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CONNECT THE WORLD
Search For MH370 Entering New Phase; 683 Sentenced To Death In Egypt; Kharkiv Mayor Shot In Back While Cycling; Children Claim Torture In Egypt; Outrage Over Video of South Korea Ferry Captain's Rescue; Tornado Outbreak in US; US Weather Outlook; NBA Racism Probe; Russia Responds to US Sanctions; MERS Cases Spike in Saudi Arabia; Parting Shots: View from Above
Aired April 28, 2014 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Freedom of speech silenced as hundreds more Muslim Brotherhood members are sentenced to death. We'll take a look at how the clamp down on rights is affecting all of Egypt.
Also ahead, new sanctions target Russia for its action in Ukraine. We're going to examine whether they're enough to stop this unrest in the east of the country.
And South Korea's most vilified man: the video that further implicates the captain at the heart of the ferry disaster fallout.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.
ANDERSON: A very good evening. It's just after 7:00 here in the UAE. A dramatic ruling in Egypt. A judge has recommended the death sentence for hundreds of supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
Now a total of 683 people could be executed, including the group's leader. The same judge handled a second case, 529 supporters were sentenced to death last month.
A final capital punishment ruling has been upheld for 37 of those, the others face life in prison. All the defendants can still appeal.
But the court also banned the activities of a movement that paved the way for the 2011 revolution and took down the government of Hosni Mubarak.
Let's get straight to CNN's Reza Sayah who joins us from Cairo.
As sentencing hundreds more Muslim Brotherhood members to death now a pro- democracy group are banned. What's the message here, Reza?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the message by authorities here is clear that they're not going to tolerate any group that doesn't stand by their narrative and the current path that this leadership is taking. But the numbers today are just absolutely shocking. And what astonishing is that these death sentences were handed down after a hearing that most accounts lasted less than an hour.
To put this in perspective, last month this same judge sentenced 529 defendants to death. Rights groups immediately said that was the largest number of death sentences handed out at the same time anywhere in recent memory. Today, seemingly, this judge has outdone himself, sentencing 683 defendants to death.
All of these defendants accused of being members of the Muslim Brother hood and taking part in protests (inaudible) back in August. They're accused of attacking at least two police stations in the protest two of the police officers were allegedly killed.
Again, much of this hearing lasted less than an hour, according to observers, international journalists were not allowed to observe the hearing. Most of the defendants were not in attendance either. They were tired in absentia, many still insist that they were not even present at the time of the protests in August.
What happens now, Becky, is that these death sentences will be referred to the grand mufti here in Egypt. He is Egypt's ultimate religious authority. He will either reject or approve the death sentences. It is quite likely that most of these death sentences will not be carried out.
Even so, astonishing, unprecedented numbers today with 683 people being sentenced to death.
ANDERSON: Yeah, what a day.
All right, the crackdown. Thank you, Reza, on the Muslim Brotherhood comes just four weeks before the country, of course, goes to the polls.
In about 10 minutes, Reza examines the youngest victims of Egypt's military rule -- beaten, broken and largely silenced until now. We're going to hear from the Egyptian initiative for personal rights on suppression sweeping the country. And we'll ask whether America is helping to fund those human rights abuses. That all coming up this hour here on Connect the World.
Well, we're going to turn now to the latest from Ukraine. And some news just coming into CNN. Ukraine's defense ministry says one soldier has died in the country's Donetsk region. A statement blames a homemade bomb that went off in what it calls a daily check of barricades.
Now I'm going to get more on this as it comes in. Meantime, the crisis in Ukraine escalating on the ground. The United States announcing new economic sanctions targeting Russia. President Barack Obama says these sanctions could include Russian government officials and companies linked to President Vladimir Putin. For all intents and purposes, what we're talking about here is Putin's inner circle.
Well, meantime on the ground, the mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is in critical condition after being shot in the back. It's not known who was responsible.
And pro-Russia separatists in Slovyansk have released one of the European observers that they have been holding. They say he was released for medical reasons.
A lot going on on the ground, a lot going on in the geopolitical sphere. Let's get more details on what is going on. Phil Black joining us from Kiev.
And let's start with this Kharkiv mayor, a leading figure, I know, in the ex-president Yanukovych's party. What do we know of the attack and who might have been responsible for that?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, Gennady Kernes was cycling in Kharkiv this morning when he was shot in the back at a distance. And he's now in a pretty bad way in hospital. He has undergone surgery. But doctors say for the next few days it is touch and go, it will not be clear for some days yet whether or not he will survive this.
