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CONNECT THE WORLD
Interview with Michael Bloomberg: CNN Cities: Houston; Did Syria Have Its Srebrenica?; NASDAQ Trading Halted By Technical Glitch
Aired August 22, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Tonight, tough talk, but no sign of action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): All red lines have been crossed, but still the UN security council has not even been able to take a decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: With just a day after alleged chemical attack, how the world remains divided over Syria.
Also tonight, as Hosni Mubarak is flown out of jail, I'll ask a leader of the revolution that deposed him what this means for Egypt.
And from Bradley to Chelsea, why the person behind the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history wants to start a new life.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World.
Well, international outrage is growing a day after an alleged chemical attack in Syria. The United Nations wants Damascus to let its inspectors visit the site to investigate. And U.S. President Barack Obama has called for his own fact finding mission.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEF PSAKI, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The president has directed the intel community to -- here in the United States -- to urgently gather additional information. That is our focus on the send.
At this time, right now, we are unable to conclusively determine CW use, but we are focused every minute of every day since these events happened yesterday on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, Damascus has denied any wrongdoing and says these allegations are part of a foreign backed smear campaign.
Let's get you to Damascus. Fred Pleitgen joining me now live from the Syrian capital. He's one of the only western journalists who have been granted access to the country.
You are in a government controlled city, of course. You've been talking, though, to people in the capital today. What are they saying, Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. We haven't had very much time on the ground yet, Becky, but we have tried to make the most of it.
One of the places that we visited was a government hospital. It's a civilian hospital. And what the staff there told us is that they said on the morning of Wednesday, which is of course the time when this attack allegedly took place, they did receive mass casualties and they had heard that a large-scale military operation was going on in the places that later it was deemed were under attack by chemical weapons.
Now the hospital staff said they did get mass casualties, but the ones that they got only had weapons from conventional wounds. They said there was absolutely no indication that these people might have been subjected to chemical agents.
I also managed to speak to another person who lives in the neighborhood adjacent to one of the areas that was allegedly hit. He also said that there were war planes in the air, they were pounding that area, that there was artillery also being fired on that area, much larger scale than usual. But he also said that he, himself, felt no signs that maybe he might have been subject to a chemical agent, that some sort of gas might have blown over. He said there was none of that.
Of course, again, you said it. We are in the government controlled area. The people that we're speaking to are, of course, by and large sympathetic to the government. But what the people here are telling us is yes they do acknowledge there was a large-scale military operation going on, however, they say they couldn't see any evidence of any chemical agents being used. That, of course, doesn't disprove the claims that are out there and those horrifying pictures that we keep seeing claiming that of course there were chemical weapons used. It simply is very much up in the air and very unclear, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right.
Fred, there's been very strong international reaction, as you know, to this alleged attack. France's foreign minister, as I mentioned, calling for a reaction force. He also challenged Damascus to grant access to these UN weapons inspectors if it doesn't have anything to hide.
Have a listen to what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURENT FABIUS, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Now what must be done is that very rapidly as the alleged massacre just took place, inspectors should go there. If the regime of Bashar has nothing to reproach itself, it should let the inspectors investigate. If the Syrians refuse, that means they've been caught red-handed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Fred, I know that you got a chance to speak to one of the weapons inspectors in Damascus today. What did he say?
PLEITGEN: Well, he didn't say very much. Actually, it was strange, I actually bumped into Akka Selstrum (ph) who is the chief investigator here right after we got here. And I went up to him. I said, listen are you going to be able to visit that site? And he said was, I can't talk to you and he started walking away.
And I asked him whether or not so far he's happy with the way things are going on the ground here. And then he just wouldn't talk to me and he kept going.
So it is, Becky, a very sensitive mission that the weapons inspectors are on. It's very difficult for them to operate here as you know.
The premise of this mission was to check out claims of chemical weapons use in three different locations here in Syria. None of that relates to what allegedly happened here on Wednesday. And so therefore this would be an additional thing.
The UN has already called on Damascus to let the weapons inspectors go there, however it is very difficult also because the bureaucracy here in Syria simply is not made to deal with such things. In many cases, you don't even know who to talk to in many ministers.
It's very difficult for these weapons inspectors to get permission in the first place simply because the bureaucracy is so thick. And of course on top of that, this is a country that doesn't trust what the weapons inspectors are going to do, a government that was very reluctant to let them in, in the first place, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right, Fred. For the time being, thank you very much indeed for doing that.
I want to get your more analysis on what the logic behind such an attack at this time would be and what implications that might have.
CNN's Nic Robertson in London for you.
