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Connect the World

Syrian Government Tries to Crush Unrest; Solving the Greek Debt Crisis

Aired June 14, 2011 - 16:00   ET


MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: On the other side of the border, CNN gets a rare view from inside Syria. The world is watching, but so far, not acting.

What makes Syria so different from Libya?

Greek drama amid struggles at home -- we speak to two men from the same family who made very different choices about their future.

And center stage -- a woman steals the spotlight at the first U.S. Republican debate, but it's not whom you might expect.

These stories and more tonight as we connect the world.

First tonight, Syria's determination of steel. Tanks and troops are beginning a sweep of restive areas, trying to crush an anti-government rebellion once and for all. Residents and activists say the troops are pushing into several northern towns near the Turkish and Iraqi borders, expanding a crackdown that began in Jisr al-Shugur. That town emptied out days ago, as civilians afraid for their lives fled by the thousands, many heading for the Turkish border. Now even more Syrians are desperately trying to get out of the way, leaving home with little but the clothes on their backs.

Tonight, we have extremely rare coverage of this crisis from inside Syria. The government refuses to give international journalists official permission to enter the country, but one of our reporters managed to slip across the border from Turkey.

Arwa Damon visited a muddy, makeshift camp where Syrians who had fled their homes shared horrifying stories.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the campsite located just across the Syrian-Turkish border inside Syria. The conditions are so dire that as you've been walking through here, individuals keep coming up to us, wanting to show us just how much the families are struggling to survive.

The women here are visibly upset. They arrived a few days ago from one of the small villages outside of Jisr al-Shugur. And they don't really have much of a shelter, either.

There's children with them that don't even have, you know, proper shoes. They're not able to stay clean. They're filthy. And it's just an incredibly desperate situation.

So the kids are saying that they're here just playing in the water. But this is also being used by the adults to try to bathe themselves, bathe the children and do their washing. And this water is not clean by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's so murky, it looks more like a stream of mud.

This is something of a makeshift pharmacy that's been set up inside the camp, if it can even be called that. Mohammed (ph), who brought most of these medicines, owned the pharmacy itself in Jisr al-Shugur and he piled everything that he possibly could as he was fleeing.

And he's choosing to stay here because the people desperately need his help. He's the only person that they can go to for any number of illnesses that people are suffering from here, especially the children, given the rough weather conditions that they've been having to deal with.

So this woman who just arrived, apparently, we're being told, has high blood pressure and she's diabetic. And those, for example, are two medicines that he quite simply does not have.

This is what this family has to cook on. And you actually don't see this level of so-called luxury at every single small camp site. The tents crude -- a tarp strung between two sticks, various vehicles. You see them strung between the trees, as well. Laundry scattered all over, the families crouching and waiting. And when we've been asking them about what they witnessed, they simply, for the most part, say it was too horrific to put into words. And the next thing they want to know is, when will they be able to go home, because none of them have that answer.

Arwa Damon, CNN, near Jisr al-Shugur in Syria.


RAJPAL: Days have turned into weeks, weeks into months. Yet despite the continuous news of civilian deaths in the Syrian uprising, the United Nations still hasn't taken a stand.


Well, CNN senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, says it's partly due to what he calls a Libya hangover effect.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The social media images of repression in Syria -- more than 1,000 reported deaths.

Protesters outside the United Nations plead for help.

FEMI KHAIRULLA, SYRIAN-AMERICAN PROTESTER: We need the U.N. to take a -- a stronger measure, more pressure on this regime.

ROTH: And yet, after weeks of Syrian government-authorized violence, the United Nations Security Council remains silent.

CARNE ROSS, FORMER. U.N. DIPLOMAT: The Security Council has failed so far to react on Syria, which I think is extraordinary and disappointing.

ROTH: Four European countries on the Security Council are trying.

GERARD ARAUD, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO UN: We do think that the Council has to act. And the resolution that we are -- we have presented, it's simply sending a message.

ROTH: However, China and Russia have their own message to their Council colleagues -- forget about it. Publicly, their ambassadors say any U.N. action only risks destabilizing Syria, a key Middle East nation.

JAMIE METZL, ASIA SOCIETY: China and Russia are concerned that if the U.N. Security Council feels empowered to address the major human rights violations occurring around the world, eventually, the Security Council will focus on issues within China and within the neighborhood of Russia.

ROTH: Russia and China didn't even attend a weekend resolution strategy session. There could be also a Libya hangover effect. Russia and others quickly signed off on a resolution which led to NATO bombing.

ANTONIO PATRIOTA, BRAZILIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Concerns with the implementation of this resolution, I think, are also influencing the way delegations look at other measures that may affect other countries in the region, Syria in particular.

