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CONNECT THE WORLD
Sean Penn Conducts First Ever Interview with El Chapo; Syrian Peace Talks Face Trouble After Saudi, Iranian Diplomatic Row; Star Wars Posts Biggest Opening Day in Chinese History; Syrian City of Madaya Under Siege and Starving. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired January 10, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:12] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A Hollywood star, Mexico's most wanted man, and a secret meeting in the jungle: this hour, the latest on the
recapture of drug lord, El Chapo and his encounter with American film star, Sean Penn.
Also ahead, resilience in Paris: we're live in the French capital for you a year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
And disturbing evidence of starvation in Syria. We'll speak to the head of the World Food Program about the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.
ANDERSON: Those stories are coming up for you to start the 8:00 here in the UAE.
First, though, two developments here in the Middle East. Efforts to find peace in Syria, being tested by a growing regional riff between Iran and
Saudi Arabia. A short while ago, the UN's special representative for Syria, Staffan de Mistura said he expects talks to go ahead as planned in
just over two week's time.
He's been in Teheran, having also visited Riyadh and Damascus over the past week. His trip came as the regional block, the Arab League, met in Cairo,
backing Saudi Arabia in the row and criticizing Iran for quote, provocative acts.
Well, let's cross straight to the Saudi capital. My colleague Nic Robinson is in Riyadh for you. Let's just remind ourselves that Iran and Saudi
significantly backing opposite sides in Syria, roiling conflict, Nic, that has wrought havoc on the country and its people.
Now, Staffan de Mistura trying his utmost to make sure that talks scheduled for the end of the month on Syria aren't derailed as more Arab nations,
perhaps unsurprisingly, back Saudi against Iran.
Your response to what we are hearing from this hour from de Mistura.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERANTIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, his optimism of those talks can go ahead. It does seem to be reasonably well-placed, but I
think a lot of people are going to be asking what will actually be substantively achieved on those talks on the 25th of January when they're
scheduled to begin in Geneva.
We have heard from the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations these weeks that the talks that Saudi Arabia would be there would participate. We've
heard from the foreign minister speaking there at the Arab League meeting in the last few minutes in Cairo that absolutely, Saudi Arabia plans to
attend, that the talks on Syria should go ahead.
The Iranians, for their part, diplomats there, their ambassador to the UN earlier in the week, saying said they, too, would take part in the talks,
but questioned in the current atmosphere with Saudi Arabia and it's other Arab allies what could actually be achieved. The Iranians were saying that
this would make getting an agreement in those talks much harder.
So I think de Mistura, he is an experienced diplomat who knows how to get the best out of the participants in these talks or meetings. However,
getting all parties there is only the beginning of the job. And I think really, Becky, we're going to have to measure the strength and the
commitment of all sides here to find compromise when we get into those talks and see what -- see how they develop.
ANDERSON: Nic, you've been in saudi arabia this past week, and you visited the hometown of the Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr whose death, whose execution by
Saudi, many put the latest escalation down to.
What is the mood like on the ground there?
ROBERTSON: I think the mood broadly across Saudi Arabia is a feeling that the authorities here, the government, has taken a strong position and a
position that they feel perhaps gets to some of their fears. You know, I think outside of Saudi Arabia, people tend not to perhaps see the level of
concern people hear about Iran's influence throughout the region, in particular in Saudi Arabia. So I think, you know, there are people here
that genuinely feel that what Nimir al-Nimir is a potential threat to the country and stand behind their government in terms
of those decisions.
There are, of course, those concerned that will be concerned that they will worry that due process hasn't been carried out. Officials here say that
they that he was inspiring terrorist attacks. His family from that same small town, 25,000 people, believe that he wasn't advocating violence as
the government says. They feel very much agreed that they feel that the Shia community is not getting a fair
shake from a Sunni leadership here. And they air grievances, political grievances
that perhaps other people in Saudi Arabia are afraid to put their hand up and talk about.
But I think really the overall feeling is that this is something that the country quite easily here moves on with and will not be troubled with at
this time, but it does show, and I think people here recognize that, that the government here is prepared to take strong action for what it believes.
And I talked, for example, to a taxi driver the other day and he said, look, these issues, you know, just don't concern me. I'm trying to make
ends meet here. I'm not looking at these broader political issues. And that goes for a lot of people here as well, Becky.
