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CONNECT THE WORLD

Terrorism in Yemen; Interview with Director Christopher Nolan

Aired July 14, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANE FERGUSON, JOURNALIST: American and British trainers giving lessons in fighting al Qaeda. Within moments of my arrival, these men behind sunglasses and under hats ordered me to stop filming and quickly left the scene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: These images from Yemen have never been seen before, underscoring fears the country is becoming a terror hotbed. Militants from there are accused of plotting attacks halfway across the world.

But tonight, we ask a top U.S. security adviser whether putting boots on the ground in Yemen could backfire and help swell al Qaeda's ranks.

On CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

Well, Yemen is the threat linking the bombing of the USS Cole and attacks on an American embassy and a Christmas Day plot to blow up a plane. But we have already seen that nothing can stir resentment like putting foreign troops on Arabian soil.

For that story and the connections, from London, I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Also tonight, a Libyan ship headed for Gaza is diverted to Egypt after certain, quote, "concessions" are made. We're going to ask the organizers just what they were and whether they'll do it again.

We asked you to suggest a Connector of the Day. Well, today you came up with Chris Nolan. So we got in touch. The director of the new film, "Encryption," answers your questions.

And they were first known for running an elitist Web site for beautiful people. Now, they want to be a sperm bank to help create designer babies. Now whether you find that idea revolting or fascinating, do tell us. I'm on Twitter atbeckycnn. We'll read some of your comments later in the show.

Well, first, what appears to be more evidence of al Qaeda's growing threat in Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland. Militants armed with grenades and assault rifles attacked security buildings in Southern Yemen today, triggering a fierce gun battle. Three security officials and two militants were killed. Authorities there blaming al Qaeda.

Well, Yemen's government is getting help fighting al Qaeda from Western allies.

But what's to keep that cooperation under wraps?

We're going to show you a report by Jane Ferguson that captures secretive training sessions on tape.

First, though, let's bring in Jane to explain -- explain why the world should be concerned about extremism in Yemen.

Jane?

FERGUSON: Yemen's al Qaeda began their attacks by focusing within their home country. Their first big hit against the United States, the bombing of the American Navy ship, the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Seventeen sailors were killed.

In 2008, the group attacked the U.S. embassy in Yemen's capital.

A year later, they joined with al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia to form al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Then they shifted focus from Western targets within the country and the Yemeni government to recruiting abroad for attacks in other countries. That new strategy was highlighted by the failed attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit, Michigan last December. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was allegedly recruited from Agsadeum (ph) to carry out that bombing on American soil.

The group is now using the Internet to recruit jihadists in the United States and elsewhere and US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is playing a key role. Last week, the group launched an English language online magazine. The first issue included an editorial about jihad and an article on how to build a bomb in your kitchen.

ANDERSON: All right, Jane, and how are the Western nations help Yema -- Yemen counter this?

So you -- you saw firsthand some training missions that no government wants to publicize.

FERGUSON: Well, essentially the Americans and the U.K. are exporting their expertise in how to fight al Qaeda to the Yemenis in the form of professional trainers. I caught a glimpse of them at work on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FERGUSON (voice-over): In the mountains outside Yemen's capital city, Sanaa, I was given rare access to a military training ground. But I wasn't supposed to see this -- American and British trainers giving lessons in fighting al Qaeda. Within moments of my arrival these men, behind sunglasses and under hats, ordered me to stop filming and quickly left the scene.

US officials have admitted to their presence, but until now, it has never been captured on camera.

Back at the central security forces headquarters in the city, where the country's top counter-terrorism unit is based, I met with their commander, General Yahya Al Saleh. He spoke frankly, giving details on how the cooperation works.

GEN. YAHYA AL SALEH, YEMENI MILITARY: It's financed and supported by the United States government and the U.K.

FERGUSON: The men at the training grounds are more than advisers to the fighters, he told me. They don't just teach them, they pick them. British and American expats select and train new recruits, so far shaping an elite counter-terrorism unit more than 200 strong. And this is the product of that training -- Yemen's forces in the field conducting raids and reconnaissance.

I was not allowed to join the troops on this mission, but was given exclusive footage of them in action. They would not tell me how many missions have been completed, but General Yahya did say every single operation has been filmed. This is archived in what amounts to a secret library of material, which is used as a training tool by the British and Americans.

AL-SALEH: So after the cooperation (INAUDIBLE) it's limited of -- we are limited our -- our injuries and our capabilities. Now we -- we -- when we conduct an operation, we -- you can say it's more successful.

FERGUSON: But al Qaeda are stepping up their training, also, with some experts warning they have their own brand of foreign trainers -- fighters coming from other fronts of the war on terror, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The key difference is that they are not Westerners. Al Qaeda are, in fact, using American and British involvement in Yemen as propaganda to win over the support of locals and discredit the Yemeni government.

(on camera): Although there is a steady stream of Western military trainers in and out of Yemen's military bases, the Yemeni government does not like to talk about it. It is a controversial move in this country. They're unsure how the local population will respond to Western influences in the military.

