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Conor Lamb Celebrates in Advance; Trump Fires Tillerson via Twitter; Stephen Hawking a Gifted Scientist Dies at 76; Possible U.K. Retaliation Could Include Sanctions; U.S. Woman Trapped In Eastern Ghouta; Students Stand Up To Slavery. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 03:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: A nail-biter of a race. A crucial election in Pennsylvania and after a day of voting it's still too close to call.

After firing his top diplomat via Twitter, the U.S. president could be getting ready to shake up the White House yet again.

And remembering one of the greatest minds of our time, the life and legacy of Stephen Hawking.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Max Foster. This is CNN Newsroom.

Well, the winds of change are indeed blowing through the American political landscape, not just in Congress but also in the White House.

Democrat Conor Lamb is claiming victory in a special congressional election in Pennsylvania, in a district Donald Trump won by 20 points in the presidential election.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has sacked his secretary of state Rex Tillerson. And he's hinting that more personnel changes are coming for his administration.

First, though, we're going to go to Pennsylvania where that congressional race is still too close to call for CNN. Right now, Democrat Conor Lamb has a razor-thin lead over Republican Rick Saccone, but more than 1,000 absentee ballots are still being counted so it is too close to call.

Lamb is a marine veteran and a former prosecutor. Saccone, a longtime state legislator endorsed by President Trump. Right now, they have very different opinions on Tuesday's outcome.


CONOR LAMB, CANDIDATE, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it.


fighting the fight. It's not over yet. We're going fight all the way to -- all the way to the end. You know I never give up. You know my first race went into the night and we won that, and my second race was the same way. We're kind of used to this, right? So, that's it. We're not -- we're not -- we're not giving up.


FOSTER: Well, whoever ends up the winner, he'll serve for less than a year. A newly redrawn district will be up for grabs come November.

CNN's Jason Carroll has more from Conor Lamb's election headquarters.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After a very long night and early morning, Conor Lamb has come out and declared victory even though that there are still votes outstanding and Republican challenger Rick Saccone says this race is not over by a long shot.

Having said that, Lamb came out and addressed his supporters, crediting the grassroots nature of his campaign. He also credited the labor community who he says helped come out and put his campaign over the top. During his speech, he also talked about the political climate that exists right now, he believes a climate that need to change.


LAMB: People are so tired of the shouting on TV and in our politics. It is -- it's amazing what happens when you're in a room with real people who have real aspirations and real troubles. There's lots of ideas. There is no angry shouting.

Our job in Congress is to attack the problems, not each other.


CARROLL: Again, Saccone says this race is not over, not yet. Lamb says for his part it's time for Democrats to regain their voice.

FOSTER: Leslie Vinjamuri joins me now. She is an associate fellow with the U.S. and the America's program at Chatham House. So we don't have the outcome but what we know is it's very tight. So tell us what that means.

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SENIOR FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: It is extraordinary. This is a district that Trump won by 20 percent. That is not a small -- not a small victory to come this close in those absentee ballots that tend to go Democrat in Pennsylvania, so it looks likely, although it's too soon to tell.

But it's a very interesting moment. I think for Democrats it suggest that there is a lot momentum. Remember that Donald Trump turned up twice to support the Republican candidate, so despite turning up as recently as Saturday evening, in the context of an economy that's very strong, very low unemployment rate across the nation, and yet a district that really shouldn't be a swing district has such a narrow margin.

The candidate himself, of course is not a progressive Democrat. He's taken a very middle of the road line on a number of policies.

[03:05:03] He's supported the tariffs, the recent tariffs that Donald Trump has announced on steel and aluminum. This is a heavily unionized district.

FOSTER: He's quite appealing to Republicans is what you're saying.

VINJAMURI: He is appealing. He supports gun rights. He has supported universal background checks in the aftermath of the Florida shootings. Nonetheless, he's turned out to support gun rights. And he's seeking to protect -- he campaigned on protecting entitlements, which I think is very significant, right.

