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France School Shooting; Massacre of Afghan Villagers; Footballer Critically Ill; Slavery Alive and Well in one West African Nation; Car Bombs Kill 27 in Damascus

Aired March 19, 2012 - 08:00   ET


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

And we begin in France, where three children and a teacher were killed in Toulouse. Is there a link to other shootings in the area?

A British footballer fights for his life in hospital after suffering cardiac arrest during a match.

And just what are these flying robots doing? We'll speak to the creator of this video.

Three children and a teacher have been killed in the French city of Toulouse after a gunman opened fire at a Jewish school, and one of the victims was 3 years old. The gunman was able to get away on a motor scooter. It is the third deadly shooting in the area in just over a week.

One child was left wounded in this latest attack, and it took place just after 8:00 a.m. at the private school. Officials say two weapons were used. One was the same caliber as the gun used in one of the previous shootings. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has arrived in the city.

Let's talk to newspaper correspondent Gil Bousquet, who's on the line from Toulouse.

This is a horrific act of violence, Gil. We understand that the French president has just arrived in Toulouse. What's the latest?

GIL BOUSQUET, FRENCH NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENT: Yes. President Sarkozy just arrived in Toulouse to (INAUDIBLE) of this tragedy, because it's a real tragedy here in Toulouse. Families are very shocked and upset because the killer got into the school just to run after the children to shoot them in the head. So it's a real tragedy, and now in the city it's kind of cyclish (ph), you know, in the mind of people, and teachers prevent pupils from going out of the school before will come back.

LU STOUT: You know, this is a tragedy. It's also a horror story with no end. There are fears that this could be linked with something else that's been going on. This is the third ride-by shooting by gunmen on a motorcycle there in the last week.

What are investigators telling you? Are these cases linked?

BOUSQUET: Yes. The prosecutor, the main prosecutor of Toulouse, said that it should be -- there should be a link between these three cases, because in each case this is always the same method, the same modus operandi used with the same weapon and the same caliber. And on each time, it's a man with a motorbike who kills people very -- you know, is very quiet and is very methodic, and is very quiet to kill people.

So the police saying there is a link between the three cases. And so the counterterrorist police is now involved in the case and the inquiry is on the track.

LU STOUT: Now, if there is a link, there could be a serial killer on the loose. Very alarming, indeed.

We understand where you are, Toulouse is in lockdown. What are conditions like there in the city?

BOUSQUET: Well, the city is -- the mood is very bad, you know, because all the parents -- funerals for the children. I was just talking with one who said to me that tomorrow, he doesn't want to bring his children to the school because he fears for his safety. So it's very kind of (INAUDIBLE) in the city around the school and high school and university, and people are asking which will be the next? You know?

After the soldiers and the Jew (ph) community, maybe the next one will be police or medics (ph) of the hospital. No one is safe. No (ph).

LU STOUT: The people of Toulouse bracing for more shootings attacks.

Gil Bousquet on the line.

Thank you very much indeed for your reporting.

Now, to Afghanistan now, where relations with the United States are in tatters over the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is being held at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He is to meet his lawyer for the first time on Monday.

There have been protests in Afghanistan demanding he face the courts there, and President Hamid Karzai says relations between the two countries are at the end of their rope. But the Afghan ambassador to the U.S. was a little more diplomatic.


EKLIL HAKIMI, AFGHAN AMB. TO U.S.: Well, we do trust the United States and we do know how important this relationship is. And we are working as a partner to resolve all the issues as a partner. We should coordinate and cooperate with all these issues like I described.

And the bigger picture is very important. We are in the right direction, but down the road things are happening that we should manage it in a way that should not deter us from our main objectives.


LU STOUT: A week after the shooting, Afghans continued to express their anger and grief. And some are questioning whether just one soldier was responsible for the massacre.

Now, for more, Sara Sidner joins me now live from CNN Kabul.

And Sara, a Taliban leader is skeptical that one soldier carried out the massacre in Kandahar. What is he saying?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting to note that the person who is from the Panjwai district where this happened, this Taliban commander, had actually moved out of the area because of the night raids that have been going on. These joint raids between Afghan and NATO forces have been so effective, that he had moved out of the area. But he had heard from the villagers there, and the villagers also told us that they just don't believe the U.S.' account. They believe that more than one soldier was involved in this massacre.

