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CONNECT THE WORLD

French, Mali Forces Fight Back Islamist Militants; Lance Armstrong Apologies To LiveStrong Employees

Aired January 14, 2013 - 16:00   ET

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


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Tonight on Connect the World, France's fight against Mali's militants. French troops step up their offensive, but rebel fighters are gaining ground as they seize a key town.

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

FOSTER: As the UN security council meets to discuss the crisis in Mali, tonight why France has moved to put boots on the ground in the West African nation.

Also tonight, saying sorry, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong apologizes to staff of the foundation he created amid reports he may admit doping in a TV interview this week.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL DAY LEWIS, ACTOR: Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: After a golden party, the actor now looking towards a record third Oscar.

First tonight, even French air power fails to stop a rebel advance in Mali. Islamic extremists are now closer to the capital Bamako than they've ever been before. They're advancing from their stronghold in the north despite a French backed government offensive that began on Friday. Hundreds of French troops are now on the ground in Mali. An African intervention force is also taking shape whilst Britain and Canada are helping the war effort with transport planes.

We'll get a live update on the latest developments in just a moment, but first let's show you what's been happening on the ground. Here you'll see Mali, a landlocked country in Africa's Sahara region. And that's the capital Bamako in the southwest.

Islamist extremists control two-thirds of northern Mali, an area in red. It's roughly the size of France. The topping point came last week when rebels captured the town of Konna in a push towards the capital. Mali's government fought back. And France joined the battle. With the help of French air strikes Malian troops once again got control of Konna, but now rebels have captured the town of Diabaly just 300 kilometers from the capital.

Malian police continue to patrol Bamako on the fourth day of what many consider a gamechanging intervention.

A rebel spokesman told Europe One radio that, quote, France has opened the gates of hell. He says it's fallen into a trap more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia.

Let's get the latest now on the rebel advance in Mali. Vladimir Duthiers if following developments tonight in Lagos in Nigeria. What have you made of the latest movements Vlad.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, as you said France is at war against terrorism and President Francois Hollande has said that this military action will continue as long as it is necessary.

As you said, the rebels within Northern Mali have acknowledged that they've suffered some heavy losses through the aerial bombardment and the aerial attacks that have taken place. The French fighter craft have hit air bases -- sorry, they've hit base -- rebel bases, camps, depots, but they did, as you say, launch a counter offensive to retake the town of Diabaly in central Mali.

They've also said that they will avenge these French air strikes and they will strike at the heart of France.

France, for its part, is now garnering support in the United Nations. They've garnered support from Britain which has offered to supply two C-17 aircraft to transport troops and material to the region. The United States has said that they will be offering assistance in the form of intelligence gathering and communications. Canada, Denmark, Belgium, the European Union and we are awaiting a force of some 3,500 African soldiers to deploy to the region. I just spoke to the president of Nigeria spokesman and he tells me that President Goodluck Jonathan has said that Nigerian soldiers will be in Mali by next week.

So this is a fight for the very -- for the very heart of Africa in an area where if Muslim extremists were allowed to take a foothold, it could lead to a destabilization of the entire African continent and Europe as well -- Max.

FOSTER: And obviously some horrific stories coming out of this. You managed to get hold of some video. Just talk us through that.

DUTHIERS: Yeah, we -- so this -- what this is all about is in fact in the northern part of Nigeria -- excuse me, in the northern part of Mali, the extremists there have tried to implement their strict interpretation of Sharia law. There's been public beheadings, floggings, amputations. In this video put out by Muslim extremist group The Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa shows two men. One of the men has their hands -- one of their hands amputated, the other is flogged several times.

And so this is what this story is all about. The United Nations says that more than 300,000 people have been displaced through the violence that has taken place in the northern part of the country. And so what France is saying, although there was meant to be a troop of African lead soldiers that were going to deploy in September, France decided that it could not wait. It answered Mali's plea. And came to the rescue. And so far, with the exception of that town of Diabaly, they are continuing to hit rebel strongholds throughout the country, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Vlad, we'll sit with you on that story. Thank you very much indeed.

Well, almost a year ago, French forces were taking part in another bombing campaign in Africa: the assault against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.. Some say the two conflicts are actually connected as Nima Elbagir explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In March last year, a group of Malian army officers appeared on state TV frustrated with what they term their government's inadequate support in their fight against rebels they staged a coup. It was meant to be a short-term solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We wish to restore power of a democratically elected government as soon as national unity and integrity are reestablished.

