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Bomb Kills Top Syrian Officials; Venezuelan President Gives Away Homes
Aired July 18, 2012 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL; I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on now.
In Afghanistan a Taliban bomb attack destroying 24 fuel tankers carrying supplies for NATO forces. An improvised explosive device was attached to one of the trucks that set off this blast. Now military officials say that insurgent attacks have increased in the last 12 weeks.
All right. Check it out. Crazy huge chunk of ice now floating free in the North Atlantic. It is massive. We're talking off of the coast of Greenland, an island of solid ice. It is twice the size of Manhattan. Well, it snapped off from a glacier this week. Scientists say it is probably because of global warming, but it is too early to say for sure.
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MALVEAUX (voice-over): Children in South Africa singing to Nelson Mandela on today, his 94th birthday. Civil rights icon and South Africa's first black president hasn't appeared in public in years. But he did have lunch with former President Bill Clinton yesterday and today South Africans perform public service. It is a tradition on what is officially Mandela Day in the country.
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MALVEAUX: What's happening today in Syria. It may be the most important and defining event yet of the long conflict there. We are talking a bomb that exploded in Damascus, and it killed four senior government officials, all of them part of the president's inner circle.
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MALVEAUX (voice-over): Now this man, he was killed. He is Syria's defense minister, Daoud Rajiha. He is the equivalent of our Secretary of Defense. He is dead.
Also killed today, his deputy, who also happens to be President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law.
Also dead, here is interior minister and the presidential security advisor. All of those officials were in a meeting in a government building when that bomb went off. CNN does not have reporters or camera crews in Syria right now, but Arwa Damon, she is watching this news unfold from Beirut.
And Arwa, we are talking about today some of the president's closest advisers, even a family member dead from this explosion here. Tell us how monumental this is. Is this a turning point?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is difficult to say that just yet. This is, however, an attack that has pierced the very core of Assad's inner circle.
A number of those officials whose names you listed were part of that elite group that is around the president, and most certainly contains his most trusted advisers, including his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, who is a very close friend and believed to be the strongman behind the scenes.
This type of an attack, its location, the national security building, that's what we're being told, in an area of Damascus that most certainly has an incredibly intense, heavy security presence, as one would imagine, not to mention a number of plainclothes pro- government thugs that effectively patrol the entire area.
This most certainly was some sort of an inside job. Someone had access to that building. Now, the Free Syrian Army, a bit of conflicting reports, but one of the deputy commanders saying that this was a prepositioned explosive device that was then detonated by remote control.
MALVEAUX: And Arwa --
DAMON: So you can only imagine, at this point in time, that President Assad and members of his inner circle are looking over their shoulders, wondering who they can trust.
MALVEAUX: Right. And do we think that this is possibly an inside job? The reports that perhaps a bodyguard of the defense minister might have been involved?
DAMON: Well, Syrian state television is saying this was, in fact, a suicide bombing that was carried out by one of the bodyguards that had access to that meeting. The opposition is saying that that is not the case. Again, we are trying to determine exactly what it was that caused this explosion.
But given the nature of it, the location of it, who it was targeting, this was an attack that took a lot of preparation, a lot of logistics.
It was very sophisticated and it had to have contained some sort of individual who was sympathetic to the opposition or who, in fact, was involved himself, who had access to these individuals. This is a very clear message to the Syrian government that it is not immune from these types of attacks, not at the senior-most levels. MALVEAUX: And Arwa, the fact that we talk a lot about the rebels being disorganized, underfunded; you say this was a very sophisticated attack. Could it be that the rebel forces now are in a much stronger position to overtake the regime?
DAMON: Well, we have been seeing them growing in capabilities, growing in sophistication, especially over the last few months. And if we just take a look at what has been happening in Damascus over the last few days, we have been seeing widespread, intense, sustained clashes happening very close to the heart of the capital itself.
So we are most certainly seeing a fighting force that is developing in its capabilities. This is just an indication of just how far they have come since the uprising began some 16 months ago. This is morphing into a fairly strong fighting force.
That being said, it is important to note that this still does very much remain a one-sided battlefield. The Assad regime still has very elite, sophisticated and loyal units at its disposal, not to mention its air force, its armor and its artillery.
MALVEAUX: All right. Arwa, thank you.
I want to bring in Hala Gorani from CNN International.
