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CONNECT THE WORLD

Gezi Park Protesters Enjoy Open Air Piano Concert; Smartphone Thefts Up 40 Percent In New York City; Syrian Forces Make Push To Retake Damascus Suburbs

Aired June 13, 2013 - 16:00   ET

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


ZAIN VERJEE, HOST: Pack up and leave, Turkey's prime minister tells protesters he is running out of patience.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FREIDA PINTO, ACTRESS: They want to go to school. They want to be educated. And they want their dreams to be realized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Actress Freida Pinto on why she's lending her voice to a groundbreaking CNN film.

And a jellyfish sting ends a dream for this swimmer. Will anyone make it from Cuba to Florida?

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

VERJEE: Turkey's prime minister says he's going to meet with leaders of the Taksim solidarity platform, that's a coalition of protest groups, that's according to the platform's head. Earlier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan got personal with demonstrators, telling them that they smell. He then ordered them to leave Istanbul's Gezi Park. On Wednesday, he would consider holding a referendum on plans to redevelop the park, but then a day later a fed up prime minister issued what he's calling his final warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We have reached the end of our patience. And I'm making this warning of mine one last time. Come forward mothers, fathers, please claim your children. We cannot wait any longer, because Gezi Park does not belong to occupation forces, Gezi Park belongs to the people of Istanbul and the whole nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: The protest kicked off two weeks ago of a government plan to develop Gezi Park. In the center of Istanbul, the Turkish capital's last major piece of green space.

But a police crackdown has prompted wider unrest right across the country. Like the protesters in Taksim Square, CNN's Arwa Damon was tear gassed on Tuesday. She joins us now live.

Arwa, if that's Erdogan's final warning, what is he planning on doing if the protesters insist on staying in spite of their smell?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDEN: Well, at this point in time, there are no decisions being made by any of the protest group to actually leave the park. But before we get into that, Zain.

You know what you were talking, about the violence that has transpired here, I want to just pause and let you take in this absolutely surreal scene happening now in Taksim Square.

This live piano concert has been going on for hours now. There have been a number of different players. People here cheering them on. The riot police off to one side listening, taking it all in as well.

I was speaking with a number of the people that have attended here, and they keep talking about how it gives them chills to think about everything that has been through, because of what Taksim actually means for the residents of Istanbul, for the residents of Turkey, how historic and cultural it is.

This is an entire area that is really a lot of people's favorite place to hang out on normal times. It is an area where as we know only too well more recently there have been those clashes with the riot police, an area where people have been tear gassed. And now as they're here enjoying this live open air concert -- when the songs that we heard was actually a very well known Turkish song that is all about love for one's country.

So at this point in time, the dynamics are so incredibly different. But again as these protests have been unfolding and continuing throughout, we've also seen them ebb and flow. And a lot of people are going to be waiting to see what actually comes out of that meeting between these various protest leaders and the prime minister himself, Zain.

VERJEE: Well, they may be hitting the right notes with that grand piano there, Arwa, but Erdogan certainly isn't with the protesters. How politically vulnerable is he?

DAMON: Look, a lot of people were talking to -- even though we are hearing chants about the resignation of the government, a lot of people are saying that this is not a movement to topple the government, this is really a movement, a demonstration that has taken on a life of its own, because of so many underlying issues and frustrations that a good portion of the population has with the way that the prime minister's government has been ruling this country for the last 10 years, Zain.

And the issues are incredibly far ranging. There are issues with minority groups, with freedom of the press. There are also great issues that have really been brought to the forefront more recently with women's rights, for example. The government at one point trying to pass legislation that would restrict access to abortions. It would also put limitations on abortions. There have also been various other issues such as a law that would restrict the sale of alcohol in grocery stores from 10:00 to 6:00 am.

Behind where the piano is being played down the street there, that is called (inaudible). It is another vibrant hub of Istanbul. There are a lot of side streets that run off. It really has very lively street culture to it, a lot of the bars, cafes there, have their -- or used to have their tables out in the street. There was legislation passed that was restricting that as well.

And this is just to name a few of the issues that people have. But by and large, the main underlying core of all of this is they do feel as if this government is becoming increasingly authoritarian, is infringing on their very basic rights and freedoms that they have enjoyed for so long, Zain.

VERJEE: CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon reporting from Istanbul amid some great notes and singing and music that we're hearing there and a slightly lighter mood in Taksim Square. Thanks Arwa.

Moody's is cautioning Turkey about its economy and the ongoing protests. The ratings agency says this, quote, "these political disturbances become increasingly credit negative the more they intensify and the longer they continue."

