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U.S. Homeland Security Warns Bombs Could Be Hidden Inside Toothpaste; Egypt Sends Official Charges To al Jazeera; U.S. Olympic Athletes Arrive in Sochi; Twitter's Disappointing Quarterly Report

Aired February 6, 2014 - 15:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Well, tonight, we are just hours away from the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. The stage finally set, but athletes are arriving under the shadow of a new terror threat. We're live in Sochi and in Washington with the latest on that this evening.

Also ahead, jailing the messenger -- more than a month after these three al Jazeera journalists were arrested in Cairo we'll speak to a reporter who was forced to flee Egypt about the crackdown on free speech there.

And reaching the finish line after 105 days on the ice, a pair of British explorers are about to complete an epic journey to the South Pole and back. The latest on that.

A very good evening from Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. It is midnight here and it's go time in Sochi. the city hosting the 22nd Winter Olympic games has less than 40 -- 24 hours until the opening ceremony. Qualifying runs in some events actually got an early start today. Snowboarders got to try out the brand new slope style course. And we saw action in the women's freestyle skiing events.

Medal seeking athletes are streaming into town. And the world is watching to see if the next two weeks will be an Olympics to remember.

Well live for you tonight, our correspondent Nick Paton Walsh on the ground in Sochi for you.

At this point, Nick, is the stage set for these games?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think so. I mean, certainly the venues are in good stead. We've seen dress rehearsals happen. I've seen firework practices behind me. So I think there's a building and an anticipation for the opening ceremony at about 8:00 tomorrow 20:14 in fact by a sort of 24 hour clock. So you've got the link there to the date of the actual Olympics themselves.

But we're certainly expecting to see more people on the streets tomorrow. Hopefully there's been perhaps not a noticeable number of crowds of foreign tourists here. Lesser numbers, perhaps. We haven't seen the bars or restaurants necessarily heaving with people from abroad just yet, but the athletes flooding in despite security concerns. And certainly the Americans at the airport speaking to my colleague was basically saying they were happy to be here, very on message and putting the security threats very much aside.

And I think the hope is now with the opening ceremony at very much imminently ahead of us that the worries of the past few weeks can be -- can take a backseat, people can focus simply on the spectacle which $51 billion worth of Russian state money has laid on for us, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick, stick with me, because as you talk we are seeing athletes -- or video of athletes arriving at the airport. Ivan Watson, as you eluded to, was there to greet them. This is his report.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're here at Sochi Airport. And this is the scene that greets athletes when they land here in this Black Sea city. We're waiting for dozens of members of Team USA to come walking out those doors.

Welcome to Sochi. What do you think?

GRACIE GOLD, TEAM USA FIGURE SKATER: So far so good. Just landed.

WATSON: Are you psyched?

GOLD: Yes, of course. It's the Olympics.

WATSON: While you were flying, there was some more security alerts about possible explosive toothpaste. I mean, did that get to you? Does that stress you out?

MAIA SHIBUTANI, TEAM USA ICE DANCER: Yesterday we were doing processing and then we were traveling all morning. So no we hadn't heard about that, but I think that really our job here is to just focus on what we can control and what we can do and that's how we're going to perform at our first Olympics.

WATSON: And any message you want to send back home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey everyone. We're in Sochi. This has been 10 years in the making. We're so excited to be here.

FAYE GULINI, TEAM USA SNOWBOARDER: Obviously, we all want to go home with medals. And right now I'm more like focused -- or not focused, but just excited about opening ceremonies. In Vancouver that was, you know, my favorite part aside from racing.

WATSON: What about your team's chances, do you think, these Olympics?

HERBERT VASILJEVS, LATVIAN ICE HOCKEY PLAYER: Like I said I think we're ready to surprise somebody. I mean, we're not overly packed with NHL stars, but I think we're ready to surprise one or two teams.

WATSON: Good luck, guys.

All right.

So there we have members of right here the Latvian hockey team arriving. They're a powerful force in ice hockey. We've had members of Team USA coming in. The colors are pretty bright if you then look over here as Lithuania -- you're Lithuania, yeah? Lithuania arriving here.

And you get the sense of the excitement building here in Sochi just at the airport right now when we're just hours away from the opening of the Winter Olympics.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Sochi, Russia.


ANDERSON; Well, Nick is still with me. But before I get back to Nick, I want to get to Brian Todd in Washington for you tonight, because security is still a top concern. Wednesday the U.S. warned airlines of possible explosives hidden in toothpaste tubes. You hears Ivan talking to some of the athletes arriving about this story. Russia is adamant that the games are safe. The head of the games promised Sochi was, in fact, will be the safest place on Earth. And the deputy prime minister said don't single Sochi out.


