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Bronx Train Crash; Hacking Death Trial; Israeli Prime Minister Visits Pope; Ukraine Revolution?

Aired December 2, 2013 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Police say they hit him with a car and then attacked him with a meat cleaver and knives.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, it's better but is it fixed. The Obamacare website gets an upgrade.

You're watching "AROUND THE WORLD". I'm Frederick Whitfield, in for Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today.

Let's start with the fatal commuter train crash in the Bronx. NTSB investigators say they have now downloaded information from what's called an event recorder on board. It could tell them what made the train jump the tracks on Sunday.

WHITFIELD: Authorities are also looking for any video out there that could help explain exactly what went wrong. Four people were killed and dozens more hurt in the crash. At least one doctor says survivors might need mental health care.

HOLMES: Not surprising, too. Just have a listen to what some passengers said about the experience.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought, I'm going to die, to be honest. I thought, I'm going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I broke my arm. It's really painful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a lot of crunching and grinding and I started seeing stars in front of my eyes and I thought, my goodness, is this the end?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just heard like a screeching noise, you know? I happened to be by the window. I'm on top of the hill, but I still heard a screeching noise. And then within seconds, the ambulance start -- and the fire trucks started coming past my window. And I knew something big happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just sitting on the train. I wasn't like paying - I wasn't paying attention to anything in particular. And then, all of a sudden, the train just kind of felt like a little more sideways than it should be. And by the time I looked up, it was completely going off its track and there was just like the rubble from under the tracks like flying.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Alexandra Field joining us now from the Bronx.

So you're getting new information, right, Alexandra, from rail officials?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Fredricka. Everyone wants to know what caused this crash. Right now Metro North is coming out saying that they inspect their tracks twice a week. And that when this was - when this track was last inspected, it was demand OK for normal use.

They're also telling us that the crew on board that train has been drug and alcohol tested. That's routine procedure in a case like this. However, those results are not routinely released.

A spokesperson wasn't immediately able to tell us if the train was equipped with a front-facing camera or if a camera would have been trained on the train's operator. That's something investigators will certainly want to find out. They've told us already that they're looking for any video or still images that could have been recorded before, after or around the time of that crash. These are things that could give them insight into what caused the deadly accident.

Fred. Michael.

HOLMES: And, Alexandra, what about the train operator? Is he in any condition to give a statement yet?

FIELD: All right, so initially the train operator told law enforcement officials that he applied pressure to the brake, but that the train did not stop. We now know that there was an engineer onboard and that there were three conductors. Investigators hope to be able to speak with the crew in the coming days. They'll want to sit down and interview them when they're ready to do that. For now, we have not heard whether or not those interviews have been conducted.

But we do know that investigators have found two event recorders, one was in the back of the train, in the locomotive, the other was in the front of the train. And the data from those recorders is being downloaded. It should give investigators a very clear picture of what the train's speed was, what its velocity was, and how that brake system might have been functioning.

WHITFIELD: All right, Alexandra Field, thanks so much, reporting from the Bronx.

HOLMES: All right, let's take you to London now as the trial resumed today for two men accused of, first of all, slamming their car into a British soldier and then getting out and hacking him to death.

WHITFIELD: Jurors today saw this video of one of the defendants. We're blurring the bloody knives and the meat cleaver that he is wielding there. They were allegedly used to stab and almost decapitate Lee Rigby on a London sidewalk in broad daylight.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. Atika Shubert outside the courthouse where the trial is being held.

Atika, events over for the day. We know that the defendants pleaded not guilty. Walk us through the evidence today.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, the prosecution is still outlining its case. And we got to see some more of that pretty shocking video you saw there, particularly the point of impact when the defendants apparently used their car to hit Lee Rigby. There was also video today in which they -- you could see Lee -- them dragging Lee Rigby from the pavement to the middle of the road.