This is really a district that sort of speaks to that base that we talked about for so long as being important to Donald Trump. And this is a Democratic candidate that's managed to appeal to the base, but also Democrat in that district really seem to have turned out in significant numbers.

FOSTER: But couldn't Donald Trump argue that he won by supporting Trump -- key Trump policies? So it's not necessarily a criticism of Donald Trump.

VINJAMURI: It is -- I think it is true that it will be difficult for many Democrats to replicate the strategy that this particular candidate has pursued.

Remember, he also distanced himself from the Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. And that helped him. That's helped him in this election. And that's more difficult as we approach the midterms for others to replicate.

He managed to raise $3 million. He's tremendously successful in raising money, much more than his Republican counterpart. And again, that will be more difficult when multiple candidates are running. But it's a very significant move, nonetheless, in the context of a very strong national economy and a district that is very pro-Republican.

FOSTER: And there is a lack of energy, if I can call it that, in the Republican Party. There is growing energy in the Democratic Party so it will play into that, won't it, in terms of the national political dynamic?

VINJAMURI: Yes. There is a sense it creates a momentum. Now interestingly, this particular district, the map is being redrawn in Pennsylvania so these two candidates will actually be standing in separate districts when we come to November. Nonetheless, it's very significant.

I think the reasons are now trying to distance themselves from this and saying, you know, that it wasn't -- that the Republican candidate wasn't a good candidate, that it wasn't a good campaign. They had to put a lot of money into Saccone's campaign, nonetheless, again, 20 percent up in 2016 and now this razor-thin margin is really quite, quite a dramatic result.

FOSTER: And the big sort of benchmark event, political event we got coming up is the midterms.

VINJAMURI: That's right.

FOSTER: Do you think -- if you were involved in, you know, the strategies on either side this is going to affect strategy going into the midterms?

VINJAMURI: Yes, it demonstrates that there is -- there is room for movement, even in those districts that are really heavily red, heavily Republican and there are a number of seats that are coming up in more divided districts. So that's a very specific -- there is optimism I think amongst the Democrats now for at.

But, again, it is a particular -- this candidate is particular because of the stances he took on tariffs, on guns, socially conservative but promoting kind of an economic populism. They won't be replicated in all districts with all Democratic candidates. That's nonetheless, very significant --


FOSTER: And what can Donald Trump learn from this? Because there is no doubt that many of his policies have been very popular. It's the character that people are starting to have an issue with, right? The way he handles himself and all of these sort of, hirings and firings at the White House aren't particularly helping, are they?

So what part of him do you think is toxic for local Republicans in the races coming up?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think that, you know, it does raise a lot of red flags. Again, if you go back to that very -- people think that, you know, it's the economy that matters. I think one key thing here is that it's not the message of Donald (TECHNICAL PROBLEM).


FOSTER: -- be to Donald Trump?

SCOTT LUCAS, POLITICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, I don't think Donald Trump thinks anything he say on Twitter is damaging to him. The question is, how damaging is it to other people?

You know, Rex Tillerson will go back into private business probably, but look at the State Department. Seven of the nine top posts are now empty. Hundreds of posts across the department, including the senior officials have not been filled.

You have demoralized staff. And when the State Department is wrecked like this, it adds to the chaos around U.S. foreign policy, it adds to questions, not just about, you know, from America's enemies, but America's allies about what exactly is happening. In other words, the idea of stability and certainty, which is key both

at home and abroad, that's gone. That's our starting point now. Even as we heard talks with North Korea, even as Donald Trump is threatening to rip up the Iran deal and even as the United States or at least Donald Trump appears to be preferring Russia over European allies.

FOSTER: In terms of Tillerson, he was quite well-respected, wasn't he, in international circle? Obviously some of the issues you're talking about, and he's blamed as well for some of those gaps in the State Department.

But he clearly didn't have a good relationship with Donald Trump at the end. So his position was untenable anyway, wasn't it? Isn't it a better situation to have someone like Pompeo who does have the president's confidence to represent the United States on the world stage?

