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Eastern Aleppo Close to Falling; Climate Change Skeptic Named to EPA by Trump; WeChat Censors Chinese Citizens Even Abroad; The True Cost of Philippines War on Drugs. 8:00a-9:00a ET

Aired December 8, 2016 - 08:00:00   ET


[08:00:32] KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream. Now, eastern Aleppo is closer than ever to

falling. And we will have a live report from inside Syria as government forces make more gains.

Also, the Trump transition takes a friendlier turn toward China. The pick for ambassador to

Beijing is an old friend of Xi Jinping.

And one app, two systems. We look into claims China is censoring WeChat users even when

they're out of the country.

And we begin with a confident message from the Syrian president. Bashar al-Assad says a victory by his troops in eastern Aleppo will be what he

calls a significant landmark toward ending the country's five-year civil war.

The army now controls most of eastern Aleppo after a fierce offensive.

Let's take a look at how quickly Syrian forces and their allies have advanced. In this map, red indicates areas under government control, white

is under rebel control. You can see Assad's forces have taken over most rebel areas in just the paths three weeks after the

government escalated its offensive there.

Now, senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is inside the embattled city, where he is witnessing the devastating battle first hand.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): during the Aleppo nights, firing at jets in the skies unable to stop them

from dropping their deadly load. And this is what the rebels defeat looks like when daylight comes. Thousands of civilians fleeing the old town of

Aleppo only hours after government forces took most of it back.

Among them, Najua (Ph) with her seven children, one of them her baby, Dilal (ph).

"When we left there was a lot of shelling behind us, a lot of shooting in front of us and the airplanes above us," she says. "We barely managed to

get out."

Most seem weak and malnourished. Some resting, finally in safety in this former school. The smallest, a baby girl Hassal (ph) is only seven days

old, born as the battles were at their worst.

(on camera): It's really remarkable some of the scenes that we are witnessing here. Hundreds of people have already come across the border

crossing between eastern and western Aleppo. And many of them are taking shelters in buildings like this one, carrying only the very few possessions

they could take as they fled.

(voice-over): Soldiers take us to the places they recaptured from opposition forces only hours before. We see Syrian troops evacuating weak

and elderly. And rebel barricades showing just how intense the fighting was.

(on camera): Just look at all of the destruction here. We're actually in the old town of Aleppo right now. And this entire area, until a few days

ago, was right on the frontline.

(voice-over): While this may not be the end of the opposition's fight in Aleppo, many of those fleeing describe the rebels morale sinking and the

harrowing conditions in the besieged areas.

"We didn't have any food and barely any bread" this man says. "We were eight people they would only give us two loaves of bread every two days

that was it for all of us."

While much of eastern Aleppo has been reduced to rubble one thing expanding was the cemeteries. This one ran out of space as the bodies kept coming.

Now, that much of eastern Aleppo has changed hands, Syrian soldiers plant their flag on the runs the place they've just conquered.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Aleppo.


LU STOUT: And Fred Pleitgen joins us now on the phone from Aleppo. And Fred, as you reported just then, the fight is now over, but Syrian forces

continue to sweep through Aleppo. Just how far are they advancing?

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, the battles are continuing at a very high pace. You can feel that the Syrian government certainly has that sense of urgency

where they want to take back the rest of Aleppo as fast as possible. And actually just a couple minutes ago I was speaking to a commander who is

very, very confident, who said he believes it could happen within the next couple days, maybe within the next one or two weeks, that may might be able

to win all of Aleppo back.

And judging big what we're seeing, especially during the nighttime, when you have those air raids going on, you have massive ordnance being dropped

there on the east of Aleppo. You can really feel how the government forces are pounding it, not only trying to hit the rebel forces but also trying to

demoralize the opposition fighters, demoralize, of course, also, the civilians who are still in there to try and get them to come out, which is

certainly something that we've been seeing many, many more people coming to these crossings, trying to get across into a place where at least they

won't be subject to getting shelled or air strikes.

