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Top International Stories of 2013; Formula One Racer Still Critical; HHS Announces 2 Million Obamacare Enrollees; Legal Marijuana; New Year's Eve

Aired December 31, 2013 - 12:30   ET



From the election of Pope Francis to the chemical weapons attack in Syria, 2013 saw a lot of important and interesting international stories.

My co-anchor, Michael Holmes, takes a look at the top 10 stories of the year.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're getting word of a deadly shooting involving international sports icon Oscar Pistorius and his model girlfriend.

HOLMES: The Olympian admits to shooting Reeva Steenkamp in his lavish South African home on Valentine's Day, but he says it was all an accident.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oscar Pistorius, appearing before the magistrate, he was clearly upset, at times sobbing, crying.

HOLMES: Pistorius, nicknamed "Blade Runner" for the prosthetic legs he uses for sprinting, was charged with premeditated murder. He's fighting that charge, saying he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

Number nine, the royal announcement heard around the world --

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: The duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4:24 p.m. local time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God save the queen.

HOLMES: The fountains of Trafalgar Square illuminated in blue light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The new royal heir in the United Kingdom.

HOLMES: Baby George was born in July to Prince William and his wife, Kate.

Number eight --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tens of thousands of people have poured out onto the streets in what is another demonstration against the government.

HOLMES: About a year after the Arab Spring ushered in Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsy is then ousted in a military coup, many Egyptians, frustrated by what they saw as the slow pace of change and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

Number seven, after decades of distrust and a diplomatic gridlock, there's a thaw with Iran.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The phone call that's making history, President Obama called Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani.

HOLMES: And in November, a breakthrough in Geneva.

BLITZER: A deal has been reached, a deal involving Iran and six world powers.

HOLMES: The preliminary deal limits Iran's ability to work towards a nuclear weapon and loosens some international sanctions. Critics say it doesn't go far enough.

Number six --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All around us you hear the sounds of windows breaking. You hear the sounds of large objects falling and crashing to the floor.

HOLMES: Typhoon Haiyan wiped out entire towns in the Philippines, one of the strongest storms to hit any country ever.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The smells in Tacloban are overwhelming, the smell of death, the smell of decay.

HOLMES: More than 5,000 people killed.

Number five, terror at a mall in Kenya, gunmen opened fire, killing dozens and taking many hostages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone here in Nairobi is on a razor's edge. I'm standing just a short distance away from the Westgate Mall that's under siege in its third day.

HOLMES: Surveillance cameras captured this chilling video of gunmen shooting their way through a supermarket in the mall and al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab in Somalia claims responsibility.

Number four, grief and gratitude as the world says goodbye to Nelson Mandela.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's now at peace.

HOLMES: The former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate died at the age of 95.

CURNOW: Behind me you can see a crowd. They've been dancing and singing almost nonstop since the news came.

HOLMES: His life celebrated for ending apartheid and creating a democratic and inclusive South Africa. For 10 days, South Africans and dignitaries from around the world honored the man who taught the world about compassion, patience, reconciliation and freedom.

CURNOW: Now, we see Nelson Mandela making that final journey.

HOLMES: Number three --

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A person who says he leaked top-secret information about a U.S. government surveillance program has emerged from the shadows and identified himself.

EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: My name is Ed Snowden.

HOLMES: The U.S. manhunt for Edward Snowden turns into an international game of cat and mouse.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The man who's been spilling U.S. intelligence secrets is on the move. But where is his final destination?

HOLMES: First Hong Kong lets him go then Russia refuses to extradite him. Snowden's leaks were a major embarrassment for the NSA, revealing the extent the agency was spying on Americans as well as international leaders and citizens.

Number two --

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The pope resigns, the leader of the Catholic Church stepping down at the end of the month.

HOLMES: Pope Benedict becomes the first head of the Catholic Church to resign in 600 years. The 86-year-old said it was because of poor health.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR The bell is ringing here in Rome -- the campanone, the big ring. That means one thing, John Allen. What does it mean?