ELBAGIR: Instead, it set off a chain of events that has now led Mali's interim president to seek international military intervention.

The Malian state has been fighting Tuareg separatists in the north for decades. But the Tuareg were reenergized when hundreds of fighters who had been in Moammar Gadhafi's army returned home from Libya with their weapons.

CHEICK ODIBO DIARRA, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF MALI: We have very sophisticated weapons from the Libyan army that were smuggled into the Malian desert by groups. And they have now taken a foothold and don't want to let go. And it is so -- those weapons are so, so sophisticated that the Malian army really doesn't stand a chance to be able to fight against them.

ELBAGIR: But it wasn't just the Tuareg who saw an opportunity. The al Qaeda linked militant group (inaudible) quickly partnered itself with the Tuareg and established harsh Islamic rule in parts of northern Mali. They also destroyed ancient Sufi shrines deemed heretic.

But as they grew more extreme in their implementation of Shari law, they fell out with the Tuaregs who eventually left the radicals to run cities like Timbuktu and Gao.

Already, the fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of desperately poor Malians and aid groups say thousands more are already on the move.

The battle for Mali may have begun, but it's far from being won.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Nairobi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: France says intervention in Mali was necessary to prevent the creation of a terrorist state that would threaten Africa and then even Europe. And we're going to get more from Thierry Arnaud. He's senior correspondent at CNN affiliate BFM TV. Thanks so much for joining us.

So why is France getting so involved in this? Why is it important to France?

THIERRY ARNAUD, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, BFM TV: For two reasons. The first one is of course that the threat was imminent. They thought that it was a matter of days before those extremists who were heading south pretty quickly would be in a position to take over the capital Bamako and throughout the current regime of transitional president Traore.

And the other reason is they felt pretty much that France was the only country around with the military capabilities to intervene efficiently.

FOSTER: And what's it say about Hollande?

ARNAUD: Sorry?

FOSTER: What does it say about Hollande and his foreign policy?

ARNAUD: Well, it's quite interesting. For the first time these past few days, Francois Hollande has appeared to the French people as their commander-in-chief. It's not the first war he has to deal with, of course, but Afghanistan is a conflict that he inherited and he fulfilled his promise to take out all the fighting forces.

What we've seen so far is a president that has been sober but very determined as well. And as a result what one who has enjoyed widespread support both politically, their is a strong support across the board, and so far from a pretty wide majority of the French people as well. A poll has been published today whereby about 63 of the French people were supporting the French force's actions in Mali so far.

FOSTER: It's interesting, isn't it, because France like many European countries is in a state of economic -- well, there are economic problems, of course. And a lot of lot things are becoming unaffordable and France the economy is suffering. And these efforts are very, very expensive, aren't they?

So how is he managing to win this campaign to convince people that this is a necessary conflict?

ARNAUD: Well, I think it's too early to say that he's won this campaign. Obviously the matter of cost is going to come up the more we go into this. And it's important to say at this stage that it is for France an open-ended commitment. It's impossible to put a date on it. And today the French foreign minister has said it was at least a matter of weeks -- of weeks before we're in a position to get out. So what that means is we're talking tens of millions, potentially hundreds of millions of euros before this is over and done with.

Of course, the economic cost is not the only one, there's a sort of matter of how many soldiers in France, from France might get killed during the operation. So far, only one in Mali, a French helicopter pilots from the special forces has been killed by the enemy. But if there were to be many more of victims, of course it would be -- it would be much more difficult for Francois Hollande to sustain politically for a long time.

FOSTER: OK. Thierry Arnaud, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for joining us.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, he's Italy's comeback kind, but Berlusconi's bunga bunga woes just won't go away. Details from the court room coming up.

Cubans are lining up to get a passport. Where exactly can they go? We'll be live in Havana a little later in the show.

And incredible images from the largest gathering on earth. All that and much more when Connect the World continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Max Foster. Welcome back to you.

Now U.S. President Barack Obama says America is not a deadbeat nation and needs to pay the debts it has already racked up. In the final news conference of his first term in office, the president warned of downgrades, default, and global financial disaster if congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling.