It's significant, because it's the closest thing we've seen to an attempted political assassination in this crisis so far, but also because of what this man has come to represent and what he's been standing for, particularly since the revolution which changed the government here. You're right in saying he (inaudible) --
ANDERSON: All right, we are experiencing technical difficulties. Let's see if we can keep him up for you.
It sounds as if we've lost him for the time being. If we can get him back, we will.
Of course wanted to continue to discuss not just the mayor being shot, but the sanctions, of course, as well. But also we're going to talk to our emerging markets editor John Defterios about those sanctions imposed by the U.S. More to come from the EU promised on Tuesday. So more on that a little later in the show.
The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 is entering a new phase. There has been no sign of the plane since it vanished 52 days ago with 239 people on board.
Anna Coren reports some parts of the search will expand while others will be suspended.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The search for MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean has moved into a new phase, according to the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot who made the announcement at Parliament House here in Canberra in the nation's capital.
Well, Australia has been leading the search operation for the past six weeks after the plane disappeared on the 8 of March, but has yet to find any debris.
Weeks ago, the prime minister was optimistic in finding the plane after authorities detected four pings, which they believed were coming from the black boxes. Mr. Abbott now admits there is a level of frustration and disappointment that nothing has been discovered describing this as the most difficult search in human history.
But despite the obstacles, he says Australia will not give up searching for the missing plane.
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: It is highly unlikely at this stage that we will find any aircraft debris on the ocean surface. Therefore, we are moving from the current phase to a phase which is focused on searching the ocean floor over a much larger area.
COREN: The expanded search zone now now cover 60,000 square kilometers and likely be carried out by private contractors instead of the military. It will begin in the next few weeks. It could take six to eight months to complete, costing Australia alone $60 million with ever nation bearing their own costs.
Well, different submersibles will be used that can go deeper and cover a wider area. Australian authorities are still convinced they are looking in the right area fir the remains of the Boeing 777 and the 239 people who were on board.
Anna Coren, CNN, Canberra.
ANDERSON: All right. Let's get you back to Ukraine where I know we've reestablished with Phil Black.
And Phil, you were talking about this attack on a mayor in Kharkiv and what we know of who might be responsible for that briefly.
BLACK: Yeah, Becky. It's unclear who may have done this. We don't know for certain that it is tied to the pro-Ukrainian, pro-Russia divide that is splitting that region of the country to such a degree. But this is a significant. And it's likely that it is, because this is a figure that has very much stood against pro-Russian influence in recent weeks.
Across the eastern region of Ukraine, we've seen pro-Russian forces consolidate control in big cities like Donetsk and smaller towns like Slovyansk, but so far in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city, they haven't been able to get a foothold. We've seen rallies. We've seen attempts at occupying pro-government buildings, but because this local mayor and the local authorities have stood with considerable determination against allowing that to happen, it hasn't happened to this point.
So if he is now driven from office because of serious injury or worse, it raises the possibility that perhaps the local authority's ability, their resolve to keep out this pro-Russian influence, it could potentially decline. If this northeastern region around Kharkiv were to fall to pro- Russian forces, that would be a considerable blow to the central government here in Kiev, Becky.
ANDERSON: And apologies for my pronunciation of the town's name. Of course, Phil Black much closer to it than I will ever be.
Phil, thank you on that point.
What of these additional U.S. Treasury measures, these sanctions that we've seen imposed by the U.S. on Russia today. To all intents and purposes, this as far as I can tell, is the first time we've seen a real sort of gloves off stance by the U.S. with threats of more to come. How is this going down in Ukraine?
BLACK: Well, Ukraine is grateful for as much international pressure on Russia as there can possibly be, because Ukraine knows that it is the only chance it has to stand up to Russia. It's got no chance to do it on its own, either economically or militarily.
So this, from Ukraine's point of view, is a positive step.
But as you mentioned there, the United States is already pointing to the next level of sanctions, the potential for implementing broader economic sanctions that would target an entire sector of the Russian economy. And that's what Ukraine would really like to see, because that's what would really do significant damage to the Russian economy.
ANDERSON: All right, with that again apologies for the technical problems we are having. It's worth going when we can get there. And we will continue to do so.
