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New Protests in Hong Kong Against Extradition Bill; Russia Drops Case Against Investigative Reporter Golunov; Wounded All-Star David Ortiz Recovering in Boston; Vatican Calls Non-Binary Gender "Fictitious" in Report; Botswana's High Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex; U.S. Kick Off Title Defense vs Thailand in Women's World Cup; Trump and Biden to Make Dueling Campaign Stops in Iowa; Iran Frees Lebanese Man from Detention; Chopper Crashed onto Roof of New York Skyscraper. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 11, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Great to have you along with us. I Robyn Curnow. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. Live from CNN's world

headquarters in Atlanta.

Now I want to take you straight to the streets of Hong Kong where protesters are once again sending a message. You're looking at crowds here

gathered around a building where a second debate on a highly controversial bill will take place just hours from now. The bill would allow

extraditions to mainland China. And Critics fear it could be abused, making people vulnerable to being prosecuted for political crimes. The

crowds are continuing to grow, but what we're seeing now may actually pale in comparison to the mass demonstrations that are expected after the sun

comes up. Well Matt Rivers is joining us now live from Hong Kong. Matt, it's 11:00 p.m. there and no doubt people gearing up for Wednesday.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And a lot of these people that have gathered here, there's several hundred people here for

sure, mainly young people and they are all very much against this law. Some of the people we're told are going to hang out in this area. This is

where the mass protests of tomorrow are going to be expected.

Some of the people here say they're going to camp out all night long so they can be here bright and early in the morning. Several hundred people

here, very calm, very relaxed at least for the moment. But the sentiment is clear. You've got signed like this one being handed out, "No China

extradition". Clearly talking about this law. And so these people are part of this momentum that we've seen building after that million person

March on Sunday. Pretty big marches expected tomorrow morning. These people are all going to be a part of it. And this really though, Robyn,

has been building after what we've seen happen over the last several years here in Hong Kong.


RIVERS: This is a Hong Kong tram, otherwise known as a ding ding. And you can't find this kind of transportation anywhere else in China. In a way

it's as unique as the city it runs through. \

(voice-over): More than 7 million people live in this former British colony. Taking the tram is a good way to talk to some. These days there's

a lot to talk about. Hong Kong just saw its largest protests in decades, hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to protest a controversial bill

that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hong Kong people will have less freedom in the future because the law isn't really protecting us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support the protests. I think that freedom of expression is important for Hong Kong people.

RIVERS: Critics say that Beijing could try and extradite people for purely political reasons. And given China's notorious human rights record, so

goes the argument, abuse could be rampant despite Beijing's denials. But Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, says the law is necessary.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: This is a very practical package that has struck the necessary balance between the protection of human

rights, the allaying of public anxieties and concerns. And also the objectives to avoid Hong Kong becoming a haven for fugitives.

RIVERS: Hong Kong is technically a part of China. But when the British handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the deal called for Hong Kong to

remain semiautonomous. With things like freedom of speech, protest and democratic elections staying in place until at least 2047. But over the

last few years people here think that Beijing is trying to take away those rights prematurely.

(on camera): Do you feel you have less freedom now because of what Beijing is doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.

RIVERS (voice-over): We've seen crackdowns on political speech, press freedom and democracy activists have left the impression that Hong Kong's

merger with the rest of Communist China is closer than ever.

(on camera): As a Hong Konger, how does that make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel very upset, Yes. Hong Kong becomes like a Chinese city.

RIVERS (voice-over): The trams here are a unique feature of this city, as are its democratic style freedoms. How long those will last, though, is an

open debate as a city increasingly reckons with its identity.


RIVERS: And so smaller protests tonight, larger protests tomorrow morning, but we are expecting this to go on for some time. Because tomorrow is when

the Parliament here will begin its second reading debate. But there are 66 hours of debates scheduled, Robyn, in just that second reading and it could

go on longer than that. So the question is how long does it debate for and what kind of momentum can protesters like these here actually build to try

and get lawmakers in Hong Kong to back off of this extradition bill. It's certainly a tall order.

[11:05:00] I think most here would be relatively resigned to the fact it's going to be very difficult to get Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong

Kong, to back away from supporting this bill. But that is not deterring people here, all the people that are going to come out in the morning.

Which we do expect very large crowds.

CURNOW: OK, we'll continue to check in with you. Matt Rivers there on the streets of Hong Kong. Thank you so much for that report, Matt.

