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Ethiopian and Kenyan Heads of State Visit South Sudan; NYT Says U.S. Sending Missiles, Drones to Iraq to Fight al Qaeda Insurgents; Ice Breakers Head South to Free Research Ship Trapped in Antarctic Ice; China Relaxing Policy; Ice Storm Knocks Out Power; Royal Defining Moments

Aired December 26, 2013 - 12:30   ET



Just a couple of the stories we're following now. Chaos in Egypt, five people wounded after a bomb exploded today, this happening near a university in the capital of Cairo.

A second bomb was diffused nearby, according to state television.

No word on who might have been responsible.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: But Egypt's military-backed government blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for another recent bombing, despite the fact that a different organization claimed responsibility for that attack.

The interim government officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

HOLMES: The United States objected to the government's assault on the decades-old political group's reputation. It was, after all, elected the government in Egypt, before it was overthrown.

Now to Thailand, relentless violence continues in Bangkok between anti-government protesters and police.

One police officer was actually shot dead. More than a hundred people were injured, including another 35 police officers.

WHITFIELD: Police say protesters are trying to disrupt an upcoming election. They're hoping to force the prime minister out of office.

And protesters believe she is controlled by her older brother who was ousted as prime minister in 2006.

Thailand's government is rejecting calls to delay elections.

HOLMES: Another major story elsewhere in the world, and we're talking about South Sudan.

The heads of state from Ethiopia and Kenya flew in there today and met with South Sudan's president, this, of course, amid widespread violence in the country, much of it ethnically based. Thousands feared dead in fighting that U.N. says has resulted in mass killings and threatens to push the country towards civil war.

WHITFIELD: The U.N. Security Council adding thousands of troops to its peacekeeping force to protect civilians in the world's newest nation.

HOLMES: There is also an emerging humanitarian crisis as the number of throws displaced continues to grow.

Now, a little bit earlier, I spoke to U.N. humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer about the sheer scale of the problem.


TOBY LANZER, U.N. HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR (via telephone): Two things that we're fast approaching, a hundred thousand civilians who have been displaced.

We've almost got 60,000 people who are now seeking protection right within the U.N. bases in five different towns.

And in addition to that, we know of congregations of people out in rural areas.


WHITFIELD: And our Fred Pleitgen in New York now.

So, is the conflict closer to being resolved after today's meeting, perhaps?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't look as though it's any closer to being resolved, Fredricka.

This meeting took place earlier today in South Sudan between the president of South Sudan, the president of Kenya, and the prime minister of Ethiopia.

And after the meeting, all three parties said that the meeting had been very constructive but that no conclusions reached.

Now, the African nations are calling on the conflict in South Sudan to end immediately, for there to be peace talks immediately and for a cease-fire to take place as fast as possible, as well.

It's not only African nations that are pushing for that. The U.S. is pushing vehemently for that, as well. They had a special envoy to that country also there, negotiating on the ground.

But right now it still seems as though both sides are trying to gain ground on the battlefield. There's fighting around the town of Bor, even though that apparently has been retaken by government forces.

And also fighting reported from other parts of the country, including the oil-rich north of the country which is where much of the revenue for South Sudan comes from. So this is really far from resolved. At this point in time, the main thing has to be to get these two parties to the negotiating table.

Otherwise, this ethnic tension, these ethnic clashes that are going on, could indeed descend the nation into a very, very bad conflict that threatens the integrity of that country as a whole, Fredricka.

HOLMES: Fred, before I let you go, you've got the South Sudan president, but the opposition guy, who is out of town at the moment, nobody's able to reach him.

What point are talks, if they can't get the two sides together at the moment?

PLEITGEN: It's going to be very difficult. Right now, from what we're hearing, it seems as though this is still essentially a conflict between the president and the former vice president, as you say, Mr. Machar, who right now is in an undisclosed location, but one that threatens to become a more ethnic one.

The big problem in that country is that it has done have a big ethnic diversity. There are a lot of tribes that have committed massacres against each other in the past.

