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Donald Trump Attacks Media in Campaign Style Event in Florida; Switzerland Hosts World Ski Championships; Iraqi Troops Continue Push Into Western Mosul; World Looks for U.S. to Present Middle East Policy Position. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 19, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:24] ZAIN ASHER, HOST: This hour, taking it all back: Iraq has set up ISIS from one side of Mosul and now it wants to reconquer the rest of

the city. A live report on that surging battle right ahead.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have become a big part of the problem. They are part of the corrupt system.


ASHER: You actually might call that an upgrade since Donald Trump once called reporters the lowest form of life. We'll be discussing his latest

rips into the media ahead. And then we're going to explain what's going on here at the naked man festival in Japan.

Hello, everyone and a warm welcome to all of you at home, this the Connect the World. I'm Zain Asher in New York sitting in for my colleague Becky


I want to tell you about the latest in the battle against ISIS because there has been a fresh push to drive ISIS out of its last major stronghold

in Iraq.

In Iraq, here's what we know so far. Iraqi security forces have just launched a push into western

Mosul. That is the area in red, if you look closely on the left side of this map.

Iraq has actually already declared the eastern part of the city liberated last month. They are now focusing on the western part of the city. Troops

are moving in on several fronts from the south in what will be a very sort pf slow village by village, street by street offensive.

They are going to encounter hundreds of thousands of civilians along the way who have been told to leave the city. And one thing is for sure, this

will not be quick or easy, going to be likely slow and painful. I want to bring in senior

international correspondent Ben Wedeman who is following this story from across the border in Turkey.

So, Ben, just explain to us what sort of resistance can Iraqi security forces expect to encounter as they push this battle into western Mosul?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNAITONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the battle, Zain, began just 11 hours ago at 7:00 in the morning, Baghdad time. Iraqi prime

minister Haider al-Abady, declared the beginning of the operation on Iraqi television. This is what he said.


HAIDER AL-ABADY, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are announcing

the start of a new phase of we are coming Nineveh operations to liberate the right side of Mosul City as we had liberated other areas. We call on

our brave troops to start the push to liberate the rest of the city and to liberate people from the oppression and terrific of Daesh.


WEDEMAN: And it's going to be a very hard battle.

Now U.S. officials say that there's somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 ISIS fighters inside

western Mosul. And they will be using the same sort of tactics that we saw them use in the east. They have dug a network of tunnels within the city.

They have started to use armed drones quite effectively against the Iraqi army, snipers, they're using civilians as human shields. We understand

there's somewhere between 650,000 to 800,000 civilians in the city itself, that's western Mosul alone, and clearly progressing street by street, house

by house with the civilians in the middle is going to be very difficult.

Now, overnight the Iraqi army did drop millions of leaflets on the western part of Mosul and some of them were calling on ISIS fighters to surrender,

to put down their weapons and warned Iraqi civilians to stay in their homes, to put white flags outside their home and cooperate with the Iraqi

forces as they enter the city.

Now, we understand from Iraqi officials that the troops are approaching on four different

axes from the southwest and the south. Their immediate goal is to gain control of the airport and an adjacent hill that overlooks the western part

of the city, but it will be a hard battle and iT could go on for quite some time - Zain.

ASHER: Quite some time. And it's already gone on, by the way, for four months.

You know, you've covered this story a lot, the battle to retake Mosul. Is the Iraqi army up for the task, especially given that taking back the

western part of the city, as you mentioned, is going to be long, slow, difficult and painful given the resistance that ISIS will likely put up.

[10:05:15] WEDEMAN: Well, what I've seen covering the war against ISIS in Iraq for the last two-and-a-half years is that the ability of the Iraqi

army, particularly its special forces, and some of the predominately Shia paramilitary is they've really gained a lot of experience.

They fought and retook Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, other towns and villages, so they do have a level of fighting ability that is majorly improved since

two-and-a-half years ago.

They also have the assistance of the U.S.-led international coalition in the bombardment of Mosul today and yesterday. There were French and U.S.

artillery units involved in addition to the U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

So they are up to the task. U.S. officials say that it's going to be -- it would be a rough battle for anybody, but they do believe the Iraqis are up

to it. But, of course, with the civilians in the middle and the kind of ruthless tactics that we've seen ISIS use in the past.

It's not going to be easy. Now, it took the Iraqi army about three, three and a half months to gain control of the eastern part of the city, but even

there, they're still having trouble with sleeper cells left behind by ISIS. There were several suicide bombings on the eastern side - so, even when

officially ISIS has been cleared out of the west there's still going to be a problem -


ASHER: All right. Ben Wedeman live for us there. Thank you so much. Appreciate that.