Turkey's finance minister spoke to CNN just a short while ago. Mehmet Simsek talked about the unrest and its potential impact on the country's tourism industry and the wider economy. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEHMET SIMSEK, TURKISH FINANCE MINISTER: The fallout for the real economy has been insignificant. But if it is sustained, clearly, yes, it is negative. The implications for tourism is negative. But Turkey's tourist industry is stress tested. We've seen in the past events like these or geopolitical risks have had some temporary impact, but no lasting impact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Right now, I'm joined by Fadi Hakura, the manager of the Turkey project at the London based think tank Chatham House.

Thanks so much for being with us.

What kind of economic impact is Turkey -- what's happening in Turkey going to have for the rest of the region?

FADI HAKURA, FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: I think that the continued protests will have a short-term impact in terms of damaging Turkey's image for tourists. It will also in terms of credit. But overall, I think, what's the danger of what's going on in Turkey is that the really author -- really uncompromising style of leadership that we see with the prime minister now vis-a-vis the demonstrators might be now -- might spill over into economic policymaking. And that will be very, very dangerous for Turkey.

VERJEE: How justified are the grievances again Erdogan that many of the protesters have?

HAKURA: I think that there are genuine grievances and legitimate. It's not only about trees in Gezi Park adjoining Taksim Square, but it's also about recent restrictions, tough restrictions on the sale and consumption and promotion of alcohol over the fact that some very restrictive policies have been adopted towards abortion services, cesarean births. And some of also -- some religious language that we have seen come from the prime minister and the government.

VERJEE: I just want to show a map of the region and just explain to our viewers the importance of Turkey geopolitically, just physically where it sits in this part of the world.

HAKURA: Turkey is extremely important. Turkey is -- Turkey is at the center of east and west. It has -- it shares borders with Syrian, Iran, and Iraq with some of the most volatile regions of the world. It's next to around 75 percent of the world's energy resources, so it's an extremely important country, the strategic location, and has the second largest army in NATO.

VERJEE: What about the level of international influence that Turkey exercises and enjoys on the international stage?

HAKURA: Turkey enjoys influence, given its strategic geography, that it has the second largest army in NATO. The fact that also it's a candidate country to join the European Union. And now that it's becoming more and more integrated into the economy and the politics of the Middle East.

VERJEE: Do you see this as a Turkish spring like we've seen in other parts of the Arab world? The government in Turkey dislikes being that analogy being used for obvious reasons, but how do you see these protests and whether they could escalate into that or not.

HAKURA: I think that these protests are more like Occupy Wall Street, or Occupy London than the Arab spring say in Egypt and Tunisia, simply because the prime minister of Turkey was democratically elected in the last general elections in 2011, receiving almost half the national vote. Also, Turkey has been a functioning democracy since 1950. Whereas in Egypt and Tunisia, what we have seen were demonstrators to remove unelected leaders in those countries.

VERJEE: Is this going to escalate, then? I mean, how do you see this playing out. And how can it be contained?

HAKURA: I think it very much depends on the prime minister. What you are seeing from the prime minister is open defiance, uncompromising language. And I think that if he continues on those lines, and it looks like he is going to continue, then it is likely to escalate further.

VERJEE: Fadi Hakura, the manager of the Turkey project at the London based think tank Chatham House. Great to see you. Thank you.

Live from London, you're watching Connect the World.

Coming up, we're going to take you live to Damascus, where government forces seem to be regaining the upper hand.

Campaigning wraps up as Iranians get ready to head to the polls to choose their next president.

And hours into an epic journey, only 11 hours, a jelly fish ruins the day. More on the brave swimmer who took on one of the world's toughest swims when Connect the World continues.

This is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERJEE: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me, Zain Verjee. Hi, welcome back.

There has been a staggering loss of life in Syria. The UN now says the civil war has killed almost 93,000 people with Syrians dying at the rate of 5,000 a month. That's the official tally. The actual number of casualties is thought to be much higher. That figure looks set to rise as fierce fighting continues. There's been a new outburst of violence in a contested neighborhood of Damascus.

Fred Pleitgen is there. And he gave us this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Syrian government forces are almost always in action on the front line in Damascus. This is Jobar (ph), the closest the rebels have gotten to the center of the Syrian capital. But now Assad's forces say they believe the tide is turning.

"We've gone into Jobar (ph) several times and captured many rebel fighters," this soldier says. "Things are getting better all the time."

"There are a lot of snipers, and they get weapons through tunnels," this one adds. "But we are doing our best to stop them."

Syrian soldiers don't usually talk to media, but bolstered by recent advances, these men were willing to speak openly.