There are people who say that, at this point in time, this does not seem to be an ethnic uprising or ethnic war, if you will, but that this is still a conflict that is between two people, and for -- therefore, it can still be solved politically.

However, you're absolutely right. The more that this drags on, and this U.N. says this, as well, the more that this drags on, the more difficult it's going to be to actually find two sides to get to the table.

The more other tribes get involved, the more ethnically diverse the fighting becomes, the more difficult this is going to get and the more sprawling this conflict is going to get.

And that's why all these countries, first and foremost, the U.N. and the U.S., are trying to get these two sides together and saying you have to stop this immediately or else it could get out of control, as it has in other African nations in the past.

HOLMES: Indeed. A lot of U.N. coordinators on the ground very worried about that spreading like that.

Fred, thanks so much, Fred Pleitgen there on --

WHITFIELD: It's already looking out of control, sadly.

Here's a little background on South Sudan and how the conflict emerged. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of conflict. Tribal tensions involved the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups.

The Dinka ethnic group dominates the government and military. Current conflict stems from the president's July dismissal of his vice president.

Fighting broke out 11 days ago between Dinka majority forces and Nuer rebels loyal to the vice president.

Both sides are fighting for control over the country's oil-rich regions.

HOLMES: And they are from competing tribes and that's where the worry is.

Now, "The New York Times," reporting that the U.S. is sending dozens of missiles and drones to Iraq to help the government there fight an al Qaeda-backed insurgency.

Now, this comes after daily bombings, really, in a country where the U.S. spent billions of dollars and paid a huge toll in the lives of service members before withdrawing troops two years ago.

Now, Peter Bergen joins us to talk about the state of al Qaeda today.

Peter, al Qaeda rising, if you like, in Iraq, it's nothing new. This has been coming for a while.

I guess one of the main concerns is the cross-border nature of it now. You've got al Qaeda in Syria, as well.

What is the big risk here when it comes to Iraq, though?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know, Michael, as you know, violence in Iraq is back up to where it was in the 2008 time period, when the war was almost at its height.

So, we're seeing, as we saw yesterday in Baghdad, attacks that killed dozens of Christians, but we're also seeing, you know, multiple attacks, often by al Qaeda in Iraq, really destabilizing the country.

That's why the Malaki government has asked for this -- these ammunitions from the Obama administration.

WHITFIELD: So, what is the ultimate goal? Clearly, al Qaeda wants to strengthen, it wants to terrorize, it wants to be in control of everyone's freedoms.

But if there is a way to succinctly put it, what is the ultimate goal?

BERGEN: Well, in Iraq right now, they want to impose Taliban-style state on the country and they want to basically exclude the Shias from government. That's their end goal.

Can that happen? Not very likely, it's -- there's not a Sunni majority in Iraq. Even within the Sunnis, al Qaeda isn't necessarily the most attractive political party.

But, certainly, they've come back, and as Mike said, they've also -- they've had the presence in Syria. The most effective opposition, really, to the Assad government is the al Qaeda groups there. They control much of the country, and, obviously, anywhere there's extensive safe haven for al Qaeda, that's a problem, not only for the country they're in, but also potentially for European countries and also the United States, because we're seeing a lot of people coming to fight with al Qaeda in Syria.

HOLMES: When you look at when the U.S. went into Iraq, what would be the worst possible outcome, are we seeing that now? Al Qaeda wasn't there when the U.S. went into Iraq. Now you've got it in Iraq.

There was one point where everyone was saying, al Qaeda's on the ropes. They've taken out the leadership, crushed the backbone, but you've got it right. They're on the rise in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, other places in North Africa.

What do you see as the state of al Qaeda at the moment?

BERGEN: Well, it's doing well, unfortunately in Iraq and Syria.

But in places like on the Afghan-Pakistan border it's in terrible shape. You had the segment earlier in the program about Mr. Weinstein who's been kidnapped by al Qaeda in Pakistan.

That's really the kind of -- that capability's not very large. They're able to kidnap an American citizen in Pakistan, like Mr. Weinstein, but they're not able to do what they really want to do, which is reach out and attack the United States.