Mr. Obama said failure to do so would put the U.S. on the edge of recession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be a self- inflicted wound on the economy. It would slow down our growth, might tip us into recession, and ironically would probably increase our deficit. So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills is irresponsible. It's absurd. As the speaker said two years ago, it would be, and I'm quote Speaker Boehner now, a financial disaster not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, it's one month since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 people dead, including 20 children. U.S. vice president Joe Biden is scheduled to release the recommendations of his federal task force on gun violence within 24 hours. Earlier, President Barack Obama spoke about the deeply divisive issue at a White House news conference.

Let's get more now from Dan Lothian. He's in Washington. And Dan how did he expect to deal with this?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is a controversial issue every time there is a mass shooting that occurs here in the United States there's always a lot of pressure on lawmakers and certainly on the White House to act. This one, in particular, there has been a lot of pressure on lawmakers to take some kind of action. But the question is what will be done? And you've heard a lot of talk about reinstating the assault weapons ban. The president today reaffirming that he still supports this even though it's a very steep climb up on Capitol Hill. But nonetheless the president thinking that this is something that can help.

He also says that he's willing to go it alone on some other issues. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, I think for example how we are gathering data, for example, on guns that fall into the hands of criminals and how we track that more effectively. There may be some steps that we can take administratively as opposed to through legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Now, Vice President Biden has met with a number of groups from the NRA to religious groups to those in the entertainment industry. Today, he met with some House Democratic leadership, part of a task force put together by the minority leader in the House. And it was a chance for him to sort of lay out for them some of the things, these recommendations that he has been getting from these various groups.

He also had a meeting here at the White House with the president. President Obama saying that he plans on later in the week to sort of lay out an outline as to what his administration will do going forward, but he plans to be very aggressive -- Max.

FOSTER: And he talked about his first term record making him pretty hard to argue that any, somehow, gun owners have their rights infringed. He's talking about how his record somehow shows he's authentic on this issue. Is that going to be convincing, though, to those people who oppose it?

LOTHIAN: You know, it's unclear whether that will be convincing. There is a lot of concern, especially when the president, this administration, started talking about using executive orders to curb gun violence, that this somehow will put their second amendment rights at risk. And I think no matter what it is that this administration does or says there will always be that skepticism out there.

And so we'll have to wait and see. I mean, the president wants to push this forward in a bipartisan way, but he doesn't believe that all of this can be done through congress, that he has to do some of this alone.

But I think, again, a lot of suspicion out there across the country.

FOSTER: And just explain, Dan, for international viewers, why Republicans struggle to give anything away on this issue, a lot of Republicans at least, even if there are rational reasons of concern why they can't give anything away to the people that are voting for them?

LOTHIAN: Well, I mean, there are a lot of gun owners out there who are very concerned when the government starts telling them what kind of weapons they cannot have. And a lot of Republicans, these are their constituents. And so they're concerned about this. And you've seen -- I mean, in recent days you've seen long lines at gun stores where people were buying weapons, they said, just in case they cannot purchase them in the future.

And so they understand that there is a strong sentiment out there, there are these strong feelings. And that puts a lot of pressure on what they do.

FOSTER: Dan Lothian, thank you very much indeed.

Here's a look at some other stories that are making news this hour. It was the moment everyone in the Italian court room had been waiting for, the exotic dancer known as Ruby the Heartstealer appeared in a case involving former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Ben Wedeman in Milan has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The star witness in the Silvio Berlusconi sex case Karima El-Mahroug, otherwise known as Ruby Rubikori (ph), or Italian for Ruby the Heartstealer, showed up at court, there were lots of journalists waiting for her, but she never took the stand. The defense team for whom she is a witness said they don't need her to testify. The judge told her that she could go. The prosecution says that they will use a deposition given by her in 2010 in this case.

Now the defense wanted to have the entire trial postponed until after the elections that are taking place here at the end of February. The judge said no, the trial must go ahead. No matter what the outcome, however, it's going to certainly complicate Silvio Berlusconi's attempt to return to power here in Italy.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Milan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Residents of Beijing have been told to stay indoors to avoid breathing in toxic air. The city has been buried under a thick blanket of smog the past few days with pollution at dangerous levels. State media reports breathing problems and the purchase of masks were on the rise. They've urged the government to take immediate action to curb emissions.

St. James Palace has just six months now to prepare for the newest arrival, the royal baby. The Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth in July. The royal couple's first child will be third in line for the British throne behind Prince Charles and Prince William. No news yet on whether they're expecting a boy or a girl.

We turn to the war in Afghanistan and what the U.S. footprint will look like once NATO forces leave at the end of next year. President Barack Obama has said American troops will maintain a very limited role in training Afghan forces. But exactly what that means is unclear.