So now to news just in from Russia where the criminal case against an investigative reporter has now been dropped. Ivan Golunov was arrested

last week on drug charges. Many said the charges were fabricated and his arrest prompted outrage as some declared it an attack on the media. Now

are learning some police officials involved in the case could be fired. Well Matthew Chance is watching these new developments from our bureau in

Moscow? So what happened?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This, Robyn, has been an extraordinary climbdown by the Russian authorities. Because Ivan

Golunov had been arrested on drug charges, not just a possession but of supplying drugs as well. Carries a maximum 20-year sentence. He always

denied those allegations against him. He was only arrested remember last week.

But that plight, that case has led to a massive outpouring of support for this investigative journalist. People in the media, celebrities normally

pro-Kremlin news anchors have been outspoken about it. Russian newspapers have carried identical headlines saying, "I Am Golunov". In a sort of

reflection of the Charlie head go -- you know, I am Charlie headlines, just to show that they are in unison with this figure.

And I think there's a sense, first of all, that he was arrested or framed for these drug charges by police because of his journalistic work. This is

an investigative journalist who is quite prominent amongst independent journalists in this country. He's not a household name by any means but he

kind of opened the can on all sorts of kind of business corruption stories in Moscow involving the mayor's office, the purchase for instance by the

deputy mayor's family of nine luxury multimillion-dollar penthouses in just one day. He's blowing the lid off the cutthroat funeral business in Moscow

and linking it with Russian officials including officials associated with the Russian federal security service the FSB.

And so he was basically shining the light on corrupt Russian officials who felt that they could operate in darkness and make millions of dollars in

that kind of environment. And so, he's obviously angered a lot of people. And that's what most people feel he was arrested because of, not because of

any genuine drugs charges.

It seems now that the authorities have acted in response to that public out pouring of support. At least two policemen that we know of so far have

been suspended. The Russian interior minister has come out and said, look, there are a couple of other drug enforcement officials that I want to have

fired as well. And of course, there could be more consequences following that as well. But it's very good news of course for Ivan Golunov who is

under house arrest at the moment. Because of public pressure he wasn't kept in jail. He was sent back under house arrest but he should be

released any time now. They're saying later on today -- Robyn.

CURNOW: You know, what is in many ways starting about this case is the fact that there has been a climb down by the authorities. We've often

spoken about abuses of press freedoms, human rights abuses when it comes to freedom of the press, a lot of reporters dying mysteriously, for example,

in Russia. How is it that this particular journalist has managed to create this sort of solidarity behind him and come out with this extraordinary

climbdown from the Kremlin and authorities? What's different?

CHANCE: You're right. It is an extraordinary aspect of this case. Russia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to

operate and particularly when you operate in that slither or journalism that Ivan Golunov operated in which is again, holding Russian officials who

are potentially corrupt, to account and potentially exposing them to legal action or having their fortunes taken back away from them. It can get you

killed and, in this case, may have got Ivan Golunov actually framed.

What led to the government climbdown? Well, there was this unprecedented show of support in the Russian media. Again, celebrities coming out and

voicing their support for him. Main Russian newspapers that normally toe the Kremlin line expressing their concerns about these charges that were

leveled against him.

[11:10:00] And the Kremlin, you know, is notoriously sensitive to these kinds of changes in public mood and these kind of atmospheric changes. And

even though it was a course the interior minister that withdrew the charges, the Kremlin of course pulls all the strings in this country. And

it seems to have moved to address that as quickly as it can and put an end to these sort of public protests that were brewing.

The danger of course of that of this kind of climbdown is it could potentially encourage more anti-government, anti-corruption campaigners to

come out and continue their work. And believe me, there are many, many cases of injustice in Russia just like this one that need to be exposed.

Matthew Chance there in Moscow. Thanks so much for that reporting there. We're going to have to leave it there.

Now to another story we're following here at CNN. Baseball legend David Ortiz is back in Boston after being shot in his native Dominican Republic

over the weekend. Ortiz's former team the Boston Red Sox sent an air ambulance to pick him up following his emergency surgery in Santo Domingo.

The man known as Big Papi remains in a serious but stable condition. Well Alex Field joins us from Boston. But first, let's go to our Patrick

Oppmann live from Santo Domingo. Just tell us where you are and also some new details about suspects and a mug shot.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, we're outside the palace of the national police here in Santo Domingo. This is the center of the

investigation where the investigation is being carried out into the still very mysterious shooting. And Dominicans are reeling as one of their

heroes nearly died in an attack that is still to them inexplainable and very mysterious -- Robyn.