(voice-over): Added to this is growing speculation of a more direct role in the fighting by the American military. In June, Amnesty International released images of what it said were cluster bombs with U.S. markings alleged to have been fired from a U.S. cruise missiles at an al Qaeda hideout last year. Dozens of civilians died in the attack.

For the Yemeni government, any evidence of foreign involvement in its campaign against al Qaeda risks a backlash. This is one of the most conservative of Arab countries and they don't want foreigners involved. The Western trainers may play a crucial role in helping confront al Qaeda here, but in winning the war, the government risks losing the hearts and minds of its people.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FERGUSON: So it's becoming clear that as a Yemeni government finds itself in a delicate political balance, the West remains a key part of that.

ANDERSON: Jane, and I don't want you to go away.

Stay with me.

I want to come back to you in a few minutes' time.

The United States doesn't deny its long history of military cooperation with Yemen. But the exact extent is quite unclear.

Earlier, I spoke with the U.S. national security adviser, John Brennan.

And I started by asking whether the U.S. actually fights alongside Yemeni soldiers in raids against insurgents.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, they're not. Yemeni forces are the ones who are carrying out these oper -- operations and activities. They're fully supported by Yemeni forces. But we provide them the wherewithal to be able to prosecute these operations successfully.

ANDERSON: How significant do you believe the threat from there is?

How many al Qaeda operatives or sympathizers are there on the ground in Yemen?

BRENNAN: Well, I think there are several hundred al Qaeda members in -- in Yemen. It is -- it poses a serious threat. And that's why we are providing all the support we can to the Yemeni government.

ANDERSON: And that I understand. The CIA director recently said that he thinks that there are about 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives now in Afghanistan, something like fewer than 500 of the group -- members of the group in the region, where the U.S. has poured some 100,000 troops.

If you're talking about 200 al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, why aren't there the equivalent, say 40,000 troops, on the ground?

Have you got enough -- have you got enough people working against al Qaeda in Yemen?

It doesn't sound to me as if you have.

BRENNAN: Well, clearly, al Qaeda used Afghanistan as a place where it launched its attacks against the United States on 9/11. And that's why we are in Afghanistan, to make sure that we are able to bring security and stability to that country.

ANDERSON: Is it conceivable that the U.S. would see the necessity to get many, many, many boots on the ground at some point, as they have in Afghanistan, in order to counter this threat -- this growing threat?

BRENNAN: We are, right now, very comfortable with our -- our support that we are providing to the Yemeni government, our presence in Yemen. We are doing this in support of the Yemeni government. If there's a need to increase our support and our presence, we will do that in full consultation with President Saleh.

But we -- we feel as though we've been very effective. We've been able to push al Qaeda back. They still pose a serious threat, but we're comfortable in the -- in the path that we're on right now.

ANDERSON: Why won't you put a number on your work there, though -- the number of people, bodies, boots on the ground?

BRENNAN: Because, I mean, you know, our presence takes many forms. We have people who are operating and who are working in the various villages in support of educational and health initiatives. We have people who are working with the ministries in Yemen, in law enforcement, security and defense. Those numbers, as I said, will fluctuate depending on what the requirements and needs are.

So it's hard to put a number on that, but, you know, there is a significant number of -- of official Americans inside of Yemen who are working side by side with the Yemeni government.

ANDERSON: What's the risk of a backlash in Yemen because of foreign or U.S. involvement there?

BRENNAN: Well, I think this is why we've been proceeding in league with the Yemeni government. We want to make sure that we're doing this in a way that is consistent with what the Yemeni government is doing against al Qaeda. We want to make sure that the people of Yemen understand that we're not in there trying to, you know, push forward a U.S. agenda.

What we're trying to do is to help the Yemeni people -- protect the Yemeni people from the -- the murderous attacks of al Qaeda. You know, when you look at some of the results of these attacks with, you know, dismembered children and women, you know, that's not the work of -- of religious leaders. This is the work of -- of the devil. And, you know, there are people who are responsible for this, like Anwar al-Awlaki, who are very willing to send others to their death -- young Yemenis, young Africans -- while they cowardly hide in the hills of -- off Yemen.

ANDERSON: There have been reports of -- over the last couple of months of drone attacks in -- in Yemen.

Are they American drones, sir?

BRENNAN: No. The -- the United States, again, is working with the Yemeni government. The Yemeni armed forces, air force, army, have done a - - a very good job. Some of these individuals have sacrificed their lives in su -- in support of the counter-terrorism efforts there. We are providing air -- we're in a support role. I want to make that very clear. The United States military and intelligence community (INAUDIBLE) are playing a support role in support of the very legitimate and needed Yemeni counter-terrorism operations that are underway in Yemen.

ANDERSON: Whose drones are they?

BRENNAN: There have been no drones in -- attacks in -- in Yemen, certainly not since the Obama administration has come into office. So I -- there are a lot of reports and rumors out there that are flying around about different types of activities that are taking place. Again, what we're doing is in -- working in support of the Yemeni government. It's been very effective. It's been very efficient and precise. But the Yemenis are in the lead here without question.