LUCAS: Well, let's put two issues here. Now the first is Rex Tillerson was going to go at some point. There is a camp in the White House probably around Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, that don't like Tillerson, that tried to force him out at the end of last year. They failed then. They succeed now.

The first point that is important is the timing here, and that is, look, if this has been organized while Tillerson was in Africa, if he had been informed on Friday clearly that he was being dismissed and to return to Washington early, he would have been prepared, everyone would have been prepared, it would have looked like, quote, "orderly transition." That hasn't happened.

Secondly, Mike Pompeo's got many skills but he's not a diplomat. He's not a diplomat and he's not really an independent voice on foreign policy. Mike Pompeo's chief asset to Donald Trump is that Mike Pompoe supports the president.

Now that might be good in terms of politics, it might be good for Donald Trump's ego, but it is not necessarily good if you want a diversity of voices when you talk about serious issues.

The third -- the other thing that I'll mention beyond that is that, OK, fine, David Shulkin might go at Veterans Affairs, Rick Perry at energy, if H.R. McMaster goes as national security advisor, the only really stable force within the White House and I say this, you know, fully knowing what I'm putting forth, the only stable voice now is really Jim Mattis, the defense secretary.

Can he really hold the line as Trump really relies increasingly on family and friends foreign policy? I'm not sure.

FOSTER: So, in terms of moderating forces, you'd say he's the only one left now in the White House so his position is absolutely key.

LUCAS: Yes, it's absolutely essential. I mean, we thought at one point John Kelly, the chief of staff when he was sworn in last July that he would work with Mattis, he would work with Masterson. You know, and he would counteract some of the president's harder right advisers, he would temper the president's impulsiveness. That hasn't happened.

[03:14:56] Kelly is now basically covering for Trump. Masterson is now under attack from, again, a faction within the White House. Again, from the alt-right. And the attempt there is to put more, you know, someone friendly to Trump in at the National Security Council.

Well, you know, who is going to stop, you know, pop up and say, look, we really need to consider what we're doing in Afghanistan or in Iraq or in Palestine, you know, Mattis is the last person. And he can only really speak from a military standpoint not as much from a diplomatic point of view.

FOSTER: OK. Scott Lucas, as ever, thank you very much, indeed for joining us.

LUCAS: Thank you.

FOSTER: Now Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest scientists of the modern age has died at the age of 76. A look at his life and legacy when we return.


FOSTER: World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. Considered by many to be one of the world's greatest scientist. Hawking's numerous book include the landmark bestseller "A Brief History of Time."

He was diagnosed with ALS degenerative disease when he was just 21 years old and told he had only a couple of years to live. The University of Cambridge where Hawking taught has put up a memorial page for him. Colleagues are paying tribute to him, noting his brilliance and exceptional contribution to scientific knowledge.

[03:20:02] Joining me now by phone is Dr. Jose Bellido, he is a senior research associate at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Just take us through Stephen Hawking's contribution, if you would, to science.

JOSE BELLIDO, SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE: Hey, hi, hello, Max. Well, Stephen Hawking was one of the pioneers in studying the concept of Black Holes. And Black Holes now we know are so important -- all this knowledge because now we can understand better how galaxies behave, why they behave as we observe galaxies, and that's because in the center of every galaxy there is a massive black hole.

But only 20 years ago all of this was a concept. Somebody's idea but was not proven. Only 20 years ago it was proven the existence of Black Holes in the center of our galaxy and then we know the center of every galaxy is a black hole and that thanks to great contributions from Stephen Hawking.

FOSTER: What does that mean, though? Why does it matter to our understanding of the world and how it operates?

BELLIDO: Well, they're massive because they concentrate such a great amount of mass in a small -- in a small volume of space so it's such a big concentration that it forms a singularity. Singularity was also a word that was introduced, I believe by Stephen Hawking when he was referring to Black Holes to that point when about to reach this level of concentration in form of singularity where the gravity force is so big, so huge, but nothing escapes it.

