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Diplomats Walk Out of Iranian President's Speech to U.N.; Forced Labor at Commonwealth Games Construction?

Aired September 23, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR, CONNECT THE WORLD: That's right, Jim. Thank you for that.

You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad then giving a much anticipated speech to the United Nations General Assembly a short time ago. But he didn't address a full house. One after another, diplomats streamed out during the speech.

So what did he say? Let's get details from Hala Gorani, who is standing by at the United Nations for you-Hala.


Well if the world is a stage the United Nation's General Assembly was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's stage today and he knew the world was watching. Starting with the theatrics of holding up a Bible and a Koran, saying you respect both. An allusion, of course, to the pastor in Florida who was threatening to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11.

Jim there mentioned that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad then went on to talk about how the United States might have been behind 9/11 in order to bolster its economy and help Israel, it's ally. That is when the United States delegation to the United Nations walked out.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad then spoke about his country's nuclear program. And that is perhaps where the foreign ministers of Western countries, and the leaders of those Western countries who don't want Iran to go ahead with its nuclear ambitions, listened up. He basically said that the IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog was putting pressures on Iran that it shouldn't. And that Iran would not submit to those pressures, Becky.

So, no leeway, no movement, there from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on what countries gathered here really wanted to hear about, his country's nuclear program.

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating. And that is what we are going to do next, Hala. We thank you for that. Hala Gorani is at the United Nations for you.

Well, President Ahmadinejad put forth what some may consider a compelling picture of his country and its ideals. And yet, three Iranian diplomats, in Europe, have defected this year alone. In January Mohammed Reza Hadari (ph) left his consular post in Norway and was soon granted asylum. Earlier this month Hussein Ali Zeta (ph), a senior official at the Iranian embassy in Helsinki announced that he is seeking asylum in Finland. And just last week Farzad Farhangian called for an uprising against the Iranian government after he left his job as press attache at the embassy in Brussels. He is now seeking asylum in Norway.

Well, Iran says these diplomats choose to stay abroad for personal, not political reasons. Suggesting their official mission had ended before they resigned. Though the diplomats themselves tell a very different story. We talked with one of them, Farzad Farhangian. And we began by asking why he is defecting. He spoke to us through a translator.


FARZAD FARHANGIAN, IRANIAN DEFECTOR (through translator): In reality it is to join the movement of the people of Iran to show the world that his movement is very much alive an in reality to show the world that this regime has no legitimacy.

ANDERSON: Let's talk about the opposition movement. Why has it gone so quiet?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): I don't believe they have gone so completely quiet. I believe this is a change in tactic that has been chosen by the leaders of the movement.

ANDERSON: You are on record as saying that top levels of Iran's Revolutionary Guard are looking to join the opposition movement. What evidence do you have of that?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): Due to the conditions of the country and the actions of the regime, during the past year in particular, makes them come back to their own people. And the information and the connections that I have, and have gained during my tenure also shows me and is a witness to the fact that there is a trickling, a steady trickling, of the numbers of the ranks of the IRGC who are joining the popular movement.

ANDERSON: To you mind, just how much power does President Ahmadinejad wield in Iran today?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): He has perhaps a force of 3 to 4 million people on whom he can count very steadily. No more than that.

ANDERSON: You understand how the Iranian government works. Just how sensitive are they to international pressure and criticism?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): Within what framework, Becky?

ANDERSON: I'm talking here about sanctions. I'm talking about how the international community, P5, plus 1, discusses and criticizes Iran. I want to know how much that hurts?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): Sanctions are not being used. And the international community, taking these actions does not result in anything other than bureaucracy. All of the key members of this government, all of its elements, are not susceptible to the financial pressures that result, and the hardships that result from sanctions.

ANDERSON: I want you to listen to what President Ahmadinejad said to Larry King on his show in the past 24 hours.


AHMADINEJAD (through translator): No one expected fear about Iran's nuclear activities in the region, except the Zionist regime, and a few-some American authorities. We are not seeking the bomb. We have no interest in it and we do not think that it is useful.


ANDERSON: Is Iran building a bomb?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): I really believe that these gentlemen are following the same recipe that has been laid out by North Korea.