ROTH (on camera): Russia and China have power to veto any resolution they don't like. The U.K. and France have to decide if it's worth it to run a veto gauntlet to highlight their concern over what's happening in Syria. Until then, the Security Council, designed to clean up and stop threats to peace and security, is deadlocked.

Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.


RAJPAL: There are other calculations, as well, that could prevent military intervention in Syria. Unlike Libya, Syria is considered a crucial player in regional affairs.

Our next guest says any foreign intervention risks not only triggering civil war, but also a far broader conflict.

Chris Doyle is the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

He joins us now here in the studio.

Chris, thank you very much for being with us.

What are the, I guess, the negative implications of perhaps intervening in Syria?

CHRIS DOYLE, COUNCIL FOR ARAB-BRITISH UNDERSTANDING: Well, first of all, the Syrians haven't really invited us. Syrians generally do not want to see external intervention. Because when they hear about the United Nations debating this, they're thinking of Iraq, particularly if it was next door. And remember that Iraq has a very similar sectarian and ethnic makeup to Syria. It's very mixed.

And they -- they see that as a very bitter experience. And over a million Iraqis were refugees in Syria. There's close family links, as well. So they understand what went on in Iraq very well.

They also, of course, have bitter experience about what went on in Lebanon for years, a very bitter civil war.


DOYLE: So they're aware of that.

And they look at Libya now and I don't think that a lot of Syrians are particularly impressed with the NATO operations there.

So they're very cautious about foreign intervention and they've also got other issues, the conflict with Israel, as well.

So I think for Syrians, they hope that they can handle the situation internally and actually compel the regime to transition Syria to a democratic state and a more accountable government.

RAJPAL: With all the stories that we have been hearing, that we have been reporting, the brutal crackdown that is taking place within Syria right now, the reports that we are getting, also, from within Syria in terms of over 1,400 people killed, missing. The brutality that we are seeing, as well, that we have heard in terms of the stories that we have been receiving here at CNN.

Can the Western world afford not to go if they've already decided, OK, we're going to go into Libya because of this brutal crackdown by Moammar Gadhafi, how can they afford not to go into Syria?

DOYLE: Well, the West and countries like the United States and Britain can't afford to go everywhere where there is a dictatorial regime. So, of course they're going to have to be seen to be doing something, because people are asking this question.

RAJPAL: But then they look as though...

DOYLE: They're asking that.

RAJPAL: -- they're picking and choosing who they go and save.

DOYLE: Exactly. And I think that was one of the criticisms that was made at the time of the decision to intervene in Libya, the -- well, if you go into Libya, then why not Bahrain?

Why not Syria?

Why not other countries, indeed?

But I think if you look at Syria, first of all, as I said, in the case of Libya, there were some Libyans who were demanding it. That's not the case in Syria. There is no geography that is not controlled by the regime at the moment. So there is no potential for some sort of exclusion zone. It would be very, very difficult for them to actually carry out any military intervention that would be successful, not least, of course, there is also the issue of resources. There's neither the financial nor the military resources really available to do this.

RAJPAL: When you have a U.N. secretary general, though, saying something needs to happen, something needs to stop there in -- in Syria, does this bring into question, then, the -- the authority and the credibility of the U.N. in itself?

DOYLE: Well, the U.N. does have some options. It can certainly try to pass some sanctions, some measure of official coercion. The trouble is, of course, and we know, Russia and China are opposed to this. And they are doing this both for reasons of historic links with Syria. Russia sees Syria in particular as a strategic ally. But also, I think because they're also angry about what's going on in Libya and they feel that the NATO operations have breached Security Council Resolution 1973 and is, therefore, a violation. So they don't like that mission creep.

But I think that they had to answer the question, particularly if we get more stories about the brutality of this regime, as to why they maintain that position.

So I think that if countries in Europe, the United States and elsewhere start putting the pressure on -- on Russia and China, that would be very important. But, also, stop saying that there should just be reform in Syria. There needs to be a real change. And that means that I think it will bring into question whether they finally start saying that Bashar al- Assad himself has to go, because you'll remember, so far, President Obama has talked about reform or get out of the way. Now, the longer this goes on, I think a lot of people will be -- start saying it will be time to call for him to leave.

RAJPAL: All right, Chris Doyle, thank you so much for your time.

DOYLE: Thank you.


Still to come, Greece's economic problems have many considering leaving the country, while others are choosing to say. In six minutes, you'll meet two brothers who chose two very different paths.

And in 20 minutes, you will meet Michele Bachmann, the only current female candidate for U.S. president could become the queen of the conservatives.

Be the first, he sparked a storm online, but should this congressman resign?

We hear what President Obama had to say next.


RAJPAL: Hello.

I'm Monita Rajpal in London. you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Here's a look at some of the other stories we're following for you this hour.