Still to come this hour on Connect the World, the U.S. and the European Union, as we've said, strike back at Moscow with new sanctions. We're going to take a closer look at the economic toll this crisis is having on Russia.
And a little later, what this menacing dark cloud left behind the U.S. state of Arkansas did. We'll take you live to the town of Mayflower. That, coming up.
ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back. We are in Abu Dhabi. It is 13 minutes past 7:00.
Now, the United States has just announced in the past few hours new economic sanctions against seven Russian officials and 17 companies with close ties to President Vladimir Putin's inner circle. Who is on that list and how is this ongoing crisis affecting Russia's economy?
Well, CNN's emerging markets editor John Defterios joining me at the Global Exchange.
And let's start with that list, who makes that hazardous grade, as it were?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORREPSONDENT: Well, this is all dribbling out in the last 30 minutes, as you know. You comb through the list of companies, the 17 companies, not well known companies to the world community, but those holding companies that are very close to Vladimir Putin, that list of seven individuals is quite interesting, because three of them are well known for those of us who know Russia.
First and foremost is the head of Rosneft, the CEO of the largest traded oil company in the world right now. It's Igor Sechin. He's part, Becky, of that inner circle, the hometown of Vladimir Putin is St. Petersburg. Putin has been very close to Rosneft and Igor Sechin, building the largest oil company in the world.
This is where it gets interesting, you know, Rosneft has partnerships with Exxon Mobil in the north Arctic. They have partnerships with Shell in Sakhalin, and BP owns nearly 20 percent of the company.
So if this goes to the next stage, which would be stage three, really tough financial sanctions, they're going to call to question these oil companies' stakes and projects that they have underway.
President Obama today during his press conference in the Philippines said this can be classified as stage two. He gave a hint of what stage three of financial sanctions could sound like and look like. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These sanctions represent the next stage in a calibrated effort to change Russia's behavior. We don't yet know whether it's going to work. And that's why the next phase, if in fact we saw further Russian aggression towards Ukraine, could be sectoral sanctions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEFTERIOS: Sectoral sanctions, so that's a hint towards the financial sector, in particular.
What is evolving here, it's very clear, the European Union won't play as heavy as a hand here, Becky, because they have those very tight energy dependent relationships with Russian gas. Number two, they have a lot of business at stake, it's about a half a trillion dollars of trade, but the United States can really kind of tighten that noose when it comes to financial sanctions and that's what it sounds like right now.
ANDERSON: And it really feels like the gloves are beginning to come off. We've been talking about actions rather than sanctions in the past. We're expecting to hear from the EU tomorrow.
But as far as I can tell, Obama is quite clear and categorical about the fact that if this doesn't work in the very short-term, we could be looking at further sanctions, not down the road, Wednesday or Thursday of this week.
I guess that begs the question, what does this all mean in terms of hard cash?
DEFTERIOS: Well, going forward it's going to be very interesting to see what the next level looks like. It's not by accident -- I'll just put this out there -- that we're starting to see articles about the U.S. and the U.S. Treasury, perhaps, pursuing the private wealth of Vladimir Putin. And they put that in the league of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and the like. We're looking at, you know, potentially numbers through out, $67 billion.
A secondarily --
ANDERSON: Really unprecedented for a --
DEFTERIOS: And it would ratchet things up, that is for sure.
Secondarily, U.S. Treasury officials and security officials were suggesting over the weekend that Vladimir Putin has broken his pact with the Russian people. He promised, don't forget, when they had protests on the streets last year he would deliver growth. But growth slowed down to 1 percent. You increase the sanctions, you're looking at a recession in 2014, pressure on energy demand as a result of that and pressure on revenues.
We have a graph here showing where the Russian stock market has been going since the start of the year. This is only January through April 28. And it's a drop of 23 percent. Now you ask where it compares to its peers. You have the Indian stock market up 10 percent in 2014, and another BRICS market China down 10 percent. This is down 23 percent. So it's accelerated that selloff recently.
They've had to raise interest rates, Becky, to 7.5 percent, because inflation has crept up and the rubles has gone down lower. So we gone interest rates from 5 percent to 7.5 percent in three months. The bond is trading nearly 10 percent in Russia right now. It's the highest yield since 2005. Step by step, you can see that the sanctions are starting to hit them.
