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CONNECT THE WORLD

E. Coli Investigation; Mladic in Hospital; Al-Obeidy Deported Back to Libya

Aired June 2, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: At least 16 dead, more than 1,000 infected and we still don't know the cause of a deadly E. coli outbreak sweeping across Europe.

Well, the rare strain of the infection has spread to 10 countries. So just how worried should we be? CNN's medical expert standing by for you this hour.

Also, in Afghanistan, NATO is on high alert after troops suffered record losses in April and in May. A former British commander tells this program the Afghan army isn't ready to take over.

And throwing his hat in the ring (INAUDIBLE) Republican Mitt Romney got what it takes to beat Obama in 2012.

Those stories tonight as we "Connect the World."

Well, super toxic and spreading. That is about all health authorities know about the killer E. coli outbreak that is sweeping across Europe. People are dying and almost daily we are hearing more people being infected by the lethal strain of bacteria.

In the next few minutes, we'll tell you everything you need to know about this deepening health and economic crisis. We're going to hear from Matthew Chance in Moscow as Russia closes it's borders to European vegetables. Our Al Goodman have reaction from Spain where a lawsuit is brewing against claim that it's to blame.

And in Atlanta, medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, will give us an idea on just how big a threat we are facing. First though tonight, Atika Shubert here in London maps the outbreak showing us which countries have been worst affected.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the big concerns about the strain is the large spread. It really has spread to a number of countries. Let's start with Germany, which is where the outbreak was first detected. There, officials have confirmed that 15 people have died as a result of the E. coli bacteria, more than 1,000 have been infected and Germany is warning the public not to eat raw cucumbers but also lettuce and tomato because they are still investigating the source of this outbreak.

Now, another country that has been affected is Sweden. They have had one confirmed death there and more than 40 infection. Now Norway and Denmark have also had a handful of cases there. Now, you might remember that Germany initially pointed a finger of blame to Spain, saying that that was the source. Well, that is still being investigated and Spain diffuse that. And one of the things backing them up is they have only one reported case of this E. coli outbreak to the World Health Organization but it's already had some damage on Spain's produce. Here in France, where they have six cases of this. They already have - they have taken some Spanish grown cucumbers off the market there.

Now other cases in Europe, here in the U.K., there have been seven confirmed cases. So far, also, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland have also been affected. Now the most important thing to remember about this is that in the vast majority of these cases in Europe, these either people who have lived in Germany or traveled through northern Germany or had direct contact with somebody who had recently traveled through there. So there does not seem to be any evidence yet of that kind of spread of secondary infection.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.

ANDERSON: Let's join the dots on this story, shall we?

Economic outbreak is potentially devastating. The United Arab Emirates has already slapped a ban on European cucumbers. Russia is going a step further, closing its borders to all fresh vegetables from the EU. A reaction that European officials are labeled disproportionates.

Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, explains why Moscow has taken such a tough stance.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's at market like one in central Moscow where fruits and vegetables, imported from Europe are normally on sale, no longer though because of the E. coli outbreak. The Russian government has ordered that stall holders immediately stop selling European produce. And there's none here.

Custom officials have also been told to seize fruits and vegetables at Russia's borders and ports and officials are advising the public not to eat any EU-sourced produce they may have bought in recent days, instead to eat locally grown product like this or at least produce that was imported in places outside the European Union.

Well, the Russian ban has drawn strong criticism from the EU, which describes it as disproportionate. The Russian officials reject that saying the action has been taken protectively. The E. coli outbreak, they say has not been contained nor is it source in the EU been confirmed. Until then, Russian officials say the ban on all fresh produce from the European Union is meant to stop people here getting sick.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, Germany initially pointed a finger at Spain but its cucumbers have been cleared since by authorities. Madrid bureau chief Al Goodman reports on how this blame game is looking more and more like a potential legal feist.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: At this fresh produce store in Madrid which has been here for almost 70 years, they say they're not seeing a drop in sales due to the E. coli bacteria scare in northern Europe. It has cause deaths and illnesses especially in Germany and that's a big change from what's going on in the south of Spain where the export producers who say as a result of the Spanish cucumbers initially being implicated by German authorities as a potential cause for this bacteria. Their sales have dropped. They've lost millions of dollars as most of Europe has basically shut out the Spanish product.

Now that the European Commission has cleared the Spanish cucumber and says it's not the cause of the bacteria, the producers say they will seek economic compensation from the European Union and Germany. There may be a lawsuit against Germany. Now the owner of this store has seen quite a lot during his time here but never anything like this E. coli scare.

FELIZ VAZQUEZ, GREEN GROCER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This is the first case of its kind and as a professional, he says, I was surprised on how they said it was the cucumber with so little evidence. Now they say that that was a mistake but the mistake had been done and it's going to cost a lot of money. Beside the damage for Spain's image for its exports.

