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Angela Merkel Receives Unwelcome Visit From Greek Protesters; 14- year-old Pakistani Activist Shot By Taliban On School Bus

Aired October 9, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Yes, it does. Tonight on Connect the World we're in this together.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): If one country in the EuroZone is not in good shape, we are all not in good shape.


ANDERSON: But on the streets of Athens Angela Merkel pledges a helping hand for Greece, but on the streets of Athens unrest with her visit less than welcome.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: Tonight, was in good faith, that's all the German Chancellor had to offer. This hour, we hear what Greeks think they need next.



ABDULLAH AL-OMAR, SYRIAN DEFECTOR (through translator): He seemed worried all day long. We rarely saw him smiling. He paced up and down the corridors and stared out the windows at Damascus.


ANDERSON: Inside Assad's regime from a defector who says he fueled Syria' propaganda machine.

And mission aborted. Why this daredevil sky diver is going nowhere fast, at least for now.

An angry reception for the German chancellor on Angela Merkel's first visit to Athens since Greece's debt crisis began. Police fire tear gas and stun grenades earlier at protesters as an estimated 25,000 demonstrators descended on central Athens.

Now inside the Greek parliament, Chancellor Merkel received a much warmer welcome meeting Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Let's get reaction of the chancellor's visit both from Athens and Berlin tonight. We're going to cross live to the German capital where Fred Pleitgen is following the latest developments.

First, though, let's get out to our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance who spent the day monitoring the situation from outside the Greek parliament - Matt.


This is one of the most hated figures in all of Greece. Angela Merkel's visit here, the first for several years since the beginning of the euro crisis, the economic crisis here, was always going to be controversial. She came here extending a hand of partnership to the Greeks saying that she supported what Greece has done so far, pledging German support for Greece in the long and difficult path that lay ahead for the country when it came to its austerity measures.

But it simply wasn't enough for the vast majority of ordinary Greeks who came out in their thousands, protesting against her visit, because they see her as the person who more than anyone else represents the economic hardship that they've had to endure.

So perhaps understandably the welcome they extended to her was a very hostile one.


CHANCE: It was a highly symbolic visit and a difficult one. Thousands of protesters amassed outside the Greek parliament, throwing bottles and stones. Riot police used batons and fired tear gas to disperse the angry crowds.

Chancellor Merkel of Germany is here in a show of solidarity with Athens, but as you can see, many, many Greeks hold her directly responsible for the economic suffering they're being forced to endure. She is not welcome here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She want - if you want something for Greece, (inaudible) be in Greece three, four years ago.

CHANCE: But, you know, Germany has been one of the biggest backers of Greece in many ways. It's provided most of the money for the country's bailout funds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but they let us consume not many things that we didn't really need them, so they made us go in a way on consuming. And that's how they want to do right now and not lose any money.

CHANCE: But away from the protest, the German Chancellor spoke of her friendly welcome, encouraging Greece to continue on its economic path of austerity, pledging German support every step of the way.

MERKEL (through translator): If one country in the EuroZone is not in good shape, we are all not in good shape. We have a joint interest to be in good shape. I'm firmly convinced a path, which is a tough path, will lead to success.

CHANCE: For many Greeks, though, the words don't matter. The figure most associated in Greece with harsh austerity is often characterized here as a bullying Nazi, her softer stance on Greece is for them too little, too late.

Well, a big security operation underway to shield the chancellor from all this public anger. More than 6,000 riot police like these have been placed on alert. Vast swaths of Central Athens have been cordoned off to prevent crowds from coming from within petrol bombing distance of her motorcade.

But underlying this tension, an essential relationship in Europe. Greece desperately needs German money. Angela Merkel by endorsing Greece with his visit he's showing how much she wants the teetering EuroZone to stay together.


CHANCE: So not much, Becky, in terms of substance with this visit in terms of what Chancellor Merkel could offer Greece, but the symbolism as I mentioned was very, very powerful indeed. Back to you.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance in Athens for you this evening.

It could be said that Merkel's trip signals a softening in what many have seen as a rigid stance in the past by Germany. Frederik Pleitgen is in Berlin for you this evening.