HOLMES: The first pope elected from South America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The curtains are open. The cross bearer is coming out and there he is.

HOLMES: Dubbed "The People's Pope", Francis has laid out a vision of a more inclusive Catholic Church, focusing on compassion for the poor and afflicted.

Number one, the civil war in Syria, more than two years of fighting, some 100,000 have been killed, more than 2 million are refugees --

In August, a chemical weapons attack kills hundreds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's absolutely horrifying. We've seen a video showing the bodies of lifeless children.

HOLMES: Syria denied responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. is making the case for military intervention in Syria.

HOLMES: The U.S. on the brink of military action. But a last-minute deal brokered by Russia averted an international crisis. The agreement dismantles Syria's chemical arsenal but left Bashar al-Assad in power, a civil war raging and a civilian population still suffering.


MALVEAUX: It's been quite a year. As you just heard, as well, more than 2 million Syrians are now refugees living in neighboring countries. And many of them are children.

CNN's Impact the World is trying to help them. Here's UNICEF ambassador Lucy Liu.


LUCY LIU, UNICEF AMBASSADOR: Hi, I'm Lucy Liu and we can make an impact for Syrian children.

Syria is in a terrible situation right now. There's civil war going on that is creating absolute pandemonium and people are fleeing into Lebanon, into Jordan, into Iraq.

Six million people have been displaced and half of them are children. These children are suffering. They have lice, there's scabies and they've lost family. They can't go to school. They are not getting the medical attention they need. They're not getting the nutrition they need. There's going to be a lost generation of children if this continues.

Children deserve to have a childhood. What happens on the other side of the world isn't just their business, it's our business, because we share the same water, we share the same environment. If we understand that, we are actually one community, then it makes the world so much smaller, much more tangible for people to understand.

UNICEF is currently desperate for donations for Syria. It's our duty as human beings to give back. Join the movement. Impact your world.



MALVEAUX: This just in. Department of Health and Human Services announcing now that more than 2 million people are enrolled in both the federal and state marketplaces, that, of course, the healthcare site that the government is administering. Both state as well as federal marketplaces. This is good news for many who are trying to get health insurance and, of course, the administration trying to catch up after a pretty rough and rocky start with the website.

But now we are told over the 2 million mark. We're going to have more information. The secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius will have more details as she reports and briefs reporters later this afternoon.

We're also going to have more at the top of the hour with our White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

He is the undisputed biggest name in the history of Formula One racing. Today Michael Schumacher remains in critical condition in a coma. It was just two days ago that he need emergency brain surgery after a horrible ski accident in the French Alps.

Jim Boulden is in Grenoble, France at the hospital where family and friends are gathered. What is his state? Is he getting better?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, the doctors did confirm at a press conference a few hours ago that Michael Schumacher had a second operation overnight.

The reason, they said the swelling in his brain went down and left a little bit of the pressure off his brain as it was swelling inside his skull. They removed the bruise, if you will.

They're saying it's still very touch-and-go, hour by hour. They're not using the word optimistic at any stretch of the imagination. They are saying things are looking a little bit better overnight but it is still hour by hour, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jim, our prayers are with him and his family. Let us know if you have more details.

I want to go to Washington. Our Jim Acosta is following a developing story here.

We're hearing from the Department of Health and Human Services now, Jim, that more than 200 folks having managed to enroll in both the federal and the state marketplaces for health care.

Is this a milestone? Two million, I'm sorry; I misspoke, 2 million. Is this a milestone?

JIM ACOSTA: I think it is, Suzanne. Obviously, the White House, the Obama administration, Health and Human Services, they all had problems in the initial couple of months in terms of enrolling people online in the federal marketplace on

The state-based health exchanges were doing a little bit better. They were exceeding what the federal government was doing.

But now it seems, because of those repairs that were made to by the end of November, December has been a big enrollment period for this program. And so now the Department of Health and Human Services is now confirming that 2 million Americans, more than 2 million Americans, have signed up for insurance through Obamacare, either on the federal marketplace through or in these state-based marketplaces.