So, Al Qaeda central's in bad shape, but you know, some of its affiliates are doing better for the moment.

HOLMES: All right. Peter, wish we could chat longer. Peter Bergen, thanks so much.

BERGEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Ice breakers are racing to rescue a ship stranded off the coast of Antarctica. We'll tell you why the passengers might not be seeing that help anytime soon.

HOLMES: Yeah, bet they didn't want this white of a Christmas.


HOLMES: At last count we had three ice breakers heading to free a Russian flag vessel trapped in ice off Antarctica.

WHITFIELD: I know they can't wait to see it, but here's the new video of the ship that we have to share with you.

Shot today, 74 people, in fact, are on board, or maybe down below -- it's a bit chilly -- some of them, tourists and scientists and researchers, altogether there.

They've been stranded since yesterday, and for the first time, however, we are hearing from the leader of the crew. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS TURNEY, AUSTRALASIAN ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION LEADER: As you can see, we're actually in a blizzard at moment with a low-pressure system sitting over our expedition vessel, The Shokalskiy.

We have wind speeds on average of 50-kilometers-an-hour, reaching in excess of 70-kilometers-an-hour.

The vessel hasn't moved for the last two days, and we're surrounded by sea ice. We just can't get through.

Everyone is safe. The vessel's perfectly safe, but we can't make a passage forward.


HOLMES: All right.

WHITFIELD: Actually makes it seem like it's kind fun.

HOLMES: He doesn't look that comfortable, does he?

WHITFIELD: No, but there's a sense of urgency, of excitement, in his voice.

HOLMES: There certainly is, excitement that the ship's coming there.

Jennifer Grey is watching it for us. And I suppose from a weather point of view, it gives people an idea of how big that area down there is. It's summer in Australia.

JENNIFER GREY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Exactly, so it's really -- some areas in the U.S. are actually colder than where they are.

So, what he was talking about, a couple of low-pressure systems have moved through the area, and what it's done is, because of the wind direction, it's sort of moved some of the ice packs in towards the ship and just trapped it.

They're only two nautical miles from open water, so where they are in Antarctica, they're about 100 miles from where they left their station.

They've been doing research for actually the past three weeks or so they've been on the vessel. There it is, about 100 miles due east of where they left.

And just like you mentioned, it is summer there, and so temperatures should reach around freezing, maybe even a little higher than freezing.

Areas in the U.S. are actually warmer -- actually colder, some areas of the U.S., than where they are.

Seventy-four researchers and crew members are on board. They're calling this expedition Spirit of Mawson. The ship is 230-feet long, so very comfortable for them.

They do have three ships heading towards them that will be breaking that ice to reach them. The closest one should arrive tomorrow and there actually is plenty of food and supplies on board.

WHITFIELD: So, that's why he didn't sound stressed out.

HOLMES: Yeah, plenty of time, because they're probably all warm, too.

Do you know anything more about what they're doing in terms of the exploration, research and that? Because they're based down there all the time, pretty much.

GREY: Yeah, it's really interesting. I've been reading their blogs. I've been reading their tweets.

And they're basically doing research on everything from marine mammals to the oceans to the Antarctic ice sheet. They're doing all kinds of research.

They're researchers, explorers. There are also a couple of volunteers on board. So it looks like they're having a good time. All their spirits are high.

Let's just hope that those ships don't have a problem reaching them, then things may change a little bit.

HOLMES: Yeah, a chilly way to spend Christmas.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, but we're seeing the half glass-full.

But they're on this adventure because there is a certain level of expectation that this would be part of the adventure.

GREY: Of course.

HOLMES: They do great work, as Jen was saying. There's bases down there and ships going down all the time, doing all this sort of research, do great work -

WHITFIELD: Jennifer, thank you.

HOLMES: -- except for when they get stuck.

WHITFIELD: As long as you have food, that's what I say.

HOLMES: Exactly.

Now, when we come back, the Chinese government has some big changes in store for its controversial one-child policy.

We've got the details for you after the break.


HOLMES: Welcome back to AROUND THE WORLD. WHITFIELD: Where we're taking you now around the studio.