But Fred what's the reaction been in Germany to their Chancellor's visit to the Greek capital?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would pick up exactly where Matthew left off. He was speaking of a lot of symbolism in that visit and certainly not just for the Greeks to have a lot of symbolism, but also here in Germany as well. And I can tell you earlier reactions have been quite high marks for the chancellor for actually going into Athens, some papers speaking of Angela Merkel going into the lion's den.

And it's really interesting when you look at the reaction of the German public in recent weeks there really has been a change in the mood towards the bailout for Greece where many Germans are saying that they're far more skeptical towards the bailout, towards Germany's policy towards Greece. And that, of course, especially is enforced when you see the amount of money that German taxpayers are having to put up, for instance, for the European Bailout Fund.

I want to read you some figures just for the EFSF, and you'll see that Germany contributes about 27 percent of the EFS. France is in there with about 20 percent, Italy just under 18 percent, Spain about 12 percent. But keep that 27 percent figure in mind. The rest of the EuroZone countries, except those four, only contribute about 23 percent to the European bailout fund.

So Germany by far the largest contributor. And the reason for that is, of course, because German taxpayers have suffered in the past couple of years, have taken pay cuts, have had it easier to get it sacked from work, have just done a lot of things to make this country leaner and more competitive on international markets and certainly that is something that they expect of the Greeks as well.

And one of the interesting things that's also been happening here, Becky, in Germany is that a lot of German politicians have changed their stance as well. If you look back to the summer of this year, many politicians in Angela Merkel's own government have been saying that they were skeptical whether or not Greece is going to stay in the EuroZone, haven't heard any of that recently, so certainly Angela Merkel's message is Germany wants Greece to stay in the EuroZone - Becky.

ANDERSON: And that's an important point.

Fred, thank you for that.

All right young Greeks certainly feeling the pain in their country's debt crisis. According to the latest stats out of the EU as of May just over 53 percent of Greeks under the age of 25 are unemployed.

Well, let's speak to two of these young people. Joining me now in the studio is Anastasia Vakis, a 27 year old recent graduate living in London and looking for work here I believe. And from Athens, let's bring in Stavros Tasiopoulos who is a 24 year old unemployed lawyer.

I'm going to start with you Stravos, you were in the square today, but only I believe as a spectator. Your response to Merkel's visit and what you think needs to happen next in Greece?


Today, we have the arrival of Mrs. Merkel, the (inaudible) leader of the EuroZone. That was not hopeful arrival for us, the young people of Greece because her arrival I believe didn't bring us something to hope for the future. I think it's an arrival that (inaudible) the investors and the ones from the European Zone that they want to have industrial investments in Greece and not something for the young people to hope for.

The wages of 300 and the 400 euro per month are not wages that make young people to have hope for the future.

ANDERSON: Yeah, all right. Stavros stay there for a minute.

Anastasia you heard - hold on Stavros. Anastasia you heard our correspondents, you heard what Stavros said. And our correspondents talking about the symbolism of the visit by Angela Merkel today. Symbolism of course doesn't get you a job. Her visit doesn't really change anything, does it, but you didn't think it would anyway.

ANASTASIA VAKIS, RECENT GRADUATE: No, our personal belief of Chancellor Merkel's visit today in Athens was a positive move to show that she is a friend of - Greece's friend. But, however, this didn't change the cut of the wages or the pensions, neither the - it alleviated the pressure that all this pressure is imposed on the Greek nation.

So I personally think that Greece needs time. And Germany as well as the rest of the European Union have to help.

ANDERSON: Right, they have to help. But I also know that you don't believe this is everybody else's problem, you do genuinely believe that this is Greece's problem. And you believe that Greece has got to get on with the sort of austerity plans, as it were, in order to get out of this. No pain, no gain. You think the pain has got to come in order to gain in the future, right?

VAKIS: Of course the situation is really unbearable for the Greek nation. But of course we have to compromise as well as a nation, but of course as well the German government has to be like easing back on us.

ANDERSON: Ease back on you, I understand that.