ANDERSON: If I was to say this is an underperforming market, I think I'd probably be close to the mark.
DEFTERIOS: And that puts the pressure on as well, you know. It starts to undermine the confidence in corporate Russia at the same time.
ANDERSON: Yeah, fascinating. All right, John, thank you very much. John Defterios at the Global Exchange for you.
This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from Abu Dhabi at 18 minutes past 7:00.
The investigation into the ferry disaster in South Korea is growing and there is video of the captain being rescued, which has had many people well quite frankly shaking their heads.
And a mysterious virus first detected in Saudi Arabia two years ago has spiked over the past month. I'm going to speak to a health official about the spread of the MERS virus and how you and I can help protect ourselves.
This is CNN. Back after this.
ANDERSON: Right, you're back with CNN. This is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson.
Well, an Egyptian court has recommended the death sentence for nearly 700 - - 700 -- supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Its leader Mohamed Badie is amongst them. In a previous case, 529 Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death, 37 of those sentences have been upheld, the rest have been reduced to life in prison. Now the defendants can still appeal.
Well, the mass trials only reinforce fears among human rights groups that Egypt's current rulers are using all levers of power to crush opponents, some even claim that children have been targeted. Reza Sayah has one boy's disturbing story.
SAYAH: On February 10 this year, Islam Maghde (ph) turned 16-years-old. But in this birthday Islam says there was no celebrating, only a brutal beating by prison guards inside a Cairo prison.
"They knew I was turning 16 on February 10," he says. "They celebrated by beating me. They used to beat every part of my body."
Human rights groups say Islam is among hundreds of Egyptian children illegally detained and tortured in the crackdown that followed the ouster last year of former President Mohamed Morsy. When we met Islam, he was polite, soft-spoken, respectful. This is his family. His father, a university professor, says the worst thing Islam has ever done is fight with his brother.
But back in January, police arrested Islam here in this Cairo park. Police said Islam and his friends have broken Egypt's protest law that says groups of more than 10 cannot meet or gather without prior government permission.
Here inside this police station Islam says the abuse started right away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They blindfolded us, tied our hands and legs down. Then they took us to a room for questioning. They stripped us naked. And --
SAYAH: When Islam pauses, seemingly unable to go on, his father steps in.
"Straighten up," his father tells him. "Try to speak as if nothing happened."
When he gathers the strength, Islam describes beatings, attempts at forced confessions and electrocutions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): After they stripped me naked, they hung me by my hands from a cell door, then they electrocuted me and sprayed me with water. They beat me and tried to sexually molest me.
SAYAH: Islam was detained for more than one month before being cleared and released. Authorities say they're not aware of his claims, but they deny allegations of torture and illegal detention of children.
MAHA MAAMOUN, POPULAR CAMPAGIN FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN: It's getting worse every day.
SAYAH: Children's rights activist Maha Maamoun says hundreds of miners are still in custody, many illegally held in adult prisons, many claiming torture.
What do you think when you see pictures like that?
MAAMOUN: It just shows what the reality is. And that there is no rights for children.
SAYAH: Rights groups say violations of children's rights sometimes extend to Egypt's highest authorities. On the army spokesman's official Facebook page, this boy is accused of plotting a bomb attack without any apparent regard for his privacy and his due process rights.
When you look at his face, what do you see?
MAAMOUN: You see fright.
SAYAH: He's terrified.
What do you think the strategy is behind what authorities are doing? What are they trying to do?
MAAMOUN: They're protecting themselves. They believe that these people are threatening them. And they're seeking revenge or --
SAYAH: So authorities believe these children are a threat to national security.
MAAMOUN: This is their belief, yes.
They don't want anyone to speak up.
SAYAH: Remarkably Islam Maghde (ph) is not afraid to speak out, a decision he knows could put him in danger, but one he says was never in doubt.
"Of course I have to say what happened," Islam says. "Maybe I could be 1 percent of the reason in making things better."
LU STOUT: Well, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights is also campaigning for basic safeguards. Diana ElTahawy is the group's head of criminal justice. She joins us now live from Cairo.
We have seen the decision to put to death hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members, including its leader, Mohamed Badie today in court. Certainly the sentences handed down with the right, of course, to appeal. And a decision to punish with the ultimate penalty those who were part of the movement for change back in 2011.
What do you make of these decisions?
