rare

platform for agreement in future talks.


LU STOUT: CNN's Sam Kiley joins me live from the Afghan capital of Kabul. And Sam, let's talk about Trump's America and how they're looking at

Afghanistan because, you know, the White House has emphasized a political solution to the conflict there but has been vague on how that would

achieve. How invested is the United States in this conflict now?

KILEY: Well, Kristie, I think they're extremely heavily invested particularly from the military and intelligence perspective. There's no

doubt in their minds that this is a war that has to be won specifically, though, against the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the terrorist

groups that have an international agenda.

The Taliban does not and it's for that reason given especially Taliban recent successes, that there's an increasing voice coming from the United

States and other coalition officials and indeed from government officials here in Afghanistan inviting the Taliban to join in with some kind of peace

process so that the emphasis can then be placed on trying to rid the region of the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda to a lesser extent.

It's ISIS now that's really focusing people's attention, Kristie. And there is also a deep concern in defense and intelligence circles that the rather

whimsical approach taken to foreign policy by the Trump administration in which foreign policy is frequently dictated on twitter, that they are

always one tweet away from having this entire operation shut down.

And if that were to be the case, there is an analysis that says that the Taliban could win and then this country could turn into what has been

termed a terrorist super state. So they are anxious in terms of the response to the on going campaign both from the Trump administration and

ultimately from the Taliban, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Sam Kiley with the latest on the conflict there. Thank you.

Despite a mountain of evidence including videos, photos and eyewitness accounts, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition is denying that an air

strike hit a school bus full of children last month. CNN and other news outlets have been reporting that dozens of people were killed, mostly

children when a Saudi-led air strike hit a school bus parked at a market.

[08:20:02] The spokesman says the vehicle hit wasn't a school bus because, quote, "there is no school at that time." He instead calls the vehicle a,

quote, "legitimate target." A day earlier Human Rights Watch called the attack an apparent war crime.

CNN Nema Elbagir joins us now from our London bureau. And Nema, you know, earlier we heard from the Saudi-led coalition they admitted to mistakes.

Now, an official denies that the target was a school bus. What is behind this very disturbing mixed message?

NEMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, firstly I want you to listen to exactly what he said so that there is no confusion about

the words that we heard from Truki al-Malki. Take a listen to this, Kristie.


TURKI AL-MALKI, SPOKESMAN, SAUDI-LED COALITION: As been announced by the JIAT) yesterday, it's legitimate target. It's not a school bus. The bus is

carrying some fighters elements and they are responsible about recruitment and also some of the Houthis expert in that bus. So it was as been

announced by the JIAT, it's very legitimate target and the only thing, the only mistake, being committed by the coalition is the timing, wrong timing,

where the target had been conducted.


ELBAGIR: Al-Malki says that they have satellite imagery, that they have facts. And these are the facts that were provided to the incident

assessment team, the JIAT, and that is what has led to these last findings. This is, of course, incredibly concerning for many of the human rights

organizations, many of the families who lost children.

You remember, Kristie, the cell phone footage that CNN was able to obtain that was filmed by one of those little boys, both he and his brother died

on that bus. We all saw the aftermath footage of children struggling to try and make their way to safety, children bloodied, vulnerable, wounded and so

many of those children died.

The conflicting messaging will have been very difficult to hear by one of the key Saudi-led coalition allies, the U.S. They -- before we heard FROM

Colonel al-Malki had come out and welcomed the assessment team's findings and had welcomed what they believed was supposed to be a harbinger of a

change in the rules of engagement, a change in the way that this war is conducted, but for now that doesn't appear to be the case. It feels like

the situation in Yemen will continue to be at an impasse.

LU STOUT: Yes. And I'm wondering what the latest U.S. position is on this not only in the back of that stunning denial but also what we heard from

U.N. experts. They have urged the international community to just stop providing arms to this conflict. And we note that the bomb that hit that

school bus was made in the United States. So what is the latest U.S. Position on this conflict in Yemen?

ELBAGIR: We haven't yet heard from the U.S. since the coalition doubled down on its statement that this was legitimate target, but I actually asked

Colonel al-Malki, given what we know to be written out in international humanitarian law that for an act to be a war crime, it doesn't just have to

be intentional, it can just be reckless.

So given that the own assessment team's finding was that they moved within a window of time that they should not have moved in, that they continued to

push forward with this strike even though the window had closed to hit this target, this is their own findings. Does that not meet the criteria of a

war crime?