GOODMAN: While health authorities continue to search for the source of the outbreak, the Spanish export producers hope their sales would soon get back to normal, just like these stories.

Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right. Well, the World Health Organization has described this particular strain of E. coli as rare. So rare that it's never been seen before.

So it's more on the danger it poses. I'm joined now by our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, who is at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Before we talk about the risks, now I hear reported case in the United States. What do we know at this point.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, an official from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells me that there are three likely cases in the United States. These three people recently traveled to Germany and they are sick with HUS, which is the dreaded kidney, the kidney disorder that can happen when you get E. coli. Now they've been tested and those strains have been sent here to Atlanta which is where the labs are for the CDC.

ANDERSON: All right. Elizabeth, what do we know about this virus at this point?

COHEN: You know, Becky, what we know is that it seems quite likely to cause HUS and again that's the big thing you worry about with this bacteria is this kidney disease. There have been about 500 people who have come down with HUS in Europe and that is more than any other E. coli outbreak ever in the entire world. I mean, there are 499 cases. That is a lot.

I don't know if you remember that there was a big E. coli outbreak in Japan in 1996, the biggest in the world. And they only had 120 HUS cases. So here nearly 500 cases. That's a big number.

ANDERSON: Perhaps more importantly, what don't we know about this virus?

COHEN: You know what, Becky, there's a lot we don't know because it is so rare. It has been seen before, for example, it was in Korea in the 1990s. It was in other countries but there's never before, I know, been seen in the United States and we don't know much about its natural history. We don't know why does it seem to cause this kidney disease more often. We don't know much about treating it. We know that when people do get this horrible kidney disease, there's really not much the doctors can do. Antibiotics don't work. In fact, it can make the illness worse.

ANDERSON: So I guess the big question tonight then is how can you and I, those of us who are out here (INAUDIBLE) or else where at this point protect ourselves?

COHEN: You know what? I think this is really a tough one, Becky, because we don't know what's causing it. So we can't say, "Oh don't eat the tomatoes or oh, don't eat the beef." We just don't know where this E. coli is coming from and all that you can do is wash your hands frequently, wash before you eat, wash after you eat, which, of course, you ought to be doing anyhow. Wash before and after cooking. There really isn't much that people can do.

ANDERSON: Very briefly, how unusual is it that doctors know so little about something which is affecting so many people?

COHEN: You know, I think they do know something about it because there is after all E. coli. It's a rare strain of it but it is E. coli. So they have seen E. coli. They know that it causes this kidney disease so there is something that they know but yes, it is unusual to have this. This is very large number of cases for a strain of bacteria that is hardly ever been seen before. So that is quite unusual.

ANDERSON: Elizabeth Cohen at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Elizabeth, as ever, thank you.

You're with "Connect the World" here on CNN, out of London. It is 21:11, just after 10 past nine. I'm Becky Anderson. Coming up pressure mounts on Yemen, the president step down. Protests spread widespread. Now more anti-government tribesmen have moved into the capital.

Then one of the most brutal years for coalition casualties in Afghanistan. So who is winning the war there? We'll hear from the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan.

And finally, the most unlikely bodyguard. How a (INAUDIBLE) Palin protective instinct is turning the 10-year-old into a household name? Coming up after this, stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: NATO troops could be on track for their deadliest year in Afghanistan since the war began. The number of casualties this year is already troubling and peak fighting season for the Taliban is just only now getting underway. We're going to ask a former commander where the NATO's draw down schedule is realistic and whether its strategy needs an overhaul.

I'm Becky Anderson in London. You're watching "Connect the World." Here's a look at the other stories that we are following for you this hour.

And fears are growing of all out civil war in Yemen. Thousands of residents have reportedly fled the capital as tribesmen and forces loyal to the government there clashed for a third straight day. State TV says this picture showed the aftermath of fighting at Sanaa. A neighborhood in the southern city of Taizz, a thousand armed tribesmen have reportedly entered Sanaa, determined to end the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Well, there's more tough talk from Syria's president, for Syria's president from Hillary Clinton. The U.S. Secretary of state says Bashar Al Assad's legitimacy is evaporating. She was responding to a human rights watch report describing Syria's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators as a crime against humanity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As I have said, the tragedy for the young boy, Hamza Ali Al-Khatib, symbolizes for many people around the world the total collapse of any effort by the Assad government to work with their own people and I think, you know, President Obama said it very clearly. If he cannot end the violence against his own people, take meaningful steps to start a process of reform, then he needs to get out of the way and every day that he stays in office and the violence continues, he's basically making that choice by default.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: U.S. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaking about Syria earlier today.

Syrian activists have come out with a declaration telling President al Assad to go. (INAUDIBLE) meeting in Turkey at an opposition gathering which declared its support for the revolution in Syria. The activists want Mr. Al Assad to hand over power to his vice president after that. They say they will organized democratic elections.

