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Your World Today

Teddy Bear Blasphemy in Sudan; Pakistan Turmoil; Botched Coup Attempt in the Philippines

Aired November 29, 2007 - 12:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Facing punishment for a class project. A British teacher waits in court over a blasphemy case involving a teddy bear.
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A promise for Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf takes an oath as a civilian president and sets a date to lift the state of emergency.

CLANCY: Guests at a five-star hotel run for cover. Renegade soldiers in the Philippines take hostages as they demand the president's resignation.

SESAY: And a critical step on a long journey. A disfigured Iraqi boy faces an important operation in California after weeks of preparations.

CLANCY: It's 9:00 in the morning in Los Angeles, 8:00 in the evening in Khartoum, Sudan.

Hello and welcome, everyone, to our report seen around the globe.

I'm Jim Clancy.

SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay.

From Manila to Moscow to Miami, wherever you're watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Now, the charge alone angered many around the world. Soon we'll learn the sentence. We're expecting to hear any time now the fate of a British schoolteacher in Sudan who's facing a beating, prison and more. All for allowing her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

As James Blake reports, a heavily-guarded court is considering that case behind closed doors.


JAMES BLAKE, REPORTER (voice over): Gillian Gibbons arrived in court this morning looking tired and distressed. Charged with insulting religion and reciting hatred by naming a teddy bear "Muhammad," she could face 40 lashes or prison.

There are no images yet from the court today. Clearly, the cases has made security teams tense. Journalists have not been allowed in and many cameramen have been arrested outside. Her defense team has called other teaches from the school as witnesses, including the Muslim assistant who was in the classroom at the time the teddy bear was named. They will tell the court it was all just an innocent mistake, with no insult intended.

The prosecution will produce this letter sent by Mrs. Gibbons to parents asking them to invite teddy bear named "Muhammad" to family parties. The case has made the headlines in Khartoum and stirred the protests of some religious leaders. It seems to have divided opinion here for those who simply want Gillian Gibbons to apologize and those who believe she should face prison or worse.

This is fast becoming a serious diplomatic incident. The Sudanese ambassador is meeting the foreign secretary. Britain could threaten to expel diplomats, limit trade, or remove 100 million pounds in annual government aid. But last night the Sudanese Embassy insisted it could do nothing.

KHALID MUBARAK, SUDANESE EMBASSY TO U.K.: Our government can't interfere in the process of the law. It will have to run its course. But there are guarantees in it, for example. There is the right of appeal. There's also the possibility of the judge dismissing the case.

MUHAMMAD ABDUL BARI, MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN: Definitely, there's a big cultural gap between how we perceive the teddy bear in this country and (INAUDIBLE) in Sudan. So it's very unfortunate, and we ask the Sudanese government to release this teacher immediately.

BLAKE: This morning the prime minister has spoken to Mrs. Gibbons' family, promising all assistance will be made available. And the foreign secretary has called on the Sudanese court for common sense to prevail.


SESAY: "Muhammad" is a common name among Muslim, but the teacher's critics say it's an insult to give it the prophet's name to an animal.

CLANCY: Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, made it official. He said he will lift the state of emergency on the 16th of December. He made that announcement soon after taking the oath of office for another term, but this time as civilian president.

Our correspondent Karl Penhaul is there.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the first time since snatching power in a military coup eight years ago, Pervez Musharraf takes the oath of office as Pakistan's civilian president.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: I will preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. PENHAUL: The ceremony came a day after he resigned as army chief. Violent protests by lawyers in the city of Lahore just as Musharraf began a fresh five-year term signal Pakistan's political turmoil is not yet over.

(on camera): Stepping down as army chief and taking the oath as civilian president may not be enough for the opposition parties. They are demanding an end to emergency rule, and for the judges sacked here at the supreme court to be reinstated.

(voice over): Hours after being sworn in, Mr. Musharraf took to national TV and announced he would make one of those key concessions and end his emergency crackdown.

MUSHARRAF (through translator): So, at the moment, I feel that the dust is settling down and everything is in control. So I have my intention that I will make this move on 16th of December. This imposition of emergency finished, so -- and the election will be without emergency.

PENHAUL: Stepping down as army chief and ending emergency rule were the key demands of international critics, including President Musharraf's main sponsor, the United States. Mr. Musharraf reiterated that parliamentary elections are on track for January 8th.

