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Winter Olympics in Sochi and Controversial Russian Law about Homosexuality; Dennis Rodman Promotes Basketball Diplomacy with North Korea; Sea Fauna off the California Coast Showing Unusual Behavior Pattern; Training Facility for Space Tourism Opens in Pennsylvania

Aired December 19, 2013 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: It`s our panel to meet program of 2013. And it starts with next year`s Winter Olympics to happen in February in the Russian city of Sochi. There`s been some controversy involving the games, and about a Russian law regarding homosexuality. That under the law, it is not illegal to be homosexual, but it is illegal to promote homosexuality or same sex relationships to minors. Russian President Vladimir Putin says everyone, athletes and spectators will be welcome at the Olympics.

Yesterday, the U.S. announced its delegation for the Olympics, the people who will represent the U.S. in Sochi. Some analysts think that who`s going and who`s not could be sending a message. The delegation includes several openly homosexual American athletes, it doesn`t include President Obama, any member of the first family or any member of the presidential cabinet. The first time in more than ten years that`s happened.

Next up, diplomacy: how countries and governments interact. The U.S. and North Korea don`t have diplomatic relations. So, you don`t usually see officials from one country meeting with officials from the other. One high profile American is visiting North Korea later, but we`re not talking about an ambassador, or a government employee. It`s a former pro-basketball star.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With his piercings, tattoos, and at times outlandish behavior, there`s no denying former NBA star Dennis Rodman loves attracting attention. And where he`s heading, it`s certain the world will be watching. As the 52-year old makes his third visit into a country ruled by one of the world`s most repressive regime.

DENNIS RODMAN, FMR. NBA STAR: I want to bridge a gap with North Korea. That`s all I wanted.

COREN: It comes at a time of dramatic political upheaval in North Korea. Just last week, the country`s young leader, Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed, in what some experts believe is just the beginning of many more purges to come. A power struggle is believed to be the reason why he had his mentor and second in command allegedly killed by machine gunfire. And with all the instability, it would appear that the Supreme Leader could use a good friend.

RODMAN: I`m going to call him my friend. He is my friend. You could hate my guts, hate my guts, but he is my friend.

COREN: Rodman is traveling with a documentary crew that will film him training the North Korean basketball team. They are preparing for an exhibition match in January, against a group of former pro-basketball players, to celebrate the birthday of Kim Jong-un, a diehard basketball fan. Many are wondering, whether Rodman will raise the issue of 45-year old American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15-years prison in Pyongyang, for what authorities say was an attempt to overthrow the regime.

But Rodman says this trip isn`t political, although in previous visits, he has made himself available for basketball diplomacy, offering to be a mediator between his close friend Kim and U.S. President Barack Obama.

RODMAN: And this guy just wants to do one thing: just have a conversation with you. That`s it. So, why Obama, are you afraid to talk to Dennis Rodman?

COREN: Anna Coren, CNN, Seoul.


AZUZ: And so, if you bulldogs out there have been dogged in your determination to get on "Roll Call," here is your day: starting with the bulldogs from West York Area High in York, Pennsylvania. Then it`s over to Ohio, where we are checking with the Green High School, bulldogs. And our last bulldogs are out in California. Garfield High School in Los Angeles wraps up the roll.

Scientists say last month was the warmest November on the record. Now, it might not have felt like that in the U.S., but North America was an exception. The global average temperature for November was 56.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That`s more than a degree above the 20th century average. We don`t know if that explains what you`re about to see. But in nature, when something changes, it can have a far-reaching impact.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A feeding frenzy along the California coast. Like none ever recorded.

KATHERINE WHITAKER, MARINE RESEARCHER: And talking to the old timers, a fisherman that have been here for 60 years, they`ve never seen anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monterey Bay, now a massive soup bowl, as the locals call it feasting humpback whales. They should have gone south months ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on camera): What would keep whales like this here?

WHITAKER: We`re talking about miles and miles of anchovies, mountains deep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): And it`s not just whales. There are sea lions in droves. Even killer whales.