Stavros, there will be people watching tonight who will really sympathize with your position. You're 24. You're unemployed. Times are tough and the future looks really bleak. What do you think Greece needs to do next?

TASIOPOULOS: Hearing this, there are already big problems in our country before the memorandum and the troikas launch. The great problem that we have to face and have to find a solution is the corruption in the public sector. And the next big problem that we want to find a solution, we, the young people of Greece, the under 30, the under 25, is an environment of investment that have respect for the people and have a respect to the environment, not investments that only want prosper for a big, multinational companies. This is the future that we want to fight. And this is the - want to expect.

There is nothing (inaudible). We are in the very bad circumstances.

ANDERSON: That's a very realistic outlook, certainly a decent and positive outlook, but perhaps not necessarily a realistic one.

You're last thought, Anastasia?

VAKIS: I just wanted to say that people like me, like myself, under 27, like they need an opportunity. So just give us a chance to make a living honestly and with no - not so much pain and all this misery, because as the austerity measures are really hitting on the middle and lower castes. So I think, I don't know, the IMF or the German - the German government should, I don't know, tax the upper class a bit and, I don't know, just help us. And just, you know, easing back this pressure.

ANDERSON: Both of you, we thank you for joining us today in what as our correspondents suggested was a very symbolic day, but perhaps not a day either of you believe has moved the sort of goal post in any way for Greece. Things continue to be tough. We thank you for joining us.

You're watching Connect the World live from London. Our top story tonight, she offered sympathy but no additional relief, the German chancellor's first trip to Greece since the crisis began with well intentioned, we're told, she went as a friend. But for the thousands protesting her visit she was, and will continue to be, their country's foe.

Still to come tonight, in life he was known as the executioner. Mexican commandos take out one of the world's most wanted criminals, but that is not the end of it. The bizarre twist up next.


ANDERSON: Well, they got him and then they lost him. Mexican forces say they have killed a notorious drug lord, the leader of the brutal Zetas Cartel. But just hours after the gun battle, his body was swiped from a funeral home.

Rafael Romo joins us now with the bizarre details.

This killing certainly marketed as a victory in Mexico's war on drugs, Rafael, but what an embarrassment, what happened?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is definitely a big embarrassment, Becky, but there's really bad news about this and really good news. The bad news is at this hour nobody really knows where the body is. And the mistake there was that instead of taking this body to a secure facility, to a secure morgue, they took him to a funeral home without any surveillance, without any police watching over the body. The really good news, Becky, is that before that happened the investigators in charge of the case had already taken fingerprints and photographs so they were able to positively identify the body according to Mexican officials as that of Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano who as you know is the second most, or was I should say, the second most wanted man in Mexico, one of the leaders of the Los Zetas cartel, the largest cartel in Mexico, Becky, in terms of territory.

ANDERSON: All right. Thank you for that.

More on that story, of course, as we get it here on CNN. How remarkable. Rafael Romo for you on the story.

And let's take a look at what else is connecting our world tonight. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called an early general election saying it's for the good of the country. And it follows his failure to win coalition support for his austerity budget. Now the next election was not due to be held until October next year, but now the prime minister says it should be as soon as possible.

And despite a fighting performance by Mitt Romney in last week's presidential debate it seems that President Obama is still stronger in one key swing state. According to a new poll in Ohio President Obama has a 4 percent lead over his Republican rival. And traditionally whoever wins Ohio wins the White House. CNN chief U.S. correspondent John King is live from the state capital Columbus with more tonight.

That's going to be music to the ears of a campaign which has been a bit roughed up of late, isn't it?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the one hand, Becky, you look at that and if you're the Obama campaign you say we're plus 4 in the key battleground state of Ohio that's great. However, a little bit of context, if you go back just before the big debate last week there were polls showing Governor Romney down six, eight, nine, even as many as 10 points here in the state of Ohio. So there is no question that Governor Romney has a bit of a bounce. The momentum is his way when you talk to people on the ground here in the state, they concede that point. So a very narrow lead for the president at the moment, but that is within the poll's statistical margin of error, so essentially a statistical tie in a state Governor Romney has to win.

