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Ernie Els Wins British Open; Major Selloff In World Markets As Investors Panic Over Possible Spain Bailout, 37 Dead In Beijing Floods

Aired July 23, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A very good evening. This is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson.

Spain edging closer to the brink. Fears that EuroZone's fourth biggest economy may need a full blown multibillion bailout sparked a big global selloff today. The Dow has just closed down around three-quarters of one percent. That market will settle out as we move through the next few minutes or so. A rare show of strength in what was an otherwise painful day. Not a single index making gains in London, Frankfurt or Paris as you can see there.

Germany's DAX taking a pounding, down more than 3 percent. And Spain's main stock market down more than 1 percent. Italy deep, deep in the red.

Spain's borrowing costs souring above 7.5 percent, yet another high in the euro area. And investors believe lending money to Spain is getting even riskier. Well, remember more than 7 percent is a price that many consider just unsustainable.

Well, Spain's regions are in crisis for one reason and one reason only: the spectacular burst of what was a housing bubble, the (inaudible) of which are ghost towns across the country that tell a story of debt and despair.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Less than an hour's drive from Madrid and I'm on the outskirts of Pioz. Row after row of new houses all empty deteriorating, vandalized. Five years after the property bubble burst, it's an all too familiar sight. 20 percent of housing across Spain sits empty. Regional governments spent millions of euros on the hope that the boom years would continue. They built new homes and infrastructure project that today no one can afford to buy or run.

Amelia Rodriguez was born in Pioz. She became the mayor about a year ago.

AMELIA RODRIGUEZ, MAYOR OF PIOZ, SPAIN (through translator): As the money was coming in to the town hall then they didn't realize this had to stop at some point, that there would come a time when they weren't going to have any money left to pay for the infrastructure.

QUEST: In the shadow of the castle sits the community's swimming pool. It cost a million euros. And a further 12 million euros were spent on a sewage and water treatment plant. The disgrace here is that even when the project is completed, there isn't the money to keep it running.

So here we have a toxic recycling plant costing 400,000 euros and now there's an issue with the person who owns the land.

JUAN YUNTA AYLLON, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS, PIOZ (through translator): 400,000 euros subsidized by the EU and the industry ministry. And everything has been built on land which doesn't belong to the town hall.

QUEST: Fiasco?

AYLLON (through translator): As far as I know fiasco is something that breaks, that can get damaged due to natural causes. This is something far greater. This is utter madness.

QUEST: This is the last interview Rodriguez do as mayor. A motion of censure brought by her predecessor will put the man who oversaw the spending spree back in charge. When you look at the possible solution, she insists wiping away the debt and starting again is not the answer.

RODRIGUEZ (through translator): No, no, no. Bankruptcy isn't the solution. What it takes is not spend what we haven't got. It's like a family, you can't spend more than you earn per month. It's the same for the town hall. We can't spend what we haven't got.

QUEST: What they haven't got is people. In 10 years the population of Pioz has risen from over 600 to around 3,500, woefully short of the 25,000 they were expecting and for whom they were building.

So the financial 11th hour has arrived in Pioz and in towns and cities across the length and breadth of Spain, places that for no longer pay their bills.

What they are learning at great cost is that there are no easy options. It took a decade to get into this mess. It's going to take as long, if not longer, to put things right.

Richard Quest, CNN, Pioz, Spain.


ANDERSON: Well, that is a story that is echoed across the country and one of the reasons the latest stats there show the economy is not just in intensive care, it's nigh on flatlining. Our bureau chief Al Goodman now from Madrid for you.

The latest GDP numbers quite frankly sickening.

AL GOODMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Becky. Just confirmation that this recession is not about to go away. And take a look at the Madrid stock market this day was down more than five points and then the stock market regulator had to step in and put a stop to short selling, that's where mainly large investors are betting that stocks will go south and they try to take profits on to that. After that, the market closed down just 1 percent.

And all of this on the fears that Spain is not going to need a bailout just for its banks which is already underway, but for the entire country. Now the economy minister was in parliament this day to explain the details of the bank rescue which was approved last Friday. And he had this to say about the fact that he says there will not be a rescue needed. And he had this to say about what's going on in the markets. Let's listen.


