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Personal Aide Recounts Last Visit With Mandela; Public Memorial for Mandela Tomorrow; Stuck for Days in Dallas; Flights Canceled; Ukraine Protests Growing; Tech Firms Talk Spying; American in "Arabs Got Talent"

Aired December 9, 2013 - 12:30   ET


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, he called her his rock. And literally, she spent the last 18, 19 years with him. And, you know, what was incredible about her role in his life was also incredible about the way he was such a leader, was that he picked her out of the typing pool when he arrived at the presidency. She had been working. She's Afrikaans. She's white. She represented the old order, the apartheid regime.

And he made a point of ensuring that she was next to him, because not only -- he wanted to show the world, he wanted to show South Africans that he would work and that he would rely on a white person. And she tells this wonderful story about how there was a picture of her once pouring him -- serving him tea. And it caused an outcry because a white woman was serving a black man tea. And look how much things have changed in 20 years.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And, Robyn, this is someone who was by his side for more than 18 years. I imagine she, like so many, was very difficult to let go, to actually let go of him. How did she do that? How did she explain how she finally made peace with that, if she has?

CURNOW: You know, I'm a South African and I don't think any of us, and I'm going to be very personal here, I don't think any of us will ever let go. This was a man who really changed not just the course of this country and history. That's something else in a way.

Every single one of us was affected by what Mandela did for every single one of us personally. And that is what you're seeing behind me tonight, is this intimate connection that Mandela forged with South Africans because he sacrificed so much.

But at the same time, he also made a point of making you feel like you could follow him. And that it didn't matter if you were white or whether you had thought bad racist thoughts 20, 50 years ago, it was OK. He was like the Pied Piper. He had this extraordinary ability to bring people along. And this is what we have today, people in the rain standing in front of a wall of flowers, saying thank you.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Making them feel like they were, indeed, close to him and important to him, even if they had never met him.

Robyn --

CURNOW: And they mattered.

HOLMES: And mattered, yeah.

Robyn Curnow, extraordinary reporting there throughout the last few days.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Robyn.

HOLMES: Great to have you here.

MALVEAUX: It really is the definition of a leader, people who inspire people to follow them. And that's exactly what he did for so many. And you're talking about people of all races, faiths, really paying tribute to Nelson Mandela in these days.

HOLMES: The area outside of Mr. Mandela's home in Johannesburg has, as we have seen in the last few days, become a real gathering place for mourners.

There have been cheers, there have been tears, and celebrations of his life, but, also, of course, sadness, too, all for the icon who reshaped that country, in many ways affected the world.

MALVEAUX: Christiane Amanpour joins us from South Africa.

And, Christiane, if you would, give us a global sense. We've been talking about this in a very personal way and people who are on the ground.

But you have people from all over the world, more than 90 heads of state, 10 former heads of state plan to travel to Johannesburg for the memorial services, four U.S. presidents. Give us a sense of the global picture here.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is massive, and it's all encompassing. They're coming from all over the world, as you said, nearly 100, more than 90 people from around the world, heads of government, heads of state, coming for what's going to be the big set-piece memorial in the famous soccer stadium here in Johannesburg, quite near to Soweto, the township where Mandela lived, of course, before he was sentenced to jail.

So they'll be there and people such as President Obama, such as the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, will be speaking. Also, the president of Brazil, Dilma Roussef, she'll be speaking, as well.

There will also be family members who are speaking, and then the main appreciation and tribute will be read by current South African president, Jacob Zuma.

So that is all going to take place tomorrow. Plus, of course, this is a massive stadium. It holds, we're told, around 95,000 people. And we're told that ordinary South Africans, there's no tickets, there's no anything to get in, just first come, first served. So that's going to be a very coveted line to be in tonight, waiting until the early hours of tomorrow morning, South African time.

And, of course, there will be many screens around the country for people to be able to follow that memorial service. And we don't know how long it's going to last. It's budgeted to last a few hours. It may go on, spontaneously, for many, many, many hours longer than that.

But I think also, so important, you mentioned Robyn was talking about Zelda la Grange and about her own feelings as white South Africans. And it reminds me of that incredible thing he told a journalist a while back, that, while I was in prison my hatred for the white person, the white people decreased, but my hatred for the system increased.