In an exclusive interview, CNN's Christiane Amanpour asked the Afghan president for his interpretation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you envision after 2014 there being no troops, no U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: No, I don't envision that. The United States would need to have a limited number of forces in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: How many is limited in your mind.

KARZAI: Well, we -- it's not for us to decide. It's for the United States to decide what number of troops they will be keeping in Afghanistan, what strength of (inaudible) troops will have in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, viewers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America can watch Christiane Amanpour's exclusive interview at the top of the hour 10:00 in London, 11:00 in Berlin.

You're watching Connect the World live from London. Still to come tonight, Lance Armstrong apologizes to the cancer foundation that he started ahead of an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Welcome back. I'm Max Foster.

After 10 -- after years, rather, of denying he used performance enhancing drugs, disgraced cyclist legend Lance Armstrong was scheduled to sit down with talk show queen Oprah Winfrey today. It's his first interview since he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and is scheduled to air on Thursday. Ahead of that, Armstrong spoke to the staff of his charity that he launched, Live Strong.

Now for more on what he said, Ed Lavandera is in Dallas, Texas.

And Ed, he's apologized, but for what exactly?

ED LAVENDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's not exactly clear. He -- from what we've been told by people who have been -- were at that meeting today which took place in Austin, Texas, Lance Armstrong met with the staff of Live Strong for about 15 to 20 minutes and apologized to what his reputation has put everyone through at that organization, but he didn't talk about or admit to using steroids or performance enhancing drugs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's a script that would make a Hollywood writer jealous. Cycling athlete gets cancer, nearly dies, but heroically comes back to win the world's most famous race, not once, not twice, but a record-breaking seven straight times. Oh, and, by the way, he also starts a cancer foundation which has raised $470 million, and has provided inspiration to millions around the world.

But a dark cloud hovering over this story never blew past. Suspicions that grew into allegations that Lance Armstrong used performance- enhancing drugs to accomplish his incredible feats. The suspicions were confirmed in October when the United States Anti-Doping Agency released thousand of pages of evidence of what it said was a sophisticated doping program.

Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned from all Olympic sports for life. One by one, his sponsors have left him too. Late last year, Armstrong was forced out from Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded.

Armstrong has kept a low profile at his Austin home since the report was released. But Armstrong's repeated denials other the years to protect his name have angered many.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, FORMER CYCLING CHAMPION: I've said it for seven years. I've said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped. I can say it again. But I've said it for seven years. It doesn't help.

LAVANDERA: Former teammates found guilty of doping themselves went on record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see Lance Armstrong using other performance enhance drugs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At times, yes, different training camps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took what we all took. Really no difference between Lance Armstrong and I'd say the majority of the Peloton, you know?

LAVANDERA: Repercussions. So why is he doing this now? One reason could be hope a confession might give him a shot at resuming his competitive triathlon career, for which he is banned for life. At age 41, he doesn't have much time left to make a clean start in another sport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Max, I'm also told during that meeting today at the Live Strong Foundation headquarters in Austin Lance Armstrong was tearful, but as I mentioned off the top he did not admit in that setting to using performance enhancing drugs -- Max.

FOSTER: He's obviously worth a lot of money, Ed. What does this mean in terms of the legal battles that may lie ahead. If he admits that he did take drugs, he's going to have all sorts of cases opening up against him, isn't he?

LAVANDERA: Yeah, well this is a delicate area full of pitfalls, because there are still some outstanding legal issues that Lance Armstrong has to navigate, one of them being is that he is named as a defendant in a federal whistleblower law suit that has been brought by a former teammate Floyd Landis, basically it has to do with defrauding the U.S. Postal Service, which was one of the main sponsors for Lance Armstrong's cycling teams during his days racing the Tour de France. And there's also the Sunday Times in London where there was a libel lawsuit between Lance Armstrong and that newspaper. Lance Armstrong got some money from the paper. Now the paper wants its money back. So there are also those issues as well.

As well as other sponsors who paid out bonuses to Lance Armstrong for having won so many titles. And a lot of those people have already said they will be watching this interview closely to see if there's any way they can get that money back as well.

So a great deal at stake for the former Tour de France cyclist.

FOSTER: And we don't even seen the interview yet. Look forward to seeing it. Thank you very much, Ed.

You are watching CNN. The latest world headlines just ahead. Plus, for the first time in nearly half a century Cubans are free to travel abroad. We'll have all the details coming up after the break.