CURNOW: And Alex, over to you where we know that there has been a lot of outpouring as well. I think we might've lost Patrick's connection there.

But Alex, just give us some sense of the reaction and again, what are doctors saying?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, doctors have said that he was stable enough to travel which is why the Red Sox were able to send a plane

to Santo Domingo to pick up David Ortiz and bring him back to his adopted town of Boston. We know when he woke up from his surgery, he was asking to

see his family and to see his doctors in Boston. We've learned he was able to exchange a couple of word with his father and his sister before getting

on that air ambulance. And when he landed here in Boston, he was received by his wife and his daughter. So he is set to recover here at Mass General


But there's really been this outpouring of support across Boston, really across the country for David Ortiz who had been such a giant of this city

and such a giant of the sport. There are a lot of thoughts and well wishes being sent his way from Fenway Park, the home of the Red Sox, just last



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join us as we offer a moment of reflection, thought and prayer for a complete healing and full recovery for our beloved

Big Papi.

Thank you.


FIELD: That there just one of the tributes, of course, to David Ortiz. He retired from baseball in 2016 and 2017. The Red Sox retired his number but

certainly the team making very clear that he is forever a part of the team, forever a part of this city. A lot of people here really pulling for him

as he begins his recovery -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, they certainly are. And Patrick, to you there on the ground -- and now that we've reestablished our com. I mean, There's certainly an

outpouring of love for this man. He's known as Big Papi. He's a hero where you are. Just talk us through exactly what happened that night.

OPPMANN: Absolutely, he was out at a nightclub that he frequents often. This is someone even though he made the big time in the U.S. continues to

spend a lot of time here in Santo Domingo. He was out at this club that's open to the street in a safe neighborhood despite the crime that is pretty

common here in this part of the country. And someone approached him after getting off a motorcycle and shot him once in the back. Initially people

thought it might have been a robbery, but we are told that it was not, that this was a targeted attack.

OPPMANN (voice-over): This video purportedly showing the moment the former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz -- also known as Big Papi -- was shot at a club

in Santo Domingo along with TV talk show host, Jhoel Lopez. Just hours before Lopez posted this picture with Ortiz on Instagram saying, you know

we are from the streets, with my David Ortiz.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic say the shooter was on a motorcycle and ambushed Ortiz, shooting him just once in the back. The 43-year-old

was rushed to a local hospital where he underwent surgery.

[11:15:00] And doctors had to remove part of his intestines, colon and his gallbladder to stop internal bleeding according to Ortiz's assistant.

Doctors at the hospital said they expected Ortiz to make a full recovery.

When he opened his eyes the first thing, he asked for was to see his family, Gonzalez said, during a preference conference Monday at the clinica

Abel, the hospital where Ortiz has been treated. Lee Ortiz, David's father also spoke at the presser and thanked the medical team.

On behalf of the Ortiz family, David Ortiz his work team, I want to thank the press but especially this medical team. Ortiz's father says he had no

idea why someone would have shot his son.

Right now police say they have one person in custody for the shooting who was captured and held down by a crowd of bystanders until police arrived.

The crowd can be heard repeatedly saying in Spanish the suspect needed to talk and fess up. Another suspect got away on foot. The baseball legend's

assistant telling CNN it was not a robbery and that Ortiz does not know the suspect.

In 2004 Ortiz helped the Red Sox to their first World Series championship since 1918 ending the so-called curse of the Bambino. In 2013 Ortiz

cemented his place in the hearts of Bostonians with this reaction in the wake of the Boston bombings.

DAVID ORTIZ, RED SOX BASEBALL PLAYER: This is our (BLEEP) city. And nobody is going to dictate our freedom.

OPPMANN: Ortiz is a near certainty to be a future hall of famer. As the baseball community rallies around one of its brothers, the question remains

why Ortiz?


OPPMANN: And the suspect who is in custody Eddie Garcia was known to police. He had a drug charge, drug possession charge going back about two

years ago. Police believe that there were two men involved in the shooting. One was a motorcycle get-away driver and the other was the

gunman. So Eddie Garcia is here being interrogated after receiving a just a vicious beatdown from that crowd. And they are still searching for the

second man. Usually when shootings take place here, Dominicans tell us police often don't catch the suspect. A lot of pressure, Robyn, on the

police to come up with not only who did this but why they decided to target one of the Dominican Republic's most beloved figures.