LU STOUT: Now, the Taliban, they have halted talks with U.S. officials. They're demanding U.S. troops out of the country. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, he has also slammed the United States over the massacre.

I want to ask you about the relationship, Sara, the relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan. We know it's strained, but is it strained beyond repair?

SIDNER: Well, I think it's hard to say, because when you look at some of the incidents that have happened, there is often initially a lot of anger and aggravation, a lot of posturing, and then it starts to calm down. I mean, the reality is, even if Hamid Karzai wanted all of the troops out of this country as fast as possible, then basically that can't happen that quickly. There are so many troops here.

And he hasn't actually said that he wanted NATO troops to get out earlier, which he asked for 2013 for them to be wrapping up this transition process so that Afghan forces can take over, but he did not say that he wanted all NATO troops out at that time. I think he realizes that that's not just a realistic plan.

However, when it comes to what's happened in the Panjwai district, there's a lot of suspicion that the U.S. is not giving all the information, and the Afghan government has said that, basically, they didn't get a chance to talk to this soldier, to interrogate this soldier who's accused in this case. And that is also causing a lot of suspicion among the villagers and the people of Afghanistan.


SIDNER (voice-over): Graves in Majabianvaj (ph), a place now haunted by the memory of a massacre. Ali Ahmed (ph) describes what he saw. "It was around 3:00 at night that they entered the room. They took my uncle out of the room and shot him after asking him, 'Where is the Taliban?' My uncle replied that he didn't know."

Ahmed (ph) said the worst happened next door. "Finally, they came to this room and martyred all the children in the room. There was even a 2-month- old baby," he said.

Once the shooting stopped, the villagers said some of the dead were piled in a room and set on fire. At daybreak, in the back of trucks, evidence emerged of the burning of bodies and killing of babies. U.S. officials say this was the work of a single soldier acting on his own.

Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is under arrest, accused in the crime. Most of the villagers say they do not believe the U.S. version. But when it comes to actual eyewitnesses, their stories conflict. One of the young witnesses said, "He was an American." "It was just one person," the boy next to him chimes in. But some adults in the village tell us they have evidence more than one soldier was involved, but none of them have said more than one soldier was following a weapon.

"They went through a field of wheat and there was more than one set of footprints. The villagers have seen them and signs of knee prints as well."

In an exclusive interview, a Taliban commander from the area told CNN, "We don't think that one American soldier was involved in the attack. The foreigners and the puppet regime are blind to the truth of what happened there, but if this was the act of one soldier, we want this soldier to be prosecuted in Afghanistan and according to Islamic law."

After the attack, the Taliban suspended initial peace talks with the U.S. He told us the reason was twofold -- the burning of Qurans in February by U.S. troops, and he claimed the U.S. rescinded its offer to move five Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay prison to Qatar.

"Our peace talks with the Americans were limited to discuss the prisoner deal," he said. "And those promises were not kept by the Americans."

But the U.S. State Department said it has not made any decisions on the transfer. Back in the villages of Panjwai district, it isn't peace talks, but justice that's being demanded right now, something the U.S. has repeatedly promised will be done.

In the streets and in the Afghan presidential palace, anger and skepticism reign. So far, three protests have erupted in the last week with calls for justice and death to America.


SIDNER: Now, I want to make this point. Those three protests are always seen, which is a lot less than what happened during the Quran burnings, where 40 people were killed, including four U.S. service members -- Kristie.

LU STOUT: Sara Sidner, reporting live from CNN Kabul.

Thank you very much indeed for that.

Now, activists in Syria, they are reporting the fiercest clashes in the capital, Damascus, since the uprising began one year ago. They say intense fighting between rebels and government forces erupted in the central al- Mazah district.

This footage, it appears to show heavy gunfire there in al-Mazah, though we can't verify the video that's posted on YouTube, including the following graphic footage from Homs, the scene of injured from a shelling attack.

An opposition group says at least 67 people across Syria were killed on Sunday. They say six people have been killed today.

Now let's look at why the location of the latest fighting is important.

Now, much of the reported violence in Damascus has been centered in the poorer suburbs, or the outlying countryside, but the neighborhood of al- Mazah is a wealthy, modern area that's home to foreign embassies, security services, and houses of the political elite. It's also overlooked by the presidential palace on Mazah (ph) Mount, putting the conflict right near the power center of the heavily-guarded capital.