And imagine escaping Syria's civil war only to be faced with a new deadly enemy. We'll look at efforts to help Syria's refugees survive winter.

And a big deal on and off the golf course, Nike snaps up a new star. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: I'm Max Foster in London, these are the latest world news headlines from CNN.

Islamist rebels in Mali are seizing more ground despite a government counteroffensive supported by French airstrikes. Rebels today overran the town of Diabaly, just 300 kilometers from the capital of Bamako.

Livestrong has confirmed to CNN that its founder, Lance Armstrong, has apologized to the charity's staff. It came ahead of an interview with Oprah Winfrey. There's rumors that in that interview the disgraced cyclist may admit to doping.

US president Barack Obama is talking tough. In the final news conference of his first term in office, he warned of downgrades, defaults, and possible global financial disaster if Congress doesn't raise the US debt ceiling. Mr. Obama says failure to do so would put the US on the edge of recession.

In Italy, the exotic dancer at the center of a sex case involving Silvio Berlusconi appeared in court on Monday. Karima El Mahroug was not called to testify, however. Nicknamed "Ruby the Heart Stealer," prosecutors say the former prime minister paid her for sex when she was 17, though both say they were never together.

Change has come to Cuba. Starting today, Cuban citizens will be able to travel abroad without government permission. They'll no longer need an exit permit or an invitation from someone overseas. All they'll need is a passport. CNN's Patrick Oppmann has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the US diplomatic mission in Havana, you can almost always find long lines of people waiting in the hot sun. Cubans hoping to travel abroad need endless patience.

Since Fidel Castro took power over 50 years ago, the process for Cubans hoping to leave, even temporarily, has been complicated and expensive. Confronted with so much red tape, many turn to black humor.

Few people call this park in Havana by its real name. Instead, they refer to it as the Park Between Life and Death because on one side is a funeral parlor and on the other, the United States intersection.

But the government of Fidel's brother, Raul Castro, in October announced changes to Cuban laws that could finally mean a greater freedom to travel. The laws would mean Cubans would no longer need a government exit visa each time they leave the island or an invitation from someone in that country. Just a passport.

Sports stars, doctors, and military officials still face restrictions because of their value to Cuban society. But most Cubans now will be able to stay abroad for up to two years without losing the right to return, and for the first time can take young children with them. Reforms that were welcomed outside this Havana immigration office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is good. They should have done it years ago, but at least now things will be easier, I suppose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I sincerely think Raul is doing things better than his brother, but they left him a lot of problems to fix.

OPPMANN: Cubans will still need visas from many countries they would travel to, including the United States. A US State Department spokeswoman said officials are reserving judgment on the new law.

VICTORIA NULAND, SPOKESWOMAN, US STATE DEPARTMENT: We obviously welcome any reforms that will allow Cubans to depart from and return to their country freely. We remain committed to the migration accords under which our two countries support and promote safe, legal, and orderly migration.

OPPMANN: But for many leaving Cuba over the last 50 years, the journey was anything but safe, legal, and orderly. In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, thousands took to the seas, sometimes in makeshift boats, sometimes losing their lives to the journey.

Cuban officials say the lifting of the restrictions will not lead to another exodus. In 2008, Cuba's National Assembly head told students who complained of the country's restrictive travel laws that they wouldn't much like the world beyond Cuba's shores.

RICARDO ALARCON, PRESIDENT, CUBAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (through translator): I wish all the Cubans can go out and get to know the world outside. I think it would be the end of the ideological battle in this country.

OPPMANN: Starting soon, many more Cubans may finally get to decide for themselves.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: As you heard there, Cubans will still need a visa for many countries they wish to go to, including the United States. The fact -- in fact, there's just a handful of countries in the world where Cubans can actually travel visa-free.

Many of these countries, like Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Slovakia, have Soviet-era ties to Cuba. There's also Malaysia. Havana has maintained diplomatic ties with the Pacific islands for more than 30 years. And nearby Caribbean islands like Barbados allow for easy travel.

But for the rest of the world, it's not so simple. In fact, the US issues around 20,000 resident visas per year to Cubans. It handles tourist visas on a case-by-case basis.

Or take Canada, requires Cubans to have an approved letter of invitation, proof that the visitor can cover all their costs, and at least a three-month waiting period. Spain requires a visa for entry but says there are around 200,000 Cubans who have rights to apply for a Spanish passport.