Colonel al-Malki says no. He says that there are no war crimes being committed in Yemen. And that again is incredibly concerning because it

worries many of the observers and the panel of experts and the human rights activists that we speak to both on the ground and internationally because

it means it concerns them that that means that are lessons really being learned? That's a big worry here.

Are sufficient lessons being learned? And if they are doubling down again and again on the legitimacy of this target in spite of the wealth of

evidence that there were children on this bus, then the answer has to be no for the time being, Kristie.

LU STOUT: No lessons being learned here, no accountability. You know, the fear here more lives, innocent lives will be taken. Nema Elbagir, reporting

live for us. Thank you so much.

Scientists, they're now saying that they believe something called microwave weapons may have been used to injure U.S. diplomatic staff in Cuba and in

China in the past few years. Starting the year 2016, those diplomats reported mysterious headaches, nausea and other ailments. They also

describe hearing strange sounds.

For more on this story, CNN's Patrick Altman joins me live from Havana from where some of the first complaints of sickness emerged in 2016. And

Patrick, you know, I remember the years you and I talking about this, your reporting on these mysterious acoustic attacks on American diplomats there

in Cuba. Were they caused by these microwave weapons?

[08:25:00] PATRICK ALTMAN, CNN CORESPONDENT: We just don't know. This is the latest theory investigators feel. They are narrowing it down. What is

new is for the first time we have researchers and scientists who have been directly involved with investigation. They have access to senior

administration officials. They have access to some of the diplomats that were injured. And this is what they've come up with, but they don't have

any evidence to support it.

And it really talks about the type of weapon that they are discussing. And when you think of microwaves, of course you think about appliances, you

think about satellite technology, but what this is it could be a small dish that sends out a very powerful burst of electro magnetic beams and it has

been used in sort of unconventional weapon in years past.

There are some countries like the former Soviet Union that have microwave weapons programs going back decades. So this is something that exists and

what these researchers have told "The New York Times" and now CNN is that interestingly enough that when you are exposed to a microwave weapon of

this sort that it can cause this phenomenon that diplomats here talk about and later in China where they said they were hearing sounds.

What it does is it tricks your brain into thinking that there is an actual noise associated with this beam of energy, but it's not. It's something

that your brain essentially creates but with a microwave weapon which are much more portable than sonic weapons which is what initially researchers

had thought would have been used here in Havana.

That with a microwave weapon, they're much more portable and that it makes more sense they feel because it is a much stronger beam of energy that you

can really focus from a greater distance. So, it's an interesting theory, but for the moment, Kristie, it's just a theory because investigators here

-- remember the FBI has come to Cuba. They have not found anything to support that there were even attacks.

LU STOUT: You know, it's just a theory, but so far what has the Cuban government said about these sonic attacks on U.S. diplomatic staff there?

ALTMAN: Well, they have not responded to the latest here that microwaves could have been used. They have said that they have investigated it, that

these incidents, the health incidents as they called them and found no proof that they even occurred. They were not allowed in the diplomat's

homes here and were not accessed to diplomats themselves.

The U.S. government is not accusing Cuba directly but many in the U.S. government, the State Department say that they feel it is unlikely that an

attack could have been0carried without somebody in the Cuban government knowing. But still they have not offered any proof of the attack.

They do say though when you look at the scans of some the diplomat's brains they very clearly had a concussion but never experienced any physical

trauma that would explain that concussion. So, it is still a very big mystery. This is a new piece to the puzzle but it's a big puzzle.

LU STOUT: Yeah. It still remains a mystery. Patrick Altman, reporting live from Havana. Thank you.

Coming up, billions of dollars of investment by China to Africa, but at what cost? We're going to take an in-depth look at Ethiopia which has

accepted more than $12 billion from Beijing since the start of the 21st century.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN NEWS STREAM SHOW HOST: I'm' Kristie Lu Stout in Hon Kong. You're watching "News Stream." And these are your world headlines.

Brazil's National Museum has been damaged irreparably by a huge fire, according to its Director. Emergency services are still fighting the

blaze, which engulfed the museum in Rio de Janeiro late on Sunday. President Michel Temer says the fire robbed Brazil of 200 years of research

and knowledge.