ANDERSON: Sorry, what do you mean by that?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): You will inevitably come to a point where the world community and its members see you and accept you therefore inevitably as a nuclear power.

ANDERSON: So from what I understand you are saying that you believe that Iran is intent on building a bomb?

FARHANGIAN (through translator): What I have interpreted shows me that they are on the path. They are seeking to obtain, to obtain what you mention.


ANDERSON: An Iranian defector speaking to me earlier on here, on CONNECT THE WORLD on the day that the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the U.N. General Assembly. Just closing out a few moments ago.

Well, connecting the dots in some of the world's best stories, I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Up next, shocking allegations about who is being put to work as India struggles to get ready for the Commonwealth Games. And expert on forced labor tells of these pictures prove children are being put to work.

Coming up the more disturbing claims that could prove far more damaging to India's reputation than problems with its facilities.


ANDERSON: We turn now here on CONNECT THE WORLD to the saga surrounding the Commonwealth Games. We have heard about the security fears. We have heard about construction problems. And in a moment we are going to look at India's latest efforts to address those concerns.

But first, allegations of an even uglier side to getting ready for the games. Human trafficking expert Siddharth Kara recently traveled to Delhi and claims he has evidence, pictorial evidence, that was gathered just two months ago, child labor being used by games contractors. I spoke to him earlier and began by asking him what he'd found in New Delhi.


SIDDARTH KARA, HUMAN TRAFFICKING EXPERT: Back in mid-July I reliably documented, in just a few days, 32 cases of trafficking for forced labor and 14 cases of child labor all for construction relating to the Commonwealth Games. The conditions were atrocious and subhuman to say the least.

ANDERSON: Let's concentrate on the child labor that you say that you documented while you were there. We are taking a look at some of the photos that you took while you were there. And how do we know these kids aren't just accompanying their parents to work?

KARA: Well, good question. And in some cases, and again, entire families were transported, in some cases the children were just living in the construction area. Maybe they are playing in the dirt, etc cetera. The photos that I sent, and the 14 cases out of the hundreds and hundreds of children I saw, these are ones where I felt I had reliably document child labor.

Meaning, children were working picking up hammers and banging stones, laying planks and marble in front of stadiums for the entryways; planting grass and little flowers along the roads to beautify them, hours and hours at a time. So these cases are ones where I reliably document children, seven, eight, nine, 10 years old, were working alongside their families, again, in this mad rush to get the construction completed.

ANDERSON: How do you know that the projects that they were working on were specifically for the Commonwealth Games, out of interest?

KARA: Oh, everything. Everything is Commonwealth Games related. If they are not actually at the stadiums, Indira Gandhi National Stadium, Nehru Stadium, they're outside the stadiums making the roads look pretty. They are working on extensions for the Delhi metro and there are big signs that proudly proclaim Delhi Metro extension for Commonwealth Games 2010. Road beautification for Commonwealth Games, etc cetera. So everything is proudly declared as being related for the Commonwealth Games, as this proud exposition of-supposedly-India's new economic weight in the world.

ANDERSON: Did you sit and watch these kids working, over a period of hours?

KARA: Absolutely, hours and days. This is what I mean what I say reliably documented. I didn't just show up, watch for a few minutes, and then carry on to the next site. It took me several days just to document these 30 or 40 cases, because I would sit for hours, in the heat that they were working in and the humidity and dust and grime, to make sure.

There is actually labor going on here, for hours and hours on end, it is not just a kid playing in the dirt, or using a hammer as a toy.

ANDERSON: Did you talk to these children? And if you did what did they say?

KARA: Yes, I talked to the children and their families. And they basically said, yes, we are here. We are doing this work. We are trying to get it done. The contractors told us this amount of work has to get done by this amount of time, so we have no choice but to get everyone involved. The contractor promises a certain wage for adults and a certain wage for children, as well. So there is an incentive to get the children involved. But they are not paid. Or they are paid less than half, now and again.

ANDERSON: How do you know that they are not paid?

KARA: When you speak to enough people, who tell you time and again, I was promised this. I haven't been paid in several months. We don't have food, running water, we are living in this tent. We are going to the toilet behind the trees. A certain amount of evidence starts to accumulate where you then lend veracity to what is being said to you.

ANDERSON: What do they say when you talk to them? And what are the conditions like for these kids. And what do they say?