War crimes suspect Ratko Mladic is expected to make his first appearance at the U.N. war crimes tribunal on Friday. A lawyer for the former Bosnian Serb general that Mladic is in a prison hospital in poor condition. The lawyer says Mladic went for years without proper healthcare.

Japan's prime minister survived a no confidence vote and he says he will step down after the nuclear crisis is over. Critics accused him of poor leadership after Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami in March. But he won still almost two-thirds of the vote.

Kyung Lah has the details for you.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Japan's prime minister survives and hold on to his job, at least for now. A day of political high drama in Tokyo where lawmakers filing in, one by one, and voting either for or against a no confidence motion. This motion if it had passed would have meant that Prime Minister Kan would have to either resign in 10 days or dissolve Parliament and call a snap election. Well, in the end, the motion went down, 293 to 152. So he retains his job.

But what happened here in Tokyo is being viewed on the streets especially in the streets of the tsunami region with a large measure of disgust. Remember in the devastated areas in the tsunami zone, there are still more than 100,000 people living on blankets in evacuation centers. There is no infrastructure. They have no jobs. There is no clear roadmap for them on what's next. So with all of these happening down here in Tokyo, many up there, view it as a political circus when there is so much work to do be done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): There are no members of Parliament who care about people. They use fancy words but its only for their own political election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This is not the time to do this. This is supposed to be the time that people are united for Japan's recovery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: The prime minister before the vote in Parliament fledged that he will eventually step down and that maybe what actually saved his job today. So there will be more political turmoil in Japan, just not today.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.

ANDERSON: Well, the U.S. has described the hacking of Google's e-mail system as very serious. Google announced on Wednesday that hundreds of gmail accounts including those of U.S. and South Korean government officials have been hacked.

(INAUDIBLE) Phishing assault that duped victims into revealing their passwords. The U.S. government is investigating the scam which is believed to have started in China.

U.S. Senator John McCain has been meeting with Myanmar's government in which pro democracy leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. (INAUDIBLE) McCain visited the home where the opposition leader spent nearly 15 years under house arrest.

He also met with other pro democracy figures as well as top officials from the ruling military junta.

Well, the Arab spring has helped pushed Afghanistan out of the headlines of late. But as one U.S. commander says that war is now reaching a pivotal point. Coming up, we'll tell you about a spike in violence before the peak fighting season even begins.

And she escaped Libya after telling the world about a brutal rape but Iman al-Obeidy's new life in exile was short-lived.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're back with "Connect the World" here on CNN. Now, a cross border attack in one of the most dangerous regions on earth has left dozens of people dead. Pakistani officials say hundreds of militants in Afghanistan infiltrated Pakistan's upper Dir district and attacked a security checkpoint there. That triggered a firefight that lasted for hours. When the smoke cleared, 28 policemen, six civilians and some 45 militants were dead. Well, the other militants slipped back into Afghanistan when NATO acknowledged serious challenges securing that side of the border.

NATO actually has serious challenges (INAUDIBLE) Afghanistan as a whole, facing what could be its bloodiest year there since the war began. Just consider these figures for a moment. A number of coalition deaths has steadily risen, almost every year since 2001, if you can see there. This year, 221 coalition troops have been killed so far with just now heading into a peak fighting season. When we look only at the month of May, you can see that last month, May 2011, was the worst on record for coalition troops in Afghanistan. At no time, since the war started did they suffer such steep losses.

While all of these are quite troubling for NATO, especially considering this is only the beginning of the summer, of course, casualties in the Afghan war usually spike from June until September. Nick Paton Walsh is joining us with more from Kabul. Nick and these are NATO casualties, what's the picture across the country as a whole?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) there were three NATO casualties today alone but as you said that is only part of the picture. One group, the Afghan NGO Safety Office has been studying the first three months of this year and they said that compared to the same period last year, there was a rise of up to 50 percent in violence, attacks against NATO, the insurgents and against civilians as well. And they believe that that trend is likely to continue throughout the summer. The Taliban, of course, very much trying to prove in this coming months, they're not on the back, they're still a potent force after the NATO surge of last summer in the heartland in the south. Becky.

ANDERSON: And none of these, of course, helps the Washington narrative which at this point, Obama about selling success and a withdrawal strategy.

WALSH: Well, that's another reason we could see this summer really being worse than previous ones. The Obama administration under great pressure to explain to the American public that they are winning here. And that's about handing over security to the Afghans and beginning to withdraw American troops. That should be happening possibly in the forthcoming month, we understand.

So really we're talking about the Obama administration under pressure here to try and sell the story of success before next summer, which, of course, is the preliminary period for Obama's re-election campaign. Analysts also saying, of course, there is a severe concern that violence could continue to peak because different groups looking towards NATO's withdrawal in 2014 or minimizing its presence once they improved their position ahead of that eventual power vacuum. Becky.