Another interesting thing to point out, Suzanne, is that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is going to be holding a conference call with reporters in about 90 minutes from now to talk about some of this.

But she also put out a blog today that sort of walks Americans through -- new enrollees in Obamacare what they need to do for January 1st, reminding consumers to have their insurance cards with them, reminding them to have their paperwork ready and also acknowledging that there might be some people out there who thought they signed up for Obamacare.

But because of the problems with the system, we've talked about this, Suzanne, the back end of the system where people think they've enrolled for insurance through Obamacare but perhaps that paperwork did not get to the insurance company in one piece, that there are some tips for those consumers, as well, and an acknowledgment really that some of those consumers out there may have some problems. So it's something we're going to be watching as we head into the new year.


MALVEAUX: All right. And we'll get back to you, of course, Jim. I know there will be a lot of information coming out of that conference call that you'll be on later this afternoon. Jim, thanks. Really appreciate it.

ACOSTA: You bet.

MALVEAUX: We're moving on, we're talking about marijuana here. Buying pot, smoking pot becomes legal just a few hours away in one U.S. state. It happens with a lot of fanfare, but quietly marijuana also became legal in one country in South America. We're going to tell you where and why a growing number of ex-presidents wanted to actually see pot legal in their countries, too. That's next.


MALVEAUX: Tomorrow, landmark day for the pro-pot movement. You can call it that. That is when anyone 21 years or older will be allowed to legally buy up to one ounce of marijuana in the state of Colorado. Now, one ounce, it is about the same that's in about 25 to 30 average size cigarettes. It will only be for sale in specially licensed shops. That means Colorado's going to be the first place in the entire world where marijuana will be government regulated from the time it's planted until the hand -- in the hands of the consumer, seed to sale.

Colorado's residents made it happen. They voted to legalize pot last November. Washington state, not far behind. Marijuana will become legal there later in the year. People won't be able to smoke pot in public, though, only on private property.

And one place marijuana will not be allowed is in any of Colorado's international airports. And officials at the Denver International Airport say that they won't search for pot, but if they find it, they will take it.

Marijuana is also legal for the first time in Latin America, in one country, Uruguay. Now, the president pushed it and the parliament approved it and now it is a done deal. So the people there can grow a limited number of plants, keep a limited amount of marijuana for their personal use. It is all regulated and overseen by the government.

So we want to the bring in Rafael Romo, our senior Latin affairs editor, to talk about, how did this happen? We've been following this throughout the year. Now it's finally there.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, it's very timely that we're doing this story because today is the first day anywhere in the world in Uruguay that you can actually legally grow marijuana, and it's completely legal. But people don't get any ideas, it's only Uruguayan citizens. So if anybody's thinking about flying to Uruguay to start growing their own -- that's not going to be allowed.

MALVEAUX: If it was going to fly over --

ROMO: And it's part of a movement that has happened and grown in Latin America over the last 10 years. Three former Latin America presidents, Vicente Fox of Mexico, (INAUDIBLE) from Colombia and Fernando Cardoso from Brazil, have all spoken publicly about the need to legalize marijuana. Let's listen to what President Vicente Fox told us last year about this issue.


VECENTE FOX, FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT: I'm absolutely convinced that public opinion is totally in favor of legalizing, separating the violence problem from the health problem. In doing that, you will take out from criminals all the money that they have today and you will weaken them so that they will come back to normal.


ROMO: Now, now right, the situation is that the federal government in Mexico says, yes, we can open a debate about it, but we are against legalizing marijuana.


ROMO: Similar to what's happening here in the United States. But Mexico City has already taken steps to legalize marijuana similar to what's happening in Uruguay. They're going to try to allow marijuana clubs where as many as 100 people can legally smoke and grow marijuana plants. They're talking about personal possession of as many as 30 grams.

MALVEAUX: Right. Right. ROMO: So that's beginning. It's only in the legislative process, but it's a good possibility that it may happen.