Now, whilst these travel reforms are being welcomed by many, some still argue they don't go far enough. Joining me now is Cuban blogger and government critic Orlando Pardo. Orlando's work has previously been censored, and he told CNN he's spent time in a Cuban jail. Orlando, we appreciate your time with us. So, you're taking a stand against these travel reforms, but explain why.

ORLANDO LUIS PARDO LAZO, CUBAN BLOGGER AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Thank you very much, Max.

FOSTER: Orlando, if you could just explain why you're against these reforms, which some see as progress. Just explain why you don't think they are a huge amount of progress.

PARDO: This reform, this migratory reform definitely implies some progress because the situation in migratory rights and the right of freely electing where to live, where -- to travel to another country and come back to Cuba, the situation was really very bad for the regular Cuban citizen.

But also especially for the human rights activists and political dissidents, which in many, many occasions were denied their human right to travel to another country, let's say, to receive a prize or to attend a conference, and then come back to their country.

(AUDIO GAP)

PARDO: Now, today we have news that some human rights, proactive democratic activists, like the famous blogger, Yoani Sanchez, have received notice from the government that their passport will be in rule in at most two weeks, and so it seems that for the first time, she will be able to travel abroad to attend the different compromises that she has.

And let's hope that the rest of the civil society in Cuba can finally enjoy this right that should have never been denied to our people.

FOSTER: But there are some grounds on which the government can deny these visas, aren't there? One of them is due to "other reasons of public interest." Are you concerned about the more subjective way in which the government can object to visas?

PARDO: Yes, definitely. The government and especially the minister of interior is somehow reserving the right to punish the citizens that do not behave politically correct. Let's say if you obtain a passport, you travel abroad to different universities, you give conferences or maybe you're a writer, like myself.

And in these conferences and interviews, you have a critical opinion against the official policies. It's likely that in the next term, the next two years, your passport -- sorry -- maybe will not be renewed.

So, there's still a sword hanging above our heads, and the Cuban citizens are not completely free in terms of traveling outside and inside of Cuba. Not to mention, the situation of the Cuban exiles, which cannot live permanently in our country, therefore they are really exiled. Maybe not political exiles, but definitely they are not favored as Cuban citizens.

And we can say the same regarding the Cuban citizens living in Cuba that travel outside, we cannot reside freely more than two years, in all cases, paying high quotes to the Cuban government.

FOSTER: OK, Orlando Pardo, we really appreciate your time. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Well, CNN has repeatedly asked a Cuban government representative to come on air and tell us about the changes they're making to immigration and travel laws, but so far, no one has been available to speak to us.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, 57 nations want the UN to demand a war crimes investigation into the Syrian conflict. That's next on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: To Syria, now, and a day of punishing air attacks on the suburbs of Damascus as the government tries to drive rebels away from the capital. This video is said to show the town area moments after the regime's bombing. The opposition says at least 30 people were killed, including children.

A humanitarian group, the International Rescue Committee, says the Syrian civil war has triggered a staggering humanitarian disaster. CNN is working to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees. They may no longer be on the front lines of the civil war, but their suffering goes on.

Now, rescue could come from thousands of miles away in England. Senior international correspondent Dan Rivers explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've escaped the fighting, but now they're facing another deadly enemy: the weather. In the desert of northern Iraq, a highly unusual snowstorm. The lucky ones have insulated tents from British charity Shelterbox, freighted 4,000 kilometers from the remote British seaside county of Cornwall, the unlikely home for Shelterbox's worldwide operation.

In their warehouse, another 224 boxes of aid, packed by volunteers, freighted to Syria's refugee-swollen borders. This lot is heading to Lebanon. Inside each, a tent, blankets, lights, groundsheets, cooking gear, and something to put a smile on a young face.

Shelterbox's Ross Preston says rumors of chemical weapons attacks have panicked more Syrians into leaving their homeland since Christmas.

ROSS PRESTON, SHELTERBOX: Perception is reality, and if that's perceived to be happening amongst the populace, then we will see a marked increase in people leaving the country. And of course, that impacts the receiving nations, and it impacts on our effort, as well.

RIVERS: Shelterbox isn't the only British aid agency responding. The British government's the second-biggest donor to UN relief efforts, having given more than $100 million so far.

WILLIAM HAGUE, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Honorable members will have seen images of Syrian refugees struggling with the rain and cold in refugee camps across the region. The latest 15 million pounds of funding will be used to provide food, clean water, blankets, and shelter to help Syrians cope with the misery of these winter months.