DIANA ELTAHAWY, EGYPTIAN INITIATIVE FOR PERSONAL RIGHTS: Today's decision in (inaudible) court to hand down death sentences and life imprisonment to a large group of people in two separate cases are really a mockery of justice. The basic guarantees of due process were not respected in either of these cases. None of the defendants had the chance to defend themselves, to have -- to cross-examine witnesses against them. To really study the cases against them.
Nobody looked at individual criminal responsibility. In fact, sentencing people in these mass trials.
ANDERSON: Some might not be surprised to have seen the decision handed down to Muslim Brotherhood members, afterall we've seen that sort of decision by this court before. What about those who were part of the Tamarud group (ph), those who fought for Egyptians to effect the downfall of Mr. Mubarak effectively ushering in the organization that is now running the country and is likely to win the presidential elections, that being -- that run by Mr. al Sisi?
ELTAHAWY: I mean, well we have seen in recent months since the 30 of June as really that at first members and alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were targeted by the authorities and as we've seen today the authorities have used all tools at their disposal, including a complacent judiciary --
ANDERSON: But what's their message --
ELTAHAWY: Thorough crush dissent.
But we have now seen --
ANDERSON: What do you think their message is?
ELTAHAWY: Beyond supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. And now reach to secular and liberal activists.
Today, we've also seen a case where a court declared activities of the 6 April Movement, a movement that's synonymous with the 25 January revolution being outlawed.
As we see today having a major day of setbacks for human rights in Egypt.
ANDERSON: So, what do you say that everybody in Egypt today should fear the system?
ELTAHAWY: Well, I mean, I would say that many people who stood at Tahrir Square over three years ago demanding for justice and freedom are now going to fear the consequences regardless of the fact that the government is passing legislation potentially outlawing public assembly, outlawing free speech and implementing it using -- using judiciary like we've seen today that essentially 1,200 people to death or life imprisonment in the span of a few hours.
But some people might be deterred. And certainly the message that is being sent is not one that's conducive to fair and free elections. However many others are going to continue demanding for the rights regardless of the consequences.
ANDERSON: The U.S. attitude to Egypt has been mixed and some say quite hypocritical. Things may become clear when the Egyptian foreign minister, of course, meets his American counterpart in Washington on Tuesday, but the visit comes days after the White House partially lifted a freeze on its $1.5 billion in annual aid, the freeze imposed when Cairo's military leaders, including presidential favorite al Sisi failed to restore full democracy after toppling President Mohamed Morsy, but delivery of some Apache helicopters and millions of dollars in other military aid a month before the presidential election paints quite a different picture.
How do you read where the U.S. stands and what its message to Egyptians might be?
DIANA ELTAHAWY, EGYPTIAN INITIATIVE TO PERSONAL RIGHTS: There certainly have been a lack of consistency with the US, but also with the international community in general in their treatment of the Egyptian authorities. There have been a lot of mixed messages.
And while in some cases, human rights violations have been condemned, these have not been accompanied with real steps. Human rights groups have been calling on the international community to no longer send transfer weapons to Egypt that could be used or where there is a high risk that they are used to commit further human rights violations.
We have called on the UN Human Rights Council to look into Egypt's record and to call on the Egyptian authorities to make sure that they respect human rights and that they investigate those cases where thousands of people have been killed in recent months without a single police officer being brought to justice.
While on the other had, you see 1,200 people being convicted for killing two police officers in a sham trail.
ANDERSON: Diana Eltahawy is the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights' head of criminal justice. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. I know the line was a bit dodgy, so that the reason for her holding her phone. We very much appreciate your time.
Well, viewers, headlines are just ahead, plus some major new developments in the South Korean ferry disaster, including dramatic video showing the captain being evacuated from the sinking ship.
ANDERSON: You're still watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Welcome back. The top stories for you this hour.
And during a stop in the Philippines, the US president, Barack Obama, announced new sanctions against seven Russian officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin's inner circle. The European Union is expected to announce a new round of sanctions as well.
An Egyptian court has recommended the death sentence for nearly 700 supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. In a previous case, 529 Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death, 37 of those sentences have been upheld. The rest have been reduced to life in prison.
Syria's president has announced his candidacy for the country's presidential elections. Bashar al-Assad, who has ruled the country since taking over from his father in 2000, is widely expected to win the vote set for June the 3rd.
