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Ousted Egyptian President Morsy to Stand Trial; US Aid to Egypt; Syria's Chemical Weapons; Victims of Incendiary Bombs; Gateway: Hong Kong Airport Speeds Customs; World Cup Bidding Probe; Parting Shots: Queen's Baton Begins 190,000 km Journey

Aired October 9, 2013 - 15:35   ET



ATIKA SHUBERT, HOST: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Atika Shubert, and the top stories this hour.

US president Barack Obama has just named Janet Yellen as his choice as the next chair of the Federal Reserve. Yellen now waits for confirmation by the Senate. If that happens, she will be the first woman to head the central bank. A short time ago, Barack Obama praised the outgoing chairman, Ben Bernanke.

Greenpeace calls it "a fabrication." The environmental group is disputing new allegations by Russian investigators who say they found illegal drugs on a Greenpeace ship seized in the Arctic last month. Activists onboard where protesting oil drilling. Russia charged them with piracy.

A Chinese high court has agreed to hear an appeal from disgraced politician Bo Xilai. The former Communist Party official was handed a life sentence last month on charges of corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of power.

A senior US official says Libya gave Washington tacit approval to capture suspected terrorists involved in the Benghazi consulate attack last September. The officials said the same type of agreement allowed US special forces to snatch a senior al Qaeda leader from his car this weekend in Tripoli.

Deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsy will stand trial next month, according to Egyptian state media. He and 14 members of the Muslim Brotherhood face charges of committing and inciting violence. The trial is set to begin on November 4th. Mr. Morsy was, of course, ousted by the country's military in July and has been in detention ever since.

Now, US officials have told CNN the United States is preparing to cut some of its military aid to Egypt. An announcement is reportedly due in the coming days. The Obama administration suspended some military aid in August, and it's not yet clear what funding will cease and what will continue.

Well, we have Elise Labott -- is at the State Department in Washington, and Ian Lee is in Cairo for us now. Elise, why don't we go straight to you about when we expect an announcement to be coming?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS REPORTER: Atika, we're told by senior US officials that the notification to Congress, the Egyptian military, is taking place as we speak and an announcement could come as early as today. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid to the Egyptian military, mostly large-scale military systems, some cash assistance.

But the US doesn't want to entirely do a break with the Egyptian military. It's going to keep critical funding for security in the Sinai Peninsula, for instance, where al Qaeda-linked extremists are really gaining ground. Also for democracy programs, education, health, things like that.

So, not a total cutoff, but a big strong statement in response to what has been going on in the ground in Egypt since the ouster of President Morsy.

SHUBERT: So, threatening to cut aid, but Ian, how --


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- clear, Steve, that we're not going to continue with business as usual. That's been, I think, demonstrated by some of the decisions that have already been made when it comes to certain military systems.

But for the results of this review that the president asked for, I would have to ask you to wait for us to make that announcement pending the necessary notifications.


LABBOT: There's White House spokesman Jay Carney all but admitting there will not be business as usual, that some type of move, some aid will be cut. And it's going to be a large chunk of the US assistance, Atika, but the US is saying it still has critical business with the Egyptian military, and they want to maintain some relationship.

SHUBERT: So, not business as usual. But Ian in Cairo, what kind of an impact is this really going to have on the ground? How much leverage does the US have?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing over the past few months is really the US leverage start to diminish here in Egypt. There have been these threats only for Gulf states to come up and say if the United States withdraws any money, we'll write a check to the Egyptian government to cover it.

This is also putting a strain on the relationship between the United States and Egypt, for Egypt has always had a strong military tie between the two armies -- between the Egyptian army and the American army. Egyptian officers have trained in the United States, Egyptian army uses American military equipment.

And this will strain that relationship a bit, which has always been a strong relationship, a key relationship for the region, and one that a lot of Egyptians on the street would like to see severed.

You talk to your average Egyptian and you talk about pulling American aid, they see it as a tie to the American government, they say that they don't want it. But you talk to the government officials, they're a bit more nuanced in their approach, but there hasn't been any official statement from the Egyptian government yet, Atika.

SHUBERT: Thank you very much, Ian Lee in Cairo and Elise Labott in Washington, DC.

Egypt is a major recipient of US aid, receiving $1.5 billion each year. So, where is that money going? Well, a State Department report released in June breaks it down for us. Of that $1.5 billion, $250 million was allocated to economic assistance support, but the majority of the budget, $1.3 billion, was in the form of military aid, and an additional $1.8 million was spent on military education and training.

Syria is playing along with the mission to destroy its chemical stockpile, at least for now. The world's chemical weapons watchdog says it has been quite cooperative as the organization prepares to send a second team of experts to the country.