Government troops believe they have rebels cornered in pockets around Damascus. In Jobar (ph), the army uses heavy artillery on a daily basis to keep the opposition in check and to pound them ahead of a possible assault on the district.

Soldiers check everyone trying to enter the no man's land around Jobar (ph).

(on camera): This is far as the military is going to let us go, that's because it's too dangerous to go down that direction. The front line is only, let's say about 100 yards down that way. And that area is full of snipers.

Another reason for the new found confidence among Assad's forces, recent gains the army has made in central and northern Syria. After the military, backed by Hezbollah fighters, took the strategically important town of al Qusayr, and seems to be moving on Syria's largest city Aleppo, many in Damascus feel the government is winning.

"We have very high spirits," he says. "We know we are ready to fight the Islamists until the end. We will fight night and day to end this our way."

But Jobar (ph) has been in rebel hands for months now. The Syrian army has had a hard time taking back other districts and suburbs in the capital. Even with confidence and momentum at a high, it's clear opposition forces will not give up the territory they hold without a major fight.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Damascus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: And explosion and fire in the U.S. state of Louisiana has left at least one person dead. Authorities say at least 73 others have been taken to hospitals after a chemical plant blew up sending thick smoke over the community over Ascension Parish. People as far as two miles away have been asked to stay inside mainly because of potentially toxic fumes. Rescue crews say that the fire is now a controlled burn.

FBI director Robert Mueller says the U.S. is doing everything it can to prosecute surveillance leaker Edward Snowden who has believed to be hiding in Hong Kong. Mueller appeared at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: As to the individual who has admitted making these disclosures, he is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. These disclosures have caused significant harm to our nation and to our safety. We're taking all necessary steps to hold the person responsible for these disclosures.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Billionaire business tycoon Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from his wife of 14 years, Wendi Deng. The News Corps chairman submitted papers to a New York court a little bit earlier. A spokesman says their marriage has been irretrievably broken for months. This is going to be the third divorce for the 82-year-old Murdoch.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new exhibit at the famous Auschwitz concentration camp. The exhibit focuses on Jewish life before World War II. It also includes the names of 4.2 million people killed in the holocaust.

The Duchess of Cambridge named a cruise ship on Thursday in a solo engagement. This one is expected to be her very last one until the baby is due next month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE MIDDLETON, DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE: I name the ship Royal Princess. May god bless her and all who sail in her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Successfully smashed.

After the ceremony, Catherine was given a tour of the Royal Princess cruise liner. I can hold 3,600 passengers. And it boasts the largest pastry store to be found at sea. Now everyone needs one of those out there at sea.

The ship was built for Princess Cruises. It's a part of the Carnival corporation. And it's going to embark on its maiden voyage on Sunday.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, why apple picking is getting out of control, and I'm not talking about the fruit.

And later on, a real life hero, a firefighter risks his life to rescue a baby bear.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERJEE: Hi, you're watching Connect the World live from London.

Welcome back, I'm Zain Verjee.

U.S. prosecutors say an epidemic of smartphone crime is sweeping across the country. They've been meeting with four of the largest players in the phone industry to try and come up with solutions. We'll have more on those talks in just a moment, but first phone theft has become so bad in some cities, police have come up with a nickname for it. Samuel Burke takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORREPSONDENT: For all of us with mobile devices, these are chilling scenes -- thieves prying a smartphone from a woman's hands in the subway and grabbing a smartphone in broad daylight on the street. It's all part of a growing crime epidemic. Smartphone theft now accounts for an astounding one in three robberies across the United States.

Police even have a name for it, Apple picking.

CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: These devices are being taken point of gun. They're being taken after serious assaults. So this is no small crime.

BURKE: New York City last year saw 40 percent increase in mobile thefts. And studies indicate the 40 percent of robberies across major U.S. cities involve mobile devices.

The big challenge, to take the incentive out of stealing these costly gadgets.

JULIANNE PEPITONE, WRITER, CNNMONEY: A lot of the problem is that it's relatively easy for a thief to just swipe a phone. And once they have the device, they know that there's a resell value of several hundred dollars.

BURKE: Until recently, there has been little reason for smartphone makers and wireless carries to improve security. After all, if a phone is stolen, you've got to buy a new one. But officials like New York congressman Eliot Engel are turning up the heat. His bill would force wireless firms to immediately cut off service to stolen phones.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL, (D) NEW YORK: What I've gotten from the providers so far is not outright hostility, it's more or less ambivalence. I think they should be leading the charge in order to prevent people from making money by stealing phones.

BURKE: Carriers point out they help set up a U.S. database to track stolen phones and shut them down. And just this week, Apple unveiled a so- called kill switch that would deactivate an iPhone completely the way you would a stolen credit card.