LUIS DE GUINDOS, SPAINISH ECONOMY MINISTER (through translator): There are rationalities in the behavior of the markets in the short-term of extreme nervousness, which the government can't get into. I will repeat, Spain is not the only one affected. Spain at this moment and earlier is like the dyke where all the uncertainties surrounding the euro are beaching on to.

But it goes further than Spain. It's about the future of the EuroZone, which I will repeat, short-term we can't unfortunately get into.


GOODMAN: It's not just about Spain, Becky, but really it is about Spain. That's what the investors are worried about, because these mountains and mountains and piles of debt like Richard was talking about in a visit to that village now several Spanish regional governments are said to be needing a bailout of their own from the central government which doesn't have the money to bail them out. And so it's a very difficult time here in Spain -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah. Tough times. Al, thank you. Al Goodman out of Madrid for you.

Well, it's not just Spain that's spooking the markets I've got to say, but that's certainly where I started with my colleague Richard Quest who just before the show explained why all of us should care.


ANDERSON: What happened today?

QUEST: What happened today was another of the wheels came off the wagon. It started with Spain and the request or potential request of 10- year bonds going over 7.5 percent. All these technical factors. But it wasn't just Spain. Had it been just us, things could have perhaps been OK.

If you take, for example, Greece. There's a report in the German press saying the IMF is about to abandon Greece. They've denied that. The prime minister says it talks about the great depression that Greece is now going through.

And then on top of that, you've got Italy which also has some banking and insurance stocks (inaudible) was a short selling bank.

So the totality is things are getting worse in those countries.

ANDERSON: Right. And that we can understand as a reason why investors in these countries would sell off.

Let's just go for our viewers' sake who may be watching outside of Europe, remind them of the context here if you will.

QUEST: And this is the important bit. We constantly talk about Spain and Italy are not the same as the others. And that (inaudible), that is the big one, the big one. Italy with an economy worth nearly $2 trillion and in deep trouble. Spain, as I said. And compared it to little Ireland which had a bailout. It doesn't even get into the big numbers.

So put the whole package together and you see Spain and Italy are by far and away more significant, more difficult. And the EFSF and ESM would not be able to bail them out.

ANDERSON: And let's remind people who is carrying this debt, because that's important right?

QUEST: Right. Now that's the crucial bit, because if Spain goes down, or it does some sort of sovereign bailout -- and the fear is if Spain goes into a sovereign bailout and then, you know what happened with Greece there will be a write off. If there's a write off, look who loses, the U.S. has $46 billion, the UK has $83 billion of Spanish debt. And look at that France has $114 billion. And German $146 billion.

ANDERSON: That's the number I think will worry people.

QUEST: Well, if there is a write off -- and it's a big if -- of Spain debt that has been with Greece then these -- all these contagion issues start to become very real: losses in Germany, losses in France, losses in the UK, and losses in the U.S. That is why this matters so much.


ANDERSON: You are watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from London. Our top story then tonight fears Spain may need a multi- billion dollar bailout causing a wave of panic for investors. Do remember, when Europe sneezes, the U.S. and these days China catches a cold. If things don't improve in Europe, if people like Rich and I don't start spending again, it's more businesses can't get a line of credit for example Spanish banks will just run out of money or if governments don't start prime pumping these economies, this chill, this chill becomes a global influenza, and that is a chilling, chilling thought.

Keep an eye on what's going on with these markets, they very much reflect people's fears and perceptions.

Still to come tonight, the first up-close look at the man accused of a massacre inside a Colorado movie theater and his bizarre behavior in court.

Also a new cause for alarm over Syria. And I'll tell you what the government said today about the use of chemical weapons.

And games organizers get a royal welcome as the queen greets IOC members ahead of this Friday's Olympic games in London. That, and more, coming up.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World. It's one -- no it's not -- 21:13 in London. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

The suspect in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre made his first court appearance earlier today, dressed in a maroon prison jumpsuit with his hair died a reddish color, orange. James Holmes appeared tired and dazed throughout the hearing.

Sandra Endo joining us now live from the courthouse in Colorado.

And what did we learn today, Sandra?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Becky this is certainly the first time anyone saw suspect 24-year-old James Holmes in the flesh, in person, since the shooting on Friday. And clearly this was the first glimpse into the suspect and who could possibly do this type of heinous crime. And you mentioned he appeared in court in shackles wearing a maroon prison suit. He understandably had a bullet-proof vest under him because of reports of threats against his life and also perhaps being a threat to his own self. And he had flaming orange dyed hair fitting two police descriptions that he told police that he believed that he was the Joker character in the Batman movie.