We elect presidents of the United States not by the national vote, but state by state. And no Republican has ever won the White House without winning the state of Ohio. So let's look at some of the key things. You take a big state like this you say whoever wins the suburbs will win the state. Guess what, Romney and Obama tied in the suburbs. Well, then, whoever wins those who describe themselves as independents will win the state. Guess what, a tie between Romney and Obama in the suburbs. Voters over the age of 50 are the most reliable voters. They tend to turn out to what. Guess what, a tie between Obama and Romney among those over 50.

So a statistical tie, a one point lead, another two point lead in another, it tells you, Becky, four weeks to go, more than $90 million has been spent in this state over the past six months on television ads and guess what, a statistical tie in the state that if Obama wins here people would say it's over. Governor Romney has to win here to have a chance to take the White House.

ANDERSON: John King on the story for you tonight. Thanks, John.

Well, later tonight CNN's Wolf Blitzer interview the Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. You can catch that at 11:00 in London, midnight in Berlin right here on CNN.

Well, 14 year old Pakistani activist shot in the head by Taliban gunmen is fighting for her life in a Peshawar hospital. Malala Yusafzai has been a frequent target of death threats. For reporting on the Taliban's education ban for women and girls, she received Pakistan's first national peace prize. Police say she and two other girls were wounded when gunmen flagged down her school van in the Swat valley. The U.S. State Department has condemned the attack as, quote, cowardly and barbaric.

Well, a court in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is making it clear it wants a former college football coach to spend the rest of his life behind bars. 68 year old Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison for sexually assaulting, or molesting 10 boys. Sandusky was a celebrated coach at Pennsylvania State University, never admitted guilt, and he said again today that he did not do, quote, these disgusting acts.

We're going to take a very short break here on CNN as ever at this point. Well, after the break the much anticipated match-up between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods never happened at the Ryder Cup, but fans will get their wish later this week. A preview of that and the rest of your sports headlines up next.


ANDERSON: Right. It is not an official PGA or European tour event, but the field for the World Golf final in Turkey has certainly attracted the very best including Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods

Pedro Pinto not playing but he thankfully is here joining me tonight.

What's this all about? This is an event in Turkey. I never heard of this golf competition before. I was in Turkey, though, this weekend - I know, the money is extraordinary...

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORREPSONDENT: Yeah, well that's what I was going to say. You know what it's about? This, a lot of it, cash. $5.3 million at stake in this tournament, the World Golf Final, which is taking place at the Antalya Golf Club. And this is basically a tournament that's promoting the sport in Turkey, Becky. And this is part of a whole promotional gathering that the Turkish sports officials are trying to do leading up to bidding for the 2020 summer games. So they're trying to prove that their nation - it's a series of events that will take place over the next few years proving that they can host this kind of caliber of competition.

And we've got guys like Rory McIlroy who you just saw there draining a putt. You've got Tiger Woods there as well. And you know he only goes where there's a lot of cash involved. Lee Westwood is there as well. It really reads like a who's who in the world of golf these days. A lot of the top players in the rankings. Eight players total. There's two groups. And then the top two from each group are going to go to the semifinals. And then there's a final. And the winner walks away with $1.5 million.

So we'll keep our eye on it, because there will be a lot of good golf played and a lot of famous faces involved. But like you said, it doesn't count for the PGA Tour or European Tour.

ANDERSON: But if you are either Tiger or Rory this weekend it will count.

PINTO: It will count, especially off the back of the Ryder Cup.

You know, I think if you're the Americans you say what happened in Medinah stays in Medinah, but I think there will be a lot of sparring going on behind the scenes between those guys.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. World Sport up in an hour from now. I know you'll be hosting that. And a right royal visit to an English Football Association facility today. Don't tell us.

PINTO: State of the art.

ANDERSON: We'll tease it. We'll tease it.

That's in an hour from now, World Sport with Pedro.

Still to come on Connect the World, the man who says he fueled Syria's propaganda machine defects and tells us his story.

And the mission to go where no skydiver has gone before goes nowhere. In a moment why the world's highest free fall attempt was aborted at the last minute.


