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Sweden Divided Over Immigration As Far Right Gains Ground; Putin's Popularity Plunges Over Pension Proposal; Serena Williams Accuses Umpire Of Sexism In Grand Slam Final; Former U.S. President Obama To Democrats "Flip The House"; Damascus Eyes Reconstruction As Idlib Fight Looms; U.S. Prepares As Hurricane Florence Gains Strength. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired September 9, 2018 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:00] LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Linda Kinkade in Atlanta filling in for Becky Anderson. Good

to have you with us. Well, it's election day in Sweden, a country largely known as a success story for social democracy. It's got a booming economy,

record low unemployment, and a society that shares its wealth with others. It's taken in a record number of refugees and that appears to raise anti-

immigrant sentiment with a far-right party, the Sweden Democrats expected to make big gains in what's been a hotly contested election.

Let's bring in CNN Atika Shubert who is on the ground in Stockholm. Atika, Sweden has always had this reputation of being quite open and tolerant and

progressive but its huge immigrant influx is certainly testing the electorate. What are people telling you today as they vote?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's interesting I asked a lot of voters both in Gothenburg where we were

yesterday Sweden's second-biggest city and at the polling station today. And they gave me you know huge diversity of answers, health care,

education, jobs. The environment came up many times. A lot of people here worried about climate change. And only as the second point that people

bring up immigration or the issue of integration rather. And I think what that shows is that while it's dominated the debate here, for many people

it's more about how integration affects the welfare state that Sweden is so famous for, famously generous not just to Swedes but to those immigrants

who come here.

And so while there's a lot of concern about immigration integration, there's even more concern about the rise of the far-right party, the

Swedish Democrats. Almost every person I spoke to said that they were very concerned by this development -- and whether positively or negatively. And

so I think that's going to be the real factor in the election. How well that party does and how well other smaller parties do and how that's -- how

as a result a government is going to be able to be cobbled from this.

KINKADE: And so Atika, tell us a little bit more about what the Swedish Democrats stand for. From what I've read, it looks like they want to

phrase on asylum seekers and a crackdown on crime.

SHUBERT: Yes, they're not a new party. They've been you know, they've been around since the 90s really but they really broke through in 2010.

And this is a party that's really based on one issue which is immigration. And what they've campaigned for is a freeze on immigration and incentives

to actually get migrants to leave the country.

Now they've been accused by other parties of being racist, of having neo- Nazi roots a number of candidates, for example, were found to have had been -- it had taken part in sort of neo-Nazi organizations and so they face

this stigma of being an openly racist party. However, the leader you may listen, has really worked very hard to try and rehabilitate the party.

He's given it a much more friendly voter image. But as a party, it's really polarized the nation and it's really brought immigration to the

forefront of the debate whereas before people may have not been speaking about it as much.

KINKADE: And Atika, from what I've read, voters who are turning to the Swedish Democrats say it's because of a crime wave. Has there being a rise

in crime and has it been linked at all to the influx in immigrants?

SHUBERT: There has been a rise in crime. I have to point out though, it is far low -- crime rates here in Sweden are far lower than in many

European nations and certainly far lower than the United States. Having said that, in particular, urban areas, in particular on a lot of immigrant

communities we have seen arise in this kind of violent crime. There has been a lot of shootings reported last year for example and also grenade


However, these seem to be really connected to I would say gang violence, drug organized crime, and it's not directly connected to any specific

group. And what a lot of social scientists are saying is it's less about the fact that these are immigrant communities a more in fact -- more that

these are disadvantaged communities that are finding themselves very hard to get out of this lower income bracket that they're in.

KINKADE: Most of the parties reject is far-right party but would a minority government need to rely on and if they do do as well as is

expected, as they do -- if they do get about 20 percent of the vote?

SHUBERT: Well, this is the question. Even if they do get a sizable amount of the vote, you know, they were polling somewhere around 20 percent before

going into the election, it's not clear who if any party would work with them. so they may not even be a part of the government. However, if they

get enough of the vote, that makes them powerful enough to influence certainly other conservative parties especially if you were for example to

see a much -- a center-right party coalition in government.