MUSHARRAF: Come hell or high water, elections will be held on 8, January.

PENHAUL: Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, leaders of two of the biggest opposition parties, are flip-flopping on whether to contest or boycott elections. Other politicians say there is no guarantee the poll will be free or fair.

QAZI JAMIAT, ISLAMIC CHAIRMAN: I have appealed to all the opposition political parties to boycott these elections and launch a mass movement for the restoration of the supreme court, and (INAUDIBLE) for the constitution.

IMRAN KHAN, PAKISTANI POLITICIAN: There is a complete consensus that Musharraf has to go, that Musharraf is now the problem. He cannot solve any problems.

PENHAUL: There's no hint Mr. Musharraf is ready to concede to those calls. And although he may be bending to international pressure, he's not completely bowed, sending this message to diplomats at his inauguration...

MUSHARRAF: I personally feel that there is an unrealistic and maybe an impractical or impracticable obsession with your form of democracy, with your form of human rights, civil liberties.

PENHAUL: A defiant sign the civilian President Musharraf intends to continue interpreting Pakistan's democracy his way.

Karl Penhaul, CNN Islamabad.


CLANCY: There is some good news coming out on the U.S. economic front. The latest gross domestic product reading shows the economy barreling ahead in this last quarter, growing at an annual pace of nearly five percent. Now, that is the strongest pace in some four years. It is not expected to last through the current quarter.

More on that all coming up in our business update a little bit later here on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

SESAY: We're gong to turn now to a bizarre botched coup attempt in the Philippines. The man who led the charge is no stranger to trying to overthrow the government. In fact, he was on trial for a previous failed coup when the drama itself began.

Michael Holmes tells us what happened.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The rebel soldiers and a senator were already on trial over allegations of a 2003 coup attempt when they stormed out of court and essentially took over a five-star hotel. There, they demanded President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo step down.

BRIG. GEN. DANILO LIM, 2003 COUP PLOT SUSPECT: Now is the time to end the sufferings and miseries inflicted upon us by this illegitimate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government and start a new life and a new Philippines. The day has passed.

HOLMES: Civilians inside the hotel were stunned. Businessman Peter Parcel had a front row seat.

PETER PARCEL, BUSINESSMAN: It was very intense. But the three gentlemen that I was speaking to that were ex-senators or ex-generals, I asked them, "What are you doing here? (INAUDIBLE)?" And they said, no, we're here to support it. Then they told me a whole heap of things about Arroyo and about the government, about the corruption.

HOLMES: Amid scenes not witnessed since the days of Ferdinand Marcos, President Arroyo issued orders to the military and the police to take back the hotel, and it became clear the rebels did not have the support of many other military offices.

Armored vehicles moving in, tear gas fired into the hotel. Journalists and the rebels ordered out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was the last in my group to come out of the hotel with a big sheet that I tore off out of the kitchen -- It must have been a table cover -- so I could wave it in the air, because I had about at least 100 guns pointed at me as I came down the steps.

HOLMES: Many people caught in the middle of this unfolding drama were affected by the tear gas, and shots were fired. But no one, it appears, badly hurt. When the tear gas reached them and it became apparent there would be no popular or military revolt, the rebel soldiers and some opposition politicians surrendered. But the drama didn't end. A midnight-to-dawn curfew announced, and checkpoints set up throughout the city. Government officials said they hoped the curfew would be for one night only.

Many in the Philippine media expressed concern that journalists were arrested along with the alleged plotters. Mrs. Arroyo has faced a number of coup attempts since coming to power seven years ago. With her popularity declining but her country's economy strong, it seems Filipinos were not willing to hit the streets to support this latest effort to throw her out.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


CLANCY: Well, the curtains are up and the chorus lines are back along the Great White Way. A stagehand strike that shut down Broadway for 19 long days is over.

Most shows were expected to reopen Thursday, following Wednesday's tentative agreement announcement. The walkout caused a lot of disappointment and cost theater producers and the city of New York millions of dollars.

SESAY: And I heard if you want to see anything in Chicago, you can get tickets for just over $20.


SESAY: Yes, there you go. See, useful information there.

President Vladimir Putin is warning Russians to vote for his party in next week's elections or return to times of humiliation.