RIVERS: Shelterbox readies its field offices for those cold conditions on this windswept Cornish airfield.

RIVERS (on camera): The wet Cornish winter is perfect for preparing staff who'll be putting up these tens on the Syrian border. They can spend up to nine days camping out here in West Cornwall to get an idea of what it's like.

And you can see, these tents have been winterized, this aluminum floor level providing extra insulation, up to ten degrees of extra warmth. And when you realize there can be up to 20 people inside, these tents can get really pretty cozy, protecting them -- vital protection -- from the freezing conditions outside.

RIVERS (voice-over): The next batch of aid is already on a lorry due to be airlifted Sunday to tens of thousands of refugees camping out in the snow. For them, the tents can't come soon enough.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Helston, England.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, a film about an iconic American president gets the presidential treatment at the Golden Globes. Up next, a look at how Lincoln may be the role of Daniel Day-Lewis's career.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are now teammates, in a way. Don Riddell joins us now to talk about McIlroy's newest deal, and one that should make his accountant, Don, very happy, indeed.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I would think so, Max. We don't know exactly how much Rory McIlroy's being paid for this new deal he's got with Nike, which was announced in Abu Dhabi on Monday, but it's thought to be in the region of some $200 million.

We did a few maths in the office earlier. We reckon he's probably about $50,000 a day better off than he was yesterday. Of course, he's the same young man as he always was. He remains the world number one, he remains one of the most exciting young golfers on the planet. That's why Nike have partnered up with him.

But of course, a few things will be different when he plays in the HSBC championship tournament in Abu Dhabi this week, and that is, of course, that he's going to have a new set of golf clubs.

He will no longer be using the Titleist clubs that he's had with him throughout his career to date. He'll be using new Nike clubs. He, of course, doesn't think that's too big a problem. He's a very natural and gifted golfer, so I'm sure he'll have no problem adjusting.

But perhaps one of the biggest adjustments is going to be this new expectation and new pressure that will be applied upon him because of this deal. But McIlroy doesn't think that's a problem, either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RORY MCILROY, 2012 PGA TOUR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: I've always said that the most pressure I feel is the pressure that I put on myself, and I know if I live up to my own expectations, then I'll more than live up to everyone else's. So, I just want to play as well as I can and hopefully that translates into tournament wins and, ultimately, more Major wins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIDDELL: When he was a younger golfer, Max, McIlroy really looked up to Tiger Woods. He was a big inspiration to him. And of course, now, they're kind of teammates in a way. They both are Nike ambassadors, and they've also starred in a new commercial, which was released today, which is rather entertaining.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - NIKE TELEVISION COMMERCIAL)

TIGER WOODS, 14-TIME MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER: Ah. Someone wants to play.

MCILROY: Just trying to keep up with the old guy, you know?

WOODS: Dude, is that your real hair?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

RIDDELL: No cup is safe in this commercial, Max. The two star golfers are side-by-side on the driving range trying to out-do each other with the most audacious kind of shots they can play, both trying to hit them into various cups and bowls in restaurants, much to the surprise of everybody around them. Very, very entertainment to watch.

And the two golfers will be playing this week together in Abu Dhabi at the Abu Dhabi championship. Interesting to see who comes out on top. But there's no doubt that McIlroy is seen as the bright young future of the game, and Nike have certainly put their hands in their pockets to support that theory.

FOSTER: Yes, unbelievable figures. Great ad as well. Don, thank you very much, indeed.

Now, two US presidents, several brilliant Brits, and Hollywood's best an brightest did more than rock a red carpet last night. They put on a show to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Golden Globes, the big kickoff, really, to awards season.

As well as honoring heart and soul performances, the Hollywood's foreign press association blew an air kiss to TV viewers and threw a real party as well. CNN's Nischelle Turner was there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: "It's getting sloppy in here, everybody. Look at how drunk Glenn Close is.

(LAUGHTER)

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Golden Globes are usually one big, irreverent party, and co-hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey kept the zingers coming for the ceremony's 70th anniversary.

AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: And Kathryn Bigelow nominated tonight. And when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.

TURNER: The drinks and jokes were flowing, but there were -- you know -- awards to be handed out. And guess who had the best reason to celebrate.

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS: "Argo."