NATO is refusing to rule out bombing ancient roman ruins in Libya if it's proven that Moammar Gadhafi is hiding weapons there. NATO says it will hit targets as necessary to stop threats against civilians, but stresses it can't confirm rebel claims that the Libyan leader may be hiding rocket launchers at Leptis Magna, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Flights are slowly resuming in Australia and New Zealand after ash from a Chilean volcano grounded dozens of flights. Chile's Puyehue Volcano began erupting earlier this month, spewing ash that spread around the globe. Qantas, Virgin Australia say they have no flight cancellations.


SEAN DONOHUE, VIRGIN AIRLINES: There has been no evidence of any ash in the affected areas that we've been flying underneath 27,000 feet.


RAJPAL: Well, travel in Argentina's capital is still at a standstill, as the cloud still hovers over Buenos Aires.

An Australian pilot in Germany is being hailed as a hero after he sacrificed his life to save his passengers. Michael Nerandzic had engine trouble trying to land this blimp. He steered it to just two meters above ground and told his passengers -- his three passengers -- to jump. The blimp then shot up in the air and caught fire and crashed with the pilot still at the controls.

A New York lawmaker says Congressman Anthony Weiner might resign in a few days. That's the word from Carolyn McCarthy, although she didn't say where she got that information. Last week, Weiner admitted to sending lewd Internet messages to women. Now, U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing in on the issue.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately, this is going to be a decision for him and his constituents. I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign because public service is exactly that, it's a service to the public.


RAJPAL: Well, on Sunday, Weiner announced he was taking a leave of absence from Congress to seek treatment.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, move over Sarah Palin -- a new woman steals the stage, as Republicans battle it out at a shot for the presidency. That's in 15 minutes.

Before that, we'll hear from two brothers separated by Greece's economic crisis. Hear their stories next.


RAJPAL: Well, it already has the lowest credit rating in the world, below Ecuador, Jamaica and Pakistan. Now, eurozone ministers are trying to make sure that Greece's problems don't turn from bad to worse.

They've been meeting in Brussels to agree to the terms of a second bailout and resolve a growing row over how to avoid a damaging default.

So there are few options. There are no easy answers to explain or to really come to terms with the situation. But the options are the Germans want the private sector to take a hit. They want to restructure the existing debt by allowing investors to exchange old bonds for new ones. And that would give Greece a chance to pay up, but would involve losses for private creditors.

Another option is from the European central bank. And they say that the German plan could actually make the crisis worse and signal a move toward default status.

Now, another option that we're seeing there -- sorry about that -- is being floated by the European Commission. They want banks to voluntarily roll over their existing Greek bonds and then replace them with longer-term ones. And they say that won't risk creditors lower Greeks' -- Greek's status as well as giving the country -- giving more time to pay up.

Well, Frederik Pleitgen is in Berlin.

And earlier, we asked him which option is gaining favor across the Eurozone.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's probably going to be a mix of all those positions, Monita. In the end, what you're going to have is you're going to have one where the stress is going to be that, yes, they want the private sector, the private investors, the private debt holders of Greek debt bonds to be involved in all of this, but on a voluntary basis.

However, when we say voluntary basis, it is, in essence, what we're saying is that the European bodies are saying, yes, this is all voluntarily, but we really think it would be a bad idea if you're not going to take part in this.

But the key to this is that they are going to say that, yes, we would like private participation, we would like you to buy additional Greek debt bonds, longer-term debt bonds to keep Greece afloat. Because one of the things that they don't want to do is they don't want to extend these Greek debt bonds and make it look as though Greece can't pay back the money, because that would probably trigger something like a Greek default or what some would say is basically Greece not being able to pay that money back. And, therefore, you could have those very bad repercussions that so many people want to avoid -- Monita.

RAJPAL: And you mentioned the word there, Fred, default.

So why are people so worried about a default?

The biggest fear is that investors suffering from losses from Greece would dump bonds in other struggling countries. One of those countries that we're talking about, Ireland, as well as Portugal and Spain, possibly creating a domino effect and laving big question marks over the survival of the euro.

Another country that plays a huge factor in all of this is Germany, as well as France. The central banks in those countries could take a hit. So could their counterparts in the United States and their investors, which include some American money market funds. As a result, some of the -- some of the -- the -- have compared a Greek default to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, when traders panicked and offloaded risky stocks and bonds, creating a global financial crisis.

So the question, I guess, Fred, is that how likely something like this would actually happen?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think one of the points that you make is very interesting and it's probably key here, that's the fact that Lehman Brothers has already happened. And that's, of course, something that is very, very different than late 2008, when people really didn't see the Lehman Brothers disaster, if you will, coming.

Now, people have had time to proper for this. They know that a scenario like this has happened before. They've had time to unload a lot of those very risky bonds that really sort of proper for what's going to happen right now.