ANDERSON: How concerned are you about your presence there working effectively as a recruitment tool for al Qaeda?

BRENNAN: Al Qaeda will find a lot of reasons to try to recruit individuals. Whether or not it's a U.S. presence in -- in the Middle East or other issues, they always try to find a reason to gain new adherents and to be able to support their agenda.

That's not going to deter us from doing what we need to do to support our friends. Our friends who are Yemenis, our friends who are Muslims, and, thankfully, it's not deterring the leaders of these countries from reaching out to the United States. They recognize that the United States can provide a lot of support. We're willing to do it. We're ready to do it. And we are making gains against al Qaeda.

ANDERSON: Mr. Brennan, given the spate of attacks emerging from Yemen on -- on American soil, how much does Osama bin Laden matter in 2010?

BRENNAN: Well, I think, you know, bin Laden still represents the al Qaeda ideology. He is somebody who continues to, I think, inspire a number of al Qaeda franchises throughout the world. I think it's still an issue that we're trying to address. And we are not going to relent until we bring him to justice.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: John Brennan speaking to me earlier.

Let's get back to Jane Ferguson then, who we were speaking to just a moment ago, as far as the report with the exclusive video in it a little earlier for this show.

Brennan denies that the U.S., Jane, are doing any more than cooperating with Yemen, providing support, he said a number of times.

Does that tally with what you saw and heard there?

FERGUSON: Well, I think the important question here is whether or not that tallies with the perceptions of Yemenis. In terms of drone attacks, it's very hard to prove things we saw in -- in last month, the Amnesty International photos released of -- of alleged American cluster bombs.

But what really matters is what the Yemeni people believe, because on the ground there, most people do believe that these drone attacks or air attacks, as you may want to call them, are, in fact, being carried out by the U.S.

I've spoken to a number of experts and columnists in Sanaa and they have said that people here simply keep saying, in the street, our government does not have the capacity to carry out these kinds of attacks, so it must be the Americans.

And as a result of that, people are going to presume that the Americans are killing Yemenis.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff.

Jane Ferguson, we're delighted you could join us this evening.

We thank you very much, indeed, for doing that for us.

Joining the dots for you here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Let's move on, shall to destination Egypt -- a Libyan aid ship originally bound for Gaza averts confrontation with Israel and its operators say they got something back in the process.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson live from London.

We'll be back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, time to change course. We've been bringing you updates on the latest flotilla to set sail for Gaza, carrying what it says are humanitarian supplies.

I want to remind you of what's happened so far.

The story begins, this time, in Tripoli, where a Libyan charity headed by the son of leader, Moammar Gadhafi, launched its mission. The ship itself actually began its journey Saturday in Greece.

Now, Israel threatened to intercept it and make it dock at Ashdod. Organizers told me yesterday they were intent on sailing to Gaza. But then on Wednesday, the ship arrived at the port of El-Arish in Northern Egypt.

So, for now, the story is playing out somewhere other than where organizers of the flotilla expected.

Ben Wedeman for you now with more on the ship's journey and the negotiations that led to a peaceful resolution.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, it seems this time, at least, a confrontation at sea has been avoided. The captain of the Amalthea contacted the Egyptian authorities, requesting -- and he received permission to dock and unload at the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

Now, the Egyptians will help with the transshipment of those goods to Gaza. But, of course, on the way, they will be inspected by the Israelis.

Now, the Gadhafi Foundation, which organized this ship, said they did win an important concession from the Israelis. And that is that they will be allowed to send construction materials to Gaza.

Now, for Egypt, this is just the latest incident which underscores Egypt's tacit role in the maintenance of the blockade of Gaza. In December, Egyptian security forces clashed with activists who came to Egypt trying to reach Gaza. And it only underscores that Egypt, in the eyes of many in the Arab world, is helping Israel maintain the blockade of Gaza -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, that's Ben Wedeman for you.

Ben in Egypt.

I want to bring in Youssef Sawani on the phone from Tripoli.

He's executive director of the Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

When we spoke at this time yesterday, he was adamant the ship would press ahead to Gaza.

So, sir, what changed?

YOUSSEF SAWANI, GADHAFI INTERNATIONAL CHARITY AND DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION: Well, we have been in -- in talks with -- with a number of parties through intermediaries. And the fact of the matter is that we were faced with -- with three options. One is that the ship be towed away to Ashdod. And this is something that was out of the question for us.

The second option was to head for Gaza and this also was out of the question for the Israelis.

The third option was either for the ship to -- to head to El-Arish or go back to Tripoli.

Obviously, the mission was originally organized by the Gadhafi Foundation more to alleviate the situation in Gaza and help at least lessen the -- the blockade that has been involved on -- on the Gaza Strip for some time now, in total ignorance of the tragedies and -- and the...

ANDERSON: Sure.

SAWANI: -- suffering of the -- the people in Gaza.

So the foundation wasn't intent on confrontation. It was intent on (INAUDIBLE) and our humanitarian aid and assistance. And because of these (INAUDIBLE) options, we were approached by European intermediaries who posed the question, are we for peace or are we looking for a conflict and (INAUDIBLE)?