Today, inspectors on the ground visited a second site, but said it is still too early to comment on just how well the mission is going. The task has been labeled as "an unprecedented project." And inspectors have their work cut out for them with 20 more sites to visit. A UN resolution states that Syria must be rid of all their chemical weapons by the middle of next year.

Chemical weapons make up just a fraction of the deaths in the Syrian war. Other devastating devices exist, including incendiary bombs. I spoke with doctors who treated victims of such an attack, and the results were horrific there. A warning to our viewers: some of the images you're about to see could be disturbing.


SHUBERT (voice-over): It started with a baby. Within minutes, dozens of teenagers and children staggered in. Rola Hallam, a British-Syrian doctor with the charity Hand in Hand describes what she saw at an emergency room on the outskirts of Aleppo on August 26th.

ROLA HALLAM, DOCTOR: We'd had over 30 who had arrived, all within about 10 or 15 minutes, all with -- just heartbreaking extensive burns.

SHUBERT: British doctor Saleyha Ahsan was also there.

SALEYHA AHSAN, DOCTOR: There was skin being peeled off and hanging. There was one child who was sitting down, his clothes were hanging off, and so was his skin.


HALLAM: It was very surreal, and sort of all walking in looking -- with a really bewildered look on their face. An absolutely awful smell of burning flesh with a -- mixed with a very weird synthetic smell that I've never smelled before. Yes, I can safely say that's probably one of the worst days of my life, and from that point of view, I've never, ever seen anything as hideous as that.

SHUBERT: Napalm, white phosphorus, ZAB. These are just some examples of incendiary bombs, technically not chemical weapons, but just as devastating.

Similar to jellied petroleum set on fire, incendiary bombs stick to everything and keep on burning. Buildings and cars, clothes and skin, often burning straight to the bone.

All the evidence so far suggests an incendiary bomb dropped from a plane on a school caused these terrible injuries. The UN has documented the attack: 8 children died immediately, 50 others suffered burns of up to 80 percent on their bodies.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the Syria conflict so far. Human Rights Watch estimates that chemical weapons are responsible for only 1 percent of the deaths in Syria. Even if Syria's chemical weapons are destroyed and dismantled, weapons like these incendiary bombs will continue to kill.

AHSAN: The descriptions were fire falling like rain. Just falling like rain. And plumes of flames, and then balls of flames falling out of the sky.


SHUBERT: This time, there was a BBC crew filming with the doctors when the attack happened. They captured the terror as the first victims arrived, and the news was broadcast to the world, but it doesn't end there.

HALLAM: I think -- to be honest, and it breaks my heart to even say this -- but I -- there'll be very few of them who will survive this, even who are alive now. They have such extensive burns, and as soon as it becomes a burn over 50 percent, it's -- even in the best burn centers in the world, they've got a very high chance of death.

SHUBERT (on camera): That's -- sorry, that's heartbreaking to hear.

HALLAM: Yes, it is heartbreaking, because I think especially as medics, you -- you want to feel like you're making a difference. I wanted their faces seen. I wanted the whole world to know that what is happening in Syria is happening, and I don't want anyone to say I never knew, because you all know. And the world needs to act.


SHUBERT (voice-over): Because of these pictures, the world now knows.



SHUBERT: Travel can be exciting, but the process of getting from A to B can also be a drag, particularly if you are going through the world's increasingly busy airports. Hong Kong International is among the fastest- growing, but to meet the demand, it's introduced technology to speed up the process at immigration. Andrew Stevens puts the system to the test.


ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether you're touching down or taking off, there are lines and waiting points all through every airport that stand in the way of your next destination.

And while Hong Kong International Airport knows it can't control everything, officials say they want the passengers' ability to pass quickly through the airport to be a memorable part of their journey.

C K NG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AIRPORT OPERATIONS: We remember the country that you go to by the airport. They started to look the same. So, what we're trying to do is to create a very unique environment for the passengers.

STEVENS: One of HKIA's most unique features is perhaps the one passengers dread the most: immigration. The E Channel is an automated system that allows Hong Kong residents and frequent visitors to pass through immigration with just a card and a fingerprint.

Seventy percent of Hong Kong residents utilize the E Channel, and with a daily usage of around 30,000 people, it keeps the pressure off the normal immigration lines.

STEVENS (on camera): You've got E Channel here, and the more traditional form of immigration here.


STEVENS: What's the difference in the timing between E Channel and regular?

CHUI: In effect, there's 75 seconds for one visitor, but for the E Channel, we take only 20 seconds.

STEVENS (voice-over): Twenty seconds through immigration using the E Channel is a promise. It's time to see just how big a difference it makes.