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

A protest in central Athens descended into rioting and anger on Tuesday after German chancellor Angela Merkel touched down in the Greek capital. Her visit was intended to express solidarity with Greece as the country grapples with implementing a punishing austerity program.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for an early election, saying it should happen as soon as possible. That came after he failed to win the support of his coalition partners on a budget. Mr. Netanyahu said he was putting national interest above anything else.

Mexico says the leader of the Zetas drug cartel is dead after a shootout with marines. But in a bizarre twist, the government swiped Heriberto Lazcano's body from a funeral home just hours later. Analysts say his killing could have a significant impact on the war on drugs.

A jihadist group in Syria has claimed responsibility for twin car bombings at an air force intelligence compound near Damascus. It's not clear how many people were killed. The Al Nusrah Front is the famed group that said it was behind suicide blasts last week in Aleppo that killed dozens of people.

On land or in the air, the Syrian conflict is being fought on many fronts. Another battleground is the media used by government and rebel forces to win over hearts and minds, yours and mine. Now, a former government official who says he helped spread President al-Assad's propaganda has defected. He's been talking to our Turkey Bureau Chief, Ivan Watson.


IVAN WATSON, CNN TURKEY BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Abdullah Al Omar used to rub shoulders with some of the most powerful people in Syria: government ministers, foreign dignitaries, and even the Syrian president. For five years, Omar claims he worked in the presidential palace. His main job was propaganda.

ABDULLAH AL-OMAR, DEFECTOR (through translator): I was a member of the press office in the presidential palace. We met to manufacture news and see how we could distribute and publish these lies. We invented stories that would help justify the crimes committed by the Syrian regime.

WATSON: Omar says he was a member of a 15-person team working under long-time government spokeswoman Bouthaina Shaaban. When high-ranking officials like the former prime minister defected, Omar's job was to trash the defectors' reputations.

OMAR (through translator): We contacted regime loyalists from Lebanon and Syria to appear as guests on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya to say these defectors were bad and corrupt.

WATSON: But now Omar is one of those defectors, and he's offering details, impossible for CNN to independently verify, about how the Syrian president has coped with the uprising.

WATSON (on camera): How did Bashar al-Assad's behavior change over the last year and a half?

OMAR (through translator): He seemed worried all day long. We rarely saw him smiling. He paced up and down the corridors and started out the windows at Damascus, and he was always anxious and tense. One day, I saw him kick a table. He was cursing and swearing against the Syrian people.

WATSON (voice-over): Omar shows photos of himself with top Iranian officials, like the Iranian ambassadors to Damascus and Beirut.

WATSON (on camera): Were the Iranians meeting with Bashar al-Assad frequently?

WATSON (voice-over): "Almost daily," he tells me. "Four and five times a week."

Omar says the biggest crisis came in July, after a bombing killed this man, presidential security advisor Hassan Turkmani, as well as three other top security officials. He says the bombing also seriously wounded Assad's brother, Maher, a military commander who hasn't been seen in public in months.

OMAR (through translator): Two days after he returned from medical treatment in Russia, Maher al-Assad came to the presidential palace. He had lost his left leg in the bombing and also the use of his left arm.

WATSON (on camera): Last month, Omar defected and fled to his hometown of Atarib in northern Syria, now a ghost town devastated by the civil war.

How did you feel when you saw the destruction in Atarib?

OMAR (through translator): I swear, I cried when I entered Atarib and saw all the houses and shops abandoned and everything destroyed and burned. When I saw it with my own eyes, I cried, and asked how could Bashar al- Assad do this? I want to apologize to the Syrian people because I worked for this butcher and killer regime.

WATSON (voice-over): A tearful apology, but his sincerity is questionable, especially when coming from a man who admits to spending years lying for the Syrian regime.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.


ANDERSON: Well, one woman's account from inside the Syrian conflict has been recognized with a major literary prize, sharing this year's PEN/Pinter prize with poet Carol Ann Duffy. Samar Yazbek is a vocal opponent of the al-Assad regime. Living in fear for her life, she fled into exile with her young daughter. This is her story.