ANDERSON: And Nick, in the meantime, lest we forget, Afghanistan is about (INAUDIBLE) its people, of course. How would you describe daily life in Afghanistan these days?

WALSH: It's different. Kabul is a very much different country. That's where we are. Spread around, I think you would hear two narratives, frankly. You would hear that NATO argument (ph) saying that we are improving, population centers. We've put troops in there. The Afghan forces are getting better and the Taliban who say, frankly, despite the losses, despite the number of middle level command, that's what NATO say, they've (INAUDIBLE) it. They do remain a potent force in many regions with their own set of government in fact, some believe, across the country. Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Patton Walsh reporting for you from Kabul this evening. Thanks, Nick.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan says despite the increase in violence and coalition deaths, this tragedy in Afghanistan says it's working. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLONEL RICHARD KEMP, FMR. COMMANDER, BRITISH FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: We shouldn't forget the fact that we're all doing huge damage to the Taliban, not only to the Taliban rank and file but also pretty much every night special forces, American special forces, British and other special forces are going out and targeting and killing and capturing some of the senior leadership of the Taliban. That is really doing damage to them. I'm not saying for a moment they're defeated. They're still a potent force but we shouldn't say it's a one sided conflict because it isn't.

ANDERSON: One decorated veteran of the British Army is quoted in the papers today as saying "It is just by the grace of God that there haven't been more casualties." The U.N. reporting a 94 percent rise in roadside bombings. Do we really know at this point who the enemy really is, where they are and what they're going to do next?

KEMP: Well, of course, we know a lot about the enemy. We can always learn more about the enemy and one of the most important things is getting intelligence from the local people. My view is that the more we talk about withdrawal and the more we fix on thinning out our troops and talking about when we're going to pull out, the less support we'll get from the locals, quite understandably. They don't want us to leave and have them, themselves exposed again to the brutality of the Taliban and therefore the less intelligence information we get. And of course, gaining intelligence on these groups is absolutely fundamentally important.

ANDERSON: Let's talk about the end game shortly. The police in Afghanistan still in a woeful state of indiscipline and corruption, much more work needs to be done inside the Afghan National Army and to be frank, we're working (INAUDIBLE) with the government in Kabul who are best inadequate and worst, corrupt.

KEMP: I don't believe we're anywhere near being a position of handing over to the Afghans. Your absolutely right to say that the police are in a terrible state. Yes, they've improved. They are improved but there's still nothing, nowhere near good enough. The Army is a little bit better but again not ready yet to take over. And unfortunately, the government of Afghanistan now is so corrupt and so ineffectual it could not possibly take over the heavy lifting anytime soon. Now, that leaves to be addressed and I'm not convinced that our own politician, or the politicians in other NATO countries have done enough to try and wrestle with that. Huge problem though it is, but it does need to be addressed.

ANDERSON: 2,000 or so Al Qaeda operatives, we are told, are working on either side of the border these days. We'll be looking to the nth game at this point, certainly, to the end game for ISAF, which as we know is withdrawal in months to come. Is that the right thing to do?

KEMP: It has to be dependent upon the condition that exists on the ground. As I see it now, you've already mentioned that there is an upsurge in attacks. There is an increase in violence in Afghanistan compared to this time last year. That does not, to me, indicate we're ready to withdraw. What it indicates to me is, if necessary, we need to put even more effort into the situation and we shouldn't under estimate the importance of Afghanistan. It's not just protecting ourselves from terrorist attack. Pakistan itself faces an increasingly dangerous and serious insurgency which risks a nuclear arms state falling into extremists' hands.

If we leave a security vacuum in Afghanistan, that can only support the insurgent in Pakistan. We can't really separate the region. We can't separate Afghanistan from Pakistan out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, speaking to me earlier. You're watching "Connect the World" here in CNN.

When we return, the woman who said she was raped by government troops in Libya, now a new chapter in the on-going ordeal of Iman Al-Obeidy. That story up next and your headlines. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: All right. A warm welcome back. This is "Connect the World." I'm Becky Anderson in London. It's just half past nine.

Coming up, where is Iman al-Obeidy. This story takes an horrific turn after the next -- one after the next. Find out why we think she's back in Libyan hands.

Trapped by debt and forced into labor. We're going to take a look at the dark word of modern-day slavery.

And in a second bid for the White House, Republican Mitt Romney announces he'll join the US presidential race.

Those stories are ahead in the next 30 minutes. First, as ever, you deserve the headlines at this time, so this is what you're going to get.

A US health official says at least three people in the United States likely have the same strain of E. coli that has killed 16 people in Europe. All of them recently visited Germany, like almost all of the other victims. The outbreak has may people too scared to eat European produce. Russia has banned all EU vegetable imports.