Still to come here on NEWS STREAM, Premier League football Fabrice Muamba is fighting for his life after suffering cardiac arrest on the pitch. We're live at the hospital.

And we're also in China. We're following Bo Xilai fall from grace and taking a look inside the communist party.

And radio program "This American Life" has apologized for a story it aired that criticized Apple and the conditions factory workers endure in China. We'll bring you that.


LU STOUT: Now, it seems almost too hard to believe. One minute, Fabrice Muamba is sprinting across the pitch, playing for his club in the FA Cup quarter-finals, and the next the 23-year-old professional footballer is lying on the pitch, having suffered cardiac arrest.

Now, paramedics spent several minutes trying to revive the former England Under-21 captain on the pitch as players and fans watch on in horror. With several of the players visibly disturbed, the match was called off.

Muamba was taken to the Heart Attack Centre at the London Chest Hospital, where his heart eventually started working again, but he remains in critical condition.

Atika Shubert is outside the hospital, and she joins us now.

And Atika, what are the doctors there saying about his condition and his prognosis?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has stabilized, but he does remain in critical condition. And we do expect to have a written statement from doctors at the London Chest Hospital later on this afternoon.

What we -- we just heard from Owen Coyle, and he is the manager, of course, of that football club. And he came out not addressing any medical questions, but saying that there had been such an overwhelming amount of support that had come not just from friends and family, but fans and others footballers as well. He mentioned David Beckham sending his support from across the Atlantic and Real Madrid showing their support as well. So it really has affected a lot of people.

And he said, you know, one of the important things to remember here is that Fabrice was not just a great footballer, but he is also a genuinely nice, humble person. And this goes to show just how much support he is getting.

One of the things he said, when asked, "How optimistic is he?" Owen Coyle said, "All I know is he that he is a natural fighter and he is a fit young man." And that has been a source of encouragement for him, the team and the family.

LU STOUT: You know, for him to suffer this cardiac arrest, it is such a shock for his family and fans around the world.

Atika, was there anything about his health before the heart attack that would suggest that he would be vulnerable to something like this?

SHUBERT: Well, no. And this is what's so shocking.

We know that footballers go through these regular checks. And when they are 16, when they sign their first professional contract, they actually do have a heart screening.

So it does come as a complete shock. And perhaps one of the most shocking parts is the way it happened.

You know, they were just minutes away from the end of the first half, and he was basically on his own in the field. There was no -- any sort of contact. And then, all of a sudden, the next thing you know, he's collapsed on the field.

So it was just that shock. And the way that it happened so quickly is one of the things that has really affected not just his teammates, not just his family, but fans as well.

LU STOUT: You mentioned earlier just a bit of the reaction from fellow footballers, from fans around the world. I was wondering if you could share with us -- if you've seen any fan reaction from there, outside the hospital, and also reaction from his team.

SHUBERT: Well, from the team, they're clearly devastated. Quite a few people have come here. They're shocked by what happened.

And it's really -- you know, you have to think of a football club. It's not just a team that plays sports, they're really like a family. And so this is like a member of the family getting gravely ill. And as a result, it's really been distressing for them and for his family as well.

He has a fiancee. He has a young son. And they're all really united behind him. And they've been putting out messages on Facebook, on Twitter, saying they're praying for him, and having this constant rapport not just with other teammates, but with the fans as well, thanking them for their support.

So they're really uniting behind him, and that could be a big factor in his recovery.

LU STOUT: All right.

Atika Shubert, joining us live from London.

Thank you very much for that, Atika.

And as she said, the outpouring of support for Fabrice Muamba has been remarkable. Rivalries have been set aside, with footballers and fans around the world expressing their support as one.

Now, Bolton fans paid tribute to the midfielder outside their home stadium, laying out scarves, shirts and flowers. And teams that played the following day also paid tribute. There was a minute of applause outside of Newcastle's Premier League clash with Norwich.

And Liverpool fans, they wished Muamba well at their Cup match against Stoke. And Chelsea defender Gary Cahill, who played with Muamba at Bolton until recently, revealed a T-shirt with the words "Pray for Muamba" when he scored against Leicester.

And those three words, the hashtag "Pray for Muamba," trended on Twitter as many turned to social media, including this man, Muamba's teammate and U.S. international Stuart Holden. He tweeted several times about the incident, including this: "Still praying for Fab. The guy is a fighter on and off the field. We love you bro."