And, obviously, our response was that we are looking for peace. And we want to do whatever it takes to help the Palestinians go through the...

ANDERSON: And that's...

SAWANI: -- hardships of the blockade.

ANDERSON: And that I understand.

OK, you've labeled, I know, getting these concessions, as it were, a breakthrough. Ben told us some of what is getting into Gaza that may have not got in before -- construction materials, for example.

What can you add to that?

Any more details on -- on what you've got in?

SAWANI: Well, obviously, the concessions are -- the concessions are really a breakthrough. And -- and I think they -- this is a -- there has been definitely the effect of the ship help that -- that (INAUDIBLE) that they give these concessions.

The concessions include, obviously, a (INAUDIBLE) that's to allow reconstruction efforts. You remember that the Arab Summit in Qatar some time ago drew huge amounts of money. And no single dollar has been able to be spent in Gaza, simply because they have been, you know, blocking the implementation of any construction materials.

So this is one thing for reconstruction to go ahead. For international...

(CROSSTALK)

SAWANI: -- agencies. You want agencies like Amular (ph), United Nations (INAUDIBLE) agency to carry on its products. Other concessions include the free passage of sick people to receive treatment abroad, the allowance of the humanitarian aids to go through...

ANDERSON: Right.

SAWANI: -- (INAUDIBLE) and through the -- the cargo of the ship. In addition to the realization of our initiative, which is the delivery of prefabricated housing units to the Palestinians before the coming of winter. And the Gadhafi Foundation will start by donating the first segment of that, of 500 housing units.

In addition to this, obviously...

ANDERSON: OK...

SAWANI: -- there is the allowance -- the Israelis will allow the implementation of printing materials, (INAUDIBLE) and (INAUDIBLE)...

ANDERSON: And this...

SAWANI: (INAUDIBLE)...

ANDERSON: And this is important. Let me just stop you there, because that is important. That is -- that is a real concession that -- out of these humanitarian aid float -- flotillas have not had before.

So very briefly, do you see this, then, as a template going forward for what will be allowed in?

SAWANI: Well, I -- well I think -- I think the -- the agreement that we have been able to secure, the agreement that we have been able to secure through intermediaries and will guarantors like Egypt and we have a (INAUDIBLE) confirmation that they -- they guarantee the implementation of the agreement. It is a breakthrough. And it -- it's definitely showed the -- the initiation of (INAUDIBLE), that the old international community being well within (INAUDIBLE) the blockade of (INAUDIBLE) and soon.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff.

We thank you for joining us this evening with those details.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

We're going to take a look at our week long series on green pioneers coming up after this.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, all this week here on CONNECT THE WORLD, we are bringing you stories of environmental pioneers -- people like Widrana Hassan (ph), devoting their lives to cleaning up our planet. Hassan is campaigning against the harmful effects of the ship breaking industry in Bangladesh. Old vessels that are hazardous to its workers as well as polluting the environment.

Well, yesterday, we threw the spotlight on one man's 20 year war against big industry in China, how even after imprisonment, Ruli Yong (ph) continues his fight to protect the country's third largest fresh water lake.

Now to someone who is considered the grandfather of green business, Yvon Chouinard helped pioneer the concept of environmentally sustainable companies when he founded Patagonia in 1972.

Here, Richard Roth meets the man who claims to be more interested in scaling maintains than making money.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YVON CHOUINARD, FOUNDER, PATAGONIA: This is a coal forage (ph), the blower, you know?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifty years ago, in this very shed, Yvon Chouinard was a blacksmith hammering out rock climbing gear, sometimes covered in soot -- a dirty beginning for a man destined to run a leading clean and green corporation.

CHOUINARD: They called us the coolest company on the planet.

ROTH: He is the founder of Patagonia, the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer. Sales last year were over $300 million.

CHOUINARD: Well, this is a design center here. This is where the most interesting part of the company is, for me, anyway.

ROTH: Patagonia's success and image as a retailer come not only from its designs, but also its environmental model. In 1996, it took a radical step, converting its cotton clothing line to 100 percent organic because of pesticide concerns.

CHOUINARD: If you go to cotton growing areas, it's a dead zone out there. There's nothing alive. There's no bugs, no beetles, no weeds. It's just the crop dusters are going over your head. I mean it's -- I said I don't want to be in business if I have to use this product.

ROTH: Chouinard never intended to be a businessman. He made the climbing equipment for him and his friends, selling the surplus to support his passion of mountain climbing. Profit making was secondary.

CHOUINARD: And we always thought businessmen were grease balls. And we never wanted to be a businessman.

ROTH: In 1968, he and his friends took a break from work and went on a six month road trip to the foot of South America. They skied, surfed and climbed their way to the wilderness region of Patagonia. It was not long after that, Chouinard created the clothing company that got its name from the region and tied the firm's image to the environment.

CHOUINARD: I got real concerned about the fate of the planet and figured that the best thing I could do would be to use this company to do some good.