KARA: Well, conditions are sub-human. That is really the only word I can apply. They live in the dirt. They go to toilet behind bushes and trees. Which is why the found human excrement in the athletes village a few days ago. The children don't-especially the young ones-don't really have a sense of what is going on. They are told to do this work and they do this work. They don't know that they should be in school, or maybe they should be playing. This is just what they are told to do and they do it. And they frankly don't know any better.

And it is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking because in a country with as much economic might as India, and laws in place, this shouldn't be happening. The children should be in school. They should be learning to read and write. And they should be playing.

ANDERSON: What do you think authorities might have done?

KARA: Well, I tried to let people know, back in mid-July. I tried to contact the ministry of labor several times to talk about my findings. No response. I did sit with the secretary general of the National Human Rights Commission of India. And he said, yes, we are aware that there may be this kind of activity going on, trafficking for forced labor and child labor, and we are looking into it. So, I did receive some assurances from the Human Rights Commission that they would look into this. But frankly, on the last day when I left Delhi, just a couple of weeks ago, not even that long ago, there was still child labor, debt bondage, forced labor, all over the city for these Commonwealth Games.


ANDERSON: Siddarth Kara on the trail of human trafficking in New Delhi. We put the child labor allegations to Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and her department back in late July. She initially agreed to respond, but in the end that never materialized. I had a chance to speak directly to the minister a few days ago, and again, put the allegations to her that child labor was being used by the Commonwealth Games contractors. Here's her response.


SHEILA DIKSHIT, CHIEF MINISTER, NEW DELHI: No we have a minimum wage here, which every contractor is supposed to pay them. If the gentleman, whoever, the student was from Harvard, if he had come to us, told us that his is what is happening there, we would have taken immediate action. And said, why is it happening? And seen to it, that the labors are paid their wages properly, on time, and the minimum that they need to be paid.

ANDERSON: Can you ensure that that has been happening?

DIKSHIT: Yes. I wish somebody would come and tell me, yes, we are being penalized. We are not being given our rights and wages. I would be able to take action immediately. Because we can take action under the law. And insist that the contractor who employed them gives them their minimum wages.


ANDERSON: You are looking at pictures there of the athletes village, of course, in New Delhi. You heard the minister say she, quote, "wished someone had told her about the allegations". I just want to reiterate that CNN did approach her back in July. The promised interview, though, did not happen.

Well, athletes from 85 countries are schedule to compete and the furor surrounding the event we are going to get an idea now of where some of these nations stand on the games. Reza Sayah is going to give us a view from Pakistan. First up, Phil Black reports on the growing optimism here in England.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (On camera): Team Wales says they are satisfied with recent improvements and they are going. Northern Ireland says it still plans to depart in around four days' time. Scotland is now hopeful of confirming that its athletes will participate. And England hopes to do the same, but it is holding out for stronger assurances on the state of the village, and the safety of the venues.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (On camera): I'm Reza Sayah in Islamabad.

Pakistani athletes will travel to India and participate in the Commonwealth Games despite recent reports about security concerns at the games. This according to Pakistani officials an official at Pakistan's Olympic association says a Pakistani security official recently traveled to India to check out the facilities and talk to Indian officials about security measures. And this official has given his approval for Pakistani athletes to travel to India.

Some Western countries have expressed concerns about security and the general condition and cleanliness of the venues in India. But Pakistani officials appear perfectly comfortable with athletes here traveling to India. And that probably has a lot to do with the fact that Pakistani athletes are used competing here, in a country where security is often a concern, and facilities aren't always in great condition.


ANDERSON: Reza Sayah there, and Phil Black, talking about where some of the countries stand in relation to the fears that we've seen over the past couple of days about infrastructure problems and security.

And I must impress upon you, they weren't reacting there to the conversation that we had earlier on with the expert on human trafficking and child labor, Siddharth Kara. Some pretty disturbing stuff, of course, coming from Siddharth tonight.

Still ahead, "Let's talk." World powers sending Iran that simple message. They want Tehran to resume negotiations over its nuclear program. So, what's the hold up? We're going to get a progress report from EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. That up after your headlines. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: At 32 minutes past the hour of nine in London, you're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson.

