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CONNECT THE WORLD
Interview with John McCain; Syrian Activists Talk Of Being Tortured, Sexually Abused
Aired August 29, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, HOST: And hello, this is Connect the World. And tonight the horror of war. A battle rages across Syria. An exclusive report on the brutal crimes taking place behind closed doors.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World.
SWEENEY: And revealed for the first time, horrific details of the torture techniques that the Syrian authorities are using on male detainees.
Also tonight, Hurricane Isaac weakened to a tropical storm, but officials warns there are more rain to come.
And as Mitt Romney's right-hand man gets ready to step into the spotlight. Live on the show, Senator John McCain on what voters need to hear from the U.S. Republican Party.
Now after 18 months of war, Syria's president says the situation comes down to this: things he says are getting, quote, much better. But he needs more time to win what he calls a battle of perseverance.
Bashar al-Assad gave a rare interview today to a pro-regime television station. He put a positive spin on the violence around him and even on the issue of defectors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: Good, nationalist individual doesn't betray his nation. They don't leave outside the homeland. Practically, this is a positive process, because it is an internal cleansing first of the state and secondly of the homeland in general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: And now a story the Syrian government doesn't want you to see. CNN has obtained extraordinary footage from a journalist we aren't naming for security reasons. Today's report explains how Syrian authorities have escalated brutal detention and torture techniques as the battle gets even closer to President al-Assad's doorstep.
Now we've altered voices, including that of the journalist to protect identities. And we warn you, this report does contain some very graphic language.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even as battles raged in its suburbs, the center of Damascus remained a haven from the violence threatening to engulf the capital. But all that was changing.
Just got woken up by a series of explosions somewhere out there in the distance. It's like this every night, although it normally calms down just before the dawn prayer and then kicks back up as the day goes on. But tonight's been pretty bad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Down in the street below we can hear -- I don't know if you can hear the gunfire, but this is the closest its ever been. You can see they're all lining up for shelter by the side of the road under the buildings there. It sounds very, very close. This is like afternoon, so it's still rush hour. For most of the time since we've been here, downtown has been pretty safe. We haven't really been able to go much beyond downtown for the last few days.
Almost every day, smoke clouds hover over the Damascus skyline. Checkpoints block every street and sand bags line street corners. The battle has now spilled onto Bashar al-Assad's very doorstep. And Syrian security forces, we're told, have responded by stepping up detentions and interrogations.
We got a chance to interview a pro-democracy activist who was recently released from detention. In spite of the stigma associated with the abuses he suffered, he wanted to tell us his story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beatings? There are all different kinds. Then there are the hanging. There are three types of hanging. They hang you from your wrists, from here, hovering over the ground. They hang you like this from behind, and they hang you from your legs.
The other torture technique is when they take a stick, sometimes plastic, sometimes wood. We called it a khoza. Do you mind if I use that word? They insert it into the anus repeatedly during your interrogation.
There were sexual assaults. Like a father and son, or an older man and a young man. They would strip them and force them onto each other. And of course while they were doing it they would taunt them. We were taunted day and night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The families of those in detention aren't allowed to visit or communicate with their loved ones. This mother told me she hadn't even received an official notification that her son is in government custody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every week I was expecting that they would take them whether this would be the week they would be caught. On the inside my heart is weeping, but nothing can be allowed to stop us from continuing neither fear, nor sorrow, nor tears.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back in central Damascus, for now at least, the gunfire had stopped, but for how much longer?
SWEENEY: Well, that report there behind an unnamed correspondent detailing the abuses that happen to detainees in Syria.
Now the group Human Rights Watch recently documented similar accounts of sexual abuse and torture in Syrian detention facilities. We're joined now by Samer Muscati, a researcher in the women's rights division, of course I should say, at Human Rights Watch. Thank you for joining us.
My first question is how are you able to gather the evidence? And how complete a picture does it give you about what is happening in this regard throughout the country?
SAMER MUSCATI, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: You know, it's quite difficult, especially when you're dealing with issues of sexual violence. There's just so much stigma and fear around these issues that really it takes time to develop the trust of the people you speak with. We've had researchers, you know, across the Middle East trying to document these type of cases from Syria, including Jordan. I went to Iraq myself, northern Iraq, interviewing refugees, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan and spent many months trying to document these type of abuses.