MALVEAUX: And, Rafael, what is behind this essentially? They're trying to take the crime and the profit out of all of this?

ROMO: The main idea here is that when it comes to drug trafficking, the drug itself is not as bad as the trafficking part. They want to separate what they see as the health issue, the addiction problems from the illegal underworld of drug trafficking so that they can control both better.

MALVEAUX: All right. Rafael, thank you. Happy New Year.

ROMO: You too. Thank you.


And it is already 2014 in Sydney, Australia, as well as Hong Kong. Tonight, a million people are going to ring in the New Year in, of course, New York's Times Square. That, of course, where our Richard Quest got a close-up tour of the crystal ball that's going to drop, up next.


MALVEAUX: One million people expected to freeze tonight. This is in Times Square. You'd better bundle up here to watch the crystal ball drop tonight. Some highlights of the evening, Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, she's going to do the honors of pushing the button. Richard Quest, he actually went behind the scenes to check it all out and to see the ball up close. Watch.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Times Square. They call it the crossroads of the world. For good reason. Where are you from?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're from Texas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come from Ecuador.


QUEST: All these people come midnight eastern standard time will have their eyes trained up looking to the top for New Year's Eve.

QUEST (voice-over): It is a century old tradition that has brought millions of revelers to the crossroads at Times Square to take part in this annual event. But to glimpse this icon of geochronology up close requires a feat of effort.

QUEST (on camera): Ah, this is the way.

QUEST (voice-over): Up to the 22nd floor.

QUEST (on camera): We're getting quite close.

QUEST (voice-over): And then several flights of stairs to get to the roof at 1 Times Square.

QUEST (on camera): Nice. Oh, my goodness. Out of the blue, suddenly, there it is.

QUEST (voice-over): It is a stunning object weighing almost 12,000 pounds. Up here, we find the (INAUDIBLE) who deal professionally with the time keeping apparatus and the chief executive of Philips Lighting America, who's in charge of making sure the light from this ball dazzles not only Times Square but the world.

QUEST (on camera): So what's different about this year's from previous years?

BRUND BIASIOTTA, CEO, PHILIPS LIGHTING AMERICA: Well, you know, it really is about the transformation that lighting is undergoing, Richard. And so what you see is, we have taken this ball from the technology of incandescent and halogen to LED. We have approximately 32,256 LEDs in this ball.

QUEST: How many?


QUEST: 32,000.

I'm actually touching the ball. The Times Square ball. For 107 years, this ball has been falling down the flagpole in Times Square to bring in the new year.

What keeps it fresh, of course, is innovation and new technology. But, frankly, at the heart of it, well, if someone suggested that you do this, they'd think you were mad. And yet it's worked for more than a century.

Richard Quest, CNN, number one Times Square.


MALVEAUX: Love it. Looking forward to.

North Korean's Kim Jong-un has been testing out one of his favorite projects. It's a fancy new ski resort with a hotel, heliport and cable cars. Well, North Korea's state news agency says that Kim loved the place, ordered officials to open it to the public as soon as possible. The resort made headlines just a few months ago when Switzerland refused to let North Korea buy ski lifts. Kim likes his sports, of course. A huge water park opened in October in the capital.

Thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. Happy New Year. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Obamacare is moving closer to its enrollment goal. We'll talk about what some brand new numbers mean for the health care program and what it means for the president.

Right now, robots replacing TSA agents. Eyeball scans instead of boarding passes. Could it be the future of airport security?

Also right now, your iPhone at risk? A new report says the NSA may have accessed almost everything on the device including your voice mail, e-mail and perhaps even your location.

Hello, I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. Wolf Blitzer is off today.

The Obama administration confirms that more than 2 million people have now enrolled in health care coverage under Obamacare. That includes people who have signed up through the federal marketplace and the state-run exchanges. Coverage begins tomorrow for people who enrolled by the December deadline. But March 31st marks the deadline for individuals to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. The surge in enrollment follows what was a very disastrous rollout of the website in October.