And we've spoken to some of those people. And they've been telling us that the conditions inside are absolutely horrible, and they haven't had food

for a very long time. Obviously no medical attention either. There were a lot people who had wounds, who said they had been shot or had had mortars

landed close to them.

So, very difficult conditions. But again the Syrian military pressing that offensive, saying they

believe this could be over very soon, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, difficult conditions inside Aleppo. And the time frame that you just

heard and reported just then, a matter of days. I mean, it sounds like Aleppo is on the verge of falling. And Fred, Bashar al Assad, he has been

speaking to the media about the assault. What is he saying? How is he defending it?

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, he's saying that the battle of Aleppo is obviously a very pivotal one in the Syrian civil war. He says it's key to the

momentum of Syria civil war. He believes that it will change the entire complexion of the conflict that's going on here, because we have to keep in

mind that obviously Aleppo is the last very large city inside Syria where the

opposition controls a significant amount of territory.

It's called the -- or many people call it the last urban stronghold of the rebels. If they lose their foothold here in Aleppo, this will become

essentially an insurgency that's going on in the countryside, in places where there's less of a population than inside these big cities. And of

course, while that is something that could change the equation for a lot of the backers of the opposition, perhaps getting them to back down from some

of their support that they give the rebels.

So President Assad is probably right to assume that it could very much change the way this conflict is going.

But we're already seeing that momentum shifting on the ground here as the Syrian government really at this point has very much the upper hand.

Again, the rebels really struggling, not just in Aleppo, by the way, but in many other places in Syria as well.

[08:07:37] LU STOUT: Fred Pleitgen reporting live for us from inside Aleppo. Thank you, Fred.

And now over to the Trump transition. The U.S. president-elect is making some bold choices for administration and cabinet picks, including a climate

change skeptic to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now, Scott Pruitt is quoted as saying the American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained due to unnecessary EPA regulations.

Here's Sunlen Serfaty.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President-elect Donald Trump naming two more hardliners to his cabinet, elevating climate change denier and fierce

EPA critic, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, to run the agency.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There were a number of qualified candidates for that position that the president-elect interviewed, and he

settled on Attorney General Pruitt.

[10:10:05] SERFATY: A signal the Trump administration is intent on reversing President Obama's move to curb climate change. Trump also tapping

another general to his cabinet, retired general John Kelly to head the department of Homeland Security, raising questions about the militarization

of his administration. Kelly, a decorated four-star Marine general, retired earlier this year as commander of the U.S. southern command. He is also a

gold star father whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

And tonight Trump will introduce Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China at his third stop on his thank you tour in Des Moines. Branstad's

longtime friendship with the Chinese president could help reassure the country that the president-elect is interested in maintaining its

relationship with Beijing.

Trump also mixing business and entertainment, nominating former wrestling executive Linda McMahon to head the small business administration. All this

as Trump is readying to announce his choice for secretary of state which could come next week. Trump insisting former adversary Mitt Romney still

has a chance at the post.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: It's not about revenge. It's about what's good for the country.

SERFATY: But Trump's overshadowed by another feud, the president- elect lashing out again on Twitter against the Carrier union leader Chuck Jones

after he called into question Trump's math over how many jobs the deal he brokered with Carrier actually saved. Jones appearing on CNN last night.

CHUCK JONES, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES STEELWORKERS 1999: And 550 are still going to lose their jobs.

SERFATY: Trump tweeting meant later that Jones had done a terrible job and blaming job losses on Jones. Quote, "If United Steelworkers 1999 was any

good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana." Jones then calling into "Anderson Cooper 360" to respond directly to Trump's attack.

[08:10:17] JONES: Because of corporate greed and unfair trade they want to move these jobs out of the country. So if he wants to blame me, so be it.

But I look at him and how many billions of dollars he spent on his hotels and casinos trying to keep labor unions out.