CLANCY: Coming up next on YOUR WORLD TODAY, a look at Christiane Amanpour's new documentary on the powerful leader and his growing legion of young supporters.

SESAY: Tensions on the rise in Venezuela. Thousands denounce a power grab by President Hugo Chavez.

CLANCY: And a story we've been following, a critical surgery. We'll give you an update on a young Iraqi boy who was set on fire and coming a step closer to getting a new face.


SESAY: Welcome back to CNN International and YOUR WORLD TODAY.

CLANCY: We're covering the news the world wants to know, trying to give you a little bit more perspective that goes deeper into the stories of the day. Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov has been freed from jail. His release came just days before voters are going to be going to the polls. Kasparov, the former chess champion, served a five-day sentence for leading a pro-democracy rally in Moscow last weekend. He says President Vladimir Putin is taking Russia toward a dictatorship.

Meantime, Mr. Putin is urging Russia to vote for the main pro- Kremlin party. He's leading that party's ticket, of course, in Sunday's parliamentary vote. Mr. Putin says any vote for his liberal opponents would return Russia to what he termed "humiliation, dependency and disintegration."

SESAY: Well, President Putin is riding a wave of popularity as his nation prepares for elections next week. A growing number of so- called Putin youth groups are turning out in large numbers around the country. In a special report, "Czar Putin," Christian Amanpour finds that these young Russians are not only pro-Putin, they are anti- America.


MAXIM MISHCHENKO, YOUNG RUSSIAN LEADER (through translator): You will never succeed in a making a revolution in this country. You will never succeed in imposing America's government here.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): America's government? What is Maxim Mishchenko talking about?

MISHCHENKO (through translator): We came here to show the U.S. Embassy that this is how things look to us. This is how America screams and squeals.

AMANPOUR: He's the leader of one of the youth groups called Rossiya Molodaya, or Young Russia.

(on camera): We saw you outside the American Embassy at a demonstration carrying a pig. Why so bitter?

MISHCHENKO (through translator): These piglets symbolize Russians who look for directions from the United States. These people don't understand that their political positions will pollute their own back yard.

AMANPOUR: So you think any opposition here, like Garry Kasparov, has to be an American agent?

MISHCHENKO (through translator): Garry Kasparov is an honorary citizen. He loves that country, not this country. Such people should take no part in Russian politics.

AMANPOUR: Where does Maxim get these ideas? From President Putin himself. At a pre-election rally, he called the opposition jackals.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Unfortunately, there are some in this country who scavenge outside the gates or foreign (INAUDIBLE).


SESAY: Well, be sure to join Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour for a CNN special investigation that exposes the dark side of President Vladimir Putin's Russia. "Czar Putin" examines what happened to the promise of freedom and democracy in that country. U.S. viewers can see it Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And for international viewers, you can catch it several times this weekend, including Saturday and Sunday at 20:00 GMT.

That's all right here on CNN.

CLANCY: The proposed changes to the constitution of Venezuela have divided that country, and it's evident today in the streets. President Hugo Chavez says he is fighting the overwhelming poverty that affects millions of people in his country, but as Harris Whitbeck reports, not all Venezuelans are convinced he has the right answer to an undeniable problem.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Riot police armed with tear gas battle students, who respond with rocks and angry defiance. Daily scene now outside Venezuela's universities. The students are protesting President Hugo Chavez's efforts to turn Venezuela into a socialist state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no price big enough to pay.

WHITBECK: But across town, in a depressed industrial district, the conflict between Chavez' model and those who oppose it is played out at a more fundamental level. Domingo Perez (ph), his wife and four children live in two makeshift rooms in a dark and musty building. A member of the opposition, Domingo (ph) says his house was burned down by Chavez supporters. He says life under Chavez has become untenable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For example, street crime has increased 100 percent. Before, if you called the police, they would show up within hours. Now, three or four days might pass before the police arrive, if they even do so.

WHITBECK (on camera): Domingo (ph) and his family are one of 39 families who moved into this abandoned warehouse about 18 months ago. They all share the same problems but they do have differences in ideology.

(voice over): On this day, Domingo (ph) prepares to field volunteers to monitor polling stations during Sunday's referendum on proposed changes to the Venezuelan constitution. Right outside, 38- year-old Antonio Savino, one of Domingo's (ph) neighbors, is attempting to get a pipe connected so he and his family can have running water. But Antonio does not blame Chavez for the hardship. He believes things would improve if people just stopped protesting and let the president do his job.