ROTH: Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1 percent of sales for environmental causes and has recently formed an alliance with other businesses to do the same. Here at the Ventura, California headquarters, the parking lot is covered by solar panels. Since the beach is walking distance from the campus, Chouinard doesn't mind if employees take a few hours off from work to go surfing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, there's a big south welcome in the middle of next week, a big one.

ROTH: And it's not shocking to see an employee keep a wild animal at their desk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do with them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I breed them, rehabilitate them and release them (INAUDIBLE).

ROTH: Chouinard got his start mountain climbing by rappelling for endangered falcon in his youth. And Patagonia continues the tradition with a rehabilitation center for birds of prey on the campus.

CHOUINARD: There's some good lessons in business because, you know, to train a -- to train a falcon or a hawk, you can't slap them around when they're doing something wrong. It's all positive reinforcement.

ROTH: Employees share the vision that Chouinard created for Patagonia.

ROB BONDURANT, VP, PATAGONIA MARKETING: Everybody that works at this campus truly believes in the mission of the company, which is, you know, to build the best product, to cause the least amount of harm and to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis, which is a mouthful, but at the end of the day, that's truly what we're after.

ROTH: And the unconventional Chouinard and his devoted staff believe that what's good for the planet is also good for business.

Richard Roth, CNN, Ventura, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Yvon Chouinard there, your green pioneer from the US. And tomorrow, our theme work continues in Poland. We're going to meet a conservationist at the forefront of a campaign to stop a highway project. Malgorzata Gorska's leadership led to a landmark victory for the environment. She helped protect one of Europe's last true wilderness areas. How did she do it? We'll find out tomorrow.

This time, CONNECT THE WORLD, tonight, we'll be right back with the headlines for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A warm welcome back at around 9:30 in London. I'm Becky Anderson with CONNECT THE WORLD for you here on CNN. Coming up, British Airways is set to team up with two other airlines after a new alliance was approved earlier today. What that means for the future of air travel and, ultimately, for you and me, coming up a little later.

Then, the superficial selection members only website for beautiful people could be spawning a new generation of attractive kids. But is it ethical?

And your Connector of the Day today is film director Christopher Nolan. He's the man behind the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," of course. And he'll tell us how he brought his latest chiller thriller to life.

That's the next 30 minutes for you. Let's locate you at this point, a look at the headlines here on CNN.

A Libyan aid ship has arrived in northern Egypt avoiding a potential confrontation with Israel. The ship is carrying aid for Gaza. Israel had warned it not to head directly to the Palestinian territory. When the organizers of the mission eventually agreed, they say in exchange, Israel is allowing construction materials, amongst other things, into Gaza.

The man who admitted trying to bomb Times Square in New York had threatened a, quote, "revenge attack" against the United States. That's according to a video broadcast by Al Arabiya TV network, says the man seen here, who boasts of plan to wage jihad is Faisal Shahzad. CNN cannot confirm the tape's authenticity.

The US government is expected to announce that the integrity test, as it calls it, on BP's ruptured oil well will soon go forward. BP says the government requested the delay so that scientists could review the procedure. Drilling of relief wells has been suspended in the interim period.

The Roman Catholic Church is expected to release new rules on Thursday aimed at preventing clergy from abusing kids. Amongst other things, a source close to the Vatican tells CNN that the possession of child pornography will be added to the list of most serious crimes.

Also in the headlines today, a major trans-Atlantic airline marriage was approved by the European Union. British Airways won the right to merge with Iberia and team up with American Airlines for overseas routes. Well, what does that mean for passengers? Who better to join the dots for us, then my colleague, Mr. Richard Quest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: What's the significance of today's news?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The significance is the position that it puts British Airways into as against its principle competitors.

Look at these three here. These are the three big airline groups that there'll be in Europe. Lufthansa already has Swiss, BMI, Austrian, Brussels, and a deal with United.

Air France has KLM, it also has its deal with Delta in the United States.

Now BA joins these airlines with Iberia and American Airlines. BA is back at the big table.

ANDERSON: What's Willie Walsh's end game here, do you think?

QUEST: Willie Walsh's end game is to insure that not only can he compete here, but that also he has capacity. And to that extent, Iberia gives him Madrid. Madrid has long runways, it has -- it's underused. That's going to be his Latin American hub.

ANDERSON: These, Richard, are the legacy carriers. I see these guys, surely, as the future, aren't they?

QUEST: In the duopoly of aviation, you need these guys, because you've got your long-haul travel. But this is where the action is. Ryanair, the largest airline in Europe by some measure. EasyJet, Jetstar, out in Asia, the Qantas subsidiary, which is doing phenomenal business. Air Asia, another phenomenal upstart, if you like, in aviation.

Look. We may want to sit in his first class. But we're happy to pay his prices.

ANDERSON: And how do these guys fit in?

QUEST: Look. This is where it really becomes fascinating, because it doesn't matter what else you've got. These are the giants sitting at the table, just eating everybody else's lunch when it comes to medium and long haul routes. Emirates, nearly -- over 90 A380s. Etihad, pockets so deep you can barely see the bottom of it. Qatar, with its new airport and its phenomenally aggressive policy.