So there's a lot of concern about the kind of influence they would have, and it may be similar to something that we've seen in Denmark where even

though the far-right party isn't actually in government, it holds a lot of sway over the government in power. So what's key is not just how many

votes say the Sweden Democrats get or the Socialists Democrats which are the ones that are currently in power and have really dominated the

political field in Sweden for decades, it's about how fragmented the vote will be and that will be a key to building any kind of coalition


[11:05:39] KINKADE: All right, Atika Shubert, a lot stay across there. Good to have you in Sweden. Thanks so much. And we will do some more on

that election. Let me hear from a former Iraqi refugee who is running for Parliament in Sweden. We'll get her thoughts on how life in the country

could change after today's vote. Stay with us for that.

Well, across to Russia, demonstrators took to the streets to protest a proposal to raise the retirement age. The opposition to the move is so

strong it's put a dense in President Vladimir Putin's usually high approval rating. He's personally pushed the reform saying they are necessary and

stable the economic crisis down the road. Matthew Chance is in Moscow to explain what could be at stake here. And Matthew, these major protests

over raising the retirement age by five years not just in Moscow but right across the country.

MATTHEW CHANCE, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right and there have been quite wide-scale protests across the country in opposition to

these moves which are deeply unpopular to push back that retirement age. In Moscow, the police have been moving in and arresting people. They've

been doing the same in various cities including San Petersburg, in Yekaterinburg, elsewhere in the country.

The latest figures in terms of detentions because there's a quite dramatic video emerging of people being arrested now and taken away is 291 people in

total at nationwide according to monitors there that are assessing this kind of situation. But that figure came to us a couple of hours ago and

we're waiting for a more you know, up-to-date and configure which we expect will be -- will be much higher. The important thing about these protests

and the worrying thing from a Kremlin point of view is that the protests aren't just attended by the usual kind of anti-Putin, anti-Kremlin critics.

The issue of the retirement age and the pension reform is one that is angering ordinary people including core Vladimir Putin's supporters,

ordinary workers across the country.


CHANCE: At 59, these should have been Evgeny Pankov's last few months of work after a lifetime of backbreaking labor fetching and carrying in the

construction industry.

I really feel my age he complains, and my joints hurt especially in the morning.

But Evgeny Pankov's dream of taking it easy has now been shattered. The Russian government's decision to raise pension ages from 60 to 65 for men

means his retirement has to be put back particularly galling in the country where average male life expectancy is just 67.

I'm not just upset, I'm outraged. Now I'll be forced to work even longer to deprive my loved ones, my grandchildren of my attention.

Evgeny Pankov is just one of millions of Russians who have been adversely affected by this controversial pension reform. In fact, the issue has

united young and old in opposition across the country, raising concerns in the Kremlin that the plight of ordinary workers could actually undermine

the popularity of the country's president.

Amid nationwide protests and plunging approval ratings, Vladimir Putin made a televised address to soften the reforms specifically for women but also

to insist that they must go ahead.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): In the long term, if we shut it now, it could threaten stability in society, and chance

national security.

CHANCE: It's not going down well with those affected most.

If the government says and Putin says that they have no choice, they don't have enough money to pay the pensions unless they reform the system, do you

understand that? Do you believe the government when they tell you that?

EVGENY PANKOV, TRACTOR OPERATOR (through translator): No I do not believe it. Comparing the incomes of high ranked officials, they have simply

unimaginable salaries. I do not believe that there is no money. It's a lie.

[11:10:04] CHANCE: For many Russians, the pension issue has further undermined their trust in the Kremlin and its leader.


CHANCE: Well, Linda, it's that undermining of that trust between the government of Russia and its people that really is the sort of heart of

this issue. The big question though is whether the protests that were witnessing today in Moscow and elsewhere are going to gather momentum and

pose a sort of serious challenge to the rule of Vladimir Putin himself.

The popularity ratings, his popularity ratings are down but at the moment we're not looking at him in any way being seriously threatened. However,

we're watching it very closely as are the Russian authorities keeping a very close eye indeed on how this issue is perceived and how it develops

amongst the Russian people with them.

KINKADE: Yes, certainly those widespread protests are pretty incredible scenes there. Matthew Chance, good to have you with us. Thank you. Well,

Serena Williams may have lost the U.S. Open but she's winning the backing of many athletes and stands for calling out sexism in tennis.

Japan's Naomi Osaka beat Williams on Saturday in the grand slam showdown. The match spun out of control though after Williams was handed a series of

violations that she described as unfair and sexist. William says the umpire treated her more harshly because she's a woman. CNN's Andy Scholes

breaks down the controversial final.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Absolute chaos breaking out at the U.S. Open women's final on Saturday. It's going to go down as one of the most

controversial matches in tennis history. Serena Williams had already dropped the first set to Naomi Osaka. Then in the second set, Chair Umpire

Carlos Ramos issued her a warning for receiving coaching from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou from the stand. Well, that's when Serena approached

Ramos the first time.