And so he was committed to toppling that system, but then, of course, why does everybody love him and respect him? Because he was able to triumph over the hatred, and forgiveness is the leitmotif of Mandela's time on this Earth.

HOLMES: He achieved so much, but one of his big -- what he -- poverty was a big deal for him. I think he said that massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our time. He fought against it.

Now, South Africa still battles that and many, many other things. Do you think he might be disappointed with what's not happened on that stage?

AMANPOUR: Probably. I mean, look, frankly and factually, a huge amount of good has happened to South Africa, whether it's a stable democracy, whether it's a free press, whether it's a much bigger or more inclusive middle class, including blacks, whether it's better education.

But you're absolutely right. The project is not finished. And, in fact, even particularly amongst the blacks, there is a massive income inequality, one of the biggest in the world, very, very poor people still living in shantytowns and the like while there is also at the same time a very rich and exploding black, you know, economic super- class. So that is an issue.

The issue of corruption is still one that's alive and needs to be tackled. And the issue of education still needs to be tackled. He was very keen on the idea of education.

But, look, many people will say that some of the very important things were not done. And they still have to be finished. But after Mandela was released and after those first free elections in South Africa, so much more of Africa itself, this continent, has become democratic, and it's not a coincidence.

MALVEAUX: And, Christiane, so many world leaders, I mean, when you talk about the leader of Cuba, the United States and Europe and African countries, it could not be more diverse.

Do you think there is a lesson, a takeaway, that they can come away from Mandela? Something that perhaps they all could agree on? Because you have such an incredible diverse group of world leaders who govern differently.

AMANPOUR: Wouldn't it be great? Wouldn't that just be wonderful?

There are certainly many leaders out there, many conflicts that could be resolved if a little bit of Mandela's forgiveness and inclusion was employed.

Many long time dictators and authoritarians who make take a lesson out of Mandela's playbook. He stepped down after just one term. He promised to serve one term and he kept that promise, although in this case, people would have liked him to continue.

But, sure, there are many, many leaders out there who could take some serious lessons to what Mandela proved as a leader on the world stage.

HOLMES: And particularly in the areas of compromise and the like, too.

AMANPOUR: And forgiveness.

HOLMES: Yes, compromise, forgiveness.

MALVEAUX: Reconciliation, many countries have not been able to pull that off. South Africa was truly the model for that.

HOLMES: Yeah, but you know -

AMAPOUR: Interestingly, conflict areas like Northern Ireland, if you talk to Gerry Adams of the Sinn Fein, if you talk to people on the union side, the English side, they say they learned a lot from the example of Mandela.

HOLMES: All right, Christiane, thanks so much. Great to have you down there, too, for this historic event. We'll be talking, no doubt.

MALVEAUX: And another big story we're following, these folks thought they were stopping in Dallas for a brief layover, well, to change planes.

They didn't realize that they would actually be calling Dallas-Fort Worth home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like this place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean this isn't your home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is right now. They say home is where you lay your head down.


MALVEAUX: At least a little bit, temporarily home.

Can't get in or out of Dallas right now. More flights to and from the city canceled today. We're going to go live, next.


MALVEAUX: All right, if you want to escape warmer weather -- to warmer weather, try Anchorage. I'm not kidding here.

HOLMES: Alaska?


HOLMES: You crack me up.

MALVEAUX: No, apparently it's true. Might not be funny, but it's true.

OK, it was warmer there will this morning than in St. Louis or Denver.

HOLMES: Yeah, and if you know your U.S. geography, that doesn't make any sense at all, the premature blast of winter affecting virtually the entire United States. And if you're not seeing snow, ice or blistering cold, you're probably getting really tired of the fog and the endless rain. That's what we've been getting

MALVEAUX: And we're watching this too because traveling by car has been pretty dangerous here on the road. Pile-up -- this is a pile-up in Yonkers, New York, that left 40 people hurt from all this. Look at all those cars, incredible.

And if you're traveling by air, that too difficult, flying, about 1,500 flights canceled today.


And some travelers can't get out of Dallas.

Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


JAMES ARCHIBALD, STRANDED IN DALLS: This is day four, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Times are getting desperate.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Growing frustrations for thousands of passengers after being stranded at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport since Friday.

James Archibald of Canada is one of them.