I want to give you the latest now in the battle for eastern Ukraine. Now, it's certainly a short-term measure that could have long-term effects. I'm

talking about the cease-fire. Ukraine says that Russia violated international law by recognizing travel and other documents issued by

separatists. The executive order signed by Vladimir Putin affects people in Donetsk and Luhansk, eastern regions that have seen fierce fighting in

the three-year-old conflict.

The Ukrainian president slammed the move as he met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the security summit in Munich where we just

were for you.

Petro Poroshenko welcomed what he said was a powerful signal that the U.S. is standing with Ukraine. All this, ahead of a planned cease-fire in

Eastern Ukraine, Russia says that may start on Monday.

CNN international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is live for us in Moscow.

So, Nick, this is interesting, because we are hearing from the UN envoy that this particular

cease-fire actually stands a better chance of holding than previous ones we've seen in the past. Why is that?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually that UN envoy I believe was talking more about Syria. This is a whole separate

deal in eastern Ukraine where we are looking now to see the Minsk accords, which were supposed to have caused the guns to stop firing months ago to

actually be put into effect.

The real problem here is there hasn't been a cease-fire but there has been one on paper now for well over a year. We were recently in Nabivko (ph)

one of the hot spots on this area between the separatist-held part of eastern Ukraine and the remainder held by the

Ukrainian government. And the artillery fire is often constant. The hope is somehow that as of tomorrow the guns will fall silent, that heavy

weapons that have been on the front lines will get pulled back, that we may, in fact, see these things that have been talked about, but frankly

ignored, actually come into effect.

There's been pressure from the German side for this occur, the OSC monitors who have ben trying to get access and control of the situation for months

that they may actually be able to get to the places they want to go to.

Frankly, it's all a bit of a long shot. And it comes, Zain, with this extraordinary backdrop of the recent executive order by the Kremlin, by

Vladimir Putin, to recognize the documents and all the bureaucratic paperwork in the separatist region inside the Russian

Federation. That basically, to some people, is a bureaucratic way of beginning to bring those regions closer to being part of Russia.

That's not what Vladimir Putin said, but it's symbolically being taken that way by some Ukrainian officials, and this is the key problem here. While

peace is perhaps being talked about in closed rooms in Munich, at conferences, these moves are reversing that idea. And they have perhaps

caused a harsh reaction from some Ukrainian officials who are under a lot of pressure from Ukrainian nationalists to beef up their response to these


In fact, one senior Ukrainian security official saying in fact that executive order means that Russia is basically torn off and pulled out of

the Minsk agreement. This is all deeply troubling because the violence does persist there. It's horrifying on those front lines for ordinary

Ukrainians and those on the separatist side, too. And I think the fear now is as we see these cease-fire talks continue but not actually yield much

change on the ground, does that mean people will give up on the political process?

There's a lot of firepower in those areas. We saw ourselves it's often been used when it's not

supposed to be. There's been a cease-fire on paper for months, but it hasn't actually stopped much of the violence. The problem now is the

geopolitical stakes high, and Ukraine being a key part of all of that. Do we see a flare-up that perhaps persists now into a new level of conflict,

or is there some hope that maybe tomorrow they might actually do what they have been claiming they have been doing for the few couple of months, and

that's implement a cease-fire - Zain.

[10:10:30] ASHER: Nick, thank you so much. I totally stand corrected. Stefan de Mistura was talking about Syria. As you mentioned, thank you so

much for breaking that down for us. Appreciate that. Thank you.

All right, our top story this hour, the offensive in Mosul is just one of many challenges the Middle East is facing right now. This weekend's

security conference in Munich has just wrapped up, and much of the focus was on the conflict in Syria.

Major players in the region, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia all spoke today. As we mentioned, the U.S. vice president was also there on

Saturday. He's visiting the Belgian capital Brussels.

Our Erin McLaughlin is in Brussels to tell us what we can expect from that visit. Nic Robertson has the details from Munich.

So, Nic, I want to begin with you, because I'm curious how well, or how satisfactory, has the Trump team been in assuring European allies that,

listen, despite some of the controversial things that Donald Trump has said, we absolutely do have your back?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been very clear, and it's been unequivocal, and diplomats who have been here, you know, were

pleased to hear that message from Mike Pence. And I think it resonated very loudly with the Russian

foreign minister and certainly back in the Kremlin as well. We saw the decisions they took overnight on Ukraine recognizing the documents of

people from the breakaway separatist region in the southeast of the country, which is widely seen as a negative reaction for the United States

being very clearly aligned with NATO.