LU STOUT: And that was Sunlen Serfaty reporting there.

In that report, you heard him mention the Iowa governor getting the role of U.S. ambassador to China. Now, Terry Branstad's relationship with Chinese

President Xi Jinping goes back, way back to 1985, that's when Xi Jinping spent two weeks with the Chinese delegation in Muscatine (ph), Iowa

learning about American farming technology. Now President Xi returned to the U.S. in 2012 making sure to visit his old friends in Iowa and he told

them at dinner this, quote, "you were the first group of Americans I came into contact with. To me, you are America."

Now the Des Moines Register quotes an agricultural economists are saying Branstad could be a huge boost to Iowa China trade. He says that

Branstad's close relationship with Chinese leaders will help him hit the ground running, particularly on economic trade issues.

Let's go now to Matt Rivers in Beijing with more on this story.

And Matt, I mean, how dose China view the relationship between President Xi and Goveror Branstad?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is, perhaps, the closest relationship that President Xi has with any American official. It really

is remarkable the kind of rhetoric that we're hearing coming out of Beijing. This is a country that doesn't often issue official comments,

both negatively or positively, about specific American individuals. In fact, throughout the U.S. election you rarely heard, if ever, any Chinese

officials on the record speaking about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

What we did hear, though, since the appointment of Governor Branstad has gone public, is some very, very strong words from Chinese officials at a

regular press conference of the ministry of foreign affairs, a spokesperson there said they really look forward to working with the Iowa governor,

let's show you what that spokesman had to say.


LU KANG, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): As Iowa governor, Terry Branstad has made great efforts in pushing forward

cooperation and communications between the United States and China. We hope they'll make a greater contribution to the development of China-U.S.


The U.S. ambassador to China serves as an important bridge, linking the governments of the U.S. and China. We are willing to work with whomever

takes this position and strive for the continued sound and steady development of bilateral ties.


RIVERS: And it was yesterday at that same briefing that actually the spokesman used the words Lao Pong Yo (ph), which means "old friend" in

Chinese. And in Chinese, that's a term of significant endearment, it's not just something you would say about someone you knew back in high school or

back in grade school, when you use those words, it means that you have a special relationship with someone. And the fact that those words are being

used to describe Governor Branstad really is quite significant and frankly in stark contrast to the president-elect himself.

This has been a very difficult start for U.S.-Chinese relationships under the incoming Trump presidency, especially after President Trump took that

call with a series of tweets reiterating some of his anti-China rhetoric that we heard throughout the campaign season.

So, the appointment of Governor Branstad certainly could be interpreted as a bit of an olive branch from the incoming Trump administration, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yeah, a warm reaction from China to that pick, but we also have Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. He

is this high profile, well known denier of climate science. So, how does that go down in China, you know, which has signed the Paris accord and

pledged to fight global warming?

RIVERS: Well, this is one of the areas that over the past couple of years the U.S. under the Obama administration and China under President Xi have

actually gotten along, despite the fact that pollution remains a huge issue here in China, it's something that the government leaders have really

sought to tackle.

And in fact, China leads the world, believe it or not, in renewable energy investment. And so the U.S. and China, at least over the past several

years, have gotten along and they both -- were it not for both countries really getting behind that Paris climate agreement, many experts would tell

you that it might not have happened at all.

So, the Chinese leaders will say we are going to stick to our plan to continue to reduce carbon emissions, acknowledge the fact that climate

change is a reality, but in terms of an official position, what they are saying is that they hope that the United States maintains its agreements,

maintains this progress, as they would call it, towards curbing those carbon emissions. How the U.S. moves forward, especially with the

nomination of this new EPA chief, certainly throws that into a little bit of a question.

[08:15:17] LU STOUT: Absolutely. Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing. Thank you.

Now, South Korea's parliament has introduced a bill to impeach President Park Geun-hye. And the measure is expected to pass an historic vote that

will take place Friday.

Some members of Park's own party are expected to vote in favor of impeachment.