So we've been listening to her report there. Obviously, these are very important people, very close to the president. When you see this -- and you have been covering this for a long time -- do you see this as a potential tipping point, that this is changing the game?
HALA GORANI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think this is an absolute game- changer. These are -- whether it is a rebel attack, whether it's an inside job, whether it's someone from the regime wanting to get rid of people close to Bashar al-Assad in order perhaps to mount an inner coup, there are several theories as to exactly what happened and we can't confirm any of them with any kind of certainty.
This means that those closest to Bashar al-Assad, the Assad family in charge for more than 40 years, those people have -- the security perimeter has been breached and they were assassinated in the center of Damascus.
This is something that was unthinkable a year ago, Suzanne. It means that potentially this is the beginning of the end for the Assad regime. Whether the end will come in 24 hours, I doubt it. It is not going to be one of those Libya, Mubarak in 18 days type things, and it really was never something that we predicted anyway. Could it be weeks? Could it be months? That is the question.
But in the end, this regime is -- now has been attacked, its security perimeter breached and this is something extremely significant.
MALVEAUX: We are hearing from world leaders; we have heard from our own defense secretary, Leon Panetta. You also hear from the British defense minister. They are condemning this in the strongest language possible. I want our viewers to listen to this.
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LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The violence there has only gotten worse and the loss of lives has only increased, which tells us that this is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control.
PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH DEFENSE MINISTER: In these circumstances, it is ever more imperative that the international community, including all players who have influence, bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime to implement in full the Annan plan to stabilize the country and allow an orderly transition of power.
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MALVEAUX: So Hala, you even have U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon, who's in China today, speaking out about this, against this. You have the world united, saying this is awful, this is chaos. What will it take, do you think, before you have world leaders who are going to take a more active role in intervening?
GORANI: Well, the world is the united in saying it is awful, but the world is certainly not united in how to approach and solve this crisis. You have, on the one hand, Russia and China; on the other, western powers. Today at 3:00 pm we had scheduled a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Syria.
Russia didn't want the threat of sanctions included, but western powers did.
We are now hearing from two sources who've told CNN that Kofi Annan, the joint envoy for the U.N. and the Arab League, has asked the United Kingdom and France to delay today's 3:00 pm vote. Most likely a vote will take place at the United Nations tomorrow.
It's going to be a question, in light of what happened today, whether Russia can get closer to western powers on the language included in the Security Council resolution. My bet is this is really not something that they're going to agree on in the coming days. The threat of sanctions is something Russia has said repeatedly it does not want included in the text.
MALVEAUX: So the timing is probably not going to help? I mean, we're talking about a delay, but it still could be the same outcome.
GORANI: Well, it could be the same outcome, but now world powers certainly have a lot more to consider, given today's events in Damascus. I mean, really, targeting the defense minister and especially the brother-in-law of Bashar al-Assad, Hafez being the father, is something very significant and quite possibly a turning point.
MALVEAUX: All right. Hala Gorani, thank you, Hala.
GORANI: Sure. MALVEAUX: I want you to stay here. Wolf Blitzer, he just talked to Jordan's King Abdullah. We're going to get his reaction to the major news, the breaking news out of Syria today and just how worried he is about this all-out civil war that just across his border. That's in just a couple of minutes. Here's more of what we're working on.
This hour, from NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, London scrambling, right, to figure out the security situation ahead of the Olympics, but the weather now might be the big headache. We are seeing torrential rain in Britain, some of worse in more than 100 years.
Plus, sitting on a couch could be as bad as smoking. That's what they're saying. Lack of exercise could be killing you. There are some countries that are fighting back. One big city has a traffic- free street on Sunday. We're going to tell you where that is.
MALVEAUX: The weather may actually be the biggest threat to the Olympics now. London has spent billions preparing to host the Games. And state-of-the-art stadiums, of course, have been built, public transportation overhauled, even anti-aircraft missiles, they have been installed as well, but they cannot control the rain.
That's right. Britain has been getting lots and lots of rain lately. Jim Boulden, he's joining us live from London.
Wow, Jim, we're talking about the wettest summer in more than 100 years, what do you do?
JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is amazing. It's been raining so much June was the wettest June we've had since 2010, Suzanne. So they are making some contingencies. SEBCO (ph), who's running the Olympics, said, look, we can do equestrian over more days than we thought.