Nic, if indeed this was a chemical attack, how does that play into the different side's strategies, their war strategies on the ground?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've seen is the Assad regime may gain sort of further north in the country. But if you go in and take a look at Damascus, this is where we've seen the strategy of the rebels changed to a degree and you look at the neighborhood here of al-Gouta (ph) where this fighting has been going on recently since the end of July, more or less, and where this alleged attack took place, go in again and you can look at some of the smaller neighborhoods there -- Kaboun (ph), Jobar (ph).
OK, why are these neighborhoods, why are the rebels trying to gain control here? Well, there are key roads that run through these neighborhoods, roads that link Damascus to the rest of the country. But what the rebels are realizing is, they're not able to hold territory in some places -- Homs they're losing ground, Qusayr they lost that town, but if they group together, which they're beginning to do, different strategy, use more sophisticated weapons that they can hurt the regime and consume the regime's troops in these neighborhoods inside Damascus. And that's where that fighting has been going on.
And of course consuming the troops means that Assad can't move as well. His forces in the north of the country, Aleppo try to retake that, if you will, for example, up here, continue to fight around Homs. So a simple solution for that would be to use an area scale weapon like chemical weapons.
It's alleged, the government denies it, the rebels say that's what the government did. But we just don't know the facts at the moment.
But that's what's at play here. The rebel focusing on those areas of Damascus, where they think they can make important strategic gains, or at least hurt the regime where they're losing elsewhere, Becky.
ANDERSON: Nic, there's been a lot of comparison between what's now going on in Syria and the Balkan war of the 1990s. You're, of course, somebody who covered that war and have firsthand experience of it. I want to play a clip from a report that you filed in 2012 now for our viewers where you talk about the Srebenica massacre in July '95 and how that helped trigger international action in the Balkans. Let's just have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Srebrenica became an important catalyst for real intervention. Air strikes stopped the Serbs in their tracks, reversed their gains. They sued for peace.
So the question I ask myself, will Syria unfold like Bosnia? A slaughter so horrified the world will have no choice but to take action. The experts are not so sure.
FOUAD AJAMI, SYRIA ANALYST: I used to believe that if there is a Syrian Srebrenica to go back to the Balkans, that we were forced if you will, we were pushed into Bosnia by the horror of what happened in Srebrenica. I know don't even know if there is a Syrian Srebrenica, I'm not even sure we would come to the rescue.
ROBERTSON: In the 90s, Russia backed the Serbs. Today it backs Syria. In the 90s, Russia was stumbling out of Communism. The U.S. overran their protests. Today, Russia is resurgent, rich in oil, it can and is ignoring the west.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: How important, Nic, is it to engage with Russia over Syria now? The thorn in the security council's side to date, of course. What's the chance they can help put an end to this war?
ROBERTSON: Russia can absolutely play a role in ending the war. And I think -- when I listen to that piece from last year how much has actually changed on the ground? The dynamic has changed hugely -- Qatar that was backing the rebels is sort of out of game to a degree, Saudi Arabia more in the lead, Turkey that was also assisting to the north, they are less in the game than they were before. You have Assad making gains in the north of the country. He's confident. His military leadership -- many of them were killed last summer, but there weren't defections in the army. He thinks he's through the worst. The assessment of intelligence agencies seems to be that Assad is doing well here right now.
So the whole thing has changed. The thought of a Srebrenica, or an alleged chemical weapons attack making a difference now, that doesn't really seem to be the case. The international community is more looking at shaping a deal where Russia is heavily involved in that. We've heard these talks between Russia and the United States and may end up in talks in Geneva.
Russia is going to be a big player in that, Becky.
ANDERSON: So it goes on.
Let's just hope that this attack really doesn't, in the end, suggest it was Syria's Srebrenica or, go forbid, there is one in the future.
Nic, thank you for that.
Still to come tonight, from a prison cell to house arrest, former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is granted conditional release just two years after his overthrow stunned the world. We're going to talk about that with actor and activist Khaled Abdalla, one of the protesters who helped change history in Tahrir Square.
Fall from grace, disgraced political star Bo Xilai appears in court and what's been called China's most sensational case in decades.
And it's Chelsea, not Bradley -- a shock announcement from the U.S. soldier charged with espionage. All that and much more when Connect the World continues.
You're 90 seconds away. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: Well, you're back. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi for you. Welcome.
Now, former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is spending his first night under house arrest at a military hospital in Cairo. He was transferred by helicopter from Tora Prison earlier today after a court ruled he can no longer be detained while reawaiting -- while awaiting, sorry, a retrial.
A handful of Mubarak supporters gathered at the prison to celebrate his release, but in a clear sign of how much things have changed since the 2011 revolution, one single protester turned out.
Much more on this story later in the show, including a live report from Egypt's capital.
