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CONNECT THE WORLD

Florence Grows in Size as it Closes in on Carolina Coast; Super Typhoon Mangkhut Threatens Philippines and Hong Kong; Trump Falsely Claims 3,000 Didn't Die in Puerto Rico; Russians Accused of Nerve Agent Attack Say They Were Tourists; Syrian Army Appears Ready to Launch Idlib Offensive; Pope Under Fire for Slow Reaction to Scandals. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 13, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are ready, but this is going to be one of the biggest ones to ever hit our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wall of water is still underneath this storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm worried about this one. I'm worried about the flood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take the mandatory evacuations very seriously. It's probably not going to be survivable out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do expect up to 3 million to be out of power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disaster is at the doorstep and it's coming in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: That's heading for America. Another mega one heading for Asia. We are connecting a busy old world for you this hour.

I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi where it is 7:00 p.m.

This hour we are connecting a world on edge. In fact, world watching and waiting for justice in some parts, for more money in others, or for an end

of whatever kind in Syria.

But first we connect you to these two monster storms where people are watching and waiting. Hurricane Florence now lashing the U.S. east coast

before unleashing its full fury over the next few days. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SOUND OF THE WIND)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: The monster storm's outer bands are bringing tropical storm force winds this hour ahead of landfall expected overnight. Florence

bearing down on North and South Carolina. And emergency officials warn it will produce life-threatening storm surges and tremendous amounts of rain.

The other storm we're tracking half a world away is even more powerful. A super typhoon now threatening Luzon in the Philippines after leaving behind

a trail of destruction in Guam. CNN's Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong which could actually get the worse of this typhoon this week. We'll get to him

in a moment. But first let's start with Kaylee Hartung. She is in Wilmington, North Carolina, keeping an eye on hurricane Florence, as it is

closing in, watching, Kaylee, and waiting.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's a waiting game now. The weather has been so deceptive in the days leading up to now. The

waters of the intercoastal waterway where I am now standing on a floating dock between the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, and the barrier island

of Wrightsville Beach, these waters are still calm. But we know that there is a monstrous storm headed this way.

I want to bring in local resident of the area, Erik Schuette. He's been here a long time. You have some perspective on the damage that storms have

done here in the past. As we try to conceptualize the impacts this storm surge could have now, take me back to hurricane Fran, 1996, the last time

this area had to brace for any such damage. What did you see in this marina on the intercoastal waterway then?

ERIK SCHUETTE, WILMINGTON RESIDENT: It was devastating. It was -- there was boats that came off flying from over there on the racks over here. The

docks all floated off all the pylons. They ended up over there on the streets behind us. It's a big concern right now because the water is real

high right now. The water and we haven't gotten the water surge yet, so it's very alarming. Because I think a lot of this water is going to be --

and a lot of these pylons and a lot of these docks are going to be gone. This whole place is going to be leveled.

I mean like I said, I lived on Carolina Beach, you know, I was on the Carolina Beach fire department for Fran and I see a lot of what happens on

that island and it's very alarming. The water got real high on the Lake Park Boulevard, the main drag that goes through Carolina Beach. It was

probably about four or five feet, maybe six feet deep through there. We saw a lot of devastation over there. You know, a lot of sand on the beach.

I'm worried about the people on Wrightsville Beach that didn't leave, you know, and people at Carolina Beach.

I've seen how high that sand level gets up underneath people's houses and it's so high you can really stand on the sand and grab up on the second

floor and pull yourself up to the second floor. And so, you know, it's bad, you know. Last in Fran we had people that decided to stay and they

were calling for help and there was no way to get them because the storm. It was in the middle of the storm. And what it was it was a dumpster was

floating and it was banging up the side of the building and it was knocking the building pretty seriously. And a lot of people thought -- they were

scared and thought the building was going to come down. We just basically said, well you have to wait until the storm is over. We can't come and get

you. I'm kind of worried about a lot of people here, you know.

HARTUNG: And people have to understand that risk, that they are taking. If you choose to stay on one of the barrier islands along the coast of

North Carolina, all of which are under mandatory evacuation or orders, first responders, like yourself, won't be there to help you. You are

staying at your own risk.

[11:05:04] SCHUETTE: Exactly.