More broadly speaking, you know, getting to the issue of Syria, there are Syria peace talks due

to begin this week in Geneva. The UN special envoy on Syria, Sefan de Mistura, has been here. HE has been talking with diplomats. He's said

publicly here that he's hopeful these talks in Syria, these Syria peace talks in Geneva can get off to a positive start this week, because of the

talks that it happened in Astana in the past couple of weeks have helped to stabilize and bring a cease-fire to Syria, that must be complemented by

political progress, he said.

However, he's very concerned about the lack of U.S. political position on Syria and how it's

going to engage in those talks because, of course, John Kerry under President Obama, the secretary of state then was very much engaged and that

was an important part of process, and de Mistura is looking for the Americans now, looking to the White House for them to take - to find their

position and articulate a policy of how they're going to go forward on Syria. That's critical.

But also talked to the Saudi foreign minister here about his views on what the White House can do in Syria. This is what he told me.


ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: The most important thing that the U.S. can do is talk to its allies, consult with its allies and work with

its allies, whether in the middle east or in other places. And this way we can deal with the challenges and we can overcome those challenges that our

region faces as well as the more global challenges that the world faces.

ROBERTSON: And safe zones in Syria, has that discussed - been discussed?

AL-JUBEIR: Yes. Safe zones, how militarily defeating ISIS, what it takes. I think - I believe the plans are being formulated as we speak, and by

Secretary Mattis, and will be presented to the president soon and believe that the consultations with America's allies in the regions are ongoing

with regards to what roles they can play in the effort to establish safe zones.

And actually they are called interim -- the technical term is not safe zones, but they - and also what can be done to defeat ISIS militarily.

ROBERTSON: Do you support the United States putting troops - more troops on the ground in Syria?

AL-JUBEIR: Yes. We support whatever it takes to destroy this evil organization.

ROBERTSON: And will you put troops on the ground?

AL-JUBEIR: We have said that we are prepared to spend special forces with the United States in Syria. We have made this offer more than a year and a

half ago.

ROBERTSON: Are you hopeful that the talks in Geneva this week will bring peace.

AL-JUBEIR: We must always be hopeful, but it's going to be difficult. It's really the best way to resolve this tragedy, but we need to see

flexibility from the regime side.

ROBERTSON: Assad must go?

AL-JUBEIR: Eventually I believe when you talk about a transition you have to transition out of something into something else.


ROBERTSON: And this is what we heard from the Turkish foreign minister as well saying that the talks on the basis of the UN Security Council

resolution 2254, which says there must be a political transition, and part of that transition has been that President Assad must go. That has been

the sticking point in the past. Russia has never pushed that. Very unlikely for Iran to move in that direction.

So, the peace talks will begin. How long before they have the outcome that everyone can get

behind, unclear at this moment, Zain.

[10:15:22] ASHER: All right, Nic Robertson, stand by. I want to bring in Erin McLaughlin who is live for us in Brussels.

So, it's interesting because you have Vice President Mike Pence obviously meeting with the Belgian Prime Minister and also various other EU allies.

Is there some degree of awkwardness just given some of President Trump's remarks about Brexit, supporting Brexit, being pro-Brexit?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, EU officials I've been talking to here say that they welcome this visit from the U.S. Vice

President Mike Pence to Brussels. It's an important symbolic gesture and it comes at a critical time when there is concern here about the

relationship between the EU and the United States.

At the same time, there is this sense of confusion, especially when you consider, for example,

what the vice president had to say during his speech in Munich yesterday. He reaffirmed the United States' commitment to European allies and

reaffirmed its commitment to NATO, but not once in that speech did the vice president mention the European Union, a fact that was not lost on EU


The French foreign minister tweeting that out. And then you had last night what President

Donald Trump said at a rally in Florida essentially praising Brexit, comparing the Brexit sort of movement to his own electoral victory.

Take a listen a to what he had to say.


TRUMP: It's a movement that's just sweeping. It's sweeping across our country. It's sweeping frankly across the globe. Look at Brexit. Look at

Brexit. Much smaller example, but it's still something of you can look at.

People want to take back control of their countries and they want to take back control of their lives and the lives of their family.


MCLAUGHLIN: I was speaking to one EU diplomat specifically about those remarks and he said the fact that the president of the United States was

saying that on the eve of this visit from the U.S. vice president here in Brussels, he's expected to meet a key EU official was a, quote, terrible

signal and places the vice president in a, quote, awkward position going into those meetings - Zain.

ASHER: All right, Erin McLaughlin live for us there. Nic Robertson, live for us also. Thank you both so much.

All right, I want to get you updated now on a couple other stories on our radar today. Donald Trump's two elder sons opened up a new golf course in

Dubai on Saturday, it is the first Trump-branded project to be launched since their father actually became president on

January 20th.