Well, Israel's prime minister is threatening retaliation after a rocket fired from Lebanon. The Israeli army says in fact several rockets were fired at northern Israel today, two of them hitting civilian areas causing damage, but no casualties.
Israel says another rocket was intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system. It blames what it calls global jihadist militants.
Well, trading in more than 2,700 NASDAQ stocks has resumed after what was a technical glitch, we are told, brought trading to a stand still.
I want to bring in Felicia Taylor joining me live now from New York. And Felicia, we end up -- what, just over 1 percent higher, but when you take a look at the graph for the day's trading, well, got to sort of midday and it just flatlines until just before 4:00, which of course is the regular close on the market.
FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the question of the day. Becky, I like the way you -- what happened?
What happened was is that literally trading came to a screeching halt. There were some quote, unquote "technical" issues at a clearinghouse. So what that means is that the by and sell orders were no longer able to be matched. In other words, if you were holding a security and you were looking to sell it, there was not a buyer on the other end or vice versa.
But you know what really was affected was the options market. And there's something called, you know, options expirations, which often take place on Fridays. Obviously that is coming tomorrow at the end of the week in the U.S. markets.
It's a very important kind of an options day, because if those kinds of expirations can't be met, that affects literally thousands of trades.
We don't really understand how that's going to play out yet. However, trading did resume without a glitch, thank goodness, but we've yet to actually hear anything from the NASDAQ as to an explanation about this.
So, is it a catastrophe? No. Thank goodness this is, you know, taking place on a Thursday in August in the summer months when things are quiet, volume was relatively low. But it did transcend into other exchanges. For instance, you're talking about trades that are taking place in fairly well known names like Apple, Google, Microsoft. If you take a look of the stock in Apple it, too, had a precipitous drop right before that actual stopping of the NASDAQ exchange.
ANDERSON: Right, let me just ask -- can I ask you one question? Because I sort of generally understand how these markets work. But ultimately if you lose that sort of period of trading, one assumes people were losing money, right? I mean, how much money would there be sort of traded on an average day on Thursday's -- in August. And how much would be lost on a day like today. Is it clear?
TAYLOR: It's not clear yet, but you are certainly talking about a significant number. I mean, for instance, immediately after Apple shares were able to begin trading again, and we've all been very aware of Carl Icahn's involvement in Apple stock, he was tweeting about the idea that he and Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, are going to be meeting in September. That represented a $1.7 million market cap in Apple shares right at the moment those Apple shares started to trade again.
So, you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that could be affected. Certainly if those buy and sell orders are not able to be matched, that is going to be very frustrating for a number of analysts and traders out there, there's no question about it.
But what I do want to point out, this does not affect the average individual investor. This is mostly people in a much more sophisticated level. Most of us are trading in mutual funds, not ETFs. And that's what we're talking about -- and also in options trading.
So this is a very select group, again this is electronic trading, it is a much more high frequency kind of trading. It's not for the average investor. So that's the good news in terms of who was affected today.
ANDERSON: Yeah, OK, so most of us who are -- who are still up at this time of night in Abu Dhabi, perhaps, say who might be a retail investor that needn't worry too much.
All right, we are going to thank you for that. We're going to move on.
British police say documents seized from a journalist's partner are highly sensitive and they've begun what is a criminal investigation. The material was taken from David Miranda when he was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport on Sunday. Now he's the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who broke the Edward Snowden leak story.
Earlier, a London high court ruled that the material can't be touched unless Miranda is being investigated for ties to terrorism. But judges gave British authorities until August 30 to examine the material in the interest of national security.
This is Abu Dhabi. And I'm Becky Anderson. This is Connect the World. 19 minutes past midnight here.
Texans often proudly say don't mess with Texas. Well, we visit Houston to find out what they really mean.
ANDERSON: Houston, we have problem. The oil and gas rich city which is also the fourth largest in the U.S. now wants to live clean, and not green, but clean, as part of our week long series The City. CNN talks to Houston's mayor to see how residents are looking at energy in a whole new light.
ANNISE PARKER, MAYOR OF HOUSTON: I'm Annise Parker, I am mayor of Houston, Texas, United States of America.
We're the fourth largest city in the United States. We have to provide essential city services to millions of people very day.
We are on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. Buffalo Bayou was where Houston was founded. We were where the railroads met the sea and the ships came up this bayou. You see a little bit farther here and offloaded. This is restoring the banks, it's opening up green space, putting some meanders back in the river that were originally straightened. It'll clear the water up, be better for the fish and the turtles that live in here, but it will also be great for flood control.
Just because some mistake was made in the past doesn't mean you have to live with it forever. You can go back and fix it.
Just because we have built a city on the profits of oil and gas doesn't mean that we don't respect the environment, care about the environment. We've cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent and we are going to continue to lead by example.