HARTUNG: What are your concerns? You live within the city of Wilmington. A lot of people have asked why is that area not under mandatory evacuation

only voluntary evacuation? Where are your concerns for the threat that you personally face?

SCHUETTE: I'm more concerned now since the storm has kind of dropped down. It's down to a category 2 now. I'm more worried about the rain now. And

it's sitting over top of us and pouring all the rain on us. That's more where my concern is. I boarded up my house. I'm prepared. I have

everything in the house, I have propane, I have gas, I have a generator, I got tarps. I'm pretty much set at my house for anything. So, I'm just

more concerned about the water and the water rising and, you know, filling up all the ditches around our neighborhood and stuff like that. Is pretty

much what I'm worried about. But other than that, I mean I think everything else I will be OK.

HARTUNG: The storm surge here expected five to six meters. That's a concern here, but as you talk about, it's the inland flooding that state of

North Carolina is concerned about. In the larger picture, so many freshwater bodies that could take on so much water as the rain continues to

fall day after day.

SCHUETTE: Exactly. That's why a lot of people decided to stay. And a lot of people are not leaving. Because when Fran hit, everybody that left,

couldn't get back. Because I-40 will flood, all the low country roads will flood and no way for anybody to get back. So, a lot of people are worried

about their stuff so they're going to come here and try to want to get home and want to protect their stuff. So, the water floods out there in all the

creeks and all the swamps that are around Wilmington, it's almost impossible to get back. So, a lot of people feel it's better to stay here

and stay home than try to get stuck where they can't get home. So, that's a big concern, too.

HARTUNG: Yes. Becky, the concern here, storm surge. Flooding inland as well as near the coast, of course, and these hurricane-force winds. No

matter which way you look at it, as the North Carolina governor has said, this storm is going to impact everyone in the state.

ANDERSON: Kaylee, the American President thinks that people are already patting him on the back for a job well done, before the hurricane even

hits. Here is Donald Trump in his own words. Standby.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tremendous people working on the hurricane, first responders, law enforcement, and FEMA and they're all ready and we're getting tremendous

accolades from politicians and the people, we are ready, but this is going to be one of the biggest ones to ever hit our country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: So, people feeling good down there where you are with Trump in charge?

HARTUNG: Well, it's an interesting tactic you hear there from the American President as he's taking credit for the federal response before this storm

hits. Typically, you see a White House, of course, wanting a vote of confidence in their efforts to coordinate with state and local governments.

You would hope that his confidence is fueling that of others, but at the same time, you also saw him tweet today patting himself on the back for the

response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico a year ago, while blaming the new numbers that drastically, dramatically raised the death toll.

ANDERSON: Sure.

HARTUNG: He's pinning that on the Democrats. It's a mixed message here in so many ways, Becky, and you just hope that the coordination between state,

local and federal governments here is as good as President Trump claims it will be.

ANDERSON: And you brought up Puerto Rico. We will be there in a few minutes time with Leyla. Before that, thank you, Kaylee.

As dangerous as Florence is, the super typhoon Mangkhut is even more of a monster. It is now threatening the Philippines and after landfall there,

if current projections hold, it could be one of the strongest storms to hit Hong Kong in over six decades. Ivan Watson with an update for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As the northern island of Luzon in the Philippines and Hong Kong brace for the approaching

super typhoon another U.S. island, that being Guam, is reeling after the storm's damage. Because on September 10th, the storm battered that island

and now the governor has formally written to the U.S. President Trump requesting that there is a major disaster declaration. Which would afford

the island some additional federal funds for the recovery. The island is still struggling to restore electricity to all of the territory. As well

as some 300 people residing in shelters now after their homes were damaged or destroyed.

Now the next major population center on the storm's path again is that northern Philippines island of Luzon. And that is expected to happen

sometime in the latter half of the day on Friday.

[11:10:01] Major Philippines disaster relief organizations, they say they've pre-positioned family food packets for more than 20,000 people.

They say that warnings have gone out to some 16 northern provinces. And that the Philippines Red Cross is particularly worried that some 10 million

people there could be affected. The most vulnerable being those already displaced by monsoons that hit in July and August.

The Philippines has had tragic history with typhoons. Recall 2013 when typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people, most around the city of

Tacloban, by a deadly storm surge. So, a lot of concern there.