SERENA WILLIAMS, TENNIS PLAYER: I don't have any code and I know you don't know that, and I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, but

I'm telling you it's not. I don't cheat to win, I'd rather lose. I'm just letting you know.


SCHOLES: The match continued and after Osaka broke Serena, she smashed her racket in anger. Serena was then hit with a point penalty for abuse of

equipment. Then during a changeover, Serena went at Ramos again.

Ramos been penalized Serena again and since this was her third offense, she was penalized a game for verbal abuse. And when Serena realized the

penalty, she went at Ramos again and asked for the referee and supervisor saying in tears the treatment was not fair.


WILLIAMS: That's not right. That is not right. This is unfair.


SHOLES: Serena would go on to lose the match 6-2, 6-4 to Osaka. The fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium booing throughout all of these exchanges. And after

the match, Serena said she was proud of the way she handled things.


WILLIAMS: I can't sit here and say I wouldn't say he's a thief because he -- I thought he took a game for me but I've seen other men call other

umpires several things and I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality and for all kinds of stuff and for me to say thief and for

him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. I mean, like how -- he's never took a game from a man because I said thief. For me

it blows my mind. But I'm going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have equal.

(INAUDIBLE) should be able to take her shirt off without getting a fine. This is outrageous, you know, and I just feel like the fact that I have to

go through this it's just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman and

they're going to be allowed to do that because of today maybe didn't work out for me but it's going to work out for the next person.


SHOLES: After the match, Serena's coach admitted that he was coaching, everyone does it, he does it all the time and has never been penalized for

it in his career. This time he was and it turned into one of the most controversial endings to a tennis match we've ever seen. At Flushing

Meadows, Andy Scholes, CNN.

KINKADE: Well, for more I'm joined by Sports Analyst Christine Brennan in Washington. Many athletes including tennis Legend Billie Jean have -- King

have applauded Williams for her remarks. King tweeting this after the final. "When a woman is emotional she's hysterical and she's penalized for

it. When a man does the same thing, his outspoken and there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double

standard." What did you just make of what we saw in that final? Was Serena Williams out of character in the way she behaved?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Linda, no one wants to say that that kind of behavior is OK. And I'm not going to sit here and say that.

But I think this conversation has already turned to a very valid conversation issue to discuss and that is, is there a double standard? And

right now on Twitter and I'm sure folks can find it easily, there's a clip of Roger Federer at the 2009 U.S. Open men's final -- so apples to apples,

same exact situation as Serena yesterday, and the F-word comes out and he goes on and on and on and there was nothing. And I think that is a very

material illustrative of Serena making this point that what she says is that there is a double standard and you see tennis players like James

Blake, former American number one, saying that yes that he was led off on things.

[11:15:51] So a fascinating turn here that I think Serena Williams might be onto something and if the sport of tennis known for its equality for women

and has a double standard like this for behavior and for getting a little angry or a lot angry or whatever we would call all these things, then it's

a -- it's a fascinating discussion to have especially in 2018 and our world with #MeToo and Times Up and all those kinds of things.

KINKADE: Yes, it certainly is quite a timely discussion. And we did see a lot of tennis players come out in support of Serena Williams including Andy

Roddick who took to Twitter saying that is the worst refereeing he has ever seen, the worst. He obviously got a hot response, a lot of replies, a lot

of retweets to that comment. What do we know about this umpire and the decisions made in the past because when you look at as you mentioned some

of the decisions made towards male behavior and how it differs to the way females are being treated?

BRENNAN: Well everyone on earth is talking about this except one person, the chair umpire. And I would encourage him to tell us what he thought

because right now it's left open to interpretation of whatever we think. Is it because she's a woman? Did he have a grudge against her because

she's a woman? Does he have a grudge against her because -- or did he react the way he did because he thinks women should be different than men

more dainty or whatever which is, of course, preposterous but we see that every now then? Is it because Serena's African-American, she's outspoken,

she brings people to watch tennis who are not normal tennis establishment people? What is it? Why did this happen?