So there is concentration of mass in a small tiny space of volume create a singularity which attracts, nothing escape from it surrounding --


FOSTER: And do you --


FOSTER: Carry on.

BELLIDO: It's such a big force that keeps together galaxies. So the stars are together orbiting around, and that is because there is a massive Black Holes creating a big gravity force that keeps it all rotating around the galaxies.


BELLIDO: Around the center of the galaxy.


BELLIDO: That's what happens in our galaxy and other galaxies.

FOSTER: Dr. Bellido, thank you so much, indeed. Our technology and business correspondent Samuel Burke is with us, as well. Because he wasn't just this sort of great mind, this greatest scientist, he was also a celebrity, wasn't he? And he brought glamour to this world.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I think even if you didn't understand the science that he was talking about, people were inspired because this is a man who was only given a few years to live and in spite of ALS, he lived an incredibly public and engaged life.

Everything about him in our society would have said or suggested that he wouldn't be a part of our society, bound to a wheelchair; he couldn't speak with his own voice. He didn't care about any of that and forged on. He said the fact that my disease has progressed so slowly and I've been given more time should give hope to everybody. So --


FOSTER: He faced death every day effectively, didn't he? So, that would have define how he, you know, viewed life. BURKE: Exactly. And we've heard from the people who knew him that he

just forge on. He would take the whole team of nurses with him if he had to. I mean, think about having to use a synthesizer, this is the way that most people know his voice, the only way that they know his voice. But He just kept on moving forward.

And so, I think it was that inspiration combined with the brilliance and this keen uncanny ability to communicate with the world, despite all the challenges that made him so accessible to the world.

And if we just look at some of the tweets that people are sending out right now, I think it speaks to the various communities that he touched. If we start with that tweet from Neil deGrasse Tyson. It shows how he touch the community of science. "His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake but it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of space time that defies measure."

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, and I think this represents how he impacted technology which, of course, so closely linked to science. "The world has lost a beautiful mind and a brilliant scientist."

And then the executive producer of "The Simpsons," Matt Selman saying "Farewell to Stephen Hawking, the most intelligent guest star in the brief history of The Simpsons." I think that one is really important because it shows that he knew he could take his other mediums to communicate messages of science, whether it was "The Simpsons" or "Star Trek."

[03:24:59] Just a couple more I want to show you because I think they really represents who he was. NASA, if you look at this tweet from NASA, they say "Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we and the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity as you said to the astronauts on the International Space Station in 2014."

And the last one, a funny one, because he did have a good sense of humor. This is coming from another icon. CNN Larry -- CNN's Larry King. "I once asked Stephen Hawking in an interview what puzzles him most in all the universe? Women, he answered. He will be missed."

Someone said that if he were given the opportunity would he rather meet Newton or Marilyn Monroe. Of course he said Marilyn Monroe.

FOSTER: Yes. His relations came up in the film of course. He's had a very cleverly colorful life and he was sort of larger than life figure. Do you think that that, you know, had an impact on the science because it drew more people into the science?

BURKE: Well, I think it gets back, the fact that you're mentioning the movie and that we know about his personal life and his relationships, plural, from his former wife to a different wife. He was involved in that movie.

And I think that speaks to the fact that he knew that to communicate in this world, even to be a scientist in this world that it has to be done through television, through social media, through movies.

So, he consulted on that film and, again, I think that gets back to whether it's being on "The Simpsons" or being in a movie, he knew to get science to the masses --

FOSTER: yes.

BURKE: -- that this was the way that he had to do it.

FOSTER: He's made a huge contribution. Samuel, thank you very much, indeed.

Now Russia is reacting to the U.K.'s ultimatum with a demand of its own. Just ahead, why the Kremlin isn't giving an explanation about the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter.



