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Rebels Advance in Libya; Syria Protests; CNN Freedom Project

Aired March 28, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Facing resistance on the front line, Libyan rebels close in on Gadhafi's birthplace.

But are the opposition's strategic gains down to these men or the international coalition?

Also tonight, as Japan's nuclear crisis worsens, we'll hear why some local residents are refusing to leave.

And one woman's fight to free the victims of India's sex trafficking trade.

These stories tonight and more, as we connect the world.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

First up this hour, Libyan rebels are on the move, taking advantage of coalition air strikes that could be turning the tide of the war. Rebel forces are now virtually on the doorstep of Sirte, Moammar Gadhafi's hometown. It's their next target on the coastal road west to Tripoli.

But Gadhafi's forces are putting up fierce resistance. A barrage of gunfire forced the rebels to stop and regroup. They say they need more air strikes to continue advancing.

The rebels now control the yellow-shaded are on this map, from Ras Lanuf in the east to the Egyptian border, while Gadhafi's regime is holding from Sirte to the Tunisian border, shown here in green. The striped area shows the NATO enforced no-fly zone.

Well, near Tripoli, the Libyan government says calm has now been restored in Misrata after days of fierce fighting. It aired these pictures of a pro-Gadhafi rally on state TV without saying which side is now in control.

Well, our Nic Robertson went to that rally, accompanied by government minders.

He's now left Misrata, on his way back to Tripoli.

And he joins us now -- Nic, the picture showed Gadhafi loyalists celebrating.

Does that reflect the real story on the ground?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That reflects about 100 square yards on the ground, Becky. We were taken by the government today to Misrata, through, on the outskirts of Misrata. Many intersections that have showed the signs of the heavy fighting. Shop fronts shot up, vehicles destroyed at the side of the road, many civilian vehicles destroyed at the road -- the side of the road. A civilian bus destroyed at the side of the road. Gadhafi's forces in control there.

As we drove further on toward the center of the city, we could see tanks under trees at the side of the road, a heavy artillery piece, a Howitzer in a field a few miles from the center of the city.

When we got to within about two miles, three kilometers or so, at the very center of the city, that was as far as we were allowed to go. And that's where the pro-Gadhafi rally had been organized.

All those people appeared to have driven in for the event, because as we drove through the -- what -- the outskirts of the city, we saw no one on the streets. And when we were leaving a little bit later, half an hour later, all the people in the rally were driving out behind us.

We were not allowed to go into the center of the city, where the rebels say that the government has been using tanks and snipers to attack them. We were not able to go there, so we were not able to see what was happening there. And as we -- even as we tried to take photographs and video of what was happening further toward the center of the city, the protesters, clearly under instructions, were walking in front of our cameras, waving flags, holding up posters of Moammar Gadhafi.

And as we left the city, we could sound -- we could hear heavy gunfire -- smoke -- smoke rising over the city -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Nic Robertson there on his way back to Tripoli.

Moammar Gadhafi has been a familiar figure on the world stage, for better or worse, for decades. But little is known about the people who are now fighting to drive him from power.

Reza Sayah gives us a closer look at the rebels.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just last month, they were civilians -- all ages, all walks of life.

WISSAM: My name is Wissam (ph).

SAYAH: Twenty-two-year-old Wissam was in college.

Ahmed is 32, a husband, father and engineer.

Eighteen-year-old Edris (ph) was a student studying business.

Today, they're amateur soldiers in the rickety rebel army of Libya's opposition -- united, they say, by one mission -- to topple the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come to here in Benghazi after I saw Gadhafi dictator. He killed my people here. He killed Libyan people without any reason.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want my country to be free. I want freedom for my country.

SAYAH (on camera): The opposition's leadership is just as much of a motley mix as the fighters. It's a group of 31, made up of local politicians, military leaders who have defected and prominent figures like lawyers, doctors, academics, activists. They call themselves a transitional government. And they, too, at this point, appear to have the same objective.

HANA AL-GALLAL, OPPOSITION'S MEDIA COMMITTEE: The main objective of the national council, it is the main objective of the Libyan people. It is the removal of Gadhafi and his regime.

SAYAH (voice-over): With the rebels pushing west, gaining momentum and territory, a Libya without Gadhafi appears more likely by the day. Whether democracy will follow is far from clear.

Libya has long been a patchwork of tribes and rival sects kept largely intact in the grip of Gadhafi's autocratic regime. Although they've joined hands in a common quest, two of the opposition's leaders have already criticized one another.

AL-GALLAL: Well, it's normal. I mean this difference is normal. This is what we like. For 42 years, we have unified -- unified opinion and nobody expressed their opinions. We didn't have this freedom. So it's good. It's good to have -- have rivalry.

SAYAH: The opposition says the path to democracy won't be easy, but whoever derails it, they say, will face what Colonel Gadhafi is facing now.

AL-GALLAL: We broke -- the wall of fear does not -- does not exist and we have no more fear to come out again and again and again until we have the right governments governing us.

SAYAH: Reza Sayah, CNN, Benghazi, Libya.