Now, ahead here on NEWS STREAM, Bo Xilai, he was once regarded as one of the political elite within China's Communist Party, but his very public sacking has shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes.


LU STOUT: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching NEWS STREAM.

Now, Bo Xilai was a political heavyweight in China, party secretary of the sprawling city of Chongqing. And he appeared destined for a top leadership post in the Communist Party. But accusations followed his sacking last week that he was too power hungry.

Now China is preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership change, and as Stan Grant reports, this latest political scandal has lifted the curtain on some backroom power struggles.


STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wu Dong Ming (ph) has seen a lot of history in his 72 years -- revolution and war. Once a soldier laid (ph) to the father of China's environmental movement, now he's watching China, gripped by more political intrigue and upheaval. "This is a fight between the gods," he says, "way beyond the reach of ordinary people."

The gods are China's inner circle, the Communist Party politburo. In the year of leadership transition, the secretive party is turning on one of its own, and not just anyone, but a so-called princeling. The son of a communist revolutionary hero, Bo Xilai rose through the ranks, put in charge of the massive metropolis of Chongqing, more than 30 million people. He revived Maoist-era slogans and people sang revolutionary songs, but no more. Bo, dramatically sacked last week amid intrigue and rumor, online Chinese social media is celebrating his public disgrace, but in Chongqing's famous hot pot restaurants, locals toast and praise him.

On the streets, too, Bo Xilai has a lot of support.

(on camera): As Chongqing's economy has grown, so has its population. More and more migrant workers just like this lady have flocked here looking for a better life to be able to earn more money, and they've been pleased with what they've found.

(voice-over): "Bo Xilai has done so much for the people," this lady says, "helping the elderly and the poor. The city is greener and safer."

Bo Xilai busted criminal gangs and locked up corrupt businessmen, but it led to his downfall. The truth is now lost in a Chongqing haze, locals left to ponder why Bo's right-hand man and former top cop turned on him, dramatically seeking refuge in an American consulate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody can know. We know nothing.

GRANT: To the man who's seen it all, this is a politburo power play. Wu Dong Ming (ph) says Bo Xilai overreached. He was too ambitious, too desperate for success. But in his downfall, there's a warning for the whole Communist Party.

"Bo Xilai thinks like a feudalistic dictator and treats ordinary people like his subjects," he says. "I think only when communist officials start treating people as their masters will their people start supporting the party."

Wu Dong Ming (ph) has watched Bo up close for years and says we've seen the last of him, but Wu (ph) keeps watching. Turmoil, he knows, in China is never far away.

Stan Grant, CNN, Chongqing.


LU STOUT: Now, the electronics supplier Foxconn has found itself under repeated scrutiny for its working conditions, and now a U.S. radio show that raised some of the public anger is itself the center of attention.

Now, "This American Life" has retracted its popular episode featuring excerpts of a monologue called "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." Now, in it, Mike Daisey talks about visiting Foxconn workers in China, and one journalist listening in Shanghai says the story had too many holes in it.


ROB SCHMITZ, CHINA CORRESPONDENT, MARKETPLACE: There were a lot of points in the monologue that just didn't really ring true to me as someone who has lived off and on in China for 15 years. I mean, one of them was that he mentions guards at the gates of Foxconn holding guns. And if you've been to factories in China, and as reported from several factories, you would never see security guards with guns. It's actually illegal for security guards to hold guns in China.


LU STOUT: Now, Schmitz says he tracked down Daisey's translator, who disputed several of Daisey's dramatic claims. But by then, Daisey had already appeared on CNN and other news outlets. He says he wanted to create interest in the suffering of workers overseas, but Schmitz argues the stories did more harm than good.


SCHMITZ: You know, a lot of the things that he says in his piece (ph) have happened. Right? There have been workers poisoned by hexane. There have been underage workers at suppliers that supply Apple.

However, these things are very rare in China, and I think what he's done is, there are many people like me, journalists and researchers and academics, who spend much of their lives trying to explain China to the rest of the world. This is our job. And so, really, when this man goes to China for less than a week, and then goes back to America and tells the news media what he saw, and it's all lies, then I think that that is doing a great disservice.


LU STOUT: And a great point made there.