Here in Hong Kong we're not expecting the storms to pass by until Saturday, perhaps Sunday, but some airlines have issued warnings to passengers urging

them to rearrange their flights at no additional costs. The city authorities, they say they are preparing as well. The storm is believed

that it could also affect Macau and parts of southeastern China as well. These cities take typhoons very seriously. If the warnings ratchet up to a

particular level, schools will close, businesses will shut down as well. But again, the typhoon is expected to hit over the course of the weekend.

Right now, it's sunny and bright. That's possibly because we're in some kind of a calm between storms, a typhoon just passed through here, a much

weaker typhoon. There was a typhoon warning, a low-level one, on Thursday morning. But as you can see, life is very calm and peaceful at this point.

No real sense of panic or tremendous concern with a typhoon that is still several days away. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Our meteorologist Chad Myers in the house for us from the CNN weather center in Atlanta. What then is the latest on the conditions of

these two monster storms, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the super typhoon is sobering to be honest. That's one word I would use. Because this is 270 kilometers per

hour, you have a forward speed of 20. You have to add those two numbers together on the north side of this eye. You track them on the south side.

And that's where most of the people live.

But there will be a landfall up here in Luzon. That will be a devastating, knock down everything kind of landfall, almost Haiyan-ish when we talk

about 290 kilometers per hour. This is a big, big storm. People are in danger. Hopefully they can get out of there or move to some place that's

very, very strong. Because as it makes landfall, forecast to be 260, I can't tell the difference between 270 and 260.

As it moves towards Hong Kong it appears now from the joint typhoon warning center that it will slide to the south of there and not make any direct

impact. Now, there will be some flooding pushing on up into Hong Kong Harbor. But other than that, I think really the wind will be far enough

away.

One other thing that could happen as the storm does move over Luzon -- you have to understand it's a circular storm, spinning this way, and if it does

spin this way long enough, you could fill up the Subic Bay, manila, all of the harbors there, could be catching water like a catcher's mitt. And all

of a sudden that water may splash on land of two to three meters. Now that's a surge and there's a lot of people living within two to three

meters of sea level in that area. So, keep that in mind even though you're on the backside, there still isn't an easy side when you have a 260

kilometer per hour storm.

There goes the wind over the top. As it goes in -- this is a rugged mountain here -- rugged island. We will tear that storm up just a little

bit. Some of that wind will eventually go away and that's why the knockdown of the wind speed will get there before it gets to Hong Kong.

But I still could see, these tall buildings, 100 kilometers per hour rolling through the buildings with the wind tunnel effect -- we get the

wind tunnel effect in New York City all the time.

Another thing is the accumulation. There will be areas here from Hanoi all the way back over to Luzon of greater than 500 millimeters of rainfall

before it finally all stops.

There is the next storm for the U.S. we've been talking about this all day. That's coming to the Carolinas -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. What do we do without Chad Myers in the house on a regular basis. Chad, thank you for that brilliant analysis.

Back into space now for a view of Florence, if you will. Its outer reaches touching American soil and this about as close as I even want to get to a

hurricane, quite frankly. Technically I know I'm closer to it now on earth than this satellite is, Chad. Work with me here, there are storm chasers

and people willing to stay behind to ride out the thrill on the ground. What is your advice to them?

MYERS: Don't jump out of an airplane either. Even with a parachute you're not going to see me.

[11:15:00] It's just not something we would recommend. This was a bigger storm a couple days ago. This was 140-mile-per-hour, 220-kilometer per

hour storm. This was a bigger storm. Now the wind speeds have dropped off. But that's not the rub here. You can get away from the wind, hide

behind a building. The rub here is that there may be a six-meter surge, a tidal flood, coming onshore here in the Carolinas where people are just,

hey, let's watch the wind. Well you can watch the wind, but you're going to get knocked down by the waves. The water has a lot more power than the

wind and so we're seeing those first lines of weather coming onshore in the Carolinas. And I don't think we get full impact until maybe midnight local

time. So somewhere around 04:00 UTC as we make our way inland.

Wilmington, Florence, this is the area that we do have crews set up, but we are safe. We are above these storm surges and in very strong buildings.

We'll just bring you the damage after it occurs. Because there will be structures that can't handle this. You got -- you got a four, five- or

six-meter wave or surge and all of a sudden waves on top of that and you have a concrete building or even a wooden building, they're going to get

knocked flat. Some have stilts and that's the good news. The ones that don't are in trouble.