Pressure is growing on Yemen's president to step down amid widespread protests. Up to 1,000 tribesmen have moved into the capital Sanaa, but President Ali Abdullah Saleh is refusing to resign.

Ratko Mladic's lawyers say the war crimes suspect has been neglecting his health for years. The former Bosnian-Serb general is expected to make his first appearance at the UN tribunal in the Hague on Friday. But a lawyer says he is in poor health and has been admitted to a prison hospital.

US senator John McCain has been meeting with Myanmar's government and with pro-democracy leaders, including this lady, Aung San Suu Kyi. On Thursday, McCain visited the home where the opposition leader spent nearly 15 years under house arrest.

And Republican Mitt Romney will try again to win his party's nomination as a US presidential candidate. That is not him, by the way. The former businessman and Massachusetts governor ran in 2008 but lost to John McCain. Here he comes. This time, he's seen as the party's front- runner.

And those are your headlines this hour.

Well, the world has been watching the story of Iman al-Obeidy. We first knew about this Libyan woman when she dramatically told a group of journalists that she had been raped by Libyan forces. She was then hauled off by police.

After her arrest and release, our Senior International Correspondent, Nic Robertson, managed to speak to Iman in Tripoli shortly before she fled the country to Qatar. Well, now there has been a new twist in this saga.

Nic joins us now for more on this. He's at the Hague covering the story there. But Nic, what do we know at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, this lady really cannot catch a break.

I met her in Qatar as well as Tripoli, and she told me at that stage about a month ago how happy she was to get some freedom. She had been taken there by rebel leaders, hosted by them in Qatar with the support of the Qatari government.

But now, what we've seen develop, is quite staggering in nature. She's been applying for refugee status from the UN High Commission for the Refugees. That has been granted for her.

The Qataris were telling her that her visa had run out. The rebel leadership that had been supporting her were nowhere to be seen supporting here, and the Qatari government quite literally forced her and her parents, she says beating them, she was handcuffed by the Qatari authorities, bundled onto a Qatari military plane, and deported back to the east of Libya, rebel-controlled Benghazi.

She didn't want to go back there. The UNHCR representative was with her at the time, had documents showing that she had got refugee status, had plane tickets to take her to a European country as a halfway house because she wants to go to the United States to continue her law studies.

So, this lady has been absolutely bundled out of Qatar by the Qatari authorities without so much as an explanation to CNN. We've contacted Qatari authorities and they won't say anything. Right now, she is hiding for her safety, Becky.

ANDERSON: Do we know what's going to happen next?

ROBERTSON: There a number of things that could. The US State Department has said on the record they are absolutely concerned about her situation, about her welfare. They've reached out and contacted her.

We understand that NGOs, non-governmental organizations, are also doing what they can. The UNHCR is doing what it can. And what they're all trying to do is get Iman al-Obeidi out of Benghazi, where she still feels threatened by the Libyan government of Moammar Gadhafi. And we saw just last night how Gadhafi's forces blew up a car outside a Benghazi hotel.

She is very afraid of them. She's in a very fragile situation, after being gang raped, after having more than a month and a half in Tripoli fearing that the government there would just come and make her disappear.

She needs time to recover, she says, and that's what these non- government agencies, that's what the State Department, that's what the UNHRC would like to try and do. So there are efforts underway.

But what's staggering in all of this is that Qatari's government, running roughshod, not only over her, taking her mobile phones, her family's phones, as well, her computer, and some money, but running roughshod over the wishes of the US State Department and the UNHCR, who were appealing right down to the last minute, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, we'll stay on this story, of course, and we'll bring you more as we get it. Nic, in the Hague, of course, tonight, covering the Ratko Mladic story for us as well. Nic, thank you for that.

Well, in Libya, NATO air strikes have been pounding targets around the capital city. It's a show of force, they say, will continue, now that the NATO mission has been extended. As CNN's Brian Todd reports, that's just one more sign that the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi is reaching critical point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's rarely seen in public. He's just lost eight generals from his command and his oil minister. And now, the NATO alliance vows to keep up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi, announcing it will extend its mission in Libya for at least another 90 days.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: This decision sends a clear message to the Gadhafi regime, we are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya.

TODD: That's the publicly-stated goal. But on the ground, NATO has intensified its air campaign, hitting Gadhafi's command and control structures, bringing in French and British attack helicopters with more close-strike capability. All while NATO officials say they're not specifically targeting Gadhafi.

TODD (on camera): Is that realistic, to buy that line from them?

PAUL SULLIVAN, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Publicly, they can say certain things, but the inference is that there are other goals involved.

TODD (voice-over): Analyst Paul Sullivan says the signals are obvious. European leaders and President Obama have decidedly shifted their tone on this mission.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Time is working against Gadhafi and he must step down from power and leave Libya to the Libyan people.