If you are going trans-continental, small cities to major capitals, eventually these will be on your radar.

ANDERSON: But which hub will I be using, if they're on my radar? Because at the moment, this has a hub, this has a hub, and this has a hub. That's a lot space to play in.

QUEST: It's a lot of space, Becky, but it's a lot -- it's not a lot of space if you -- You see, you're thinking back here. Start thinking new market. Start thinking opening the Indian continent. Start thinking the smaller parts of Cambodia, Vietnam, southeast Asia, and you move those people to Europe. That's what this is all about.

Now, whether it's going to be Abu Dhabi, Dohar, or Dubai. Now that, the jury is well and truly out on.

ANDERSON: You're sitting on the fence.

QUEST: And I'm going to stay right there for the time being.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Richard Quest with the news from the world of aviation, the effects, of course, on you and I as we travel.

Around the globe, now. Beautifulpeople.com gives birth to another controversy. This time it's not about who gets to join, it's about what its members may be giving away. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: They may not yet have a catchy time like "Brangelina," but Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, apparently, have something else. A wedding. The superstar couple reportedly tied the knot in a private ceremony in the Bahamas earlier this month. For those of you who want to know, the bride wore a dress by John Galliano. The newlyweds join a select group of Oscar-winning couples, including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, and director Joel Coen and actress Frances McDormand.

And, having got a bit bored myself with the Brangelina theme, indulge me here. I guess we've got us a "Cruzem" for our journalists, or us journalists to play headline-writing with. There you go.

We here in the UK might disagree, but Britons are earning the dubious distinction of being among the ugliest people in the world. That's according, at least, to the dating website beautifulpeople.com. Not surprisingly, given its name, it only allows pretty people to join. But if your own looks don't stack up? Poppy Harlow reporting for you, the site is now offering a fertility service.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are dating sites, and then, there is beautifulpeople.com.

GREG HODGE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BEAUTIFULPEOPLE.COM: Men, bless us, will vote women in based solely on how they look. Men are dogs.

HARLOW (voice-over): That's right. It's a website where members in new members based just on their looks.

HODGE: All beautifulpeople does do is remove the first hurdle.

HARLOW (on camera): Which is?

HODGE: Attraction.

HARLOW (voice-over): To date, some 5.8 million people have been rejected. And the company raised eyebrows last year when it allowed members to vote people off the site for putting on too many pounds over the holidays. Its latest offering, however, may put that to shame.

HARLOW (on camera): A sperm bank?

HODGE: We like to call it a fertility forum.

HARLOW (voice-over): No, it's not a joke.

HODGE: Since going global in 2009, we've been receiving numerous requests from fertility clinics wanting to advertise on our website to try to secure our members' genetic donation.

HARLOW (voice-over): Shocking? Or just the next step in digitally- enhanced natural selection. Hodge sees it as filling a need created by poor government regulation and perspective parents who want to, but can't have their own babies.

HODGE: If you're in the unfortunate position as a couple unable to conceive a child, you're going to want to secure every advantage for that child. Like it or not, attractiveness is an advantage in our day and age.

HARLOW (voice-over): The company says it doesn't make any money off the fertility forum. But it is a way to attract new members. Angela is one of the site's 650,000 members who pay an annual fee of up to nearly $500 to be listed.

ANGELA BATES, MEMBER, BEAUTIFULPEOPLE.COM: I think being attractive as you grow older helps you so much in the long run. With jobs, with life in general, I think it actually is helpful. Whether the baby will actually turn out attractive or not. I mean, it's a craps shoot. It's like anything else.

HARLOW (voice-over): Some critics call it a publicity stunt. Folks we talked to on the street have their own opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: I think it speaks to the decline of our society, and what we as a society value.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: I think it's an absolutely ridiculous idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPEAKER: It's a great website. If I donate my "Ray Z" (ph) sperm, everything should work out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SPEAKER: I don't see the problem with it. Hell, you want to have a beautiful kid, don't you?

HARLOW (voice-over): Heated opinions, heavy controversy, that might just be the offspring beautifulpeople.com is looking to create.

HARLOW (on camera): Why do it if the site doesn't make money off of it?

HODGE: We thought about it. We understand it's a polarizing issue. We understand it's very political. We're not scared of the controversy. We're happy to spark debate. We think great things come out of debate. And we thought that this would certainly do all of those things.

HARLOW (voice-over): In New York, Poppy Harlow reporting.

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ANDERSON: So, just how ethical is all of this, essentially designing your own picture-perfect baby? I'm joined now by Art Caplan in Philadelphia. He's the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. Anything wrong with this, this fertility forum?

ART CAPLAN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think, Becky, you've got situation here where the science doesn't bear out what they're talking about. That is to say, beauty is not passed on through the genes. If you want to put it another way, beauty isn't gene deep.