We can do some of the other things, like rowing, over more days than we thought. And of course, they are pointing out for the tennis, at least, Wimbledon has a roof. He has joked about putting a roof over London, but they're not going to be doing that, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Nice to see you indoors there, Jim. Tell us a little bit about the opening ceremony that's on Friday. I understand that they are shortening it, but it's not because of weather?
BOULDEN: Yes. You know, you heard about what happened with Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney, right? They pulled the plug. There's a limit to what you can do in London because of the public transport.
So they have told the organizers of the opening ceremony, you have got to be done by midnight, latest 12:30, and when they've been doing the practices over the last couple of weeks, they realized they were just going to be far too long. So they cut -- what did they cut? They cut some stunt bike sequences, they're telling us, to make sure they are done by 12:30 at the latest so everybody can get a public transport to get home.
MALVEAUX: And they can get a good night's sleep before the games, I guess. That's a good thing as well.
Tell us what's happening in the story about Japan, OK? So it puts its men's soccer team in business class while the world champion women's soccer team gets the cheap seats, really?
BOULDEN: This is -- yes, this is the way I look at it. The Japanese men, like the men around the world, will be professional footballers. They're soccer players. So it's going to be in a contract somewhere that they have to fly business class, where the females, what I've read, is that they are semi pro, and at least they were bumped up, if you will, to premium economy.
The interesting thing is, is that the women are the World Cup holders, as you say, and so they didn't get treated as well, and they've had to go to France to practice in Paris. So they had to have another flight to Paris. And that's where they are right now.
MALVEAUX: Oh, come on, guys. They can treat them better than that, are you kidding me? First class. All right, Jim, thanks again.
Well, if you are sitting at your desk or on your couch right now, stand up, right, stand up. You got to stand up. Lack of exercise is causing as many deaths as smoking now. We will tell you where the United States falls on the world's list of worst offenders.
MALVEAUX: Welcome back to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, where we take you around the world in 60 minutes.
A sedentary lifestyle is not just bad for the waistline, it can be deadly, as deadly as smoking. A new study in the journal "Lancet," crunches the numbers, saying it's 5.1 million people who die every year from smoking worldwide. Now compare that to 5.3 million who die from diseases linked to inactivity, includes heart disease, diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
Researchers say that the problem is so serious it should be treated as a pandemic. Some countries are getting a jumpstart to getting people off of the couch into a healthier lifestyle.
Michael Holmes, we got to -- I feel like we should be standing for this segment.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I know, really, yes.
MALVEAUX: You know?
HOLMES: Jogging, in fact.
MALVEAUX: Tell us how some of these countries are doing. I know that there are some that are trying to get ahead of the game.
HOLMES: Yes, there are, and Colombia is a good example. They have a thing there -- it is called -- I actually had to look it up, because I had not heard of it until I saw it today, it basically translates from Portuguese as bicycle park or open streets, and this happens in varying degrees in various cities around the world, but Bogota, Colombia, started it off.
And basically what they do is 8:00 am till 2:00 pm on a Sunday and public holidays, they shut down the main roads in the city -- Bogota is busy place.
MALVEAUX: Yes, sure.
HOLMES: It's like 100 kilometers of roads. They shut it down, and it is only for people to go walking, running, skating; biking is big. And so that's a way of getting people off the armchairs. And they think that sort of 20-25 percent of people who take part would not have done anything that day. So it is sort of catching on around the world, Australia has a smaller version of it, other countries do as well. So --
MALVEAUX: And what about Denmark? I understand Denmark is doing some interesting things.
HOLMES: They did something very cool. I mean, they are big cyclists there anyway, and what they opened was a sort of super bike path, if you like. This was back in April. They call it the cycle super highway, the first of 26 of these massive bike paths that are running throughout the city, and key into the city.
They are trying to get people to cycle to work, and it is working. It is very cool, too, if you maintain a 12-mile-per-hour average on some of the main stretches of this cycle path, the lights all stay green, so it is like keep the speed up and you won't have to stop. So it is catching on. It's very popular there.
They want to be the first -- Copenhagen wants to be the first carbon-neutral city in the world by 2025. So they're pretty green folks anyway. It's about exercise but it's also about the carbon.