ANTONIO SAVINO, CHAVEZ SUPPORTER (through translator): Not only would my life change, but everyone's lives would change. There would only be one social class and there would be equality in everything.

WHITBECK: Protesters on the street say more than equality is at stake. They insist they are fighting over fundamentals like freedom, difference of opinion that take on different forms.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Caracas.


SESAY: A pleasantly surprising report on the health of the U.S. economy.

CLANCY: Details straight ahead.

Plus, YouTube pulling the plug on an Egyptian journalist and human rights activist. Why his video clips were controversial, that's coming up later this hour.



ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers joining us from more than 200 countries and territories around the globe, including the United States. This is YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Isha Sesay.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jim Clancy. And these are some of the stories that are making headlines.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf says he will lift the state of emergency on December 16th. Now he made that announcement soon after he was sworn in for another term of office, this time as a civilian president.

SESAY: An overnight curfew is in effect in Manila and police are on high alert after military rebels besieged a hotel and demanded the president resign. They surrendered after a seven-hour standoff with government troops. Police say 100 people were arrested.

CLANCY: A British teacher is in court in Sudan right now facing charges of inciting religious intolerance. That's after some were insulted that she let her students name a teddy bear Mohammed. Britain's top diplomats are working to try to win her release.

Well, the case in Sudan may seem remote and extreme, but there's another blasphemy case that might surprise you even more. Jonathan Mann has some insight.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You'd be amazed at all the countries that have blasphemy on the books. Even essentially secular governments that still make it illegal to insult the almighty. There's even a blasphemy case underway in Britain right now. It's bazaar but very serious and it is raising questions there about God and country.


MANN: That was a brief bit of "Jerry Springer," the opera. A fictional account of an offensive American television talk show host, based on the real, often offensive talk show host of the same name. It was performed at Britain's National Theater, around the country, even broadcast on the BBC, for audiences willing to see Eve, from the Garden of Eden, as a pole dancer who tries to fondle Jesus. It actually won awards, so maybe it was better than it sounds.

But when demonstrators started picketing in protest, the action moved from the stage to the court. A Christian group evoked a century's old blasphemy law that outlaws any production that vilifies or is contentious of or which denies the truth of the Christian religion. The Christian religion.

The courts have ruled that Britain's blasphemy laws don't apply to other faiths. British civil rights groups are appalled that the law is still on the books at all. Keep in mind, the "Jerry Springer" case, well it's not the government, it's not the crown carrying out the prosecution, it's a private group that's suing. But be that has it may, a high court is trying to decide whether the case can proceed.

What does Jerry Springer himself say? Well, he invoked a higher power. "I don't know if they should have had it on television," he said, "but good Lord, if we don't like what's on television, that's why God gave us remote controls."

Back to you.

SESAY: Jonathan Mann there.

Now on the heels of this week's Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S. President George W. Bush is promising his personal commitment to peace talks. On Wednesday, Mr. Bush hosted a White House Rose Garden reception with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Now Middle East Envoy Tony Blair has been a key figure behind the scenes trying to get those peace talks back on track. The former British prime minister spoke to our very own Hala Gorani about the likelihood of a deal being reached by the end of next year. Blair spoke to Hala Gorani about that likelihood of that deal in Washington.


TONY BLAIR, MIDDLE EAST QUARTET ENVOY: The really important thing about the conference at Annapolis is that it has launched a process with a time table, namely 2008. And not to talk about some of the issues, but to resolve all of the core issues between Israel and Palestine. And that is a, you know, it's a huge undertaking. It's a very big challenge. And, of course, there will be lots of people be skeptical because of all the failures in the past. But actually this is a very strong statement and commitment by both the Israelis and the Palestinians and the president of the United States has put the weight of the U.S. behind it. So, you know, there's a lot that's got to happen now that it's a very strong and important beginning.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you about the core issues that have divided Israelis and Palestinians for so long where it seems like on either side there really hasn't been either the willingness or the ability to achieve compromise. One of those in Jerusalem. It seems like, on the one hand from the Israeli side we heard there's no way that city can ever be divided. Palestinians are adamant that east Jerusalem has to be their capital. How do you even begin to achieve compromise on issues like Jerusalem?