FOSTER: Our breaking news this hour, Democrat, Conor Lamb, is claiming victory in a special congressional election in Pennsylvania. If he holds on, it would be a huge upset for Donald Trump, who won the district by 20 points in the 2016 Presidential election.

Right now, the race is still too close to call for CNN. We are waiting for absentee ballots to be counted before we do call it. Republican, Rick Saccone, said he is not ready to give up just yet.

Now, Russia is ignoring the U.K.'s demand for a response to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter on British soil. The Kremlin denies involvement in the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal. It says there won't be response until it receives samples of the chemical substance.

Meanwhile, another Russian exiles has died in the U.K. Please Save The Death of Putin, critic, Nikolai Glushkov, at his London home, is unexplained. So far authorities say there's no evidence linking it to the poisoning of the Skripal's.

CNN has the latest details on the stories from multiple angles. For you Erin McLaughlin is in Salisbury for us in England. Sam Kiley, though, reaction from Moscow. Just take us through Sam, the reasons why Moscow isn't responding to this ultimatum set by the U.K.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in short, Max, it is because in their view under international treaties designed to get rid of chemical weapons such as the one allegedly used in this attempted murder in Salisbury, the convention is that -- the accused nation would have a 10 days to respond. That is the interpretation of the Russians, and so they're saying, first, they need 10 days, and secondly, they need to see the evidence before they can respond.

Now, this Novichok nerve agent was produced in the 70's and 80's, Max, by a soviet-era scientists in order to circumvent already signed agreements with the United States principally, but with other nations, too, to get on a multilateral basis, to get rid of chemical weapons.

In other words, they were the sort of weapon that could not be so defined, at that time as a chemical weapon. Amid of all of this confusion, of course, it is confusion precisely that the Russians are trying to sow.

Looking for glimmers of light between the position of Theresa May and her European allies, Theresa May and the Trump administration, so that they anticipate or keenly awaiting what it is, that Theresa May, may come up with later on today, in terms of her response and the British response to these attacks that have been going on in the United Kingdom now over some years.

But from the Russian perspective, they're also warning that reports in the United Kingdom press over, for example, possible retaliation in the cyber realm, in other words, a cyber-attack coming from the United Kingdom, would be seen as highly provocative and they have already said that they are seeking assurances from the United Kingdom, that that kind of thing won't be employed.

So, really, they're sitting back and letting the British wriggle on this one, because, of course, this country faces Presidential elections, which are essentially a foregone conclusion on Sunday, but nobody is under any illusion that Vladimir Putin wants to see a maximum turnout at a time when he is anticipated to win and has completely emasculated the opposition. And there is no better way than galvanizing the Russian electorate than perceiving or creating a threat -- a perception that they're under threat from overseas, Max.

FOSTER: Sam, thank you. Erin, Theresa May, has put herself in a position, hasn't she, where she does now need to come up with some sort of response, because the deadline's past. What do you expect to hear from her? When do you expect to hear from her?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, she is expected to chair a meeting later today of the National Security Council where it is expected, that she along with intelligence chiefs will go over a range of options out of that, then she will appear in the House of Commons, for Prime Minister's question, then make a statement. British media is reporting, that she is looking really at a range of possibilities, the "London Times" is reporting, that they're looking at the possibility of some sort of cyber counterstrike against Russia which would, of course, then provoke potentially Russia.

Russia is saying, that it will respond accordingly to any measures taken as a result of this. Also, another option they're looking at, the potential for targeted financial sanctions against individuals perceived to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Kremlin, as well as economic sanctions, though it's not clear, how much support within the E.U. they will get for those economic sanctions, for any economic sanctions, given that the E.U is seem to be divided on the topic, as well as, the U.K. standing within the E.U., due to Brexit.

[03:35:14] Also, potentially considering the possibility of expelling diplomats, which some are saying is assured to happen, but there certainly does seem to be political, pressure there, for her to take strong action today, out of that National Security Council meeting. Max?

FOSTER: OK. Erin in Salisbury. Sam in Moscow. Thank you both very much, indeed. We'll be following all of those developments over the course of the day.