ANDERSON: Well, the other story, of course, in Libya is that of the international coalition. And diplomats from 35 countries are heading to London for a major conference on Libya on Tuesday. With NATO agreeing over the weekend to take over all military operations, this conference is expected to focus on the mission's political aims.

Now, Britain and France, two leaders of the military action to date, are calling this a chance to chart a new beginning for Libya.

Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicholas Sarkozy issued a joint statement on Monday. They said military action will end only when Libyan civilians are safe and the objectives of the U.N. resolution that authorized the use of force are met.

They also said, and I quote, "We emphasize that we do not envisage any military occupation of Libya, which would be contrary to the terms of the resolution."

Well, right here on CONNECT THE WORLD tomorrow night, we'll have a special Libya edition that I'll be anchoring life from the conference in London. We'll take a focused look at the latest developments in the country, questions about exit strategy, concerns about public support and more. That's tomorrow this time here on CNN.

Well, Russia not expected to attend that conference. It's not part of the military effort in Libya and, in fact, believes the coalition is overstepping the mandate of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said coalition warplanes are bombing Gadhafi's forces, effectively helping rebels make territorial gains. And he calls that interference in an internal civil war.

Well, U.S. President Barack Obama will address concerns about the Libyan mission in just a few hours from now. In a major speech, he'll explain why the U.S. decided to intervene in the first place, trying to reassure critics at home and abroad that the coalition has clear goals as well as an exit strategy.

Now, key U.S. officials laid the groundwork for his speech over the weekend. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Sunday talk show that the U.S. and its allies had to intervene quickly in Libya to save civilian lives.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared with her, adding this very interesting remark.


DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Secretary Gates, is Libya in our vital interests as a country?

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No, I don't think it's a vital interest for the United States. But we clearly have interests there and it's part of the region, which is a vital interest for the United States.


ANDERSON: All right, well, not a vital interest to the U.S., perhaps not exactly the message that Americans want to hear.

Let's bring in Ed Henry at the White House -- Ed, this is an opportunity to clarify the U.S. mission in Libya.

What can we expect the president to say?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becks, you're right. He needs to clarify it. He's under intense domestic political pressure right now, not just from Republicans, but some fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill, who have a lot of questions about the scope of this mission, about some of the unanswered questions about how much it will cost U.S. taxpayers, about what will happen if Colonel Gadhafi somehow holds onto power, what happens if the allies grow weary in the months ahead, enforcing that no-fly zone and ask the U.S. to step up and take a -- take on a bigger role?

I think the other big thing tonight to watch is the president not only answers some of those questions, but really tried to use this as a pivot point, according to White House aides, because, for the beginning, he has insisted that the U.S. would only have a lead role for days, not weeks. Now that NATO, over the weekend, said they'll take over command and control of this mission, it's an opportunity for the president tonight to say what he said a little earlier today about how limited the U.S. role will be in the days ahead.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our involvement there is going to be limited, both in time and in scope. But you're absolutely right that we have a very large defense budget. Some of that is necessitated by the size of our country and the particular special role that we play around the globe.


HENRY: Now, that comment, though, may lead some around the world to wonder if the president realizes the U.S. has a special role in the world, why the U.S. is so eager to drop out of that lead role in Libya and hand this over to some U.S. allies.

Now, the other interesting thing is just sort of the -- the setting for this. It will be the National Defense University at Fort McNair military base here in the Washington, D.C. area. The president deliberately not choosing the Oval Office for this address, in part, because aides say he resisted the notion that this should be on part with Iraq or Afghanistan, where the U.S. committed tens of thousands of troops to large scale wars like that. He wants to highlight how much smaller this mission is by not using the Oval Office for that backdrop -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Good stuff.

Ed Henry there at the White House. Some interesting maneuvering by the U.S. president there.

We await his speech on Libya live here on CNN, of course.

Our coverage begins at midnight in London, just under three hours from now.

Well, we are monitoring a press briefing taking place at the Pentagon right now. Some highlights coming out of that. Opposition forces, they say, have moved to within 130 kilometers of Sirte, believed to be Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, of course. There are no confirmed reports of civisual -- civilian casualties. That's what we're hearing from this press conference as I speak. And a few months ago, the Pentagon making clear that it is not coordinating with rebels in Libya, adding that the challenge in this mission is telling friend from foe.

Well, we'll continue to monitor and bring you updates as they become available.

All right, coming up, another Arab nation struggles to contain an uprising with deadly results -- the latest from Syria straight ahead.

And in a very different part of the world, another battle raging between police and Mexican drug cartels and the country's lucrative tourism industry hangs in the balance.

You're watching CNN.

Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Well, a rare glimpse inside a brothel in India and a frank conversation with the man who runs it. He says he's not doing anything wrong. But women forced into prostitution as young girls see things quite differently.

Both sides of the issue coming up a little later in this show, as part of CNN's Freedom Project.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Here's a look at the other stories that we're following for you this hour.

The situation in Syria remains extremely tense, with the government sending troops to the cities of Daraa and Latakia. Both cities have been the scene of violent clashes between protesters and security forces in recent days. The United Nations says at least 37 people died since last week.