And we have a clear picture that sexual abuse is happening not only in detention facilities, but also during house arrests and during military sweeps of residential areas.
SWEENEY: And culturally, does this in any way compare with anything you've come across in the past in other countries in that part of the world in terms of the ability of victims to speak out about it given their culture?
MUSCATI: It's difficult. You know, in Libya as well there was cases of sexual violence and we faced similar issues there in terms of documenting these crimes.
You know, once a woman or even a man has been sexually abused and they admit to this, you know, there's a real fear they'll be ostracized not only from society, but also from their families. And women also fear that they'll be subjected to honor crimes and other violence, because, you know, these type of violations really, unfortunately are seen as horrific and (inaudible) stain on the culture.
SWEENEY: All right.
And in terms of how prevalent do you believe it to be across the country? Do you think that anything can be done about it from your point - - position, vantage point?
MUSCATI: Well, something has to be done about it. It's completely inexcusable to be using sexual violence and torture against detainees and also against civilians in their houses. We've asked that this case be brought before the International Criminal Court.
SWEENEY: And what kind of response...
MUSCATI: ...the UN security council to do that.
Well, I think, you know, it's -- discussions still obviously ongoing. And I think there's other things we're asking the international community to do as well, including now selling arms to the Syrian regime and making sure that victims who have suffered these type of abuses have services available to them in the neighboring countries so that they don't have to suffer in silence.
SWEENEY: And given what you've heard from the international community, their response to this specifically to the sexual violence against people in Syria, how high or low do you believe that the western or the international community prioritizes this?
MUSCATI: Well, it's been a struggle getting attention on this issue, unfortunately. I think partly it's because it's difficult for people to speak out. And the fact that we have a very compelling report we hope will push the international community to do more. But it has been a challenge. And we hope, given the wide atrocities that have been committed by the Syrian government or regime, you know, this hopefully is one of the issues that will be addressed among them.
SWEENEY: All right. We'll leave it there. Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch, thank you very much indeed for joining us there. From Toronto.
MUSCATI: Thank you.
SWEENEY: You're watching Connect the World on CNN. And still to come tonight, hundreds of thousands of homes are without power in the United States as Hurricane Isaac is downgraded to a tropical storm. The latest forecast just ahead.
And we'll be hearing from John McCain at the Republican Party's national convention. Party heavyweights are preparing to address the crowd. We are live in Tampa, Florida.
Plus, the family of an ex-U.S. Marine imprisoned in Iran. Hear their exclusive interview with CNN. We'll have all that and much more when Connect the World continues.
SWEENEY: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the world. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Welcome back.
Now Republicans have a bumper night as big named speakers ahead of them at their national convention. Among them, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Ryan preparing to take the stage. Hala Gorani is at the convention in Tampa, Florida. She joins me now. Hala, hi.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, there Fionnuala. And I'm joined by Senator John McCain, former Republican presidential candidate in 2008 who has a speaking slot tonight right behind us here at the convention.
What will your speech be about?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Just like you just said, somebody just came up to me -- didn't you used to be Senator John McCain. We're going to be talking about foreign policy, national security, foreign policy, national security, foreign policy, national security.
GORANI: All right. Now, when you look at this stage do you ever think, you know, that essentially 2008 wasn't a success for you. Do you have any regrets?
MCCAIN: No. I think that when you look back like that, it's not healthy. I think we did the best we could. I made a lot of mistakes I'm sure. And I'll take responsibility for all of them. But I'm very proud that I had the nomination of the party, that I've been able to continue to serve. And so -- look, I'm the most fortunate person you'll ever interview.
MCCAIN: Because I survived not a very good experience at the Naval Academy, crashed four airplanes, years in prison, have had ups and downs in my political career, and ended up with the nominee of the Republican Party and reelected to the senate by the people of Arizona. So I'm very lucky.
GORANI: So now you're going to talk about foreign policy. Mitt Romney, of course, the presidential candidate for the Republican Party. How would a Mitt Romney administration tackle some of the big foreign policy challenges to the U.S. differently than Obama, do you think>
MCCAIN: Well, first of all in a macro sense, he'd lead from in front, not from behind. He would be taking a leadership role in things like Syria where it cries out for American leadership. Every country in the region says we want American leadership. That would mean supplying arms to the...