We're standing in front of Houston B-Cycle. It is a bike share, or bike rental program for the city of Houston. It's just over a year old and it is just exploded in popularity. We went from three stations to now 22 stations and 200 bikes. We want to expand bike share through the more dense areas of inner city Houston.
We have 2,400 signalized intersections across the city of Houston and it burns a lot of energy. We originally decided to invest in LED lights, because we would save energy. But what we found out LED lights last longer and they have to be changed out less frequently. So the return on investment is almost immediate.
In my view, a sustainable city is a city that can project into the future that the air quality stays high and the water quality stays high that there a range of housing options for people to live in the city. A sustainable city is a city that works today, but is building and investing for tomorrow.
ANDERSON: And as he inches towards the end of his third term in office, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is looking to cement his legacy. Bloomberg also heads the C40 climate leadership group, it's a global network of cities committed to fighting climate change.
Maggie Lake met him in his city of New York.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Cities do things, and federal governments do not. Every year they get together at the United Nations, every year they talk about things, but there's virtually been no action at a federal level across the world whereas cities have already taken something like a quarter of a billion tons of CO2 out of the air. Cities deliver services. The public knows whether the service is there or it's not there.
Federal governments tend to reallocate money. And they do it in ways where it's very hard to track the results of any of their legislation.
MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Does the C40 really have power, do they have teeth to make real change?
BLOOMBERG: We don't come in and tell you what to do for your city. You're the mayor, you decide what's important in your city. What we can do is we can come in and provide expertise to accomplish what you've told us what you to accomplish.
We can network you with other cities who have done similar kinds of things and you can find out the pitfalls and you can get some advice. And it's also very useful when you're trying to sell something to your constituents to say, well, they do it successfully elsewhere. That really is a very big help.
And you know this is your third term. When you look at how New York is now compared to when you first took office, how has it changed?
BLOOMBERG: Well, we have dramatically reduced the greenhouse gases that we are putting into the air. New York is different than other cities in that 80 percent of our greenhouse gases come from buildings, 20 percent from transportation. And so we've arranged for banks to make loans to buildings, to convert their boilers from using heavy oil to using natural gas and they can pay back the loans with the savings. And the payback is within a year or two. And then after that it's just a big benefit for the landlord, but it's also a big benefit for the community.
And if you paint the roofs white, you're electric bill -- if it's a five story building -- goes down by 25 percent overnight.
LAKE: Which is extraordinary.
BLOOMBERG: For a few cans of paint.
LAKE: A little more than a year ago, Hurricane Sandy hit this region with a force that really no one expected. What has that done to change the mindset about climate change here in this area? Because a lot of people thought it was something that was really affecting people elsewhere.
BLOOMBERG: I think number one it -- there's nothing like a wakeup call to clarify your thinking when your house or your friends house is underwater.
We are strengthening our big buildings, our infrastructure, whether it's telephone system or power system or ability to heat, transportation system. And then what it did here is it just pointed out to everybody we live in a coastal city. And most people are above the water level, but only above the water level when the water acts normally.
LAKE: Do you think the role of a modern mayor has changed? I'm not sure somebody who is going to hold this office decades ago thought of climate change as something that was part of the job description.
BLOOMBERG: No. I think there's an awful lot of cities where they still don't think that's part of the description. But the bigger cities, which is what the 63 cities that C40 is made up of they do. And there -- for example, you look at Beijing. We all saw the stories in the newspaper, the air you couldn't see two blocks. That's just not tolerable. That's hurting people's lungs, going to reduce life expectancy and hurt their economy.
So the mayor of Beijing has got to find some ways to do it. Now he might not do it through C40, he might not include us, but the federal government is representing everybody. And they may be able to gloss over it, the mayor cannot.
LAKE: All of these, you know, policies that you've put in place, when you look at the C40 chairmanship, what do you think your legacy is?
BLOOMBERG: If you can convince people that government can work in the interest of the public as opposed to the interest of the politically astute and special interests, you will have made a real contribution. And I'm not going to take an answer from government, oh that's just the way it is, some people should be left out, or just -- there's nothing we can do about it or it's hopeless. And the legacy of the fact that it can be done and that the public can then hold future elected officials' feat to the fire, that would be a great legacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Michael Bloomberg speaking about his city and others.
The latest world news headlines just ahead as you would expect. Plus, you might think it would cause an uproar, but Hosni Mubarak's conditional release from prison is drawing a rather muted response in Egypt overshadowed by what is this ongoing political crisis.
And he's been sentenced to 35 years in prison, so will the U.S. military now allow Bradley Manning to become a woman? That, up next.
ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi for you. The headlines.