Now, some civilians -- civilians are now being evacuated from Syria's Eastern Ghouta, but hundreds of thousands still remain trapped, including an American woman, who is urging President Trump to take action.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been here for five years under siege and I was quiet. I feared to say anything, but now I'm coming out, because it's life or death. It's life or death for the people.



FOSTER: Recapping our breaking news this hour, Democrat Conor Lamb is claiming victory in a Special Congressional Election in Pennsylvania. If he holds on, it would be a huge upset for Donald Trump, who won the district by 20 points in the 2016 Presidential election. Right now, the race is still too close to call, for CNN. We're waiting for absentee ballots to be counted. Republican, Rick Saccone, said he is not ready to give up.

Now, in the seven years of the Syrian civil war, the regime's offensive to retake Eastern Ghouta has been one of the deadliest. On Tuesday, 100 civilians here evacuate from the rebel-held enclave, but 400,000 others are estimated to be trapped there. Food is close to running out and the Syrian army is showing no signs of stopping until it fully recaptures, the besieged Damascus suburb. Our Jomanah Karadsheh joins us from Amman, Jordan. She' been speaking with women trapped in Eastern Ghouta. How are they surviving, Jomanah?

[03:40:03] JOMANAH KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the situation is absolutely horrific. As humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding inside Eastern Ghouta. When you talk to the aid agencies, and when you talk to people inside, they are really terrified of what is going on right now. You've got this regime offensive. The regime is closing in on different parts of Eastern Ghouta and people are really concerned about, what is going to happen to them. And we spoke to one woman who is desperate for the world to hear her voice and help her family.


DEANA LYNN, AMERICAN, TRAPPED IN SYRIA: We woke on the sound of a Russian warplane bombing us. We're all scared, sitting in basements.

KARADSHEH: She says her name is Deana Lynn, a 44-year-old American from Michigan, trapped in Syria's hell on earth, she wants the American President to save Eastern Ghouta.

LYNN: I would say to President Trump, that he has to make a move. He has to put pressure on any tyrant in this world. He has to put pressure on Bashar al Assad and his regime. He has to put pressure on Russia and Iran. They're all a part of this -- this slaughter in Eastern Ghouta.

KARADSHEH: The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley says the United States is, quote, prepared to act if the U.N. fails to demand a ceasefire. The mother of eight has been living here with her Syrian husband for nearly 20 years. Like most in Eastern Ghouta, with nowhere safe, they've been driven underground. She spoke to us, over a shaky internet connection.

LYNN: Maybe the hardest thing in the world, to be a mother here in the Eastern Ghouta. We see our children in danger every day. I fear they will be hurt, I fear they will be injured. I fear when I hear the bomb and I tell my children to lay on the floor and I know it's not enough and it's not safe.

KARADSHEH: The situation in Eastern Ghouta is catastrophic. Doctors without borders says, bombs raining down on Eastern Ghouta, has claimed more than 1,000 lives in just two weeks. Now it seems a matter of time, before the regime recaptures the area.

LYNN: I think, my message to the world is, let your voice be heard. Don't just -- don't just be quiet. We have to say something. I've been here for five years under siege and I was quiet. I feared to say anything, but now I'm coming out, because it's life or death. It's life or death for the people.

KARADSHEH: A message to a world that many feel has turned its back on Syria.


KARADSHEH: And, you know, Max, this is -- this one woman says she still has hope and she still has faith in the international community and the world, trying to help and save Syria, but when you talk to most of the people there, they really have lost faith in the international community, they say all they hear is condemnations and statements coming out from the international community.

FOSTER: And just explain, why some of the people trapped, aren't using these corridors that have been created by the regime.

KARADSHEH: Well, you know, there are two corridors that were designated by the regime and the Russians that would allow for the evacuation of civilians. You know, you hear on a daily basis, some reports coming from the Russians or the regime saying, that a number of civilians have managed to leave, but it's only been very small numbers. Both sides, you got, the regime on the one side, the rebels on the other side, blaming each other for why that is.