HOLMES: It was a pretty shot. That was around the studio there.


HOLMES: I jumped in a little early there.


HOLMES: What we want to do is take you to Ukraine. A serious story there. Government officials say they now have three suspects believed to be behind the beating of a prominent journalist and social activist. Her name is Tetiana Chornovol and she was dragged from her car and beaten on Christmas Day. This happening near the capital Kiev.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. A dashboard camera captured some of the attack. It's the second time in two days a vocal critic of the government was attacked in Ukraine.

HOLMES: Chornovol is a freelance journalist. She was known for investigating - and is known for investigating corruption among state officials. She did get a concussion, also a broken nose in this beat- down. The U.S. embassy is getting involved, demanding a full investigation and that someone be held accountable. But three suspects in custody, apparently.

WHITFIELD: Incredibly disturbing.

And in China, as planned, to relax its longstanding one-child policy has taken a critical step forward. State-run media report China's most powerful legislative body is poised to approve the revision submitted by the cabinet.

HOLMES: That's right. This was submitted a little while ago now but this is now getting down to it actually happening. Starting in early 2014, couples in certain provinces will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents was themselves an only child. David McKenzie explains what the change means for families and indeed the country as a whole.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a restaurant on the outer edges of Beijing, Chung Chani's (ph) family gathers to celebrate her birthday and prays new changes in China's one-child policy because now school teacher Hou Fang is allowed to have a second child.

HOU FANG, SCHOOLTEACHER: And if I have one more child in the future, I wish that the number could be three.

MCKENZIE: For three generations, one-child policy shaped their family. Chung Chani's grandmother was one of nine children, but the law forced her to have only one. It was the same for Fang. It made Chung Chani (ph) the center of their world, like in most Chinese families. But Fang and her husband remember their own childhoods. "As far as I'm concerned, if she had a little brother or sister, it would be better for her," he says, "because I'm an only child, too. I was always lonely growing up."

MCKENZIE (on camera): Millions of couples in China will now be allowed to have a second child. It's one of the most significant reforms to the one-child policy since the late '70s. But has the communist party acted too late.

FANG: Internally, I'm very happy, excited. Unfortunately, at least for our family, I cannot afford two raise one more child.

MCKENZIE: Like many couples today in China, Fang says they are saddled with debt, struggling to handle soaring prices and expected to support their aging parents.

"As we get older, they're going to take care of all of us elderly," she says. "How are they going to be able to do that?"

The changes in the one-child policy are meant to secure the future of China by giving a choice back to families. But for many, perhaps, it's a choice they cannot afford to make.

David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.


HOLMES: You are such a mother. You were like, oh.

WHITFIELD: Oh. You can't help it, you know?

HOLMES: Cute, cute.

WHITFIELD: What compassion.


WHITFIELD: You know, that is being demonstrated there by just seeing the families that are enjoying (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: Baby - a sweet little baby is a sweet little baby.


HOLMES: Yes, exactly.

All right. Now, 2013 almost over, if you didn't notice. We're going to look back at who defined it.

WHITFIELD: Speaking of babies.

HOLMES: Oh, there you go again.

WHITFIELD: Little baby George there. Well, of course, then the royals made the list.


WHITFIELD: We'll tell you who else is on it and what else.


HOLMES: All right, if you've been following the news, you know it's been plenty cold up in Canada. Big ice issues. And we're actually just getting some new information now about the massive power outage caused by the ice storm in the northern states, also Canada, yes.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. Can you imagine not just going one day, or two days, but now maybe up to a week without power?


WHITFIELD: More than 600,000 customers are doing without and some won't even get it back now likely till Wednesday.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. And the - it is cold. Jennifer Grey is back again to tell us about this.

Yes, we're just hearing about this, 600,000 people, no power for a week.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's crazy. This is from that ice storm that happened during the weekend. You remember us talking about it. It hasn't gotten above freezing there and so the ice is still there and it's having a hard time melting. But it looks like good news is in store. By Saturday and Sunday, temperatures should get above freezing. We should be at 37 on Saturday, 36 on Sunday. And then if we get some sunshine there, it will definitely help to melt some of that ice, which is good news.