Now, Park's approval ratings have plummeted over a corruption scandal. And we'll be closely following the vote when it happens again tomorrow.

Now, at least 102 people are now confirmed dead from the powerful earthquake that hit Indonesia's Aceh province. Hundreds of homes and

buildings have been damaged or destroyed. The 6.5 magnitude tremor struck just as people were preparing for morning prayers early on Wednesday.

Now, CNN Indonesia's Alfian Rohardjo joins me now live on the line. Now, we've learned that more than 100 people have been killed. Alfian, what is

your understand of the scale of this quake disaster?


This earthquake is quite big when it hit this area because of some building cannot survive after the earthquake hit this area. 154 (ph) die and some

people were injured, because of this earthquake.

But when they compare this earthquake with the tsunami and earthquake in 2004, this earthquake is not so big with that. Because of the degree of

the (inaudible) -- a lot of -- still a lot of buildings can't survive when the earthquake hit this area, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And just quickly, Alfian, we know it's nightfall there. Is the search for survivors in the debris, does that continue even now?

ROHARDJO: Yeah, the rescue team was (inaudible) the rescue effort stopped this evening, because of the rescue teams (inaudible) enough light to help

them to find -- to (inaudible) the debris. so they stop and they'll continue tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m., Kristie.

LU STOUT: OK, so the effort will continue once it's daybreak.

Alfian Rohardjo joining us live on the line from Aceh, thank you so much for that update.

Now, a strong earthquake has hit northwest China. And the quake, it shook buildings 100 kilometers west of Arumchi (ph) in the Shinjian (ph) region.

China's earthquake administration reports that the quake had a magnitude of 6.1. No casualties or damage have been reported.

Now, you're watching News Stream. Still to come on the program, searchers recover a key piece of evidence from Wednesday's deadly plane crash in

Pakistan. We have a live report coming up.

And a battlefield journalist covers a different kind of war. What he found about the crackdown on drugs in the Philippines straight ahead.


[08:20:28] LU STOUT: All right, coming to you live from Hong Kong, welcome back. You're watching News Stream.

Now, searchers in Pakistan have recovered the flight recorder from Wednesday's deadly plane crash. The Pakistan International Airlines plane

crashed into a mountainside near Abbottabad. The airline's chairman says the pilot made a mayday call saying he had engine trouble. 47 people on

board were killed.

CNN's Muhammad Lila joins me now from Istanbul with more on this story. He's following it from there.

Muhammad, what have you learned about the events leading up to the crash and what could have caused it?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're starting to get a clearer picture of the sequence of events that led to the crash.

You mentioned that the flight's data recorder has been recovered. You know, often time when a a plane crashes, it's very difficult to find those

black boxes. In this case, the Pakistani military says they were able to locate them very quickly, and that's a good sign, because it suggests that

the boxes weren't damaged and that they might be able to get that data quickly out of

those boxes.

We know that the flight from Chitral to Pakistan's capital Islamabad is only about an hour long. The pilot issued a warning shortly after takeoff

saying that one of the engines had failed, but they kept flying, trying to make it to Islamabad.

At some point about half an hour later, they issued that mayday call, and that's when the plane crashed shortly there afterwards.

So those black boxes are going to have information about whether there was a sudden course change, whether there was a sudden shift in altitude, and

most importantly, if there was any kind of on-board failure with any of the plane's electronics systems or navigational systems that might give them a

clue as to why exactly this plane crashed on to the side of the mountainside.

But of course, all of this comes as the families have now gathered in Islamabad to receive the remains of their loved ones. We understand that

there may be some DNA testing involved because the bodies obviously suffered a lot and may not have remained fully intact because of that

crash, so today is a day of mourning, certainly, in Pakistan, and especially for those families that are trying to identify the bodies.