But there's no doubt if you look at history and you go back of course in tennis with McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and (INAUDIBLE) and so many of other

people, the bad boys in tennis, whatever -- what happened on that court yesterday, and I've covered tennis for years, I don't think it would make

the top 50 of the worst things that ever happened on a tennis court, and yet Serena got the worst penalty ever for that other than -- I mean, there

have been players that have been kicked out. But in terms of a high profile moment where she got a game, a game penalty, it's really quite a

quite a harsh penalty.

And so, I think that's the question. I'm asking in the form of a question. What are we finding out about this? And you're right, I think -- I think

the umpire -- chair umpire speaking about this would be a really good thing because right now we have no idea but it's a really -- Serena once again,

whether it's the catsuit, giving birth a year ago, all the other issues she's had and talked about, here she is again right in the middle of

something that I think is fascinating and everyone clearly has an opinion on this.

KINKADE: Everyone certainly does have an opinion and people are raising other examples of this sort of sexism in tennis including the case the

French player Alize Cornet who was punished for changing her shirt on the court which obviously men do all the time. We've got one of those tweets

that people pointed out at the time the hypocrisy of it all. What needs to change at the top level of tennis not just at the umpire level but at the

very top to make sure that men and women are being treated on the court when they take to the court?

BRENNAN: Considering that the U.S. Open has been paying equal prize money to women as men since 1973. You heard that right, 1973. Considering that

women have been charged the U.S. Tennis Association currently a woman is in charge. Considering that women are all over that organization and that

event, it's kind of mind-boggling that we're here and we're having this conversation if in fact, it turns out to be just blatant sexism, the reason

for the penalties as opposed to a referee saying hold on everybody take a deep breath, I'm going to give you another chance.

In fact, Patrick McEnroe said this today. Why not -- just say that. That's what you should do and that was what they would do with men. Just

take a deep breath, the next thing you say you're going to get a game penalty. He didn't do that with Serena Williams. But if this female-

dominated equal rights sport where so many women are the superstars and have been for generations, if there's this much sexism or at least

potentially there's this much sexism, whatever we can find out about this, wow, what does it tell us about the other sports where there isn't this

kind of equality as there is in tennis?

[11:20:01] But one thing that should happen is there should be a conversation with every single referee in the sport and saying, hey, look

at this video, look at the other videos, they should probably do about ten videos and show how things -- people reacted differently to men and women

and maybe it's just some kind of a latent sexism that they're not noticing or racism or I don't even know what. But whatever it is enough already and

have this be uniform including coaching because they never call the coaching penalty until they called it on Serena and her coach yesterday.

Again, you got to point that out what is going on, why this one time at this key moment going for that 24th Grand Slam title, again Osaka played

great, deserved everything she got deserved to win, why was this going on, this particular moment, such a key moment when it would never have gone on

stay with Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

KINKADE: Yes. And as you say, it's something to take away from Osaka's win as well, her victory. Christine Brennan, good to have you with us as

always. Thanks so much.

BRENNAN: My pleasure.

KINKADE: Well, still to come on a day that the far right is expected to make big games in Sweden's election, we speak to Swedish Iraqi, a Swedish

Iraqi politician who said the country has failed at integration. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big issue for everyone, but don't worry, like many other people about the advancement of the Sweden Democrats, but I

think we'll sort it out in the end.


KINKADE: Just one of the many Swedish voters who say they feel uneasy about today's general election where the anti-immigrant party Swedish

Democrats is expected to make big gains. You're watching CNN and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Linda Kinkade, welcome back. Well, it's that fear

over the influence that the far I could have after today's election that keeps my next guest up at night. She's a former Iraqi refugee who arrived

in Sweden as an unaccompanied minor and running as a Centre Party candidate for parliament in Sweden's general election. And I'm pleased to say that

Abir Al-Sahlani joins me live from Stockholm on what is a very busy day for her. Thanks so much for taking the time.

ABIR AL-SAHLANI. Election candidate, Thank you for having me.

KINKADE: The polls are open for just a few more hours, any sense of where things are going right now?

[11:25:00] AL-SAHLANI: Please allow me to begin with the showing my support to Serena Williams and her fight against sexism and justice and

equality between men and women in sports and oak and all fields of life. When it comes to my feeling about this election it has been very uneasy to

be part of the election campaign in general because the Sweden Democrats are not only racist but they have also opened the door to the rhetoric of

the more extreme, more far rhetoric against humans who are not ethnically Swedish. So it's very mixed feelings but I mean, me as the liberal and my

party and all democratic parties, we really have done all we could in this election so we can -- so they will get as little space in the politics as


KINKADE: How do you feel as an immigrant living in a country that is becoming more antagonistic towards immigrants and what sort of problems do

you see when it comes to integration?