CNN has been unable to confirm the authenticity of much of the video that we've seen from Syria, but pictures posted on YouTube appear to show the extent of the protests in Daraa.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom joins us with more from Abu Dhabi -- Mohammed, promises of political and economic concessions from the president. As yet, no firm commitments and no sign of the man who assumed power from his father more than a decade ago.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Becky. And, you know, we're hearing now that the president is going to speak to the country within the next 24 to 48 hours. There's been an expectation for the last few days that he will speak at some point soon.

But we've heard other aides of his and a spokeswoman for the information ministry offering more concessions, saying mistakes have been made, saying that the emergency law -- the emergency law that's so reviled by the protesters there, that they want repealed, that that will be lifted.

But they're not saying when it will be lifted. They're not saying when economic reforms will be enacted. And that's the key question. We speak to these protesters and these activities now who say the time for the president to have come out and made these concessions and to have shown that he's not his father's son and that he broke from the past was years ago.

Bashar al-Assad came to power promising reforms. Human rights activists called the last 10 years, when he was in power, the lost decade, because he did not enact all these reforms that he promised. Because of that, these protesters say they've had enough. They're saying, yes, you're hearing conciliatory rhetoric. You're hearing concessions being made, but there's no firm commitment. And these people are saying it's just far too little and far too late.

And because of that, they're committed to keep coming out. They see what's been going on, this Arab spring, this awakening, this movement there's been spreading across the Middle East. They're emboldened by that. And they say that only if they continue to come out and demonstrate will they really put pressure on the government.

What started out as a localized issue has really coalesced around a message now that's forming of they want regime change -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Mohammed Jamjoom for you.


Well, the death toll expected to rise after an explosion at an ammunition factory in Yemen. Authorities say at least 121 people were killed and another 45 injured. Security officials say the victims are mainly local residents who were allegedly ransacking the factory for guns and ammo.

Militants seized the building over the weekend, during fighting with government forces.

Well, former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, has arrived in Cuba. He's on a -- a private mission at the invitation of Cuban President Raul Castro. Carter is expected to meet with Castro and other officials to talk about improving relations between Washington and Havana. He'll also meet with religious leaders during the three day visit.

Well, British Airways cabin crews voted on Monday in favor of a fresh round of strikes, as a dispute with the airline over pay and perks drags on. The union now has 28 days to announce the strike dates and it must give British Airways at least a week's notice before walking off the job.

Last year, the cabin crew went on strike for a total of 22 days, costing the airline nearly $250 million.

Coming up next, shining a spotlight on modern-day slavery, as CNN's Freedom Project takes you to India. Behind closed doors of a brothel in New Delhi and the thoughts of the man in charge.

That coming up.

Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Fear, manipulation and vicious threats -- just some of the tools human traffickers use to control their victims.

Well, this year, CNN is throwing light on the dark world of modern-day slavery, with what we are calling our Freedom Project. Now it's an initiative where we are launching -- that we're launching to help expose this trade in human life. We know it's not a problem that we alone can solve, but we do hope to put it firmly in the spotlight with stories and interviews that you won't see anywhere else.

And all this week on CONNECT THE WORLD, we'll be showcasing some of those stories.

And tonight, we begin in India, with a rare glimpse inside a brothel in New Delhi and a candid conversation with the man who runs it.


ANDERSON (voice-over): These women are singing for freedom and through their lyrics, raising awareness on the issue of sex trafficking in India.


ANDERSON: Once a month, women's rights group Apne Aap organizes meetings like these so that women can share stories of pain and courage. Singing right along at this gathering, women's rights advocate Zainab Salbi. Based in the U.S., Salbi is visiting India to meet with victims.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walism salam (ph).

SALBI: Salam.

ANDERSON: As a one woman army, she says she's determined to save sex trafficking victims one by one -- victims like Mina Hassina (ph).

MINA HASSINA (through translator): When I was eight years old, I was kidnapped from Bhutan and sold off. In the beginning, I did household chores. Then I was made to sleep with the brothel owner's son. They told me he was my husband. After he would go to sleep, I was forced to sleep with other men, about five to 10 a day.

I then accepted prostitution as a way of life. I began to think this is what I was born to do. I had nowhere else to go.

ANDERSON: Mina's story is all too common here. We spoke with India's undersecretary for trafficking. He points to an anti-trafficking law that's been on the books for more than 50 years and says many programs are in place to help rescue and rehabilitate victims.

But it only takes a short drive through New Delhi's red light district to see that many victims fall through the cracks.

This is the brothel area. You'll see (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: We follow along with Zainab. She's been granted a rare glimpse inside a brothel and even more rare, the brothel owner agrees to sit down and talk to her on camera.

SALBI: You say some of the women come to the red light district through trafficking.

What happens?

IOBAL AHMED, BROTHEL OWNER (through translator): You can't say that 100 percent of these women are trafficked here, but, yes, the girls are often fixed into marriage and are sold by their own husbands. At the time, they are abducted for food.