CURNOW: OK, good point there. Patrick Oppmann and Alexandra Field, thanks to you both for your reports, thank you.

Still to come here at CNN, a landmark victory for gays and lesbians in Botswana but it comes as LBGTQ people are handed a big blow from the

Catholic Church as it issues strict guidelines of gender identity. We'll speak to someone who is Catholic and non-bindery about that news, coming


And watching the FIFA Women's World Cup. Today defending champions are stepping into play. We're live in France before the big game.


CURNOW: Scenes there from Athens where Greeks are coming out to party for their annual pride march. And as the world celebrates, lesbian and gay,

bisexual and transgender communities during pride month there has been some great news and some not so great news for those fighting discrimination.

So let's start with the good news. The Botswana high court has just issued a ruling that decriminalizes gay sex. This was the reaction in the

courtroom. Until now same sex relations were a criminal act punishable by up to seven years in prison. So there is a big when there.

But a big blow also coming out of Rome. The Vatican has issued a guideline document on gender identity calling non-binary gender fictitious. So let's

dig deeper into both of these stories. David McKenzie is following the news out of Botswana. David is there in Johannesburg. But let's start

with these new guidelines from the Vatican. Mattie Evans is a non-binary Catholic and joins me now from Toronto. Mattie, so you're the head of an

LGBT organization. You've called this document the antithesis of pride and say that it perpetuates misinformation and feels hate. So what else do you

have to say about these guidelines?

MATTIE EVANS, NON-BINARY CATHOLIC (via Skype): I say they're shocking but unsurprising in terms of the history the church has had in dealing with

issues of sexuality and gender. It perpetuates a lot of harmful ideas. It's just sort of not great as someone that regularly attends Catholic

service to have to live with this sort of treatment from the higher places in the institution.

CURNOW: You're a Catholic, you attend church. How does this affect your relationship with your faith?

EVANS: I think it certainly makes me less likely to interact with the Catholic institutions separate from my normal church going. And separately

it does make me feel sort of alienated and objective and it would certainly discourage other people from attending. I know several people who are very

active gay and trans Catholics and they are not an insignificant proportion of followers.

CURNOW: And so, this document, 31 pages, has been sent out to Catholic schools around the world. How big an impact do you think it's going to


EVANS: I think it's going to have a very big impact. While Catholic schools are still not great on issues of teaching children about sexuality

and gender. There're specific ideas that are propagated in the document with the veneer of respectability that often comes with these sorts of

statements. And you very much focus on the idea that people shouldn't be mean or bully. They should encourage children to not bully others for the

difference while still heavily enforcing the base idea underneath the hatred and discrimination that LGBT people face every day.

CURNOW: How difficult has it been for you to challenge and balance your faith and gender identity?

EVANS: I think it was extremely difficult. When I was around 16 was when I first started dealing with issues of, hey, I'm like I'm gay, I feel like

I've disloyal. I feel like I might not be entirely a man. At that time I had a crisis of faith in effect and stopped going to church for a year

while I dealt with it. But it's been several years since then. And I feel like it's perfectly compatible. Both belief systems are perfectly

compatible. I feel genuinely very comfortable with my local church here in Toronto. And I feel like on a grassroots level it is generally acceptable

for me to attend church appearing very gender non-conforming, talking openly with priests about my sexuality. And I have not had an issue on

that level but it's the top down enforcement of these ideas that's really harmful and alienating.

CURNOW: This is a Pope, a Jesuit pope, that's expressed a lot of compassion and sympathy for LGBT people.

[11:25:00] Why do you think under this Pope the Vatican has come out with these guidelines now?

EVANS: I think it's in effect a balancing act. They're trying to have their cake and eat it too. They're trying to say that they are open and

caring while still balancing that with the fact that they don't think that the word of God is compatible with being gay or being trans. That's why

this document has been released and especially why it's being released now during pride month, I think it was the day of the anniversary of the

Stonewall riot. They're making a point by doing it. They're making a point to say that while we are compassionate, we are not accepting.

CURNOW: What are you hoping for now? Are you hoping that priests, you say grassroots priests and churches will just ignore this? What is the

pushback here? What can you do?