MALVEAUX: And we're a little bit behind here, because I mean, in D.C., you've got the bikes in D.C. And in Aspen, you've got the bikes in Aspen, you see people biking everywhere. But that's not really all that common. How do we rank when it comes to some of these other countries?
HOLMES: Well, you know, I actually thought we would be a lot worse in the United States. But we are middle of the pack. We are not the worst; we're by far and away not the best. We sort of -- the laziest countries in the world, Malta -- I think we've got a graphic, Malta, 72 percent of people there are considered inactive, do not do enough. MALVEAUX: What are they doing?
HOLMES: Sitting around, smoking nargile, I mean, you know, that's what they do. It is a laid back country. I don't know if you have been there, but it is very laid back.
MALVEAUX: I need to go to Malta.
HOLMES: Saudi Arabia, of course, a lot of sitting around as well. You don't have to work there because everyone else is doing all the work and you've got all the oil.
Serbia, 68 percent of people enjoying the lifestyle there without getting off their butts. So and then the U.S. So you've got Malta 72, you've got Saudi Arabia 69, Serbia 68, U.S. 41.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we are like in the middle of the pack.
HOLMES: In the middle of the pack, and I thought I would be all bragging about Australia, but, no, we are 39. We're not that great.
You know, the --
MALVEAUX: But you and I are pretty still active. You know? I mean --
HOLMES: Sort of.
MALVEAUX: Run, bike, (inaudible) a little bit.
HOLMES: Yes, I am trying to do that now. The older I get it, the more I need to now, the more the body protests.
But we should mention the most active countries, too, which I just checked. Greece, 16 percent of people are inactive, so the vast majority of people -- I suppose they have got to get out to walk around because they have no money and the country is going broke. So you have to walk everywhere.
MALVEAUX: That is a dig.
HOLMES: Estonia, 17 percent; I don't know if you've been there. The Netherlands, beautiful, the Netherlands, there's a lot of cycling there as well. (Inaudible).
MALVEAUX: Lovely country.
HOLMES: -- inactive. So most people.
MALVEAUX: All right. So, stay active.
HOLMES: Get up, get out there and --
MALVEAUX: Do some exercise. HOLMES: Work it. Yes.
MALVEAUX: Thank you.
HOLMES: And stop driving to the mailbox.
Well, we have all known this for years -- Michael knows this -- it is official, women, smarter than men. It is true. The women scored higher than men on IQ tests. We have got those results up ahead. Told you, Michael.
HOLMES: Yes, you are right. You're right.
MALVEAUX: Welcome back to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, where we take you around the world in 60 minutes. We are off to South Korea, where an all-girl pop band, popping the charts.
MALVEAUX: It is called 21. It's their single, "I Love You," as you can probably tell. It's number one this week in South Korea. The music video has already -- ahs almost 6 million hits on YouTube.
It is an age-old question, who is smarter, men or women? Well, guess what, guys? New study showing what we knew all along, women edging you out a little bit. James Flynn, he's a world-renowned expert on IQ testing, and he's written a book called, "Are We Getting Smarter: Rising IQ in the 21st Century." He's joining us by phone from Oxford, England.
James, delivery the good news for us. Tell us about this study. How did you do this?
JAMES FLYNN, AUTHOR: Well, I looked at the data on raven's progressive matrices, which is the best test of IQ, and I found that if you took studies from the last 30 years, where we had good data -- and that's only in five countries, that in all of those countries women were either edging on men or ahead of them, and indeed in four of the five, they were slightly ahead of them, maybe a point or so.
And these countries were Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, Argentina and white South Africa.
MALVEAUX: Why do you suppose that those countries women did better than men?
FLYNN: Well, the exception that proves the rule is Israel. Their women are still two points behind and 20 percent of Israeli women are highly orthodox and are shielded from the modern world and not allowed to be educated. So it seems pretty clear that it is exposing women to modern education, and opening up professions like law and journalism has made the difference.
MALVEAUX: And it is certainly makes a lot of sense. How are people reacting to this when they hear that the IQ test of women has actually gone up and improved in these countries?
FLYNN: Mainly it depends whether they've jumped to assumptions. Some of them think that we've been saying that women are at 110 or 120, and they are outraged. The reason women are doing well, however, is not just their slight advantage in IQ, but because they've -- do better at formal schooling than men.