[11:05:30] ANDERSON: OK, well let's have a look at the report that Nic filed from that town.
ROBERTSON: As we approached what's become Saudi Arabia's most dangerous town, a digger dumped by the townspeople gauging out a sectarian divide,
cutting themselves off from the rest of the country.
It is the sheer town of Awamia, the hometown of executed Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. The police have told us it's not safe first to drive our own
vehicles here, we're in one of their armored personnel carriers, they say it's too dangerous for us to go outside the vehicle just around here they
say they get shot at, a couple of their officers have been killed like that.
I don't mind video we can't be sure when it was shot, the port severe police convoy just like ours under attack here.
In a nearby hospital we visit a young victim of the violence, he is clinging to life caught in the crossfire between police and the man they
He says -- He said his name is Muhammad, his 8 years old and his father doesn't want to be on the cameras, very concerned about it. And what we've
been told by authorities here is it if he appears on camera then when he goes back into Awamia, he'll face problems.
Victims of the rising violence are increasingly common here, this man beaten in Awamia. He is a Shia, he shows me his injuries, shot in the
ankle, his wrist broken and stabbed in the head. He tells me his kidnappers accused him of being a government spy which he denies.
Our drive through Awamia, however, is proving an eventful. Shops are open, no one shoots at us, shocking the police, but not everyone is so surprised.
Al-Nimr's brother who's contacted us here, he says it is safe for us to get out of the vehicle and go and meet with him, he's been calling for calm.
We meet later in a nearby town. He defends his brother whom the government accuses of inciting the violence.
MOHAMMED AL-NIMR, BROTHER OF EXECUTED CLERIC (Through a Translator): There's a real problem in this country between the Shia and the government.
It's a political problem about the rights of the Shias.
ROBERTSON: Since 2011, tensions in this tiny town of 25,000 people have grown confrontations between handfuls of youth and police, but sometimes
meant deadly. The protesters (inaudible). Police say they want to avoid civilian casualties and arrest the people they call terrorists.
BRIG. GEN. MANSOUR AL-TURKI, SAUDI ARABIA MINISTRY OF INFERIOR SPOKESMAN: Well, if we want to engage with this people directly then we know there
will be victims. That is not allowed actually in our job, so we have to work patiently.
ROBERTSON: In Awamia time is on no one's side as tensions here and across the region rise.
ROBERTSON: Now about 10 percent of the Saudi population are Shia, Becky, and what we saw when we toured some of the other areas away from that small
town Awamia is that they're very calm, very normal, and they look and feel much like the rest of Saudi Arabia.
So Awamia itself does seem to be an isolated spot, a small town where any dissent is manifesting itself violently. In other areas, it's quite
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in Riyadh for you this evening. Nic, thank you.
ROBERTSON: Well, new details emerging in what was a secret jungle meeting between notorious kingpin Joaquim "El Chapo" Guzman and the actor Sean
Penn. El Chapo was recaptured by Mexican special forces, as you may well be aware, on Friday.
On Saturday, the magazine published a story written by the actor and pre- approved by El Chapo.
Now, the interview happened three months after his daring escape from a maximum security prison in July. The magazine also pasted a two minute
video clip of El Chapo answering questions that the actor sent to one of Guzman's associates. It's believed to be the only on camera interview that
El Chapo has ever given outside of police interrogations.
Well, I want to bring in our Nick Valencia who is at the prison where El Chapo is being held just outside of Mexico City.
And this article published in Rolling Stone revealing their intrepid reporter, none other than Sean Penn at this secret meeting with El Chapo
back in October. What are we learning about what happened during that meeting? And how come he didn't alert authorities to
his -- or El Chapo's whereabouts -- at the time?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly, I think we should start principally with this new information that we're getting in, Becky. We
just got off the phone with the senior law enforcement official here in Mexico who tells me that the
Mexican government would like to question both actor Sean Penn and Mexican actress Kate del
Castillo. Specifically, what they want answered is the location where they met El Chapo in that jungle in the middle of the Mexico.
If you read that article in Rolling Stone, Penn talks about how that they weren't blindfolded and he was actually surprised that there weren't more
precautions taken by El Chapo and his associates on their travels there. The Mexican government and this law enforcement force here in the country
says that they want to know exactly where they were at.