The South Korean coast guard has released this video of the final moments of the Sewol ferry before it sank on April the 16th. Authorities raided a coast guard office as they look into how the first emergency call from the ferry was handled.
New video of the ships captain being rescued has also surfaced. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has more on that.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the video that has South Koreans outraged, the captain of the sinking ferry scrambling off his stricken vessel in his underwear. And these are the men who rescued him. Speaking about it for the first time, explaining they had no idea who he was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): No, absolutely not. I didn't find out until later.
ROBERTSON (on camera): The real thrust of the questions here from all these Korean reporters: why was the captain helped off so quickly? Why were the crew saved? Why weren't more of the students helped off the boat?
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The answers falling short of expectations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): During the rescue operation, people were just dropping in the sea. Everyone was wearing a life vest, so we couldn't tell who was passenger and who was crew.
ROBERTSON: The groundswell of anger over the mishandling of the rescue began with the families, at first critical of journalists for reporting all aboard were saved, now seeking their help. One father of a student who died aboard the ferry handing a Korean broadcaster audio from his son's cell phone. He explains why.
"To tell you exactly," he says, "300 lives were unfairly lost. I provided this, wanting to release some truth to the public." What it seems to reveal about the sinking, not just heartbreaking for this parent, but also shocking for the nation: his son and other students repeatedly told to stay below decks. The voices heard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Why can't they tell us what's going on? I don't know what's going on. The fact that they asked us to wear life jackets, doesn't that mean the boat is sinking?
LOUDSPEAKER (through translator): We ask you again, do not move from your current location. Once again, please do not move from your current location. Absolutely do not move.
ROBERTSON: The coast guard officers say they knew 400 to 500 passengers were onboard. When they arrived, the ship was listing so badly they immediately sounded their alarm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When we got there, we used our speakers to tell everyone to get off the boat and get into the water.
ROBERTSON: Why the captain and not most of the students responded, still the subject of investigation.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Jindo, South Korea.
ANDERSON: Well, residents in the central United States are recovering from a day of night of what have been violent storms that cut a path of destruction through at least four states. The state of Arkansas saw some of the worst damage. At least 18 deaths have been blamed on the storms there.
This video captured near the town of Mayflower before a large twister hit. Entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble. CNN's Chad Myers is in the devastated town of Mayflower, where the extent of the damage still being assessed. Just describe what you see around you.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's almost impossible to put into words, Betsy (sic). What we have here is a business that is obviously no more. In America, we have more tornadoes than anyplace else in the world.
We have the Gulf of Mexico, which is a very warm body of water, to our south. We have the mountains to our west, that will bring in dry air that will push up that moisture. We have cold air up to the north that will also push that warm air, moist air, up into the clouds. And that made the tornadoes yesterday.
We have usually more than a thousand tornadoes a year, but not this kind. This is 240-kilometer-per-hour tornado. We know now that almost 20 people have been killed.
But of all this destruction you see right here, the owners of this property are more concerned for their lost 60-pound Labrador Retriever puppy than anything you see here, and they've been searching for hours trying find that puppy here among all of this debris. The puppy survived, but then ran away in the scaredness, in the danger that the dog sensed later on in the evening.
So, we've been here all night long. It has been scary yesterday, because we knew this was the potential. And now just sad today, seeing people, and friends, and neighbors, trying to pick up the pieces.
ANDERSON: Yes, amazing stuff. Chad, thank you for that. Let's get more on what is expected in the affected region. Mari Ramos joining us from the World Weather Center. Mari?
MARI RAMOS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Such sad images there, Becky. Every single time I see Chad in front of that rubble, very, very sad, indeed. And yes, we're not entirely out of the woods yet. A little bit different, the scenario that is coming up tonight.
We still have all of those elements that Chad mentioned, that very warm and moist air coming out of the Gulf, the drier air coming in out of the west, the cold air coming in from the north. And yes, that clash of air masses will be happening here. There is that potential. It's now going to be in the medium risk in this area that you see here in red.
There are about, maybe, 40 million people that could be affected by the strong storms, though, anywhere from the southern portion of the Great Lakes all the way down to the Gulf coast. There is that potential tonight for strong tornadoes, large hail, and strong wind.
And it's not entirely over because, as we head through the day tomorrow, that potential is still there. A little bit less intense, probably, but it is still there all the way back out into the mid-Atlantic region where, in this area, they had very strong storms, including at least one tornado over the weekend.