CRAIG FEDERIGHI, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, APPLE: With activation lock, if a thief tries to turn off Find My iPhone or if they even wipe the device entirely, they will not be able to reactivate it, because they don't know your iCloud user name and password.

BURKE: It remains to be seen whether hackers can get around Apple's newest security measure, or whether anything at all can truly end smartphone theft. But rising crime makes this problem harder for the tech world to ignore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Samuel joins us now from New York.

Hey, Samuel, good to see you. Let's talk a little bit about the security tool, the activation lock. I mean, is it good enough? Does it work?

BURKE: Well, look, they had this summit today, Zain, and the most interesting thing to me is that one of these attorneys said that it doesn't go far enough. They also called for an industry standard by 2014. They said one of these tech companies has to come up with something so innovative that everybody is going to want to use it.

Now earlier in the day, the attorney general of New York told CNN that whichever one of these companies comes up with something fool proof is actually going to reap the financial rewards. Take a listen, Zain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: The first company to come up with a very effective way to make their phones safe, worthless if stole, is going to have a competitive edge. We're going to call attention to it. And we're going to try and make sure everyone follows suit.

This is not a problem we can't solve, this is a problem -- and this is a crime wave that we can prevent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURKE: So that's an interesting proposition, Zain, the smartphone market is so competitive, so maybe people would flock to one of these cellphones if they were more secure than one of the other brands.

VERJEE: And what about the activation lock? I mean, can I just download it onto my iPhone?

BURKE: All you have to do is update to iOS 7. So you just plug it in to iTunes.

But I think what's really interesting here is a lot of people saying it's not full proof. It's not 100 percent. But I don't think they're giving Apple enough credit, Zain. Here, Apple has taken a really great first step. I've talked with Google. And from what I heard from them, they don't have anything planned in the near future to compete with this.

So Google (sic) is really leading the market here. And maybe they will reap the rewards of this new technology. But it's not an application, it's built in right into the new iOS. So I'm sure you're going to be updating, Zain.

VERJEE: I will, because you know what, Samuel. I've had my iPhone stolen three times -- three times. Three brand new ones I had to buy.

BURKE: I believe it. It's not just a problem here in the United States. I know plenty of people there in London who have had their phones robbed. I know friends in Mexico. It's all over the world. When you're walking around with a $500 device in your hand, you're very vulnerable ending up like one of these people.

VERJEE: Maybe it's the friends I keep, Samuel?

BURKE: I don't think so, Zain.

VERJEE: Great to see you.

This is Connect the World with me, Zain Verjee. We'll bring you the latest news headlines just ahead.

Plus, the race is on to choose the man who will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president. We'll bring you all the latest developments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PINTO: I will lead. I will study. I will learn. You try to stop me, I will just try harder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: One of the stars behind a powerful CNN film tells us why she got involved.

And he is known as a macho, macho man. But Mr. Putin's latest stunt shows him in a whole new light. You don't want to miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERJEE: This is Connect the World. The top stories this hour.

A protest leader in Istanbul says Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is going to be meeting with a coalition of demonstrators. The announcement comes after a day of relative calm in Taksim Square. Earlier Thursday, Mr. Erdogan issued what he called his final warning for protesters to leave neighboring Gezi Park.

The United Nations human rights office says the death toll in Syria's civil war has reached nearly 93,000. There are now about 5,000 documented killings every month. A UN official says the actual death toll could be higher.

In half an hour, the White House plans to discuss Syria in an on the record conference call with the media.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma says Nelson Mandela's health is improving still, but his condition is serious. Mr. Zuma visited the anti- apartheid icon Thursday. Mandela, who is 94 years old, is in hospital with a recurring lung infection.

The FBI director says a program who collects American's phone records possibly could have detected a 9/11 hijacker if it had been in place before 2001. Robert Mueller also said that the program is legal and conducted properly. He was speaking to a U.S. House committee as the White House deals with all the criticism of the leaks revealed classified surveillance program.

Iranians will head to the polls on Friday to elect their next president. Now it's going to be the first presidential election since the controversial 2009 polls when opposition candidates alleged that the final vote was rigged to make sure Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected. This year, the campaigning has been a lot more controlled raising questions about voter apathy.

But in the last couple of days, the race is heating up. Erin Burnett reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the final day before everyone's going to cast their votes here in Tehran. And interesting, people are talking about how they're hoping there'll be a high turnout.

A lot of people in this city are very excited about Mayor Ghalibaf. He's actually the mayor of Tehran. One of them is an office worker named Zara.

ZARA, IRANIAN VOTER (through translator): I still haven't thought about it, but in my opinion, I think Ghalibaf.