A girl with an IQ of 100 will get A's and B's; a boy will get B's and C's. And if you look at OEC data and U.S. data, you find the average girl on reading is at the 67th percentile for males and the 75th percentile for written composition. So this means that where those people skills and verbal skills are useful, like law and journalism and social work and psychology, women are beginning to dominate.
MALVEAUX: Is there anything that the IQ test does not actually measure or doesn't give us a sense of?
FLYNN: It certainly doesn't measure something that's equally important, and that's self-discipline and drive. Now in the formal school setting, these are actually advantages for women. They are less likely to wag class, they hand their stuff in on time, they are less likely to be suspended. And that's true both in high school and university.
When you get out into the world of work, it is more equal. Somehow men who are rebellious about formal education, once they become reporters, they can get their stories in on time, and once they become, you know, psychologists, they can see their patients on time and so forth. But within the context of formal schooling, it is not just that women have equal IQs, they're more disciplined.
MALVEAUX: Jim, I like where you are going with this, and I like the fact that you use journalism as an example to explain some of these things.
Jim, thank you very much. Some people would say, ah, this is not news, we always knew women were just a little bit smarter. But, hey, you got the -- you got the test to prove it there. Thank you, Jim. We appreciate it.
FLYNN: Thanks for talking to me.
MALVEAUX: All right. Celebrations in South Africa for one of the world's most admired leaders, Nelson Mandela, turning 94 today. We're going to tell you about the time I met him on tour of the prison where he was held.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Now a war crime suspect has been arrested in Hungary. Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary was found living in Budapest. He's accused of sending more than 15,000 Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp back in 1944 when he was a police officer in a Nazi-occupied town. He is 97 years old now, and denies committing any crimes.
Civil rights groups today filed a lawsuit today on behalf of families of three Americans killed in drone strikes in Yemen last year. Now the dead include U.S.-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al- Awlaki.
The Justice Department has said that the killing the leader of a terrorist group was justified, but the legal argument is different for al-Awlaki's son and the third American, Samir Khan. Their deaths are presumed to be collateral damage in the drone strikes. Well, the ACLU says that the government has an obligation to explain its actions when it kills any American without judicial review.
Well, it has now happened, Canadians now richer than Americans for the first time ever, and these are the last year's figures. The average net worth of a Canadian household was more than $363,000, compared to less than $320,000 in the United States, that's a difference of more than $40,000.
And Canada's unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent last month, while ours stayed at a stagnant 8.2 percent.
Happy birthday, Nelson Mandela. Today he is 94. Through his life, he has inspired the world as a jailed freedom fighter, a global leader, a gentle soul. He spent 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid and decades of racial segregation in South Africa.
Well, after his 1990 release, he came -- became the first black South African president and managed to unite blacks as well as whites. Among his admirers, Bill Clinton. Here's a photo of him and his daughter, Chelsea, visiting Mandela at his home yesterday. Clinton and Mandela were presidents at the same time.
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BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But he did not call me a single time. Not once.
When he didn't ask about Hillary and Chelsea, if it wasn't too late, he would ask me to go get Chelsea, bring her to the phone and ask her about her homework, was she keeping up, you know, so I saw in him something that I try not to lose in myself, which is no matter how much responsibility he had, he remembered that he was a person first.
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MALVEAUX: Our Nadia Bilchik, she was South African and also a friend of the Mandela family; is here to talk about his legacy.
Nadia, it's so nice to see you.
MALVEAUX: Happy birthday. Yes, I -- you know, he touched so many people. I had a chance to meet him. I was traveling from Egypt to Zimbabwe. It was on a small craft, a small plane.
This was right after he was released, shortly afterwards. And the pilot said we have a special guest on board, and I looked up and I saw, at that moment, Winnie Mandela coming out of the bathroom in the front class section.
And they introduced themselves, they were gracious. We landed in Zimbabwe. It was a red carpet and people throwing flowers and singing and dancing and it was shortly afterwards that we actually went on a trip with President Bill Clinton to Africa back in 1998.
And he took him on a tour of Robben Island -- I think that we have some photos of that, because I was able to cover the event. And he actually showed him where he was held captive for so long, where he was imprisoned. And walked away with this article back from 1998, showing the two of them in the cell. Really just a gracious, wonderful person.
You were there when he was released. Tell us a little bit about that.