SAMAR YAZBEK, AUTHOR, "A WOMAN IN THE CROSSFIRE" (through translator): I am Samar Yazbek, a Syrian writer.


YAZBEK (through translator): When the Syrian regime's press began broadcasting lies about what was happening on the Syrian street, I found it absolutely necessary to document this stage and to talk about it candidly.

That these demonstrations were peaceful and that people were being killed simply for demanding their freedom. That this was not drive by sectarian strife, as the regime would have us believe. What is happening in Syria is a true revolution, not a sectarian or civil war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (reading from "A Woman in the Crossfire" by Samar Yazbek): "What's wrong, cat got your tongue?" he asked. "Your long tongue should be torn out." And he hit me again. The slap was lighter this time. I stood up and pulled out my knife, brandishing it in his face, and I told him that if he continued beating me, I would plunge this knife into my heart.

YAZBEK (through translator): In this incident, when I was in the humiliating situation and I found myself suddenly unable to understand why this man was reacting to me this way, why so much anger towards me from this security services officer, all the humiliations.

This knife that I always carried with me to defend myself, after that incident, I threw it away. I decided that I could never hurt another person, even in self-defense.

What happened in Syria brought me to a crossroads. Words used to hurt me. Insults would hurt me. Now, nothing hurts me anymore. They tarnished my reputation, called me a traitor, et cetera, but that was nothing compared to what they did to our people.

They are destroying a whole country, killing hundreds and the world is silent. Right now, I can't even think about what happened to me. I feel it was a mere nothing. Nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (reading from "A Woman in the Crossfire" by Samar Yazbek): Sitting down behind his desk, he said, "Put the knife down, you lunatic. We're honorable people. We don't harm our own blood. We're not like you traitors. You're a black mark upon all Alawites. I don't want anything to do with you and other Alawites like you on the outside."


YAZBEK (through translator): It is often reported that the minorities in Syria want guarantees of their safety to join the revolution. What greater is there than that even after all this time, after all these massacres, there have been no retaliatory massacres?

The fall of Bashar al-Assad's regime is the only thing in Syria. It is the only safeguard even of the majority. It is the only safeguard of Syria as a whole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (reading from "A Woman in the Crossfire" by Samar Yazbek): I will infiltrate the sleep of those murderers and ask them, "Did you look into the eyes of the dead as the bullets hit their chest? Did you even notice the bullet holes?"

Perhaps they glance for a moment at the red holes left behind in foreheads and stomachs. It's the same place where our eyes always come to rest.


ANDERSON: Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, we're going to go behind the scenes with one of Hollywood's Leading Women, part of a series of programs on CNN, and we are going to introduce you to Universal Pictures' co-chair, Donna Langley.


ANDERSON: Well, your Leading Woman this week gets us behind the scenes of the business of Hollywood. Donna Langley is co-chair of Universal Pictures and oversees the creative and production side of the studio.

She reports to Adam Fogelson, who leads the business side of the company. Together, they're working out how to keep the studio successful at a tricky time for the business as video on demand, of course, is slowly taking over DVD sales and driving down revenue. Felicia Taylor introduces us.


FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The red carpet. Photographers screaming for attention.


TAYLOR: Starlets assuming pose after pose. This is what Hollywood means to most people. But for Donna Langley, it's another appointment on a very busy calendar. As co-chair of Universal Pictures, she's attending the premier for Universal's movie, "Pitch Perfect."


TAYLOR: It's just the end of her Monday, a day filled with nonstop meetings and phone calls. She works alongside Adam Fogelson on all aspects of Universal's business and production strategy, and her day could take her from making distribution and licensing decisions to suggesting changes to a film in production, such as their big Christmas release, "Les Miserables."

LANGLEY: I think we should speed that shot up that goes into the closeup of him.

TAYLOR: She's one of only a small group of women who has ever risen to such power in a studio, and she's not afraid to explain why.

LANGLEY: I know I do my job really well. I know I do.

TAYLOR: This British transplant, stylish Hollywood executive, mentor, and mother of two young boys is Donna Langley.