BURNETT: Now, as evidence of the popularity of the mayor of Tehran, Mayor Ghalibaf here in Tehran, today the law was that all of the election posters had to be taken down. So, you saw them taken down for some of the other candidates, like Jalili and Rouhani, who are running. But there were still signs for Mayor Ghalibaf all around Tehran that we saw today.

One thing I want to note, though. We were in one neighborhood where we talked to some very conservative women and some more liberal voters. And in both cases, they told us they weren't satisfied with the candidates running, and their way of showing their disapproval would be that they're not going to vote at all.

So, it's going to be very interesting to see what the turnout is tomorrow as the world is watching what happens here in Tehran.

Erin Burnett, CNN International.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Let's take a closer look at the candidates. Here are the six candidates that were approved by Iran's Guardian Council, that's the body that vets all the candidates. They want to replace the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who can't run for another term in office.

The most recent polls show that this man, Hassan Rouhani, heading into election day with a slim lead. He's a former nuclear negotiator and he's also got the support of reformists in Iran, including the former presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Rafsanjani.

But for most of the campaign, it's this man, Mohammad Ghalibaf, he's been the frontrunner. He's been the mayor of Tehran for eight years and won a lot of praise for his management style.

And always, with the Iranian elections, there's a little bit of a wild card candidate. This here, that's this man. The current nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who has strong support among the religious conservative base.

And if no candidate manages to get more than 50 percent of the vote on Friday, the top two candidates will go head-to-head in a runoff exactly one week after Friday.

Let's talk a little bit more about these elections in a bit more detail. I'm joined now in the studio by Ali Alizadeh. He's a political scientists that focuses on Iran. Are people excited with this election, or are they a lot more subdued after the last time?

ALI ALIZADEH, IRANIAN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is incomparable with the previous election. Part of the problem is the election has been heavily engineered long before the competition has started.

Not only the memory of 2009 rigging and then the suppression of people on the streets during the protest time is still with people, it's part of our historical consciousness, but in the last month, as well, the state, with disqualifying Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, has shown that they are willing to somehow announce the state of exception whenever they want.

VERJEE: So, when Iranians go out and vote, will their vote matter? In terms of Iran and the policy it takes and the reformist shifts it may want to move in but can't?

ALIZADEH: The problem at the moment still is whether the people are going to appear, whether they have enough incentive to turn up tomorrow or not.

VERJEE: Do they?

ALIZADEH: Depends. The campaign time has been very limited. We usually get lots of energy during the street campaigns. The street campaign this time has been limited to, I think, a few days, right? A month, in comparison with 2009.

But nonetheless, what I'm hearing is the possibility -- but take it as a rumor -- of a snowboarding effect, especially in promises, not in Tehran, behind Mr. Rouhani.

VERJEE: What are some of the factors in this election?

ALIZADEH: Again, everything is very heavily engineered. The three main TV debates between the candidates did not allow them to cross red lines. Nonetheless, questions about how the state has dealt with nuclear negotiations has turned up, and it showed lots of differences and tension between different parts of the state.

VERJEE: Do you think that we're going to see the same kind of social media impact this time around during the Iranian elections even though there's been such a big crackdown that it's unlikely we'll see the protests that we did in 2009? But is there that voice, do you think, that will still emerge?

ALIZADEH: I hope so, but I have to disappoint you. Last time, the protest happened because there was continuous months of campaign and heavy level of hope was accumulated. This time, everything is very much under the skin and would be very difficult for outsiders to read.

But I think that, for example, if the rigging happened again, if the state doesn't -- if the state goes from not reading the votes, people would not come in the streets, because the candidate, Rouhani, is very much close to the offices of Supreme Leader, and he will definitely contain such protests.

VERJEE: Just explain to our viewers who are anticipating the election in Iran tomorrow, just describe the political landscape there today and what the realities are. Not the engineered part that the Supreme Leaders and the ayatollahs may want us to see, but the reality of the political landscape.

ALIZADEH: You mean for people?

VERJEE: Yes.

ALIZADEH: Part of the people, as I said, have somehow been disappointed in general by what happened in 2009. The sanctions have affected the people, of course, as we said before, more than the state.

But nonetheless, they want to use any opportunity, even this tiny, tiny, slim chances, in order to affect the state or at least they may -- to make their voices heard.

That's why the economic issues, I think, are in the front. Political matters and political demands, such as freedom of political prisoners, have been seen, they have been heard as well. But they haven't been in front -- in the front -- in the forefront of people's demands.

VERJEE: And whoever wins has to have the blessing of the ayatollah.