GORANI: Does he support supplying arms to the rebel groups in Syria?
MCCAIN: Yes, he does.
GORANI: American arms.
MCCAIN: Sure. Or you could send it through or get it through other ways as we did in Libya. But American leadership.
I would go further, obviously, and agree with the socialist president of France where they need now a sanctuary for all these thousands of refugees in a place where they could organize.
And so that's one area.
Another area is -- is obviously with the overall view of American leadership. Every place I go in the world they talk about Americans withdrawing, because that's what the president talks about. That's -- we left no residual force...
GORANI: But some in the Middle East will say, look, after Iraq we're happy Americans are withdrawing, because that was not an experience we want to relive.
MCCAIN: But, you know, that's not the impression I get from meeting the leaders in the Middle East. They want American leadership. Now they don't want American boots on the ground. And no one is advocating that, that I know of, but they do want American leadership.
And for example, we should have left a residual force in Iraq. We should not keep announcing withdraws from Afghanistan. You know the famous story of the American interrogator and the Taliban prisoner. The Taliban prisoner say you've got the watches, we've got the time. That's the attitude in the region and the reason why you're seeing someone like the president of Egypt, a graduate from the University of Southern California going to China and Iran. And obviously that shows the influence of the United States of America.
GORANI: Now, let's talk about Syria, something you've been very outspoken about. And before we went on the air just now, you talked about your visit to refugee camps speaking to Syrian women and men who have suffered tremendously as a result of the regime onslaught on their neighborhoods and villages and towns. But you told me you were moved to tears by some of what you've heard.
MCCAIN: Oh, you have to be. They've the hardest, toughest people, and I don't claim to be that, would be deeply moved. When you talk to -- see these young men with fresh wounds. When you hear the stories of mothers who saw their children slaughtered in front of them.
I mean, it's unspeakable. And the fact is the United States of America could be heavily involved and leading. And that does not mean boots on the ground.
GORANI: What does it mean, exactly.
MCCAIN: It means supplying arms and equipment in my view. It means agreeing with the socialist president in France where these refugees can be treated and be cared for, it means that we give morale support. When was the last time you heard the President of the United States speak up about the unspeakable things that are happening in Syria.
GORANI: But let me ask you about some of the -- questions that are out there regarding arming the rebels. Who are you arming?
MCCAIN: I heard the same story with Libya. I've heard that song before. I've seen the movie before in Libya.
It's al Qaeda. We don't know who they are. Tunisia, the same thing. Egypt, all those -- toughest things are in Egypt. Because was these people seek is exactly the opposite of al Qaeda.
So what's happened in Libya? They're going to have very tough times. They've still got armed groups around the country. But who won the election, the non-Muslims won the election.
GORANI: Although, not in Egypt.
MCCAIN: No. But in Egypt, I think it's pretty clear that this is not a radical movement.
But, look, Egypt is the most important nation in the world, I don't have to tell you that, in the Arab world. And they're going to go through tough times. But the fact is Mubarak was going to go. So to long for the good old days of Mubarak is just an exercise in nostalgia.
What we need to do is try to help. And I emphasize help. The Egyptians come into a situation particularly economically, that's going to be they key to how -- which direction they go is their economy.
GORANI: We look forward to your speech this evening and all these big foreign policy challenges that will -- that any president, whoever it is, whether it's Mitt Romney or Barack Obama will have to face in the coming years. It includes Iran as well and so many other things. Thank you very much Senator John McCain for joining us on CNN International.
Fionnuala, back to you for now.
SWEENEY: All right. Hala in Tampa, thank you.
Well, staying in the U.S. Isaac continues to wreck havoc days after the storm suspended that convention in Florida. The system is weakening as it moves inland. And the hurricane has now being downgraded to a tropical storm. But heavy rain and winds are still pounding the state of Louisiana. So let's get the latest from CNN's Ed Lavendera who is in Grand Isle, Louisiana -- Ed.