Mr. Trump says he has put his business in a trust run by his sons Donald Jr. and Eric.

The extremist Muslim cleric convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing has died. Prison officials say Omar Abdel-Rahman was 78 when he

died of natural causes on Saturday. He was serving a life sentence for his role in the New York attack.

A Dutch politician and vocal critic of Islam, Geert Wilders has verbally attacked Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands. Wilders was convicted of

hate speech two months ago. Here is what he said at the time.


GEERT WILDERS, DUTCH POLITICIANS: There is a lot of Moroccans coming and makes the streets unsafe, mostly young people and they are -- they are not

taken seriously. We are making them and the people unsafe.


ASHER: All right, still to come tonight, President Trump steps back into familiar territory. The message he delivered directly to his supporters.

Plus, the mystery deepens. Four people from North Korea being sought in the death of the leader's half brother. We'll have that story coming up



ASHER: You, of course, are watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me, Zain Asher. Thank you so much for being with us this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump is ending his first month in office by doing something he actually seems to really love doing. A freehweeling campaign

style rally. Does this look familiar from last year? This is Trump speaking to 9,000 cheering supporters in Florida on Saturday, hitting on

many of his most popular themes, including restoring American jobs, slamming international trade deals, and defending his controversy travel

ban. But some of the harshest words he had on Saturday were actually aimed at us, the media, especially news organizations he recently denounced as

the, quote, enemy of the American people. Take a listen.


TRUMP: They have become a big part of the problem. They are a part of the corrupt system: Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, and

many of our greatest presidents, fought with the media and called them out oftentimes on their lies.

When the media lies to people, I will never, ever let them get away with it.


ASHER: Now, there's actually one country where Donald Trump was a brief media darling, I'm talking about Russia. Buoyed by campaign trail talk

that hinted of a better relationship between the United States and Russia. Russia state media covered the new U.S. president heavily, but as Matthew

Chance reports, many in Moscow now have a sinking feeling.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For months, he's been the darling of the kremlin-controlled media.

Russian state television fawning over Donald Trump and his pro-Moscow promises.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn't that be nice?

CHANCE: But the mood is starting to change. Now even Russians here protesting in Moscow at the amount of Trump coverage on their television

screens are becoming disillusioned. Our president is Putin, one of the placards reads. We're all against Trumpamania here says this woman.

We want to hear about the decisions of our own president. Not about who Donald Trump (inaudible). The kremlin said it never had any rose-tinted

view of what President Trump could bring to the U.S./Russian relationship.

(on camera): But ever since he was elected, expectations here have soared. Trump's criticism of NATO, his calls for security cooperation with Russia,

and his early hints at recognizing Crimea all gave Russians hope that here was a U.S. president who saw the world the kremlin's way.

But with Russia looming over U.S. politics, that vision is proving tricky to implement. Russian officials say the first meeting between Trump's new

secretary of state and Russia's veteran foreign minister produced no real breakthrough.

There have also been mixed messages on Crimea, NATO, and sanctions, not a good sign, say analysts, for those waiting for a rapid improvement in

U.S./Russian relations.

SERGEY KARAGANOV, FORMER PUTIN ADVISER: I am not optimistic in the short- term, around two years, but maybe if Trump survives and wins, it is in the interest of the United States, as well in the interest of Russia, to have a

more cooperative relationship.

CHANCE (voice-over): On inauguration night, just a month ago, there were parties in Moscow to celebrate. The mood now is in increasingly one of

disillusionment, as Russians see President Trump's idea of a diplomatic thaw slip away.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


ASHER: All right, there is so much to talk about here. I want to bring in political analyst Ellis Henican from our New York bureau. He writes that

Trump's America column for Metro Papers.

So, Ellis thanks so much for being with us. I want to start by talking about Donald Trump's rally in Florida yesterday.

If we can pull that video up on the screen of Donald Trump sort of campaigning and speaking to

his base, his audience. What I'm curious about is if my memory serves me correctly we had an election on November 8 and Donald Trump won that

election. Why on earth is he still campaigning?

ELLIS HENICAN, METRO PAPERS COLUMNIST: You know, that's a great question. You would think he who say thank you and move on.

ASHER: Right, right.

HENICAN: But don't forget about something, this is so much easier than governing, right. You do one of these rallies and no reporter asks you any

mean questions, no appellate court rules your policies unconstitutional, no reluctant congress wants to know the details

of your plans. All that stuff is tough. Standing in front of a crowd and waving and taking self-congratulations, that's easy and fun. Why not doing


ASHER: You know, when I was watching this yesterday, I couldn't help but wonder, you know, it almost feels as though he needed some kind of

challenge, or some sort of opponent to be running against besides the media, of course.