And as you were mentioning, to watch his demeanor was certainly very interesting in the courtroom. He stared blankly at the judge, blinking very hard, sometimes his eyes rolling back into his head, and then just staring emotionless as the judge was reading him his rights and going through the procedures to ensure that he would not be released and that there would be no bond for him. That was the procedure that took place in court. And this is just the first step in the legal process in what will likely be a very lengthy and complicated trial and case.

Listen to what the Colorado district attorney had to say.


CAROL CHAMBERS, COLORADO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I would saw there's no such thing as a slam dunk case. It is a case where we will -- we're still looking at the enormous amount of evidence. And we would never presume that it would be slam dunk. We will work very hard on this case to prosecute it just like we would any other case.


ENDO: And investigators certainly have their work cut out for them. Law enforcement officials say that the suspect, James Holmes, has not been cooperating with investigators. They are still trying to pour through any evidence they've been able to collect from his apartment, including taking his computer as well as finding a Batman mask and poster in his apartment.

He has virtually no social media footprint, very rare for a 24-year- old in this day and age. And according to neighbors, they say he kept to himself. He wasn't like a violent person. And they never expected this to come from him. So certainly investigators have their work cut out for them -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Sandra Endo there outside the courthouse. We learned today we'll see James Holmes once again in court on July 30 I believe. The DA say today this could take days, weeks, if not months to get a case together against him.

Sandra, thank you for that.

A look at some of the other stories that are connecting our world. Tonight we're going to talk to a pathologist about that case in about 20 minutes time. Meanwhile, the United States is warning Syria not to even consider using chemical weapons. Now that comes after the first apparent acknowledgment by the Bashar al-Assad regime that it does actually possess weapons of mass destruction. Syria's foreign ministry spokesman today said such weapons would never be used against the Syrian people, but would we used instead to repel any foreign invasion.


JIHAD MADISSI, SYRIA FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: All the stocks of these weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possess are monitored -- monitored and guarded by the Syrian army. These weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the evident of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.


ANDERSON: Well, the government later clarified those remarks. It said it was talking hypothetically about chemical weapons and accused foreign media of deliberately misinterpreting the comments.

Well, much more on Syria ahead in the show, including a chilling report from Damascus.

Well, officials in Iraq believe al Qaeda may be responsible for the deadliest day there in months. At least 82 people were killed in a series of attacks across the country earlier today. Some reports put the death toll well over 100. The worst bombing came in Tazil (ph) where -- north of Baghdad -- where a powerful blast reduced homes to rubble. Al Qaeda militants have recently warned of a new offensive.

Reports out of Bulgaria say police are looking for a possible female accomplice in the investigation there into last week's suicide bombing. And it's alleged the unidentified suspect spent time with a woman in a Black Sea resort Nirvana (ph) days before the attack in Bergas. Last Wednesday's bombing killed five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver. Israel has blamed Lebanese group Hezbollah, saying they were acting under Iranian instruction. The Israeli president said he believes Iran is waging a war against his country.


SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: They will hide in the shadow. It's an open war, Iran against Israel. Israel is not threatening Iran, Iran is threatening Israel. It's not a war, it's a one-sided attack.


ANDERSON: Well, at least 37 people are dead after deadly floods through Beijing over the weekend. Described as the worst flooding in more than six decades. Some areas were submerged under four meters of water. And as Eunice Yoon explains, there is growing anger about how the government handled this disaster.


EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The subways are back to normal after the worst rains to hit Beijing in six decades shut the city down.

Over the weekend, the torrential downpour caused outages on train lines. Airline traffic stranded tens of thousands at the airport and flooded streets. The water level in some areas got as deep as four meters trapping residents.

The death toll is in the double digits. Authorities say that most of the victims drowned, others were killed in collapsed buildings, officials say nearly 2 million people were affected by the storm and the economic loss is estimated at $1.5 billion.

Thousands of emergency responders were deployed through the city to help with rescue and relief efforts. Paramilitary police are now clearing debris.

The waters may be receding, but anger over the government's response is rising. Many people here have been complaining that city officials should have been better prepared given that the heavy rains have been forecast for days. Some pointed out that Beijing needs systems in place, like government run shelters and special hotlines, to cope with such emergencies. Others question the safety of the city's infrastructure.