ED LAVENDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fionnuala. It's just amazing to think that we've now being reporting on these very similar conditions for now 24 hours. You know, these tropical storms and hurricanes are given names. And it is almost fitting because many of these storms have their own personality. And this one will be remembered for just how slow it moved across the southern part of Louisiana.
The eye of this storm started coming in just a few hours before midnight last night here in the United States. And it is still taking a long time to make its way across. Usually these storms can blow in rather quickly and within a day or so you can start seeing sunshine again. But we are now 24 hours into this and we are in a little town called Grand Isle, Louisiana which is about 75, 80 kilometers south of New Orleans. And this is a barrier island. This is the end of the road. Just beyond me here is the Gulf of Mexico. And the home that we're in, this is the home of a well known shrimper here on the Island. And it's one of the strongest buildings to be in, thankfully for us, because it has been a treacherous 24 hours. We are completely surrounded by water.
The good news is as bad as this looks it's actually improving for us. But right now, many of the roadways are simply impassible.
We talked to the mayor here in Grand Isle just a little while ago, he's trying to make his way with the various other officials to various parts of the island to check on some of the people who had stayed behind. This is an island that has about 1,500 people normally, but it was down to about under 30.
But you can look around here and the good news is as we look around there's not a lot of structural damage. A lot of the homes seem to be holding up rather well. So that is the good news. But the bad news is, is that it is going to take a significant amount of time for this water to recede and finally go away -- Fionnuala.
SWEENEY: Ed Lavendera, I was watching you last night as the storm began to make its way into where you are now. And I hope you've had a chance to get some warmth if not some sleep. The waters have been rising. It's interesting to see how much they've been rising since Yesterday evening. Thank you very much indeed.
Ed Lavendera in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Now, Jenny Harrison has been tracking Hurricane Isaac. She joins us now with the latest from the International Weather Center. And the latest is, is it a hurricane still?
JENNY HARRISON, CNN WEATHER CORREPSONDENT: It's a tropical storm, as you say Fionnuala. And in fact, the very latest is that it's now 80 kilometers, the eye of the storm is 80 kilometers west of New Orleans. So in the last hour it has gone from 80 kilometers west-southwest up towards the west. So that gives you an idea that it is finally moving. If, of course, so very, very slowly.
It's moving at about 10 kilometers an hour, which is about 6 miles an hour. And you can see that it's going to be very slow progress still. The next 12 hours still sort of barely really along the southern portions in 24 hours still likely to be impacting southern areas, central areas of Louisiana. And that's the forecast track after that. When eventually, of course, it does also begin to pick up speed.
But these are the winds still being reported. So 67 kilometers an hour, 61 in New Orleans. Of course, the winds are stronger than that in some areas along the coast and you can see the direction of the storm is going to be moving over the next couple of days. The rain just continuing to come down. You can see it all Ed Lavendera there.
Once it reached that central point in Louisiana, it will move away, finally.
But look at this, in the next 48 hour Fionnuala, still we're looking at well over 400 millimeters to come down in New Orleans.
SWEENEY: Not fun. Jenny Harrison, thank you very much.
Connect the World continues after the break with much more. Stay with us.
SWEENEY: Thousands of athletes are filing into London's Olympic stadium right now which is roaring back to life for the Paralympic games opening ceremony. It started just a short time ago. CNN World Sport's Amanda Davies is outside the Olympic Park for us.
How is it going there?
AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fionnuala.
Yeah, the ceremony got underway about an hour ago. Now I can see just over my left shoulder here the thousands of athletes pouring from over the bridge from the athletes village into the Olympic stadium behind us. The ceremony got underway with hundreds of umbrellas inside the Olympic Stadium. Perhaps the organizers knew something that the rest of us didn't, because it's been absolutely pouring down here in London today.
But the theme of the opening ceremony is about enlightenment, about educating us, about the universe breaking down barriers about disability and challenging perceptions about disability.
There's about 3,000 people taking part in this ceremony, 50 disable performers. We've had Sir Ian McKellen. We've had Sir Stephen Hawking talking as well. The queen is present inside the stadium as is Prince William and Kate Middleton. The stage very much set to prove that this Paralympics is one of showing ability and challenging disability.
SWEENEY: And Amanda, who are the athletes to watch out for during these games?