However, if, indeed, this were to happen, if, indeed, Greece were to default, certainly there would be very big economic repercussions. And you can ask people here in Germany. They say that they believe that their own economic recovery would be in jeopardy, the Eurozone's economic recovery would be in jeopardy, possibly even the world's economic recovery could be in jeopardy.

Now, the other big question that people are asking is, could the euro survive something like this?

Could the euro survive if one of its member nations went into a default?

And at least one major banker, the head of the German Central Bank, says, yes, he believes that the Eurozone could survive this.

But again, it would lead to major issues across the Eurozone. It would lead, possibly, to a lot of the economic momentum that the Eurozone has gained to be lost, at least in the shorter to medium range term.

So this is certainly something that the folks in the European Union, that the leaders, the heads of state, also, the finance ministers, they don't want that to happen. So we're looking for them to try and find some sort of solution to all of this if they can -- Monita.


RAJPAL: Fred Pleitgen in Berlin.

While Greece's European partners try to plot its future, back home, its citizens are struggling to deal with the present, from tax rises to job cuts, life is far from easy.

For some, the only way to survive is to leave.

Earlier, I spoke to two brothers from Athens. After two years searching for a job and 34 unsuccessful interviews, Vassilis Likkas decided to pack his bags and move to Belgium, where he finally found work. His brother, Stefanos, already had a job and stayed behind.

And earlier, I asked Stefanos what daily life is like there.


STEFANOS LIKKAS, WORKS IN ATHENS: People's income has been diminished to day after day. And there are new measures and new taxes imposed monthly. And those who do have an income, they -- they feel the stress because they -- they can't handle their lives the way they were used to. And those who are unemployed depend totally on their families and welfare, which isn't much in Greece. It never has been.

But the -- the -- the interesting thing right now is that people are getting more anxious every day.

RAJPAL: Do you believe, Vassilis, that you've made a lucky escape?

Do you hold out much hope for the Greek government to actually pull it together?

VASSILIS LIKKAS, LEFT GREECE TO FIND WORK IN BELGIUM: Definitely, I think that I must escape the whole situation. And I'm really not so optimistic for the future, because I don't see any real serious effort, any planning, any actual project management on behalf of the Greek government. So I'm not really looking to -- to a big dramatic change. But we are all hoping for this.

RAJPAL: How...

V. LIKKAS: I don't see it happening again.

RAJPAL: Is there a real sense of disappointment that you feel when you -- now that you're on the outside looking in?

Do you feel a real sense of disappointment in your country?

V. LIKKAS: I -- I feel bitter, first of all, because I -- as I already told you, I found a job here after two days of looking for a job. And it took me two years to -- to actually say that's enough, I'm leaving Greece.

And I'm really disappointed. But I'm -- I also I also hope for the future that something will change, people will -- right now is scared...


V. LIKKAS: -- but also are angry. So it's a -- it's a balance right now.

RAJPAL: We're seeing that anger on the streets there of Athens and other parts of Greece, as well, Stefanos. People are striking. People are really taking their frustration out on the government.

But there are those who are saying, actually, what choice does the Greek government have at this point?

They're in a really difficult position. They're stuck between a rock and a hard place.

S. LIKKAS: You know, that's true. And I don't think, anyways, that there are any real political solutions right now. But the government has been giving a very bad image to the people and perhaps abroad.

But for the people here, it's been very bad. There has been no resolution, no impetus for positive measures, which could help the economy grow again and come out of this situation.

RAJPAL: Stefanos, I guess we could say that you're one of the lucky ones.

But what about your friends?

Are they in a similar position?

S. LIKKAS: Well, not really. Most of my friends from my childhood are struggling with unemployment. And they have been changing jobs all the time. And most of the time, they end up losing it because shops are closing down and businesses are hiring all the time.

RAJPAL: Vassilis, what's your worst fear, do you believe, when you look at your -- your family is still in Greece.

What's your worst fear at this point?

V. LIKKAS: As I said before, it's the anger of the people, the ordinary people. I don't know how far it can get. So I don't know if my family will be able to sustain themselves after one or two years. Of course, I don't want to sound dramatic, but in the last decades, we have seen an excessive waste of money, of resources. And I don't see anything really changing up to today.

So we cannot lose any more time or money.

RAJPAL: And in a situation like this, Stefanos, many people obviously, they -- they read a lot. They understand exactly what's going on within their own country and many have their opinions in terms of how it can be fixed.

What do you think are the options for the Greek government right now?

S. LIKKAS: Well, my personal opinion is that it should drastically cut public expenses, because what they've been doing up until now is increase taxes for everyone, whereas the part of the economy that has failed has been the government sector. And...

RAJPAL: And you'd be OK with that, with a cut in public spending?

You'd be OK to live like that?

S. LIKKAS: Well, I -- I -- I believe that as soon as the government cuts back, the private sector may come forward and fill whatever vacuum will be left there.