BLAIR: You know, one of the things I learned when I did the northern Ireland peace process is that things that seem absolutely irresolvable, you know, things that -- where the parties just, you think, that can't be done, actually can be done if the will is there and some hope and credibility comes back in the process. So -- and it's not for me to negotiate the issue of Jerusalem here, but I don't believe if you get everything else working, it will be impossible to find a way through.

GORANI: Now you mentioned northern Ireland and this was a great success achieving peace in that part of the world after so many decades of bad blood between two communities. But the IRA, which was considered a terrorist group that nobody could ever talk to, was then embraced in the end. Why not do the same with Hamas? What is the difference?

BLAIR: The difference is very simple. When we actually got the Shinthan (ph) political party associated with the IRA into the peace process, we did so on the basis that certain principles were accepted. And let me make it very clear, it's not that people are saying, we will never contemplate dealing with Hamas. Hamas can be dealt with provided that they except the two principles of the gateway into the process. Number one, there should be two states, so Israel's got a right to exist.

GORANI: They've implicitly said that they would accept two states. It almost feels like in the Arab world you often hear people saying, well, the minute they make one step forward, you'll find somebody on the other side of the fence saying they're not willing to talk. It hardens them more.

BLAIR: And that's very familiar to me as well from the northern Ireland situation. But, you know, in the end, it's not enough for it to be implicit. I mean if you're an Israeli and you're about to negotiate a state with someone and someone says, well I can't really say I do agree with it. But, nonetheless, if you read carefully what I say, somewhere down into the details of it you might find what you want. You've got to negotiate on a clear basis.

GORANI: Can I ask you now finally what comes next? Because there are several talks scheduled, conferences, more summits, talks about more talks. How confident are you that by the end of 2008, as was announced in this joint understanding between the two parties, that by the end of 2008, really, there will be a deal? BLAIR: Look, you'd be pretty crazy after all the past few decades to sit here and say, you know, it's a certainty. I think it is a realistic possibility now and . . .

GORANI: More so than in '91 or '93?

BLAIR: Yes, strangely, I do. Because I think there is different Palestinian leadership and that is important. I think the region as a whole has got a different view of this. I think the Arab world really wants this settled and solved now. It doesn't want to play with the issues. And because I think that this president has now set a time line and launched a process to resolve all the core issues. And I think you will find -- and Condi Rice has actually been doing a great job in pushing this forward -- I think you will find this administration gets behind this and really puts immense amount of effort and determination into it.

GORANI: But this administration is gone in 13 months.

BLAIR: Yes, but, you know, I concluded the northern Ireland deal the month before I left. Sometimes the fact that the president or a prime minister is going is an incentive for people to realize that it will then take them a long time to work in with the new people. So people want to make the deal. And you can only ever make these deals if the two parties involved really want to do it. But if they do really want to do it, and I'm convinced they do. This is the best chance they've got.


SESAY: Some interesting view there from the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, giving us his thoughts on what lies ahead for the Middle East peace process.

CLANCY: All right. We've got to take a short break here. But coming up on YOUR WORLD TODAY, some candid moments broadcast on an innovative stage.

SESAY: First, his claims of police brutality in Egypt have made him an Internet hit. Now on of Egypt's most popular bloggers says he's being silenced. Who may have pulled the plug next?

CLANCY: Also, U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls squaring off in a CNN/YouTube debate. The hot button issues when we come back.


SESAY: Welcome back. You're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY on CNN International.

CLANCY: Seen live across more than 200 countries ant territories all around the globe.

SESAY: Now it's revolutionized our access to the world like few others. CLANCY: With just a couple of clicks, we can share everything from our funny home videos, to serious social commentary. And where else, the website YouTube.

SESAY: We'll see how YouTube has energized U.S. politics in our report on last night's debate, the Republican presidential hopefuls.

CLANCY: But first another story that YouTube fans may find upsetting. Accusations against YouTube that it is actually silencing exposes of official abuse. An Egyptian human rights activist and blogger, whose YouTube videos of police abuse became an international sensation, says the video sharing site has now shut him down. Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman, who first brought us this story of Wael Abbas on inside the Middle East, follows the new controversy emerging.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): It was a turning point for Egypt. Actual video of long-suspected police abuse. Here a bus driver being sodomized with a stick. And the man who used YouTube to force the images on to the world stage and in part got the Egyptian government to sentence a policeman involved, says suddenly his YouTube account has been shut done.