Only a year after a high speed train collision killed dozens of people and raised questions about China's building boom, people are asking why a capital that's supposed to be one of the most modern cities in the world with new subways and trains, would grind to a halt because of a storm.

Eunice Yoon, CNN, Beijing.


ANDERSON: All right. We're going to take a very short break here on Connect the World. When we come back, though, the return to the top of the golfing world by the man they call the Big Easy.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back. You're watching Connect the World live from London. I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Now the Big Easy did it the hard way, Ernie Els won the Open Championship on Sunday. And he did against all odds. And unfortunately his win came about because his good friend Adam Scott who completely collapsed down the stretch.

Scott, leading by four shots with four holes to play, but the Aussie couldn't seal the deal, instead Els on the fourth major title of his career.

For more on both men let's bring in Patrick Snell from CNN Center.

You never really want to see somebody win a match as a result of a total meltdown of their playing partner as it were. What happened?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Becky, you're quite right. Adam Scott is so popular. Both players very, very popular indeed. They're close friends, even though there's a 10 year age gap between them. Ernie is 42, Adam is 32.

Scott just went to pieces. I mean, we have to say it's pressure. I'll dwell a little more on that with Adam in just a moment.

But let's pay tribute to Ernie, first of all. This is a player who believes that, he admits it, he may never win a major again. It's very unusual you get a top professional sports guy actually admitting to that. I think you will perhaps even doubts whether he'd win on regular tour events as well. So this is an incredible achievement.

It's the second straight year the British Open has been won by a 42 year old as well, Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland doing it last year. So the 40 plus brigade are having a golden summer if you like with the British Open, Becky.

But I think perhaps for Ernie Els, you know when you look what's gone on in his personal life as well, his young son Ben is autistic. Much of the last few years of his career have been fighting taken up by sort of fighting for that cause, raising money. The Els for Autism foundation as well, if you like, taken him off of the practice range and the driving range and focusing on that.

But Ernie Els, everyone wants to hear from him all the time. Let's hear now from the 2012 British Open champion.


ERNIE ELS, 2012 BRITISH OPEN CHAMPION: I started early. I always hit by all means so much, but when you get older, I'm 42 now, and not too many people win majors at my age. And it means so much more, it feels so special, you know. You're almost blase in a way when you are young. It seems like, OK, I knew I was going to win and here we go.

When you get older, you gone through the (inaudible) a little like I have, this is so special.


SNELL: That's four majors now for Ernie Els, two British Opens and two U.S. Opens.

But what about Adam Scott, Becky? Our heart goes out to Adam. He's 32 now. He's been waiting in the wings for quite some time. I first met him when he turned pro shortly after he turned pro at 20. So he's been a pro for 12 years. We've been waiting for his first major for 12 years. I think he just lost his nerve coming down the stretch there.

But as Ernie told him, look, you're 32. You've got 10 years on me. You've got plenty of time on your side. They do say that golfers mature a little later, but hopefully Adam will just rebound very, very quickly. I think he needs to. He needs to get out on the course and he needs tee off on his first major sooner rather than later, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, I think there's been -- I think there's been (inaudible) 16 winners of the Open in the last 16 years. It does show you what a open tournament that really is, wouldn't you say? I mean, it's great to see Ernie Els win it. But, you know, my heart goes out to Adam.

Listen, no rest for the wicked as it were, but let's not call him wicked, because he's absolutely brilliant. Bradley Wiggins, who just won the Tour de France on Sunday of course has somewhat of a -- well, I guess you call it an important tournament coming up.

SNELL: Yes. That might be the Olympics. Yeah, he's just been lamenting the fact that he couldn't join in, in all the team Sky celebrations: the parties that went on in Paris, one big party. What an achievement for this, another 32 year old Bradley Wiggins said he'd dreamt of doing this.

He's a three-time Olympic track champion as well, that's kind of how he's more well known, at least ahead of the Tour de France. But he's done this, he's done what no British cyclist has ever done before, so a huge achievement for the nation of Britain in terms of cycling. But now he's fully focused. He wants to win the men's road trial and the individual time trial at the forthcoming Olympics as well, Becky. And you know what, I wouldn't bet against him.