RAJPAL: And, Vassilis, do you think that other countries within the European Union should be, perhaps, more aggressive in terms of how they help Greece?

V. LIKKAS: It depends how -- what do you mean by aggressive?

RAJPAL: Well, at least more forthcoming with their help.

V. LIKKAS: As I said, it's an internal issue, first of all, for Greece. We should try to solve this issue without any external interference. However, things have gone too far right now. So what people should try to do is realize that we have a responsibility as a nation, also. So some measures are really required to be taken in order to see a better future...


V. LIKKAS: -- because right now, people is not actually seeing their part of the blame. They believe that all that is because of outsiders. It is not always the case.


RAJPAL: Stefanos Likkas and his brother Vassilis, speaking to me earlier today.

For Stefanos, life in Greece shows no sign of getting any easier, with a general strike planned for tomorrow. As for the country's future, well, that could become clearer next Monday, when Eurozone ministers resume their discussions over a second bailout.

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, the battle for the keys to the White House -- Republican hopefuls take the stage. We'll bring you more on the only woman to step into the ring so far and ask, does she have what it takes to beat Barack Obama?

Later in the show, we'll take you behind the scenes of the third largest container port in Europe, as we kick off our new Gateway series.

And you don't want to miss the man who introduced us to the dark side. We ask your Connector of the Day what's next in Star Wars' saga.


RAJPAL: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. Let's get a check of the headlines this hour.

The Syrian military is beginning a sweep of restive areas. Residents and activists say troops are pushing into several northern towns near the Turkish and Iraqi borders, expanding a crackdown that began in Jisr al- Shugur.

Iraqi forces have regained control of a government building in Baquba after a shootout with militants. The insurgents stormed inside earlier today, holding people hostage for hours. Twelve people were killed, including four attackers.

EU finance ministers have been holding an emergency meeting in Brussels. Their focus, buy Greece more time so that it doesn't default on its debts. This comes a day after Standard and Poor's gave Greece the world's lowest credit rating.

A source tells CNN that former US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will officially join the presidential race next week, adding to a crowded Republican party field for the 2012 election.

Those are the headlines this hour.

So, who came out on top? That's the big question swirling around the US political blogosphere after Monday's presidential debate. Republican hopefuls took to the stage in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a presidential primary next year.

Their message? "President Barack Obama must be defeated, and I'm the one to do it." Well, they mostly laid off each other, preferring to focus their criticism on the man they hope to beat in 2012.

Well, the only woman in that group was Michele Bachmann. She join -- Joe Johns has her story.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tea Party darling, anti- Obama fire-breather, now Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is ready for an even bigger microphone on an even bigger political stage.

MICHELE BACHMANN, REPUBLICAN US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe we need to send a change of address form to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


JOHNS: With Sarah Palin still undecided, Bachmann may be the only woman among a field of male contenders. She's known for tough talk.

BACHMANN: The powers that be here in Washington, DC, specifically in the White House, have been wrong about a few things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've been wrong about everything.

BACHMANN: Wrong about everything. Is that it?

JOHNS: While seeking support, the 55-year-old Minnesota Republican will tout her ideology and biography. She and husband Marcus have five biological children. She's been a foster mother to 23 others.

Bachmann is chairwoman of the House Tea Party caucus and often rails against excessive government spending and what critics call "Obamacare." But her message is not always on message, like this gaff from New Hampshire.

BACHMANN: You're the state where the shot was heard 'round the world at Lexington and Congress.

JOHNS: That Revolutionary War battle actually happened in Massachusetts. Bachmann later admitted her mistake, though she blamed media bias for widely reporting it.

And this from Iowa about slavery and the men who wrote the nation's founding documents.

BACHMANN: The very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.

JOHNS: Not exactly. Many of the founders owned slaves. And delivering Tea Party reaction to the last State of the Union address, she appeared to look off camera. Blame a two-camera mishap. But that didn't stop "Saturday Night Live" from poking fun.

KRISTIN WIIG AS MICHELLE BACHMANN, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Unfortunately, that response was marred by some technical difficulties, and it seems that its core message was not properly conveyed. Accordingly, I have asked for this time tonight in order to try again. So here goes.


JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


RAJPAL: Well, for more on the reaction to the debate, we're joined by Bill Schneider. He was a CNN senior political analyst for almost two decades, and "The Boston Globe" describes him as "the Aristotle of American politics."

So, Aristotle, does Sarah Palin -- does she going to be -- is she going to be worried?

BILL SCHNEIDER, RESIDENT SCHOLAR, THIRD WAY: Well, Michele Bachmann has certainly stolen the spotlight, and she has a certain appeal because she's not Sarah Palin. She's less controversial than Sarah Palin because she's less well-known than Sarah Palin. And I think Sarah Palin's bus trip is one way of saying, "Hey, don't forget about me."