DAVIES: Well, so much in the buildup to these games has been about Oscar Pistorius, hasn't it? He was, of course, the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics some three weeks ago in the 400 meters. He of course is back looking to defend the three gold medals that he won in the Paralympics in Beijing.
But everywhere you look over the next 11 days there are really some incredible stories of people overcoming adversity and breaking down those barriers that we were talking about.
Team GB's poster girl is Allie Simmons. She's a swimmer who in the pool four years ago in Beijing at the age of just 13 won two gold medals. She's going for four this time around in the 100 meters freestyle, the 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle, and the 200 meters IM.
At the other end of the spectrum, you've got a Canadian wheelchair basketball athlete called Patrick Alexander. He won gold for Canada eight years ago in Athens. He decided to retire, didn't take part in Beijing, but he's decided he's back for more.
Or an athlete or a swimmer that Oscar Pistorius has pointed out is Daniel Diaz. He's a Brazilian swimmer. He competed in the Paralympics for the first time last time out in Beijing. He won nine medals in all, four of them were gold, but then he came back to the world championships in 2010 and he won eight gold medals, one silver. So he's looking to go for the clean sweep this time, nine in all.
So plenty of athletes to look forward to.
Personally I'm really looking forward to the blind football and the sitting volleyball, two sports that I've been lucky enough to give a go, and they really are a challenge, I can tell you, Fionnuala.
SWEENEY: Yes, they are for able-bodied people. Thank you very much, indeed. Amanda Davies, there. I'm sure there'll be many stories to come out of these Games over the coming days.
Now, still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, we are live at the Republican National Convention, where Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, is getting ready to address the crowd.
Sara Sidner heads to Indonesia to find out Jakarta's plans to expand its already heaving seaport.
And a year after his arrest in Iran, the family of an American man accused of spying for the CIA speaks exclusively to CNN.
SWEENEY: A warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. These are the latest world headlines from CNN.
US weather officials have downgraded Hurricane Isaac to a tropical storm. It crossed the Louisiana coast moving inland. Power companies say more than 700,000 homes and businesses are without power in five states.
Syria's president says his forces need more time to win the war against the rebels, but he said the situation in his country is getting, quote, "much better." Bashar al-Assad's giving a rare interview today to a pro-government TV station.
Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has lost her appeal in the country's high court. She was hoping to have her conviction for abuse of authority overturned and to end her seven-year prison sentence. She now plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, is taking center stage tonight as the Republican Party Convention continues in Florida. He is set to make what could be the biggest speech of his career ahead of the US election on November.
As the 40th Republican National Convention got underway last night, it was Mitt Romney's wife who stole the show, Ann Romney, giving a passionate speech about her husband, painting him as a loving and determined man with the necessary skills to, quote, "fix the nation's problems."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: You may not agree with Mitt's position on issues or his politics. By the way, Massachusetts is only 13 percent Republican, so it's not like it's a shock to me --
ROMNEY: -- but let me say this to every American who is thinking about who should be our next president. No one will work harder. No one will care more. And no one will move heaven and Earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: Her address was supposed to humanize her husband, who's been lagging behind President Barack Obama in the likeability polls. Well, CNN's Hala Gorani joins us once again, live from the convention. Hala, some 18 hours or so since Ann Romney gave her speech. How do we know it's gone down with female voters?
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's going to be the big question going forward, because Ann Romney's job was to humanize -- we've been using that word a lot -- but essentially, make Mitt Romney likeable. Make him relatable.
And also her job was to reach out to women, because women, when you look at recent polling, are more likely to say that they will vote and support Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, versus Mitt Romney who, of course, is the Republican candidate now.
And that is going to be a big issue for Mitt Romney. It's the gender gap. And Ann Romney, is she -- this isn't about fact-checking a speech, this is about who is more charming, who is more simpatico. It's reaching out kind of on the human level, on the woman-to-woman level, and that's going to be her big challenge.
And that's going to be measured in the coming days and weeks in polling. And in fact, we have a new CNN-ORC poll that was just out that takes stock of what America thinks of Mitt Romney, and it gives you a sense of where Mitt Romney's weaknesses are.