Also, we understand that Mexico did not know about this meeting between Penn and El Chapo until the Rolling Stone article was published last night
on their website.
Additionally, we did get some new information about extradition as well from this source, they tell me that there is no firm timetable, but they're
hoping to extradite Juaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States by the middle of summer.
Of course, this all depends on the legal proceedings, the legalities of everything, how quickly that moves along.
An attorney for El Chapo has already said that he does not want his client extradited to the United States, has filed injunctions to keep that from
happening. He says he believes that the Mexican justice system here is well equipped to handle this kind of case -- Becky.
ANDERSON: What are the consequences for El Chapo if, indeed, he is extridcated?
VALENCIA: Well, he's facing some pretty stiff charges in the United States, drug charges. He's been named enemy number one in Chicago. There
are at least seven other states who have filed charges against him for his drug trafficking.
And in this Rolling Stone article, he, you know, makes no bones about it. He supplied the world with half of its amphetamines, half of the marijuana,
half of the cocaine in the world.
He talks about how he had gotten into this business at the age of 15 because there was really
no other outlet there in his small town in the state of Sinaloa.
Now the excuse couldn't be made to the way he rose to the ranks of being the top kingpin here in the country, being the most notorious drug
trafficker, but he sort of excuses himself from responsibility when questioned about the rising violence in the country and the drug addiction
problems all throughout the world. He really recuses himself of any responsibility related to trafficking -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Nick Valencia in Mexico for you today with the very latest. Nick, thank you.
Well, there are so many layers in this story, aren't there? Later, we're going to show you how the arsenal of weapons that El Chapo and his
associates used in Friday's shootout with police.
El Chapo and one of his top men managed to escape that firefight and where he was ultimately taken into custody.
Well, still to come this hour, Paris remembers the terror attacks that shocked France and the world last year.
We're going to show you the city's memorial to the victims.
And evidence of a famine in the Syrian city of Madaya continues to mount. Is help on the way? Well, we will talk to the World Food Program later
this hour about the challenges of delivering any aid to what is a serious war zone.
[11:16:14] ANDERSON: Somber ceremony to remember all the people killed in several terror attacks in Paris last year.
French President Francois Hollande was among those honoring the victims of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office and a Jewish supermarket one year
ago as well as the 130 victims of November's attacks.
You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Welcome back.
And you're watching live pictures out of Paris this evening as CNN's Jim Bitterman who covered all of those attacks for us and their aftermath is
standing by for you in the French capital.
What is the mood there on what has been this tragic anniversary, Jim?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think quite somber, Becky. I think it was quite a somber ceremony this morning when we
saw the president of France, along with the mayor of Paris, out here and it was quite a moving ceremony. The choir of the French army sang along with
Johnny Holiday, a well-known pop singer here.
It didn't last that long. It was for 1,000 people who were invited. They were basically the families of some of the victims as well as some of those
And you know Becky, in these kinds of things, fate plays a big hand, fate played a big hand in deciding who lived and who died back on those days
when those terrorist attacks occurred.
It also brought together as we found out this week, a terrorist and a hero.
BITTERMANN: For one dramatic moment, parallel lives came together, they would end in radically different ways. For terrorist Amedy Coulibaly, it
was in hail of police gun fire, the gunman had killed four people and had taken hostages at a kosher supermarket, and then this man took over. Early
on, he fell into petty crime and drug dealing and radical Islam. But that deadly day a year ago, there was another immigrant, a busboy at the kosher
supermarket. He turned out to be a hero
LASSANA BATHILY, SUPERMARKET HERO (through translator): I opened the door of the freezer and said come, come.
BITTERMANN: He shouted shoppers and workers in the freezer. And told police what the situation was inside. People called him the hero.
BATHILY (through translator): No, not a hero. I always live like that. I was raised like that, to help other people -- to aid those in trouble. My
parents taught me that.
BITTERMANN: All those Bathily had protected made it out of the store without injury, and when the government heard about the young Malian's role
in the hostage taking, his life began to change. For years, he had been on a waiting list to become a permanent resident in France. They practically
overnight made Bathily a French citizen. He wrote a book about his experience and now he works for the Paris city government.
How did an immigrant from Mali became a hero? And the son of Malian immigrants became a terrorist? Bathily has several explanations but topping
the list are family and education.