ANDERSON: He readily admits there's no way to verify who's been trafficked. But he says it's not fair to blame the buyer and the brothel. It's the trafficker, he says, who should be prosecuted.

AHMED (through translator): Every single one of these girls comes to a pimp or a madam. It is rarely, say 5 percent of the time, that the girl comes on her own.

ANDERSON: Ahmed's wife, Nasrin (ph), agrees and she should know. She was once a sex worker herself.

NASRIN (through translator): Only helpless women come here, not women of choice. And the ones who are traded in are bound forever.

ANDERSON: Ahmed is not only a brothel owner, he's also an activist. He says he's trying to help prostitutes and their children by allowing them to live together in his brothel -- a better alternative to living on the street.

There are those who make it out on their own. Like Mina. She eventually escaped and is now working at Apne Aap to rescue others. The organization has reached out to more than 10,000 women since it was created eight years ago. Its premise is based on self-help.

RUCHIRA GUPTA, PRESIDENT, APNE APP WORLDWIDE: We organize women into small groups all over the country. And these groups are like support groups, where the women help each other by sharing stories of pain and courage and discrimination and also of success. And through that, they empower each other.

ANDERSON: Empowered, hopeful and free.


ANDERSON: Well, Zainab Salbi is the women's advocate that you saw there interviewing the owner of the brothel.

And I recently spoke with her.

I began by asking her how those who ran that brothel explained their work.


SALBI: He said men drink beers, drink -- buy whiskey or whatever. They buy cigarettes. And that's another form of buying and shouldn't blame them. One of his statements were that, actually.

So for him, it was just part of the entertainment, except these are human beings. This is not whiskey or cigarettes. This is buying people. And believing because you have purchased the one hour or whatever it is, the length of the time, you believe -- and most -- most prostituted women talk about that -- that you have the right to do whatever you want to do to her because you have bought her body for the hours. And that's the slavery part.

ANDERSON: What role do the brothel owners like this chap have in the trafficking of women in the sex trade?

SALBI: Well, he is the one who buys from the ones who have stole the women or kidnapped the women or trafficked the women. So in his -- and this guys is open. Yes, he is very open about it. So he says the trafficker brings me the girl and -- and usually the younger she is, not only the more she -- desirous she is, but the harder the possibilities of her getting out of it is, because she just, you know, becomes imprisoned in that environment.

So he says, I buy her in front of her, you know?

I buy -- and it's like here, I'm just buying you, just so you know. And he said her price -- she has to work about five years for free to pay off the price that I bought her. So for him, it's a very open process and -- and he depends on the people who bring her from other countries or the village or whatever it is.

ANDERSON: So he'll admit wholeheartedly that he is part of the trafficking industry?

SALBI: He -- he -- I don't know if he would say that I am part of the trafficking industry, because he's arguing to make it legal.

ANDERSON: Do you personally think this is something that could -- that could alleviate the industry of prostitution and the avenues of trafficking, the legality of this industry?

SALBI: It's how we make it legal. I think if we legalizing the -- the -- the pimp and the brothel owner and all of these things, then, no, you actually sort of make slavery legal, you know, and you accept it and you say that's what it is. And these women are working for free for three to five years. They are managing 20 men, on average, a day. For me, this is physical torture. This is a form of physical torture, which this man I interviewed, he was saying well, it's just -- it's just -- you get used to it.

So I think how you legalize it -- if you legalize that aspect of it, then you're just legalizing a form of slavery. If you legal -- you know, if you give her breathing room because she's a victim in that process and you actually make the owner or the demand responsible and you legalize the demand, then you slowly shift the discussion.

ANDERSON: You were obviously troubled by what you saw in New Delhi.

Is that scene of women for sale there common across India?

SALBI: It's very common across India. It's also very common across the world, you know, from Thailand to Nepal to, frankly, the Middle East, which is filled of -- to America. I mean Atlanta itself has about 300,000 trafficked people, mostly women and children, in -- in the heart of America.

So this scene is very common. And wherever you are in the world, if - - it feels, for me, like being in the heart of darkness. They are kids who are growing up in these brothels, seeing their mothers having, you know, being -- having sex with awful times and in -- in awful situations.

I have interviewed girls who are 11 years old when they were prostituted. They were put on drugs and alcohol and they were prostituted. And they thought this is their life, that's it.

ANDERSON: You got some quite amazing access.

Why do you think that was?

SALBI: Well, I came at it not at a point of judgment. I wanted to really understand his logic with respect, not, you know, if -- if I had gone in it and attacked him from the minute I saw him, he would never have opened. But i really -- it's sort of compassion toward someone I do not agree with. But it's compassion and understanding and wanting to understand his point of view even though he represents everything I do not believe in.


ANDERSON: Well, as Zainab said, human trafficking and forced prostitution not limited, of course, to India and Asia, not by a long shot. Later this week on CONNECT THE WORLD, we're going to highlight the problem in Europe. We're going to show how changes in Swedish law have made it an example for others but have also created trouble for neighboring Denmark, where sex traffickers are setting their sights instead.