The United Nations says it's asking the Syrian government to allow its inspectors to investigate opposition allegations of a chemical weapons attack, and the US president has asked his intelligence community to also try to gather evidence as international outrage grows over what Syrian opposition groups are calling a massacre.
Hosni Mubarak is now awaiting retrial in a more lenient form of detention. The former Egyptian leader was transferred by helicopter earlier today from prison to a military hospital, where he remains under house arrest. Mubarak's next court hearing is scheduled for Sunday.
Trading in more than 2700 stocks today on the NASDAQ, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft, resumed late in the trading day after a technical glitch, let me tell you, at a round lunch time today flatlined this index until just before its close. It was a massive trading glitch at Goldman Sachs -- sorry, let me tell you that this follows a massive trading glitch at Goldman Sachs earlier this week.
In China, the trial of former politician Bo Xilai will resume Friday morning after a dramatic first day. Bo defiantly denied some of the charges against him, calling a key prosecution witness "utterly corrupt and a liar." David McKenzie was there.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've blocked off access on the street around this trial because this is being called the trial of the century. In this courtroom behind me, the prosecution of former political boss Bo Xilai, who was once one of the most powerful men in China. Now, he's being prosecuted for bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): In the courtroom, the first images of Bo since vanishing from public view, flanked by police, but uncuffed, facing the full might of Communist Party power. It's the most sensitive trial in decades in China, as CNN learned during our broadcasts.
MCKENZIE (on camera): We're not going anywhere. We have to cover this trial somehow.
(MAN SHOUTING IN CHINESE)
MCKENZIE: So, it seems like they're escalating the situation. Please don't take this.
(MAN SHOUTING IN CHINESE)
MCKENZIE (voice-over): But also, an unexpected information flow. According to court proceedings released on social media by the Jinan court, a first for China, Bo heard evidence against him of bribery, embezzlement, sometimes in salacious detail.
But Bo stood firm, systematically denying the charges leveled against him, even calling the testimony by his wife, Gu Kailai, ridiculous.
The US State Department says China has a nearly 100 percent conviction rate of criminal cases, and the party controls the courts, judges, and police, so it's unlikely to take any chances. Still, for some, Thursday's hearing went off script.
MCKENZIE (on camera): Many people online and on the ground here in Jinan seem to think that Bo Xilai gave a strong and coherent defense compared to the prosecution. It's early days yet, though, in this trial that's going to move onto a second day and perhaps even beyond.
David McKenzie, CNN, Jinan.
ANDERSON: Those are your headlines. I want to get you back to Egypt, now, where we've seen a remarkable turn of events over the past few weeks. Nick Paton Walsh joining us in Cairo tonight.
Former strongman Hosni Mubarak has now left prison, Nick, while the freely-elected president Mohamed Morsy and other top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, others today rounded up, remain behind bars. What's the atmosphere like tonight in Cairo?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Remarkably quiet, and I think you really get an indication of how well the military think it's in control of the situation here that it thought it could get away with releasing Hosni Mubarak and also how much they think, perhaps, popular opinion has swung in their favor in the past few weeks.
We've got a curfew in place, but I'm looking down on Tahrir Square to my left. It's absolutely quiet. We've seen very little activity on the streets at all, and no sign of the enormous protest you might think could possibly follow the release of a divisive figure like Hosni Mubarak.
I should point out, he's now under house arrest, technically, in Maadi Military Hospital, but there were remarkable scenes on Egyptian television, a month ago would have been pretty much unthinkable.
A blue and white helicopter landing in Tora Prison where he's languished for quite a period of time, picking him up, whisking him away to a near Maadi military prison, where he was taken off in a stretcher, relaxed in white loafers, wearing the sunglasses now, and then rushed inside the grounds of the military hospital of Maadi on the outskirts of Cairo.
Troops filing in behind, almost like the army was welcoming him back into their arms after a lengthy absence. He still has to face trial and other proceedings, as you said, on Sunday for allegations of inciting violence against protesters back in 2011.
But clearly the military have decided that this high up on their list of priorities. Perhaps they want to look after their own, perhaps they want to show some respect and deference to the old elite that ran this country for decades.
But really, if you think about what they have done since they formed their interim administration, they have taken on the sit-in protests near Rabba al-Adawiya Mosque and cleaned the Brotherhood off the streets in many ways and are now arresting them at a remarkable rate. And they put Hosni Mubarak in better conditions in custody.
So, I think many Egyptians here feeling a slight sense of anger that this has happened, perhaps some of them even feeling nostalgia for the comparative stability and certainty of the authoritarian era of Mubarak, even though what they're perhaps seeing in front of them now is the slightly uncomfortably familiar face of military rule. Becky?
ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh in Cairo for you this evening. Well, many Egyptians risked everything, even their lives, to rise up against Mubarak in 2011. How do the revolutionaries, then, feel now that he has been conditionally released from prison?