(CROWD CHEERS)

TURNER: The Iran hostage thriller "Argo" earned the night's biggest prize, Best Drama. And director Ben Affleck, who didn't receive an Oscar nomination this year, was a winner as well.

BEN AFFLECK, BEST DIRECTOR, "ARGO": I don't care what the award is. When they put your name next to the names that she just read off, it's an extraordinary thing in your life.

TURNER: "Lincoln's" Daniel Day-Lewis and "Zero Dark Thirty's" Jessica Chastain took the top acting awards, and both saluted their directors, Steven Spielberg and Kathryn Bigelow.

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, BEST DRAMA ACTOR, "LINCOLN": And Steven Spielberg, you've given me an experience that I will treasure until the end of my life.

JESSICA CHASTAIN, BEST DRAMA ACTRESS, "ZERO DARK THIRTY": Kathryn Bigelow, you've done more for women in cinema than you can take credit for.

TURNER: No misery at the "Les Miserables" table. The film won Best Musical or Comedy and earned honors for first-time Globe winner Hugh Jackman and supporting actress Anne Hathaway.

ANNE HATHAWAY, BEST MUSICAL OR COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS, "LES MISERABLES": Thank you for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self-doubt.

TURNER: On the TV side, Showtime's "Homeland" took top drama honors. "Girls" won comedy series, and a best actress Golden Globe for its creator and star, Lena Dunham.

LENA DUNHAM, BEST COMEDEY SERIES ACTRESS, "GIRLS": This award is for every woman who's ever felt like there wasn't a space for her.

TURNER: Speaking of women, Jodie Foster honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Career Achievement Award provided the night's most emotional moment.

JODIE FOSTER, WINNER, CECIL B DEMILLE CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: I will continue to tell stories, but it will be my writing on the wall, and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply, and to be not so very lonely.

TURNER: And former president Bill Clinton surprised everyone when he came out to salute "Lincoln." In the end, they laughed, they cried and, of course, the party continues.

POEHLER: Thank you very much! Good night! We're going home with Jodie Foster!

TURNER: Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: What a night. Well, Steven Spielberg waited seven years for Daniel Day-Lewis to play America's most famous president in his film "Lincoln." It was a lucky seven for everyone involved. CNN's Neil Curry explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAY-LEWIS AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, "LINCOLN": Time stood still to afford us this moment. Now! Now! Now!

NEIL CURRY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By his own admission, it's a role which Daniel Day-Lewis avoided for seven years, yet his performance as the American president in Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln" has proved to be a winner, providing the actor with his second Golden Globe award.

DAY-LEWIS: I really circled it for seven years, I think it was, before I finally heard myself, to my own amazement, say yes, let's try and do this. I think I was really pretty much convinced that I really wasn't the person that he needed to help him tell this story.

DAY-LEWIS AS LINCOLN: Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.

CURRY: After picking up his award, he spoke about his fear of getting the role wrong.

DAY-LEWIS: I cherish my time working here. I've been blessed with wonderful experiences over the years. The last thing I wanted to do was to go down in flames having desecrated the memory of the greatest president in the history of this country.

CURRY: The Golden Globes are voted on by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but in recent days, Day-Lewis's fellow actors have been weighing in with their own views about his performance.

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: Listen, what can you say about that guy? That guy's a -- you know how I knew he was great? That poster? Without even seeing the movie first, it was just a -- for me -- when I saw that, I said, man, it's over. He's incredible.

SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: I thought it was fascinating. If I had to say what I thought Abraham Lincoln was like and I met him in my life, that would be it. It's a fascinating and wonderful performance and it feels more like you're hanging out in a documentary with Lincoln than a feature film.

CURRY: Day-Lewis is renowned for staying in character throughout filming, and director Spielberg joked that he'd only heard the actor's British accent after he'd wrapped on his final scene.

DAY-LEWIS: I talked to Steven a good bit before we started --

(LAUGHTER)

DAY-LEWIS: -- making the film, so it's not like I -- he discovered me ready-made as Abraham Lincoln.

CURRY: Day-Lewis is already regarded by many as one of the finest actors of his generation. And his role in the historical drama "Lincoln" provides a chance for him to create history of his own.

DAY-LEWIS AS LINCOLN: Shall we stop this bleeding?

CURRY: As the only man to receive three Oscars for Best Actor in a leading role.

Neil Curry, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: I'm Max Foster, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. But we leave you with our Parting Shots, a look at some incredible images from the Maha Kumbh Mela festival in India.

(VIDEO CLIP)

END