ANDERSON: Chad Myers, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you.

Parts of the U.S. then brace for hurricane Florence as we've been discussing, President Trump making a fuss over last year's deadly storm,

hurricane Maria. In a pair of tweet Mr. Trump denies that nearly 3,000 were killed by the hurricane and its aftermath. He claims that when he

visited Puerto Rico there were at most 18 deaths. Mr. Trump also placed the deaths on Democrats. Saying, they raised the death toll to make him

look bad. Well CNN's Leyla Santiago is following all this for us from San Juan in Puerto Rico -- Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, a lot of people here are using words like appalled, shame, shock. The governor of Puerto Rico

actually just said that this is no time to question Puerto Rico's pain, as President Trump calls into question the death toll after hurricane Maria.

Remember, we are almost -- we are about to hit the one-year mark, September 20th, and that Puerto Ricans on this island, many are still worried about

the blue tarp over their roof. About having power that comes and goes because of outages. People who are dealing, many with mental health. The

anxiety, that comes every time it rains or they hear thunder. So, to have this added to it, for many people it's an insult. They are very much

confused by what President Trump has to say, but also, quite offended.

Because remember, that number 3,000 came after quite a developing story. I mean we were the ones that kind of questioned in November the number that

was at the time 55, "The New York Times" has, politicians have questioned the death toll. Finally, within the last month, that number jumped to

3,000 or 2,975 after George Washington University released its study indicating that that's where they believe it should be. Because that's the

amount of excess deaths that they found after a study of statistics.

So now, again, as many are coming to the one-year mark and dealing with the grief of having to not only lose their home and their way of life, but also

lose loved ones, many are talking about the indirect deaths, people that not only died on September 20th but those who died because of the

conditions on the island in the past year, the lack of power, the lack of water, the lack of a roof, the lack of medical aid, the lack of dialysis

centers, the complications that came after the hurricane and certainly after President Trump left the island.

ANDERSON: Leyla Santiago in San Juan, in Puerto Rico, for you. Thank you.

Before we move on, connecting you to a very brief pop quiz now. Ready? Here it goes. What's the difference between a hurricane on the left here

and a typhoon on the right? Both are big swells of pain, right. Can you spot it? No? Well the answer, well there's no difference. Other than if

a storm starts in the Pacific Ocean it's a typhoon, in the Atlantic it's a hurricane. They are, in fact, the same thing. Did you get it? Let me

know.

[11:20:00] Still to come, tourists with a twist. The Russian men Britain accuses of being murderous intelligence, say they were actually just on a

sightseeing trip. More on that from Moscow up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A sleepy street in a very British city, that became the world's focus after the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter

with a military-grade chemical poison. Britain blamed Moscow and just weeks ago, unveiled detailed evidence and charges against two Russian men.

Well the two Russians accused of that attack have surfaced and they are now speaking out. Britain says the suspects are members of Russian military

intelligence, but the two have just appeared on Kremlin-backed Russian TV or Russian TV, to present their side of the story. Which is, they were

simple tourists, sampling the delights of Salisbury. Matthew Chance has been following the twists and turns in this case from Moscow. So,

political theater of the absurd or an unlikely case of mistaken identity? Which one is it, do you think, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean these suspects have appeared on Russian television and said look, this idea that

they're agents of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence, not correct. They've said they were in Salisbury, that provincial English city, twice on

the day of the poisoning of the Skripals and the day before the poisoning, not as assassins sent by Moscow to punish a defector, but they were there

simply as tourists. They are you know, connoisseurs or appreciators of early English ecclesiastical architecture and they traveled to Salisbury

basically on a tip from a mate. Take a listen to what they told Russian television as to why they were there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER (through translator): On this CCTV footage from London, you welcome those now famous (INAUDIBLE) in Salisbury. Are those people you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, that's us.

REPORTER (through translator): What were you doing there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our friends had been suggesting for a long time we visit this wonderful town.

REPORTER (through translator): Salisbury? A wonderful town?

[11:25:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is the famous Salisbury cathedral, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world. It's famous

for its 123-meter spire. It's famous for its clock, the one of the first ever created in the world that's still working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: It is an extraordinary clock and an extraordinary spire on that 13th century cathedral in Salisbury, but, you know, it's a flimsy alibi and

it's not going to be convincing many people that they traveled to Salisbury not once, but twice, on the day and the day before the Skripal poisoning in

order to see it. The reason they went twice is because apparently these Russians who are very used to the snowy weather got thwarted by the slushy

conditions in Salisbury.