Out in his gritty Paris suburb Coulibaly grew up in a very large and very poor family, the only boy among 10 children, a much different upbringing
then that of Bathily in Mali.
BATHILY (through translator): If you wanted to do anything even as an adult, it was your parents who decided. It's that which makes a difference
between me and Coulibaly.
BITTERMANN: But there are other differences, Bathily left his homeland with an immigrant's burning desire to find a new life and become a success. The
homegrown terrorist, unemployed and on the fringes of French society, never had a sense, a social worker once said, of purpose or of right and wrong.
Two young Frenchmen whose paths crossed one decisive day last January.
[11:20:16] BITTERMANN: And Becky, that ceremony earlier was basically a private one. It was about 1,000 people were at that one. Now, the square
has been opened up to the public. And this is a more serendity, more popular affair that's going on now with music being played and people
coming to pay homage, lighting candles, and leaving messages to the fallen -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Jim Bitterman in Paris for you this Sunday. Thanks, Jim.
Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to establish the identity of a man who was shot dead after he tried to enter a police station in Paris
wielding a knife on the anniversary, you may remember this last week, of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Initial reports at the time, suggested that he had shouted Allah Akbar, was wearing a fake suicide belt, and that a piece of paper pledging allegiance
to ISIS on it.
Well, now German police say the man had spent time in a housing facility for asylum seekers in a city in western Germany. However, they have not
given out his name.
Well this as a couple in Tunisia have come forward to say they are the man's parents. They told local radio station Sabra FM (ph) that he was at
the station in northern Paris to deal with paperwork and they he did nothing wrong.
We'll have much more on our website about the atmosphere in Paris as it marks as described
by Jim, what is a somber anniversary, including a look at how those terror attacks changed the City of Lights. CNN.com is where you'll find that
piece, a personal account by one of our producers about what's different in Paris since the attacks, and more importantly, what remains unchanged.
All that at CNN.com.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the world.
Coming up, one of the world's most wanted men captured again. Find out why Hollywood may have played a role. The details are just ahead.
ANDERSON: U.S. 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump stepping up attacks against one of his closest rivals. He says the fact that fellow
candidate Ted Cruz was born in Canada raises serious questions about his eligibility to become U.S. president.
Key primary voting in the state of Iowa is just three weeks away and Cruz has a four-point lead
over Donald Trump there.
CNN's Jake Tapper sat down with the Texas senator on his campaign bus to get his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: I think most Americans, they couldn't care less about a bunch of politicians bickering like schoolchildren.
TAPPER: Well, they care if you're constitutionally eligible, right? I mean, that's something -- you get asked about that.
CRUZ: But the substance of the issue is clear and straightforward.
As a legal matter, the Constitution and federal law are clear that the child of a U.S. citizens born abroad is a natural-born citizen. And the
dynamic that is happening -- you know it was interesting, three weeks ago, almost every Republican candidate was attacking Donald Trump.
Today, almost every Republican candidate is attacking me. And that kind of suggests maybe something has changed in the race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:25:04] ANDERSON: Ted Cruz speaking to my colleague, Jake Tapper.
Well, whoever wins the race for the White House will have to deal with a number of pressing
foreign policy challenges: a key one being North Korea. It was just a few days ago that Pyongyang said it tested a hydrogen bomb, though experts not
Well today, the U.S. responded with an unmistakable show of military support for ally South Korea.
Our Will Ripley has the details from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know from past experience that few things
infuriate the North Korean regime more than American bombers coming close to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and that's exactly
what happened when the United States sent a B-52 bomber, escorted by South Korean fighter jets and American fighter jets, very close to the DMZ, just
four days after North Korea conducted that nuclear test.
The regime calling it a hydrogen bomb, a claim questioned by international experts, but nonetheless a very troubling development for the international
community that the regime, led by Kim Jong-un, continues to aggressively grow its nuclear arsenal.
The United States, by sending a B-52 close to North Korea, shows that it has the capability to send aircraft that are capable of carrying nuclear
warheads right on the Korean peninsula to show also solidarity with the South Koreans, a key U.S. ally in this region.
Now this isn't the first time the United States has done this, back in 2013 after the last North Korean nuclear test, the U.S. sent bombers twice, very
close to the North Korean border.
First, a B-52, and then a B-2 stealth bomber that actually dropped eight dummy bombs on a target that was very close to the border.