WHITAKER: You`ve got to understand the entire food chain to get to understand this, and you won`t know that unless you know more about the weather and the currents of the oceans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Knowing more, a top priority for climate researchers as they grabble with new environmental trends.

JIM COVEL, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of my favorite sayings right now is we may be experiencing global weirding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Pacific recently has seen its fair share of weird.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The invasion of Humboldt squid up and down the California coast. Sea lion calves this year dying off in worrying numbers and in recent weeks, disturbingly sea stars from Alaska to San Diego wasting away - literally - melting.

COVEL: Starting to see animals who were coming here 30 or 40 years ago, maybe shifting their ranges farther north.


AZUZ: Space might be the final frontier, but space tourism could let more people get there. Not cheap. One company is offering people the experience of what it`s like to launch out in the space.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tourists could blast off into space as early as next year on Virgin Galactic`s Spaceship 2. Until then, future astronauts can train for the rigors of space on Earth.

BRIENNA HENWOOD, THE NASTAR CENTER: It`s the real deal. We are training them just as we would a military pilot, a fighter pilot or an astronaut.

BALDWIN: More than 300 people have taken a two-day space training course at the NASTAR Center in Pennsylvania. The program centers around the state of the art simulator. A human centrifuge that replicates what space travel feels like.

ANNOUNCER: Ian Sequan (ph) starts in three, two, one.

HENWOOD: You`re going to see your g-meter, your altimeter, your rear camera view, the visuals outside the space craft as you actually feel the forces of you launching up a simulated weightlessness and then re-entry back down to Earth.

BALDWIN: The faster it spins, the more you feel the forces of gravity.

HENWOOD: For extreme G-forces or for a long sustained genes, there is a very good risk of you being able to pass out. For those reasons, I want to make sure that you are trained properly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations. You are in space.

BALDWIN: You don`t need a ticket to space to take this course, but it will cost you $3,000.

HENWOOD: The future of space holds a lot of promise. Hopefully, hundreds, thousands of people will be traveling for various missions across the galaxy.


AZUZ: And for our next edition of Korea Connections, you`re in for a real treat: we are featuring Layne Lee. She`s a baker and an entrepreneur in Atlanta, Georgia. It might sound like a sweet gig. Lee says that thanks to her dad, she`s living out her dream, but one thing she doesn`t sugarcoat: it takes a lot of hard work to be successful.


LAYNE LEE, BAKER & BUSINESS OWNER: My name is Layne Lee, and I`m a pastry shop and owner of Sweet-n-Sinful bakery.

I fell into baking. I went to college for something completely different, and ended up cooking for all of my sorority sisters and friends and family. So I would (inaudible) like it be hands on, wasn`t great with monotony. And I figured being a chef like move around, be creative, something different every day and we get to eat our mistakes.

I struggled with math and kind of have a fear of numbers, even though I measure and weigh things out every day. Trying to secure loans or get use of purchasing house control and checks and balances of doing a business - that was my biggest roadblock.

One of my biggest mentors is the man named Robert. He`s been able to sit me down, taught me through it and show me where my strengths are and be able to admit to where my weaknesses are.

He`s the reason I haven`t closed the doors many time, because when I get - when I feel defeated, he lets me know that I`m not alone.

I feel like this career chose me. I`ll get you centerpieces of people`s most joyful days. I think that is my favorite part.

It gets really hot, and we don`t ever sit down. We`re completely hands on and physical.

Stay in front of the trends, always be sharpening your skills, continue education is the best. Always stay on top of your game, and so you keep up with everyone else.


AZUZ: Our last video today includes some dog`s sleds, probably not what you had in mind, but hey, there are dogs, there is a sled, let`s do this. This YouTube video features a toddler`s (inaudible) traveler. Plus, a pair of pups that turned into sled sleuths as they tracked down this runaway sled and then persistently pushed it down its path. Some of you might think this dog sled videos are awesome, and for others, it may not amount to much. But we never sled you astray and at leash we got some puns out of it. Back tomorrow with our lash show of 2013, I hope to see you then.