EVANS: I'm hoping that the individual people in the Catholic Church will rise up and say no, we don't follow this sort of hatred. We don't belief

in it. I hope that people are going to rebel against it especially in the schools where it's really necessary to create an environment for people to

be able to explore themselves.

CURNOW: OK. Mattie Evans, thank you so much for joining us there live from Toronto.

EVANS: Thank you.

CURNOW: So David, I want to go back to you. Because on the other hand which I suppose explains the kinds of push and pull in terms of

discrimination across the world for the LGBT community. We've seen this landmark victory today in Botswana. Just talk us through that and what

brought it about?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well it's a very significant victory for the LGBT community not just in Botswana, Robyn, but I think regionally

and potentially throughout the continent. You saw these celebratory scenes in the court in Gaborone. This was a case brought by a young student in

Botswana who said that the laws on the books, colonial era laws that were there to persecute or prosecute people who were engaged in same sex acts.

They really date to the colonial era were unconstitutional and the court agreed with them unanimously. And very emotional language, nonlegal

language, not just making a legal point to say that this law should be struck off the books. But also a cultural and ethical point saying there's

no place to interfere in the privacy of people's own homes and also that people should have access to the help and the assistance they need.

Because these laws which are on the books, Robyn, in many different countries in Africa, not only potentially give jail time for gays and

lesbians and others in the LGBT community but also stops them accessing key health services and legal help when there are legal issues. So it. Does

open up the gay community in Botswana but it's certainly not a cut and dried deal. There are many countries, notably Kenya, which had not seen

the progress that we see today in southern Africa -- Robyn.

CURNOW: No, I know David we spoke about it when there was a lot of disappointment about a ruling Kenya's high court upholding those laws

criminalizing homosexuality. So the question I suppose is across the continent how much momentum does the fight in Botswana mean for the rest of

the continent?

MCKENZIE: I don't think you can see it as a black and white issue. Certainly southern Africa has seen successes for the community in Botswana,

in Angola, Mozambique of course, South Africa is famously has enshrined in their constitution legal gay marriage. But there are other countries where

being gay is punishable by death. And many around 30 where these sort of archaic laws are still on the books.

There're also deeply conservative cultures in parts of Africa who say that being gay is un-African. Which is what contradictory or very contradictory

to the fact that these laws were often brought in by particularly British colonial rulers. So there is some momentum but it's a case of two steps

forward, one step back, I think.

David McKenzie there. Thanks so much for that update.

So your live. this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, a happy homecoming after nearly four years in prison in Iran, a Lebanese businessman is

heading home. More on his detention and crucially his release later on in this hour. So stick with us for that.

And it is day five of the FIFA women's world cup. Can the USA defend their title? We are in France ahead of their first game against Thailand.


CURNOW: Updating you now on our top story. Hong Kong is bracing for more mass protests over a controversial expedition bill. Demonstrators are

gathering ahead of a second debate in Parliament. But their numbers could swell dramatically after the sun comes up as a powerful trade union is

calling for strike on Wednesday. The bill would allow extraditions to mainland China. Critics fear it could be used to prosecute people for

political crimes.

There you have it. The USA's victory lap when they won the last Women's World Cup back in 2015. Some ticker tape parade there.

Welcome back. We're into day five of the FIFA Women's World Cup. And the reigning champions are just hours away from finally stepping up to defend

their title. The USA will face Thailand in their opening game later on Tuesday. New Zealand versus Netherlands wrapped up just a short time ago

with Netherlands winning 1-0. And Chile will take on Sweden shortly.

Well CNN's World Sport host, Amanda Davis has been watching the Americans prepare. She is there surrounded by a very enthusiastic crowd. I can see.

Amanda, tell us more about the mood and the excitement where you are.

AMANDA DAVIS, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, Robyn, the U.S. superstar Alex Morgan was saying she was starting to feel a little bit left out. The tournament

started such a long time ago and the defending champions still haven't made it onto the pitch. But we're now just 3 1/2 hours away from their opening

game against Thailand.

[11:35:00] And these guys have had a fair bit of time to prepare as well. The mood here is fantastic. Give us a chance. I don't know whether it's

out chance. Whether you can even hear me. I'm joined here by Donald, Robyn, who's from "The American Outlaws", one of the U.S. fans supporters'

groups. The U.S. expected to have more fans here at the tournament than any other country. Donald, how excited are you? Are you sharing the mood?