Now in that case, after it happened, the North Koreans put out a statement saying they were burning with anger. They put their missiles on standby
aiming them towards U.S. bases in the Pacific and also in South Korea and even long range missiles on standby that could potentially hit the
mainland, United States. That has not happened here yet, but we are watching very closely to see how the regime will respond to this clear show
of force from the United States.
Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang.
ANDERSON: Well, the latest World News Headlines are just ahead.
Plus The Force Awakens in China. How Star Wars is shattering box office records in the world's second biggest movie market. That story coming up
for you. Stay with us.
[11:31:30] ANDERSON: And Mexican authorities say they want to question Hollywood
actor Sean Penn about an interview with Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. At the time, Guzman was one of the world's most wanted men.
Penn reportedly sat down with him in the Mexican jungle for an interview in Rolling Stone magazine. El Chapo
has since been recaptured.
CNN correspondent Martin Savidge has the latest from the hotel room El Chapo was held in after being captured.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORESPONDENT: This hotel is located on the outskirts of the town, maybe about, oh, three or four miles, about six kilometers. When
you look at it, it's a perfect place for federal authorities to bring El Chapo. Remember, it's just after they've had a shoot out. After they chased
him, allegedly, through the sewer system. Look at this, this is a hotel room that its own garage space.
Now, the federal authorities could have pulled in here and taken El Chapo out under cover and walked him into this room. If you look, this is the
room. It's the room that you see that has been made famous now as a result of the photograph. In fact, just sort of guesstimating El Chapo would have
been sitting about here looking off in that direction, with a rather sullen look on his face.
There's one thing messing. You might have noticed in the background, certainly a lot of men did in the photograph, there was another photo of a
woman not wearing a whole lot. It was up in this area. It appears that has been taken down. Who has it or why? We don't know.
But we do know that federal authorities had El Chapo in here for about an hour and a half until they can get reinforcements, until they can
essentially get their act together to be ready to move and transport him.
Fairly standard room. It's got a toilet. It's got a shower, and it's got a sink and wash up area. And it's located right by the highway.
So, there are a lot of things that make this room almost ideal for the job they had, and it's hidden away. Almost kind of like a fortress.
Thanks to that photograph, thanks to the most wanted man in all of America. This room is now world famous.
Martin Savidge, CNN Los Mochis, Mexico.
ANDERSON: Well, let's do more on El Chapo's recapture, shall we, and what may happen next. We're joined by Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico
Institute at The Wilson Center in Washington. Thanks for joining us.
Authorities, we are told in the past hour, now want to talk to actor Sean Penn about the
details of his meeting with El Chapo back in October. Now only revealed, of course, this weekend
in Rolling Stone magazine.
Now what will they be hoping to learn?
DUNCAN WOOD, THE WILSON CENTER: I mean, I think they would very much like to know a little bit more about the organization that Penn and Ms. del
Castillo came in contact with. They want to know a little bit more about how the communications were handled. There's a couple of nice little
tidbits in the story about how Sean Penn believes that they were waved through military check
points, because the military recognized El Chapo's son who was traveling with them.
So I think there's a lot of sort of small bits of information that will probably just confirm
things they already know.
But they'd be interesting in finding out.
ANDERSON: I think you spoke to a producer of mine earlier on and suggested this is quite
spectacular, this Rolling Stone magazine article, and I think we'd all agree with that. I mean, it's just when you think it couldn't get anymore
interesting, here we have what is a pretty long and pretty intense article, penned by no less than Sean Penn, at no expense, it seems, to the magazine.
We are told that El Chapo will likely be extradited, but not until the summer. He's back in the same prison that he escaped from back in the
summer, likely there until June or July at this point.
Firstly, are you surprised that he won't be delivered, as it were, to the U.S. any earlier than that?
WOOD: Well, listen, this is a story that keeps on giving and giving. There's so many twists and turns that have happened over the years.
You know, we've had three captures, two prison escapes. We've had near misses, shootouts, gun battles. El Chapo married a teenage beauty queen a
few years ago. This is a great story.
And just to have this element on top of it, that Sean Penn travels to a remote mountain location to interview him is terrific.