ANDERSON: Nor would I. I mean, his legs must have gone to jelly at the top of the Champs Elysses, but I'm sure -- I'm sure he's fit as a fiddle. He did the 50k at 50 kilometers an hour in that last, the last one I believe. So they guy still has got some life in him.

Thank you, sir. You're back, I know, in an hour with World Sport of course.

Still to come on Connect the World, we are seeing psychologists to shed some light on the question many people around the world want answered: just what makes a man fire at moviegoers just out to have a good time? That is coming up for you this hour.

Also, the aftermath of fierce battle in the heart of Damascus. We're going to get a rare report from inside Syria for you.

And Britain's top tennis player tells us how it felt when he carried the Olympic torch at Wimbledon. That and your headlines up next.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson, these are the latest world news headlines from CNN.

US and European stock markets have closed sharply lower on fears Spain may need a full bailout. The numbers there for you to see. The country's borrowing costs rose to another record of above 7.5 percent. That is firmly above the level many consider unsustainable. And the result, well, you can see there. Numbers across the board down in Europe and in the US.

Well, the suspect in the Colorado cinema massacre made his first court appearance a short time ago. The judge told James Holmes his rights and informed him that there wouldn't be any bail for now. Holmes' hair was dyed red and his expression was blank and tired throughout what were brief proceedings. Formal charges will be filed next Monday.

Syria is backpedaling from an apparent admission that it has chemical weapons and would use them to repel any foreign invasion. Syria's foreign ministry spokesman made those remarks on state TV. The government later said that he was misinterpreted.

Iraqi officials say a series of attacks killed at least 82 people across the country today. Other reports put the death toll well over 100. No one has claimed responsibility, but authorities suspect al Qaeda.

Those are your headlines this hour.

Stunned friends and family have been trying to come to terms with Friday's movie theater massacre in Colorado. You'll remember 12 killed, 58 others were wounded, 8 remain in critical condition.

Earlier, the brother of one of the victims spoke to my colleague Don Lemon and explained why he refused to go to today's hearing.


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He intentionally did not go to the hearing today because, you say --

JORDAN GAHWI, BROTHER OF VICTIM: There's no reason to. This guy's already had his ten minutes of fame, and I don't need to see the face of the man who's taken my sister's life.

LEMON: You said you were so angry about this, you told me over the phone that you thought that you might do something stupid. That's why you didn't --

GAHWI: That was the other reason, yes. I was afraid that I -- I may try to get my hands on that man.

LEMON: Yes. You believe that his behavior in court, you think that's a put on?

GAHWI: I do. This guy's -- this guy's nothing -- he's a coward and a genius. He knows what he's doing, he's playing the system. I don't believe for a second that he's sitting there, his wide eyes and pretending to be incoherent. He knows what he's doing.


ANDERSON: The brother of one of the victims of that massacre on Friday in Colorado. Well, police have not disclosed a motive yet as they continue to investigate, but the circumstances of the shooting at a midnight screening of the latest Batman film have added to the intrigue, of course.

Joining me now to help shed some light on all of this is the psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, who is from New York for you this evening. So, let's start with what we saw in court today. It was about 15 minutes, the judge talking to but not with James Holmes. What did you make of his demeanor? He shuffled into court, he was dazed, confused, and possibly under some sort of medication.

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think you're absolutely right. He may, in fact, have been dazed and confused and extremely tired, given what carnage he took place in, just trying to calm himself down and come back to reality.

It's possible that, yes, of course, there was some remnant of mental health crisis that he had been part of, but I think if nothing else, in addressing the brother of the victim, maybe there was some part -- some situation where he was trying to look worse than he actually was.

ANDERSON: Dr. Gardere, we know he's refusing to cooperate, and it could take months, the police say, before they learn what prompted this attack. His behavior inside the cells has been described by both the police and other inmates as "erratic." What do you surmise from the sort of descriptions we're hearing from this guy?

GARDERE: Well, certainly he is a very oppositional person, anti- social personality, sociopathic. And there may be some psychosis there. We're not totally sure of that. So, it doesn't surprise me in any way that he is behaving in that kind of a way, spitting and not wanting to cooperate and just being really insolent.

ANDERSON: This was, of course, his first appearance in court in a process that is likely to see him face at least 12 counts of murder. The likelihood, therefore, is that the defense will plead insanity. So, sir, at what point is it that it is determined that somebody doesn't know right from wrong?