Do the Democrats have anybody that they are grooming over the next three and a half years to

take on that role in 2020?

HENICAN: There is certainly no obvious individual. I'm there's a whole generation of Democrats who look in the mirror and see that person staring

back at them from the mirror, but I don't think you can say that there is any one person. And I've got to tell you, Zain, I'm not so sure it's so

important yet. He has us, right. He has us to beat around.

ASHER: We're the enemy of course.

HENICAN: But then maybe you shouldn't listen to what I'm saying since I'm an enemy of the people, according to my president.

ASHER: But hey, so am I, so am I technically.

So, he talked about - he hinted or intimated yesterday, that there was something that went on in Sweden last night. He mentioned that -- sort of

intimated that there was some kind of an attack. How do you in the media, writers like yourself, cover a president who clearly may not always be

telling the truth?

HENICAN: You know, personally I try to fall back on the original verities I learned as a young cop reporter running around the middle of the night

covering homicides, which is just get the facts, put them out there, correct the stuff you know that is wrong. I really do think that

traditional journalism may save us. We're going to get slapped around a bit between now and then. But you know what, if we hang on to that I think

it will save us.

ASHER: You know, another thing that I think surprised a lot of people about the rally yesterday is that Donald Trump obviously has a lot on his

plate, especially a major priority for him should be finding a national security adviser. Where are we on that front?

HENICAN: Well, as you know, one has left, two have said no thank you, and there are interviews today with another three. And at the moment, the

leading candidate seems to be a guy named John Bolton who had been the UN representative a couple decades ago, a real super hawk, one of the most

ardent neoconservative promoters of the Iraq War.

Philosophically, he seems fairly different from some of the stuff that Donald Trump the candidate expressed, but he does have some support among

the more staunch conservatives in the administration. And I guess if you had to bet, he may be the one to focus on, at least, today.

ASHER: All right, so hopefully we'll get some clarification this week.

Ellis, thank you so much for being with us.

HENICAN: Great to see you. Thank you.

ASHER: Of course.

And during my conversation just a second ago with Ellis we talked about the president making a comment during the rally yesterday. That raised a view

eyebrows. Take a listen.


TRUMP: You look at what's happening last night in Sweden, Sweden. Who would believe this, Sweden. They took in large numbers. They are having

problems like they never thought possible.


ASHER: So as i mentioned with my conversation with a political analyst, Ellis, just a second ago, that comment about Sweden caused a lot of

confusion, including from Sweden's former prime minister Carl Bildt, who tweeted, and I quote, "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking?

Questions abound."

All right, we'll get you up to speed with the latest news headlines in just a moment. Plus, a tale of two North Koreas: while much of the nation

suffers under sanctions, others shop, dine, and take selfies. We'll go inside Pyongyang for a look after the break.



ASHER: At least five people were killed by the biggest storm to hit Southern California in

years. People there are recovering now, but the already drenched northern part of the state is

under the gun once again.

Alison Chinchar joins us live now with the details. You have five people killed in this major severe weather.

ALISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right. And there's three rounds. And we're real only entering the second round, Zain, so you have

two more rounds that this area is going to have to go through.

You take a look at these cars. Obviously, you can tell it's raining. They're backed up. It's slow

going. But also notice a lot of land debris that is on it, so you're just driving through heavy rain. You're also trying to navigate through a lot

of the debris that has fallen on to the roads and folks having to kind of make makeshift rain boots out of plastic bags just to get through a lot of

the heavy flooded roadways.

Here's a look at some of the totals that we've had. Again, the area between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and north. Some areas have picked up

over 200 millimeters of rain in the last three days.

Now, the good news is Los Angeles will be on the low end side of this, really the heavier rain will end up being in the northern half of the

state, up towards San Francisco, for example. But with that said, it's not that the Los Angeles isn't going to get any rain, it's just that the

extreme heavy rain and the torrential downpours, those are really going to be limited to the northern half of the state as we go into the evening hours tonight and then

through the day on Monday. So, because of that, we still have flood watches and even flood warnings in effect for much of the northern half of

the state. But we talked about multiple storms.

There's the second storm that comes in. And then the third wave that arrives Tuesday and as we go into the day on Wednesday.

So, again, we're just going to get pummeled with storm after storm. And, unfortunately,

each one of those storms is going to bring its own very decent amount of rain. So when you take the entire total all the way through Tuesday - look

at some of these areas, the oranges, the yellows, you're talking in excess of an additional 100 millimeters on top of what they have already had.