It was also the first time we heard from eyewitnesses describing how the defendants exited the car with knives and a meat cleaver in hand and then began hacking at Lee Rigby. And it's pretty vivid detail that they described it. And many of the eyewitnesses are themselves traumatized by what they saw. In fact, one of them, James Hagaman (ph), seemed particularly traumatized by this because he said he tried to stop it, but then one of them pointed a gun at him.

So it really has been some horrifying details relived in court today. And as a result, it's been very difficult for friends and family of Lee Rigby.

WHITFIELD: And, Atika, immediately following, there was huge public reaction really worldwide. How closely are people following this trial?

SHUBERT: It's being followed very closely. And again, because that video is being shown again in court and people can see it in the news, it is a little bit like reliving the horrific incident, but it's particularly hard on the family of Lee Rigby. His fiancee was in court today, as was his mother and sister. And, frankly, as soon as they said they were going to show that CCTV video, the family left the courtroom because it was too much to take.

HOLMES: Yes, just a horrible, horrible case.


HOLMES: And at some point, we will hear from the defendants, as well. Atika Shubert reporting from London, thanks. And as I say, it's finished for the day now. They'll resume tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: Yes, terrible details.


WHITFIELD: All right. In the U.S., fans, family and friends mourning the death of actor Paul Walker. We're learning more about the fiery crash that killed the star of the international blockbuster "Fast and Furious" movies.

HOLMES: Yes, the sheriff's office says speed was indeed a factor. Says also that drag racing may have been involved. Deputies say another car, it's possibly veered in front of Walker's car in this Saturday crash north of Hollywood.

WHITFIELD: Seen here, he was the passenger in this 2005 Porsche Carrera GT driven by his business and racing partner. This photo was taken just 30 minutes before he was killed.

HOLMES: A video posted to YouTube shows the fire moments after the car slammed into a pole. You see it there bursting into flames. It's unclear, though, how fast the car was going, but some photographs shot by CNN show some figure eight skid marks near the crash scene, some circular doughnuts as they call them. We're going to have more on this later this hour.

WHITFIELD: All righty. Also coming up, the anger has been growing for days now. And now protests in Ukraine are being called a revolution.

HOLMES: Yes, journalists, though, having trouble reporting. They're getting caught up in the demonstrations. At least 40 journalists, many of them from outside the Ukraine, have been injured. One was even beaten by police.

WHITFIELD: Then the pope and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talking peace. How the church could impact Israeli-Palestinian relations.

You're watching "AROUND THE WORLD".


WHITFIELD: Israel's prime minister visits the pope. It's the first time Benjamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis have met face to face. And they did discuss the very thorny issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

HOLMES: It must have been quite a chat list. Let's get more on the meeting between these two. Ben Wedeman joins us live from Rome.

The Vatican has been hoping that Israelis and Palestinians can kick start talks again, but that won't have been all on the schedule. As you and I spoke this morning, I said it would have been nice to have been a fly on the wall in that conversation.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but that conversation only went on for 25 minutes. And from the list of topics they reportedly discussed, they couldn't have spent too much time on any one in particular. In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which seems sometimes beyond resolution, they also spoke about the recent agreement with Iran on its nuclear program and, of course, we heard yesterday Prime Minister Netanyahu when he made an address in Rome's main be synagogue blasting that agreement yet again. Not missing any opportunity to criticize it.

They also, though, spoke about the upcoming visit by Pope Francis to the Middle East. Now, we understand it's going to be before July when Israeli President Shimon Peres is scheduled to step down, but we're hearing from the Middle East, from sources in Jordan and the Palestinian territories, that this visit may well take place at the end of May.

And I've covered previous papal visits to the Middle East by both John Paul II, as well as Benedict XVI. And even though this pope, Pope Francis, certainly is a mold breaker, he may have to tread carefully in the Middle East because that's one area where everybody who's watching, everybody is analyzing your every move.