AL-SAHLANI: The problem in Sweden is that we have not specified what we mean with integration. The political parties say use this word in very

different spaces with very wide meanings. I think that if we don't specify what we mean with integration, we will keep on failing with it. For me as

a liberal from the Centre Party, I mean that integration is actually being able to get a job, being able to learn the language and earn your own

living and provide your own family, not living on social welfare forever and not to be forced to live in the segregated areas. But this is not

actually where the debate is.

The debate is whether we are Swedish or not and what is the Swedish identity. So almost all political parties are actually speaking of

assimilation and not integration and that is very, very worrisome.

KINKADE: Some immigrants support the Swedish Democrats, support this far- right group that is against immigration. Can you explain why?

AL-SAHLANI: Because I think there is -- I mean just because I'm an immigrant does it mean that I don't have racism or I am not anti-Semite or

I'm not -- I don't -- I don't fear Muslims. I mean, just because I have that background, it doesn't mean I don't have those values, OK. So there

is no like I am born with no racist views just because I have this color of my hair when I come to Sweden.

So of course there is an internal racism between the migrant groups, that's the first, and the other one is because we don't feel at home. You're not

allowed to be all out Swedes, then we have to point out the bad guys, those who are over there, maybe the most -- those who are darker than me, maybe

those who wear the hijab, maybe those who don't eat the pork or anything else that will make me stand out that I'm closer to the Swedish identity.

And of course, there is another dimension of this problem that is the former ethnic or minority conflict that we have in our original home

countries that many of minority groups they bring them here where they don't realize that we are all equal in being a minority here in Sweden as

well. So it's a very complex question that you're asking. It's not easy to respond but this is my analysis.

KINKADE: Yes, certainly it is a complex problem. Just explain for us what Centre Party is trying to do to win back those turning towards their any

immigrant party and what is your biggest fear when it comes to the outcome of this election?

AL-SAHLANI: Well, I mean from the Centre Party, we have been trying to focus on the solutions not on the problems. We are trying to focus on the

hope and in the possibility that the future has, not on fear or worry that the populist movements are trying to breathe in the country. Of course

they are feeding support, they feed support from that worry, but we have been trying to focus on the solution that of course everyone we are equal

in value and rights and responsibilities and that we have to make big reforms and that -- Centre Party is actually willing to make big reforms in

the Swedish society, reforms that been very holy for the Swedish community because they hold them very dearly. But we have to do that. It's a


We have to reform our labor market. We cannot have the same legislations anymore. We have to reform our housing market. It's not actually -- it's

not the sustainable this way. We are growing as a country, the young people they are hungry, they want a bright future and I think that we have

to really discuss these issues. The educational system, I mean, why are we failing in the area where we have a high percentage of migrants living

there. It's not because they're kids or the parents, they don't want their kids to go to schools and good schools, it's because we are not meeting the

challenges in the educational system. We are not providing equal society services to all areas. For example, in Stockholm.

[11:30:21] KINKADE: All right. Abir Al-Sahlani on what is a very crucial Election Day, all the best to you and thanks so much for your time.

AL-SAHLANI: Thank you very much.

KINKADE: Well, still ahead, U.S. Democrats pull out their biggest heavyweight ahead of November's midterm elections. Coming up, the warning

Barack Obama has for the party if they don't get out and vote.


KINKADE: You're watching CNN, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade, welcome back. We're turning now the U.S. politics, and the

critical midterm elections now just two months away.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama was in California, Saturday, campaigning the Democrats, hoping to retake control of the U.S. House of

Representatives. Unlike his sharp critique of Donald Trump, the day before, Mr. Obama never mentioned the current U.S. president by name. But

instead told the audience that the problems in Washington are bigger than one person.


[11:35:00] BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The biggest threat to our Democracy, I said yesterday is not -- it's not one

individual, it's not one big super-PAC billionaire. It's apathy. It's indifference. It's us not doing what we're supposed to do.

Where there's a vacuum in our Democracy, when we are not participating, we're not paying attention, when we're not stepping up other voices, fill

the void. But the good news is in two months, we have a chance to restore some sanity in our politics.

We have the chance to flip the House of Representative to make sure that we have checks and balances to Washington.