WAEL ABBAS, ANTI-TORTURE ACTIVIST: I must resort to complaining against YouTube because what they are doing now, they are helping silence, they are helping tortures, they are helping dictatorships. This is not really helping people who are fighting for democracy in third world countries. We thought that YouTube was our ally. It helped show the truth in countries like Burma, like whatever. But with what they did now, it doesn't seem like that anymore.

RAMAN: Abbas admits he has no proof but says he suspects the Egyptian government filed a huge number of complaints against him. He admits some of the videos are graphic, but he's always said that's the point.

ABBAS: We manage to direct the attention of the people to something that was taboo, that was never discussed before, which is police brutality and torture inside police stations. And you probably heard that we were able to send two officers recently to prison because one of these videos that was used as evidence in the trial.

RAMAN: Abbas sees it as similar to the case of Abu Ghraib. Charges of abuse there were never taken seriously until photographic evidence surfaced. He's right now in shock, angry and determined to find a new way to get his message out. But without YouTube, he has really no other place to turn.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Cairo.


CLANCY: YouTube says its decision to pull Abbas' video clips, not political at all, but simply consistent with its own policy. In a statement, YouTube told CNN, it takes such matters seriously but won't comment on individual videos. It says, these are the rule. "YouTube prohibits inappropriate content on the site and our community effectively polices the site for inappropriate material."

SESAY: Well, it was a free for all in Florida Wednesday night, and that's an understatement, where Republican presidential contenders took swats at each other during the CNN/YouTube debate. Questions from the video clips range from immigration, to religion and set the stage for plenty of verbal sparring. CNN's John King was there.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Up first, immigration. And from the get-go, crackling.

RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the reality is that New York City was not a sanctuary city.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The mayor actually brought a suit to maintain its sanctuary city status.

GIULIANI: In his case there were six sanctuary cities. He did nothing about them. There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home illegal immigrants were being employed.

KING: The Romney/Giuliani face-off on immigration, one of many raw moments.

Another when Romney refused to say whether he considered waterboarding terrorism suspects to be torture.

ROMNEY: I don't think it's wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a defining issue. And clearly we should be able, if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, to take a definite and positive position.

KING: The unique format meant unique questions. This one from Joseph in Dallas.

JOSEPH DEARING, DALLAS, TEXAS: Do you believe every word of this book? The book of Mormon defines Romney's faith and yet . . .

ROMNEY: I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the Word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God.

KING: Faith factored as well in a death penalty question.


MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office.

NICK ANDERSON, EDITORIAL CARTOONIST: Would you grant your vice president as much power and influence as I've had?

KING: That colorful entry brought a rare Republican debate criticism of President Bush.

MCCAIN: And he did not have as much national security experience as I do. So he had to rely more on the vice president of the United States. And that's obvious.

KING: Just back from Iraq, McCain was assertive again when Ron Paul called for bringing the troops home.

MCCAIN: The message of these brave men and women who are serving over there is, let us win.

KING: Each candidate was allowed a 30-second video and the struggling Fred Thompson used his to attack two rivals causing him fits by drawing conservative support.

ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.

About abortion, I was wrong. And I changed my mind as the governor.

KING: When it was over, a momentary truce. It won't last. The first votes in Iowa are just five weeks away.

John King, CNN, St. Petersburg, Florida.


SESAY: For more on politics and the presidential race in the United States, all you have to do is go to


CLANCY: All right, Isha, thanks.

We want to update everyone on a developing story right now in the streets of Venezuela. Opposition members have been rallying to protect a controversial vote this weekend. President Hugo Chavez wants to make some sweeping changes to the constitution that including throwing presidential term limits out the window and tightening control over the media. Harris Whitbeck joins us now by broadband from Caracas with an update.



Members of the opposition have been gathering for the last couple of hours in Caracas and we understand in other cities in Venezuela. They hope to rally and show a massive presence. More of a show of force. These are people who are opposed to President Chavez's constitutional amendment. Those (INAUDIBLE) about other things would do away with limits to the presidential terms. They would also allow the president to run for re-election indefinitely. Other amendments include giving the president authority over the central bank and authority to basically to run the country's economic and monetary policies.