So here at the Vatican, certainly he is shaking things up. Hard to say if he's got the appetite to shake up things in the Middle East.

Michael. Fred.

WHITFIELD: And, Ben, were there any discussions, any further discussions about Iran and the most recent deals made with Iran?

WEDEMAN: If there were, we don't know the details. This was a closed meeting. They spoke through a translator. So we don't particularly know. We do know that this pope certainly is more actively engaged in the affairs of the Vatican from the most minor to sort of the grand affairs of state. Now, is he willing to get involved in the nuclear issue regarding Iran and certainly Israel's objections to that program? I don't know. And I suspect the pope realizes even he has limitations on what he can do.

HOLMES: Ben, before I let you go, I know you were out and about on the streets of Rome every night, all night. What are these reports of the pope sneaking out of the Vatican and doing charity work? I mean do you know anything about that? Is that getting publicity there?

WEDEMAN: It's getting a lot of publicity here. This is -- he apparently met with a group of journalists. This is was an official archbishop, Conrad Kryevski (ph), he is the almoner (ph), and that is the man who gives the alms of the pope. And he spoke to these journalists and one of them asked him, does the pope go out at night to give alms as he did when he was in Buenos Aries in Argentina?

And rather than answer the question, Archbishop Kryevski said, next question. So we understand that Kryevski does go out in a white Fiat several nights a week with some of the Swiss guard to hand out money, to hand out food, leftovers from the Vatican cafeteria, but we don't know if Pope Francis occasionally joins him.

HOLMES: An extraordinary chap, isn't he? Ben Wedeman, too, thanks so much for that. And when Ben's out and about at night, it's not always doing charity work, but thanks for being across that, Mr. Wedeman.

WHITFIELD: And sometimes silence speaks volumes, doesn't it?

HOLMES: Exactly. You see that? Did you see that? You did.

WHITFIELD: You've got read into the question and even the non-answers.

All right, they want jobs and modernization, but talks between Ukraine and the European Union fell flat. Now outrage over the failed deal has protests taking to the streets.

HOLMES: Yes, we've got a live report coming up from Ukraine. Things looking very unsettled there at the moment.


HOLMES: Welcome back. Could a revolution be brewing in Ukraine? Hundreds of thousands of people protesting the government at the moment. It's been going on for days and the demonstrations are getting more and more heated.




HOLMES: That was a rather nasty encounter as you can tell between a cameraman and a police officer. Protesters, meanwhile, blocking government offices, also calling now for a nationwide strike. This is getting out of hand.

They're upset with their president's decision to basically shun the European Union and move back towards Russia. Now, they're calling for him to get pushed out.

CNN's Phil Black is in Kiev, monitoring things. Phil, this started, as we said, with a disagreement among the populace how close to get to Europe and the like. But this is developing into something quite different, one protest leader saying, This is not a protest. This is a revolution.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michael, that's exactly what this crowd behind me was cheering, screaming out together as one just a few seconds before you came to me, Revolution. They're not just trying to get the government to change its approach to integrating with Europe now. They're trying to throw out this government. That is what they really want.

The reason why this has escalated in this way, you the vi leapt scenes that can too place over the weekend. That triggered a very angry reaction and escalate this had to a much more serious political crisis for the Ukrainian government, Michael.

HOLMES: Of course, one of the complaints among those on the streets, and it must be said too that the original group of protesters has been joined by more extreme elements, too, adding to the fire.

But what are the Russians saying about this? It's not just the Russians, but also the European Union.

BLACK: Well, the Russian government, in particular, President Putin, today has spoken about this protest action in a dismissive way. He sees it as an attempt to undermine the legitimate authority, the legitimate government, of this country. That's kind of unusual for him to comment on because he tends not to comment on the domestic politics of other countries.

As far as Europe goes, well, it believes and it has stated that it holds something of a solidarity for the people who are taking to the streets here, in what it describes as their "European aspirations."