ALIZADEH: That's right. But the question is whether Ayatollah will even afford some of his own people who is slightly further than him, rather than the closest one to him.

VERJEE: Thank you so much, Ali Alizadeh, political scientist on Iran. Thank you very much.

CNN is your destination for full coverage of the Iranian presidential election on Friday, as we've been saying. Tonight and Friday on "Amanpour," Christiane takes a really in-depth look at the election and the issues as well as all the candidates that we've been talking about. That's Iran Votes here on CNN.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, she provided entertainment for millions in the film "Slumdog Millionaire." Remember that? Great film. Now, she's providing hope for young girls around the world. Freida Pinto in her own words, next, here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERJEE: Madonna, Beyonce, J-Lo, just some of the global pop stars using their voices not for singing, but to call for a revolution in girls' education. Now, it's a chorus that has been growing louder since the Taliban's attempt to assassinate Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai eight months ago.

We've also joined in the cause, and that's in the new CNN film "Girl Rising." We bring you the stories of just some of those fighting for a basic right. In Haiti, there are few public schools, and private schools are really expensive, but there is one young girl not giving up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSE MATRIE, HAITIAN SCHOOLGIRL (through translator): My name is Rose Matrie. I am 12 years old. I only have one brother. I have four sisters. I am small. I like wearing my uniform. I wear navy ribbons, a navy dress with black shoes, and I'm beautiful.

I live in a house that is slightly cracked. My mom works as a dressmaker. When I leave this school, since this is my last year, my mother will not be able to pay for me to go to school. I want to go to a big school in order to develop my talents.

On this board, I do my homework, and every afternoon, my mother buys me chalk.

When I let my imagination go, I think of extraordinary things. I will be a teacher, because I love to teach children.

(CHILDREN RECITING ALPHABET)

MATRIE: To give them courage.

(MATRIE SINGING IN FRENCH)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Rose Matrie is now 13 and in secondary school, but her parents are really struggling to pay the fees to keep her as well as her five siblings enrolled. More about Rose and other brave young girls from around the world in a special presentation of CNN Films' "Girl Rising." Just make a note of it, OK? Saturday night, June the 22nd, at 8:00 in London, 9:00 in Berlin, 11:00 in Abu Dhabi.

Among the many who got involved in the "Girl Rising" project, Indian actress Freida Pinto was one of them. You may remember her from the 2008 runaway hit "Slumdog Millionaire." Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BOY YELLING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Freida has lent her personality and her fame to many causes, notably women's issues. Now, she's among the celebrities lending their voices to girls around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FREIDA PINTO, NARRATOR, "GIRL RISING" (voice-over): Our partners on this journey were organizations large and small, filled with extraordinary people who spend every day helping girls, trying to fill the gaps between what girls have and what girls need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Earlier, I sat down with Freida to hear about her life as a busy actress, model, and activist. Finding a balance, though, can be a bit challenging, but she does a pretty good job of it. She says it's the girls in the world who drive her to do more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PINTO (voice-over): There is no miracle here. Just a girl with dreams.

MATRIE (through translator): Even if you send me away, I will come back every day.

PINTO (on camera): The main problem that I think -- we always have this battle between access and quality. In some areas, it's not having access to school, and in some areas, it's having a school, but not having quality. So, it's about balancing that off.

And in some areas, where they'll have nothing, we've got to focus on something first, and that would be access, trying to get a school in there, trying to get children to go to school. And then, try and build the quality of the education that is given to them.

VERJEE: Millions of our viewers are Freida Pinto fans.

(LAUGHTER)

VERJEE: And many of the young girls would really love to know some of the challenges that you faced while you were pursuing your career and growing up and how you may have overcome.

PINTO: In think the real challenge for me is to -- so far has been to not let myself get stereotyped, because as soon as that happens, you fall into this category, and then there's hardly any roles for you, things that you can push yourself, push the boundary.

And I feel that has been absolutely the most difficult thing to try and do, especially because I made this very conscious decision to work on a more international platform and not just in a cultural setting, or not just in one country.

VERJEE: What is the biggest thing that motivates you, that drives you to your own success?

PINTO: Every time I visit a country and I meet certain girls over there, and they talk about their dreams, and I just realize if I don't continue making good films and kind of staying in the limelight, almost, in a way, then they will lose my voice.

Because I really feel it's important for me to have a voice. In order for me to have a voice, I need to be doing good projects that reach out there. So for me, those girls really inspire me, and they make me want to do better work and go out there and the sky's the limit.

PINTO (voice-over): I will read. I will study. I will learn. Try to stop me? I will just try harder. If you stop me, there will be other girls who rise up and take my place. I am change.