Coming up, from efforts to resume talks with Iran to reviving Middle East peace, the European Union's foreign policy chief has a full agenda at the United Nations this week. We're going to talk with Cathy Ashton straight ahead.

Also, you may know him from "Fight Club," "Frida," or "American History X," but actor Ed Norton is also an activist, helping to protect the environment. He's also in New York this week, drumming up support for his cause, and he'll be taking some of your questions as your Connector of the Day.

And then, the kitchen's in the basement, the farm is on the roof. We'll visit an urban restaurant where the produce couldn't possibly be any fresher. Going green on CNN.

Those stories for your delight and delectation in the next 30 minutes. Before that, let's get a check of the headlines this hour.

Just hearing England's team says it will attend the problem-plagued Commonwealth Games in India. This as the Indian prime minister calls emergency meetings over the problems. Whole teams of athletes have delayed their departure over health and safety worries. The games are due to begin a week from Sunday.

One of the top leaders of the Colombian guerrilla group FARC has been killed in a bombing raid. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos says the death of the FARC's number two man, known as Mono Jojoy is a, quote, "historic event." FARC has been at war with the government for more than 40 years.

The French interior ministry says nearly a million people took part in protests nationwide over plans to raise the retirement age. This is the second walk-out this month over planned pension reforms. The bill still must pass the senate to become law.

And Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to the UN General Assembly a short time ago suggesting, amongst other things, that the United States may have been involved in a conspiracy to carry out the September 11th attacks. Many western delegates walked out. US officials later called the speech "abhorrent" and "delusional."

World powers are working to bring Iraq -- sorry, Iran back to the negotiating table to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program. The EU's foreign policy chief is at the center of that effort at the United Nations. Cathy Ashton joins us now to talk more about Iran.

On the sidelines of the summit, of course, you've been involved in trying to find a solution to this long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions. You any closer to getting Tehran around the negotiating table?

CATHERINE ASHTON, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: Well, Becky, we keep trying. We've sent very clear messages to Iran that the time for negotiation is now. The sanctions, we believe, are having an effect. We want to have them around a table, we want to find a solution to this. Not just for ourselves, but because this is a really important issue for the people of the world, and we hope that Iran will respond and we can start negotiations right.

ANDERSON: You say that sanctions are having an effect. We has an Iranian defector speaking to us earlier this hour. He says, yes they are, but they're hurting all the wrong people. They're hurting the people who hurt most under this regime. So is there any other alternative at this point?

ASHTON: We were very careful, Becky, in working out what these sanctions should be. We've been very targeted. You know, in our discussions, not only in the UN, but also in the European Union, we've been absolutely clear that the target is the program and those involved with it, not the ordinary people of Iran.

ANDERSON: Right, but when you were last --


ASHTON: And the --

ANDERSON: In Tehran, Cathy? Because those in Iran, and the defector tonight, who now is in Norway, tells us they are hurting people on the street. They may be targeted, but they're hurting the wrong people.

ASHTON: Well, we're very clear on this, Becky, that the purpose of them is to make sure that we target -- that's why we targeted through shipping, through all of the different industries associated with the program to enable them to do that.

What we want to do is get these discussions going as quickly as possible. And we hope that Iran will want to do that in order to support its economy and its people.

ANDERSON: How strong a leader -- how important a leader is President Ahmadinejad, do you believe, today in Iran?

ASHTON: Difficult to be absolutely sure. What's very clear to us is that there is growing opposition, not least because the Iranian economy is not performing in the way that it should, as well as, of course, issues of human rights, where we're very concerned.

But nonetheless, these are the people we have to deal with, these are the people that we need to sit around a table with and resolve this issue.

ANDERSON: So, you haven't got him sitting around the table this week, yet, though, have you?

ASHTON: We have not been doing that this week, no. But there's been lots of discussions between different people here -- Iran is here, the foreign minister of Iran is here -- to make the point as clearly and loudly as possible. We met as a group, what's called a P5-plus-1, or the E3-plus- 3, so those key countries working -- they're collaborating together to look at what we can do.

ANDERSON: All right. As the EU foreign minister, Cathy, you're also a member of the Mideast Quartet meeting in New York. I want our viewers to hear just part of what President Obama said earlier today on the Israeli- Palestinian issue. Have a listen to this, and we'll talk after it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem's soil as sacred. It's time we should reach for what's best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations, an independent, sovereign state of Palestine living in peace with Israel.