Well, we're joined by one prominent activist, actor Khalid Abdalla, known for his lead role in "The Kite Runner" and other films, joining us now this evening by Skype. Khalid, thank you for joining us.
You were in Tahrir Square in 2011, and you spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, just before -- just days before Mubarak stepped down. I want to start off for our viewers with just a little bit of that interview. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": How long are you personally going to stay on the scene, Khalid?
KHALID ABDALLA, EGYPTIAN ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: I'm going to stand until he turns. It's as simple as that.
BLITZER: What if he doesn't leave --
ABDALLA: And I was --
BLITZER: -- until after the scheduled elections in September?
ABDALLA: Well, then, we keep going until then. The fact of the matter is, it strikes me as a policy that's not working in their favor. The longer we are there, the more their lies, whether it's the lies of the last 30 years and the corruption of the last 30 years or the lies of the last two weeks, the more those lies are revealed. It doesn't seem to work in their favor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Hosni Mubarak stepped down two days after that interview. You must have been elated at the time. How do you feel today, seeing him effectively conditionally released from prison?
ABDALLA: Well, I feel the same, strangely, as I did then. It's a peculiar feeling to find yourself agreeing with what you were saying then two and a half years afterwards.
The fact of the matter is, in my opinion, that this country will not accept to live under authoritarian fascist rule, and it showed that now three times, by removing Mubarak, and then by removing the military after him, and then by removing Morsy, and then -- we have to wait and see what's going to happen.
ANDERSON: Yes, with respect -- with respect, I think I understand what you're saying. But given that Egypt lived under authoritarian rule for so long until Hosni Mubarak was deposed, and then got a democratically- elected president who has been deposed, and now has military rule back, I'm wondering how long you think it's going to take or how many, possibly, generations it's going to take before you get anything that looks like a decent, modern democracy?
ABDALLA: Well, I think it's going to take a long time for things to get good. Revolutions only start when things are terribly, terribly rotten, and as we can see, this is -- this is the thing that people really need to understand across the world. Any modern functioning democracy, as you call it, requires a checks and balance system, and quite clearly, we don't have that.
You can see that by Morsy (sic) being released, you can see that by everything that's happened. And when we use the words "democratic" and "elected," we have to be really very careful.
Because when Morsy came to power, there were no check and balances in place, and he used the tools of democracy to disenfranchise the majority of the population, creating a constitution which is entirely tailored within their own image, killing people. He had the opportunity to do -- he had the opportunity -- it's actually unfair in some ways --
ABDALLA: -- just to blame the military for this current situation --
ABDALLA: -- that we're in, because he had the opportunity to do all sorts of things with Morsy's case -- sorry, with Mubarak's case, and to do all sorts of things with the families of the masters, and they didn't. They have to --
ANDERSON: I'm --
ABDALLA: -- this is the thing, we have to break the binaries. We absolutely have to break the binaries. The real binary in what's going on is not between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army, it's between organized authoritarian fascism and disorganized social movements that have a humanist agenda.
ANDERSON: Yes, and that --
ABDALLA: And the fact is --
ANDERSON: -- and let me put that to you. Let me --
ABDALLA: -- exactly as I was saying before --
ANDERSON: Sorry, with respect, let me put that to you, because I think a lot of people who may or may not have had any sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood in the past do, to a certain extent, say listen, this is an organization which has -- is loosely organized as opposed to these political parties. But it does provide a social welfare -- pitch, as it was, for people.
ABDALLA: For its own. It does that for its own, and that's exactly what's wrong. A democracy is about protecting the rights of everybody.
ANDERSON: But when you have a boss and they don't --
ABDALLA: It's not about your own.
ANDERSON: -- when you haven't got a democratic government that provides for everybody --
ABDALLA: Which is exactly -- which is exactly --
ANDERSON: -- that's the reason why you get the mobilization of something like the Muslim Brotherhood, isn't it? And when it comes down to it --
ABDALLA: No, no, no --
ANDERSON: Khalid, let me just as you this. When you've got a country which is struggling economically, that surely is what needs to be -- that's the root of the problem, the cause of the problem isn't it? Going forward, this is something that need to be tackled quickly --
ABDALLA: This is a -- yes?
ANDERSON: -- unless you can -- go on.
ABDALLA: Yes. That's absolutely essential. I believe that the main thing that these people want, the main thing that people in Egypt want is they want for their economy to bloom. But an economy won't bloom, in my opinion, unless you have your freedoms and rights as well.