KINKADE: Well, CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian, joins me now from Washington. Good to have you with us. The former president now knows it

is crunch time if we are going to see this blue wave come November, right?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, there's less than two months to go until Election Day in November, and you haven't seen

Barack Obama playing as visible -- a role in the last really two years as you've seen in play at this past few days.

And -- you know, he's trying to help galvanize the basin to infuse energy into the Democratic electorate to try to get them out and actually go to

the polls. Midterm elections notoriously have lower turnout than presidential elections. It's harder to kind of bringing crowds to rally

around so it's effectively very diffused.

You're talking about candidates that are running for the House, now that's district level, maybe Senate state level, but you don't have like a

presidential figure that's actually out there that is drawing crowds. And so, Obama is kind of re-entering this fray as a face basically for the

Democratic Party to just to try to get people to vote in -- vote in the midterm election because of the importance of the balance of power right


And that the House could flip from Republican control a Democratic control, depending on how, how people come to the polls and what the turnout is and

these -- you know, about two dozen districts that are important to deciding who holds power.

KINKADE: And President Trump's approval rating has dropped. He must be a bit concern given what he's writing on Twitters. He took to Twitter about

12 hours ago, saying, "The Dems have tried every trick in the Playbook, call me everything under the sun. But, if I'm all those terrible things,

how come I beat them so badly? Maybe they're not very good, the fact is they're going crazy only because they know they can't beat me in 2020."

He's not talking at the midterms, he's talking about 2020 right now. But, when it comes to midterms, like what will it take the Dems to win back the


DEMIRJIAN: Well, look, the president -- the midterm elections, the first midterm election has always a referendum on the presidents and how the

presidency is going.

Trump is right in a way the bluster the non-traditional way when she approaches politics is how it helped bring people to him in the 2016

elections, it's also what makes a lot of people worried about him, and wary of the things he says because he talks off the cuff and impulsively, and

he's not a standard politician. So, it's kind of a double-edged sword in that way.

But what happened and as much as he may be focusing in his recent tweets on 2020 because that's when he'll be on the ballot again. And yes, the

Democrats have not fielded one obvious candidate to actually face him off. The 2018 elections do matter for what he's able to do.

If Democrats win, and it's going to take about two dozen seats to flip in order for the control of the House to flip. That means that you're going

to have a block, potentially on any policy moves to try to go through Congress because you won't have Republicans in control of everything.

And it also means likely impeachment proceedings because the House starts those, and with a Democratic majority, you can file articles impeachment,

you can vote on that. It doesn't mean you actually successfully -- you know, push the president out of office but it means that that's going to

harangue him in the way that the Mueller probe is harangue that steps her with a lot higher political consequences.

And that could definitely be a dark shadow that is cast over the president's remaining two years of his first term as he heads towards his

reelection battle on 2020. So, it doesn't matter as much as he's trying to kind of play off the idea that -- you know, oh, oh, it's not really what

you think, and you know, they're just desperate for 2020.

It's jockeying, it's posturing because it is a very important marker and like I said before, it's important referendum on how things are going and

where the country wants them to go. And what they think of he's -- the job he's doing? They can't vote on the president in 2018 but the president is

effectively -- you know, the spectra is hanging over the entire election even if it is about Congressional seats.

KINKADE: And that impeachment word that you noted, the president has now used as a rallying cry to fire up his base.


KINKADE: So, he's turning it around or trying to.

DEMIRJIAN: Well, impeachment is fundamentally something that is going to be political. It's going to be high-stakes politics, you probably aren't

going to have enough Senators that are -- you know, against the president. If things are staying the way they are to actually push him out of office

because the threshold for doing that is pretty high.

But yes, it's a -- it's a word that rallies Democrats to try to say, "Let's get us enough numbers to try to -- you know, render our opinion on the fact

that we think Trump is doing a bad job." It's also a way for him to say, "Look, you have to protect me and the only way you can protect me is by

keeping Republicans in control over the House."

But you're going to see this Ping-Pong game basically a back and forth over the word impeachment. Keep playing out because now it's out of the bag

that for a while, it wasn't something that people really wanted to discuss because they wanted to focus on -- you know, OK, well, let's just try to

make this about the issues.

This election is clearly also about the high wire political act. And the president, when he's worried about something, he's not very good at keeping

his own counsel. He starts to tweet about, he starts to talk about it, he tries to start to spin it to be a political message of the place to his

favor and that's what he's doing here too.