The regime's line has been that it is the rebel groups or as they call them the terrorist groups inside Eastern Ghouta, that are holding civilians there as hostages. Using them as human shields. And that they're targeting the route, that lead to these corridors, so they're not allowing people to leave, but, you know, when you talk to some of the people there, of course the rebels deny this and say it's the regime that is constantly bombing these areas, not allowing people to leave.

When it comes to the people, Max, they're absolutely terrified of trying to leave. One, they're pinned down in their basements, because of this constant bombardment that has been going on for more than three weeks now. And they're also scared and terrified of what they are going to find on the other side of these humanitarian corridors. Where are they going to end up? These are regime-controlled areas and people really fear, what might happen to them, because they've been living under rebel control for nearly five years now. And they would be -- they say, they would be treated as traitors. They worry, they would end up in jails or even worse.

FOSTER: OK. Jomana, thank you.

Students across the world are standing up against modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

[03:45:00] A look at some of their amazing efforts for you, when we return.


FOSTER: Marking my freedom day here on CNN. Seven years ago this month, our network began its fight against modern-day slavery, with the launch of the CNN Freedom Project. This year, it's evolve into a worldwide event driven by students, who raise awareness about the impact of slavery and human trafficking. We dispatched correspondents across the globe to cover this story for you and they'll be bringing us live reports, throughout the coming hours. And this hour, our Becky Anderson joins us from school in Abu Dhabi and Faria Sevenzo is in a school in Nairobi, in Kenya. Becky?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Max, the shocking fact is, that there are more slaves in the world today than there have ever been. That is a fact. 40 million people around the world in forced labor, in forced marriages, exploited as domestic workers, as drivers. Many of those in this region, the Middle East and North Africa.

[03:50:08] And one in four of those slaves are kids. Kids like these, joining me here today at the American Community School. And that is why, a day like today is so important. Its kids like these around the world, who are standing up and saying, enough is enough. This is a day of global action. All of these students here and many others at this school in Abu Dhabi have been learning about what freedom means. Let's ask them. I'm going to go along the line. Don't be shy. What does freedom mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me is being able to share my thoughts and opinions without fear of consequence.

ANDERSON: Very good. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me, is being able to express myself without fear of what other people will say.

ANDERSON: And you really mean that, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom to me, is the ability to make both being meaningful and trivial decisions in my life.

ANDERSON: Does living in a region like this, you think make even more of an impact, when we are talking about freedom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it does, because, here, we have a really nice life and there are some people out there who don't get a life like we do. So it is important for us to raise awareness to our community, that there are people out there, who have lack of freedom.

ANDERSON: Excellent. Abdullah?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, freedom is the ability to make your own choices and express yourself freely.

ANDERSON: Yes. These kids really know what is at Mansour?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, freedom means, that everyone has access to fundamental human rights.

ANDERSON: And you didn't just learned that, did you?



ANDERSON: You mean that, no, he does. We've been having a discussion here and these guys really get it. Let me just move down here as well, because as we ask what freedom means to these students, Daniella's got a really good example. Daniella, this piece of art is beautiful. It's yours. Tell us what it is all about?

DANIELLA, STUDENT, ABU DHABI: So I made this piece of art, because I am so passionate about life -- my whole life, I've been doing art. And I feel like, my freedom day is such an important thing, especially now since there is so much slavery going on around the world and I made it to represent, the chained hands all around the world.

ANDERSON: Let so -- just, walk us through this, because, viewers, isn't this absolutely stunning? You're how old?


ANDERSON: You're 14 and you've made this. Just talks us through your thinking behind this.

DANIELLA: So, my thinking, I started with the chain hands, because I've seen so many like -- videos and so many documentaries on this and there is just so much happening today about slavery, exploitation. And there are so many people suffering and I wanted to represent their hand of people being shipped, being human trafficked every day.