DMITRY KOZAK, RUSSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I would like to repeat once again that the level of security in the city of Sochi is not worse than New York, London, Washington or Boston.


ANDERSON: Well, Brian Todd is in Washington and joins us with more.

Brian, is this toothpaste threat a feasible concern?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Becky. And we tested that out a little bit. Earlier today in the United States -- actually in the UK, we had an expert test out explosives in a toothpaste tube not too much smaller than the one I'm holding up here. He place an explosive called RDX in a toothpaste tube and detonated it inside a car. It blew the car's doors off and blew parts of the door across a quarry in England.

This expert said that that explosion was enough to punch a hole in the fuselage of a plane. It could obviously cause mass casualties if it explodes in some kind of a venue in Sochi or somewhere near there in a crowed area.

So, it is a feasible threat, Becky. This expert did tell us about that.

And we have to note that a toothpaste bomb has brought down a plane previously. In 1976, some anti-Castro Cuban terrorists brought down a Cubana Airlines flight using explosives hidden in a tube of Colgate toothpaste. 73 people were killed in that explosion, Becky.

ANDERSON: Brian, thank you for that.

Let's bring Nick back in, Nick.

I want to talk you through not only how you feel about these Olympics now at their 11th hour, as it were, but let's just elude to what Brian was talking about there. Do you have any thoughts about the timing of this U.S. announcement about concern of a possible threat through these toothpaste tubes?

There's some little bit of skepticism out there, I know.

WALSH: Well, I mean, certainly there are those within the Russian establishment who will view a (inaudible) coming about 36 hours before the opening ceremonies suggesting that airliners could get blown out of the sky as perhaps designed to still color these Olympics with the security issue.

Now I know some top Russian officials increasingly irritated by the constant drum beat of -- particularly in western media -- suggesting these games aren't safe. But I mean, on the other side, too, there's a reasonable point of discussion given we are about a few hours drive away from a pretty active insurgency. It hasn't affected Sochi itself and the Russians, you know, when they throw everything at a security issue, you do put on a pretty impressive show.

But there's a debate about whether these games are safe has raged on in the minds of many of the athletes whether they should simply be here or not. And this of course a timing not ideal in the slightest, but it does appear that U.S. officials felt they had very little choice but to come out with this information. Whether or not it changes the attendance here or the mood not quite clear at this point, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right. You have reported in the past couple of weeks from Dagestan, from Beslan, you know this is an area that you know very, very well in your time even before you worked at CNN this was a region that you worked your beat on, as it were.

Listen, closing thoughts from you this evening. One assumes and hopes that the story going forward once this ceremony is closed and this Olympics really opens for good that the story will be one of sport. Are you convinced at this point?

WALSH: The problem is that the Islamist militants who have got a track record of being dastardly successful in launching attacks here in southern Russia have pledged to do something. And while it's unlikely I think that they will penetrate the games here or really make a dent in their process, that doesn't necessarily make the Russians in southern Russia safe. And I think there is a deep concern certainly -- and I feel that somewhere in southern Russia something will happen. It's a vast space there where the security services, where the police, they're not always on their game. The police disliked, corrupt, inefficient, often inept. And that's part of the reason why the insurgency has prospered so well.

So, I am concerned in the next two weeks you may see something happen. It may be a serious of blasts. Hopefully everything will pass without instant. And that's what everyone is hoping will be the case. But the nature of the slow burning war that the Russian state's been in here for the last decade means that with an event like this, with this level of international attention, the often crazed radicalism that's behind the insurgency here is unlikely to miss this kind of opportunity in their mind to have their message heard.

So, yeah, concerns I think certainly for Russians. Far away from here, the so-called soft targets -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah. All right, Nick, listen, great reporting over the past couple of weeks. And that's probably every single international broadcaster is now saying let the games begin and let's see a bit of sport.

All right, one Russian snowboarder showed support for the freed activists from the Russian band Pussy Riot. The base of his snowboard looks to be painted with their emblem.

Now, my colleague spoke to two members of the band just a short while ago. And she asked if their message of freedom of speech can be expanded in Russia today.


MASHA ALYOKHINA, PUSSY RIOT (through translator): This is an illusion that is created by federal television and federal television because they are trying to convey the message that Russian society does not approve. And they condemned us. In reality, this is not true at all. In this case, you should not be listening to federal channels, you should be listening to ordinary people. And ordinary people actually do support us. Among those who we spent time with in the penal colony, we saw many prisoners who knew our story. They knew that we were political prisoners. They knew that Putin had put us in jail for singing a song against him.