This is a big initiative for CNN. If you want to learn more about the project, do head to

Let me just show you what you can find on this site. This is the main page, but if you -- a couple of things, here. If you go into this bit here, will -- there's a whole bunch of facts and figures that you'll be able to find that you won't get anywhere else.

And how you can help, perhaps, solutions and how you can help. Perhaps some of the most important issues that we think we can raise during this years long initiative. So, that's the Freedom Project, you get it here on CNN.

All right, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back, a desperate situation that shows no sign of improving. Plutonium in the soil and radiation in the water. They're the new worries for Japanese authorities. We're going to bring you the latest from Tokyo, up next.


ANDERSON: Welcome back, you're with CONNECT THE WORLD. This is CNN, I'm Becky Anderson in London. Coming up in the next half hour, is it worth the risk? We'll meet some residents refusing to leave Japan's radiation zone.

A battle on two fronts. The campaign to bring tourists back to Mexico as the government there fights its war on drugs. That story's up a little later in the show.

Plus, Carl Lewis, the man dubbed athlete of the century, taking your questions.

That ahead. First, let's get you a check of the headlines this hour.

Libyan rebels are meeting fierce resistance on the road to Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte. Rebels are trying to advance further west towards Tripoli, taking advantage of coalition air strikes to gain new ground.

Yemeni officials say at least 121 people are dead and 45 wounded after an ammunition factory blew up. Militants seized the factory this weekend. Authorities claiming many of the victims were area residents who were looting the building.

Syria is trying to stamp out unrest with a flood of soldiers in two cities. In Daraa, soldiers use water canons to disperse protesters and reportedly fired over the crowd. And eyewitnesses in Latakia say mobs of men roamed that city on Sunday.

Well, for the first time since an Italian court lifted his immunity from trial, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has appeared in court. The ruling earlier this year exposes the prime minister to three corruption cases and a separate trial in which he is charged -- or accused of having sex with an underage dancer.

Former US president Jimmy Carter has arrived in Cuba for a three-day visit, the trip described as a private, non-governmental mission. Mr. Carter is expected to meet Cuban president Raul Castro to talk economic policies as well as relations between the US and Cuba.

Those are your headlines this hour.

Well, the radiation nightmare in Japan just keeps getting worse. There are reports plutonium has been found in soil near the quake-damaged Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. Martin Savidge has more.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): TEPCO tells CNN that it found traces of Plutonium in five different locations at the Fukushima nuclear facility, three different types of plutonium. These were as a result of soil samples the company said it took on the 21st and 22nd of March, so roughly one week ago.

It says that none of the samples came back in any level that would be a threat to human life. Still, it is disconcerting, and the company couldn't say whether or not it came as a result of problems at the nuclear plants.

There's only one nuclear reactor that uses plutonium, and that's reactor number three. It has a mixture of uranium and plutonium. But again, the company couldn't say for certain whether this is some plutonium that came from somewhere else or whether it actually came as a result of the problems they've been having at Fukushima.

In the meantime, there were other developments today. Large quantities of water, highly radioactive water, some of it found in the turbine room of reactor number two, and also then found in tunnels for electric cables outside of reactor number two.

What they would like to do is put that water somewhere else, pump it out of the areas they found it, but they have no more space in any containers in which to place it.

The discovery of that highly radioactive water, though, in the electric cable tunnels could also explain why there are high levels of radiation in the seawater surrounding the plant. It's possible that that may be the way that it's getting into the ocean. But again, TEPCO, the operators of the facility couldn't say for sure. In Tokyo, I'm Martin Savidge. Back to you.


ANDERSON: All right. Well, there are six reactors at the Fukushima plant, let's remind you, all in different states of disrepair. A closer look for you, the news of plutonium in the soil is a big worry for the number three reactor, as Martin explained. It's the only one that houses plutonium as well as uranium.

As he said, officials don't know for sure if the plutonium is from there, but that reactor has been the main concern for engineers since the earthquake and tsunami struck.

Well, the radioactive water that we were just telling you about was found in a tunnel connected to the number two reactor.

This animation showing the inside of a nuclear reactor. Authorities are worried that the containment structure around the reactor's core is damaged and may be leaking the radioactive material. You can see it there in green.

For more on this, we are joined by the chair of the Molecular Pathology Unit at Imperial College in London. Professor Gerry Thomas, you've been with us here on CNN before. We welcome you back.


ANDERSON: I want to debunk some myths and underline what is important for people --


ANDERSON: -- at this point. Martin's report suggesting that we're looking at a big worry at number three reactor.


ANDERSON: And the only one that houses plutonium and uranium. It's been a concern for engineers since the tsunami and earthquake struck. What should we be concerned about?

THOMAS: Well, we as the population shouldn't be concerned about too much. That plutonium's going to stay localized within the reactor. It's not going to go anywhere else, so it's only a really a worry for the workforce there. And any radiation contamination is not going to be good for them, and the smallest they can keep it, the best, as far as they're concerned.


THOMAS: But they will take appropriate measures to make sure they limit the exposure of the work force.