STEVENS (on camera): One of the things that Hong Kong International Airport prides itself on is the sheer speed which passengers can get from the plane through to the train, as it were. Now, these passengers just getting off a flight from Guangzhou in southern China, we're at Gate 60. So, we're going to see just how long it takes for them to get from here through to the other side.

Now, a lot of the gates are actually connected to the main terminal by a remote train, so this is a very common experience of passengers in Hong Kong to take out the train through to immigration.

OK, so, we've just missed that train, but as the airport constantly reminds you, relax, there's another one coming in just a couple minutes' time.

So, here we are through to the other side. The train station is just down there, and by my reckoning, that is slightly under 15 minutes from the gate right through. Remember, I didn't have any baggage to pick up, but even so, 15 minutes, that's a pretty efficient operation.



SHUBERT: Well, the man who inspected the nations bidding to host the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups say fans are most at risk from the Qatar heat. Harold Mayne-Nicholls says he's pleased that the sport's governing body is now looking to move the dates of the 2022 tournament away from June and July.

And FIFA's former chief inspector told CNN that it was a, quote, "structural mistake" to vote for two World Cup hosts at the same time. "World Sport" host Alex Thomas joins me now. "Structural mistake" is an interesting way to put it. What did he mean by that, exactly?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Because we've all been trying to get him to say it was a mistake to take the World Cup to Qatar, but he's saying, no, it's not that, it's a structural mistake.

Because for the first time ever, they got delegates of FIFA's executive committee to vote for two World Cup hosts at the same time. Naturally, you have people supporting one bid for 2022 saying, "I'll give you your vote for 2018 if you give me yours for 2022." And he said there's nothing illicit in that or corrupt, it's just human nature. That's just how it works.

Whereas FIFA should change their system to the International Committee system, how they choose host cities for Olympic Games whereby you can have any candidate from all over the world each time there's a vote. Lots of people vote for it. The votes are transparent.

But before that, the technical reports rank the cities in order of how well they prepared. Whereas in FIFA's case, those reports, it's quite hard to see whether or not they've actually been read properly.


SHUBERT: Yes, exactly So, how concerned is he about the heat in Qatar?

THOMAS: Really concerned.


THOMAS: And he talked about getting out of the air-conditioned coach while he was inspecting the country and walking 50 meters or so, and he found it a real struggle. That was 38 to 40 Celsius. It gets even hotter than that. He's worried about the players, but he's most concerned about the fans.


THOMAS: And he really feels the football bosses overlook the fans, not the ones watching on telly, the ones that they love that pay all the money in the TV rights, but the ones who actually go there. This is what he had to say.


HAROLD MAYNE-NICHOLLS, FORMER FIFA TECHNICAL INSPECTOR: We cannot only think on the players. We have to think on the fans, and for the fans, it will be impossible to move during the World Cup. They cannot stay at the lobby of the hotel with air conditioning. They are going to a party. How can you go to a party if you cannot leave your room? That's not a party.


THOMAS: It's certainly not going to be a party if it's held in the heat, but they are looking at moving the dates. We expect a decision on that maybe the end of next year, possibly early 2015, and there's still quite a way until 2022. But he's just glad that even three years late, they are looking at that really crucial, crucial factor.

SHUBERT: Yes. Still a ways to go, but so what are the next steps here?

THOMAS: So obviously, they've now -- FIFA have announced a task force will be set up, a road map will be decided by general secretary Jerome Valcke, and then they're going to have to speak to all the stakeholders, as we say, about how disruptive it will all be.

Mayne-Nicholls himself came up with three suggestions about when it could be moved, so either May-June, and that's one set of problems, towards the end of the year or the beginning of the year. But there's pros and cons for every decision. It's a complicated mess. They'll have to get out of it eventually.

SHUBERT: Yes, but I think fans will be relieved to hear it won't be so hot.


SHUBERT: Well, thank you very much, Alex Thomas. The team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you,, have your say.

And in tonight's Parting Shots, the departure of the Queen Elizabeth II's baton relay starting the countdown to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. At Buckingham Palace earlier today, the queen placed her secret message to the Commonwealth inside this baton. Now, it won't be read until the opening of the Games in Glasgow next year.

The baton will now make its way across the world, and in its 288-day journey, it will visit 70 countries and travel 190,000 kilometers. That distance would take you nearly five times around the Earth. And you're certain to get some amazing shots for the photo album.

Here's the baton's first underwater trip in the Maldives in 2005, and posing with a Mountie in Canada that same year. And a penguin gate-crashed this photo of the baton in Antarctica, and here it is in India in 2010 arriving at the Delhi Commonwealth Games. And here, proudly held by children from the Solomon Islands before the Melbourne Games in 2005.

I'm Atika Shubert, and that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you very much for watching.