ANDERSON: And more of that interview in Christiane's show, which is in about an hour-and-a-half from now.

The global attention paid to Pussy Riot speaks to the fact that the Sochi Olympics aren't just a sporting event, they are Russia's way of asserting a stronger presence on the world stage. And the man at the helm, of course, if Vladimir Putin. He is a product of the Soviet Union, but now he is trying to reinvent a modern Russia.

Well, CNN delves into the personality of the former KGB agent turned president in what is a special report, the power of Vladimir Putin. That is Saturday 8:00 pm London, 9:00 pm in Berlin.

And you are watching CNN. I'm Becky Anderson for you tonight in Abu Dhabi.

Coming up, help may finally be on the way for civilians trapped by months of fighting in Syria. I'm going to tell you about a humanitarian agreement for the besieged city of Homs.

Plus, this man survived at sea for over a year. But he was not alone. We find out more about the man who died at sea alongside him.


ANDERSON: This is CNN out of Abu Dhabi. Quarter past midnight. The Sheikh Zaik Mosque for you. It's a beautiful evening here. Welcome back.

And some big developments to report today about the war in Syria. First, we are hearing from human rights groups and Syrian activists that opposition fighters have seized control of Aleppo's central prison freeing hundreds of inmates. Now apparently the battle began when rebels detonated a car bomb in front of the prison complex there. Well, the regime aircraft reportedly responded with barrel bomb attacks in what was an unsuccessful attempt to drive away the attackers.

Well also today, and this is almost unique isn't out of Syria, some encouraging news regarding the besieged city of Homs. The United Nations confirms that there will be a, and I quote, humanitarian pause in the fighting so that civilians can evacuate.

Now this agreement will also create a corridor that would allow humanitarian aid to get through rebel held areas of Homs that have come under almost daily shelling attacks since June of 2012.

Well, as the war grinds on, the humanitarian crisis just gets worse by the day. The UN estimates at least two-and-a-half million Syrians have now fled the violence and are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Some escaped with only the clothes on their backs and flimsy tents have been no match for one of the worst winters on record.

Many of us are so far removed from this conflict and may feel that there's nothing that we can do to help. The CNN's impact your world wants to share stories to inspire, stories that show individual initiatives can make a difference.

We're going to introduce you to several young women who refused to be spectators in the face of suffering. One is a student in Lebanon, the tiny country hosting the biggest number of Syrian refugees. Have a listen.


TANYA KHALIL, FOUNDER, I AM NOT A TOURIST: At some point, you know, I felt like I was a tourist in my own country, because I was -- as I go to university and I'm seeing that there's children all over from Syria and there's this huge human crisis that flooded into my country and I'm just sitting and observing them and not being able to do anything about it.


ANDERSON: Well, she did do something about it and thousands turned out to help. Read what is an incredibly inspiring story and other ideas for helping Syrian refugees.

We cannot do enough, all of us, including me.

Italian authorities have rescued another flotilla of overcrowded boats heading towards the island of Lampedusa. A rescue team has found more than 1,100 asylum seekers aboard, including 50 children.

Now officials believe most of them are from sub-Saharan Africa. In January, some 2,000 asylum seekers landed in Italy, which is 10 times more than January 2013.

Peace talks are underway in Pakistan. The government met with the Pakistani Taliban in Islamabad to discuss a roadmap for peace negotiations. Well, after the first day of talks, the two groups issued a joint statement committing to further dialogue.

The militants have been trying to topple the government and establish Islamic rule there since 2007.

Well, a man who was found adrift in the Pacific Ocean is back in hospital Jose Salvador Alvarenga says he was lost at sea for over a year. He was admitted due to severe dehydration and is currently receiving IV fluids.

Well, in the meantime, CNN's Nick Parker met exclusively with the family of the man who died at sea alongside him.


NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A mother's agony. More than a year after her son went missing, she is now grieving his death.

ROSELIA RIOS, MOTHER (through translator): For me, it was a devastating blow. The pain is so great I can't explain it. I wouldn't wish this on anybody. Losing a child is the hardest thing to bear in life.

PARKER: 23-year-old Ezekiel Cordova is believed to have died at sea during a failed fishing trip he was on with Jose Salvador Alvarenga. Cordova's family live here in El Fortine (ph) a rural village. His bedroom is as he left it.