And already, British officials have expressed concerns saying they don't find this testimony credible. One thing it does show, though, is that

these people actually exist. Previously the Russians said they never heard of these individuals and it shows they're Russian citizens and that they're

living in Russia, despite British and European arrest warrant against them. That's something Russian officials can't deny any longer.

ANDERSON: Those slushy conditions, I think they described as mush, which I quite liked actually, mush. Never heard that turn before. Matthew, would

Kremlin watchers suggest that what we have seen here, the emergence of these two men on Russian backed television, looks like certainly classic

Kremlin playbook?

CHANCE: Well, I tell you what's classic about it is this idea that the Kremlin doesn't like to give a single narrative. It doesn't like to

explain its actions through one version of events. It is drawn more to putting out multiple narratives, multiple, sometimes contradictory

explanations of what happened. And the reason it does that is because it sews confusion, it sows discord, not everybody believes it of course. In

fact, most people don't believe it. Most people, of course, are not going to believe this flimsy alibi.

But a certain amount of people will and it will cloud the field of debate. And that seems to be what the Kremlin and what Russian officials, whoever

is putting this out, is trying to achieve. And to some extent it's very successful. You know, it's a successful strategy of confusing the picture

obscuring the truth. That's a strategy we've seen in the Novichok poisoning. We've seen it in Crimea and Ukraine and we've seen it in Syria

as well. The Russians do it because it's effective and seems they're sticking to that.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance, in Moscow, where it is 6:27 in the evening, 7:27 here in the UAE. All this as a well-known Russian activist is fighting for

his life in a Moscow hospital. Pyotr Verzilov is a member of the punk band, counter protest group called Pussy Riot. He'd been involved in a

protest during one of the World Cup matches this summer. On the Twitter account the group said they believed he was poisoned and that they believed

his life was in danger.

Let's get you up to speed on the other stories on our radar, at least right now. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was laid to rest in his home

country of Ghana earlier today. African leaders and world dignitaries paid tribute to the Nobel Laureate who was praised as a champion for peace.

Annan died last month at 80 years old.

A signing of the Oslo Peace Accords took place exactly 25 years ago today. On September 13, 1993, the world witnessed this historic moment between

Palestinian and Israeli leaders on the White House lawn. The accords were meant to lead to a permanent peace deal that would create two states within

five years. Well a quarter of a century later the two sides have still been unable to reach a truce. And that is an understatement.

Still to come tonight, rare and exclusive reporting from Syria. Two different views on what could be one of the final front lines in the

country's bloody war. That up next.

[11:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: We're updating our top story. We are tracking two monster storms this hour, both extremely dangerous with life-threatening storm

surge. Super typhoon Mangkhut is roaring towards the Philippines with winds gusting up to 255 kilometers an hour. Its unleashed widespread

flooding and knocked out power when it tore through Guam and Marshall Islands early this week.

In the United States, hurricane Florence already lashing the eastern coast with tropical storm force winds. It is expected to make landfall some time

overnight U.S. time despite mandatory evacuation orders, some people are, well they are staying put.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY SAMPLE, NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: We accept the risks, we know what the risk is, we accept it. We're not looking for anyone to bail us out or

rescue us. If we get ourselves in a bind, just like they say, it's on you. So, we'll use our wits to get ourselves through it.

REPORTER: And there's a bit of a thrill in it too.

SAMPLE: Absolutely. I'm a thrill seeker. There's some part of that plan into it, I'm sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, it's the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, a region and the regime's sights infiltrated by some extremist elements and home to

nearly 3 million people. This is near Idlib one of the final front lines in what is a war that has torn this country apart. And tonight, as a major

government offensive to retake this looms, we've got two reports, two different perspectives, on what is a very bloody conflict. We begin with

CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. He is one of the few Western journalists who's been on the front lines. Back from Idlib he

now joins us live from Damascus -- Fred.

[11:35:01] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. From what we saw there in the front line we were in southern area

of Idlib province, between Idlib and Hama province. We did see the Syrian government forces being very confident that this is a battle that they

could win if indeed it does kicks off.