Another tram putters by. Tourists, swiveling their heads from side to side. What they're hoping to see is just a glimpse of Donna Langley's world. Her office is on the same 400 acres as the Universal Studios theme park, sound stages, and outdoor sets.

Langley came to Los Angeles from the UK's Isle of Wight at 22, and through her job as hostess at the hip Roxbury, she met New Line's president of production, Mike De Luca. He offered her a job.

LANGLEY: I started as an intern, and then moved to an assistant position and then have worked my way all the way up through the business.

TAYLOR: She figured out that she may have a knack for this when she helped to discover a hit while at New Line, a script other studios had passed on.

LANGLEY: I was involved in a series of movies called "Austin Powers," and --

TAYLOR (on camera): See, I've never heard of it.


LANGLEY: I was a junior executive, I was a baby. Didn't have any business doing anything. And I read this script, and I flipped for it, I loved it. And my boss did to, so we got to make the movie.


LANGLEY: It was the highest-rating comedy for a long time, and it really was just such a tremendous sort of validation of my taste, in a way. And that was the first time that had really happened to me.

TAYLOR (voice-over): In 2001, Langley moved to Universal Pictures, eventually becoming president of production. She helped bring the studio its two most profitable years in history, with hits like "Wanted," "The Bourne Ultimatum," and Universal's most profitable movie to date, "Mama Mia."


TAYLOR (on camera): How do you know when you've got a hit on your hands when it comes to filmmaking?

LANGLEY: You can see it in the sort of every frame that you're watching that it is all coming together, that the director is just absolutely in tune with his vision and the actors are doing everything that you would want to see them do. And you just sort of -- you can just feel it.

TAYLOR (voice-over): By 2009, Langley was promoted to co-chair, and she placed two people in the role she used to hold alone.

TAYLOR (on camera): What's it like to know that two men had to take over your position --


TAYLOR: -- that you did single-handedly?


LANGLEY: I think it's great. I say it makes me laugh every day. It's -- I wouldn't have wished the job that I had at that point on anybody, so --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just catch up briefly on this through six --

TAYLOR (voice-over): In this meeting with the co-president of production, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Peter Cramer, you can see why she split the job in two, as each man bounces movie updates back and forth.

They're deciding which scripts are worth pursuing and choosing which writers, directors, actors, or producers would fit a film.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's so excited, because he feels like he's found his new curving bullet, so --

LANGLEY: Hi, gorge.

TAYLOR: Langley is clearly on top of her world. This year, Universal topped its highest-grossing domestic box office totals, and she just secured the highly pursued film rights to one of the hottest, most talked- about novels, "50 Shades of Grey."

LANGLEY: Good morning.

TAYLOR: In the coming weeks, we'll see her in the favorite part of her job -- the edit room -- and hear what this wife and mother of two wants every woman to know.

LANGLEY: I think a lot of us women think that we have to sort of be buttoned-down and say we can have it all and we do have it all and it's really easy, and I've got this, and don't worry, and I'm on it. But the reality is, it is difficult.


ANDERSON: How about that? You can find out more about our Leading Women, all of them, by going to Fascinating.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson for you at just before 10 to 10:00 in London. When we come back, we're going to find out why a daredevil skydiver aborted a record-breaking skydiving attempt at the last minute. He was due to fly faster than the speed of sound, but apparently Mother Nature got in the way. More on that after this.


ANDERSON: Well, a record-breaking supersonic skydiving attempt has been aborted at the last minute. Daredevil parachutist Felix Baumgartner was strapped into a capsule attached to a helium balloon about to attempt the highest and fastest free fall in history.

However, just before launch, it was called off? Why? Brian Todd is in Roswell, New Mexico to tell us what happened.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, it was a very disappointing situation. They were literally just a few minutes from the launch of this thing. The capsule and the high-altitude balloon were being prepared. The balloon had been mostly inflated.

They were a few minutes away from sending that -- that tandem up into the stratosphere when a -- basically a freakish gust of wind came along and started to really buffet that balloon about fairly severely, and you could tell that they were having problems with it.