VERJEE: What advice would you give young girls who look towards someone like you for inspiration, not only for your acting successes, but also for the commitment that you're showing to girls' education globally?

PINTO (on camera): My only request to them would be to find your realistic dream as well as your dream-dream. Because I feel it's very important for me as well to always realize that while I dream of doing this, there is something -- there are some things that I will be able to do and some things that I won't be able to do.

And when I arrive at that point when I can't do those certain things, instead of being dejected, feeling low, feeling frustrated, I find another path. So, to always realize that there is never a dead end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Freida Pinto. Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, a stinging loss for a swimmer as her bid to swim from Cuba to Florida ends. We're going to speak to another swimmer who's tried to cross the very same treacherous waters full of jellyfish. And --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: Now, once again, I would like to make this very clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Wow, not bad. The Russian president turns Englishman. Full report coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERJEE: The dangerous sea route from Cuba to Florida has seen off yet another endurance swimmer trying to complete it. On Wednesday, Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel abandoned her swim attempt because of a really bad jellyfish sting.

She was only about 11 hours into a 60-hour swim. She's recovering in hospital. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Havana. She joins me now. Patrick -- he. How is she doing?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She was just covered in jellyfish stings, not only on her arms and her shoulders, her face, but actually on her tongue, if you can imagine anything as painful as that.

And that's really why they had to cut this attempt short, because they felt that the stings -- she had so many that were on her tongue and around her mouth that it could have cut her breathing off. Essentially, she could have died from these jellyfish stings.

So, that's why after about 11 hours of swimming, they cut this attempt short. And she's doing very well. She's actually well enough to hold a press conference a little while ago where she announced that she's throwing in the hat, that she's not going to try this crossing again.

Of course, Chloe McCardel has swum the English Channel some six times, is a very accomplished swimmer, but just said that the Florida Straits apparently was too much for her.

And she was very concerned about the jellyfish before she left yesterday, and even picked June as being a month that historically has less jellyfish along the Gulf Stream. But apparently, there were just too many for her last night.

She even said to some of the scientists she was working with to try to develop a cream that would keep jellyfish away. They weren't able to get that cream ready in time, though, so it's just going to be one of those what-ifs, if they had that cream, if they had some other things that could have kept those jellyfish away.

But at this point, we'll never know, because apparently, Chloe McCardel is not going to try this crossing again. Zain?

VERJEE: Oh, no! And she was training for like six months or so for this moment. Other than the jellyfish, what are the other challenges between Cuba and Florida? The currents, the weather? What about other dynamics in the water?

OPPMANN: A body of water full of sharks and, of course, the whole thing of this is, you're not swimming in a shark cage. They have some devices that irritate sharks. I'm not sure swimming next to sharks that are irritated is much better, but the idea is they can at least try to keep the sharks away from you. But there are really no guarantees.

This is so dangerous. If it were easier, people would've done it before. It's being described as the Mount Everest of swims. Many, many people have wanted to do this, have tried to do this. Still, though, at this point, no one has accomplished it. I'm sure other people will try again very soon, though, Zain.

VERJEE: Patrick Oppmann, thanks so much. Yes, that's right, the sharks. Forgot about those. The Cuba-Florida stretch has become something, as he was saying, of a Holy Grail for long distance swimmers.

Last year, American swimmer Diana Nyad attempted the swim for a fourth time. Almost three days in the swim, the multiple jellyfish stings forced her to give up as well. Diana joins us now live from LA. Great to have you on the show Diana. Just explain to our audience just how hard this is for a swimmer like yourself.

DIANA NYAD, LONG DISTANCE SWIMMER: You know, Zain, if you and I took the entire nautical chart of all the Earth's surface -- so, the Earth is four-fifths water -- we could pick out a hundred miles here, a hundred miles there. None of it would be easy, that's a long, long way for a swimmer.

But none of it -- there isn't one passage on this Earth that is as difficult as this one because of the roiling currents of the Gulf Stream, the very dangerous predator sharks, and as Chloe found out, and I'm so sorry she experienced that pain last night, she found out that the jellyfish are the most -- there are the most venomous animals on -- in the ocean today, the box jellyfish.

VERJEE: Just describe to us -- because most of us barely make it down to the gym of a couple of lengths, and we'll never experience what it's like to have a jellyfish sting in the ocean that far, that deep, and that bad. What's it actually like, and when it's happening, what does -- how does it affect you?

NYAD: Well, there are thousands of species of jellyfish, from just a little something that can sting you hand and you might yell out for a second and then it disappears quickly. The box jellyfish is trying to take down your heart and your lungs, and it does.