And then the footage that you guys just showed of the hotel where he was held, that is what is
known as a Hotel de Paso in Mexico, or a Notel-Motel, where you rent the rooms by the hour. So, I mean, it's just another layer of Hollywood on
When we come up to the question of extradition, though, there are legal issues that need to be overcome in Mexico. El Chapo's lawyers have put in
place injunctions preventing him from being extradited because they argue that the Mexican justice system can actually do its job.
Now, nobody doubts that he can be convicted, the question is can he be kept in a prison for
long enough? And there's huge pressure now from the U.S. government to extradite him. And there's huge pressure as well from the Mexican public
who no longer believe that he will be kept in prison for too long.
ANDERSON: This process of extradition, for anybody whose been watching the Narco serious of late about Pablo Escobar back, what, some 20, 25 years ago
will have learned about this process of extradition between Mexico -- sorry, between Latin American countries, South American countries, and the
U.S. so far as these narco laws are concerned has been going on -- has been an ongoing sort of, you
know, narrative for years now.
It has much wider implications than just the arrest and extradition of one man, doesn't it, at this point? Has much wider implications for drug lords
as a whole and the activities of these gangs going forward. Just give a sense of the consequences of this one man being delivered to the U.S. going
WOOD: So we have a number of issues here. The first one is kind of a question of national pride. You know, Mexico and other Latin American
countries really don't want to, you know, openly accept that their justice systems and their penal systems don't work. They want to say that, you
know, we are a sovereign country and we can do this on our own.
Second of all, you have the question of the pride and the prestige of the government in question. In this case, of Enrique Pena Nieto, who announced
with so much fanfare February of last year that they had actually captured El Chapo and he said, you know, if he was ever to escape from prison this
would be, unforgivable, and the guy escapes from prison.
And so you do have an element there which is, you know, we want to be able to show the world and to show the Mexican public that we can do this. But
the fact is, is that we know that Latin American justice systems, Latin American penal systems, have very, very real problems. I mean, the prison
that he has been sent back to, the Altiplano, that he escaped from before, that's Mexico's highest security prison. But we know that the Sinaloa
cartel has the maps and blueprints of every prison in Mexico. So nowhere is absolutely safe.
ANDERSON: Fascinating. As you say, this is a story that just keeps giving. Thank you, sir.
And just to remind you some news that our Nick Valencia was reporting just in this past hour, a senior Mexican law enforcement official has told CNN
that authorities do now want to question actor Sean Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo who interviewed Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman after
his escape from prison, specifically the source says authorities want to know more about the location where the interview took place and the source
telling CNN that Mexican -- the Mexican government is not aware that the meeting had taken place until the Rolling Stone article was published on
More on this to come.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Coming up, Amnesty International says a famine is unfolding in the Syrian
City of Madaya. And that could be just the tip of the iceberg in the throes of winter.
What are the Syrian people facing? We talk to the World Food Program, up next.
[11:42:23] ANDERSON: You're watch CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Becky
Anderson. 42 minutes past 8:00 in the UAE where we broadcast from.
CNN has been reporting on the besieged Syrian city of Madaya. Evidence of a unfolding famine there continues to mount.
And with the Syrian civil war in its fifth year, Madaya may not be unique as the stress of half a decade of conflict now impacts the population and
Aid agencies are mobilizing hoping to deliver help to the people of Madaya, at least. An aid worker tells CNN that will -- that help will hopefully be
delivered on Monday. And we're going to talk about the World Food Program about the challenges of getting aid into a war zone like this next.
First, though, Arwa Damon reports on what is a dire situation facing the people and children of that town or city. And I tell you, this report does
contain graphic images. It's a warning, they may not be suitable for our younger viewers and some of you may find them disturbing.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The children of Madaya are starving, the voice begs. The babies eyes seeming to echo that desperate
plea for help.
A little boy says he hasn't had a real meal in seven days. And this baby, according to the video, has not had milk in a month.
CNN cannot independently verify these accounts or the images emerging from the town of
Madaya under siege by regime forces and their allies since July. But the last time aid reached the area was in October. And even then, the ICRC
says they saw hunger in the eyes of its residents.
Doctors Without Borders says 23 patients in a center they support have died of starvation, including six babies.
But in the twisted reality of Syria's War, it does have to get this grim for help to arrive.
The UN says that the Syrian government has agreed to allow aid convoys into Madaya, and two
other towns also under siege.