Well, it turned out, that balloon got compromised, and that balloon is now completely shot. They cannot use that anymore. Now, they are targeting a possible day for launch of Thursday morning.

They say tomorrow is out because the wind and other weather factors may creep into it just too much for it to be safe for launch, but they talked about possibly Thursday morning, when they expect the weather to be a lot better.

Art Thompson, the technical project director, explained just a short time ago why they're being so cautious.


ART THOMPSON, TECHNICAL PROJECT DIRECTOR, RED BULL STRATOS: The reality is, we've got a person's life at stake, and so our primary concern is making sure that we're launching in the best conditions possible to be able to get him into the air.


TODD: And so, they believe those better conditions will come on Thursday morning, and hopefully they will. The weather conditions tomorrow, too uncertain for that. But they've got some other checks to go through.

We were told that in the preparations for the launch this morning that a radio went dead, so they're going to work that through and see if they can just fix that problem. That was not seen necessarily to be something that would have prevented the launch, but just another minor technical issue there, Becky.

So, a little bit of disappointment today. They had come very far in this mission, preparing for five years. To have it called off at the last minute was disappointing, but the window is not closed yet.

ANDERSON: Sure. All right, stick with it, Brian. We'll be back to you on Thursday, then. As Brian said, the right atmospheric conditions are going to be crucial to the success of this record-breaking skydiving attempt. Our weather lady Jennifer Delgado is at the CNN International Weather Center. Jen, tell us more about why the weather conditions are just so important to something like this.

JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, various reasons the weather is so important. We talk about this balloon, and this balloon, Becky, is ten times thinner than what a sandwich bag. This is something that you pack the kids' school lunches in. Ten times thinner.

So, when you had the wind gust earlier today, which was 25 -- it may not sound that much, but when that balloon is so permeable, it's so weak, that was enough to cause damage.

Now, as we show you some of the weather conditions, it's very important on the ground. They like to do this in the morning when the winds are calmer, we don't have that mixing in the atmosphere and seeing those winds pick up in the afternoon, like what we saw today.

But right now, conditions showing you wind at 7 kph, temperature at 31, and they like the temperature, also, to be much cooler, as well. We're talking 7.

As we focus a bit more for areas including Roswell, New Mexico, this area very quiet weather-wise. As I said to you, it's roughly the size of - - we'd see ten times thinner than a sandwich bag, 0.2 millimeters.

Now, when you're taking off in something like this, the ascent, the weather, the winds must be calm. Of course, we don't want any precipitation out there. But when it gets higher into the atmosphere -- keep in mind, it's divided into five layers -- as it goes through the troposphere, we're going to see the temperatures cooling, it gets higher up.

And then it's going to go up to the stratosphere, and that's when we're expecting this gentleman to make this very brave jump. As he does, keep in mind, he's going to be 37 kilometers in the air. That is three times higher than what you would see an airline -- commercial aircraft, actually, cruising at 9 kilometers. So, this is an incredible feat.

Now, as we get into the forecast, and this is very important as we go through the next couple of days, I know they said that they don't want to do it Wednesday, but as we look at weather conditions, we're talking about rain moving in Thursday as well as into Friday, so we could get a bit tricky out there. And we're also going to see those temperatures warming up, as well. Becky?

ANDERSON: Oh, we could be waiting forever for this.

DELGADO: Did we connect the dots for you? I know.

ANDERSON: No, that was brilliant. Brilliantly done.

DELGADO: Thanks.

ANDERSON: My goodness. I just think he's a bit mad. But anyway --

DELGADO: I'm with you.

ANDERSON: -- it is a record-breaking attempt, and you learn a lot, of course, from these sort of things. But my goodness.

DELGADO: He's got to be brave.

ANDERSON: It's -- certainly. I wouldn't do it, anyway.

DELGADO: You know, if you -- if you go online, and if you look at the animation, right there, you start to feel the anxiety, like, oh my God, how is he going to get out of there?

ANDERSON: Yes. No, you do. No you do. Let's take a break. Thank you for that. I'm Becky Anderson. Take a look online as Jen suggested. We'll be back after the world news -- for the world news headlines after this short break. Stay with us.