It may work with the base, impeachment is certainly not something that people in the middle really want to discuss but it's also not clear whether

it's a turn-off for those voters or they just kind of discount it and try to focus on other issues.

KINKADE: All right, Karoun Demirjian, much more to discuss over the coming two months. Thanks so much for joining us.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.

KINKADE: You can always follow the latest on the U.S. midterm elections at And be sure to check out a key race alert with just two months

ago. We take a look at the narrow path for Democrats to take back the Senate. You can check it out at

We're live from Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, even as another destructive showdown looms in Syria, the government is also looking

on how to rebuild and who will pay for it? We're live in Damascus, next.


KINKADE: You're watching CNN, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Welcome back. Well, Syrian government says it's carrying out

"surgical air strikes" in the last rebel-held province there. This video from social media shows what is reported to be one such attack.

Opposition activists said that four people were killed in air strikes at the weekend. The United Nations is warning of a perfect storm if Damascus

takes on the Islamist dominated province. Home to millions of people and at least, 10,000 al-Qaeda-linked fighters. That's according to the U.N.

Well, meanwhile, the Syrian government is already looking at life after the war. In particular, how to fund the massive reconstruction effort? Or

Frederik Pleitgen is live for us in Damascus and joins us now. Fred, we know that U.S. President Trump last month canceled $260 million on annual

development fund for Syria. Who is Syria going to rely on to rebuild its country?

[11:45:01] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be very difficult -- you know. One of the things that

we keep seeing on the ground here. And I've actually seen this in town after town that we have seen since the past, at least, four years or so.

If they've been won back by Syrian government forces is that there are people who are coming back or trying to rebuild maybe their apartments --

maybe even a larger housing block, but those large-scale reconstruction efforts simply are not happening on a big scale at all, because there

simply isn't enough money there.

Now, we know that the International community at this point of time has been reluctant to pitch in. And when you go to some of these places that

have chip switch hands recently, like for instance, Douma, where we were just yesterday, you really see how people are struggling to get by. Here's

what we saw.


PLEITGEN: A drive through Douma, a wasteland left behind as rebels made their last stand against the Syrian army on the outskirts of Damascus.

Having survived the carnage and years of siege, Housam Ghaboura, and his family are now trying to rebuild their home. Lunch break, a time for


"It's very difficult but the circumstances have imposed this on us," he says. "We need to make things like they used to be, go back to our homes,

and continue our lives."

Duma was the site of some of the most intense battles in Syria's seven-year Civil War. As rebels lost their grip here, government forces were blamed

for a chemical attack during the onslaught, a claim Damascus vehemently denies.

Residents are still picking up the pieces. In this case, it could take decades to rebuild just this neighborhood. That's the problem in places

like Douma and so many other destroyed places in Syria. There are people coming back and they're trying to rebuild mostly their own houses. But

when it comes to big urban projects, there simply isn't enough money available.

As residents managed to restock the market in Douma, the government in Damascus wants the international community to help rebuild. But Western

nations remain reluctant, citing the Assad government human rights track record.

Pop in the middle, Duma residents like Abdul Raheem Khadeojeh, tried to stay cool selling flush shakes out of his cart. Clinging to the hope the

things will improve. "Of course, we have hope," he says. "If we live without hope, everything would be lost. There is hope, thank, God."

Progress is happening in Douma, but it's slow. Residents still happy the fighting here has been silent, but wondering whether their town will ever

be the same as it was before the war.


PLEITGEN: And you know, Lynda, just to give you an example of how bad things are for many of those residents in places there like Douma, the

gentleman we spoke to who is renovating or refurbishing his house. He said, in reality, that house probably would need to get torn down but he

simply doesn't have the resources to tear it down and then rebuild it again.

And, of course, it is very difficult for him to get any sort of money from the Syrian government or from anywhere else, for instance, outside of

Syria. So, it's a problem that many of these folks face who go back to their neighborhood, it really is very difficult for them not only to

survive day to day but then to rebuild their lives in the places that have been destroyed. Lynda.

KINKADE: And speaking of destruction, when we look at Idlib, this is an offensive that seems to be going slowly, slowly right now. Just explain

the strategy because Syria and Russia reportedly started carrying out airstrikes but it's not a full-blown offensive yet.