So, not entirely out of the woods yet. This is something that we're continuing to monitor. That same weather system, it's sliding across this region here, across the southeast. These red boxes that you see there, that indicates areas that have the potential right now for tornado watches.
So, these are going to be the most likely areas as we head through the afternoon hours today, once the heating of the day gets going, that's going to be a concern as well. And there's also heavy rains, so even if we don't get any tornadoes, it will still be a concern across this region.
Chad mentioned those 240-kilometer-per-hour winds for that tornado. That would make it an EF3 on this tornado damage scale. This is what we use here in the US to determine the severity of a tornado.
It's based up on the winds and also based upon the damage. And the damage in this case, Becky, go down the scale right there to severe, and that is precisely what we have seen across those images.
With my last 30 seconds, I want to remind you, yes, most tornadoes happen in the US, but they can happen in Europe. They can happen in southern parts of Africa. We've seen that happen over and over, northern parts of India, also another tornado maxima area.
Last but not least, across parts of East Asia, the Philippines, Australia, huge tornadoes can occur in this part of the world as well, and even into parts of South America. So wherever you are, stay weather aware, because tornadoes can happen. Back to you.
ANDERSON: Wow. Mari Ramos at the World Weather Center for you. Now, a growing controversy is rocking the National Basketball Association in the States over racist remarks allegedly made Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, an audio recording first released by the website TMZ.
Let's get to Dan Simon in Los Angeles. And Dan, there's been stinging reaction from current and former NBA stars amongst others, even US President Obama weighing in. What's this all about?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just become absolutely explosive. Mr. Sterling was nowhere to be found during the game yesterday in Oakland. This is a best-of-seven series, the next game in Los Angeles tomorrow night. And as I said, this has become such a fiery issue.
SIMON (voice-over): The LA Clippers took to the court Sunday, stripping off their warmup uniforms in solidarity, the team's red t-shirts, with the logos invisible. A sign of protest against owner Donald Sterling after an edited audio recording surfaced on TMZ Sport over the weekend. A man purportedly Sterling making racist comments in a conversation with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano.
V. STIVIANO (via telephone): People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram, and it bothers you.
DONALD STERLING, OWNER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (via telephone): Yes, it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?
STIVIANO: You associate with black people.
STERLING: I'm not you, and you're not me. You're supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl.
STIVIANO: I'm a mixed girl.
SIMON: This fiery exchange allegedly erupting after Sterling saw this photo Stiviano posted on her Instagram feed, posing with NBA legend Magic Johnson.
STIVIANO: And I took the picture with someone I admired.
STIVIANO: And he happens to be black, and I'm sorry.
STERLING: I think it's nice that you admire him. I know him well, and he should be admired. And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire privately.
SIMON: Magic Johnson outraged over Sterling's alleged comments.
MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: We're all upset, who are African- Americans, because if you're going to be like this, why are you owning a team in the NBA, which, what, is over 70 percent African-American basketball players? So, I think he should step down.
SIMON: The NBA now launching an expedited investigation as fans, players, and officials express their disgust.
LEBRON JAMES, TWO-TIME NBA CHAMPION: For comments like that, it taints our game, and we can't have that. We can't have it from a player, we can't have it from an owner, we can't have it from a fan, and so on and so on.
KEVIN JOHNSON, ADVISOR TO NBA PLAYERS' UNION: There is absolutely no place in the NBA family for ignorance, intolerance, reprehensible comments that are unacceptable and not fitting for what this league is all about.
SIMON: Well, at this point, at least in the short-term, Becky, it's a bit unclear what the NBA can do except for levy a steep fine against Mr. Sterling. But I'm not sure it would make much of a dent in his wallet. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $1.9 billion. Becky?
ANDERSON: Wow. All right, Dan Simon reporting for you. Live from Abu Dhabi, you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Concern grows here in the Middle East after a spike in the number of MERS virus cases. We're going to get the latest on the outbreak from the World Health Organization.
And also, just an update on one of our top stories for you, the unrest in Ukraine. Earlier we told you the United States has announced new economic sanctions against Russia. Well, they target Russian government officials and companies who are linked to President Vladimir Putin.