It puts Obama ahead of Romney when it comes to understanding the middle class. If you take a look at the numbers on your screen now, Obama's currently at 53 percent, with Romney at 39 percent in terms of do you believe this candidate understands the middle class is the question asked.
Romney seems to resonate better with male voters. He's 10 points ahead of his rival. But it's the opposite with women, where Romney trails Obama by 12 percentage points.
And right here in the crucial swing state of Florida, both candidates are locked in a virtual dead heat, and that's despite Florida having a large Hispanic population. Well, Ron Brownstein, the Senior Political Analyst for CNN and the editorial director for the "National Journal" joins me now, live, so that we can analyze these numbers --
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
GORANI: -- and put them in perspective for our international viewers. Let's talk about this poll. Obama ahead of Romney when it comes to understanding the middle class.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. Here is right at the central tension in the race. There's another question that we ask --
BROWNSTEIN: Who would be better at reviving the economy overall? Mitt Romney usually leads on that, but he trails when you ask, who cares about people like me? Who understands my life?
And what you've got is a sense of economic disappointment -- not surprisingly after three and a half very tough years for President Obama --
BROWNSTEIN: But there's a sliver of voters who are disappointed in Obama that still are not ready to move to Romney because they simply have been convinced that he doesn't care about people like them.
And really, improving that number, on caring about people like me, is probably the number one goal at this convention.
GORANI: But why is likeability such a huge issue when the economic environment in the United States is so dire?
BROWNSTEIN: See, I don't really think it's likeability. I think it's more empathy.
BROWNSTEIN: It's more being able to relate my life --
GORANI: But I guess I'll ask the same question --
BROWNSTEIN: -- and understand my life.
GORANI: -- I'd ask the same question. If priority number one is get me a job --
GORANI: Find me a job.
GORANI: Then why is likeability, relatability --
BROWNSTEIN: Well -- well, I think both campaigns kind of view it this way.
BROWNSTEIN: People kind of have a sense that Romney is a business guy and might be able to get the economy moving in some macro sense, be good for Wall Street, be good for big companies -- we are rocking out with those crazy kids --
GORANI: We are rocking -- we are just headbanging.
BROWNSTEIN: -- those crazy kids at the Republican Convention.
BROWNSTEIN: So, they have a sense that he might be able to produce an economy that works for people at the top --
BROWNSTEIN: -- but they're not convinced that he will --
BROWNSTSEIN: -- produce an economy that produces prosperity for them.
GORANI: That's right.
BROWNSTEIN: So, it really is not -- I think "likeability" is the wrong framework.
BROWNSTEIN: It's empathy and concern and relating to my life.
GORANI: Let's talk about women, because Ann Romney's --
GORANI: -- number one priority in her speech was A, to humanize Mitt Romney, but perhaps more importantly, to endear him to female voters in swing states.
GORANI: Did she succeed or not?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think she helped. But to understand -- talk about the gender, often, in too-broad terms here in the US.
If you look at blue-collar women, working-class white women who are economically squeezed, they are a very -- usually a very Republican-leaning group. There's not that much difference right now between the way blue- collar men are voting and blue-collar women. Both are very strongly pro- Romney.
The gender gap is mostly upscale. It's between college-educated white men and college-educated white women. Obama won a majority of college- educated white women in 08. He is staying at similar numbers in 2012 largely because of social issues. This is the portion of the electorate --
GORANI: How important a voting block are they?
BROWNSTEIN: They are -- the portion of the white electorate that's growing the most over the last 30 years. Sixty percent of the college degrees in the US, as you know, are now granted to women. So, they've now got 17, 18 percent of the electorate, and if Obama can hold what he did with them in 08, the math gets much tougher for Romney.
And that is primarily at this point a non-economic vote for him. Things like contraception, abortion, this fight over rape in Missouri.
GORANI: Right. And last question. You're talking about empathy and how --
GORANI: -- Mitt Romney needs to humanize himself, to make himself -- I suppose you don't like the world "likeable" --
GORANI: -- but sort of more --
GORANI: -- endear himself to some of those swing state voters. But if by now that hasn't happened --
GORANI: -- what can change that?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look. They are going to learn more about him. They're going to learn more of a personal story about him here. Look, the challenge is not only with women. A lot of the challenge is with minority voters.