Now, Daisey, meanwhile, he defends his work. He says the point of his monologue was to make people care about the plight of Foxconn workers. And on his blog, Daisey writes this: "What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism."

"And for this reason, I regret that I allowed 'This American Life' to air an excerpt from my monologue." And he continues, "But this is my only regret."

Now, according to Reuters, Foxconn says it hopes nothing similar will happen again. And despite damage to the company's reputation, a spokesman says there are no plans to take legal action.

You're watching NEWS STREAM, and coming up, the "CNN Freedom Project" investigates modern-day slavery in Mauritania.


LU STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching NEWS STREAM. And these are your world headlines.

Now three children and a teacher have been killed in the French city of Toulouse after a gunman opened fire at a Jewish school. And one of the victims was three-years-old. Now the gunman was able to get away on a motor scooter. It is the third deadly shooting in the area in just over a week. Now French president Nicolas Sarkozy, he is now in Toulouse and he spoke about the incident just a few minutes ago.


NICOLAS SARKOZY, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, today is a day of national tragedy, because children were assassinated while at school. This is a tragedy across all the communities. I have asked the minister of education to devote one minute of silence in all of the schools in memory of these martyred children. The minister will remain here in Toulouse as long as it is necessary to help and support the families of victims.


And there's been an outpouring of support for footballer Fabrice Muamba who is in intensive care at a London hospital Muamba who plays for Bolton in the English Premier League suffered cardiac arrest on the pitch during a match on Saturday.

Now activists in Syria are reporting explosions and gunfire in areas of the capital Damascus. They say government forces have clashed with rebels in the neighborhood of Al Mata (ph), home to embassies and security service buildings. On Saturday, two car bombs exploded in Damascus, killing 27.

And the fighting in Damascus, it follows Sunday's violent clashes across Syria. Arwa Damon is watching developments from Beirut, Lebanon. She joins us now.

And Arwa, we have heavy fighting in Damascus. What are witnesses telling you?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, not just in Damascus, Kristie, but in a very central neighborhood that is, as you were saying, they are the home, the site of a number of embassies, of ministries, of security forces buildings, of the residents of some members of President al Assad's inner circle.

Now people we've been speaking to who live around that area say that the gunfire, the explosions, they were initially hearing, that began at around 12:30, just shortly after midnight, lasting until around 4:00 in the morning. This is especially significant and potentially a new development, because it's the first time that we're seeing these types of clashes this close, in fact in the heart of Damascus itself.

Some are saying that this is the Free Syrian Army going on the offensive now trying to take the battle straight to the seat of government itself while others are saying this is also a sign of things potentially (inaudible) because just two days after we had those two explosions happenings on Saturday in Damascus itself car bombs and then the car bomb that went off in Aleppo as well, Kristie.

LU STOUT: So we have the significant development, this year long uprising as these clashes are underway in Damascus, also reporting clashes elsewhere. But elsewhere in the country are rebels, are they making gains against President Bashar al Assad and his forces?

DAMON: Well, it's a very incredibly fluid battlefield at this stage, Kristie. And that's what we have been seeing. They seem to be able to hold ground for a certain amount of time, to be able to keep that ground as long as the government forces are just attacking them using artillery, but the minute it boils down to face to face clashes it seems like the Free Syrian Army, this rebel fighting force is only able to hold ground for a few days at best. And then they say they are forced to withdraw deliberately, but that by and large also because they quite simply end up out gunned and they're running out of ammunition.

And the stories we're hearing from these various areas about what takes place once government forces comb through them are truly hair raising. You know, over the weekend some scenes emerged from a neighborhood in Homs where only a handful, a few dozen children had survived a massacre that was alleged to have taken place there. And then in the town of Klib (ph) just outside of Homs we saw horrific pictures that you aired earlier in the show of children being wounded in this ongoing assault.

So that's really the big problem is that, sure, the Free Syrian Army is able to fight back to a certain degree, is able to perhaps take the battle to the heart of the capital, but at the end of the day they're not strong enough to hold vital ground.

All this being said, of course Kristie when it comes to those bombings that took place over the weekend in Damascus and Aleppo, the opposition is saying that was not their doing.

LU STOUT: Arwa Damon reporting live for us from Beirut. Thank you, Arwa.