Otherwise, you end up with the same old corrupt system in which the poor are not treated the same as the rich. And --
ANDERSON: Let me just ask you. When you saw the pro-Morsy demonstrators on the streets, do you agree that they had as much right to be there as you did back in 2011, and as so many people did six or seven weeks ago when Morsy was deposed? Do you agree that those who supported the Morsy government had as much right to be on the streets?
ABDALLA: I believe that any peaceful protester has the right to be on the streets. I believe that anyone who's bearing arms is becoming something different. Anyone's who's torturing is becoming something different. And anyone who is burning down churches is becoming something different.
I have a personal acquaintance of mine whose brother was tortured to death in one of their sit-ins. And this is exactly it, this is why we have to break the binaries. And the international media has to do that as well as the local media.
Because this is not a matter of choosing between one or the other, this is about finding the middle ground. And the middle ground is not --
ANDERSON: And you think that you're on the way to doing that?
ABDALLA: -- and the middle ground --
ANDERSON: With the army in charge, effectively?
ABDALLA: No, not -- no, no, no. I don't think we're doing it with the army in charge. I think this country is doing it by itself. This is what goes back to the issue of checks and balances. If you don't have checks and balances in place, then people's consciences have to be that.
And what happens is that each time someone comes to power, they come to power with a kind of mandate and a promise. Now, will they live up to that promise? If they don't live up to that promise, then the people will go out in the streets again and will demand that change happens.
We've seen it happen three times already, and every time it's happened, just as it happened in that interview that you showed earlier, we're in a position where everyone says, well don't be ridiculous. No, it is authority that needs not to be ridiculous and to see that we are deeply serious about changing our country.
And it's not about choosing the old regime. And the old regime, as far as I'm concerned, is the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is also Mubarak's deep state. And we're going to be able to overcome this, I have absolutely no doubt.
Look, it's very dark, dark time in Cairo. There's no doubt about that. A massacre has taken place, and also churches are being burned, and there is all sorts of sectarian violence --
ANDERSON: All right.
ABDALLA: -- which is being activated by the Muslim Brotherhood. That is not something this country wants in its future, it is always going to refuse authoritarian fascism like any other country in the world.
ANDERSON: All right. We have to leave it there --
ABDALLA: We are its guarantor.
ANDERSON: And I listen to your words and appreciate you being on CNN this evening. Always a pleasure.
ABDALLA: Thank you.
ANDERSON: Khalid Abdalla for you. Live from Abu Dhabi, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, as Bradley Manning announces his wish to live as a woman, we speak to one transgender female who was in contact with the US soldier back in 2009. That after this.
ANDERSON: Bradley Manning says that he wants to live as a woman. It comes a day after the US Army soldier was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. Now, in a statement given to US television, Manning said he wants to begin hormone therapy and is known -- now known -- wants to be know as Chelsea.
Well, Manning's attorney says he'll take action if the army doesn't provide his client with the necessary treatment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID COOMBS, MANNING'S ATTORNEY: Well, I don't know about the sex reassignment surgery. Chelsea hasn't indicated that that would be her desire. But as far as the hormone therapy, yes. I'm hopping Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that. If Forth Leavenworth does not, then I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, transgender writer and blogger Lauren McNamara was in contact with Manning back in 2009. That was before the whole WikiLeaks saga. At this time, Lauren was male and known as Zachary Antolak. She was later called as defense witness in Manning's trial and joins me now from Winter Springs in Florida. Take me back. How did you first get to know Manning?
LAUREN MCNAMARA, TRANSGENDER WRITER: Chelsea first contacted me in February of 2009. She found me through my channel on YouTube where I had made several videos about political issues, religion, LGBT rights.
And these were topics that she took an interest in, and so she opened up to me and told me a lot about her life before the military, her struggles with her family and in school, and about her new role in the military as an intelligence analyst and how she felt about that.
ANDERSON: What do you think Manning's state of mind was then? How would you describe it?
MCNAMARA: At the time when I spoke to her, she just seemed very satisfied with her role in the military. She had spoken about some difficulties adjusting to military life, some difficulties she had had with other soldiers. But overall, she expressed to me that she believed in the military as a mission for good, an institution made of diverse people with a valid mission.
ANDERSON: This, of course, was before the infamous trove of secret government documents which has landed Manning a 35-year jail sentence. Describe how you felt when you learned about what had been done.
MCNAMARA: Well, I only found that out in 2010 after she had been arrested and her chat logs with Adrian Lamo came to light. At that point, I recognized the user name and I realized, this is someone I had spoken to before.
And this just really put our conversations in such a different light, because during the time that we spoke, there was no indication that she was planning on anything of the sort. It didn't seem like this was something that she would do, so that was very surprising.
ANDERSON: You tweeted earlier today, "Congratulations to Chelsea Manning on what must be a huge moment. I hope she receives all necessary treatment while serving her time."