The president says these amendments are necessary to ensure that Venezuela continues evolving into a completely social state. The opposition is concerned that Venezuela is on its way to becoming a totalitarian state. Over the past several days there have been clashes. These protesters, students who are in the opposition, have faced national guardsman, members of police who have battled them with tear gas and water canons. The opposition says that it will continue to maintain its presence on the street to ensure that this referendum does not pass when (ph) elections are held on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Chavez's supporters will be holding their own rally tomorrow and they say that they are sure that the referendum will, in fact, allow these constitutional amendments to be passed.


CLANCY: All right. Live from Caracas, Harris Whitbeck there. A very crucial crossroads for the people, the country of Venezuela.

All right. It's considered to be one of the most important steps in his transformation.

SESAY: Still to come, young Youssif's latest surgery and how it's expected to dramatically change his looks and his life.


CLANCY: You know, I don't think there's any one of our viewers, Isha, that doesn't know the story of Youssif. But just in case, he was a little Iraqi boy, six years old. Masked men came by, poured gasoline on him, burned him, horribly disfigured him. And that was just about a year ago.

SESAY: And the thing is, it was a mysterious, disturbing crime that reminds us of the turmoil and hatred in Iraq. But through your generosity this little boy is on an incredible journey of recovery here in the United States.

CLANCY: And we should give you credit. It's been your contribution to the Children's Burn Foundation that helped makes it possible, along with the bravery of his parents to bring him to southern California where he's been going through -- he's going to go through a series of surgeries. Today, Isha, he had one that was especially crucial.

SESAY: That's right. And I'm pleased to say that the doctors hope that it will yield dramatic result. Our Arwa Damon has been following Youssif's story every step of the way.

CLANCY: And she's, right now, outside the southern California hospital where this brave little boy has gone under the knife once again. What can you tell us here, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, brave is so true when it comes to describing little Youssif. I just stepped out of the operating room where his third surgery is almost over. And already the changes are remarkable. Here is what took place.

The tissue expanders that doctors placed underneath his chin and in his right cheek are being removed. That is the massive swelling that you see in those areas. They've been inflated with a saline solution over the last two months. This was to create good skin that the doctors used to stretch over that thick, hard scaring that you see on his chin.

The tissue expander that they removed from underneath his chin, believe it or not, was the size of a soda can. When they removed that thick scarring, it was at least six inches wide across his entire chin and Dr. Peter Grossman (ph), the lead surgeon on his case, was saying that it was remarkable how hard it was. Saying that it was as hard as wood. So you can just imagine how that was impeding the movement of his mouth.

In fact, even now with the removal of that thick scarring, not only does Youssif have a chin once again, but we can see his mouth starting to loosen. Eating was very difficult for him. Facial expressions were very difficult for him.

His father, his parents, both of them overjoyed. They haven't seen their child just yet, but his father wanted to put a message out there to thank everybody that has donated to his child's cause. Everyone that has supported them. And he also wanted people to know that he was not seeking revenge. He said those that carried out the attack would have to reckon with God. He just hoped that everyone would keep his little boy in their prayers.

SESAY: And, Arwa, you know, every step along the way of this journey of recovery, you know, the doctors have said, Youssif will look worse before he looks any better. I mean, how much did they tell Youssif about what he's undergoing and how he will look after these surgeries?

DAMON: Isha, this is what's remarkable about this little boy is how aware he is of what's going on around him. The doctors have been very frank with him. When the tissue expanders went in, they showed him photographs of another child that had undergone a similar surgery. He was able to deal with the discomfort because he understood that it was a step towards making him look better.

When he comes out of this surgery, his face is going to be very swollen. It's going to take a few weeks before the changes become apparent. But he is a little boy that is wise and mature beyond his years because of what he's gone through. But he is also one that since being in America has really come to him.

CLANCY: All right. We want to thank Arwa Damon. Thank you very much for bringing in this story and this update and pass along our best regards to him. Let him know we're thinking about him and his family.

DAMON: I will.

SESAY: Thanks, Arwa.

CLANCY: That has to be our report for this hour. I'm Jim Clancy.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. And this is CNN.