LU STOUT: Absolutely. A day of mourning and the search for answers after this terrible plane disaster. Muhammad Lila reporting for us, thank you.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs is showing no signs of slowing down. Reuters reports that since he took

office, more than 2,000 people were killed in anti-drug operations in just two months. There are also reports of vigilante killings. Recently,a New

York Times photo journalist documented some of the deaths.

Daniel Barjulac has covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he says what he saw in the

Philippines was a whole new level of brutality. Now, a warning, his photos are graphic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is unique about this one is that it seems like a state-sanctioned mass killing that is going on in the Philippines at the

moment. And it is ripping through the poorest neighborhoods of Manila and all over the country.

And to see the scale that it's happening, and it's relentless, and the murders are happening and the killings are happening every single day.

We've been seeing the heartbreak first hand. I mean, we're seeing long (inaudible) who is, 6 years old, grieving for her father and screaming as

the coroners were taking his body away. It's, you know, it's one thing certainly to see the

bodies, but then seeing the knock-on effects that it's having in communities widespread over Manila, at least in terms of what I documented,

was definitely the most devastating.

President Duterte offered a rehabilitation for people to surrender back in July. And so many people surrendered, expecting that this would keep them

safe from his so-called war on drugs. And unfortunately, it hasn't. even the surrenderees are victims of the police shootings and killings.


LU STOUT: A grisly and gut-wrenching series of photos there.

Now, President Duterte says that the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised his heavy handed approach and that made Duterte feel, quote, like a


Now, the head of Britain's spy agency MI-6 has made a rare speech from inside the agency's

headquarters on the south bank of the river Thames. He highlighted the threats targeting European democracies.

Now, let's get straight to CNN's Max Foster. He joins us now live from London.

And Max, this was a rare opportunity to hear directly from the head of MI- 6. How much transparency did he offer?

[08:25:05] MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was interesting. We were picked up in an undisclosed location and taken into

the building. And that's happened before. My first time in there, though.

But what is unusual is 4C, as he's known, the chief of the intelligence service, to speak on camera inside the building.

And he had a wide-ranging speech to deliver to us. He said he's not going to do this very often, but that's why he covered so many issues. But the

key one, really, gaining the most attention is his criticism of Russia. He criticized the Syrian regime in relation to what's going on in Syria, but

also Russia in a very strong language.

So, for example, Aleppo. You've obviously been reporting a lot about that, Krsitie, on your

program. But he said in Aleppo, Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make a desert and call it peace. The human tragedy is heartbreaking. He

doesn't really seem convinced that the policy that Russia has, the defense policy that Russia has, the military policy in Syria, necessarily is going to work for them, and it certainly is undermining

world peace in a way.

He said what's happening in Syria and Iraq is the greatest threat to the UK, and by virtue of that, also across Europe and perhaps America as well.

LU STOUT: Interesting. So he weighed in on the crisis in Syria, Russia's role in the assault that's under way in Aleppo.

What about the big surprise votes this year that brought about Brexit and U.S. President

Donald Trump? How is that being viewed by Alex Younger?

FOSTER: Well, it's something he did have to address, because after Brexit, there was a huge

amount of concern that the British intelligence services wouldn't be operating as closely with the German and the Belgian and the French

authorities, for example. And that would create a general reduction in security across the continent and that wouldn't be good for


At the same time, on the campaign trail, you'll remember, Donald Trump talked about things

like waterboarding, and almost offering support for waterboarding, which in this country is regarded as a torture technique, is illegal, and therefore,

Britain wouldn't be able to cooperate on things like that. So, would that damage that key intelligence relationship between the UK and the U.S.,

which also plays into intelligence sharing here across Europe.

And he said, actually, he does think there will be continuity in those relationships. And we can only base that -- and that's all he really said

on that. We can only base that, really, on the fact that he must have had conversations with the CIA, for example, and with the intelligence agencies

in Europe to be able to come up with that sort of conclusion. So it does seem as

those two big political upheavals won't necessarily affect intelligence and security.