Makes the point that this offer to Ukraine is still very much on the table, these integration agreements in terms of association and free trade that would lock Ukraine into a much closer relationship with the European Union. But the E.U. is also stressing whatever the domestic political disagreements going on at the moment, they should be settled peacefully, not quiet as we've seen them being settled over the last couple case.

HOLMES: What's the big fear? Closer to Europe was one idea. The people on the streets wanted more to get out of it. What did they want to get out of the proximity to Europe and what is the fear in terms of where this could be heading?

BLACK: They want, or at least a good part of this country's population wants, this country to modernize, to grow economically, socially, politically in ways that it believes it hasn't done over the last 20 years since the Soviet Union fell apart.

The people of Ukraine, or a great many of them believe, they've fallen a long way behind many of the other eastern European countries that used to be under the Soviet wing, if you like, but have since joined the E.U., modernized, brought up their political system so that they are now significantly free of corruption.

They have rule of law. They have growing economies, these sorts of things. That's what the pro-European people in this country want.

And that is largely geographic, too. It's basically the western half of Ukraine. The eastern half of Ukraine have always been closer to Russia, both ethnically, culturally. They have seen Russia as being their natural ally, and to a significant extent, they still do.

So by no means has President Yanukovych lost the country. He still has his significant political base in the pro-Russian east, but he is now under a lot more pressure than he was just a few days ago, Michael.

HOLMES: And, Phil, paint a picture for us. Behind you, we can hear the noise of the crowd. It is getting late there now. Do these protests go on through the night? Do they carry on all night. and with the government promising to crack down harshly if this gets violent, what is the fear?

BLACK: Well, there is a real risk that this could escalate, because this crowd behind me, not as big as we saw yesterday. Yesterday was about a hundred thousand. Possibly more, some people estimate.

Significantly smaller than that, but it is cold, it is dark and they are determined. A lot of them spent the whole night here last night and they're digging in. They've got barricades set up around this square to keep the police away, adding to the revolutionary fear.

It points to the fact that there has to be something of a showdown between these guys and the authorities at some point, Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, very worrying. Phil Black on the spot there in Kiev, appreciate that. Thanks.


WHITFIELD: All right, a clearly very volatile situation and many people not at all fearful of what could happen, because you saw, Michael, many have like sticks or poles packed away in their backpack, as if they want some conflict with authorities there.

All right, a court in Thailand has just issued an arrest warrant for a powerful anti-government, protest leader. This comes on day eight of demonstrations that have rocked the capital.

Thailand's prime minister today offered to hold talks to resolve the crisis. That's after protests in Bangkok turned violent over the weekend.

Paula Hancocks reports from the scene of the demonstrations.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The situation remains fluid here in Bangkok. A small but hard-core group of protesters is still fighting against riot police, trying to get inside Government House, the main seat of power here in Thailand.

Now, the protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, has given the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, an ultimatum and said, I give you two days to get out and to give power back to the people, something that Yingluck has said is constitutionally not possible.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Bangkok.


WHITFIELD: And nearly 126,000, that's how many people have died during the civil war in Syria, and the fight does keep raging on.

CNN reports from the front-line of the ongoing battle, next.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. We've got an update now on Sunday's fatal commuter train crash in the Bronx. Investigators say the second of two data recorders has now arrived in Washington.

WHITFIELD: The NTSB is hoping it will explain why the cars left the tracks, killing four people. A spokeswoman for the rail line says the train didn't have video cameras on board and the crews are not allowed to use cell phones. She also says the track passed a recent inspection.

HOLMES: The United States no safer from terror today than it was two years ago. That's what the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

WHITFIELD: They say, although America has stepped up efforts to fight the likes of al Qaeda, including killing Osama bin Laden and drone strikes aimed at decimating the group's leadership, the administration has lost ground, it says, in the ongoing battle with global terrorism.

Here's Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Mike Rogers with CNN's Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago, in general?