ANDERSON: There'll be viewers around the world who say, "OK, fair enough, we get that, that's housed, to a certain extent, and locked off." Radioactive water, we're being told about?

THOMAS: Well, radioactive water's probably got radio iodine in it. We don't know the exact composition of this. There's likely to be iodine and probably cesium, as well.

Now, the iodine has a short half life, so the longer that they keep it contained there, the better, because it won't get into the environment. And if it is going into the seawater, because it's in those tunnels, that would explain why it's gone into the sea water.

But also, you have to remember, as soon as it gets into the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Ocean is huge, and you get a massive dilution factor. So, in terms of environmental damage, in terms of health damage for the population, it's really insignificant. That's the good news from that.

ANDERSON: The bad new?

THOMAS: Well, the bad -- there isn't, really, any bad news apart from the fact it's obviously still not quite under control. But these things take a long while to work through and to get into control.

So, they're doing their best, they're doing what they should be doing, they have done what they should've done for the population, which is to move the population away and to give them stable iodine, and they're minimizing any contamination they can in the environment.

The good news is, there's nothing coming out into the atmosphere, which is great, because you're not going to get fallback like the past.

ANDERSON: So, what should we be aware of going forward? Because this story's not going away.

THOMAS: No, it's not going away, but the important thing is, thus far, it seems to be fairly localized contamination, mainly centered on that plant, which is fine.

And even -- and this is not going to happen, now. We're passed the Chernobyl stage. Even if it was to be another Chernobyl, the Japanese have done the right thing already, they've given the population stable iodine, and the only thing post-Chernobyl was charted thyroid cancers. They've already mitigated against that possibility.

But the important thing is to stay vigilant, to watch what's going on, to keep the appropriate measures in place so that if the situation changes you can that adapt to that.

ANDERSON: You're a specialist, and you have facts and figures at your fingertips, one assumes, in your lofty position --


THOMAS: Now that's -- now you're asking --

ANDERSON: The rest of us aren't, of course. Are we being given the right information to make sort of learned decisions, as it were?

THOMAS: The problem is with anything to do with an accident like this, it's a fairly fluid thing, and things can change. So, just the simple fact of it raining can bring down iodine from the atmosphere and it makes it look as if there's more contamination. It's not. It was there, it just wasn't on the ground, and it is when it rains.

So, you have to sort of move with things as it changes. The likelihood, now, is that that contamination is going to maintain around the reactor area, which is great news for the population.

But you do have to modify what you're doing, because it is a flexible situation, still. But I think the Japanese have done everything they should've done by the book. It is worrying when you get a sudden, "Oh, I'm sorry, we got the wrong number associated with radioactive leak."


THOMAS: That does make you worry. But I don't think the population should be worried. I think everything is being done to the right way.

ANDERSON: Good stuff.

THOMAS: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Glad for that, positive news.

Well, Japan's defense forces have got their hands full, of course, chasing up people who refuse to leave the radiation zone. Despite the danger, some elderly residents say that they are staying.

As you can see from this map, it's mandatory for those living within 20 kilometers of the plant to leave, and it's recommended those within 30 kilometers also go. CNN's Paula Hancocks has more from Tokyo.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a farming community, now a ghost town. Trains no longer run here. The cleanup after the earthquake has not yet begun.

Futaba is within the 20-kilometer or 12-mile evacuation zone from Fukushima nuclear plant. The only people on the streets are members of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, and they are dressed head to toe in protective clothing.

But despite the mandatory evacuation order, the SDF has heard of one elderly couple who refuse to leave.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): The SDF tells this lady, "We have come to help you go to the evacuation center."

She replies, "No, no. We cannot go."


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Her husband has Alzheimer's, and a bad leg keeps him bedridden. She refuses to leave even when told her daughter is worried about her.

The SDF go, but a member of the team tells CNN the couple were convinced to move out two days later.

KEI HIGUCHI, JAPAN SELF-DEFENSE FORCES (via telephone, through translator): We are explaining how serious the situation is to people, because radiation is something you can't see with your eyes. However, some of those who remain in the danger zone find adapting to a new environment even more challenging, so they want to stay at home.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): It's a house-by-house search to find those who stayed behind. Some came back to look after animals. Others thought they were too old or too sick to move.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary says, "We would like to request once again that residents stay away, because it's a very risky area with contamination. We urge residents not to return to the 20-kilometer radius area."

It is slow work for the SDF to try and clear the evacuation zone. Roads damaged by the earthquake make getting around more difficult.

HANCOCKS (on camera): Japan's government also suggests all residents leave their homes up to 30 kilometers or 18 miles from the nuclear plant, but the US government has almost tripled that distance in its own guidance to its citizens. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Tokyo.


ANDERSON: All right. When we return here on CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN, the PR campaign taking on Mexico's deadly drug wars.


BRIAN RULLAN, ACAPULCO NIGHT CLUB OWNER: There's not a violence against tourism. Any tourist can come here, they'll never see violence.


ANDERSON: Find out how Acapulco is trying to win back those visitors. That is after this.