LU STOUT: And Max, I have to ask the question, James Bond, the British franchise that has

turned MI-6 and the building behind you into storied institutions recognized the world over, did you ask him about the appeal of James Bond,

comparisons to bond?

FOSTER: No. Really, it was just a speech. There was an off-the-record moment as well afterwards. But really, what he was saying was that James

Bond, as great as it's been for the awareness of MI-6, not necessarily -- well, it's a double-edge sword. He said that people expect agents to be

very well educated, to be experts in hand-to-hand combat, for example, and that's actually not what they're looking for now. What they're looking for

are a diverse cross section of the British community, which is very diverse, as you know, Kristie. So they want people that can mix into

societies around the world.

And what was also interesting was that, of course, there's a huge amount of concern about cyber-warfare. But they are also relying on traditional

intelligence gathering as well. So they are relying a lot on agents working within terror groups, for example, in Raqqa, in Aleppo, and around

the world. So that traditional intelligence gathering is still very important for that. You don't necessarily want someone, you know, a white

middle-class male from Oxbridge, you want someone that blends into those local environments as well.

LU STOUT: A very, very revealing encounter with the chief spy master there in the UK. Many thanks indeed for sharing your findings with us. Max

Foster reporting live. Thank you.

Now, imagine that you were chatting online with your friends, but part of what you're saying is being secretly erased. Well, that is happening to

Chinese WeChat users around the world. Stay with us.



[08:33:05] LU STOUT: Now, China is known for its online censorship. You can't access websites like Facebook or Twitter while you're there, but a

new report says that China's WeChat app is now censoring text messages of Chinese users even when they're not in the country. Citizen Lab says the

app censors messages that have specific words. For example, here you can see two sides of a conversation between two Chinese users. One side is

missing text. Now, that's because a message with the words Falun Gong was secretly taken out by the app.

And Citizen Lab says it is happening to Chinese WeChat users around the world.

Let's get more on this from Ronald Deibert. He is the director of Citizen Lab. And he joins us now via Skype.

And, Ronald, thank you for joining us here on the program. Censorship on WeChat is certainly evolving. It's now filtering content for WeChat users

at home in China and overseas without them knowing. Can you tell us more about your findings?

RONALD DEIBERT, CITIZEN LAB: Well, we did research on WeChat as part of an evolving set of projects that we're working on and examining instant

messaging and other applications in China to determine whether there is some kind of keyword filtering or surveillance.

So, we undertook a series of controlled experiments on WeChat using a variety of different registered phone numbers, some from the United States,

some from Canada, some from China. And what we found was that WeChat censors keywords differently depending on your registered phone number. So

Chinese registered phone numbers have much more censorship than on registered phone numbers from other countries.

Hhowever, what we found is that if a Chinese registered user switches phone numbers; for example, if they travel abroad, the censorship follows them

around effectively, which is why we call our report one app, two systems.

It's a bifurcated model of internet censorship, if you will.

[08:35:03] LU STOUT: Now, to Tencent's credit, WeChat used to notify its users when messages were

messages were censored, but that transparency is gone. Why do you think that is?

DEIBERT: Yeah, you absolutely correct. When we did the tests -- we've been doing tests on WeChat for a number of years. Of course, users report

receiving notifications, saying, I'm sorry, that message is forbidden. Sometimes the message is misleading.

In our latest round of tests, we discovered that there's simply no notification to the user, so it's a silent form of censorship, if you will.

If I sent you a message and it was filtered, it would simply be removed. And so you would not receive it, nor would you get any indication that I've

attempted to send you a message.

I think this is probably because the company wants to push the censorship further into the background so that users don't experience it directly, it

doesn't cause alarms, but of course this is a major step towards unaccountability to users.

LU STOUT: And if WeChat is censoring and blocking sensitive content, is it also storing and passing it on to Chinese authorities? Is it also a

surveillance tool?

DEIBERT: Well, that's a very good question. And to answer that properly, you really need to understand how censorship works on applications and how

we can do our research to determine whether there's censorship or surveillance.