TODD: And published reports site NATO officials describing a new strategy of driving Gadhafi out. But the extension of three more months comes after some tough criticism of NATO's effectiveness over the past two months.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: NATO-led air strikes in Libya have inflicted serious damage on Gadhafi's regime's war machine, let loyalist troops continue to demonstrate cohesiveness and operational superiority over rebel forces.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, a NATO official countered, saying that by hitting Gadhafi's command posts, NATO forces have degraded his ability to attack rebel forces and civilians.

Sullivan says NATO has effectively destroyed Gadhafi's anti-aircraft capability, but --

TODD (on camera): What has he got, though, that could hit those helicopter gunships?

SULLIVAN: If they're low enough, an RPG could cause enough damage. Think of Mogadishu.

TODD (voice-over): An incident like that could mean a swift end to NATO's mission. But even that doesn't happen, Sullivan warns of other political problems for the alliance.

TODD (on camera): Sullivan says Gadhafi's clearly got the ability to drag this out and, if he does, some NATO member nations won't have the patience to extend this mission much past September. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Joining the dots on the stories that matter around the world for you, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

Up ahead, we turn our focus back to forced labor. We're bringing in an expert on human trafficking to describe some of the horrific things he's seen. All part of CNN's Freedom Project, a special series of reports. Another coming up after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: If you've been with us at this time this week, you'll know that we've been bringing you a series of reports about stories that, frankly, need to be told. CNN's Freedom Project is devoted to exposing the very dark world of modern-day slavery.

Now, this week, we've been focusing on one type of slavery known as bonded labor, when someone borrows money and then is forced into work at extremely low waged, sometimes a penny a day, to pay off that loan.

Human trafficking expert Siddharth Kara has been exposing bonded labor and other types of slavery for the past 16 years. You're going to hear from him shortly.

He's been, though, in Bangladesh, where he found small children who spend their days working on shrimping boats. In Nepal, he uncovered boys who sold -- boys sold to traffickers and forced to weave carpets.

He went on to India, this is what he found there, evidence of child labor being used in construction of buildings for the Commonwealth Games last year, a story that we helped him expose.

And in Bangladesh -- sorry, in Pakistan, Siddharth found entire families forced to make bricks and work on farms under terrible conditions as bonded laborers.

Well, I caught up with him this week and started by getting him to explain more about what he found in Pakistan. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDDHART KARA, HUMAN TRAFFICKING EXPERT: The primary focus in Pakistan was in Sindh province with a group of bonded laborers called the hari bonded laborers. They're agricultural bonded laborers who have been in that region in bondage for centuries.

It's a very exploitative form of bondage. They borrow money at the beginning of each season, and then are coerced into brutish labor in agricultural fields for years, sometimes decades, and there are tales of private prisons, beatings, and torture to keep these people docile.

ANDERSON: Last time we spoke, we were talking about the Commonwealth Games and labor abuses that you had uncovered in New Delhi. Has anything changed?

KARA: Well, this was one of our more interesting studies from last year, where I spent a few weeks very meticulously documenting the trafficked and bonded labor for construction on the Commonwealth Games.

And let's be clear. This didn't mean that I was just walking around town and taking notes. It was painstaking documentation and interviews that would meet the burden of law in a court under Indian laws and the Indian constitution.

And you and I, we both tried to bring this to the attention of the Delhi home minister, the authorities there. I wrote a writ petition to the Supreme Court of India.

To this point, very little response, but you and I and much of the world know there was bonded labor and child labor and trafficked migrant labor throughout all of Delhi leading up to the construction for these huge projects for the Commonwealth Games last summer.

ANDERSON: In Bangladesh, I remember, you met a child called Abdul who spent most of the day collecting shrimp. Remind us about his story.

KARA: Yes, the shrimp supply chain is very interesting, and we have to remember, these are products that come to the EU and the US. And that young boy was caught in child labor for collecting baby shrimp in the rivers in the southern-most regions of Bangladesh near the Bay of Bengal.

And those baby shrimp were then farmed by bonded laborers for three to four months into larger tiger shrimp, and then they go to the processing facilities where they're descaled and beheaded and frozen and shipped to the EU and the US.

So, these children work hours and hours out in the rivers in the rain just trying to collect these baby shrimp because there's nothing else for them to do. The corporate interests took over the entire region and transformed it from agriculture into this shrimp farming, and there's little option for them, they make pennies a day.

ANDERSON: Shrimp that we eat both here in the EU and, indeed, in the United States. We also use carpets from Nepal, certainly, where you have documented bonded labor amongst children and older members of families.

KARA: Yes, absolutely. Roughly 70 percent of the carpets exported form Nepal are woven right in the Katmandu Valley, and we've gone together, and I know you've covered some other great organizations that have looked into child and bonded labor.