If you look at families, they may have a very attractive person, and then the siblings are not, from the same parents, in the same environment. I don't think they can deliver what they're promising here, which is a greater chance of a nice-looking kid if you use our sperm. I think that's the first, if you will, bit of ethical bunk that this site is promoting.

ANDERSON: So is this or is this not lurching over into the realms of eugenics?

CAPLAN: Well, the eugenics aspect, I think, is disserving, too. I can't imagine a more shallow website than saying "let's make attractive babies." Not smart ones, not strong ones, not healthy ones. Attractive one?

But look at this, Becky. If you look at the website, how many people there are using cosmetics? How many people there are appearing in nice fashions? And how many people there look thin because of the bulimia or their anorexia? Is that where you want to go to find your sperm donors?

ANDERSON: All right, you're saying that this is fairly trivial. If you really look at it hard, the science doesn't stack up. But how close are we to getting to a point where an internet site might exist where the science did stack up?

CAPLAN: That's a great question. Not close yet. And I wouldn't say this kind of thing could never be done. But we're having a struggle right now trying to figure out, can we detect risk of breast cancer, risk of Alzheimer's with accuracy and reliability. Beauty, controlled by thousands and thousands of genes and all sorts of environmental inputs way beyond the radar screen of anything any legitimate scientist could do today.

ANDERSON: I don't suppose anybody would have expected you to have said anything less. But going down the road, the question is a very important one. How quickly, then, do we get to the point at which all of these sort of positive issues that need to be addressed, like breast cancer and various others. How close are we to being able to work on those?

CAPLAN: We're close. And I think what is legitimate is to use our knowledge of genetics, inheritability, to try and make healthier babies. To try and eliminate things that kill children in infancy or in childhood, or cause terrible dysfunction and disability. That, I think, we're headed toward. It's still controversial. There are those who would say, let God decide, not you and your doctor. But I think the case for health is much stronger than the case for beauty.

ANDERSON: All right, we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed for joining us.

CAPLAN: My pleasure.

ANDERSON: You made your point, Art. Art Caplan for you, your expert on the subject this evening.

It seems this a subject that was always going to provoke a reaction, and you've had plenty to say on the website. John believes -- let me bring this one up for you -- that beautifulpeople.com doesn't go far enough. He says, "They shouldn't just select for beauty, but also for physical and mental health, IQ, and financial success."

Somebody who goes by the name of "cgryllos" says that quite attractive people have an undoubted advantage. "You would want this to be you and you would definitely want this to be your child, if given the choice."

What else have we got tonight? Hoagy disagreeing. "Beauty is only skin deep. But an ugly personality, complete with a vain attitude, goes right to the bone."

And meanwhile, "corazon factor" -- some names, eh? -- says "I prefer brain and character than beauty. Besides, God is my designer. Sorry, I won't be buying this." Thank you for those.

Get your voice heard on CNN. Head to the website cnn.com/connect.

Well, he is a maestro of the psychological thriller. A modern-day Hitchcock, eager to run rings around your brain. He's a man who you asked to be your Connector of the Day today. Movie director Christopher Nolan, up next.

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ANDERSON (voice-over): British-American director Christopher Nolan has made his name devising sinister settings and disturbing characters in his movies. From "Memento," to "The Prestige." And, of course, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DARK KNIGHT")

JOKER: This city deserves a better class of criminal.

ANDERSON: (voice-over): 2008's "The Dark Knight," his second Batman film since reviving the franchise.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "INCEPTION")

ANDERSON (voice-over): So, it's little surprise that Nolan's new sci- fi thriller, "Inception," is already creating a lot of buzz on the internet with fans and critics alike.

"Inception's" action travels around the world, and it's the intimate and infinite world of dreams, as a skilled thief steals dreams and ideas from unwitting victims while they are asleep. It's a complex, even mind- bending plot.

So, what's it like to work with the man who cooked it up?

ELLEN PAGE, ACTRESS: He's making a film that, yes, has some complexity to it, and asks a lot of pretty major existentialist questions.

CILLIAN MURPHY, ACTOR: But he's a great teacher in that he broke it down very simply and sort of walked you through it.

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, ACTOR: One of my favorite things about Chris is, he really does it because of his own love for the movies.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A true auteur behind one of the most easily- anticipated movies of the year, Christopher Nolan is your Connector of the Day.

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ANDERSON: Well, one reviewer describes "Inception" as "an intricate mind heist through layers of dreams within dreams." So, how challenging was it to make a film that complicated?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, FILM DIRECTOR AND SCREENWRITER: The challenge with any film is to try and make your intentions clear to the audience, try and get them on board for the ride you're creating. And I've always liked films that cross-cut and have all kinds of parallel action going on. We ended "The Dark Knight" very much that way. The last act is a sort of snowballing effect of action and different locations and so forth.

And with "Inception," we try to make that a part of the story. So there's a different reason for that all to be going on. But it's a bit of a juggle, yes.

ANDERSON (on camera): Chris, how would you rate the -- not just performances of the cast, but their facility to actually understand what it is that you wanted from them, and to understand what it is that they had to do. Because this is such a complex movie.