GARDERE: Well, he will be given a battery of tests, first to look at whether he is competent to even assist in his own defense and to stand trial. That's step one.

Now, once -- if he is found competent to stand trial, now you have to look at the insanity defense, the plea that he's -- his attorneys will make. They will have him take a battery of psychological and psychiatric tests.

The psychologists and psychiatrists will work together in order to determine what his mental status is. They will then submit that to the judge and the judge, at that point, along possibly with the jury, will make the determination from those results as well as all the testimony as to whether, in fact, he was insane or was of his right mind, knew the difference between right and wrong.

ANDERSON: This can take days, months, possibly years, can't it? The DA's saying today, don't expect this case to get to court anytime soon.

GARDERE: Well, absolutely. And I think the DA probably wants it to go to court as quickly as possible.

However, the defense will try to put it off as much as possible to kind of deflate a lot of the hate and criticism that is aimed towards the defendant, let things cool down a little bit and allow them to do as much investigation as possible to earth up, if you will, a mental health history, determine whether he was psychotic at the time, whether he had some undiagnosed mental illness, especially a paranoid schizophrenia.

Short of that, if it turns out that he only has some sort of a pathology where it's a personality disorder or a schizoid personality disorder, then he will be found guilty and they will determine that he was sane during the execution of this crime.

ANDERSON: And that, of course, could be the death penalty for him. Jeff Gardere, it's a pleasure having you on the show, thank you very much indeed for joining us. Fascinating stuff.

Well, right after tonight's show, Christiane Amanpour examines the political paralysis over gun ownership. That's on Amanpour tonight, 10:00 PM local time here in the UK. You can work that out, it's in about 22-odd minutes' time from now.

Still ahead on this show, CONNECT THE WORLD, with me, Becky Anderson, as the Syrian army pulls out, accounts of a massacre emerge from one suburb in Damascus. We're going to take you there, a neighborhood recently pummeled by a government assault. That coming up.


ANDERSON: Well, Syria is rejecting the Arab League's offer of a safe exit for Bashar al-Assad if he were to quickly resign. The Syrian president digging in his heels as his army fights for control of the country's largest city.

Well, fierce clashes reported again today in Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub. This amateur video said to show rebels seizing one government tank and destroying two others. Opposition activists say at least 30 people have been killed across the country this Monday.

Syrian troops are now reclaiming most of Damascus after a week of heavy fighting in the capital. One of those reclaimed areas is the central district of Midan. The government says it's cleansed the neighborhood of what they call "mercenaries and terrorists."

But residents there tell a different story. Chief Correspondent of Britain's Channel 4 news is one of the few independent journalists inside Syria. Alex Thomson traveled to Midan to see for himself what happened.


ALEX THOMSON, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, CHANNEL 4 NEWS (voice-over): The banality of normality: Damascene traffic jams again a feature of life here. The gains claimed by the rebels in the capital appear exaggerated. The regime's boast that they've pushed the fighters out of some districts altogether is ever more credible.

But independent reporting is near impossible. We're heading for Midan, where fighting's been prolonged and in intense in recent days. An army checkpoint seals off the edge of the district. You film covertly and fast and move on in a game of cat and mouse to try and get into the area.

And then, our guide, who'd better stay anonymous, says "We're here." Look around. He hardly needs to.

Government forces turned helicopter gunships, tanks, mortars, rockets, heavy machine guns on this district for three days.

THOMSON (on camera): The government says in two days' time, families can begin moving back into Midan. But just take a look at what the family will find when they move back to this house. People say yes, of course, the rebel fighters have been pushed out, but they'll fight another day in another way, and there is no chance that President Assad will win this civil war.

THOMSON (voice-over): A shopkeeper who fled the fighting comes back to find his business has disintegrated. In theory, the government will pay. In theory. But all around us, they're talking now, off camera, of a massacre here.

Finally, one man will tell us anonymously everything he knows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because this is the only family who stayed in the district during that time. They say they just want to live in a peaceful way, and they couldn't run away.

THOMSON: Channel Four news spoke to seven residents independently of each other who all either named the Isma Ealy (ph) family as the victims or the figure of 16 being killed. We were sent this video said to show the scene of the killings, the details of a family shot through the head can't be shown. You do see the poignant sight of an unfinished family meal.