Looking at the radar now, we are seeing just some light snow showers trying to approach Toronto. But if you look at the accumulation amounts for today, into tonight, it looks like they're not going to see much accumulation at all. Look likes this -- today is mainly going to be lake-effect snow, guys.

WHITFIELD: Oh, gosh.

HOLMES: Oh, boy. All right, Jen, thanks so much.

WHITFIELD: Well, it is the Christmas season. A little dusting is nice.

HOLMES: Yes, but not that.

WHITFIELD: Think positive.

HOLMES: Oui (ph).

WHITFIELD: All right, now that Christmas is behind us, at least Christmas Day, the countdown to New Year's is on.

HOLMES: Yes. As we look ahead to January the 1st, we're also looking at those moments that defined 2013. The birth of a royal baby. WHITFIELD: A collective ahhh.

HOLMES: Ahhh. Here's Becky Anderson.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There were signs from the start that this duke and duchess of Cambridge would be a less conventional royal union. A wedding that would mark a new era for the British monarchy and a new way of doing things, with William and Kate breaking tradition almost every step of the way. Almost immediately after the couple said "I do," the speculation began, when would the next royal baby arrive?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no doubt that the arrival of this royal baby has the world waiting with bated breath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We understand the palace has just announced that Kate has been admitted, that she is now in labor.

FOSTER: As the baby, the new royal heir in the United Kingdom. And the duchess of Cambridge smiling, looking so well, isn't she. A big smile from Prince William, so proud.

PRINCE WILLIAM: Well, he's got a good pair of lungs on him, that's for sure. He's a big boy. He's quite heavy. But we're still working on a name. So we'll have that as soon as we can.

ANDERSON: Then the moment that really took the breath away of royal watchers, Prince William putting his baby in the car, in his own car, and driving away.

FOSTER: It's interesting to see how they handle today. And it isn't how things would have been handled 20 or 30 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He and the duchess are doing everything on their own. They're being thoroughly modern parents and royalty hasn't behaved like that before. They've had this army of staff that they've relied on. But he put the car seat in, he drove off, (INAUDIBLE) the nappies, they're getting up at night. And I think that he's got a sense into what it's like to be ordinary and, as a result, we've been able to connect with him as an ordinary person.

PRINCE WILLIAM: I think driving your son and your wife away from hospital (INAUDIBLE) was really important to me and I don't like fuss, so it's much easier to do it yourself.

Where I can be, I'm as independent as I want to be, and same as Katharine and Harry. We've all grown up, you know, differently to - of other generations and I very much feel, if I can do it myself, I want to do it myself.

ANDERSON: Another moment with the couples' unique way of doing things on display was the christening of Prince George. The event was a lesson in the rewriting of the royal handbook. It was a very private affair. The service was held in a private chapel, not Buckingham Palace. Not all royal relatives were invited to the christening. In fact, of the 22 guests in attendance, most were close friends of Kate and William.

FOSTER: I think we have got a sense of a modern monarchy here. It may not be an intentional redesign by William, but he's being himself, and that's probably what's changed and what the new world now and the new world for monarchy will experience for the next few years because George will pick up on that as well and probably develop it a bit further in his day.


HOLMES: So your -

WHITFIELD: I love that.

HOLMES: You were just saying, yours were baptized as well.

WHITFIELD: Yes, so my children just were baptized just a couple weekends ago.

HOLMES: But they weren't wearing one of those?

WHITFIELD: Not quite like that, but believe me, you know, if you - if you understand my sister, and she's really big on opulence, she was trying to help me acquire something like that.

HOLMES: I never - I never got that.

WHITFIELD: So it went for a great second place. (INAUDIBLE) off white.

HOLMES: It's a very English thing. It's a boy but it was wearing -

WHITFIELD: Yes, I know.

HOLMES: Anyway.

All right, thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD today.

WHITFIELD: It's fun (ph).

HOLMES: CNN NEWSROOM, Brianna Keilar, coming your way next. See you tomorrow.