BILCHIK: I was. I -- just for the moment, you got to experience his luminous presence. Clinton always says he makes you feel better, better version of yourself.
So, yes, I lived in South Africa. I remember the day that Nelson Mandela was released. A euphoric day, and here is a man who said, who spent, as you said, 27 years, which is nearly 10,000 days in prison from the age of 46 to 71, and he emerges on this day with the attitude of what he calls ubuntu, togetherness, that you are human through the humanity of others, no anger, no bitterness.
People said, aren't you angry at your jailers and Mandela said, no, because if I am angry at them, they still have power over me.
MALVEAUX: That is such a powerful message. And when you celebrate, when they celebrate his birthday today, 67, what is that?
BILCHIK: Yes, it's become Mandela Day. So in 2009, the United Nations said, let's have Mandela Day, and they said let's get 67 minutes of service, 67 years of his 94, which have been devoted to fighting apartheid and the struggle.
So the idea is that you do something wonderful for the community, anything from reading to someone who can't, making a new friend, giving a gift.
I have a gift for you, Suzanne, in the spirit of nelson Mandela. This is a 90th birthday coin, a special edition of Madiba, as he is fondly known, and this is your gift. MALVEAUX: Wow. Thank you --
BILCHIK: It is not 67 minutes, but it is 67 good thoughts.
MALVEAUX: Wow, that's very special.
BILCHIK: And you can go onto MandelaDay.com to see how you can contribute.
MALVEAUX: Tell me a little bit about his health and what he is like. I understand you have spoken with his grandchildren.
BILCHIK: Yes, I spoke to the grandchildren this morning. They were in Qunu, which is his hometown in the Transkei in southern Africa and they were going to have a family lunch. And they said he is in very good spirits. He's reading the newspaper, he's joking. He knows every name of every grandchild.
Now just let me tell you, there's Zamaswazi and Zaziwe. And Zaziwe's children, that you can see there, are Zipo (ph) and Zianda (ph) and Zamakazi (ph) and Zamaswazi. But what's so wonderful is they're all Z's, in the spirit of Zulu royalty, and he knows every single name of the 25 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
But what you need to understand is here is a man who's given all this service. He only retired from public life in 2004. In his twilight years, he is asking to spend time with the family, the family that suffered equally while he was in prison. What do you sacrifice? You sacrifice your family.
And the children always say his face lights up. And he's had so much tragedy. I mean, six of his own children, three have died so three remain living so they are there today and all the grandchildren. And very sadly in 2010 one of his granddaughters died in a car accident. I met her many times, the most beautiful child, he was very close to.
A lot of tragedy, a man, if you think about it, Suzanne, who turned a nightmare into a vision. a vision into a dream and a dream into the reality that is South Africa today. Complex, yes. Perfect, no. But none of it would have been possible without Nelson Rolihlahla -- I love to say that -- one who shakes the tree -- Mandela.
MALVEAUX: Also named his father as well, father to many.
BILCHIK: Yes, Madiba. And of course, the clan name is Madiba. And South Africa loves this man, the world loves the man, the global icon. But today, he is eating tripe for lunch, well, he probably has eaten tripe; they're six hours ahead, and just spending time with the family.
When I spoke to them this morning all the press was there, so they had the SABC, they had CNN, they had BBC and they were saying we are looking forward -- as much as we love the press -- to the press leaving and just having time with the family. But I have to tell you, Winnie was at lunch as well. MALVEAUX: Oh, OK. So --
BILCHIK: So, you know, he's married to Graca.
MALVEAUX: So a little bit of a family reunion.
BILCHIK: Well, Winnie, very acrimonious divorce, but she was at the lunch, Winnie Mandela and Graca Machel.
MALVEAUX: Very nice.
BILCHIK: And all the Z's.
MALVEAUX: Good to see everybody getting along.
BILCHIK: Yes, isn't it? In his twilight years, bringing the conciliation to his own family.
MALVEAUX: That's night. All right. Nadia, thank you so much. We really appreciate it. He truly is a world icon. And thank you for your perspective.
BILCHIK: And happy birthday, Madiba.
Well, he was the first Arab League leader to urge Syria's president to step down, what does Jordan's King Abdullah think about the situation now? We're going to hear from him next.