ARCHIBALD: I just don't understand why they can't get the ice off the runway. You know, I'm from Canada. We've got four or five feet of snow on the runway, boom, plows go by. I know it's for our own safety, but it's getting a bit silly.

LAVANDERA: Mr. Archibald is posting video updates on YouTube, chronicling his misadventure in north Texas. As he waits out the weather, he's amusing himself by interviewing other travelers stuck at the gates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going home. I don't like this place.

ARCHIBALD: Oh, you mean, this isn't your home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is right now. They say home is where you lay your head down.

LAVANDERA: On Friday, nearly 700 flights or about 90 percent of the total were canceled, about 400 more on Sunday.

These newlyweds were on their honeymoon and trying to get to Cancun, Mexico, when the ice storm grounded them. The couple from Tokyo, a long way from that beach-front honeymoon, slept in chairs like so many others. Some were lucky enough to get cots.

The cancellations continued through the weekend while airport workers provided some food and drinks to travelers. They also brought in jugglers, illustrators and balloon artists, but that was little relief for some.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you showered in four days?


LAVANDERA: The temperature was about freezing for about five hours on Sunday. That helped crews clear ice from the runways.


MALVEAUX: All right, Ed Lavandera joins us from Dallas-Fort Worth International.

Ed, those jugglers can only last so long before people just completely lose it, right? Where are we at this point?

LAVANDERA: Yeah, no, this is quite a place to be. There's only so much to do in the airport terminal, you know?

But they say things are improving, about 350 flights canceled so far today, quite improving when you consider, I think, it was almost nearly 800 flights were canceled on Friday.

And a lot of the problem now is logistical. You have airplanes, pilots and crews. They're just scattered all over the place, in places where they shouldn't be, so a lot of what is going on behind the scenes is airlines trying to figure out how to reposition teams so that they can get the schedule running normally again.

HOLMES: Yes, it's that domino effect isn't it? One plane doesn't fly from somewhere. Well, it was going somewhere and that affects everything down the line. What are the airlines doing for those who are stranded there? I mean obviously the cots. That will help a little bit.

LAVANDERA: Yes, they're - you know, you've got to give it to them, they're trying their best to make people feel a little bit - you know, I think there was some singing and coffee and hot chocolate and that sort of thing. But, you know, once you're in a terminal for three or four days at a time, that, you know, it can -- how many cups of coffee do you really, really need?

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. Ed, thanks so much. Ed Lavandera there at Dallas-Fort Worth or DFW.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Ed. Appreciate it.

Yes, DFW, as we're calling it today.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes.

MALVEAUX: Normally they compete against each other, but this is a rare move here. We're talking about America's top tech firms joining forces. And want to see what they are asking the president to do that's going to impact your privacy. That's next on "AROUND THE WORLD".


HOLMES: In the Ukraine, protests reaching fever pitch. They have been going on for days and they're getting bigger. Today, after weeks of mass protests over a u-turn away from the European Union, the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, is backing a call now for talks that will involve the opposition trying to work out some sort of compromise.

MALVEAUX: And even as that was happening, the main opposition party has told CNN that police stormed the opposition's offices and took away some computers. Now, police are denying any involvement. And one thing is certain, the discontent in the streets is very real and it is growing.

HOLMES: And it's not pleasant to be out on those streets. You can see the weather in Kiev there. Matthew Chance has been covering it all for us.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a symbolic act of defiance. Pro-European protesters toppling that statue of the Russian revolutionary Lenin in the center of Kiev, hacking it to pieces with hammers. Pro-government supporters staged their own demonstration nearby amid concerns that Ukraine, a country of nearly 45 million people, is increasingly divided. Hundreds of thousands have gathered in the capital Kiev, calling for the government there to step down. There's widespread anger after the Ukrainian president rejected closer ties with the European Union in favor of a trade pact with Moscow.


MALVEAUX: And some of America's top tech companies, they are now urging the U.S. government to curtail its spying program. This is a rare move that tech executives have sent a letter to President Obama and Congress saying there's an urgent need to curtail the spying which the companies say is actually hurting their bottom line.

HOLMES: Yes, a lot of people say those companies collect a lot of information on you, but they say the government's doing worse. The National Security Agency's massive snooping program, of course, came to light when documents leaked by that man there, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, revealed the interactions between tech companies and the NSA. Evan Perez joins us now from Washington.