RAJPAL: The interesting thing about this debate was that there really wasn't some consensus or some idea of where the Republicans stand on various issues --


SCHNEIDER: That is their message, and they all agreed on that, and they didn't get into many fights among themselves. I think it left the race more or less where it was, with Mitt Romney the presumed front-runner. And I think it really strengthened his position.

He's playing a different game than all the other Republican candidates. They're all squabbling with each other to prove they're the most conservative. They're all appealing to the Tea Party constituency, which Michele Bachmann has a strong lead in right now.

What Barack -- what Mitt Romney is saying is, "I have a separate credential. I'm a turn-around artist. I can turn this economy around." His is an economic message, and that is very appealing to a lot of voters who are Republicans and even Democrats right now.

RAJPAL: Are all of these -- or any of these, I should say, these candidates, are any of them known on a national level when it comes to the American diaspora, do they really capture what the Americans, those who want to vote for Republicans, capture what they want?

SCHNEIDER: What they want is a good economy. What they want is someone who can deliver what Barack Obama --


SCHNEIDER: -- if things begin to show serious improvement.

Right now, Mitt Romney, I think, has the sharply-focused message that says "I can deliver it, I've been a businessman, I turned around the Winter Olympics in 2002. I'm the guy who knows how to get things done."

You know, he's a business executive. You know how many business executives have been elected president? Two. And they were both named Bush. So, he was saying he has the credentials to do the job.

RAJPAL: The interesting thing is, though, there seemed to be such polarizing figures in American politics, there doesn't seem to be one who really actually unifies the American voice. There was thought that, perhaps, Barack Obama was that person, but it seems that some polls are indicating that that's not the case anymore.

SCHNEIDER: Well, yes. Under Barack Obama, the country's even more divided. We have had four presidents in a row who promised to united the country.

The first George Bush promised to be kinder and gentler, he lasted one term. Bill Clinton was a third-way, a new Democrat, but he ended up getting impeached.

George W. Bush, when he declared himself a candidate, he said, "I'm going to be a uniter, not a divider." He took a divided country and divided it even more.

And then, Barack Obama said, "there's no liberal America or conservative America, there's only the United States of America." And look what happened.

Four presidents in a row said they could unite the country. All of them have failed. But Americans desperately want a uniter, and they're hoping to find one somewhere in either the Republican Party or hope that Obama can finally deliver.

RAJPAL: They want a uniter, and they want jobs. Bill "Aristotle" Schneider, thank you so much for that.

Up next, it's a transit hub for goods from across the entire planet. Meet the men who make sure one of Europe's busiest container ports flows smoothly. Our new Gateway series begins right after this short break.


RAJPAL: Just about anything you've touched, driven, or eaten likely came through one of the world's big transportation hubs. They not only get things to you, they fuel global commerce, and that's why we're taking a close look at these hubs in our new series The Gateway.

Now, you're probably familiar with the air traffic controllers that keep airports running smoothly but, at the world's ports, there's a job that's just as important. That's the harbor master. Becky Anderson went to Hamburg in Germany to speak with the team that keeps one of Europe's busiest ports flowing.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than eight centuries, Hamburg has prospered off the back of its port. Wherever you walk, you'll find evidence of its rich maritime history.

Even the tourist boats head straight across the river to marvel at the container ships unloading their cargo.

ANDERSON (on camera): Some cities have ports. Hamburg, though, is a port. Its city center spills into the harbor in full view of its container terminals and their industrial cranes.

ANDERSON (voice-over): There are mountains of coal and iron ore, giant warehouses hide all manner of imports and exports. Last year, 121 million tons of goods were transported on the Elbe River linking Africa, the Americas, and the Far East with Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe.

It's an international cruise ship terminal, and the entrance to a vast network of inland waterways.

JORG POLLMANN, CHIEF HARBOR MASTER: Hamburg is the biggest German port. Hamburg is one of the biggest European and one of the biggest worldwide ports.

And you can see if you take a look around over here, there is from CMA CGM, the biggest French company, a huge container vessel on the one side. On the other side, you see the "Yang Ming Utmost," that's a Korean company which has a vessel over here.

We have liner connections here form the Port of Hamburg to all over the world.

ANDERSON: Traffic is heavy in more ways than one. 12,000 sea-going vessels enter the harbor each year.

ANDERSON (on camera): Making sure they all dock safely is the job of the harbor master.

ANDERSON (voice-over): In 1975, Jorg Pollmann began his career as a sea cadet on cargo ships. Many adventures and 36 years later, he is Hamburg's harbor master and guardian of this bustling river channel.

Infrastructure, maintenance and, yes, traffic control.

POLLMANN: Here in the Port of Hamburg, we have 13 radio stations. That means all the area where the sea-going vessels operate is covered with radio stations.