But notice this red target area, that's around Lake Oroville. Now, we've talked about this earlier in the week, because this has a dam and they were

forced to use both of their spillways to help relieve pressure so that the dam did not collapse, but again even both of the spillways had damage due

to erosion on them, and that caused problems.

But if that's not bad enough, you still have to worry about a lot of the vehicles that may hydroplane and get into accidents like you see here. So,

we have some tips for those folks on what you can do. You want to give yourself extra time as you're driving. Average braking distance, say, at

70 miles per hour, it's going to be much farther away than it would be if the roads were dry. And unfortunately, vehicles can hydroplane at speeds

as low as 35 miles per hour.

So, for a lot of these areas, Zain, when are getting the heavy downpours, which we absolutely expect to get, it may reduce visibility that we're

expecting to get it may reduce visibility down to near zero. So, again, this is in addition to the potential for landslides,

flash flooding and also additional sinkholes that may pop up in the next 72 hours.

ASHER: Alsion Chinchar, thank you so much for those very helpful tips. Hopefully people heed the warning. Thank you so much.

Now to the South China Sea, a very tense part of the world. The U.S. navy says it deployed an aircraft carrier there on Saturday. The waters have

been part of a dispute between China and its neighbors for several years.

As John Defterios reports, Beijing is not happy with the maneuvers.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: The U.S. administration sending a signal of its commitment to stay engaged in Asia, particularly

when it comes to the South China Sea.

A U.S. strike carrier group began patrols over the weekend, part of a broader effort to step up training in this part of the world.

U.S. rear admiral James Kilby said he looks forward to demonstrating U.S. capabilities and tightening the bonds between its allies and friends.

These patrols have taken up particular meeting after the bilateral talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe

taking place February 10th in Washington.

Japan, of course, has its own territorial dispute over these waters with Beijing.

There is no fresh comment from China this weekend but the issue did come up prior to the patrols taking place. At a briefing, a ministry of foreign

affairs spokesman said it opposed any country's effort to undermine its sovereignty and security in the name of free navigation of the seas. This

is despite the fact that the Trump administration has recognized Beijing's One China policy with


And there's also another sensitive issue, and that is the stubbornly high trade deficit with China. President Trump has threatened to apply tariffs

to try to bring that number down.

John Deftgerios, CNN Money, Beijing.


ASHER: China is banning coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year. Beijing says it's complying with sanctions over Pyonyang's weapons

program. In the meantime, North Korea continues to deal with the mysterious death of the country's leader's half brother.

Kim Jong-nam died in Malaysia last week and now more suspects are being sought. Here's our Saima Mohsin with more.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a packed press conference Sunday here in Kuala Lumpur, police confirmed to me after I

asked them that this, now, is formally a murder investigation into the deaht of Kim Jong-nam.

Now, police have also cast the net far wider across Asia, including North Korea now. They named four new suspects, all men, who they have identified

as North Korean citizens holding civilian passports.

Crucially, though, police say they left the country on the same day as the attack and they wouldn't tell us where they flew to.

They also revealed photographs of three other people they said they need to speak to to assist

in their investigation. One of them was also identified as a North Korean male, but two others are yet to be identified.

That, of course, in addition to the four suspects already in custody. They have been arrested, but are yet to be charged.

In the meantime, we are still awaiting the results of the post-mortem examination, police say they're awaiting results from the toxicology and

pathology reports. And more importantly, they want a next of kin to come forward or a DNA test to prove this is indeed Kim Jong-nam before they

release the body. That, of course, could prove incredibly difficult, given that Kim Jong-nam was living in exile from North Korea at the time of his

death and for a number of years already.

Saima Mohsin, CNN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


[10:40:47] ASHER: And as that investigation continues, I want to talk a little bit more about sanctions against North Korea. They clearly have

taken a toll as the nation's economy is struggling, its per capita GDP ranks 211th in the world, that's the ranking, 211th in the world. And it's

estimate that fresh sanctions imposed last year is going to be costing the country $800 million a year.

However, what's interesting is that not everybody in the country appears to be suffering. Here's Will Ripley with more.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a mocha, a cafe mocha.

(voice-over): They sip designer coffee, send text messages to friends.

(on camera): How did it turn out?

(voice-over): Even take selfies.

(on camera): Oh, it looks good.

(voice-over): This could be any coffee shop in any city, not what you'd expect in Pyongyang.

"Even here in North Korea, during holidays or on weekends, we sit with friends, talk about work and life," says Ri Jyong Yee (ph), a commercial

manager. North Korea watchers say this is light years away from how most people live in one of the poorest countries in the world.