ANDERSON: Executions, gang shootouts, violent clashes. This is Mexico's drug war. In just the first three months of this year alone, more than 2800 people have been killed.

But it was 2010 that saw the deadliest spike in slayings there. The attorney general's office puts the number of deaths last year at more than 15,000. And since President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on drug cartels five years ago, the death toll now close to 35,000.

Well, tonight, we're looking at how all of this affects the country's tourism. We know that drug cartels hold influence, control, and power across many parts of the country, yet Mexico is still a place that people want to visit.

Check out this number, 22.5 million people came as tourists alone last year, according to the UN World Tourism organization. And this is how much they say tourism is worth to the Mexican economy, almost $12 billion.

Now, one tourism hot spot for ages -- all ages -- is or has been Acapulco. Its beautiful beaches have long been a favorite of Americans on their spring break, but after a spate of gruesome murders there, this once- thriving resort town is now struggling to win back its loyal following. Rafael Romo takes a look.



RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): A Mexican folk song drowns out, for a moment, the sound of crashing waves. This is Acapulco, a sunny beach resort on the Mexican Pacific coast, a favorite destination for international travelers.


ROMO (voice-over): After Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Johnny Weismuller made it their favorite getaway in the 1950s, it became popular with Americans, especially spring breakers in the months of March and April.

But this season is different. Restaurants and bars are empty, and very few foreigners can be seen on the beach.

BRIAN FORGRAVE, CANDIAN TOURIST: This is always a busy time. Loud music, drunken teenagers everywhere, just spring breakers -- not this year. It's quiet. Which is kind of a good thing.

ROMO (voice-over): Spring break hot spots like the Acapulco Copacabana Hotel are still full.


ROMO (voice-over): But only with domestic tourists.

ESPEJEL: Last year, we have -- we had over 2600 kids. And this year, it's going to be, probably, I can say maximum about 50 or 60 of them.

ROMO (voice-over): After a series of gruesome murders last year, American and British authorities issued warnings to travelers about Acapulco. Eighteen bodies were found near Acapulco last November in a shallow grave in what appears to be a massacre by a drug cartel.

ROMO (on camera): Everywhere you go in Acapulco, especially in tourist areas, you see signs like this one that say "Habla bien de Aca," "Speak well of Aca," short for Acapulco. It's a new campaign spearheaded by the tourism industry.

ROMO (voice-over): But it's hard to do that when the violence is speaking so loudly. Fifteen headless bodies were found outside a mall in January. There were more than 1,000 violent deaths in Acapulco in 2010, marking a steady increase over the last three years. With more than 300 deaths so far this year, Acapulco is on pace to break last year's record.

RULLAN: But it's not a violence against tourism. Any tourist can come here, they'll never see violence. Any person out of town will come here, they'll never see any problem against -- an attack against anybody personally.

ROMO (voice-over): Brian Rullan owns Palladium, one of the hottest nightclubs in town. He used to see hundreds of spring breakers every night in previous years. Now, it's only a handful.

AMY PETERSON, AMERICAN TOURIST: Yes, it's totally safe.

ROMO (voice-over): But these four young Americans from the Midwest say people are missing out.

PETERSON: My mom actually came to Mexico a couple weeks ago, asked people about it. Everyone kept telling us how safe it was, so it was no problem coming here. And -- once we got here, everyone felt so safe.

ROMO (voice-over): Acapulco officials say last year they still received about 9 million tourists, a number they expect will increase by 300,000 in 2011.

MANUEL ANORVE, ACAPULCO MAYOR (through translator): Acapulco is standing on its feet, and Acapulco is greater than its problems.

ROMO (voice-over): Mayor Anorve points to the fact that world class events, like the international diving championship and a Guinness record- breaking event were still held here this year.


ROMO (voice-over): But back at the beach, these folk musicians say they know tourists are not flocking to Acapulco the way they used to. They say the chance to play a song has now become the exception rather than the norm. Rafael Romo, CNN, Acapulco, Mexico.


ANDERSON: Well, he's got an Olympic medal haul that is astounding, conquering both track and field in his day. After the break, our Connector of the Day, Carl Lewis, talks to us about his heroes, success in sport, and why winning isn't just for anyone.


ANDERSON: Well, he is an Olympic legend with a lot to be proud of and, in his retirement, Carl Lewis says it's a glory he shares by inspiring kids to get active. Let's get you connected.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTS ANNOUNCER: On their way to a world record, Lewis now winding --

ANDERSON (voice-over): In action, the man that "Sports Illustrated" in 1999 declared the Olympian of the Century. A track and field giant, Carl Lewis has ten Olympic medals under his belt, nine of them gold.

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTS ANNOUNCER: And he felt good about it, Carl Lewis on his third jump.

ANDERSON (voice-over): For more than a decade, he dominated the long jump pit, winning the event in four consecutive Olympic Games. He was also the man to beat on the track. The 100, 200, and 4 x 100 relay were all golden races for Lewis in 1984, a medal haul that equaled the 1936 feat of his idol, the late and great Jesse Owens.