So on some applications, for example, we just did a report about a month ago on Chinese livestreaming applications. The censorship and surveillance

is pushed to the application on your device. And what we do here at the Citizen Lab is reverse engineer that application, effectively take it


In WeChat's case, however, the censorship and whatever surveillance is going on happens on the company side on remote servers, which makes it much

more difficult for us to interrogate. We can only do controlled experiments.

However, I would say that in all of our other reports that we've done on applications, looking at the client side, we've discovered that the same

key words that trigger censorship often also trigger surveillance. In other words, from that point on, all your conversations are monitored.

There's no reason to believe that WeChat isn't doing this. In fact, it's a good bet they are because in China all companies are required by law to

retain user data and share it with authorities when authorities request that from the company.

LU STOUT: You know, WeChat has become so dominant in China. I mean, it is effectively the operating system for China's hundreds of millions of mobile

internet users. When you got everything else blocked in China, are they going to be stuck with WeChat?

DEIBERT: Well, I think China has a thriving marketplace. There are many different applications. And of course, there are companies like Facebook,

for example, that are wanting to enter the Chinese marketplace. So it really depends on what type of content you're interested in accessing. And

that's partially why we're doing this research, to find out what type of information controls are users experiencing in China.

I think it's definitely a filtered environment. Sensitive topics concerning Tienanmen Square, you mentioned Falun Gong, Tibet, are routinely

blocked. But we also found blocking around current events. So, if there is a protest or some kind of public official is involved in a scandal, we

often see censorship around those events and surveillance as well.

LU STOUT: Yeah, censorship on WeChat is evolving, it's becoming more dynamic. We'll leave it at that. But Ronald, thank you so much for

sharing your findings with us here on News Stream. Take care.

DEIBERT: Thank you.

LU STOUT: Now, you're watching News Stream. We'll be back right after this


[08:40:37] LU STOUT: Welcome back. Now, with the holidays fast approaching, there is always that one person who is just impossible to buy

for. And there's the temptation to get them something totally quirky and useless.

But as Jeanne Moos found out, some gifts defy belief.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gift giving has hit rock bottom with this $85 stone. Before you use your phone to share a photo

of the Nordstrom rock, give your device a nap in the phone bed.


MOOS: Two items so unique comedians don't have to make a joke to get a laugh.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: This is what they call a medium, leather-strapped stone.


MOOS: It had people stumped. It is from somewhere special, from the moon, somewhere, anywhere?

No. Nordstrom says it is a smooth Los Angeles-area stone wrapped in rich vegetable-tanned leather, created by artist, Peter Maxwell.

Even the store guessed at its purpose, a paper weight, conversation piece, work of art.

KIMMEL: It looks like a baked potato in leather pants.


MOOS: The rock's own parody account tweeted, "Already wearing my lederhosen."

And if the $85 medium is too pricey, there's a $65 small. Oops, both sold out online.

The up-scale version of the Pet Rock from the '70s that came in a cardboard carrier with air holes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he's nice looking, too.

MOOS: Unlike the Pet Rock, the $100 phone bed has a practical purpose.

Sleep crusader, Arianna Huffington, said good night smartphone.

HUFFINGTON: Which is really a charging station that looks like a bed.

MOOS: It has 10 charging ports, enough for a Smartphone orgy. Your tablets slide underneath.

The idea is to ban the phone from your bed.

HUFFINGTON: This phone bed belongs outside of everybody's bedrooms.

MOOS (on camera): Of course, you can splurge and get the phone bed and the leather rock.

(voice-over): Combine the two and let your stone sleep like a rock.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

KIMMEL: If I buy a rocket in a leather pouch for $85, it better look like this.


MOOS: ...New York.


LU STOUT: Yes, that would be the ultimate gift.

And that is News Stream. I'm Kristie Lu Stout. But don't go anywhere, World Sport with Amanda Davies is next.