"My brother was kind. He was responsible for my mother," his brother tells me. "In fact, he worked in the sea because of her. He wanted to improve himself. He didn't want to be poor like us."

The local road is so bad it's easier to travel by boat. A short ride took Cordova to where he worked.

Fisherman say the boat left from this spot in Costa Azul before heading out into the open Pacific Ocean.

The boat was almost exactly the same as this one. And you can just see how exposed to the elements it is.

Bellarmino Rodigues was the owner of the boat that went missing.

BELLARMINO RODRIGUES, BOAT OWNER (through translator): My colleagues went to fish. And the next day they told me by radio that the engine had failed and the GPS device was wet. We went to search for them for seven or eight days with the authorities. The governor gave us a small aircraft, but it was impossible to find them.

PARKER: Alvarenga, who says he survived more than a year at sea, and Cordova both belong to a cooperative of 45 boats called Carandeiras de la Costa (ph). The fishermen make an average of $150 a week.

This cooperative official shows us the documents they received after they filed the report.

"Fishing here is very dangerous because there are strong winds," he says. "This began with a cold front. And with that came strong winds of 120 kilometers an hour."

Back at the family home, Roselia is now focusing on one thing...

RIOS (through translator): As a mother, I demand the authorities allow me to talk to the survivor. Only in that way will I know what happened and what he did with the body of my son. I deserve the truth.

PARKER: Nick Parker, CNN, El Fortine, Mexico.


ANDERSON: Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Coming up, is he running for president or not? Egypt's military clarifies comments made by Field Marshall Abdul Fatah al-Sisi about his plans for the future.

And the trouble with Twitter. Social networking site posts strong sales, but are users finding it too tough to tweet? Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Well, one of the views from the bureau here in Abu Dhabi. Khailifah (ph) Park for you at 23 minutes past midnight.

You are with Connect the World live from the UAE. I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Well, do you have trouble tweeting? If so, you are not alone. Twitter has just released its first financial report. And although sales were strong, the company's stock is actually down on a disappointing outlook and its sluggish user growth.

Well, here's a look at how it's fared since the company went public in November. Twitter's stock has taken its new earnings report -- taken a nose dive -- so I'm not doing very well am I -- since its new earnings report was released down over 20 percent. Quite a sharp drop, right?

We took to the streets to find out whether people are simply growing tired of the Twitter trend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what the point of it is really, yeah. There are lots of celebrities on there. You can find out where they are, what they're doing, I suppose, but other than that...

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: I suppose it's good for like (inaudible) and stuff like that, but no, I don't really use Facebook or anything like that, it's only Instagram. But I'm sure I will do, get on the (inaudible) soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to use it, but I feel a bit of a dinosaur. I'm trying to teach myself how to use it. But I think it's very important.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't spend that much time on social media at the first place. Facebook is enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I used it more for kind of work/pictures of food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like the news, but you don't want to watch it -- other people's opinion.


ANDERSON: Well, Twitter's CEO says the company needs to simplify the site in order to attract and retain at least more users.

So why are people finding it so tough to tweet? Well, CNN business correspondent Samuel Burke has some answers for you.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, it's absolutely fascinating what we're seeing, because it's almost the opposite of everything that analysts had told us, that the social networks grow by millions if not tens of millions of users each quarter. And analysts were expecting about 6 percent growth for Twitter, because that what we had seen for so many quarters before. But it turns out they only grew by about half of that, but about 3 percent.

And it's not just that they're not growing fast enough for these analysts, but they also say that they're having retention problems.

Twitter says that people are signing up for this platform, but they're not staying on the platform. They're not sticking around.

And Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, indicated that one of the reasons why is that this platform, Twitter, is actually just too complicated for some people. They don't know and can't figure out how to use it.

Let's just take a tweet for example like this one. You can do apparently too much with it and users are confused. Do you reply to the tweet? Do you retweet the tweet? Do you favorite the tweet? Or do you click more, which takes you to a whole other menu. So Dick Costolo says they have to be better at being Twitter and they have to simplify the platform.

Other bad news for Twitter as we found out, there are problems with this timeline. If you don't know what that is, that's kind of like your feed on Facebook. You go here to see what your friends are tweeting, what organizations like CNN are tweeting about the news. And it turns out the number of views has actually gone down.

Now that number is incredibly important, the number of views on this timeline, because this is where the bulk of advertising is.