DONALD WINE II, MEMBER, "THE AMERICAN OUTLAWS": Oh, absolutely. Can you see this behind us? We have been waiting so long for this. We have been

waiting to defend our title. The queens are here and we are ready to support them.

DAVIS: How confident are you? Because not all gone smoothly. As it? In the last couple of years. And France were pretty impressive on Friday.

What you think? How worried are you?

WINE: No, they were good. But you know what, we're not worried. Because if we were worried, we'd all not be here. We are here in France. This is

our moment. We are ready to shine. I know the ladies are ready. The gals are ready as they say to themselves. But we are also ready to support them

throughout this entire tournament. We're going to be here. We're going to be here in Paris. We're going to be in Le Havre and go all the way to

Lyons to that title.

DAVIS: How has your French experience been so far?

WINE: So far so good. Everyone's been great. And you know what, the fact is a lot of countries don't worry about the Women's World Cup but here

they're excited about it. They're just about it and we are too. So we share that in common. And I think that quarterfinal, if we can get to that

point, it will be a great, great matchup. But for now were worried about tonight. Finally, finally we get to play.

DAVIS: How is it going to go tonight? Because the last time you played Thailand it was pretty thumping, 9-0. What are you reckon it's going to be

this evening?

WINE: I mean, I feel like they've improved but we also have as well. So I'm not in a give a score prediction but let's be real, we're going to

party tonight.

DAVIS: Do you want this team to go out and go for the big score tonight or is it a case of no we'll win. We'll get the three points and then like

save our energy for later on in the competition?

WINE: Three points is a must. It's the most important thing. But really, we're all about we want those girls to go out and make a statement.

Everyone else has talked about, oh, everyone's catching up with the rest of the U.S. No. Tonight we go out and we get to finally make our statement.

We're the defending champions. We're here and you've got to get through us to win it.

DAVIS: Talk us through your statement. What are you going to be singing in there?

WINE: I know one thing that were all going to be saying. USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

DAVIS: Back to you.

CURNOW: Amanda, can you hear me? I hope that you can hear me over the chants. Because it's fantastic that we're seeing this. And of course

women's soccer in the states is such a big deal from under sixes onwards. There's a lot of conversation about equal pay. Does that come into this

conversation when they're watching them play? I don't think you're with me.

DAVIS: It's quite interesting scenario to try and have that discussion. All the media are talking about the equal pay dispute but it was very

interesting yesterday at the press conference. It was the second question raised by the journalists but you have to say Alex Morgan she addressed it.

She said, yes, we absolutely are fighting this. It's something we should be fighting. But that is not for now. For the moment we're focusing very

much on the job in hand that for today is Thailand. For the next few weeks it's about winning a fourth World Cup. And then we're going to resume that

equal pay battle.

But interestingly a little bit earlier on I spoke to the captain of the USA 1991 World Cup winning side. She said for her, even though it shouldn't

matter whether the USA has three World Cup titles or for World Cup titles, definitely if they were to win the crown this month given everything that's

going on in the bigger picture, it would certainly help their cause.

CURNOW: OK, well enjoy it. To all the fans there, no lacking of American confidence. Hope you all enjoy it. Thank you so much. Great to speak to

you, Amanda.

Records have already been broken actually in the opening days of this competition. I want you to head to to check out some key

statistics in the tournament that really promises twists and turns in the coming weeks. And of course, some fabulous football.

So live from CNN headquarters in Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

Coming up, he's free after four years of detention. The story of the Lebanese businessman now home after being jailed in Iran. That's next.

Plus, tense moments in New York bringing back memories of 9/11. We have the latest on a deadly helicopter crash right in the heart of Manhattan.


CURNOW: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's done with President Trump and doesn't want to talk about him anymore. But she says every time

he talks about her, that's a good thing. Take a listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): My stack of (INAUDIBLE) attacks me, so what can I say. Let's not spend too much time on that because that's his victory,

the diverter of attention in chief.


CURNOW: Pelosi may be done talking about Donald Trump but the Democratic candidates vying to take his job still have a lot to say. Mr. Trump and

former Vice President Joe Biden will make dueling campaign stops in Iowa. This is just in the coming hours with Biden expected to call the President

an existential threat to America. But really, it's anyone's game in this critical battleground state as Jeff Zeleny now reports.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a matchup both men have been craving.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't see Joe Biden as a threat, no. I don't see him as a threat. I think he's only a threat to


JOE BIDEN, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump inherited an economy from Obama/Biden administration that was given to him, just like he

inherited everything else in his life.