Lewis was also part of one of the most anticipated showdowns in Olympic history, the 100-meter sprint against Ben Johnson at Seoul in 1988. The Canadian sprinter won, but was stripped of his medal after testing positive for steroids, the gold later awarded to Lewis.

A towering figure in sport, I ask this five-time Olympian how he gets a sense of achievement beyond athletics.

CARL LEWIS, OLYMPIC TRACK AND FIELD STAR: I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents that always taught me to think beyond yourself.

And -- I always talk about relevance. My hero in sports was Jesse Owens, and here he is, more than 60 years after he competed, he's more relevant than ever because he did so much for the community.

So, I had great role models, my parents, Jesse Owens, all these people, and I'm just trying to be like them.

ANDERSON (on camera): I know you're working with kids at the moment, and it's a great job you're doing. Before we get to that, which of those nine medals is most precious to you?

LEWIS: Well, for me, it's hard to pick one, so I say the bookends. The 100 meter's the first one and the long jump, the last one. I knew that it was my first medal when I got it, it was so exciting. And the last one, I knew it was over. So, I really say it's a tie. You know? And they were both in my country, which makes it even more special.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. All right, let's get on to the work with the kids. Marie from the US asks, "What is your best advice for young kids on finding or rating success, whether in sport or in their lives generally?"

LEWIS: Well, I think the biggest thing is that, set goals. Oftentimes, we always determine success by winning. But we should really determine success by effort. What kid sets a goal and tries to give the most effort, and it gets the most improvement. So, let's change the dynamic of what we consider success as.

And I think that if we go after kids and say, "You know what? Let's everyone start from where their beginning is, and who has performed the best and who has improved the most. That's who we build up."

So, the other kids say, "Hey, all I -- I don't have to win the race, I just have to get better." And it encourages them to be the best that they can be.

ANDERSON: You were famously, of course, a vegan during your athletics career. Was there --


ANDERSON: -- much pressure from coaches to change that? For example, to eat meat?

LEWIS: Well, I was fortunate. I had one coach my entire career, and he kind of left that stuff alone. He gave us advice if we asked it, but he wanted us to make sure that when we got there Monday morning or every day for practice, we were prepared to practice.

He didn't get too much into that, because his whole thing was, "You have to think for yourself, too. So, when you're -- when you leave this field, you have to put that together. If you have any advice, I'll give you all the advice in the world, but you've got to put that together and think and use your brain."

So, a lot of people outside said, "Oh, you can't do it as a vegan, you can't do it as a vegetarian, you can't do it." But you can, but it's challenge. But I had all of my personal bests after I changed my diet over 30 years old.

ANDERSON: Take me back through some of those days, to the infamous, for example, 1988 showdown against Ben Johnson. He won, of course, but was stripped of the gold medal after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. You were awarded that gold and the world record. What was going through your mind at the time?

LEWIS: Well, at the time, we were all pretty clear that Ben and his group were taking drugs. But I look back at that time as one of my best medals because I -- when I talk to kids, like for instance, right now, I'm during the Hershey track and field games, as you know.

And when I talk to these kids, I talk to them about the message of -- I actually tried to do the right thing, like most people do. And it seemed like the guy that was taking the drugs won the race. Well, at the end of the day, people that did the right --


LEWIS: So -- so, I think that it's a strong message that you can use later. And I'm actually glad that happened, because it elevated me, it elevated my message, and it elevated sport in a way that might not have seemed good, but it also brought drugs into the forefront, and I think it was good for all sport and all the kids.

ANDERSON: And Chris has got a question about performance-enhancing drugs and the difficulty of stamping out. He says, "Shouldn't we just accept them and establish safe levels, or continue zero tolerance?"

LEWIS: To be honest, I talk to kids about this all the time, and the focus should be on how do we get the best athletes, because that's what sports is about. So, I think that we need to go back earlier.

One of the things about -- that we're doing in America, I think, that is a disservice to kids is we're teaching them -- and they may be doing this in Europe, as well -- about everybody wins, everyone gets a trophy, don't keep the score. I think it's wrong. Kids know at six years old who's better and who isn't.

ANDERSON: All right, talk to me about the Olympics. When you look at the Olympics and the evolution of the Games, do you think we've lost sight, somewhat, of what it's all about?

LEWIS: Well, I think the Olympics in a lot of ways has changed, like society has changed. We've lost sight, if we look at it from that standpoint. But what I look at in the Olympics, I watch the athlete's faces when they cross the line, and I see the emotion in them. That's the same as it was 20, 30, 50 years ago.


LEWIS: And that's what it's really all about.


LEWIS: And so, it's -- it's interesting, because athletes, the ones that enjoy the sport, the ones that get into it, it's in their heart, it stays in their heart their entire lives.


ANDERSON: The great, great Carl Lewis. What a joy that man is. One of our Connectors of the Day, and you can find the rest of them, of course, at

Well, I'm Becky Anderson, that is your world connected, thanks for watching. The world news headlines and "BackStory" will follow this very short break. Don't go away.