Now in quarters past, it had gone up by billions, literally billions of views. And this quarter, it actually went down by 11 billion views. And that was just one of the many negative numbers that investors heard from Twitter on Wednesday -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Well, if you are still tweeting, let me know what you think about that. And all the other stories that we've been following. @BeckyCNN of course is my hashtag. Is Twitter losing its appeal or are you still as active on the site as I am? Always good to hear from you @BeckyCNN.

You can also find us on Instagram, that's Becky@CNN. And there's also that other social network of course,

World news headlines are just ahead at the bottom of the hour. And then Egypt officially serves al Jazeera a charge sheet for these three detained journalists plus five others. We'll speak live with one of the accused who is now fled the country.

Also ahead, how these women are fighting back against female genital mutilation. It's their moving story coming up. And after 105 days on the ice, two history making polar explorers are coming home. We are going to take a look at their journey and speak to someone who has been in their shoes.

Look at that, it's nearly over for them.


ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, these are the top stories this hour. The Olympic torch is making its way through Sochi in Russia, and some 6,000 athletes are following on as they arrive on the eve of the Winter Olympics. Security's very tight amid fresh warnings of a hostile terrorist attack.

Encouraging news for civilians trapped by war in the Syrian city of Homs, within reason, of course. The United Nations confirms that there will be a humanitarian pause, as they call it, in the fighting to allow for evacuations. A new agreement will also open up a corridor so that humanitarian aid can get through. That, at least, is the promise.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych says he is willing to adopt constitutional reforms backed by the opposition. He also told a senior US envoy that he is open to, and I quote, "dialogue and compromise" with the protesters.

The Italian navy has rescued more than 1100 asylum seekers from overloaded rafts off Italy's southern coast. Officials say most of them are believed to be from sub-Saharan Africa. More than 2,000 asylum seekers landed in Italy in January, ten times the number in January of 2013.

Egypt's military is denying a report that army chief Abdel Fattah al- Sisi has officially announced that he will run for president. Now, it says that the field marshal was misquoted by a Kuwaiti newspaper.

Still, there's little doubt that al-Sisi will run for office and will win. So, how did he become so popular in a country that revolted against decades of rule by military men just a few years ago? Reza Sayah reports from Cairo for you.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Many here in Egypt say it's only a matter of time before Egypt's army chief, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announces his candidacy for the presidency.

If or when he does, many here are going to celebrate, because many Egyptians want to see Sisi as the next president. If you walk around Cairo, Sisi's pictures and posters are on building facades, light posts, cars.

Remember, just eight months ago, Sisi was a relative unknown as the defense minister appointed by Egypt's first freely-elected president Mohamed Morsy. But Sisi shot to fame last July when he ousted Morsy after a popular uprising.

Since then, many have viewed Sisi as Egypt's savior, the man who saved Egypt from the grips of the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism. But many of his critics and the Muslim Brotherhood reject that claim. They describe him as an other autocratic military ruler who has undermined Egypt's democratic process.

Since the ouster of Mohamed Morsy, Egypt has gone through a lot of turmoil, a rising insurgency, a lot of protests. When you talk to Egyptians, they keep saying all they want is stability and security, and they believe Sisi is the man who can deliver that.

Also keep in mind that throughout the past several decades, the closest thing to stability Egyptians have see has come in the form of the military. That's why analysts say Sisi has a lot of support.

But Sisi has his critics as well, and they're growing. These are the faces of the 2011 revolution, pro-democracy activists who say that they don't want to see another military man as Egypt's president.

They also say Sisi has been largely responsible for one of the most brutal and deadly crackdowns against dissent in modern history, hundreds of people killed since July, thousands illegally arrested, according to rights groups, including secular activists and journalists. Many say a Sisi presidency is a sign that Egypt is returning once again to an autocracy.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Cairo.


ANDERSON: Well, critics of Egypt's military-backed government say its prosecution of journalists proves that it's not interested in democratic rights, like freedom of speech, for example.

Three Al Jazeera journalists have been detained since December, and now, Egypt has given the network a charge sheet that identifies five other staff members who are also accused of conspiring with a terrorist group.

Now, Sue Turton, a presenter and correspondent with Al Jazeera English is on that list. She is now in Qatar and spoke with me earlier today.


SUE TURTON, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH CORRESPONDENT: The authorities really want to silence anybody that is not toeing the government line. All the domestic media and press in Egypt toes the government line, the military- backed government, and doesn't disagree with what they say.

But it's only the foreign press that are still trying to put every angle, give everybody a voice that wants to have a voice in Egypt. And that's why they are trying to shut us up, and why they are trying to shut up all other foreign journalists.