You're referring to Manning as a "she" and a "her" today, and some people might be confused by that, given that, although Manning has suggested that this is the transition that he wants going forward, that actually hasn't happened as of yet, has it? Are you confident that Manning will cope with this next stage, this transition, if you will?
MCNAMARA: Yes. She is a strong person. She's been through a great deal already, and I know that she's going to make the best of it, even as she's been placed in these terrible circumstances. And particularly serving her term in Fort Leavenworth, a military prison.
This prison has stated that they do not provide hormone therapy, they do not provide surgery, they do not provide any care for transgender inmates beyond psychiatric counseling. And that is not sufficient.
The recognized standard of care for gender dysphoria by all major medical bodies is transitioning and the necessary treatments. The American Psychological Association, Psychiatric Association, Medical Association, all of these recognize that this is the treatment that works, it's the only treatment that works, and it works very effectively.
Without it, gender dysphoria can be co-morbid with depression, anxiety, suicide even. And 41 percent of trans people --
ANDRESON: Now --
MCNAMARA: -- in the United States have attempted to commit suicide.
ANDERSON: Well -- all right. I'm going to have to leave it there because we are moving towards the end of the show. Fascinating stuff. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us this evening.
Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, unfasten your seatbelts and get ready to fly. Flight experience, let me tell you, like none other.
ANDERSON: One of our most, most clicked-on videos on cnn.com. If you've ever wondered what it's like to float in space, well, the European Space Agency has remodeled a passenger jet. Now it allows you to experience exactly that. So, my colleague and friend Rosie Tomkins went onboard what is a zero-gravity flight, and this is the report that she filed.
ROSIE TOMKINS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seat belts fastened, bag stowed. Sitting on the runway at Bordeaux Airport, an ordinary plane with an extraordinary purpose. Onboard, a group of international scientists and me.
For the 13 teams of scientists invited here by the European Space Agency, it's a chance to explore what happens when gravity is removed.
JEAN-LOUIS THONNARD, PROFESSOR, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF LOUVAIN: It uses the opportunity to ask or to answer fundamental questions related to the impact of gravity on movement.
TOMKINS (on camera): It already feels like an unusual flight, very steep. Everyone's a little bit off balance, but nothing like what it's going to be like in ten minutes.
TOMKINS (voice-over): To achieve the weightless environment, the aircraft climbs gradually to an angle of 47 degrees, as in this footage of a similar flight. Gravity increases to 1.8 G, making you feel twice as heavy as your natural weight. And then, something amazing happens.
TOMKINS (on camera): Oh, my gosh!
TOMKINS: Oh, my goodness. The aircraft's being flown into free fall, and gravity's been canceled out. And I'm floating!
VLADIMIR PLETSER, ESA PARABOLIC FLIGHT PROJECT MANAGER: Gravity does not disappear. But we are in a state of free fall, so we reach an angle of 47 degrees up, accelerating with full thrust of the engine, and then the pilot turns off the engine, cuts the engine so nothing, no other force then gravity acts on the plane.
TOMKINS: How are your experiments going?
TOMKINS (voice-over): Experiments range from the behavior of objects to human judgment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we are measuring the impedance, the resistance of the joint from the muscle's activities.
TOMKINS: I, meanwhile, conduct my own experiments.
TOMKINS (on camera): It's so hard to control where you go.
PLETSER: In flight, you get born again into a new environment. Words are not enough to describe what it is. You have to live it by yourself.
TOMKINS: It's a humbling realization that like so many things in life we take for granted, gravity can only be felt and appreciated if you have it taken away.
Rosie Tomkins, CNN, Bordeaux, France.
ANDERSON: Remarkable, isn't it? Does that appeal to you? Well, the team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to know, would you do it? We want to hear from you, facebook.com/CNNconnect. Have your say. You can tweet me, as ever, @BeckyCNN. Your thoughts, please, @BeckyCNN.
Your Parting Shorts this evening -- Parting Shorts, I think I really, really need to go home, don't I? Your Parting Shots this evening. Extraordinary videos.
First, let's head to Russia's Kaliningrad region where hundreds of beachgoers got quite a surprise when a giant amphibious military ship cruised onto the beach. The ship apparently didn't slow down as beachgoers scrambled to safety. No one was hurt, I'll tell you, and the Russian government called it a routine training exercise.
Meanwhile, in the US state of Louisiana, it's more a case of what was under the water than on it. This shows the moment when a sinkhole swallowed an entire row of trees. It's been expanding for over a year now, and it's almost ten hectares.
People living nearby have been evacuated and officials believe the sinkhole was caused by a collapsed underground salt mine. Fascinating, isn't it?
I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD from Abu Dhabi. Thank you for watching from the team here, a very good evening.