House after house trashed, everyone here said soldiers or the Shabiha Militia went on an orgy of looting here. They know Syrians keep large amounts of cash at home. This man said the militia stole 18,000 pounds from his place.

Outside, the pathetic remains of rebel barricades, futile against organized ground and air assault. The tank tracks of a departed government army. Weirdly, the authorities have fastidiously painted over most of the anti-Assad graffiti which covered the walls around here and left their own. "The Soldiers of God were here."

President Assad has won the battle for Damascus and won it convincingly, but everyone knows winning the battle is not the same as winning the war.


ANDERSON: That report by Chief Correspondent for Channel Four News, Alex Thomson, in Damascus. I spoke to Alex just before the show went to air, and I asked him first about Syria's remarks about chemical weapons. This is what he said.


THOMSON: Everybody's known here for many years the regime maintains a large stockpile of chemical weapons. There's nothing that unusual about that in this region. Don't forget, they were used quite extensively in the Iran-Iraq War some years ago. So, not a lot of surprise of that.

That they haven't been used I think would be taken with a degree of skepticism amongst some people in rebel areas, who are convinced such weapons have been used for some time. I have to say, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for that.

ANDERSON: What do people on the ground make of the Arab League's offer of a safe passage, a safe exit, for Assad out of the country?

THOMSON: I think you can make a judgment on that, because we did talk about that with people today, and again, depends on where you are. But I think the judgment would be fairly clear-cut on that.

There would be horror amongst the loyalists to the regime -- and there are many, many of them in this country, who still remain overtly and openly loyal to the House of Assad, if you like -- they would be appalled at this, they would say this is another example of external interference in the affairs of our country.

That was the line from the Ministry of Information today -- the Ministry of the Interior, rather -- and that is how an awful lot of pro- regime people would greet it.

Equally, it would be greeted with horror by those who want to see Assad toppled, quite frankly, because they want to see him stand trial for what they perceive to be his crimes, or they want to see him, quite simply, killed.

ANDERSON: You have been in and out of the country, now, over the past 16 months during this crisis, which has led to a civil war, and I know you've been in and out of the country before that, as well. Are we seeing an endgame here? And how would you describe how things have changed over the past 16 months?

THOMSON: Let's be absolutely clear: the regime continues to receive large supplies of weapons coming in from Russia, its principal ally. Whilst that remains the case, its amount of control structure, even though they've had defections, remains intact. Two things are going to topple the regime, and neither of them are the rebels on the streets with AK-47s and the rounds.

The two things are this: that the defections from the senior ranks of the military become critical and the regime cannot withstand -- cannot sustain them, or that the politburo, if you like, that surrounds the House of Assad, President Assad himself, begins to crumble, and they begin to decide that the endgame is in place.

If either of those two things happen, the endgame will indeed be in place but, frankly, a lot of rebels running around with pop guns, AK-47s -- and that's what they are compared to the arsenal the regime has -- are not going to change anything. Not in days, not in weeks, and probably not in months.


ANDERSON: Alex Thomson for you out of Damascus, Syria, this evening.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. When we come back, as Olympic fever grips the UK, we're going to see how London is gearing up and find out what the forecast has in store. Don't go away.


ANDERSON: All right. It's less than four days until the Olympics begin. This time Friday, the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics will be underway, and here in London, we've been watching the city gear up for the games.

Keep an eye on your right-hand side of your screens, and when we talk about the Olympics, we'll give you a clock and it will tell you exactly how far away we are.

Today, members of the International Olympic Committee toured the Olympic Park, then they were welcomed by Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. So, it's been a busy day in the run-up to London 2012, and it's only going to get busier. Let's get the latest with Alex Thomas, he's already down at the Olympic Park, our Olympic Bureau in East London. How is it?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, special day for us, Becky, the first day that CNN started broadcasting from its official Olympic live spot just outside the stadium, as you can see, where "Chariots of Fire," the theme music from the famous movie, is blasting out. More on that in a moment.

We're going to get Neil, our cameraman, just to show you how good the view is here. Despite the fact we're after official sunset, still plenty of lights to show you the new shopping center, part of the massive redevelopment in this part of northeast London.

We've gone past the darkened Athletes' Village -- a few lights on. Not everyone getting an early night, ready for their events in a few days' time. The white mattress shape of the basketball arena and the dark, sort of crisp shame of the Velodrome, where the Olympic cycling will take place.

But Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, among that delegation at the Athletes' Village, the darkened area that we just scanned past, and he held a personal minute's silence for the victims of terrorism at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Rogge was competing there as a sailor as a young man, and he has said no to a minute silence at the official Opening Ceremony, but he did hold one at the Athletes' Village, along with the likes of Seb Coe. And this is what Rogge has got to say when he caught up with us a few weeks ago about the nostalgia surrounding his final-ever Olympics as IOC president.


JACQUES ROGGE, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: No, I'm nostalgic by nature, so I will work in London, as I have worked in all the previous Games, very hard. It's a tough job. But it's also a fascinating one.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: What are you most excited about London?

ROGGE: Well, I believe that these Games have their own identity. Athens was a comeback to the rules of Olympics. They invented the Games 3,000 years ago. Beijing were the Games of the most populous country in the world.

And now London will be the Games of the country that has invented modern sport in the second half of the 19th century. And not only have they invented sport, but they've also used it in their curriculum in school as a tool of education. They love sport, they're passionate about it, they know sport. It's going to be a great, great Games.


THOMAS: Yes, IOC president Jacques Rogge pointing out that every Olympic Games, Becky, is different. London's hoping to put its own indelible stamp on this, the world's biggest sporting event.

A full rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony taking place in under four days' time going on behind me. We won't spoil the surprise. We know movie director Danny Boyle is in charge of it, and they're hoping to get it spot on and impress the world.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. Three days, 27 hours, and 7-odd minutes and counting. Sir, it looks fantastic behind you. Can't wait to join you.

Britain's been suffering, of course, Alex, from one of the wettest summers on record. We've had a small respite -- I mean, like a day's worth over the past 24 hours. Is it going to stay sunny? That's what we want to know. Weather girl Jenny Delgado at CNN Center in Atlanta. So, it's important to us all. What's the forecast?

JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, Becky, you said that you got a little break from the clouds. Well, there's some good news to report. It looks like as we go through the next couple of days, you're going to be enjoying a lot of sunshine and dry conditions, especially across southern parts of England.

We just have really one area we're watching. It's this little cut-off low, and it's right on top of Italy, and that's where the rain is going to be for the next couple of days. So, yes, the weather is going for the gold -- up until Friday. And that's when we have a little bit of question mark.

As I show you, as we go through Tuesday as well as into Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures are going to be warming up very nicely. We're going to run about 5 to 7 degrees above average.

But as we get into Friday, we start off the morning with lots of sunshine out there. Everybody's getting excited for the Olympics. And then in the afternoon, some of those clouds start to roll back into England. And then, as we go into the evening hours, Becky, the reality is, your weather is just a miserable sort over there.


DELGADO: We do have a chance -- and we're talking a 40 percent chance -- of storms to arrive in the evening of Friday. I know it is going to be the Ceremonies, but --

ANDERSON: All right, OK --

DELGADO: -- maybe they should do a practice run with rain.

ANDERSON: We're prepared, we're prepared. We'll have the brollies. I promise you --

DELGADO: The Wellies --

ANDERSON: -- a spectacular evening of programming. The Wellies, the brollies, everything, Jen. Just stick with CNN and we'll entertain you, as it were.

DELGADO: We hope.

ANDERSON: I'm not quite sure whether I'm really thanking you or not - -

DELGADO: Happy about it -- hey! Get some sun until then.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. Thanks, Jen.

As the world gathers in London, we want you to join our global team. Help us tell the story of these 2012 Summer Games, whether you're in London or watching around the world, grab a camera and show us what catches your eye during the Olympics.

Submit your photos and videos at,, you can follow the instructions there, it's really easy. The best ones could be featured as part of CNN's coverage of the Olympics.

And we are sticking with the Olympics for tonight's Parting Shots. Britain's number one tennis player returns to center court today after his defeat in the Wimbledon finals a few weeks ago, the Scot carrying the Olympic torch as part of the relay, and Murray said he's looking forward to the Olympics and that he felt privileged to be carrying that torch.


ANDY MURRAY, OLYMPIC TORCH BEARER: It's something that I'm sure all athletes want to get the opportunity to do. It's the first time I'd done it, and having watched it the last few days on the news and seeing the crowds and how excited everybody's getting for the Olympics, it was, yes, a great, great honor.


ANDERSON: Murray, good on you. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for watching. World news headlines up after this. Don't go away.