ANDERSON: That was Sue Turton. Now, Dutch journalist, Rena Netjes, is also listed on that charge sheet given to Al Jazeera. She left Egypt Tuesday. Now, back in Amsterdam, Netjes says she's never even worked for Al Jazeera, saying she may have been implicated in the case because of one conversation.

Now, she joins us now live. And Rena, take us back to December and the events that you believe subsequently led you to having to effectively get out of Cairo overnight.

RENA NETJES, EGYPT AND LIBYA CORRESPONDENT, BNR NIEUWSRADIO: Yes. At 14 December, I had an appointment with Mohammed Fahmy, who was since a short time the bureau chief on Al Jazeera English in Cairo.

But I followed him already for a few years, and he always has interesting tweets, especially about Sinai, and I wanted to speak with him a little bit about more background on what's going on in Sinai.

So, it had nothing to do with Al Jazeera, but just enough to talk about that, not even for an interview, not even a report, but just for my general knowledge.

ANDERSON: So, this was one conversation, as I understand it, in a hotel lobby.


ANDERSON: And with that, you allege that this is implication by association. The authorities, Rena, must believe that they have got more evidence than that if they are to go after you. Can you think or imagine of anything else that might come up if, indeed, this court case sees the light of day?

NETJES: Yes, actually, we had an appointment in the lobby, but then Mohammed was very busy, still editing, and he asked if I wanted to come upstairs where his colleagues also were. And then security asked for my passport, so they took a copy, and I went upstairs. And I think that was the problem. So, I have been in their office.

And now, it seems that they believe that I work for Al Jazeera, that I provided them with money, with aid, with tools, with footage, and that I put on the internet false information and/or on the Al Jazeera channel, information that might terror people in Egypt and that I gave false information to defame the Egyptian state.

ANDERSON: OK. Listen, you've worked in Egypt for a very long time. You are now out of the country with the help of the Dutch government, you say, and actually in the end, with the help of the Egyptian government or Egyptian authorities, at least. You've worked in the country for a very long time.

How much does what is going on now surprise you? I'm talking specifically to the way that journalists are being treated at the moment? Not all journalists, let's remember. Much of the media there is untouched. But we could say much of the media there is now run by the military and the government, of course.

NETJES: As I see it from the Egyptian point of view, there are in a state of war with extremists. The Egyptian army in their vehicles, they did not want to let extremists take more power like in Sinai or in the rest of Egypt.

But this war means they completely want to wipe out everybody who gives any chance for the opponents, like the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, to speak out. So, that's why Al Jazeera English is targeted also, in such a harsh way. And actually, everybody who criticizes the government on TV or -- risks this --

ANDERSON: Yes. And it's got to be said, this is not by any stretch the only country where this happens. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, sadly. But perhaps in Egypt, only it appears representing what actually many other countries do around the world. You disregard the government line and, of course, you get yourselves into trouble. All right, Rena, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Live from Abu Dhabi, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still ahead, a cultural practice or criminal act? We're going to take a closer look at the fight to end female genital mutilation.

Plus, an icy trek nearly at an end. The Scott Expedition explorers trudge their way into the history books.


ANDERSON: The next story is one that some viewers may find upsetting. In some parts of the world, it is a common cultural practice. In others, it's a crime.

Female genital mutilation is typically carried out on infants and young girls. Genitals are cut, sewn, and sometimes burned, using crude tools like knives or glass -- shards of glass. It's a rite of passage and point of pride in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. But the UN calls it a violation of human rights and gender equality.

Well, it's declared today the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. Beyond the physical injuries, those who have been cut also experience psychological trauma. CNN's Atika Shubert spoke to two women who endured the practice and vow to spare their own daughters the same emotional scars.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Isatou Kramar and Renata Beraud grew up together in Gambia and moved to Britain in their early teens. Now they take care of each other's kids, live in the same London neighborhood, and keep each other's secrets, including this memory from their childhood in Gambia.

ISATOU KRAMAR, FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION VICTIM: They told me I was going to a hotel, I was going to have a fun day in the swimming pool. I'd never been in a swimming pool at that age or anything, so I was really excited. They told me I was going to have ice cream.

And we just ended up in this grotty house that -- and yes. There was loads of other kids there. And you could hear the screams coming through.

And then, they do it so quickly and -- I can't describe it. The worst part of it was when you have to go and squat. They made a little hole in the ground and you have to go and squat in it so they -- the blood can come out. I find that really disgusting because -- there's other kids next to you as well, crying.

When you go out there, you just think that's normal, you know? And then you find out that that's really wrong. No child should ever have to go through that.