What do you think is the biggest difference between your life here in North Korea and the rest of the outside world?

"We're a socialist country. I think that's the main difference," says researcher Yun Sol Mi, a socialist country with a high end department

store, selling everything from gourmet groceries to flat screen TVs, all despite unprecedented sanctions over North Korea's nuclear and missile


Outside observers say this is not the norm, that life is vastly different in other parts of North Korea. The U.N. World Food Programme says millions

face serious food shortages and many suffer chronic malnutrition.

"Pyongyang is the capital, the face of our country," says economist Ri Gi Song (ph).

"So it's true Pyongyang develops faster but our state policy is to grow both urban and rural areas simultaneously."

The nation's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, promised to strengthen the military and economy at the same time. In the showpiece capital, we do see

plenty of construction, new high-rise apartments, more cars on the streets.

We see people with smartphones, with new clothes, new sneakers. The West would call these people middle class.

"Our society doesn't have a so-called middle class," he says.

(voice-over): "But in the near future, we hope to have everyone living above the middle class."

Ri says North Korea will never embrace capitalism. But in recent years, some private enterprise has been allowed in. Markets supplement what the

state distributes. But Ri says some day those markets will disappear because the government will provide everything people need.

We don't know how the rest of North Korea lives. Those are places and people we're not allowed to see.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang.


ASHER: All right, this is Connect the World. Still to come on the program, basketball's top players are getting ready to go face to face. We

will take you to the NBA all-star game just ahead. To sports fans out there you don't want to miss it.


[10:46:25] ASHER: All right. Let's get you caught up to speed of what's going on in the world

of sports. The top basketball players in the world are set to put on a show at the NBA all-star game. The big exhibition match-up happens Sunday

night in New Orleans, but there's more to the all-star weekend than the main event that's happening on Sunday. Players, in fact, got to show off

their skills. You can see them here. They had various contests on Saturday night, including this fan favorite, the slam dunk competition.

Let's go straight now to our Andy Scholes who is lucky enough to be in New Orleans for the big

game. So, it's always a friendly mach,the NBA all-star game, but there has been, I understand, Andy, a

little bit of drama in the western conference team.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN WORLD SPORT: That's right, Zain. This may be the most drama we've ever had for an NBA all-star game. And it all centers around

two of the superstars for the western conference team, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Now, these two used to be on the same Oklahoma City Thunder's squad for years, but this past offseason Kevin Durant left The Thunder for the Golden

State Warriors. And cine then, these two guys have not spoken to each other, other than a couple of heated exchanges that they've had on the

court when they've met this season.

And I tell you what, they had an all-star practice on Saturday morning. And these two avoided each other at all costs. They were on opposite ends

of the court, even though they are on the same team. As far as I know, they did not speak to each other whatsoever. And whenever you ask anybody

about this, if you ask Westbrook, you ask Durant, they don't want to talk about it. They say I don't want to talk about it.

I asked Steph Curry about it, Durant's teammate on The Warriors, he said he wasn't speaking about it. And then I asked Draymond Green after the

practice is he even aware if these guys have even said hello to each other.


DRAYMOND GREEN, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS FORWARD: I don't know what they did. I don't spend my time watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Maybe

they did, maybe they didn't. They maybe said hi. I don't know.

No, you're just playing. You - we didn't even do anything out there. I think people are looking for the story too much, like, let's just enjoy

this weekend. It's a great weekend. Nah.


SCHOLES: So that's definitely going to be something to watch in this game Sunday night, Zain, when Westbrook and Durant are on the bench together and

if they get on the court together how will they interact?

ASHER: Yeah, that's the big question. A little bit of drama never hurt anyone. It certainly adds to the buildup. Andy Scholes, live for us.

Thank you so much.

From the courts to the slopes now, awards were just handed out on the final day of the world

ski championships. Our Christina Macfarlane has the highlights from Switzerland.


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN WORLD SPORT: Skiing's biggest showpiece returns to one of the most famous winter resorts. For a fourth time the ski world

championships have been underway in St. Moritz.

We're flying over the race course of the Ski World Championships and beneath me is the mountain that will decide bronze, silver and gold.

And this year new stars were born, while others made a remarkable comeback.

The most decorated skier in history, Lindsey Vonn return to racing after breaking her right

arm last year. With her hand duct taped to the ski pole, she won the bronze medal in the downhill.

LINDSEY VONN, SKIER: Definitely been a struggle, really no training and hardly any self-confidence. It was hard to come here and -- and really

attack, but I did and today the bronze honestly field likes gold.

This probably one of the most meaningful medals of my career.

MACFARLANE: It's the Swiss skiers who faced the biggest pressure to win here competing

in front of their home fans and tennis superstar Roger Federer.