A Judge in Myanmar convicted two Reuter's journalists for violating the country's official secret act and sentenced up to seven years each in

prison. They were investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims. The journalist claimed that they were set up by police who gave them secret

documents on the massacre before other officers arrested the moments later.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledging another $60 billion to Africa at a summit in Beijing today. It will come in the form of aid, investments and

loans. Up more than 50 African leaders attended the economic forum in a bid to seek financial support. Mr. Xi's move comes as concerns grow for

Africa's high level of Chinese debt.

Ethiopia is one African country that has already seen a lot of Chinese investment. Not the new African Union headquarters in the capital Addis

Ababa is one symbolic building that gifted by Beijing in 2012 and it cost them $200 million. Ethiopia has also taken $12.1 billion from Chinses

creditors since year 200, building basic transport systems, factories and skyscraper. Earlier, I spoke to CNN digital, Jenni Marsh, who just

returned from a trip to Ethiopia where she investigated these investments. I asked her what she saw inside those Chinese-owned factories there.


JENNI MARSH, CNN SENIOR DIGITAL PRODUCER: There's been a long standing misconception that the Chinese come to Africa to do business, but they

don't hire locals. And there was a big report last year which was the first time we had a data set on this. And the report founded actually that

in Chinese companies in Africa normally, 89 percent of employees are local. So the main factory that I visited in Ethiopia was called Huajian is a

really big Chinese shoe manufacturer. They make shoes for people like Nine West and Guess. And inside there were thousands of thousands of workers

and the vast majority of these were local Ethiopians and that some people here get back to China for training. So it did seem like there were some

good opportunities here.

LU STOUT: Interest and it's not just jobs. You know, China is part of the build road initiative and also building an infrastructure across Africa.

How much of that buildup did you see and what does it look like?

MARSH: I mean, you can't escape it, particularly in Ethiopia. It's a very young City. It's badly in need of infrastructure. There are still many

roads, even roads that go past the Prime Minister's office which are simple dead tracks. So the Chinese has really helped to mature and given it

roads. The Chinese have built the first kind of metro system in Africa. It is like a train system that runs through the city. The infrastructure

is really helping the country to industrialize and modernize.

LU STOUT: Right, right, but a lot of infrastructure has been built on debt. So, are African nations like Ethiopia, they saddled with debt due to

loans from China?

MARSH: Yes. I mean, it's a really interesting point. Since 2000, Africa has taken $130 billion in debt from China that is mostly being used for

infrastructure, but I think it's really important to note that while China has lent a lot to African countries, there's many other creditors, too.

LU STOUT: We know that China has also taken over Africa's I.T. Market. Especially its consumer technology sector. There is a brand that I had

never heard before, you mentioned to me called Techno. How did it become one of the top smart phone brands in Africa?

MARSH: Techno is a fascinating company, because it's never sold a phone in China. But in East Africa, it is bigger than Apple or Samsung and that is

because it really looks at the African consumer and decided to tailor a product to their specific needs. So, the big thing about techno phones,

they advertise that you can take a really good selfie for dark skin, because they calibrated their camera for different skin tones. They have

key boards in different languages, like Ankara, Swahili and they also have a (inaudible) facility. They really manage to capture the market and

entered this soft power space which typically is occupied by western brands.

LU STOUT: Interesting. In the end, do you think China's soft power and its reach into Africa is good for Africa? Do you think, it will it help lift

Ethiopia out of poverty?

[08:35:08] MARSH: I think that is a really difficult question and it's almost too early to say. In terms of you know, job creation, I think it

has to be a good thing for a country like Ethiopia which has a huge, young population and a big unemployment rate. Now when it comes to loans, I

think it's really important to monitor that situation. People will be looking in fact this week, I think, to see just how far the Chinese credit

line can extend and whether Beijing will be a responsible partner with Africa and not kind of overextend its credit line.

LU STOUT: Fascinating insights into China's reach into Africa. Jenny Marsh reporting. Thank you so much take care.

MARSH: Thanks, Kristie.


LU STOUT: That is Jenny has written a series of pieces for a website you don't want to miss, including one piece called employed by China. You can

read them at

A bizarre turn of events for the CEO of China's second largest ecommerce site That billionaire Richard Liu was arrested in U.S. city,

Minnesota while on a business trip on Friday. He was taken into custody on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct, but released the next day without

charge. Police records show that Liu was released pending complaint. His company released a statement saying that Liu is being falsely accused and

there is no substance to the claims against him.