Barack Obama won a combined 80 percent of minority voters in 2008. He's polling about that level in 2012. If he holds that number, it's possible that Mitt Romney could run as well among whites as any Republican challenger ever --
BROWNSTEIN: -- in the history of polling. Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and still lose.
BROWNSTEIN: So the challenge of expanding the base, both to minority voters and --
GORANI: It's the changing demographics of America, too --
BROWNSTEIN: Minorities -- right --
GORANI: -- so you have to adapt to that.
BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. A quarter of the vote is now non-white, more than double what it was when Bill Clinton was elected.
And the reality is is that to win this election, Mitt Romney is probably going to need to run above 60 percent among white voters, which is as I said, would put him at the upper end ever for any Republican challenger, even Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush, all of whom won landslides.
GORANI: All right. I heard most of what you said.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Yes.
GORANI: But they are rehearsing behind us, Fionnuala, one of the acts here at the Republican National Convention. Ron Brownstein --
BROWNSTEIN: Bring back the 80s.
GORANI: It's very much bringing back 80s rock --
GORANI: -- I can tell you that much. But there you have it from us here for now. Fionnuala, back to you, now, in the studio.
SWEENEY: No problem with that sound check. Hala Gorani, thank you for struggling to talk above it. Silence.
Mitt Romney may be the Republican pick for US president, but how well- known is he outside of the political circle? CNN's Richard Roth hit the streets of New York to find out.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who is this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney.
ROTH: Thank you. How come you know him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the coach of one of the football teams here, isn't he? Didn't he win the Super Bowl?
ROTH: You already know who he is, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I do know who he is. I did. I saw the Republican conference last night on TV.
ROTH: Can you identify this man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he's running for president right now. What's his name? Sorry, I can't think of it. I'm not good at this.
ROTH: Come on! You know who this is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he's -- he's -- I'm just having trouble thinking of the name right now.
ROTH: M-R are the initials.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. I'm -- sorry, I can't think of his name right now.
ROTH: How about who's president now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama.
ROTH: Mitt --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney, OK.
ROTH: All right. Why do you think you had a memory lapse, there? He's in the news so much now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I just -- there's something lackluster about him. He's just not such a memorable guy.
ROTH: Who is this man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's that Mitt Romney.
ROTH: Thank you.
ROTH: Who is this man?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's his name? The Republican dude.
ROTH: Do you know who it is?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I can't say his name.
ROTH: Mitt Romney?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROTH: OK, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got it right. I got it right. Later.
ROTH: Who is this man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks like one of the -- I don't know. He's some kind of politician, I know that.
ROTH: The Republican nominee for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, OK.
ROTH: Do you know his name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney.
ROTH: Thank you. What do you think of him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do I think of him? I -- I don't think much of him or President Obama. I -- I would like to see somebody else get it, a third party, to be honest with you.
ROTH: Are you promising to shave if the country improves?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. But if the country improves, I'll be very happy.
SWEENEY: As they say, no prizes for guessing in that one. Politicians in the US certainly have their work cut out, then, for some voters, as you can see.
And you can follow the developments at the Republican convention anytime using the cnn.com live blog. Catch up on the latest polling numbers, watch the latest highlights, and go behind the scenes with the CNN team. Just type in cnn.com/conventions, live for the very latest on what is happening in Tampa.
In the meantime, you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD, and coming up after the break, we visit Indonesia and see the Jakarta port with ambitions beyond its own shipping lanes.
SWEENEY: Hello and welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Jakarta is at the center of one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. It's always been a hub for Indonesia, but now the country's largest port has even bigger ambitions: to transform from a regional port to a global one. Sara Sidner reports.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): When space is at a premium, speed is everything.
ERRY HARDIANTO, MAERSK LINE: I think the port is operating 100 percent her capacity, to some extent, actually go beyond 100 percent her capacity. For shipping business, the flexibility is becoming less and less.
SIDNER: Jakarta's port of Tanjung Priok is overburdened, so the cranes can't afford to stop.
RJ LINO, PRESIDENT DIRECTOR, INDONESIA PORT CORP: In the port, there's 100. Connected to this is hundreds depend on the port.