ZELENY: It's hardly a duel at high noon but President Trump and Joe Biden are both heading to Iowa today, bringing their long-distance feud into far

closer range. It's the President's first trip of the year into estate heavily inundated with Democratic presidential candidates. He's not only

watching that race closely but he's working to influence it.

TRUMP: We have a choice between slippy Joe and crazy Bernie. And I'll take any of them. Let's just pick somebody please and let's start this


ZELENY: For Biden it's his second visit to Iowa since launching his candidacy.

BIDEN: It's good to be back in Hawkeye country.

ZELENY: He would like nothing more than to focus on Trump, trying to prove his own electability. But he's facing an increasingly competitive

Democratic primary as he tries to prove that he's truly the front runner in the race. Biden's first stop is in Ottumwa. Home to one of 32 counties in

the state that voted for he and Barack Obama in 2012 before flipping to Trump in 2016. Iowa had more of these blue to red counties than any other

state in the country.

TRUMP: We love the people of Iowa.

ZELENY: Iowa is among Trump's most treasured victories not only for defeating all but one of the GOP rivals in the Iowa caucuses but for going

on to defeat Hillary Clinton by nine points in the state Obama and Biden carried twice. Former Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack, who served in Obama's

cabinet for eight years said Democrats underestimate Trump at their own peril.

TOM VILSACK, FORMER IOWA GOVERNOR: I think it would be foolish for anyone to assume that a sitting President is easily defeated. And I think we need

to understand this is going to be a very, very difficult fight.

ZELENY (on camera): What is Joe Biden's biggest challenge, do you think?

[11:45:00] VILSACK: Obviously when you're the front runner you've got 18 or 19 people taking shots at you every day and that will wear on you. We

know Joe Biden and there is a certain level of comfort that comes with that.

ZELENY (voice-over): Trump has locked in most Republicans and has escaped a primary challenge. Biden is just beginning to wage his. Democratic

leaders here say he still has to prove himself.

(on camera): So is Joe Biden a strong front runner?

J.D. SCHOLTEN, IOWA DEMOCRAT: Again, he's a leader. And it's anybody's game at this point. You're going to come here. You're going to have to

retail politics and really get out there and earn votes.


CURNOW: That was Jeff Zeleny reporting.

A Lebanese man held in Iran for nearly four years is heading home now. Businessman Nizar Zakka was detained in 2015 on espionage charges. On his

way back to Beirut, he was accompanied by Lebanon security chief -- who you can see here sitting next to him on the flight. Zakka is also a U.S.

permanent resident.

Well Nick Payton Walsh is standing by with more on this story and the latest developments. Tell us more.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a curious case really. And the espionage charges in which Mr. Zakka have been held on

since September 2015 have never really been fully elucidated. What is interesting here is the role Lebanon appears to have played and how that's

been fed into the broader geopolitics of tension between Iran and the United States. You sort of caught the edge of what you might even though

could have been some military confrontation a matter of weeks ago.

Essentially what happened here it seems, there's the Lebanese have acted, it appears, to try and get one of their nationals back. The suggestion is

that he was put on espionage charges somehow in relation to assisting the United States. But we haven't heard from the U.S. State Department in this

to suggest they had role themselves. Of course it is possibly going to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran if a man with U.S. residency --

one a number of individuals of Geo nationals held in Iranian custody is in fact released.

But here is what the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, has to say about this a moment ago.


GEBRAN BASSIL, LEBANESE FOREIGN MINISTER: Lately I wrote a letter to the foreign minister asking a pardon for him because of Ramadan holidays, and

the President, our President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, asked President Rouhani for his release. And as such we were informed that our request was

accepted and he was just now delivered to the Presidential palace to our President.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is the significance of the timing of the release, do you think?

BASSIL: I don't know if there is necessarily a political relation with the tension going on, but if there is only one explanation it is a sign of



WALSH: A sign of positivity, you might say, although some I think in Lebanese and Iranian media suggesting that perhaps what we're seeing here

is Hezbollah, which is the Iranian backed political and militia group inside of Lebanon appealing to the Lebanese President to make this offer to

Iran a sign of perhaps a cooperation between all of them. But essentially, there is still re of United States residents being given favorable

treatment. Although they say in that statement and the Iranian say, clearly there's no political element in this. It's been a purely judicial


Still the signal perhaps might be construed as some sort of olive branch toward Washington. There's very little frankly that the U.S. has done to

necessarily deserve that. They've been all guns ahead trying to put as much pressure on Iran both militarily and economically as they can.