It's remarkably easy to go into some of these quasi-clandestine carpet looms and see 10-year-olds and 11-year-olds kept in bondage working 16 to 18 hours a day with deformed spines, respiratory ailments, cuts on their fingers, force-fed stimulants and drugs to keep them working, all because of this poverty and bias against their ethnicity, their minority ethnicities that lack other opportunities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Right, and we make no apologies for what I'm going to say next. We want you to get involved and take a stand against modern slavery. This is how you do it. You submit a photo or video of yourself to cnn.com/freedom.

And what we want you to do is just tell us why you are taking a stand. More details about how you can do that is also on our Facebook page, that is facebook.com/CNNconnect.

Well, it's that time of the year when a summer barbecue becomes a political act. US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was trying to cook up a storm with support today as he made his bid for the Oval Office official. But why court voters a year and a half before the election?

Plus, why Sarah Palin's big bus trip is turning her 10-year-old daughter into a media sensation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, it's June. Time for summer traditions, weddings, graduations, and US politics. Presidential election may not be until November of next year, but the campaign is already galloping across New Hampshire farmland.

Republican Mitt Romney has aired this statement a short time ago. He announced his second bid for the Oval Office. CNN's Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser tells us that the former Massachusetts governor will have plenty of competition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR (voice-over): Mitt Romney, formally declaring his candidacy for president of the United States and attacking the man who he hopes to replace.

MITT ROMNEY, US REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama has failed America.

STEINHAUSER: For Romney, who's making his second bid for the White House, it's all about the economy.

ROMNEY: From my first day in office, my number one job will be to see that America once again is number one in job creation.

STEINHAUSER: The former Massachusetts governor's considered the front-runner at this early point in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

Among the other big names in the race, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He's well-known, but brings a lot of baggage.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, not well-known, but considered someone who could win the nomination.

Congressman Ron Paul, who's making his third bid for the White House. He's beloved by his enthusiastic followers, but not considered likely to win it all.

And Herman Cain, a businessman and radio talk show host who's popular with Tea Party activists.

Another person beloved by many from the two-year-old conservative Tea Party movement is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She's likely to announce for president later this month.

And then, there's Sarah Palin.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER US REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think Americans are ready for true change, change to get our country back on the right track.

STEINHAUSER: The big question, will the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee run for the White House?

PALIN: You know what?

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Yay Sarah!

STEINHAUSER: If she jumps in, it's a whole new ballgame for the Republican presidential nomination.

For the man they all want to oust from the White House, it's all about the economy and jobs.

OBAMA: Over the last four months, we've seen the largest drop in unemployment since 1984.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Over the last --

STEINHAUSER: The two most important numbers for Mr. Obama as he runs for reelection, the unemployment level, which has come down but remains high, and his approval rating among Americans. It's edged up lately because of his work on international affairs and national security, but not because of the economy.

STEINHAUSER (on camera): On that issue, which is still the top concern on the minds of American voters, the president is still far below the 50 percent mark. Paul Steinhauser, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: So, exactly why is the US presidential race heating up 17 months ahead of the day that voters actually go to the polls?

Well, I'm going to go to Washington, DC, where we're joined by Bill Schneider, a familiar face. He was CNN's senior political analyst for almost two decades, and the "Boston Globe" once describing him as the Aristotle of American politics. Sir, thank you for joining us tonight.

This list of presidential hopefuls from the Republican -- this is pretty exhausting, isn't it? Who's going to -- who's going to --

BILL SCHNEIDER, POLITICAL ANALYST: It is.

ANDERSON: -- get the candidacy?

SCHNEIDER: It is exhausting, and you know what? It's late. People are wondering where are the candidates? This is very late for a presidential campaign to start, and a lot of Republicans are getting very worried.

But you know what? They don't have anything really to worry about. The voters won't start paying attention until next year.

ANDERSON: Palin says that her decision to appear in New Hampshire on the very same day that Mitt Romney was there announcing his candidacy is pure coincidence. Do you believe her?

SCHNEIDER: No.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: She is undertaking this bus tour, and nobody knows what she's doing. She's sort of keeping the press at length, but then she gives interviews. Is she running for president, is she not?

In part, I think she just wants the spotlight. She doesn't like the idea that the spotlight is moving onto other real candidates who are running for president. We don't know what she's going to do, but I think she wants to keep her time in the spotlight, and at least try to influence the Republican nomination.

ANDERSON: Remind us, our viewers, why New Hampshire is drawing them all at this point.

SCHNEIDER: Because New Hampshire's the first primary. Iowa comes before New Hampshire, but it's not a primary. Iowa is a caucus.

A caucus is a meeting. It's public voting. You have to spend a couple of hours in someone's living room announcing to everyone whom you're supporting. It's not an election.