Now, some 85,000 players are descending on Atlanta, Georgia for convention unlike any other. I'm talking about Dragon Con. And one of our colleagues

witness the mayhem first hand from the storm troopers to the pikachu's. We have the best of the weird and wonderful next.


LU STOUT: OK. It is Labor Day weekend in the United States and for our friends and colleagues in downtown Atlanta that means, it is Dragon Con

weekend. It is a convention for the creative, the whimsical, the gory. Tens of thousands of cosplayers flood five host hotels, several floors of a

nearby trade center and every street in between. It's a sight to behold as CNN digital A.J. puts it, quote, it's like someone has put every comic book

character, movie villain, video game hero and pop culture artifact in a blender, splashed in some rum for good measure and set it to high. Now,

A.J. Willingham, joins me now live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta where it's normal to see a zombie or two walking by this time of a year.

A.J. thank so much you for the piece and thank you for joining us.


LU STOUT: Tell us more, what is it really like at Dragon Con?

WILLINGHAM: Well, it is just one big party. And a lot of people think that these kind of things are only for niche interests, you know, Dungeons

and Dragons, World of Warcraft, Magic the gathering, but really, it is anything that you have a passion about. Somebody there is passion bout

two, you get together, you talk, you have a drink or two, you admire each other's costumes, you mill around, you people watch. And there are also,

of course, panels. There are wonderful celebrities there. Wonderful guests. There are movie screenings. There's just anything you can

possible imagine.

LU STOUT: Now, there are a lot of pop culture passions out there. So give us an idea of the scale of Dragon Con, because it is far bigger than just a

comic book convention, right?

[08:40:02] WILLINGHAM: It is so much more than a comic book convention. Of course, there's more mainstream interests, you have all the marvel

movies that are represented. You have the D.C. Universe, Wonder Woman was super big this year, but you also have anime, you have -- your card games.

You have fantasy. You know if you're really into gaming, e sports is becoming so big, so League of Legends, Over watch, anything like that

you're just going to see people walking around not only are they interested in this stuff, but they're so passionate about it that they are dressed at

over watch characters, they are dressed as Legolas from Lord of the Rings. So, really anything could possibly imagine. Literature, lots of literature


LU STOUT: Yes. Now, A.J., you're really well briefed on trends and subcultures, you know, from "Star Wars," steam punks, Cyber Goth, et

cetera, but was there like a new subculture that you saw on display over the weekend that you had never quite understood or seen in that way before?

WILLINGHAM: I would say the Cyber Goth sort of presence there, somebody came up to me and they said, you're dressed up. Would you love to -- we

put on parties from the city, I'm from Atlanta, would you love to come to some of our parties that are held at, you know, 1:00 in the morning and we

all dress up and we, you know, have light up costumes, would you like to come and join that? And that is one great thing about Dragon Con, is like,

even though I don't appear to be into Cyber Goth subcultures, they're always welcoming and they want you to come and join them and party with


LU STOUT: I love that. And the attention to detail, I mean, did you see some real just art on display with the costumes there at Dragon Con?

WILLINGHAM: This is absolutely art. The time that people spend, the amazing things they do, what I saw a lot of is people 3d printing their

props. So you would have people 3d printing giant guns, giant weapons, I saw a guy print an idol sort of thing from legends of the hidden temple,

which was a big show in the '90s. And so they print them in different parts and then they sand them, they paint them and just hours and hours

spent on this stuff. And lots of money. It's all worth it, because like I said it's an art, it is a feat of engineering.

You see people with big wings coming off of their costumes that have taken just unfold days to put together. And so there's just always something to

look at. And the best thing is you walk up to somebody and say, how did you do that? And they will be more than happy to tell you, its foam, its

cake pans, it's something I found, you know, in the garage and spray painted. And so just the creativity and how proud people are and how

willing they are to talk about it, it is juts that there's always a conversation to be had.

LU STOUT: That is so incredible. A.J, you covered it. You've also dressed up, you cosplayed yourself as well, and yourself as another

character and sounds like you'll definitely go back again.


LU STOUT: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We will leave it that. A.J., thank you, take care. That is it for "News Stream." I'm

Kristie Lu Stout. But don't go anywhere. We have "World Sport" with Christina MacFarlane coming up next.


[08:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)