Now also in that board area, however, you do have a lot of villages really on both sides of the equation that have already suffered a lot, as there

has been an uptick in violence especially in the southern part of Idlib province. And of course, many people in that area fear that a big

offensive could happen very soon. Here's what we saw.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Driving to one of the final front lines in Syria's seven-year civil war. In the distance, Idlib province, the last territory

held by the rebels.

(on camera): This artillery position is pretty much as close as we can get to the front line. Now, the rebel held territory of Idlib province is

about two kilometers in that direction the fighters say. They say, of course, there's been increased air strikes by the Syrian air force and the

Russians but also say the rebels have been firing back.

(voice-over): The Syrian military has cornered the remaining rebels many of hardline Islamist fighters in Idlib. While the U.S. and U.N. are

concerned about a reported 3 million civilians also trapped inside. A commander tells me government forces want to defeat the opposition

fighters.

All of us have been letting blood for seven years, he says, so that Syria can stand with its head held high and fight terrorism. And we're fighting

it here to keep it away from Europe and America.

The U.N. has warned Idlib could become one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history. But this village about five miles outside of

Idlib is suffering as well. A recent rocket attack killing ten here folks tell us. Including Leis and Salina Shalom while they were out running

errands. Their uncle grieving, the only one capable of speaking on camera.

These kids were so young, he says. They were flowers, they were angels, these children, what crime did they commit to be killed by these rockets?

Across the plain, Idlib province lies in the cross hairs of the Syrian army, as the international community attempts to find a way to postpone or

prevent a final assault.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: That certainly still seems to be going on, Becky. Those efforts to try and prevent or postpone this offensive from starting. Some

interesting comments that we've seen coming from the Russians over the past couple of days, indicating that maybe there is a chance to have more talks

on the subject as they try to find a sort of way forward.

Right now, a lot of that seems to lie with the Turks and Russians, of course, being on the opposite sides of this equation. But in many ways,

also being partners not on the battlefield but as far as the diplomatic efforts are concerned. So, while this offensive seems could kick off any

time soon or any time, it certainly seems there are still efforts going on to try and contain it or to try and stop it altogether. But certainly, if

you look at the Syrian military around that area of Idlib province, it really seems as though they have the forces that they believe they need to

kick things off at any time if that's what they wanted to do. The big question is if and when that will actually happen -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen, in Damascus for you, with a rare view from the front lines in Idlib, thank you, Fred. Now we want to show you what life

is like for everyday people. Men, women, kids, entire families, who are quite frankly desperately trying to escape from the front lines. Ben

Wedeman with what is this exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yet another Syrian family is on the move. Like millions of others over the

last seven years, who fled their homes as their towns and villages became battlefields. This family is fleeing for the first time from rural Idlib.

They lived in an area that had been spared the fighting, until now.

It was the first time we saw bombings, says this 15-year-old, Leyla. We've seen it on television and on phones, and now it's right before our eyes.

Syrian government and Russian aircraft have intensified air strikes in preparation for the much-anticipated offensive to regain control of Idlib

province. The last stronghold held by an armed opposition, now dominated by Islamist extremists.

Leyla's family has come to a camp, one of many, near the Turkish border. Their tent isn't ready. It's hot. They're tired.

Others arrive, more than 30,000 people have had to leave their homes in Idlib in the past week. Half the population here comes from other parts of

Syria, now under government control.

[11:40:02] Leyla's father, Habbo Ahmet, pitches in with setting up their tent. When it's done, he goes to get Leyla. She's been unable to walk

since childhood. Their tent is bare. They left home in a hurry leaving behind most of their possessions.

We escaped with only our lives, says, Habbo Ahmet. Who worked as a stove repairman. The U.N. gave us this tent, but nothing with it. It's a new

home Leyla, handicapped and heartbroken, is finding difficult to come to terms with.

I didn't want to come, she says. I didn't want to. Ben Wedeman, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: One of the final front lines there.

Syria's capital, well that is a very different story. Damascus defiant, shops once shuttered, now open for business, crowded restaurants and

bustling marketplaces. Head to CNN.com to read how the city is seeking a new dawn amid the rubble. How long-time residents are starting to pick up

the pieces and to turn the page. That all at CNN.com.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. We are live for you from Abu Dhabi.