NOLAN: It is. But I'm very fortunate that I always try to manage to work with very smart actors. And this cast is no exception. From Leo at the center of it to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page. These are very smart, very bright people, and they come at the script, reading it from their character's point of view. So they become logic filters, really, on the way the whole puzzle fits together. And what I find is they become extremely valuable allies in looking at the whole thing from every different angle and making sure that it all adds up.

ANDERSON: So you're learning from them as much as they're learning from you?

NOLAN: Oh, yes. Very much.

ANDERSON: It was shot in 60 some countries. How challenging was that?

NOLAN: I really enjoy shooting on location. And "Inception" is a film about the world of dreams. But one of the most principles of it is that dreams feel real while we're in them. When you're having a dream, it seems like it's real life to you.

So we wanted to shoot in real locations and real places to give all of the different worlds of "Inception" that feeling of reality. So that even as something impossible happens, like a train barreling down a crowded street, or a street folding over on itself, there'd be this feeling of reality.

So we went all over the world. We went to six countries, four continents. We were on the top of mountains, we were on the water, we were on the beach in Norway. And I love it. And I think the crew and everybody else in the cast -- having something real to play off, having different conditions every week to deal with. I think it keeps everybody very fresh.

ANDERSON: How much time did you need off after this? I felt I almost needed time off after the movie when we saw it the other day. And --

NOLAN: I'm intending to take a small holiday after this, before I get into the next thing. But actually, to be honest, it's been a really tremendous experience. The group of people who came together to make this film, many of them I'd worked with before. Some of them I hadn't, like Leo. It's a great group of people, and I think we just all felt very inspired. We had a great time making it.

ANDERSON: Jeannie has written at CNN and wants me to ask you, "You tend to write often about the human psyche. What is it that fascinates you so much about that?"

NOLAN: Somebody asked me about what's so fascinating with the human mind, and all I could say was, I've lived in one all my life, really. I just think, for me, movies that connect on a universal level, movies that deal with things we're all kind of aware of, like the way we see the world, the things we worry about, our neurosis. That's always been the staple of the thriller, the film noir, that kind of thing.

I love mysteries. I love the idea of, what if our perception of the world is wrong somehow? These kind of things. I just really enjoy seeing the human mind revealed in different ways. And "Inception" tries to do that both through the characters and, actually, the geography of the film, because it's literally set in somebody's mind.

ANDERSON: Kayla wants some advice for screenwriters. Through a movie like this, where would a budding screenwriter start?

NOLAN: I always start at the beginning, and I write through to the end. I draw a lot of diagrams and things, but I don't tend to jump around and rearrange things. I tend to try and stick with how is the audience going to watch the film? What's the image that unfolds on the screen first, second, third? Write that way through to the end. And then a lot of re-writing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: You asked to be Connected to Christopher Nolan, and that is what you've gotten.

Tomorrow, she's got one of the most distinctive singing voices in the music world. Straddling both soul and R&B, bagging a Grammy award for her 1999 single, "I Try," she's now out with this album called "The Sellout." Tomorrow's Connector for you is Macy Gray.

I want you to help choose should be your Connector of the Day, so who do you want to see next? Leave your suggestions at cnn.com/connector. Or you can Tweet me @beckycnn. Do remember to tell us where you are writing in from. We love that.

Tonight on the show, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Earlier in the show, we told you about the secret Bahamas wedding between Oscar-winning actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Well, tonight's World in Pictures, we're going to bring you some other examples of love in the air all over the world as we go through the lens.

First up, French president Nicolas Sarkozy kisses the hand of his wife, Carla Bruni during the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris today.

People all over the world are still talking about this moment after Spain's World Cup victory. The Spanish goalkeeper interrupting his reported girlfriend with a kiss after the World Cup final.

Germany's defender Phillip Lahm did one better, marrying his girlfriend in southern Germany earlier today.

And Bristol Palin, daughter of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is engaged to the father of her child. Again. The pair famously announced their engagement back in 2008. You remember that while the teenaged Bristol was pregnant. Well, they later broke it off, but are not back together. And they say they are planning a wedding, possibly in six weeks time.

Feel the love in our World in Pictures this evening.

Let's reconnect you just before we go with our ongoing debate on designer babies, following one dating website's controversial plans to become a sperm bank for beautiful people only. Well, not surprisingly, this has raised eyebrows from you on our blogs.

Borb says, "A beautiful person in a room full of beautiful people becomes average. Beauty and intelligence make for rare bedfellows."

Patty agrees, and says, "Beauty comes from inside in all human beings. The way all this group of people think is their damnation."

But "ctcash" sees benefits from the idea, and says, "I think being attractive as you grow older helps you so much in life in general. I think it's actually helpful."

And Ross says, "Full genetic engineering is inevitable." He says, "It might take 100 years with the lag of science, but it will come."

Your thoughts, your show, once again, have your say here on CNN. Do head to the website, cnn.com/connect.

I'm Becky Anderson, that is it for the show on the tele. You've been connected. "BackStory" is up next right after a check of the headlines.

END