Additionally, there is a transponder system called Automatic Identification System. As soon as a vessel is coming into German waters, it's identified.

ANDERSON: To reach Hamburg from the North Sea, ships must negotiate 110 kilometers or 80 miles of the River Elbe. Where the river meets the port it's the Vessel Traffic Service, or VTS, that makes sure that noting is left to chance.

ANDERSON (on camera): Like air traffic control at an airport, the VTS station controls the movements of every sea-going vessel in these waters.

ANDERSON (voice-over): And that includes the allocation of space along 320 ship berths and 40 kilometers of dockside walls.


POLLMANN: With this system, we see exactly which vessels are on their way to the port, which vessels are shifting within the port, and which vessels leave the port.

The huge vessels they are sailing, it was in tighter windows. It also means we have to check, of course, if the vessel was in the schedule.

All of this information is given here, and we can see here from this IT system.

ANDERSON: Moored alongside the dock, a ship's crew may have been at sea for many months.

Since it was founded in 1986, the Duckdalben Seaman's Mission has provided a home from home for some 650,000 seafarers from 161 countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you want a glass for the beer, or -- ?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't need one.


ANDERSON: Its founder and manager is Jan Oltmanns.

JAN OLTMANNS, MANAGER, DUCKDALBEN SEAMAN'S MISSION: Here in Duckdalben, we have 50 percent Filipinos, and then a lot of seafarers from China, from Russia, from Ukraine, and from Indonesia and India. And Europeans.

ANDERSON (on camera): How long are they generally in port? Sort of on shore, as it were?

OLTMANNS: Oh, that is depending which kind of cargo they have. And now you can say, OK, a big container ship with 14,000 boxes, they are proud to get it out of the port in 22 hours.

ANDERSON: Twenty-two hours?


ANDERSON: So these guys aren't here for weeks?


ANDERSON: They were in the past, though.

OLTMANNS: In the past, it was completely different. But now, they have -- sometimes they have no chance to get off the ship at all.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Mong (ph) is from China. He's typical of the sailors who welcome a little hospitality on dry land.

ANDERSON (on camera): You arrived here yesterday, you're leaving, I think, tomorrow?

MONG, CHINESE SAILOR: Tomorrow, yes. Tomorrow morning, 6:00.

ANDERSON: That's a quick turnaround.

MONG: Your container ships always like this.

ANDERSON: It's a big one, yes?

MONG: Yes, very big, 19,600 TU.

ANDERSON: My goodness, my goodness. So, what do you think of this place?

MONG: I think this place is very good.


MONG: First here in Europe, I think that it's better here.

ANDERSON: Well played, well played.

MONG: Thank you.

OLTMANNS: Communication is the main thing. Communication with lots of people at home. So, telephone cards, telephones, Skype, computers, access to the internet. And then, they a little bit relax.

On the ship, you shrink. And when you go to the Seaman's Mission, you grow.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Growth is also on the mind of Jorg Pollmann, the harbor master. The port has ambitious plans for expansion. These include a fifth container terminal and an upgrade of the VTS station.

Hamburg, though, is an inland river port. The real threat to its future standing will come in the form of even larger container ships.

POLLMANN: Let's say two, three years ago, the normal vessels which were pretty much operating, let's say, form European ports to the Far East had a length of 330 meters. Then it was lengthening to 350 meters. Actually, the biggest ones which we have here in port have a length of 370 meters.

There are a lot of questions. What will be the future? What kind of vessels will come to Hamburg?

ANDERSON: It may give the harbor master a few sleepless nights, but this port is only going to get busier. Becky Anderson, CNN, Hamburg.


RAJPAL: When you look at the landscape of the world's busiest ports, you see stacks and stacks of cargo containers. They may not seem extraordinary, but on Thursday's episode of The Gateway, you'll see how these steel boxes revolutionized the shipping industry.

Still to come, we connect you with a Hollywood heavyweight. The creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, is your Connector of the Day, straight ahead.


RAJPAL: Welcome back. You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Monita Rajpal in for Becky Anderson.

Tonight's Connector of the Day has been a force in Hollywood for more than three decades. He is the man who brought us some of the most famous characters in the world, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader. Becky Anderson connects us with blockbuster pioneer George Lucas.


ANDERSON (voice-over): They hailed from a galaxy far, far way. Droids.


ANDERSON: Jedi and Wookiees. But these rebel fighters battling an evil empire have become a firm part of our earthly culture.


ANDERSON: Such is the legacy of the Star Wars saga and creator George Lucas. It's become the richest movie franchise in the world. Its brand and spinoffs generating more than $20 billion worldwide.

Lucas has forged a reputation as a special effects giant, not just on the silver screen. He's just teamed up with Disney to bring fans even closer to the action with a high-tech 3D revamp of the Star Wars theme park ride.