SHUBERT: Isatou was seven when she was cut, her clitoris excised and labia removed. Her cousin Renata was two years old. She has this photo of herself in ceremonial dress on the day she was cut, crying.

RENATA BERAUD, FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION VICTIM: What hurt me the most is the fact that we were never given a choice. We were never allowed to grow up and be asked if we wanted it done. It was done against our will, and I kind of feel that's like child abuse.

SHUBERT: In Gambia, more than 70 percent of women are believed to have been circumcised, an act so horrific it's often called female genital mutilation. Women who endure the ritual often suffer lifelong pain during sex, childbirth, or even urination.

BERAUD: You feel like you're not a woman. You don't feel complete because there's something there that's missing that should have been there and that should have never been taken away, but it has. So -- that's just really hard. And it's kind of embarrassing, because you want to talk about it to friends.

SHUBERT: And in the pain of childbirth, many relive the trauma of being cut.

KRAMAR: You have to relive it all over again because you feel that same pain that you felt there before when it was cut. So, I didn't want to go through that again. So I chose to have a cesarean on my second child.

SHUBERT: Both have their own daughters now, and they are adamant that the practice must stop.

BERAUD: I was like, there's no way anyone's doing that to my daughter, and if they do, I'll make sure they go to prison for it. And at first, she's like, oh, you guys, you've taken up the culture here so much, you're African and this is our culture. We found it here and we have to continue it. And I was like, no, Mum, not with me.

SHUBERT: A painful tradition that for these two women ends with them.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: This is a practice that is often hidden within tight-knit villages and communities, but the numbers tell us just how widespread it really is.

According to the WHO, there are an estimated 140 million girls and women who've been subjected to the practice around the world. Another 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year, most of whom are between the ages of infancy and 15.

Now, WHO says more than 18 percent of all such procedures are performed by health care providers. Now, this isn't just an issue in developing countries. Along with other cultural practices, immigrants may bring the tradition of FGM with them to their adopted homelands.

To learn more, we spoke with Naana Otoo-Oyortey. She told us about her work to eliminate the practice within the diaspora communities.


NAANA OTOO-OYORTEY, FOUNDATION FOR WOMEN'S HEALTH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: FGM affects primarily younger people. And in Africa, even though you see that the campaign is mainly led by older women, we're seeing that in Europe there's much more engagement, primarily because young people have more access and have a better voice and are able to understand their rights and to engage in this issue.

We had experience of another woman who just said she wanted to attend because she felt it was a space for African women to engage on this issue. When she shared her stories about her experience with her partner and difficulties with sexual life, the women asked her whether she'd been through female genital mutilation, and she of course said, no, I haven't.

And they said, well, we'll ask you to go to the specialist service. And she found out that she had gone through FGM. So there are women who don't even know that they've been through FGM, and that in itself is challenging, because if you had it at a much younger age, you may not recall when it happened and you may not see yourself as different. You'd see yourself as normal.

You want to send the message and you want people to accept your message, and if these sensitivities are not addressed, you then have a closure in terms of not penetrating through the community.

So, it's important to acknowledge for a lot of people, they're born into a culture where they see it also as part of their culture. We've had young girls in the UK who said, I wanted to go through it because I felt it was part of my culture. Some girls just say, I went on holiday and I insisted that I went through it.

But we also see young girls who are telling us that you know what? I didn't go through this, and I know that my siblings haven't been through it, and I am actually at the forefront of the campaign because I want it to end.


ANDERSON: Coming up after this short break here on CONNECT THE WORLD. After 105 days on ice, two men have made history. We're going to tell you about their epic journey.

And you wouldn't associate him with the Hell's Angels, but Pope Francis has more in common with them than you think. We're going to tell you more after this.


ANDERSON: It was an expedition that ended in disaster for Captain Robert Scott -- apologies -- for Captain Robert Scott and his team of polar explorers over a hundred years ago. But now, two British men have successfully walked to the South Pole and back.

After 105 days on the ice, they are just a few hours away from what will be their historic finish. A reminder for you of their epic journey.


ANDERSON (voice-over): For ten years, they planned and they trained for an expedition attempted just once but never completed. When Ben Saunders and Tarka L'Herpiniere set off to Antarctica last October, they prepared down to the finest detail.

TARKA L'HERPINIERE, SCOTT EXPEDITION TEAM MEMBER: Normally, you cut the handle off, but I'm going for a luxury handle length, but in order to compensate for the weight, I've got to make holes in it.