ABEER EBELA, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: This is an area that's completely besieged and
surrounded by mountains covered in snow. So the little food that gets there is through tunnels and is
extremely expensive, and we expect also that irreversible damage to some of these children who have
witnessed some of the worst weapons of war, which is starving them.
DAMON: Syria's cruel and harsh war, now into his fifth year, has seen scenes like this before, and worse.
These stills are being circulated by activists, set to show children eating leaves.
And it's hardly the only portion of the population severely suffering from the war, hardly the only atrocity.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.
[11:45:15] ANDERSON: I'm joined now by Muhammad Hadi in Cairo. He is the World Food Program's regional director for the Middle East, North Africa,
Central Asia and East Europe. Sir, thank you for joining us.
In the throes of what is now the fifth winter, some incredibly disturbing images in Arwa's report there revealing the extent to which people are
This is a war zone, let's remind ourselves. Describe the logistical challenges of an agency like yours in getting food to these people.
MUHAMNMAD HADI, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: Definitely is so sad that this is the fifth year and we're still seeing war in Syria, we're seeing more people
suffer, we're seeing people in besieged areas. As a matter of fact, there are 400,000 people in besieged areas all over Syria.
The preparations for an operation like this is definitely very, very challenging. It's a logistics -- I don't to want say a nightmare, but
definitely there are so many parties involved in this. We have to ensure that the safety of the staff who are working with the United Nations, but
also we have to ensure the safety -- we have to ensure the safety of the people themselves who would be receiving that humanitarian assistance in
Madaya, and in other places.
ANDERSON: All of you, just to get a sense of how sky high food prices are in Madaya for those who can even get to it compared to Damascus which is
just 42 kilometers away, about 30 miles. Now imagine this viewers, you'd pay around 80 cents for a kilogram of flour in Damascus, for example. In
Madaya, that would cost you around $120, according to social media reports.
Sugar prices are even more astronomical in the city, fetching around $200 a kilogram.
But the biggest price rocket is with milk. It is selling for just over a dollar in Damascus, it's more than 280 times that in Madaya.
Muhammad, what do you send in? You talk to us and the logistics and about the concerns that you have and the challenges, what about actually what it
is that these people get from an agency like yours.
HADI: Well, to start with, let me be clear, it's not just World Food Program who would be sending convoys, it's the entire international
community, the United Nations, other agencies, ICRC, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent who will be sending food, will be sending medicines, clothing
for the children, blankets, and water purification equipment, everything that they
And we'll be sending more than one convoy. The first convoy hopefully will go tomorrow, another one will follow on Thursday. And we have several
convoy this week.
We will be (inaudible) on behalf -- will be definitely needing the nutritious status of the people. We will be sending them food that suits
their situation. We'll be sending food which is ready to eat, something that doesn't require a lot of time or effort to prepare for them and their
children. We'll be sending some nutritious food also for the children, some fortified food.
So we'll try our best with this window of opportunity that we have to supply as much as we can -- us and the rest of the agencies.
ANDERSON: Let's talk about that window because it's not an open-ended window, is it? Just how long do you think this corridor, if you will, this
window will exist? And this is Madaya, and clearly, you know, media reports -- let's say, have opened that window to all intents and purposes,
what about other towns and cities who aren't getting the same coverage?
Are we expecting that there are similar situations for people who simply won't be getting the
this sort of aid that you guys can send in?
HADI: Talking about Madaya and the neighboring villages, the ones we are reaching this week. As I said, we have, we have hopefully we'll be sending
three convoys there.
We don't have any assurances for anything after that. We're hoping that this is not just a one-time window of opportunity. We hope that we can
have continuous access to those places. We can meet the needs.
And mind you, after go there, we probably would be finding other needs there. So, once our teams go there and verify the situation and make sure
that we address the needs as they are -- what we're sending right now, we're sort of a blanket coverage to cover all of the needs we think the
But -- (inaudible).
[11:50:15] ANDERSON: We're losing the audio on that Skype, I'm afraid.
You get the message, you understand the story. And let's hope that things can improve.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. We'll be right back after this very short break with more of the day's
news. You're watching CNN. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky anderson. Welcome back. It is a Sunday here in the UAE at 10 to, or just
after 10 to 9:00.
Star Wars fans across the globe have lined up to see the latest installment in the series. You may have seen it yourself. Well, now The Force Awakens
taking off at light speed in China.