ROGER FEDERER, TENNIS PROFESSIONAL: I am passionate. I grew up watching it all the time when I was a kid in the living room like I was watching

Wimbledon finals. I was watching skiing on the weekends with the world championships taking place in St. Moritz. This was a thing I didn't want

to miss. We had the best day. So, I'm happy we chose to come today.

MACFARLANE: With Federer watching on Switzerland's (inaudible) met all expectations, going on to win the biggest race of them all, the men's


600 athletes from 77 countries competed at this year's world championships, including for the first time, two skiers from Afghanitsan.

SAJJAD HUSANI, AFGHANISTAN SKI TEAM: I want to show for all the people of the countries that Afghanistan is not only war and explosion, I want to

tell them we want to build our country and they should support us in this way.

MACFARLANE: Meanwhile, the high flyers held their nerve with the two leaders of the world cup taking home the medals.

Austria's Marcel Herscher (ph) with his fifth gold winning the giant slalom, and U.S. ski star

Mikaela Shiffrin making history, becoming the first skier since 1939 to win three slalom gold medals back to back.

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN, U.S. SLALOM GOLD MEDALIST: You know, I think that the more people telling me about records or history or anything, I'm starting

to realize that it's -- it's amazing especially for ski racing and in the U.S. it's really great for the sport, but today I wasn't thinking about

that. I was trying to ski fast.

MACFARLANE: With a year to go until the winter Olympic games in South Korea, it's an early marker of the ones to watch.

Christina Macfarlane, CNN, St. Moritz, Switzerland.


ASHER: All right, time for a quick break here. This is Connect the World live from New York.

Still to come here, meet the self-styled Donald Trump of the wrestling world. The American athlete that Mexicans love to hate. That story next.


ASHER: This is Connect the World. You are watching CNN. And I'm Zain Asher live for you from New York. Welcome back to our show.

We've been talking about sports for the past few minutes. And there's no denying that it's certainly something that can really bring people

together, even in the worst of times, and that certainly seems to be the case in Mexico as our Shasta Darlington found out.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In today's Mexico, it's hard to dream up a more despised character for the lucha libre



DARLINGTON (voice-over): A Donald Trump-loving gringo, who goes head- to- head with the country's beloved national heroes.

Sam Polinsky , a pro wrestler from Pittsburgh, came up with the idea after moving to Mexico 10 months ago.

SAM POLINSKY, LUCHADOR: You need to have the ultimate villain in order for the people to buy into it and really believe. Right now, there's no more an

ultimate villain than Donald Trump.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): And so Sam Adonis, El Rudo de Las Chicas or The Ladies' Bad Guy, was born. He says if he voted, it probably would have been

for Trump.

[10:55:05] POLINSKY: I'm not the biggest fan of Hillary Clinton.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): But his character is just for show. Lucha libre is all about the bad guys. Mexicans love to hate them. The more vicious, the

better. Thousands of fans pile into the Arena Mexico, looking for an escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

DARLINGTON (voice-over): "Whether it's a good guy or a bad guy," he says, "you can shout and get everything off your chest."

"I come to release all of the tress from the week of work," says this man.

And the Trump-loving gringo, "He is a great character to have fun with," he says, "totally worth it."

Fans are rarely disappointed by the wild acrobatics as good guys battle evil. A string of over-the-top characters, like a snake-toting baddy and a

mini blue gorilla.

DARLINGTON: When you're this close, you can actually see the sweat flying through the air.

Sam Polinski gets into character before each show, with bleached locks and a roll-on tan, fueling the anti-Trump fury, at least in the arena.

POLINSKI: Nine times out of 10, when I go in the arena, the same people that were cursing at me and screaming at me want a picture with me or want

an autograph.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): But they still love to see him take a beating in the ring.


ASHER: Always nice to see sports and politics bringing people together.

Well, let us know what you made of that. And everything in our show today by getting in touch. You can just surf over on the web to

And in today's Parting Shots, we're going to be looking at a century's old tradition in Japan that's full of, well, naked men. But don't worry, they

are not completely naked, they are actually sporting loincloths. This is a festival that has been going on for 500 years, even being recognized as a

national cultural asset.

So, what exactly are you seeing on your screen? Well, basically the men are waiting for two sticks to be thrown into the crowd. Look, this is a

crowd that's gathered at a temple. And one of this year's winners called the experience a dream come true.

Certainly time to book those tickets, ladies, for the cultural experience, of course.

OK, well, I'm Zain Asher. That was Connect the World. Thank you so much for watching. We'll be back the same time tomorrow. CNN's continues right