Plus a rare look inside the Supreme Court. Tonight, Piers Morgan talks to Justice Antonin Scalia. That's at 9:00 pm Eastern, right here on CNN.
MALVEAUX: Breaking news into CNN now. We are getting word that at least three people were killed in an explosion on a bus outside of Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. You see the map there.
And the Israeli foreign ministry has said that the explosion occurred on a bus carrying Israeli tourists, that there are several casualties at the moment it is not clear whether or not this explosion was the result of an attack. But we do know that there was an attack.
We are taking a look at the map as well as photos of the scene there. We can see the billowing smoke and some of the cars in the area, one witness said that they actually saw several bodies. We are working to confirm the details to bring them to you as soon as we can. This is a breaking news story. Three people killed in an explosion outside of a bus, outside of the airport in Bulgaria. We have more breaking news this hour as well on CNN. An enormous explosion in Damascus, Syria. Well, several Syrian cabinet members and top government officials are now dead. Four high level officials. The most devastating hit yet for President Bashar al Assad, who is facing a very long and violent rebel uprising.
We want to bring in our Wolf Blitzer from Washington.
Wolf, just a couple of minutes ago you had a chance to talk with the leader of Jordan about what is taking place in the neighboring country. What is his biggest concern? How does he see this going down?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: He's deeply, deeply concerned, King Abdullah II, of Jordan, Suzanne. He's very worried about what's going on. He wants the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, as you know, to leave, to get -- to relinquish power. He thinks that's the only solution there.
We had this exchange, though, because it's been more than a year since he personally spoke with the Syrian president. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What would you like to say directly to the Syrian leader?
KING ABDULLAH, JORDAN: Well, I believe that we're getting to the point -- I'm looking at it from the point of view of the mosaic of the Syrian people. I'm seeing for the first time and have been watching this for the past two to three weeks where the sectarian violence has begin to appear to a point where different groups of Syrian societies having a go at each other, to a point where we are getting to the level of the potential of full-out civil war. In other words, it's getting very, very messy to a point where I think the worst case scenario for all of us in the region is when you get full-out civil war, there is no coming back from the abyss.
Syria's far more complicated than Iraq and other countries in the area. The different minorities -- actually put them all together they make the majority -- is unlike any of the other countries in the (INAUDIBLE) and the Arabian peninsula. If it breaks down, if civil order breaks down to the point of no return, then it will take years to fix Syria. And I have a feeling that we're seeing the signs of that over the past three weeks. The only people that can bring us back from that brink is, obviously, the president and the regime. And I believe this is the last chance that they have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And he also is extremely, Suzanne, concerned, as is the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other Obama administration officials, about the chemical weapons stockpiles that exist in various locations inside Syria. If, in fact, he says -- he says, if Bashar al Assad's regime starts using poison gas or sarin or mustard gas, any of these chemical weapons, what he calls weapons of mass destruction, all bets are off as a result in terms of military intervention. The international community would have to deal with that. The fact, Suzanne, that he's -- he is not necessarily even ruling out the possibility that Bashar al Assad could potentially use chemical weapons against his own people, that was eye-opening to me to hear King Abdullah say that that would be a -- for all practical purposes, a huge, huge game-changer in this entire equation. He wants Bashar al Assad to leave and leave as quickly as possible.
MALVEAUX: Well, did he mention at all about his own country's participation, along with some of the others, when you talk about Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, of actually providing a route for weapons, providing weapons to the rebels and whether or not the Arab League would do more in terms of military intervention?
BLITZER: He's very concerned about weapons getting into the wrong hands in Syria. And he did say bluntly, there are pockets of al Qaeda elements in Syria working there right now as well. The last thing he or anyone else wants is to see some of those weapons wind up in the hands of al Qaeda. That's a further complicating factor. He says, you know, you can send weapons in, but do you have the right address where they're going to wind up. So he's concerned about that.
He did say to me, when I asked him if there were any serious differences between the position of his government and Jordan, the position of the United States, the Obama administration. He basically said that the U.S. and Jordan were on the same page. And as you know, our own Barbara Starr recently was in Jordan, watched some major training exercises unfold. The U.S. and about 15, 16 other countries were involved. Some 12,000 troops were involved in training exercises, which all of us assumed would be useful if, in fact, it gets down to that kind of military intervention in Syria.
MALVEAUX: All right.