Now this week, the CNN Freedom Project is shining a light on one country's efforts to eradicate slavery. In Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981. It was the last nation in the world to do so. But the practice still thrives with as many as one in five Mauritanians living in slavery. Here is CNN's John Sutter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Chains are for the slave who has just become a slave, but the multi generational slave, he's a slave even in his own head. He is totally submissions. And unfortunately it is this time of slavery that we have today. The slaves that American plantation owners dreamed of."

JOHN SUTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mauritania in 1981 became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. There was no punishment for slave owners until 2007. The UN says 10 to 20 percent of Mauritanians live in slavery today.

We traveled to the country on the western fringe of the Sahara to see for ourselves. We would meet people who never knew freedom, people who escape and find their lives hadn't changed, and abolitionists who have been fighting against slavery for years with minimal results.

We weren't allowed to be reporting on slavery. It's a practice the government tries to hide from outsiders. But as we would find, slavery is everywhere in Mauritania if you know where to look.

BOUBACAR MESSAOUD, CO-FOUNDER SOS SLAVES (through translator): No, we cannot go to her house. It is not possible. Also, it wouldn't be very smart because one time we took journalists there and the police came and took their cameras.

SUTTER: We asked Boubacar Messaoud, the head of an abolitionist group called SOS Slaves to introduce us to people who had recently escaped from slavery. One woman we met is trying to bring her case to court. The government is keeping a close eye on her to stop her from telling her story.

MOULKHEIR MINT YARBA (through translator): The man who beat us made us herd a whole lot of cattle, goats, cows, camels. We would be tired, and if we came back without some of the cattle, he would beat us and fire a gun above our heads.

Yes, he was beating all of us. Beating us with sticks.

He would have sex with us all. My children are actually their children. These are the children of my masters.

SELEK'HA MINT HAMANE, MOULKHEIR'S DAUGHTER (through translator): I didn't know anything about it when I was young. You know how I understood they were not my family? When they started beating me and not their other children. If they were my family, they would not beat me like that.

He raped me and I became pregnant. This was when we were with the masters.

You know how they killed the child? The put me in a car and drove it hard until the baby came out of me and it was dead.

SUTTER: While SOS Slaves was able to reunite Moulkheir with her children, others are forced to leave their families behind.

MATALA OULD M'BOIRIK, ESCAPED SLAVE (through translator): Personally, I was always thinking of a safe way to run forever. Then, one day I met a military unit. I spoke to a military man saying I'm going with you because I trust you. If you are going to hand me over to these masters, I prefer you shoot me.

I think about slavery, yes. I think about it, because I can't forget it at all, because my brothers and sisters are still there. So I can't forget about it. Also, a person like me will never forget about the torture he has suffered. I will not forget it.


LU STOUT: Some harrowing stories in there in John Sutter's report.

Let's talk to John live now. He joins us from CNN Center. And John, people around the world have been watching this story. And many are now primed to act. So what is the best way for them to help?

SUTTER: Yeah, there are a couple of ways. If you go to That's the freedom project blog. And we have a post on there actually about how to help.

We have an iReport assignment out where people can send messages of hope to a school for escaped slaves on those women that you saw in that clip earlier. They're at a center run by SOS Slaves where they're, you know, learning to sew, learning to cook, learning to have marketable skills to sort of keep themselves out of slavery. So there's a donation page set up for that. And you can also send an iReport message to them. We're going to figure out a way to show those clips from around the world to these women so they know that the world has their support and cares about their struggle.

LU STOUT: Good to hear. We definitely want to see that.

And tell us, what have you filed next? What's coming up tomorrow?

SUTTER: Tomorrow there is a story about the other founder of SOS Slaves, this group you are hearing about, who actually was a slave master when he was young and had this incredible transformation and now became one of the country's abolitionists. So his story is just -- it's shocking. It was really moving for me to hear. And, you know, that will be online, on tomorrow.

You can view the full project page for this Mauritania story at

LU STOUT: All right. Very powerful reporting. John Sutter, thank you. And we'll talk again tomorrow.

Still ahead here on NEWS STREAM, we'll be checking in with Mari Ramos. She has your world weather forecast. So stick around for that. Stay with us.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

Now there is rain, heavy rain, in a beautiful corner of the world -- North Island of New Zealand. Let's get some details now from Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center -- Mari.

MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Oh yeah, Kristie, well you know overall the rain seems to be beneficial, because they've had somewhat of a drier winter than usual across -- I should say summer than usual -- across parts of New Zealand. But this is an area near Wellington not too far from that area.

Let's go ahead and look at the pictures, because it's pretty impressive. You just head right outside the city there and the water is torrential, really coming down in torrents. Rivers are filled up. Many of them overflowing their banks. Roads have been closed. And as you can see here, very dangerous driving conditions for people. Stay out of flooded roadways, that is the word coming out from authorities in this area. Rescue personnel risking their own lives to try to save people trapped in their cars or their homes across this region. In some cases they've had more rain in the last three days than they've had in quite awhile. And of course farmland completely covered in water in many cases. Total destruction for farmers in this region because of all of the water that has been coming down.

Even as we head through the next -- overnight tonight into tomorrow we may still see even more wet weather. It's very dangerous conditions, again, across this area. It looks like in the capital proper it's not doing too bad.

I want to show you back over here on the weather map some of these rainfall totals. Hicks Bay 97 millimeters, a bit farther south there 152. And this is near those areas where the heaviest rain has been across this eastern half of the North Island of New Zealand.

Now we're still going to get some rain, particularly in areas to the north. We still have to get through the rest of this weather system to pull through here. And when that happens we'll begin to see a little bit of an improvement. But for now, while the South Island stays dry, the North Island, and particularly this northeastern corner, that's where the heaviest rain is expected with an additional 8 centimeters locally.

And you may even see some spots where they get even more rain that that. The threat for flooding and mudslides a huge concern.

As we head to Australia, let's go ahead and stay close by here. And we have plenty of heavy rainfall across the north. We had that tropical cyclone coming in here across the north and west. And we've had a couple of developing storm systems affecting in the north. And that's where the heaviest rain has actually been, it's been so persistent. And it's going to be again as we head over through Queensland where the heaviest rainfall is expected. It's already so flooded that any amount of rain that falls here is going to be a concern.

And as we head over toward Asia, well a little bit better air quality for you in Beijing today compared to Sunday. We had huge travel delays on Sunday before the snow. The visibility was just such a huge concern. There were hundreds of flights that were canceled, people trapped on the roadways. There were some problems also with people being able to get around in cars, as I was saying. But a little bit of an improvement there. The cold air has returned. 4 in Beijing right now, 1 in Seoul. Cool as we also head back over toward Tokyo, but temperatures generally mild as we head farther to the south. 15 in Taipei and 22 in Hong Kong right now.

This is what the satellite image looks like in this area. A little bit of moisture still left over here, but nothing too significant. And notice another weather system coming in here across eastern portions of China, that one bringing you some light rain into cities like mainly Shanghai.

Let's go ahead and check out your city by city forecast.

Oh, this just seems to be a little bit of everything -- or too much, I should say. These are pictures from the U.S. You're looking at pictures from Sunday on one side. That's from Oklahoma where a twister was spotted. There was another one in Nebraska just in the overnight hours. And to the right. Yeah, that's the western United States where they're dealing with winter storm conditions. You see the snow very heavy. Roads have been closed in that area. And they are looking at the possibility of some will actually be close throughout the rest of the day today as winter conditions begin to finally taper off, Kristie.

And here for us across the eastern half of the U.S. temperatures some 15 degrees Celsius above the average for this time of year. That's pretty significant. That's made the pollen count shoot up way high. Here in Atlanta, if you hear me sniffling, it's because the pollen count is the highest ever, ever since they've been keeping record. So it's at 8,160, which is huge. 150 is considered high. So, puts it in perspective.

LU STOUT: Oh, take care. And keep the Kleenex on standby. And Mari Ramos, thank you and bless you.

Now ahead here on NEWS STREAM, these tiny flying robots, they're working to build something big. And it is a pretty impressive sight. But wait until you hear what they can do.


LU STOUT: Welcome back.

And time for a sports update. And the headlines over the last few days have focused on the condition of Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba who suffered cardiac arrest on Saturday. Pedro Pinto joins us now from London with more -- Pedro.


Muamba remains in the intensive care unit of the London hospital fighting for his life. The latest you are hearing is that his heart is in stable condition, but remains critically ill.

The question most people have been asking is how could this happen to an elite athlete who is only 23 years old? In other words, if there was something wrong with him why wasn't it spotted before?