I spoke to George Lucas and Disney executive Tom Fitzgerald as they prepared to take this latest intergalactic mission to the public.

GEORGE LUCAS, FILM DIRECTOR: I think the most amazing thing about it is that there are 50 different environments that you can go through. You only go through two or three at a time, so every time you take the ride, it's a different ride. So, it's a different tour every time you get on the ride.

ANDERSON (on camera): Tom, you've described George as the Walt Disney of this generation. What do you believe his legacy will be, my love?

TOM FITZGERALD, EXECUTIVE VP AND SENIOR CREATIVE EXECUTIVE, WALT DISNEY IMAGINEERING: Well, he's obviously created stories and films that have touched people around the world for decades and continue to.

And for us at Walt Disney Imagineering, we are in a job of putting people into the stories that they know and love. So, for us, the idea of working with George and being able to bring Star Wars to live in three dimensions for our park was a dream come true.

ANDERSON: Angelo Vincente, one of our viewers from Puerto Rico, has a question for George. "Can we expect you to return to the director's chair anytime soon, maybe even directing a different theme?" What's your thoughts on that?

LUCAS: Well, I'm working on a -- producing a film right now called "Red Tails," which is about African-American fighter pilots during World War II.

And when I'm finished that, I will probably move away from the Star Wars world and everything and do my own personal kinds of movies, which I have been trying to get to for 30 years, now.

ANDERSON: All right, before you do that, just humor me, if you will. When you think back to the Star Wars franchise, what do you remember with most affection?

LUCAS: Whenever you create something, you obviously love it. If you don't, it's a really, really, really bad marriage. And I've always loved Star Wars. I loved the idea when I came up with it.

It was very different than the kind of movies I'd been making, but I enjoyed making it, and then it sort of took over and -- in all different kinds of ways. I had no idea that was going to happen in the beginning.

But there's a lot of different aspects of it that have been quite amusing and fun to be a part of. Like amusement park rides, and it's -- I really enjoy it. Now, I'm working on television shows, "Clone Wars" and another show called "Star Wars Detours."

It just gives me a chance to be creative in a lot of different fields, a lot of different ways, and enjoy myself.

ANDERSON: I know that, George, originally you had trouble, you struggled to get Star Wars done. So, Tom, when you reflect on what George has done, does that seem quite remarkable to you now? And George, perhaps you'd back up what Tom says.

FITZGERALD: Well, I've read a little bit of the saga of the films, and it's extraordinary. Obviously, what it takes to get a motion picture on that scale even produced --

LUCAS: Right.

FITZGERALD: And then to get the other two produced. I think what's wonderful for us at Imagineering is that the films that he has created have touched people, so many people, around the world and continue to.

We can't tell a story the way George can. We don't have the -- it's a different medium, a whole different medium. We have four minutes, we don't have two hours, so we have to extract aspirational or the fantasy physical piece that you want to experience, to fly, to soar, and bring that to life.

So, that's been the fun for us, is getting to play off these wonderful films and bring them to life in a different medium, in a different way for guests.


LUCAS: No matter how you do this, when you're making movies, for some reason, anyway, it's very hard to get them off the ground. People just don't want to invest in something they don't understand. And unfortunately, except for the sequels, I've been making movies that nobody understands.

That's easy afterwards, but even now, if I do animated TV shows, or I'm doing this film "Red Tails," which I'm working on, it's very hard to get people to say, "Well, yes, that's a great idea. Let's do that." I think when -- or even "American Graffiti" or any of these films, it's just very hard to get them off the ground.

And even with Disney and Star Tours, in the beginning, the idea was so revolutionary for Disney to go outside their own little kingdom, which they did not like to do, they didn't -- the idea of doing an outside license, of having somebody else do something, it was just sort of an anathema to the way the whole culture was here.

But we broke that barrier, and once we did, now they're buying up other companies, they're doing -- they're much more open to actually having other creative people who have created properties come and be part of their family.

So, it's a funny thing, which is if you're doing stuff, even for myself, even today, I still can't get a lot of things done because they just won't do it because they're too far out.


RAJPAL: Filmmaker George Lucas and Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, there, talking to Becky Anderson about how they're keeping the Star Wars saga alive and thrilling.

Tomorrow night, rebuilding at Ground Zero. Architect Daniel Libeskind designed the blueprint for America's most famous project. Find out he's turning the site into a symbol of life and liberty.

To find out more about your upcoming Connectors, head to Remember, this is the part of the show where you get to ask the questions.

In tonight's Parting Shots, quite simply a plane crazy journey. You're looking at a see-through plane. That's right, it is completely transparent.

The futuristic design was unveiled by Airbus to give passengers a vision of things to come in about 40 years. Maybe not ideal for those of you who don't like flying, but just imagine the view.

I'm Monita Rajpal. Thanks for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break.