Yes, it's an interesting move by these tech companies. They've taken a hit in some overseas markets like China. How can companies that have staked their reputations on the ability to safeguard people's information start to assure their customers overseas that their information is secure if the NSA can poke in the backdoor?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Michael, that's what's worrying executives of some of the biggest tech companies in the United States, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google and Microsoft, they're all asking the government to help pull back some of the NSA surveillance programs. The challenge for these companies is that they are required by law to help the NSA do surveillance.

Now, what Edward Snowden has exposed over the last few months is several programs that allow the NSA to access vast amounts of private information. The NSA says it is to prevent terrorism. But often that data is being collected on people who don't have any connection to terrorism. And that's the reason why you see these companies asking the government to change the law so the companies can in fact protect their customers' privacy.

Now, here's what they had to say in their letter that they sent out today. "The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual -- rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for change."

MALVEAUX: And, Evan, talk specifically about China, because we know that a lot of the drops in sales have happened in China, even though the economy there grew almost 8 percent in the third quarter. So how does this impact the U.S. economy as well?

PEREZ: Well, you know, that's right, Suzanne. These are some of the most important companies to the U.S. economy. And already some are reporting that their competitors in Europe are stealing their business simply because these companies are able to say that they can offer better privacy protections and they don't have to help the NSA snoop. Microsoft's general counsel wrote in a blog post this morning that customers won't use technology they don't trust. He says the government puts that trust at risk and therefore the government is the one that has to help restore it, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yes. All right, Evan, thank you so much. I know a lot of people, you know, they're just thinking you can't - you know, there's no guarantee of privacy wherever you are, you know?

HOLMES: Yes, (INAUDIBLE). Yes, and, you know, as I say, hardly the NSA, but a lot of those companies there have been accused of, you know, collecting plenty of data about us, as well.

MALVEAUX: Information.

HOLMES: Yes. It's not the same thing but -

MALVEAUX: It's all voluntary (ph).

HOLMES: Not altruistic.

MALVEAUX: No, not at all.


MALVEAUX: An American singer, check this out, not Arab, nearly took the top prize in a TV show called "Arabs Got Talent."

HOLMES: She was very good, too.


MALVEAUX: All right, this is my favorite story, by the way.

HOLMES: You love this.

MALVEAUX: I love this story. A young American woman makes it to the top three of "Arabs Got Talent" contest.

HOLMES: I still hate the grammar of that. But it is called "Arabs Got Talent."


HOLMES: Don't complain to us. Her name is Jennifer Grout. She sang a series of classical Arabic songs. Beautiful songs too. Won over a lot of skeptics with her beautiful singing.

MALVEAUX: And, get this, she doesn't speak a word of Arabic. Mohammed Jamjoom has more.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jennifer Grout went from very long shot to just falling short. The 23-year-old all- American girl with the very Arab voice came very close to winning the most popular televised talent show in the Middle East, "Arabs Got Talent." She placed in the top three during Saturday's finale. After the show, Jennifer told me she was very proud to have participated. Next up for her, she goes back to Morocco where she'll continue performing.




MALVEAUX: That was pretty cool. The dance troupe, I think it was a Syrian dance troupe Sima actually won that competition.

HOLMES: They're terrific. They really are. No, I did see a bit of it. The interesting thing with that girl, by the way, she actually speaks -- and people had asked about this in previous interviews that they'd seen with her -- she actually speaks English with a bit of an Arab accent. And Mohammed was telling me this morning that that's because she immerses herself in the society and she picked up English with an Arab accent. But she's as American as you are.

MALVEAUX: She's totally American.

HOLMES: Yes, totally.

MALVEAUX: Yes, absolutely.

HOLMES: Yes. It's extraordinary.

MALVEAUX: Good for her. We like that.

Thanks for watching "AROUND THE WORLD". CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, freezing weather is plaguing most of the United States. Ice on highways and overpasses making driving dangerous, and flying isn't much better. Already 1,500 flights have been canceled.

Also right now, President Obama heading to South Africa, where crowds are mourning and celebrating Nelson Mandela. We'll have a live report on the president's expected role in tomorrow's public memorial service.

And right now, 85-year-old Merrill Newman resting at his home in California after spending more than a month in captivity in North Korea. He's also sharing new details about his ordeal, including the menu.