The movie, which opened in China on Saturday raked in an estimated $33 million on it's first day alone. It's Disney's biggest opening day ever in
But as our Matt Rivers reports, the movie franchise isn't as well-known there as it might be elsewhere around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will finish what you've started.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORREPSONDENT: The force finally awakened in the second biggest movie market in the world as the latest Star Wars installment
opened up in China over the weekend. Light sabers glowed at midnight showings across Beijing Saturday as fans got their first taste of the movie
a full three weeks after the U.S.
After it was over, positive reviews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Generally speaking, I'm very satisfied with technology developments, the affects, the sounds, the
lighting effects are much better than previous episodes.
RIVERS: But if you feel like something is missing in all of this, compare china's opening
night to what we saw in the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This area is under the protection of The First Order.
RIVERS: Fans dressed up cheering unbridled in their pure geeky joy. Heck, people even camped out for a week before the first showing. This was a
Here in this Beijing theater, the film is being shown every half hour, but as you can see,
the massive crowds haven't really shown up yet.
There's no sense of nostalgia about this film. I don't think that most people know what a storm trooper is, if you did a Chewbacca impression, you
would probably get some strange looks, but for a film to be a true blockbuster these days, it needs to do well in China, and Disney knows it.
Hence the reason for a big marketing push. A social media and ad campaign has been reinforced with splashy events like this one: hundreds of storm
trooper figurines on the great wall back in October.
There are government limits on the amount of western films that can be shown each year, so
Disney has to make it count, but will it be enough to generate interest? We asked a Jedi.
UNIDENITIFIED MALE (through translator): It's not really that popular here yet. I think people are more into Chinese movies. Hopefully, Star Wars
can help change that.
RIVERS: He's one of a small group of fans that met Friday night before the first showing determined to help spread the gospel of Luke, Leia, and Han.
It's that kind of loyalty Disney is counting on.
The Force Awakens is already the top grossing film of all-time in the U.S. To break Avatar's worldwide record, it'll need Chinese audiences to show up
Matt Rivers, CNN, Beijing.
[11:55:23] ANDERSON: Wherever you are watching in the world, well, let us know what you thought of the movie by going to our Facebook page.
Facebook.com/CNNconnect. You can tell us anything, anything about anything on this show.
Whether it's Star Wars or not, get in touch. You can also tweet me on Twitter @beckyCNN.
Well just before we go tonight, our Parting Shots for you. And the U.S. Powerball lottery jackpot now stands at a staggering $1.3 billion, billion
dollars, yes. That is after Saturday's record $900 million drawing came and went without a winner.
Well, a jackpot has been building since November. Ticket sales really soared when the payout topped $400 million last week.
Well the next Powerball drawing will be Wednesday. Of course your chance of winning is nil unless you buy a ticket. And even non-U.S. citizens can
play, folks. So, listen up, here is a look at how it all works.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIIFED MALE: Your odds of winning the Powerball jackpot, about 1 in 292 million. You're more likely to be struck by lightning or have
conjoined twins, yet people keep playing because dreaming about winning millions is more fun than dreaming about being attacked by a shark.
Americans spend more than $70 billion on lottery tickets each year. Between 60 and 70 percent of that is spent on instant scratch tickets. The
rest is spent on the big games, Powerball and Megamillions.
Powerball players pick five numbers between one and 69 and one number between 1 and 26, the
red Powerball number.
To win the jackpot, you must match all six numbers.
Your odds of winning never change, despite how many people play. The only thing that changes is how much you can win.
The jackpot total posted on billboards is just an estimate. A percentage of every ticket sold goes into a pool. That money is split evenly if
there are multiple winners. Lottery winners are offered two options, a cash payout, or an annuity jackpot. If a winner chooses the cash payout,
the state lottery gives him or her the state amount. State and federal income taxes are taken out immediately.
If a winner picks the annuity jackpot, the state lottery invests the cash in various government securities. The winner is then given 30 payments
over 29 years, plus any interest earned.
The money is treated like income on the winner's tax form each year.
ANDERSON: You got to play if you want them to pay. I'm Becky Anderson, that was
Connect the World.
From the team here, it's a very good evening from the UAE. Thank you for watching. We will have the headlines for you after this very short break
on CNN. Stay with us.