ANDERSON: Well, they liked what they heard. But that living in peace with Israel story won't happen unless Israel at the very least, Cathy, agrees to extending the freeze on settlements. Has the Quartet convinced Israel of that this week?

ASHTON: We've been very clear about the importance of continuing with a moratorium. As you know, this is about making sure that we don't find ourselves in a position whereby building in various places we, in a sense, preempt the discussion that Israel and Palestine have to have about which land belongs where.

It's a very important issue. And I think for both sides, it's really significant that they're trying their very best to find a way through this. Difficulties for Israel domestically, we understand that. Great difficulties for President Abbas of the Palestinians, who knows that if the moratorium is not extended, this is very difficult for him to continue in the talks.

President Obama, Senator Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, all of those working very hard to try and resolve this over the next few days.

ANDERSON: This Quartet has been meeting behind closed doors, canceled press conferences, the lot. Doesn't the world have a right to know how these talks are progressing? Tell us. Tell us how they're progressing.

ASHTON: Well, let me explain to you, the press conference was canceled because the electricity went off in the UN, and the place for the conference was due to be was plunged into darkness. So we couldn't go down there. That was a simple problem.

We've been trying in discussions, not least with me talking to you, Becky, and with others out there, to explain where we're going with this. No attempt to be behind closed doors. Yes, we have our discussions, we always statements from the Quartet at the end. Yes, we try and --

ANDERSON: All right.

ASHTON: Get the message across, and we're working collaboratively, closely, to get this thing moving.

ANDERSON: All right, well, what's the headline out of these backroom meetings, then? Tell me.

ASHTON: I don't -- I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you.

ANDERSON: What's the headline? What would you say the headline was out of these backroom meetings, Quartet meetings this week? The world wants to know.

AHSTON: Not backroom. Absolutely front room. The purpose for the meetings is to collaborate to do a number of things. First of all, to be clear that we support the Middle East peace process. The UN, Russia, United States, EU, collaborating together.

Secondly, to support both parties into those talks. And to back that up with real action. For the EU's part, that's a vote supporting the Palestinian Authority to build a state they will have for the future. That means making sure they've got the right resources in place. Police forces, security, institutions that they will need to do that.

And also, linking that to other issues, like supporting the opening of the crossings in Gaza. As you know, I've been there twice in recent months. All of these issues we work together on. Not behind closed doors. Yes, we talked, but yes, we make sure that our statements are clear and are certainly determined to try and get this process moving.

ANDERSON: We're going to have to leave it there, Cathy. Always a pleasure. Thank you for joining us. Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy head with you out of New York this evening. That was a long title, wasn't it?

Oscar nominee and now, activist, Ed Norton. He's been walking the corridors of power at the UN this week. Instead of promoting a film, he's been pushing a global cause. We put your questions to him and got answers for you, and those up next.



ANDERSON (voice-over): He's one of Hollywood's most versatile actors. From a homicide detective in the 2008 movie "Pride and Glory" to a giant green-skinned monster in "The Incredible Hulk," Edward Norton has played a wide range of characters. Now, he's turning his attention to conservation.

In July, Norton was named the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. His mission, to make sure world leaders take the right action to protect our environment. At the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, the actor and activist's message was simple. There's a vital link between human well-being and biodiversity.

Bringing star power to a global issue, Edward Norton is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: Earlier, I caught up with Ed, your Connector of the Day, and started with a question from Connect the World viewer Lucy. Given that the UN has assigned 2010 the Year of Biodiversity, she wants to know whether Ed Norton is optimistic about the General Assembly's focus on it. This is what he said.


ED NORTON, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: Almost all countries have signed to the Convention on Biodiversity. I think the most notable and unfortunate absence is the United States which, at the moment, is one of only three countries, along with the Vatican to not have signed the Convention on Biodiversity. So, of course, what would make me really optimistic is if the Obama administration was able to push the Senate to ratify the Convention on Biodiversity.

ANDERSON: I think a lot of people might be confused as to what biodiversity actually means. Ed, in a nutshell, can you define it?