BLITZER: So it was a fascinating interview, I must say. We're going to, obviously, run the whole thing in "The Situation Room" later today.
MALVEAUX: We'll be keeping an eye on it. We'll be sure to watch. Thank you, Wolf. Appreciate it.
BLITZER: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Got to check out this picture. Prince Charles hanging on for dear life. I'm going to tell you why he was trying out the climbing wall.
MALVEAUX: Several stories caught our attention today. Photos as well. Take a look at this.
This man rock climbing in his suit. It is actually Prince Charles. Yes, the rock wall climbing, holding on, as a schoolboy showing them how it's done. He was visiting a school on the Channel Islands in the U.K. as part of Queen Elizabeth's ongoing diamond jubilee tour. A British player takes control of the ball at the world challenge games being held in Australia. The games are a preview to the paralympic games.
And you might call his strategy of the Venezuelan edition of extreme home makeover. That is right, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reaching out to voters one free house at a time.
MALVEAUX: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is putting his own twist on reality TV. With less than three months until the elections, he is carrying out what looks like part game show, part campaign rally. This happens every week where the poor are actually handed homes on live TV. Rafael Romo reports.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice- over): She used to be homeless, but now not only does Carmen Valdez (ph) have a place to live, she has a story to tell.
"Some people believe it could happen. Others don't," she says, "but I believed it all along because it came from my commander."
That's how Valdez refers to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the creator of the housing program that provided a new home for her and her children. A program she now promotes on Venezuelan television. Chavez made housing for the poor one of his priorities last year when he launched "The Great Venezuelan Housing Mission."
At a very public event broadcast live on Venezuelan national television, Chavez told a audience of loyal supporters that his government's goal is to build 2 million homes for low income families in seven years. But his critics, including opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, say Chavez is using public money for political purposes and to advance his socialistic agenda.
HENRIQUE CAPRILES RADONSKI, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE (through translator): This is an inefficient government. A government charged with rhetoric. Hours and hours of speeches of promises, manipulating people by selling hope.
ROMO: Venezuela is holding presidential elections in less than three months and Chavez hopes to get re-elected for a third time. Venezuelan pollster Jose Antonio Gil says Chavez's populist programs financed with oil money do attract voters, especially because the government is highlighting its actions daily on national TV with sports like the one featuring Carmen Valdez.
JOSE ANTONIO GIL, DIRECTOR, DANTANALISIS: Now people feel that they're better off, that the country's better off and that tends to have a high correlation with the (INAUDIBLE) approval of his performance and intention (ph) of vote.
ROMO: According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Venezuelan's poverty rate stands at around 28 percent, down from more than 50 percent when Chavez took office in 1999.
MALVEAUX: Rafael Romo joins us.
Rafael, excellent report, by the way.
ROMO: Thank you.
MALVEAUX: We know this country has problems when it comes to corruption and crime and poverty. Is this the kind of thing that really people are convinced of? They say, OK, you know, once a week you see he gives away a home. Does that really make that much of a difference?
ROMO: You know, I was taking a look at the most recent poll, and Chavez is ahead by 15 percentage points. And many people would argue it is because he is targeting the base. He's targeting the poorest of the poor. Giving them houses. Giving them refrigerators and other items. And they see this as, well, this president is actually doing something for us and he's getting his votes.
MALVEAUX: Now there's a tradeoff, right, because I understand that people who have these homes, or are given these homes, if they criticize the government, they take them away.
ROMO: Well, the writing is on the wall. Every time we see one of those live shows in which the president gives away the houses, you see the people saying all of the most beautiful things you can think of. Chavez is my commander, he is my benefactor, he is so good for the people, he is so good. Not once have I seen anybody say anything wrong or anything bad about Chavez, so that tells you a lot.
MALVEAUX: And also, I understand that he recently awarded an apartment to a woman who became his three millionth Twitter follower, right? He's a big Twitter guy.
ROMO: That's right. He is wildly popular, he has a lot of followers, and the message is getting through to Twitter again. And he did this, you know, he's kind of rewarding somebody for being the three millionth follower.
MALVEAUX: Crazy. Can you imagine if President Obama or Mitt Romney were giving away homes on television?
ROMO: On a live show for eight hours.
MALVEAUX: Yes, really. Thank you, Rafael (INAUDIBLE.)
ROMO: Thank you.