Coming up, it seems almost every day brings new -- let me say that again, seems every day brings new allegations of sex abuse by priests in the

Catholic Church. The latest terrifying tale when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: These are images of what could be a crucial meeting for the future of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis welcomed U.S. Catholic leaders

to the Vatican on Thursday to discuss what to do about allegations of sexual abuse inside the church. On Thursday, the Pope accepted the

resignation of an American bishop accused of sexual harassment of adults.

And there is word of a new scandal, this time in Germany. Two German publications say the Catholic Church is prepared to admit to almost 4,000

cases of sexual abuse over six decades. A comprehensive study commissioned by the church found more than 1600 priests accused of sex abuse, most of

the cases involve young boys under the age of 13. The study only looked at cases that happened before 2014. And it says there is no reason to think

the abuse stopped then.

I want to cover all angles of this. Atika Shubert is standing by for you in Berlin in Germany. Let's start with our Vatican correspondent, Delia

Gallagher. Delia, watching and waiting, waiting, this is the world watching and waiting on the Catholic Church to get its act together. Just

explain where we are at this point.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, unfortunately after the meeting between the Pope and the U.S. bishops, we have only a

statement again with very scant details about what exactly transpired in that meeting.

[11:45:07] Simply talking about a fruitful and good exchange and discerning steps to move forward. And considering that the U.S. bishops went into

that meeting with a very full agenda asking for a full investigation into allegations of sex abuse on the part of former Cardinal McCarrick. Asking

to understanding fully the process for reporting cover-up for bishops and so on. Many will see this statement and the outcome of this meeting as a

disappointment.

Now the meeting has just ended a few hours ago. May be that there is going to be some action on those points. The Pope has called for a global

meeting in February of bishops from around the world to discuss sex abuse. But the point is, Becky, at this stage 16 years after sex abuse has been

dealt with in the public eye by the Vatican, we are still awaiting action. And in particular in this case on what to do with bishops who have been

accused of cover-up. And that action so far, we haven't seen -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Sure. Hold on for me. I want to get to Atika at this point. Even investigating an accused priest is a difficult thing. CNN's Rosa

Flores went to Wyoming to look at a sex abuse investigation there, into a retired bishop. The investigation launched by another bishop and he has

not had an easy time getting answers. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took months of meetings and interviews with accusers, investigators and lady boards and even going

to Rome to seek the Vatican's blessing to go after one of his own.

(on camera): Why did you feel like you needed to be proactive?

STEVEN BIEGLER, BISHOP OF CHEYENNE: For the dioceses as a whole. It needed to be resolved.

FLORES (voice-over): While some welcomed Biegler's investigation, others believed the scales of justice should weigh more favorably toward a now 87-

year-old man who they say contributed greatly to their community.

BIEGLER: So, it was very, very hard for friends of Bishop Hart to see this being done. There was some really strong anger, in fact.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: The retired Bishop Hart strenuously denies those allegations. But Atika, this really highlights one of the difficulties of investigating

these cases. Because of course, church leaders can be so revered in their communities. Is that a similar story in Germany?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean this report that has just come out was actually commissioned by the German

Bishop's Conference and it was clearly an attempt to sort of air out what had happened, to get to the bottom of how many abuse cases there were. The

problem is, according to victims that this report is not enough. One victim in particular, Matthew Cash -- who actually speaks on behalf of a

victim's group -- has said that, you know, the investigators did not have direct access to the original files of the church. Instead, they looked at

summaries of reports that were compiled by the individual diocese.

In addition, investigators did not speak directly to victims or hear testimonies from victims. And the report itself does not name

perpetrators. Did not allow for cross-referencing of cases to see repeated patterns of abuse. And that's why many victims here are rejecting this

report. Saying it's not enough that the church investigates itself. It needs an independent investigation that can then be used for prosecution.

ANDERSON: And we are hearing that again and again as we reveal these cases. Delia, the cases that we've discussed today have been in Western

countries, but this is a global problem for the church. There have been loud protests and lots of media coverage, for example, in India, where nuns

are demanding that charges be brought against a bishop accused of raping a nun repeatedly over two years. Delia, how does the Vatican handle all

these allegations coming at them from so many different angles? And the latest polling on the Pope's approval rating shows a massive dip in support

for the pontiff. Just how big of an impact is this entire saga having on him personally?