PLEITGEN: No, it certainly isn't. And we've been speaking to Syrian government officials, and one of them told us that the offensive has not

gotten underway yet. So, you're not seeing any sort of ground assault. But you are absolutely right that since that summit happens between Iran,

Turkey, and the Russians, that we have seen a large increase in airstrikes apparently happening there in Idlib province.

Whether or not, that's the beginning of something whether or not they're striking for some sort of other reason, or whether or not these are sort of

a strikes to just take out some of those elements of those hardline extremist groups really is unclear at that point -- at this point in time.

And also, whether the parties that were a part of that summit. Especially, the church, whether they're on board with all is it really doesn't seem to

be the case. So, the big question right now is, Lynda, whether or not there are still negotiations going on for at least some of the more

moderate rebel elements to maybe surrender to the Syrian government or whether or not something larger is already being planned or whether it's


Really is unclear at this point in time one of the things that we always have to remind our viewers is when you look at in Idlib province that at

this point in time, it is surrounded by the Syrian military and by some of their big very heavy fighting forces, many of which are veterans of some of

the toughest battles that have gone on here in Syria.

So, certainly, if a large scale offensive happens, it certainly is going to be one that's going to be very tough and very big. But the question is can

it still be staved off at this point in time and is maybe the fact that we're only seeing airstrikes and not the ground assault, an indication that

negotiations are still going on, Lynda?

[11:50:03] KINKADE: Hopefully, it is an indication of that, but we will wait and see. Frederik Pleitgen, some great reporting from Syria. Thanks

so much.

We're live from Atlanta. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, Tropical Storm Florence has just become a hurricane, and it's taking aim at the U.S.

East Coast. We'll have a live report next.


KINKADE: Welcome back. Well, Florence has just crossed the threshold from a tropical storm to a hurricane. And the Eastern U.S. is bracing for

possible impact with the Virginia, the Carolina's already being declared states of emergency.

Well, meteorologist Alison Chinchar joins us now with the latest as we fear this has become a hurricane. When could it possibly make landfall?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. Well, not for the next several days which is good news that gives folks in those states where they

declared the states of emergency time to prepare.

However, you do want to keep a close eye on this storm, it has parted to strengthen. We knew it would happen although that doesn't make the news

any easier to take. Here's a look, Hurricane Florence right now winds about 120 kilometers per hour. It is moving at the West at about 10

kilometers per hour.

We just got the newest information, thanks to the Hurricane Hunters that flew through the actual location of the storm. And they've picked up a

wind speed of 122 kilometers per hour. So, we've definitely been able to notice that strengthening starting to take place. Now, it's going to

continue to strengthen as it moves over much warmer water in the Atlantic.

And that's going to be key because that warm water is fuel for this hurricane as it continues its trek towards the United States. Now, right

now, the cone it gives us the best chance for where a landfall would take place covers all three of those states that declare the state of emergency.

Virginia, North Carolina, as well as South Carolina still have the potential for landfall from this storm.

All of the models that we use, the computer models are really starting to come together an agreement about where that potential landfall may actually

take place. One thing that's still kind of up in the air is the timing of this. Now, the two main models that we really source a lot of our

information from this red dot, that's the American model, and the blue dot is the European model.

The European model tends to make it a little bit further south. Basically, right along the North-South Carolina border with a landfall of Thursday

afternoon or evening local time. Whereas the American model is a little bit further north for a landfall, and much later.

You're talking about almost 24 hours later, it's a nearly Friday afternoon when they would expect that landfall to be. The problem with that is it

means it's slowing down land and the main concern there, is the slower the storm moves, the more rainfall it can dump in those locations.

So, flooding is really going to be one of the biggest impacts we have with this particular hurricane.

[11:54:59] KINKADE: So, scary for people along that coast. Thanks so much, Allison.

For in tonight's parting shots, people are going to extremes to snap one of a kind selfies. But it's not every day that we get beamed down a selfie

from Mars. Take a look at this.

NASA has released this rare 360-degree photo of the Mars rover Curiosity. Curiosity actually took the photo on the Vera Rubin Ridge where it's been

spending most of its time over the last year, doing, of course, what Rovers do, digging up rock samples.

The image though gives us a mesmerizing glimpse into the rover's environment and of the rover itself. You can see the Rovers deck here

covered by red dust from a recent dust storm. To rove around the Red Planet yourself, you can head over to NASA's YouTube page for the full 360


Well, that does it for this edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thanks so much for joining us. I'll see you again tomorrow.