I'm glad Chloe's alive. I'm glad I lived through them. I was stung three times by them now. You feel like you've been dipped in hot, burning oil. You -- I screamed out, "I'm on fire! I'm on fire! Somebody help me!"

You don't even know where you were stung. When you get out, you see all the markings and the wrappings of the tentacles around you, but when it happens, they're working on paralyzing your heart and your lungs --

VERJEE: Wow!

NYAD: -- then you go into debilitative vomiting. I mean, it's really -- it's the most venomous animal in today's oceans.

VERJEE: Well, given that, and then there's the small problem of sharks as well, what kind of psychological preparation do you and Chloe and other people who want to do something like this actually go through psychologically? Because you're putting your life at risk under a microscope for the world to watch.

NYAD: It's extreme. We -- Chloe and I and there are really -- as far as I know, there's only really one other Australian swimmer at this time on this planet who could maybe make this swim. And I've been trying an awful long time. I tried 35 years ago, that's how old I am, and I'm going to try one more time this summer and just walk away from it, either having touched the Florida shore or feeling that I can stand tall and say there's nothing more I can bring to it. I'm at the end of discovery, I'm at the end of my will.

But I tell you, it's hard to describe what the brain goes through after those hours. Last year, I swam for 51 hours in my attempt before the whole thing fell apart with the stings, the currents.

VERJEE: Wow!

NYAD: It's usually not just one thing. And Chloe, I'll tell you, is a -- she has my admiration. You know why? When people stand on the sidelines and criticize, that doesn't move me. When somebody gets in and puts that kind of courage and effort into something, then I'm going to applaud them. And today, I applaud Chloe McCardel.

VERJEE: Diana Nyad, thank you so much for joining us. And I guess it really is going to be a case of -- not human endurance, but human versus jellyfish. And I hope they figure out that cream sometime soon. Thanks so much, appreciate it.

Some news now just coming into CNN from Barbara Starr. The US Congress has just been notified that the US will acknowledge that Syria has used chemical weapons multiple times on a small scale and a red line has been crossed. More on that when we get more.

Russia's president, meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, is known for his tough, macho image, and he rarely strays away from the script. But Mr. Putin is a little bit adventurous. He tried something new during a recent pitch. Listen to Jon Mann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PUTIN: Ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to greet members and guests of the General Assembly of the International Exhibitions Bureau.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin goes viral again, the Russian president making a vocal pitch in this online video to host an upcoming international expo. And what's grabbed the attention of many Russians, the Russian leader isn't speaking Russian.

PUTIN: Now, once again, I would like to make this very clear.

MANN: Very rarely does he speak anything other than his native tongue in public. On Tuesday, he spoke with the Kremlin-owned "Russia Today," an English-speaking channel, but Mr. Putin spoke Russian.

There are a few exceptions. He did use some English in a 2008 interview with our Matthew Chance.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You think that period of post-war calm has come to an end?

PUTIN: I think no. I hope not. All of us, we need cooperation in some areas.

MANN: He even once sang the 50s classic "Blueberry Hill" for a star- studded Russian TV charity event.

PUTIN (singing): I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill.

MANN: For a president who's known for his macho image, whether it's riding motorcycles, throwing judo moves, or bare-chested on horseback, speaking anything other than Russian is a risky PR move.

PUTIN: Russia guarantees it will fulfill --

MANN: His English sounds a bit awkward, but Mr. Putin is bidding to host Expo 2020 in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, an event that would likely draw millions.

PUTIN: Thank you for your attention, and I hope for your support.

MANN: We'll see if his English-speaking risk pays off.

Jonathan Mann, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: And in tonight's Parting Shots, a heroic story for you. It's actually a really touching moment that was caught on camera of a firefighter carrying a deer to safety. The fireman and his team were rescuing horses as well as all these other animals from the Black Forest fire burning near Colorado Springs.

At least 15,000 acres have been burned so far, but thanks to this man and others, many animals have been saved. Just take a listen to our animal hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBY HELGERSON, FIREFIGHTER: We saw the deer wrapped up in a wire for a fence, and Captain Roy Dalton was able to untangle it and we were able to get it out of there, and we had an opportunity -- a short opportunity to be able to get it to somewhere safe, and we took that opportunity, and that was when I got caught on camera walking a baby deer through -- to a sheriff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: Good man. I'm Zain Verjee, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. And I just want to give you a quick reminder of some news just coming into CNN from Barbara Starr.

The US Congress has been notified that the US will acknowledge Syria has used chemical weapons, and multiple times, on a small scale, and a red line has been crossed. The White House is planning to discuss Syria in an on-the-record conference call with the media in just a few minutes, and we're going to bring you more details of that call as soon as we can. Thanks so much for watching CNN.

END