NORTON: Biodiversity is, in essence, the web of life that we're all interconnected with. I think we con -- sometimes lose perspective on the fact that we rely on many, many more species and the interactions that they have with our environment than we're aware of.

ANDERSON: Ed, we got a question from Clifford. He says, "At what point in your life did you decide that biodiversity and conservation were issues that you wanted to pursue actively and politically?"

NORTON: Actually, they're issues that I've been tuned into since my youth. My father was a very committed conservation and environmental advocate all of his career. And I think -- I actually was working on these issues, volunteering for organizations before I was ever in the movies. When I started having a more public platform among the many issues the world needs people working on, this was one I felt that I was better informed about and might actually be able to play a role in.

ANDERSON: Do you sense a sort of growing wave of skepticism about issues to do with the environment? Climate change, for example, post-COP15 in Copenhagen. And if you do sense that wave of skepticism, are you worried about that?

NORTON: It is distressing when the world gets together at conferences like Copenhagen and not enough commitments come out of it. It's -- there's no doubt -- I relate to the sensation that the multinational state actors are not moving quickly enough.

But, unfortunately, I just think that people on an individual level can't allow apathy and cynicism to seep in. There are -- the reason those state actors don't summon the will is that they don't feel the political pressure. And I think that, on the street level, people -- young people, especially, have really got to make their voices heard on these issues.

ANDERSON: I hear your passion about this new role, and good for you. A number of our viewers, though, want to know that you're not going to give up the day job. Gavatri from Switzerland, he says, "You're not planning to give up acting by any stretch, are you?"

NORTON: No, I think I've got room for my day job and this.

ANDERSON: Not from the viewer, but from me -- and I need this one answered. You're in "Fight Club," fabulous movie, with Brad Pitt. What's he like to work with?

NORTON: He's great. It was great. We've been looking for something to do together again, and nothing but good to say about Brad on every level.

ANDERSON: What is it that you're working on? Can you tell us?

NORTON: We're working on -- we're cooking something up that could be next year, but we're sorting it out right now. And we're -- it's a big project we're trying to produce together.

ANDERSON: Todd has written to us. He says, "'Fight Club,' 'The Illusionist,' some of my favorite films ever." He asks, "What movie would you like to make?" Which movie would you like to make?

NORTON: I don't -- I don't have an intense focus on one in particular. We're always cooking on a lot of things. And I'm writing one thing, we're -- Brad and I are trying to produce this other thing. You can never quite tell what's going to come next, but there's two or three that are probably next up for me. Not one particular target.

ANDERSON: You've had an illustrious career already, whatever is forthcoming. Can you remember your first red carpet experience?

NORTON: I don't really -- I do remember one time, I stepped onto some red carpet and thought, like, "Oh, this is kind of crazy," and within two seconds all the cameras that were pointed at me surged to the left because Barbara Streisand had walked on with James Brolin for the first time. So, my first red carpet experience lasted for about 2.2 seconds, and then it was over.



ANDERSON: Poor thing. Honest, though. CONNECT THE WORLD, we are going green. Coming up, from rooftop to tabletop, an eco-savvy strategy for growing you're own food from a Manhattan chef. It is part of our week- long special on changing the environment. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Here on CONNECT THE WORLD, we've been going green all week, spotlighting eco projects that are changing the planet and rescuing endangered species, like the pangolin that you see here. The Vietnamese anteater is a delicacy on Asian menus. And for that reason, it's also headed for extinction. We meet -- well, certainly met a team of rescuers who've taken on the big challenge of keeping the species alive.

We also reported on change in the air in Paris. The City of Light is shrouded in smog, but this giant tourist balloon also doubles as a pollution monitor.

Plus, we visited what remains of one Brazil's vanishing biodiversity jewels and looked at conservation efforts to save the Atlantic Forest.

From disappearing forest to farming high above New York's concrete canyons. If you don't have garden space, consider your rooftop, it seems. A Manhattan restaurant says it's conjuring culinary magic six floors up, and it's ticking all the eco-smart boxes. Organic, seasonal, and homegrown. No gimmicks and no compost, either. CNN's Richard Roth takes us up to see just how it's done.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): How many times a day do you have to do this?


ROTH: Really?

ROTH (voice-over): I walked up six flights of stairs with New York chef John Mooney to see what's given root to his new restaurant, Bell Book & Candle.