ANDERSON: The pair saved every gram of weight they could, crucial when carrying 110 days worth of supplies across almost 2,900 kilometers of cruel terrain in temperatures plunging to minus 50 degrees.

In 1910, Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team set off on the same journey. They died in the last stage after running out of food. Saunders and L'Herpiniere were determined not to make the same mistake. But within a week, the weight of their load combined with the unforgiving climate was taking its toll.

BEN SAUNDERS, SCOTT EXPEDITION LEADER: It's been really, really hard at the very start with these heavy sledges, nearly 200 kilos each. Not much scenery today. We've had almost complete white-out, but fingers crossed, things improve tomorrow.

ANDERSON: By day 70, supplies were running so low they had to get an emergency food drop, a call for help that made their target of completing the journey unassisted impossible. But the expedition continued, and Saunders and L'Herpiniere have now succeeded where Scott failed, breaking the world record for the longest polar trek ever accomplished.


ANDERSON: And they are so close. They're, we're told, just a couple of hours away. Our next guest knows plenty about the challenges of polar exploration. Robert Swan was the first people to walk to both the North and South Pole. Not on the same journey, I don't think. And he joins me now from Amsterdam. How will they be feeling at this point?

ROBERT SWAN, POLAR EXPLORER: Well, it's terrifically exciting that they've only got about 11 miles to go, and they'll be feeling very light in their souls, very light in their spirits, and damn proud of what they've done. I'm their patron, I've been following them. I'm really just so impressed by their guts, what they've achieved, and they've done it with style and dignity, which I think is really important.

ANDERSON: How disappointed will they be that this wasn't an unassisted journey in the end?

SWAN: Well, no. We always kind of planned -- there's not much point dying at the South Pole. They won't be disappointed. They achieved the most amazing piece of history, 28 years ago I did a one-way journey to the South Pole after 70 days, and I threatened never to walk anywhere every again. So, what they've achieved --


SWAN: -- is just outstanding.


SWAN: It's like walking --


ANDERSON: Listen, what --

SWAN: -- from London to Moscow.


SWAN: Or from San Francisco to Chicago.


SWAN: It's just stunning what they've done --

ANDERSON: Pulling the sort of weight that they're pulling, absolutely.

SWAN: And as I say, they've done it with true British spirit, that land rover spirit. They've got great stuff.

ANDERSON: Yes, all right. Listen, what did you dream about when you did the walk? What did you year after?

SWAN: Well, interesting enough, you do get hungry. They're going to be really thin on return. After only 70 days, I lost nearly 50 pounds in body weight. So, they're going to be thinking solely about food, nothing else. And I just hope they don't make the same mistake I made, which is too eat too much at the end and then be really quite sick for a long time.

What you really yearn for also is to sit in a chair. They've been 105 days lying down, eating, lying down again, doing something amazing, which is important for you as news people.

In 70 days, when I walked to the South Pole, I wrote one page of diary. Every night, they've been writing a fantastic blog, and I suggest people have a look at it, because this is history in the making. Amazing how they've managed to cover this in writing as well as covering it on the ice. Great.

ANDERSON: It's remarkable, and we've been with them, as it were, every step of the way here at CNN as well. I am so hoping we get to talk to the two of them as they close out this journey. So, you said you ate too much. What do you think the first thing they will want will be? Will it be food?

SWAN: Yes, absolutely. There is no question. People call these guys mad and crazy and insane. They faced starvation. It's quite odd, is it not, that half the world starves every day and the rest of us try to lose weight?

They're not mad. They're amazing. But what they'll be looking for probably is simple foods, like bread and jam, cup of tea --


SWAN: Just go easy is my message to them.

ANDERSON: Cup of tea and a piece of toast, there you go. In true British style, of course. Thank you, Robert.

In tonight's Parting Shots, never mind the Popemobile, a Harley Davidson that briefly belonged to Pope Francis went up for auction in Paris today. I'm being serious. The motorbike was sold to a mystery European buyer for about $280,000.


BEN WALKER, BONHAMS MOTORCYCLES DIRECTOR: In my whole career, I've never had more interest in one motorcycle than this one. And it's gone viral. I've had inquiries from across the globe in this machine.


ANDERSON: I bet he's absolutely delighted. While the 77-year-old, pictured here, never actually rode the bike, he did sign it before donating it to a Catholic charity. Now, according to Bonhams, Pope Francis has another Harley, although the famously humble pontiff is more a fan of buses, we are told.

I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Live from Abu Dhabi, it is the weekend coming up here, so we'll see you next week. Thanks for watching.