GALLAGHER: Well, of course, you know, it's probably indicative of the Vatican's response to sexual abuse, this poll that there has been a dip in

his popularity. One hopes that Pope isn't doing it for a popularity poll but realizing that it is a global problem. I think they are getting at

that, Becky. One of the problems which Atika pointed out rightly is that it's not enough for many people of the church conduct their own

investigation. So, you might start seeing something like we've seen in the United States where you have civil authorities, grand juries working

together with the church. So, the church has been seen opening up also their files in order to have a sort of trustworthy investigation.

[11:50:00] Because they've got to do two things here, Becky. One is every country has to have a reckoning with their past. That means investigations

and a lot of other ugly crimes and sins are going to come out of those investigations. And then the Vatican has got to be very clear on what the

process is for holding all of those people accountable. And so far, it's done on a piecemeal basis.

A bishop in the U.S. is writing to the Vatican about a priest in the U.S. And a bishop in India is writing about another bishop in India. But it's

all being dealt with in the Vatican on a piecemeal basis. So, one of the points of this global meeting in February is possibly to try and bring that

all together and have some kind of coordinated international effort. It will be massive, obviously, but that is the hope at least that people are

hoping for from the Vatican -- Becky.

ANDERSON: But this isn't the first time that we have heard those who have been victims, experts of the Vatican saying, this is what we need. One

might hope what chance that in February something is actually done, actually done, to ensure accountability of these crimes?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think the difference now, Becky, is that we are seeing from the bishops in the countries themselves. Of course, first from the

English-speaking countries, we've seen that, but just seen it in Germany. We saw it in Chile earlier this year from the people of Chile. In an

outcry against the Pope himself for defending a bishop that had been accused of sex abuse. So, we're seeing more of a grassroots that the

Vatican is actually responding to. That might be one of the differences in all of these years now of sex abuse. There is much more pressure from the

priests themselves and from the bishops themselves who want to try to clear this up.

ANDERSON: Both of you, thank you very much, indeed. From Rome and from Berlin. Analysis we leave you with a list of places not complete by any

means of confirmed and alleged instances of child abuse within the Catholic Church. It was compiled by the group Bishop-Accountability.org. And well

worth thinking on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: We can't leave you without our parting shots or your parting shots this hour. More tales from the path of the hurricane bearing down on

the U.S. southeast coast. There is concern over what will happen to wild horses that call North Carolina home. CNN's Jeanne Moos their horse sense

will help them ride out the storm. Have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know who isn't watching TV to find out when the hurricane hits? North Carolina's

wild horses. There are over 200 of them on the outer banks. Normally they're scratching or strolling the beach or even rolling on the beach.

But already they sense changes in the air pressure and are changing their behavior.

MEG PUCKET, HERD MANAGER, COROLLA WILD HORSE FUND: They started huddling up together, they will group up together, they go to high ground.

MOOS: Meg Pucket is herd manager of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. The group's Facebook page is a magnet for concern.

[11:55:00] So worried about them, not their first rodeo, wild horses have more horse sense than people.

PUCKET: If anything can survive this storm, those horses can.

MOOS: Forget evacuating them. Too stressful for the wild horse, too difficult and expensive for the humans. But the experts say the horses,

wildly popular with tourists, should be fine. Usually they're territorial like these two stallions fighting over mares, but when bad weather hits

they ban together.

PUCKET: They go into those live oak forests and they just hunker down under those trees.

MOOS: Horses have drowned in hurricanes. Five were lost when Isabel struck 15 years ago. But the expectation is that most of these horses

should make it.

PUCKET: They wait it out. Put the butts to the wind and wait it out.

MOOS: Instead of us riding horses, it's the horse's turn to ride the storm. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well now something you could never say nay to. Another little parting shots of sorts that is completely out of this world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready, set, go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: This is a zero-gravity race and the man in the middle of the action, well that is none other than the world record sprinter Usain Bolt.

Not quite as easy as sprinting down on the ground. Plus, he was wearing socks. So, feet kept on slipping. Bolt floated across the finish line

inside of an Airbus A310 that simulates zero gravity. He said his four minutes of near weightlessness were like being a kid in a candy store.

Does he actually win that? I'm not sure he does.

I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD from the team here and those working with us around the world. Isn't that brilliant? Thanks for

watching.

END