SIDNER: The 24-hour operation will load and offload 7.2 million containers this year, up from 5.7 just a year ago. Driving the port's demand? Indonesia's domestic consumption. Take a look at car sales in the country, for example.
SIDNER (on camera): To give you some idea of Indonesia's growing love affair with vehicles, this country's car sales grew by 17 percent between 2010 and 2011. Now, compare to China's much larger market, China's car sales only grew by 2.6 percent in the same year.
SIDNER (voice-over): The country's economy is transforming.
LINO: Before, I love the investors when they came here, they were doing something here to make use of the cheap labor in order to exploit them. But not now. Because this is a big, promising market.
SIDNER: And this month, so too will Tanjung Priok.
SIDNER (on camera): By the time the massive expansion project here is finished in 2023, this port hopes to overtake its rivals in Southeast Asia.
LINO: The new terminal is designed for minus 20-meter deck. Singapore relies on 6-deck.
SIDNER (voice-over): The $4 billion project promises more space for bigger ships.
HARDIANTO: A lot of influx coming into the country. We just have to be ready with infrastructure.
SIDNER: Until then, Indonesia's surging economy will ensure every hour is the port's busiest.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Jakarta.
SWEENEY: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back, they say that in space, no one can hear you scream. But now, they can hear you sing. Find out what song was heard all the way from Mars.
SWEENEY: Welcome back. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Now, beamed directly from Mars, a pop star's latest record. Will.i.am's tune follows Monday's first-ever broadcast from the surface of another planet back to Earth. Appropriately, the song is called "Reach for the Stars." John Vause reports.
(MUSIC - "REACH FOR THE STARS" BY WILL.I.AM)
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For four minutes and 24 seconds, the Curiosity rover, NASA's most advanced and expensive Mars mission ever was a radio station.
(MUSIC - "REACH FOR THE STARS" BY WILL.I.AM)
VAUSE: Never before has music been broadcast from another planet back to Earth. "Reaching (sic) for the Stars" by will.i.am, the first song to make an interplanetary debut and meant to inspire students to take a greater interest in the space program.
WILL.I.AM, MUSICIAN: They said, "Hey, have you ever thought about putting a song on a rocket so when the rocket lands it comes back to Earth?" That's never happened before.
VAUSE: Curiosity cleared its throat a day earlier, sending a message from NASA's administrator, Charlie Bolden.
CHARLES BOLDEN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR (via Curiosity Rover from Mars): This is an extraordinary achievement. Landing a rover on Mars is not easy. Others have tried. Only America has fully succeeded.
DAVE LAVERY, NASA: And with that, we have the first human voice from another planet.
VAUSE: Well, sort of. The message was recorded on Earth and sent as a data file onboard Curiosity.
LAVERY: With this, we have another small step that's being taken in extending the human presence beyond Earth.
VAUSE: Curiosity continues to send back striking images from the Martian surface. The most recent is this panorama picture of Mount Sharp, which scientists believe could hold a history of the planet, potentially signs of life. And they're comparing it to the Grand Canyon.
And while Mount Sharp is just 10 kilometers away, it could take the rover two years to get there.
MIKE MALIN, CURIOSITY IMAGE SCIENTIST: And it would take the rover, even if the rover were driving flat out, 100 days to get there, and we're not going to drive flat-out, because we science to do as well.
VAUSE: And all that science is being sent back at a record rate. By connecting with one of two American satellites in orbit, in less than a month, Curiosity has sent back more data than all previous rovers combined.
And soon, we may even know what Mars smells like. Curiosity will take a good sniff, looking for methane in the Martian atmosphere.
John Vause, CNN.
SWEENEY: And you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. For more on all our stories tonight, head to cnn.com. There, you'll find the latest top stories, plus analysis from our teams working across the globe.
Now, in tonight's Parting Shots, a hitchhiking koala. Normally, these cuddly creatures are asleep in trees, but this fearless koala decided to take a dip. Surprising a group of canoeists along the way, this little fellow doggy-paddled across to their boat, struggling to keep his little paws going.
It's a sign for the curious koala to hitch a ride. The canoeists pulled him onboard, free to dry off and rest up after his apparent adventure.
I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. That was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for watching. The world headlines are up next after this short break.