A primary is an election, and New Hampshire has a much better track record of predicting who's going to be the nominee and who's going to be president of the United States. So, it's important to take New Hampshire very, very seriously.

ANDERSON: Why are they all bother -- sorry, let me start that again. Why are any of these guys bothering? After all, surely Obama is everybody's sort of favorite to win in 2012, isn't he at this point? Or am I wrong?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think you may be wrong about that.

ANDERSON: Ooh.

SCHNEIDER: It looks like he could be in big trouble for the simple reason that the economy is not good. It's gotten worse since he's become president.

He is highly vulnerable. No president running for reelection -- there have been ten since World War II -- has ever gotten reelected when unemployment is this high. It's nine percent, and no one expects it to be below eight percent next year.

The gasoline prices are way up in this country. People are very unhappy, and it looks like the recovery is continuing to stall. If that happens, he's very vulnerable as long as the Republicans nominate a plausible opponent.

That's the problem --

ANDERSON: He did, of course --

SCHNEIDER: Do they have a plausible opponent?

ANDERSON: Yes. You did, of course, get OBL, which --

SCHNEIDER: Yes, they do, but can they get nominated?

ANDERSON: Yes. No, no, I get your point. He did, of course, get OBL. If you were a betting man, which I'm sure you're not, of course, who would you put your money on for the Republican position?

SCHNEIDER: I think Republicans will eventually come to their senses and nominate a candidate who might actually win. That could be either Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or John Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, who worked for President Obama.

They're all plausible presidents. They've been governors. They've gotten -- managed to get Democratic support, at least Pawlenty and Romney have.

The problem is, they face real problems in the primaries, because a lot of conservatives don't like them. Romney has to win New Hampshire, but the Tea Party movement here in the United States said they'll do anything to stop Romney from getting the nomination.

That's the catch-22, so to speak. The candidates who could beat Obama will have a lot of trouble getting the nomination, and the candidates who might be able to get the nomination are unlikely to defeat President Obama.

ANDERSON: Yes, and he's still got 17 months. He might do something on this economy before then, and one would assume he'd have a better chance at that point.

It's always a pleasure, Mr. Schneider. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. Bill will keep you well informed over the next 17 months as to exactly what's going on.

Well, forget politicking. For Sarah Palin's daughter, Piper, it's all about keeping Mum safe from reporters. The 10-year-old has been training up mainly as a bodyguard for her mum's big bus trip. My colleague Jeanne Moos reports on Piper Palin's excellent vacation in tonight's Parting Shots.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If a teacher asked Piper Palin what she did for her summer vacation, she can leap right into the We the People Bus Trip saga, though very people have their very own bus.

How many 10-year-olds can say they've been hounded by the press?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't step on the kids, please!

MOOS: Or had pizza with Donald Trump?

S. PALIN: We had great pizza, wasn't that good? It was real New York pizza.

MOOS: Or went motorcycle riding with Mom on the back of Dad's bike. Oh, sure, she had to entertain herself, cramming gum into her mouth while she listened to Mom give interview after interview. And sometimes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, thank you very much --

MOOS: -- she had to physically drag her mom away. And occasionally it took --

S. PALIN: And where's the school?

MOOS: -- not just one tap on the shoulder, not just two --

S. PALIN: In fact Todd, our guide -- hold on one sec, honey.

MOOS: Three taps, and she's out, finally. But even a kid --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Piper, what did you think of the Statue of Liberty?

MOOS: -- isn't immune to the lure of the limelight. In a role reversal, Mom watched while Piper described her favorite part.

PIPER PALIN, SARAH PALIN'S DAUGHTER: Seeing the torch.

MOOS (on camera): We haven't seen this much of Piper Palin since she first made her mark at the Republican convention.

MOOS (voice-over): Made her mark on her brother Trig by licking her hand to slick down his hair. A CNN producer was so smitten by her sassy behavior at the convention that she named her dog Piper.

"Here, Piper!" The one on the Snoopy t-shirt.

The trip hasn't been all excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supporting the troops --

MOOS: Piper looked momentarily bored and hot on a scorching day touring Fort McHenry.

MOOS (on camera): Some say Piper is acting like her mother's miniature bodyguard.

MOOS (voice-over): She's been seen leading her mom with outstretched arm --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- sidewalk.

S. PALIN: -- contemplating what --

MOOS: And Fox 29 in Philadelphia captured what looked like a body block as Piper wedged herself between a reporter with a mike and her mother. The move provoked tweets that Piper was head of Palin security and a bouncer press secretary in the making.

Watch how she handles the media onslaught.

Get that microphone off of me!

When the media roll up, there's only one thing to do.

P. PALIN: Roll up the windows!

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

P. PALIN: Roll up the windows!

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson, thank you for watching. The world news headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break here on CNN. Don't go away.

END