ANDERSON: Fantastic, guys. I know, you're all nodding away here. Well-done, Daniella. You've been raising awareness, which is -- we all understand is so important. If we are to stop this scourge of modern-day slavery in the future. What have you been doing Alexandra (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been raising a (inaudible), I am raising funds for our children in Ukraine, who could potentially become victims of trafficking. And through our little helped, we might be helping the bigger picture in the end.

ANDERSON: Bless you. Fantastic Alexandra, Daniella, thank you. Thank you to all of you. Let us come down here, because Ali's at the board. Ali, a lot of your mates have been writing on this board. Just walk us through, what we've got here.

ALI, STUDENT, ABU DHABI: So one of the -- our friend said, to not worry about my safety, which I think is really important. To speak freely and have no oppression. To be yourself and not let anybody change or stop your dreams. And then what I wrote, which is, to be able to express yourself without fear of judgement, which is, all very important.

ANDERSON: Amazing stuff. Two boards full of ideas, this is the American Community School in Abu Dhabi. There are hundreds of students, who have been involved in what is this global day of action. So from us to you, three, two, one.

STUDENTS: #myfreedomday.

ANDERSON: You can do better than that. Three, two, one.

STUDENTS: #myfreedomday.

ANDERSON: Back to you guys.

FOSTER: Wonderful. Thanks, Becky. And from the Middle East, we go to Africa and get the story from Farai. Is it the same one there Farai, or is there a difference?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, last year we broadcast to you from Muranga County back in the central province of Kenya. This year, 2018, were in a completely different spectrum, we're at the independent school of Kenya, which is really at the top end of schools in this country. I can see cricket fields, I can see basketball courts and an array of international students, but they, too, are concerned about freedom.

Remember, we're living in an age, where I, as a black African could be sold in Libya, in a slave market. We live in an age where many Africans are trying to cross the Mediterranean and drowning into great numbers. We are living in an age where, people aren't sure whether it's safer to be a woman or a man, because both sex, are really stand a great deal of risk of becoming slaves. Now, the school here, Independent School of Kenya, have created their own board and they had left messages here, including freedom is the ability to choose.

[03:55:03] Very, very fair sentiment there. And everyone is writing things like that, the ability to be yourself. So, at the moment, the kids are still in school, in their classroom. We may be waiting for a break, but we're talking to one of the school teachers here. This is Pamela -- Pamela.


SEVENZO: Pamela, what are the students preparing for today?

PAMELA: Hi, Farai. Thanks so much for having us today. It's actually the International School of Kenya.

SEVENZO: International. Thank you very much.

PAMELA: We've had a lot of great things happen at the International School of Kenya for the past three weeks. We have the freedom wall that community members were able to come and post what freedom means to them. We also have our music video that are starring some of our students, from middle school to high school, those based on the freedom song (inaudible). And later on, we'll also be having a freedom day panel, for some of our students will be talking about modern-day slavery and issues to deal with child slavery and child trafficking.

SEVENZO: Exactly, thank you.

PAMELA: It is really great.

SEVENZO: Fantastic, Pamela. There you go. So, later on, in the day, we have a debate. We have students engaging and trying to talk about this. Does the idea that 110 girls abducted in Nigeria, does that touch them at all? Are they in touch with the modern world, are they informed enough or all about their celebrities and makeup? We'll find out during the course of the day, Max, but it's very important that they're all engaged and they are all very interested in what freedom means to them on this Freedom Day on CNN.

FOSTER: Look forward to, Farai in Kenya. Thank you very much, indeed, we'll be featuring students and schools from around the world on air and online including on CNN's Facebook page. Do tune in. Get involved. Use the hashtag, #myfreedomday. You can search stories or share your own, using the hashtag.

Thanks for joining us. I am Max Foster, "Early Start" next, for viewers here in the United States or for everybody else, I'll be back with more "CNN Newsroom" in just a moment. Do stay with us.