Well, a Premier League spokesman on Sunday told CNN that under their guidelines all scholars, that being 16-18 year olds at Premier League clubs must go through a cardiological examination and screening. The spokesman added that all professional senior players must have a cardiological examination as early in their careers as possible as well as an additional test if the medical screen shows any results that warrant a further examination.

Now a doctor told CNN earlier today that more tests should be done, though, on professional athletes.


DR. HILARY JONES, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: What's important to realize is that obviously playing sport vigorously can unmask an undiagnosed underlying condition that it sometimes does. So when we see somebody have a (inaudible) hemorrhage and a sudden stroke on the pitch, on the field of play, we're shocked by it. If someone has a cardiac arrest, we're very shocked by it.

These events aren't common, especially amongst athletes, but they're not that rare either. And there are many people with undiagnosed heart conditions who are in sport who should be having regular screening tests which would include electrocardiogram and an ECG, an electrocardiogram to look for the structure apparatus in the heart which we would find in about 80 percent of cases.


PINTO: All right. Now, the international football family has united in wishing Muamba a swift recovery. Before last night's Spanish league game against Malaga (ph), Real Madrid's players wore shirts with best wishes for the Bolton midfielder. Actually Los Blancos had two messages, one for Muamba, and another for Eric Abidal (ph), the Barcelona player who is facing a liver transplant.

Meanwhile, in Italy, Andrea Pirlo dedicated Juventus' 5-nil win over Fourentina (ph) to Muamba.

In other Serie A grounds, there were other messages of encouragement for the stricken player.

And we're going to keep you updated with Muamba's condition throughout the day here on CNN.

Let's turn our attention to tennis and the final of the Master's Tournament at Indian Wells where Roger Federer wrapped up an impressive week by winning the title on Sunday. The Swiss start beat John Isner in what was a rematch of sorts after the American shocked Federer in the Davis Cup last month. But on this occasion it was the world number three who came out on top.

It wasn't easy, though. With his monster serve, Isner made life tough for his opponent. He pushed Federer to the limit in the first set before eventually succumbing 9-7 in a tiebreak.

The second set was easier for the 16-time grand slam winner. He managed to get a couple of breaks and went on to win it 6-3. Federer tying an ATP tour record with a 19th title in Master's series events. It was also his 39th win in his last 31 matches. He's on quite a roll a the moment.

In the women's final at Indian Wells, Victoria Azarenka prevailed against Maria Sharapova in what was a contest between the top two players on the planet.

This match was surprisingly one-sided as the Belarussian set the tone early. She got a couple of early breaks and made the most of Sharapova's errors as she took the first set 6-2. Second set, more from Azarenka as she took a 3-love lead. Pretty easy for the Belarussian throughout.

On to match point and it would be one of the best rallies of the contest with both players performing acrobatics. In the end, Sharapova's return was long. Azarenka winning the match in straight sets. She improved her record this season to an amazing 23-0.

That is a quick look at sport this hour. Back to you in Hong Kong, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Pedro Pinto there, thank you.

Now you've heard the saying birds of a feather. Well, these are not birds, but they can certainly flock together. University of Pennsylvania's grass lab designed these autonomous flying robots. They measure about 20 centimeters in diameter and weigh up to 70 grams. As you can see, they're pretty good a coordinating their movements.

Now I asked Professions Vijay Kumar what these robots could be used for.


VIJAY KUMAR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: We are primarily interested in applications involving search and rescue and first response, either after natural disasters or after accidents like we saw in Fukushima last spring. And so we imagine that these robots can go in very quickly and assess the situation and prevent further loss of human life or putting first responders in harms way.


LU STOUT: But that's not all they can do. At this year's TED conference, Kumar stunned the audience with this.

And I'm pretty sure James Bond himself would approve.

Now two of Kumar's students, Alex and Daniel, made that movie in just three days. But why did they choose that song?


KUMAR: Well, let's see -- so we did think about, you know, Beethoven's Fifth and Beethoven's Ninth, but we wanted to pick a theme that -- a song that people would recognize. And I don't know, we're all James Bond fans. It depends on -- I guess you're all showing our age.


LU STOUT: Well, Vijay, here at NEWS STREAM we approve as well.

And that is NEWS STREAM, but the news continues at CNN. "WORLD BUSINESS TODAY" is next.