MOONEY: Here we are.

ROTH (voice-over): It's a rooftop farm where he will grow almost all the produce used at his 80-seat restaurant below.

ROTH (on camera): What are you growing up here? Give me a list. What do you got here?

MOONEY: We have basil here, tomato, bib lettuce, eggplant, romaine lettuce.

ROTH (voice-over): He plucks the food from vertical towers that soar with the Manhattan skyline.

MOONEY: So, those are all the roots attached. Stays living the whole time. We harvest early in the morning. The vegetables are the strongest.

ROTH (voice-over): Mooney doesn't have to worry about getting his hands dirty, because there is no dirt. Nutrient-rich water has replaced soil in this advanced hydroponic system.

MOONEY: Aeroponics is the vertical tower that floods it with oxygen, nutrients, and sun. Gives rapid growth. So, the benefit of growing vertically is not only space management, but the way it's set up helps the vegetables to grow quicker and get everything they need easily.

ROTH (voice-over): And how does it make it to the basement kitchen?

MOONEY: The pulley system goes out over the back, is lowered right to the back door.

ROTH (on camera): Is this all worth it? To do -- why not just open a regular restaurant?

MOONEY: Actually, because it is all worth it. We can control everything. We actually touch everything every day and care for it, harvest it. One of the benefits of harvesting it yourself, for tomatoes, for example, I don't -- they'll never see a refrigerator. So they're not going to be gassed, they're not going to be treated in any way for transport. And I just pluck them from right here. Straight from the vine. It makes a difference.

ROTH (voice-over): Mooney says he can grow food ten months out of the year, and will preserve food before the coldest winter months set in.

MOONEY: There's a heating element inside that heats the solution to 68 degrees, preventing frost from affecting it at all.

ROTH (voice-over): He says that this farming method will branch out beyond the rooftop.

MOONEY: I believe, especially in an urban setting, that this is the wave of the future, for home or commercial use. Like, for our restaurant, we're producing. But in a home setting, you can also supplement your family's diet caring for the things and growing nutritious foods right in your home.

Fresh leaves just picked off the tree.

ROTH (voice-over): But for now, the taste of the future is at Mooney's roof-to-table restaurant. Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


ANDERSON: That looks good, doesn't it?

South Africa's biggest city is sitting on an ecological time bomb, it seems. Tomorrow night, we're in Johannesburg, where millions of liters of toxic water are threatening to spill out onto the city's surface. Diana Magnay takes a look at what's being done to avert a potential agricultural catastrophe as we wrap up our week-long special on the changes we're making to the environment.

Tonight at 55 minutes past the hour here in London, we'll be right back.


ANDERSON: On CONNECT THE WORLD, we are putting the spotlight squarely on CNN heroes. Today, we are announcing ten people who exemplify the very best of humanity through their acts of kindness and courage. We received 10,000 hero nominations from more than 100 countries around the world, and the blue-ribbon panel of business leaders, philanthropists, and celebrities chose our top ten.

This hour, we're going to introduce you to two women who are making a big difference in their communities. In the US, Mississippi has the dubious distinction of having the most overweight population in the country. Well, Linda Fondren is working hard to change that. Her sister died of cancer, but she was also obese, and that sparked Fondren's mission.

She remembered how embarrassed her sister was to work out in front of men, so she started an all-female gym. And she decided to challenge all the residents in her town to slim down. Collectively, they lost -- get this -- 15,000 pounds. Shape Up Vicksburg includes a walking club, and fitness and nutrition classes. And all of it is free.

In Nepal, thousands of sex trafficking victims have a staunch ally in Anuradha Koirala. For more than 16 years, she and her group have rescued and rehabilitated more than 12,000 girls and women in their safe house compound. Koirala's own background of domestic abuse led to her crusade. Now, Maiti Nepal, which translates to "Mother's Home," has facilities throughout Nepal and India.

And next hour, we'll announce more heroes. We want you to become involved by voting for the hero who inspires you the most at CNN Hero of the Year. You can find out more information on the honor or even vote for your favorite at Voting ends November the 18th. You can vote as often and for as many heroes as you like.

I'm Becky Anderson. That's your world connected this evening. "BackStory" is next right after a very quick check of the headlines for you.