Now, Russia responding. A statement to CNN from Russia's deputy minister for foreign relations describes them as, quote, "meaningless, shameful, and disgusting." More on that in the hours ahead. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: The Saudi Arabian government is reporting a spike in cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. The Health Ministry says there were 26 new cases of the coronavirus over the weekend, including 10 deaths. It's not clear at this stage why there has been an increase, but the same thing apparently happened last year at the same time.
Now, MERS was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and that's where the majority of cases still are. The health minister, you'll remember, was removed from his post as the number of cases in the kingdom spiked last week. Others were reported across the Middle East and in Europe, and as far away as Malaysia.
Well, so far, more than 339 cases have been reported in Saudi alone, with more than 102 deaths. World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl joins me now from Geneva in Switzerland.
It's not clear why there has been this sudden increase, it seems, nor is it clear how the virus spreads, which will be very worrying for people in this region and those who may be traveling here in the future. Do you have an explanation?
GREGORY HARTL, SPOKESMAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: No, we don't know exactly how the virus spreads. And that's the biggest question for us. We are -- let's say the uptick in cases at this time is probably due to what we've already seen for two years in 2012, 2013. There's a seasonal pattern to this virus.
And at the same time, there appear to have been two big hospital-based outbreaks, one in Saudi Arabia and one in UAE. So, the pattern of what happens with this virus is not changing. However, we need to know how people get infected in the first place. We haven't known that, and we still don't know that.
ANDERSON: Now, the World Health Organization, I know, says -- and I want our viewers to see this -- research, at least, points to camels being the primary source of infection. Once humans are infected, they can apparently pass the virus on through close contact. It causes severe respiratory problems, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half the cases, of course, are fatal.
This is what the MERS virus looks like. The corona name comes from the spikes you can see studying the outside. And it's from the same family as the SARS virus that killed nearly 800 people between 2002 and 2003. Sir, what is your advice to our viewers today?
HARTL: Certainly there are certain comparisons which are valid with SARS, and other comparisons which aren't valid. We don't believe, actually, that the virus transmits very easily. So, that's very fortunate.
You mentioned 800 deaths and 8,000 cases for SARS in the space of six months. So, this virus has already been around for over two years, and we've only seen, fortunately, about 350 cases, according to the most recent unofficial figures.
So, it doesn't transmit easily, it tends to transmit in hospitals. So basically, one of the main things that we are doing is trying to work with hospitals and with public health people in the region to ensure that infection control practices are adequate.
And the other thing we really need to do is understand what kind of contact with animals or with the environment will cause a person to get infected. Yes, camels may be one source, but it might not be the only source of the virus.
And we don't know even if it is camels if the contact is indirect or direct. We don't know if it's by touching a camel or by eating camel products, such as camel meat or milk or whatever. So, there's unfortunately a lot of knowns -- unknowns. We would ask people to --
HARTL: -- practice good general hygiene. We need hospitals to practice good general hygiene. And we would also emphasize that normally this virus does not transmit easily.
ANDERSON: Gregory Hartl with some advice from Geneva in Switzerland, a spokesman for the World Health Organization. We thank you, sir.
Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, up in the air. We bring you incredible birds-eye views of one local skyline. That's after this.
ANDERSON: Living in the United Arab Emirates, you become pretty familiar with soaring cityscapes. Tonight's Parting Shots comes from one Dubai resident who has a real head for heights and a passion for their skyline. Have a look at his.
KARIM NAFATNI, PILOT AND PHOTOGRAPHER: My name is Karim Nafatni, 32 years old. I'm an airline captain for Air Arabia.
I'm addicted to height.
I decided to climb rooftops and take pictures from above and show people the cities and the landscapes as I see them from the cockpit.
The height itself gives you a thrill and a dramatic shot.
Dubai is actually heaven for architectural photographers. There are so many buildings, so many skyscrapers, so much diversity in the buildings, so many shapes, so may rooftops to climb.
It's very difficult to make it to rooftops if you don't have authorization. To be honest with you, I started sneaking in.
The thing I want to do next is taking a picture from the very top of Burj Khalifa. Wide, panoramic, and maybe a selfie as well. Hopefully I will be able to do it very soon.
ANDERSON: Do not try this one at home, they say, if you're thinking about climbing the Burj Khalifa. Amazing shots.
I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. From Abu Dhabi, it's a very good evening at just before 8:00. I'll be back with the world news headlines at the other side of this break, stay with us.