Yet still, Nizar Zakka, free, flying back on this private jet with head of Lebanese very powerful internal security. And now it seems having visited

the Presidential palace in Beirut as well. Relatively significant moment here. A confusing espionage case and one that perhaps suggests that

somewhere in Tehran there may have been a bid to suggest some soft desire to calm American anger. But at the same time too, this could all be put

down to cooperation between pro-Iranian forces in the region as well.

CURNOW: OK, thanks so much for that update. Nick Payton Walsh, thanks so much.

I want to get you up to speed on some other stories that are on our radar right now. You're looking at massive fires raging in northern Syria

burning through wheat and barley crops, destroying more of the country's already dwindling food supplies. There's little firefighting capacity left

in this war-torn country. So the fear now is that flames could spread to nearby oil wells.

And the "Wall Street journal" reports the late brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un acted as an informant for the CIA. The Journal cites a

single anonymous source is saying Kim Jong-nam had met with a CIA agents in Singapore and Malaysia. He was poisoned with nerve gas in a Malaysian

airport back in 2017. The CIA has not commented on the report.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

[11:50:00] Still ahead, a crash, then the smoke and then flames. New Yorkers look to the skies as a helicopter crashed into a skyscraper. What

authorities are saying about the cause. That story next.


CURNOW: So you could feel the building shake. That's how someone described yesterday's crash landing of a helicopter on a New York

skyscraper. On the streets, understandably faces turning up to watch this scene, fire and smoke 54 stories above the ground. For some, it evoked

flash backs of 2001 and that attack on the World Trade Center.

The pilot was the only person we understand in the helicopter and also the only fatality. The aircraft had been flying erratically in the rain and

fog for several moments. Have a look at these images. Listen to the emergency call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 99 to Manhattan.

FIRE UNIT: Battalion 9

We have what appears to be a helicopter that crashed into the roof. The helicopter is on fire. Crews are gaining access now. We're getting lines

in place. Search is underway.


Brynn Gingras, joins me now with more on the search for answers. Just explain to us where you are in New York and what investigators are saying

is the possible cause of this.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Robyn, well that audio you just plaid for played for your viewers is communications with the fire

department. We don't have many communications with the pilot himself to LaGuardia, the airport nearby that he possibly could have been talking to.

We did just learn from a source though that the pilot who's been named Tim McCormack -- again as you mentioned, the only fatality in this crash -- did

talk to the people on the ground at the heliport that he actually took off. So let me start there. According to a source the heliport on the east side

of Manhattan where he took off. About 11 minutes later is when he crash landed on the roof of this building. What we know between that time is

that he went south and around the lower part of Manhattan and then up its west side before that crash.

We're also learning from a source that he waited a little while because that weather was so bad. He thought he had about a 5-7-minute window to

wait. Then he went up in the air. At some point he made some sort of communication with people on the ground that he needed to come back. And

then a little bit later than that we're learning from a source he said he was losing visibility. He was unsure of where he was. That's the only

communication that leave learned.

And of course, we're going to get more information when a news conference begins here in about a couple of hours with the National Transportation

Safety Board. But still, there are just so many questions about exactly what happened. And unfortunately and maybe the pilot that has those only

answers. We know on the top of this building the debris field was all on fire. Including of course, that helicopter. So investigators are really

going to have a tough time I imagine with this investigation on the top of this building.

[11:55:07] But again, lots of questions. Why did he come across the middle of Manhattan? This is restricted air space because Trump Tower where the

President comes when he's in New York City, is not too far from here. And then also why did he take off in the first place? Again, a lot of

questions, not many answers yet -- Robyn.

OK, Brynn Gingras there. Certainly scared a lot of people in New York yesterday. Thank you so much.

So for your Parting Shots now, a newly emerging sport is bringing thrill seekers high into the French Alps. Reuters reports over the weekend around

20 competitors showed up for an event that is aiming to set a world speed record for traversing a slack line. This man is a physics student. And

yes, they do fall but there fortunately tethered. The slack line was purged 300 meters from the ground and is 800 meters long. The organization

used a drone to string it between the two cliffs. That's absolutely terrifying. I would never do that. Good luck to them.

I'm Robyn Curnow. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks so much for watching. This is CNN.